Turning up the beats on the Rapor EP (Vagrant), Active Child (aka Pat Grossi) follows up his stunning 2011 debut You Are All I See with six songs that expand on the innovative artist’s repertoire. A funkier and more soulful effort, Rapor opens with the spooky rhythms of “She Cut Me.” “Subtle,” featuring Mikky Ekko, combines ’80s synths with a crackling beat to craft one of Active Child’s most accessible pop numbers. Ellie Goulding joins Active Child on the layered “Silhouette,” resulting in first-class heartbreak. “Calling in the Name of Love” also indicates that Active Child has the potential to appeal to a wider audience.
On the other hand, on Interiors (True Panther Sounds), Glasser (aka Cameron Mesirow) seems headed in a different direction than the one she presented on her brilliant debut album Ring. There are some familiar components, including Glasser’s trademark whoop (on “Design”), but on the whole, Interiors takes a different form, beginning with opener “Shape,” and later “Forge,” which sound like they could be descendants of Björk songs. A more subdued and introspective effort, with an expanse of influences (including Asian) on “Divide,” it’s an album that won’t shatter your faith in Glasser—just rattle it a little.
For his second album Paracosm (Sub Pop), Washed Out (aka Ernest Green) also retreats from the beats of his debut Within and Without in favor of a more sonically retro affair. “It All Feels Right” has a subtly Latin influence, whereas “Don’t Give Up” goes for a ’70s soul vibe. However, you never doubt for a moment that you are listening to something firmly based in the 21st century, particularly on tracks such as the strutting “All I Know,” the beach funk of “Great Escape,” and the lush electro of “Falling Back.” [Editor’s note: Washed Out comes to Houston as part of the Free Press Summer Festival, May 31–June 1. Details at fpsf.com.]
The same kind of second-album stylistic shift is in evidence on Wish Bone (Federal Prism) by Oh Land (aka Nanna Øland Fabricius). While her eponymous debut release was definitely geared toward dancing, Wish Bone takes a more relaxed approach, as on “3 Chances,” “Green Card,” and “Love You Better.” When she does roll out the beats, Oh Land alternates between urban (“My Boxer” and “Love a Man Dead”) and suburban (“Pyromaniac” and “Next Summer”).
Iron and Wine (aka Sam Beam) continues to branch out from his folkie roots on Ghost on Ghost (Nonesuch). The disc features influences ranging from jazz (legendary jazz drummer Brian Blade plays on the album, and “Lovers’ Revolution” stirs things up with brass and an organ), sun-kissed R&B (dig the female backing vocals on “The Desert Babbler” and “The Endless Song”), and funky folk (“Low Light Buddy of Mine”). Iron and Wine hasn’t entirely abandoned his origins—something made perfectly clear on the songs that open and close the album, “Caught in the Briars” and “Baby Center Stage,” respectively.
You can still hear the emo in Casey Crescenzo’s voice, even when he’s recording as The Dear Hunter (as opposed to when he was front-man of The Receiving End of Sirens). That’s not necessarily a bad thing, just something to be aware of when listening to Migrant (Equal Vision), his fourth album as The Dear Hunter and the first to divert from the previous three concept album “acts”. In fact, with its guitars and vocals, “An Escape” might be the most emo-esque track on the disc. However, there are enough non-emo moments—“Bring You Down,” “Whisper,” “Shame,” “This Vicious Place,” and the wondrous “Sweet Naiveté”—to warrant migrating to this disc.
Gregg Shapiro is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.