By Gregg Shapiro
As more and more people get used to the idea that the U.S. might soon have its first female president, now is as good a time as any to acknowledge some of the women who have leadership roles in bands.
Released following Benjamin Curtis’ passing, SVIIB (Vagrant) by School of Seven Bells puts surviving member Alejandra Deheza firmly in the lead. Collaborating with producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen and Curtis’ brother (and former Secret Machines band member) Brandon, Deheza was able to parse together SVIIB from existing material created before Curtis’ death. Sounding like a 21st-century Cocteau Twins concoction, most of the album is a refreshing and exciting take on modern dance music. “A Thousand Times More,” “Signals,” “Ablaze,” and “Music Takes Me” are all potential dance-floor sensations. As you might expect, the mood turns mournful on occasion, as in the case of “Confusion” (which is reminiscent of Julee Cruise’s collaborations with Angelo Badalamenti), “This Is Our Time,” and “Elias.”
If you lapped up Lucius’ delicious 2013 debut album Wildewoman, then you are practically guaranteed to dig the band’s latest, Good Grief (Mom + Pop). The disc’s 11 tunes, co-written by Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, are a pleasurable experience. Kicking up the beats a bunch, Lucius embraces its inner ’80s dance-pop diva on songs such as “Almost Makes Me Wish for Rain,” “Something about You,” “Truce,” and the completely amazing one-two punch of “Almighty Gosh” and “Born Again Teen.” Lucius also confidently switches things up on “My Heart Got Caught on Your Sleeve” and “What We Have (to Change).” Play this one loud—you won’t be disappointed.
If you prefer swing dancing to doing the Cabbage Patch, then you’ll probably have a taste for NYC-based octet The Hot Sardines. Featuring vocals by “Miz Elizabeth” Bougerol, French Fries + Sardines (Decca), the new album by The Hot Sardines finds the group leaving its mark on standards such as “People Will Say We’re in Love,” “Comes Love/L’Amour S’En Fout” (in French, no less), “Until the Real Thing Comes Along,” as well as the more recent “Addicted to Love.” That’s Alan Cumming joining Miz Elizabeth on “When I Get Low I Get High.” The band also performs originals, including “Here You Are Again,” the instrumental “Gramercy Sunset,” and the appetizing title cut.
Women are the focus of a couple of sibling twosomes: Broods and Wild Belle, both of whom have recently released sophomore albums. The less-than-subtle religious undertones of “All Your Glory” and “Free” aside, Conscious (Capitol) by Broods, made up of sister Georgia Nott and brother Caleb Nott, is a dance party in the making. Dare your party guests to sit still when they hear “We Had Everything,” “Recovery,” “Couldn’t Believe,” and “Full Blown Love.”
If Conscious is something of an invigorating dance-club workout, then Dreamland (Columbia) by Wild Belle, consisting of sister Natalie Bergman and brother Elliott Bergman, is made for the after-hours chill-out experience. Not that the album isn’t without its upbeat energy, found on “Giving Up on You,” “Coyotes,” and the Lorde-y “Throw Down Your Guns.” On the whole, the pace of this disc is different than the Broods record, on songs such as “Mississippi River,” “It Was You (Baby Come Back to Me),” “Our Love Will Survive,” and “The One That Got Away.”
How to say this nicely? These Mad Dogs Need Heroes (EJRC) by The Everymen is at its most inviting and intriguing when Catherine Herrick is singing lead. There! Herrick’s knock-you-down vocals on retro-rockers such as “Bridge and Tunnel of Love” and “Nick Lower,” as well as brassy rocker “Co-Dependent’s Day” and the blistering “Chum (Parts 1 & 2),” have an attention-grabbing vigor lacking in some of the other songs. Otherwise, it feels generic at best.
Laura Weinbach, lead vocalist of Foxtails Brigade, exhibits a magnetism similar to Herrick’s on the band’s eponymous third album, onOIM. Like the Fiery Furnaces, Foxtails Brigade crafts nontraditional pop tunes, including “Dirtbagz and Dozers,” “We Are Not Ourselves,” “Long Route,” “Don’t Look Down,” and “Far Away and Long Ago.” Fear not, “No Fate,” “Last Still Standing,” and “Watch Me” are among the more immediately accessible songs.
Gregg Shapiro is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.