Arts

Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra

Follow My Lead, Lead Me to Follow | Self-released

5 / 5

WITH A NAME like Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra, it has to be good. The band members, clearly old souls, named themselves using a clever take on the Harper Lee novel. Their newest album Follow My Lead, Lead Me to Follow fosters a sound that is both nostalgic and original. Incorporating the accordion, the fiddle, and the bongos along with more conventional musical instruments like the guitar and drum kit, the Victoria, B.C.-based band gives their listeners a true Canadian experience.

The album begins with “Canoe Song,” which showcases the collaboration of influences that create the band’s sound. The accordion lends a French feel to the track and to the album as a whole, while the fiddle is more attuned to the sonic identity of the Canadian east coast.

From the first note of this track I was hooked, and by the end of the song, completely enraptured. The remainder of the album also harbours a tight, cohesive, and incredibly complex sound doused in raw Canadiana. There is no doubt that the Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra has immense talent, and that all five members take turns showcasing their individual attributes and quirks.

Another standout track is the bittersweet and melancholic “25 Years” complete with a contrast between acoustic fingerpicking, electric dissonance, and haunting lyrical repetitions. There’s also the mellow and elegant “Mountains on Fire,” in which perfect harmonies and delicate guitar playing appear to channel the great Neil Young.

The five members of the Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra are truly masters of musical poetry, tapping into the voice of our country as a whole. Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra is an echo of the people, and I can safely say it has been a long while since an album has left me this much in awe.

—Dana Simpson

deadmau5

>album title goes here< | mau5trap

3.5 / 5

DEADMAU5’S LATEST ALBUM, cheekily named >album title goes here< to follow the trend of his other album non-titles, is another record that shows the musician is still paving the way for electro-house music. The record is everything you’d expect from deadmau5: catchy, danceable songs with pounding bass and techno noise.

Clearly inspired by house music greats like Daft Punk and The Chemical Brothers, the album has a number of great tracks—but, like many albums, it also has a few that fall short of the mark. Many songs are simple instrumental tracks that can be too repetitive if listened to as anything other than background music—the sort of thing you could throw on the stereo while working on something else.

>album title goes here<  really shines because of the great musicians featured throughout the record. With appearances by Gerard Way, Cypress Hill, and Imogen Heap, the songs that do have vocals really stand out and are a refreshing break from the rest of the album. deadmau5 sticks to what he does best with most of the tracks, but these excellent collaborations prove he isn’t just a one-trick pony. While most of the album belongs in a club—or in headphones during a late-night cram session—there are many standout moments that will make you come back for more.

—Brennan Bova

Ke$ha

Warrior | RCA

4 / 5

KE$HA GETS A bad rap from music critics for her excessive use of auto-tune and her party-girl image. However, to steal a line from her new song “Crazy Kids”: Ke$ha don’t give two fucks. Her new album Warrior sees the singer reveling in those perceived faults as she delivers a sophomore record far more consistent than her debut.

Shakespeare she is not, but Ke$ha—who has a writing credit on every track here and an extensive résumé of hits she’s penned for other artists—has an ear for a killer hook. Those songwriting skills are on full display throughout Warrior, where almost every song is a potential single that’s catchy as sin. The first release “Die Young” follows in the footsteps of past  endlessly replayable hits “Tik Tok” and “We R Who We R.” Other highlights include the mid-tempo electro-ballad “Wherever You Are” and the Strokes-assisted “Only Wanna Dance With You,” where Ke$ha trades delicious melodies with Julian Casablancas. Yes, The Strokes are on this record.

Warrior only falls flat when Ke$ha strays from her pop instincts. “Dirty Love” is an inexcusably awful duet with Iggy Pop, and “Wonderland”—which also features Patrick Carney of The Black Keys—is a dreary bore that would fit better on a Michelle Branch album.

Minor missteps aside, Warrior is a triumph for an artist few onlookers would’ve expected to make it to album number two. Get used to it, folks; this one’s going to be on the radio for a long, long time.

—Darren Sharp

Soundgarden

King Animal | Seven Four / Republic

2.5 / 5

NO ONE WAS expecting Soundgarden, a band that broke up in 1996 after concluding its tour in support of the album Down on the Upside, to return in 2011 with a massive tour that ultimately culminated in the release of King Animal this year. The band’s first album in 16 years features a lot of the guitar, bass, and drum-intensive rhythms that Soundgarden is now known for, and the songs on King Animal are generally short, hard, and fast.

“Should a good life be so hard won / Is that what our dreams have become?” lead singer Chris Cornell belts on “Halfway There.” It’s rather hard to imagine that a singer who is known for such lines as “Love’s for everyone who isn’t me” and “The lives we make never seem to ever get us anywhere but dead” would utter a line that is so trite. Indeed, there are numerous examples where the lyrics and overall production on King Animal pale in comparison to and lack the inspiration of Soundgarden’s earlier works.

One of the very few standout tracks on the album is “Black Saturday,” not because of the song’s fast, aggressive sections, but because of its quieter parts. It’s unfortunate that much of this song and the rest of the album sound so uninspired.

—Jesse Mellott