‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! | Constellation Records
4 / 5
GODSPEED YOU! BLACK Emperor is a band that nobody was sure they’d ever hear from again. The Montreal-based group, who released three stellar albums and one EP between 1997 and 2002, went on an indefinite hiatus in 2003. Finally re-emerging in 2010 for touring, they quietly recorded a new album and released it suddenly. So suddenly, in fact, that they started selling it at a show in the U.S. before even announcing the album’s existence.
On ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!, no new ground is broken, but GY!BE manage to prove they’re still superb at what they do. The album contains two 20-minute tracks and two droning six-minute interludes. The lengthy numbers are tremendous and classic Godspeed, with minimalistic instrumentation that slowly builds into striking, noisy crescendos and manages to maintain an eerie atmosphere throughout. While the two interludes aren’t boring, they sound considerably more enjoyable in the context of the full album.
The only real complaint is that despite the total running time, only two tracks are proper songs, and these songs were actually first performed live by the band before their hiatus; hardcore fans have been listening to bootlegged versions for years. Despite this, ‘Allelujah! is a welcome return of GY!BE, and will hopefully lead to another album that won’t take ten years to come out.
Transit of Venus | RCA
2 / 5
THREE DAYS GRACE’S fourth album, Transit of Venus, was given its name on June 5, 2012, the day that Venus could be seen crossing in front of the sun. This phenomenon is literally a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and the band wanted this title to reflect the album’s unique tone. Unfortunately, it seems that the only once-in-a-lifetime experience occurring for listeners will be finishing this album.
The album’s opener, “Sign of the Times,” is a deceivingly good start coming from the Canadian rock band from Norwood, Ont., while the first single, “Chalk Outline,” follows a style that fans will enjoy and are familiar with. But while trying out new instruments and experimenting with more intricate styles, the band falls short at times. Songs like “Anonymous,” “Time That Remains,” and “Expectations” are highlights of the album.
While Transit of Venus contains its fair share of catchy songs that will keep some fans satisfied, others will undoubtedly yearn to once again rock out to songs like “I Hate Everything About You” and “Animal That I Have Become” that the band has become known for.
Free Dimensional | Secret City
4 / 5
THE FIRST THING that came to mind while listening to Diamond Rings’ Free Dimensional was the ‘80s—not the mullets and the atrocious fashion sense, but the good parts: the neon lights, Depeche Mode, and Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf.”
Free Dimensional is the second album by Diamond Rings, the solo project of John O’Regan, formerly of the Guelph, Ont. post-punk band The D’Urbervilles. The album is electronic and all over the place, but in a very good way. It brings to mind bands like The Strokes and the aforementioned Depeche Mode, seemingly drawing influence from many modern bands but more predominantly from the electronic pop bands of the ‘80s.
Perhaps the most unusual thing about Free Dimensional is the fact that about 70 per cent of it is composed of love songs. This could be a bad thing, but in this case, the admittedly cheesy songs are all deeply sincere and musically exceptional. The final song of the album, “Day & Night,” is yet another love song with an odd but fitting break for some rapping.
All in all, Free Dimensional is a great album with constant highs and very few lows, and is definitely worth a listen.
Red | Big Machine
4 / 5
TAYLOR SWIFT IS back again with her fourth studio album in six years. The lead single from Red, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” is upbeat, cynical, and coloured with contempt for an unnamed ex who keeps coming ‘round. While lyrically disappointing, the song as a whole is catchy and exemplifies this album’s foray into the pop world. Loud tracks such as “I Knew You Were Trouble” and “Red” drift into the pop-rock and electro-pop genres, and the songs’ use of synthetic instrumentals show Swift’s potential to merge into a new sound.
The best evidence for Swift’s growth, however, is found in the slower and softer songs that heavily feature vocals and guitar. In “Sad Beautiful Tragic,” she finally sees herself from an ex’s perspective. She sings, “You’ve got your demons / And darling, they all look like me,” which speaks volumes for the girl who has often been one to point fingers. In “The Lucky One,” Swift wonders how fun her overwhelming fame truly is.
The album is rounded out with tunes that bring her back to her country roots, from the mellow “Begin Again” to the cheerful jingle “Stay Stay Stay.” In the end, it’s the layered, mythological allusions and haunting chorus of “State of Grace” that present the real turning point and depth of the young songwriter.
Taylor Swift is caught between two worlds: that of the 16-year-old dreamer from Pennsylvania and that of the 22-year-old image-savvy star who’s carefully experimenting with new sounds. This confusing mesh of styles doesn’t make for a very cohesive album, but individually, the songs on Red are catchy, satisfying, and probably never, ever, ever getting out of your head. Like, ever.
—Siyuan (Emily) Fu