“What Did You Expect From The Vaccines”
The Vaccines are often called Britain’s answer to the Strokes, which sounds about right: Both bands are over-hyped and populated by overprivileged white guys with extensive record collections, which seem to have stopped around 1986, and both released artfully mussed, content-free, frustratingly good debut discs.
The Vaccines are as devoted to the Jesus and Mary Chain as the Strokes are to Tom Petty, and “What Did You Expect From the Vaccines?” mixes nostalgic, JMC-era reverb with pop-meets-punk-meets-rock-meets-whatever tracks that are smart, brutish and short.
“Vaccines?” pinballs from great songs (“If You Wanna,” which, like most of the group’s best tracks, consists of a few chords, a catchy chorus and some yelling) to indifferent ones (closing ballad “Somebody Else’s Child,” the band’s one stab at mournful sincerity) and never really finds its footing.
For all its clatter, “Vaccines?” is more diffident than forceful and more inconsistent than it should be. The Vaccines seem to have realized that they’re talented enough to make a good record without trying too hard: Songs such as “Wetsuit” and “Norgaard,” typical Vaccines songs only dumber, simply can’t be explained otherwise.
In the great punk tradition of feigned indifference, their signature track, “Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra),” is so brief (clocking in at less than a minute and a half) that it’s more like a sketch of a song than a statement of purpose. Like so much of the Vaccines’ frantic, truncated debut, it feels like a great opportunity only partially realized.
— Allison Stewart
Recommended tracks: “Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra),” “If You Wanna,” “Post Break-Up Sex”
The Black Swans
“Don’t Blame the Stars”
On first blush, the profuse references to vintage soul singers on the Black Swans’ new album — shout-outs go to everyone from Percy Mayfield and Sam Cooke to Arthur Alexander and Aretha Franklin — might seem excessive. It’s almost as if, by mere dint of association, frontman Jerry DeCicca is claiming kinship with performers whose music his band’s shambling indie-rock scarcely resembles. Even the eponymous tribute “Joe Tex” smacks less of the taut funk of the late singer’s 1972 smash “I Gotcha” than of the loping pastoralism of ’70s British pub-rockers Brinsley Schwarz. That said, DeCicca’s commitment to mapping life’s more jagged grains — the one thing he does share with his R&B predecessors — is exactly what buoys this wistful, moving record.
Take, for example, the pensive title track, a waltz-time dirge in which DeCicca mourns the seemingly indiscriminate ravages of disease and natural disasters. Brooding over the question of whether human beings share any responsibility for such calamities, he warns, “Don’t blame the stars for what we can fix with our hands.” Elsewhere, he tells of how he weaned himself off a psychiatric medication, while in the droll “I Forgot to Change the Windshield Wipers in My Mind,” he laments his persistent failure to maintain a healthy mental outlook.
The death of Black Swans co-founder Noel Sayre, an expressive violinist, both casts a pall over and lends poignancy to the proceedings. Sayre’s lyrical bow strokes add ruminative texture and resonance to many of the record’s arrangements, several of which recall the Gypsy-inflected chamber pop of Tin Hat Trio.
— Bill Friskics-Warren
Recommended tracks: “Joe Tex,” “I Forgot to Change the Windshield Wipers in My Mind”
“Blow Your Head Vol. 2: Dave Nada Presents Moombahton”
According to legend, DJ Dave Nada invented Moombahton at a basement house party in Prince George’s County. The formula went something like this: Take house music (specifically Dutch house, which tends to be more tribal and angular in feel than traditional house), drag it through a bed of molasses and add reggaeton and Latin beats. Also mandatory: slow, sometimes endless builds, stuttery vocals and firetruck noises.
“Dave Nada Presents Moombahton” is the second in a series of introductory electro compilations put out by Diplo’s label, Mad Decent (the first focused on dubstep, a sort of Moombahton companion genre, before dubstep blew up). It’s smartly curated, excessively mellow and about as accessible as Moombahton gets.
It’s tempting to quarrel with Nada’s omissions (where is his “Punk Rock Latino”? Or something from frequent Munchi collaborator David Heartbreak?), but it’s quite a feat that a genre in its infancy could have easily boasted a track list twice as long without wearing out its welcome.
Datsik’s “Firepower (Munchi Remix)”: One of several tracks here by young Moombahton great Munchi, this is one of the collection’s least mellow tracks and its best example of Moombahcore, a higher-energy, dubstep-influenced sub-genre.
“Told Ya (DJ Melo Moombahton Edit)” by Sandro Silva featuring Isa GT: Before being Moombahton-ized, this was a standard-issue, sharply percussive banger from Dutch producer Silva.
Dillon Francis’s “Masta Blasta”: Francis is the Salieri to Nada’s Mozart, and this exuberant, tightly coiled track may be the finest moment.
— Allison Stewart
Recommended tracks: “Told Ya (DJ Melo Moombahton Edit),” “Sandungueo,” “Masta Blasta”