MY BLOODY VALENTINE
Album: “m b v” (Self-released)
Kevin Shields’ name belongs on the short list with such creators as Ralph Ellison, Henry Roth, Jeff Mangum (of Neutral Milk Hotel), and Axl Rose — guys whose towering artistic achievements in their youth loomed so large that for a prolonged period they were either unable to continue producing new work or unable to stop fiddling with it and let it loose into the world.
In Shields’ case, the vehicle is My Bloody Valentine, the half-English, half-Irish, half-male-half, half-female rock band that invented and perfected the genre that came to be known as “shoegaze” with the 1991 gloriously messy, assaultive yet intimate 1991 Jackson Pollock drip painting of a rock album, “Loveless.”
In case you hadn’t heard, on Super Bowl eve Shields shocked the indie rock world by finally making good on his long-running promise to actually release the follow-up to “Loveless.”
The nine-song “m b v” is available for purchase only through mybloodyvalentine.net, and when it became available Saturday, it “broke the Internet,” as they say, or at least caused the band’s servers to crash for a time, so it became quite difficult to buy the thing.
“M b v” starts off sounding an awful lot like “Loveless” — not that that’s a bad thing — with cooing, Cocteau Twins-style whispery vocals by Shields or fabulously named second guitarist Bilinda Butcher bleeding into a multilayered wall of guitar sound. In its middle passages, the martial drums and captivating melodies alive in the mix on songs like “If I Am” pull “m b v” in a pretty, almost pop direction.
Then the tone gets much more aggressive, as skittering drum ’n’ bass beats work their way into the air-raid attack on not entirely successful tracks such as “In Another Way” and “Nothing Is.” Those songs suggest Shields is at long last searching for an MBV sound, but he hasn’t quite arrived there yet. Be patient: He just needs a little more time.
— Dan DeLuca, Philadelphia Inquirer
BEN HARPER WITH CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE
Album: “Get Up!” (Stax)
Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite first recorded together with the late blues legend John Lee Hooker. Listening to “Get Up!,” you can understand why the singer-songwriter and the harmonica great wanted to collaborate more.
The 69-year-old Musselwhite is no slouch as a songwriter himself, but here he lets his harp do the talking — sweet and clean, storming and dirty, he provides all kinds of emotional shadings for Harper’s songs. And those songs are among the most hard-hitting of the 43-year-old’s career, both lyrically and musically. Harper’s got the blues, for sure, but he and Musselwhite skirt the usual cliches, from the acoustic-texture rumination “You Found Another Love (I Lost Another Friend)” to the Hookeresque strut of “I’m In, I’m Out, and I’m Gone,” the gospel-tinted “We Can’t End This Way,” and the heavy blues-rockers “I Don’t Believe a Word You Say” and “Blood Side Out.”
— Nick Cristiano, Philadelphia Inquirer
Album: “Waiting for Something to Happen” (Slumberland)
The second full-length album from indie pop’s Veronica Falls is a tasteful guitar pop set, brighter in tone than their first. The London foursome takes a communal approach to singing their lovely melodies and there is nothing remotely discordant about the affair.
The lyrics glorify the moments in between and, aligned with the music, play like anthems for the indecisive on “Waiting for Something to Happen.” These are songs about tiring of the people you hang out with, last conversations, the shortcomings of connectivity and the intersection of early adulthood.
It’s not that Veronica Falls shun responsibility (“They say act your age”) or compromise (”Driving late at night/I let you listen to the music you like”), they just don’t want to settle down (“Bury me alive”).
A few tracks take subtly winsome turns: the drizzle of classic British folk in the opener, the elliptical harmony on “Shooting Star” and the chorus on “Falling Out” blossoming into their catchiest moment to date.
— Jake O’Connell, Associated Press
Album: “Holy Fire”
Foals’ third album, “Holy Fire” (Warner Bros.), is a glorious addition to the heroic lineage of brainy dance music. The British quintet manages it well, musically crossing Phoenix with Talking Heads, while Yannis Philippakis channels everything from blues to disco in his wide-ranging vocals. “My Number” grooves like it came from “Stop Making Sense,” with its sleek synths spiked with African guitar flourishes and David Byrnesque jitters. That immediacy pairs nicely with the delayed reaction from the layered “Milk & Black Spiders,” showing how well Foals has all its bases covered.
— Glenn Gamboa, Newsday