2 Stars

After the surprise success of MGMT’s debut “Oracular Spectacular” in 2008, the duo of Andrew Vanwyngarden and Ben Goldwasser become indie superstars. However, the two of them have been distancing themselves from their first album ever since. After confusing fans with their sophomore release, MGMT’s self-titled album pushes them even farther away from hit tracks like “Time to Pretend” and into what sounds like an angry, paranoid version of themselves. Perhaps tracks like the sluggish “Cool Song No. 2” and the languid “An Orphan Of Fortune” are closer to what MGMT truly was meant to be like, but in the end, “MGMT” sounds like Vanwyngarden and Goldwasser are trying to be weird to rub it in the faces of those that loved “Oracular Spectacular.” The two can still write a catchy track, like the dreamy “A Good Sadness,” but “MGMT” sounds like a band trying to pretend the past hasn’t happened. – Alex Bieler



The Bones of What You Believe


4 Stars

So far, the members have Chvrches (pronounced like a place of worship, for those thrown by the “v”) have made the right moves to earn themselves some positive Internet buzz, from the success of early single “The Mother We Share” to covering the “Game of Thrones” theme. Now all of the positive online whispers have led to the release of the Scottish synthpop trio’s debut album, and “The Bones of What You Believe” delivers on the hype. Like fellow synth-happy bands M83 and The Knife, Chvrches serves up hook-laden pieces of electronic goodness, with singer Lauren Mayberry’s emotive vocals leading the way. However, Chvrches don’t quite reach for the heights that the aforementioned bands do, keeping the tracks more emotionally direct while Mayberry’s vocals soar on tracks like “Recover” and “Tether,” allowing “The Bones of What You Believe” to stay intimate in the realm of the electronic.  – Alex Bieler


Bill Callahan

Dream River

Drag City

4.5 Stars

Over the past 25 years, Bill Callahan has quietly proven himself to be one of the finest storytellers of his generation. His fourth album under his own name is no exception, and Callahan seems in no hurry on his latest release. “Dream River” manages to sound meticulously crafted all while words effortlessly part from Callahan’s lips, his deep baritone adding heft to the simplest of lines. He’s no stick in the mud, either, dealing out lines like “The only words I’ve said today are ‘beer’ and ‘thank you’” on opener “The Sing.” The painting that adorns the cover of “Dream River” seems appropriate, given how Callahan crafts his songs, deftly adding strokes like the uneasy flutes and flaring guitars in the standout track “Summer Painter,” all while allowing the empty spaces in the music to provide depth when he tells a new tale that’s no less hypnotic than the last. – Alex Bieler



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This article by Alex Bieler/Ben Speggen, originally published on Oct. 3, 2013.