The Lemon Twigs

Album: “Go To School”

Grade: B-

The Lemon Twigs’ memorable first album, “Do Hollywood,” was so self-assured it was hard to believe its multi-instrumentalist masterminds, Long Island brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario, were still in high school. Perhaps even more surprising was that the youngsters were so obviously enamored by the flamboyant pop of their parents’ (or grandparents’) generation. The record was a fun, florid ’60s-and-’70s throwback brimming with melodies, hooks, harmonies and a hefty dose of psychedelic weirdness.

The ambitious duo, now 21 and 19, have gone straight to the rock musical phase of their career. “Go to School” (4AD) is a sprawling concept record about the adolescent struggles of a chimpanzee raised as a human boy. And as might be expected with a conceit like that, it allows the D’Addarios to go full throttle with the theatrical themes and grandiose production they experimented with on their debut.

The chimp’s father is played by Twigs hero Todd Rundgren, another pop purist who took the form to far-out places. While the brothers have said they’re striving for Sondheim, at its most overwrought, “Go to School” is more reminiscent of Meatloaf’s “Bat Out of Hell” – produced by Rundgren.

The striving love song “Queen of My School” is sparkling power pop. “Rock Dreams” is a blast of bombast. And “The Fire” packs an emotional punch, with a flash of violence at school.

— Christopher Weber, Associated Press

Neil & Liam Finn

Album: “Lightsleeper”

Grade: B

“Lightsleeper” is the result of another crowded house at the Finn residence. The album principals, father Neil and son Liam, get the rest of the family involved – mother Sharon, son Elroy, nephew Harper – and also provide room and board to one of Neil’s new Fleetwood Mac bandmates, Mick Fleetwood.

On the surface, “Lightsleeper” is closer to the Finn family’s foundational Split Enz era than to the more renowned Crowded House productions, with dreamy atmospheres, multi-section song structures and hazy shades of melody providing the framework, not tight pop songs with memorable refrains. Most of the tracks are father-and-son co-writes, but Neil wrote album opener “Prelude-Island of Peace” with an uplifting, congenial choir, as a gift for Liam’s wedding.

“Meet Me In The Air” follows, its relaxed harmonies harking back to the “Surf’s Up”-period Beach Boys, while “Where’s My Room,” which seems to describe a musician’s unenviable condition near the end of a long tour, begins with what sounds like an updated Roland drum machine and, over seven minutes across various “movements,” keeps adding elements, including a string section that at times emulates the sounds of Philly soul.

As with any music involving a Finn, the vocals are one of the main reasons for listening and the father-son combo more than meets expectations.

— Pablo Gorondi, Associated Press

Olafur Arnalds

Album: “re:member”

Grade: B-

Icelandic composer Olafur Arnalds goes far beyond the use of innovative software involving self-playing pianos on “re:member,” a wistful album also incorporating various string ensembles, fast and slow beats and even the human voice as it alternates between being buoyant and calm.

Probably best heard on the track “they sink,” Stratus, the software Arnalds developed with Halldor Eldjarn, allows him to set values like rhythm and tempo to form a three-element creative loop with a pair of self-playing pianos: they respond to his keyboard playing while Arnalds is in turn affected by their notes and chords.

The multi-part title track launches the album as a good sampler of the rest of the record.

— Pablo Gorondi, Associated Press

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