Check out reviews of new releases from Kathleen Hanna's latest band, The Julie Ruin; "The Bride" by Bat for Lashes; and what will likely be the last Tragically Hip record.
BY M. BRIANNA STALLINGS
The Julie Ruin:
‘Hit Reset’ (Hardly Art)
“Hit Reset,” album No. 2 from Kathleen Hanna’s new band, The Julie Ruin — not to be confused with her 1998 solo electro record — adds to Hanna’s musical legacy of visceral personal-as-political tunes that you can dance to.
Considered the fairy godmother of Riot Grrrl as the frontwoman for Bikini Kill, Hanna later made feminist indie-dance pop with Le Tigre before a diagnosis of late-stage Lyme disease that almost took her out at the knees.
Hanna’s life is more manageable now, and her sound keeps on living. On The Julie Ruin’s “Hit Reset,” she tackles her life’s struggles. The opening, title track is a harrowing voyage through Hanna’s troubled childhood, while “I Decide” is an anthem of personal agency amid the world’s stressors.
“Mr. So And So” dresses down every entitled male music fan whose very presence means she “can’t say goodbye before I get my hello.” “Hello Trust No One” takes the piss out of her “Riot Grrrl legend” image. Though revelatory and entertaining, “Hit Reset” is mostly for diehard fans like me — those who’ve been down since Day 1.
Check out the video for The Julie Ruin’s “I’m Done” here.
Bat For Lashes:
‘The Bride’ (Warner Bros.)
Standing tall — hair and makeup impeccable under a sheer veil — she awaits her betrothed at the altar. She finds herself waiting … and waiting. The groom never arrives. Her love is AWOL … and DOA.
That’s the story Natasha Khan (aka Bat for Lashes) tells on “The Bride,” her latest (and most cohesive) album about a woman living in loss between the roles of bride and widow.
The optimism of opening track “I Do” is immediately dashed by “Joe’s Dream” and “In God’s House.” “Honeymooning Alone” opens with a car crash. A wraithlike chorus repeats the title, an inner voice reminding her how it is now. “Never Forgive the Angels” will rip out your heart.
At times, Khan’s lyrics may seem simplistic, with scant detail scattered here and there, and this album never approaches ornateness. That’s how mourning sounds, though. Sometimes we have the wherewithal to create metaphors for the ache; other times, it pours out between sobs. “The Bride” serves as further proof of Khan’s brilliance.
Watch the video for “The Bride” single “Sunday Love” here.
The Tragically Hip:
‘Man Machine Poem’ (Universal Music Canada)
Gordon Downie is dying of terminal brain cancer. The real tragedy of that statement is that about 90 percent of readers will shrug and say, “So? Who’s that?”
Downie is the frontman for legendary Canadian rock group The Tragically Hip, the band’s keening voice since its 1984 inception.
Abbreviated as “The Hip,” the group is huge in the Great North — like, Walk of Fame star, commemorative stamp-issued, salute on “Hockey Night in Canada” huge. Somehow, only a smattering of Yanks are hip to The Hip. The press around “Man Machine Poem,” their latest album, instructs the listener not to think of these 10 songs as reflective of its — or Downie’s — imminent demise, as they were recorded prediagnosis.
That’s a tall order, especially with a single titled “Tired as F@#$”. The opening of “Man” is a glitchy departure from The Hip’s usual alt.rock, and “Great Soul” and “Hot Mic” lead with gritty distortion. Then there’s the guitar-driven literate contemplation on “In Sarnia,” “What Blue” and “Ocean Next.” It’s a stark finale.
M. Brianna Stallings writes so you don’t have to.
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