“Texis” by Sleigh Bells – Album Review

What strikes me most about the new album from Sleigh Bells isn’t the misspelled title, or the slightly creepy, blank expression of the woman on the cover. No, it’s the change in sound. Listen carefully to debut single “Locust Laced.” There’s a tautness there that wasn’t there before. It’s courtesy of an electronic beat that underscores their signature blast of guitar, tempered with Alexis Krauss’s vocals. I’m not sure I’m a huge fan; I really liked the rough-hewn edges of Treats and Reign of Terror.

That tautness is used to better effect in “SWEET75,” which despite an opening that’s reminiscent of a video game soundtrack is one of the best on the album. Here, Krauss’s voice stands strong; it’s an equal counterpoint to Derek Miller’s guitar rather than a layer to it.

Her voice fits the lyrical themes of Texis, which cover familiar Sleigh Bells ground: outcasts (“tough kids with high IQs”) and a vintage feel (“You’re legitimate rock and roll”). Some of the lyrics, however, are so much of a stretch that they’re confusing. See “Justine Go Genesis,” a mouthful of a tile that features the bridge, “My main man, Mary Anne is holding my hand.” Try saying that three times fast!

Overall, it’s not the duo’s strongest release. I do applaud them for trying something new, and for exploring electronic music to stay current. However, the execution doesn’t quite work – at least not for me.

My rating? 3/5.

“Lean into Life” by Petey – Album Review

I’ve been keeping an eye on Petey’s career ever since I heard the single “Pitch a Fit!” several months ago. He came out with an EP, Other Stuff, back in June, and now he’s released his debut album Lean into Life.

The album kicks off with “California,” which has to be my favorite song on Lean into Life. It sets the tone. We meet Petey’s soft twang, which tends to veer into a heartfelt, exuberant yelp. He also tells us about what got him here: he drove out west to chase his dreams – and escape a relationship. I love the clever lyrics: “I’d rather be depressed in California/Ocean’s got the only blues I need.” The video for the song shows the joy that has made Petey so popular on TikTok; we see him waving to the camera, diving into the ocean, singing with his arms around his friends.

“DON’T TELL THE BOYS” is such a sweet song about male friendship and how it can be deep. It manages to avoid “no homo” overtones, which is refreshing. Instead, he and his friends watch The O.C. together and Petey promises that “I’ll always be your lending ear…we’ve got each other till the end.” This song also displays how elastic Petey’s voice is: he softens down into vocal fry territory towards the end.

Petey’s music is reflective. In “Pitch a Fit!”, he admits that “I can’t even order a pizza without having a panic attack.” That loneliness appears again in “Apple TV Remote,” where we learn that he only keeps in touch with a friend through Venmo. (“More to Life than Baseball,” from Other Stuff, describes another faded friendship.)

Even the title track “Lean into Life” veers between joy and sadness about how peoples’ lives sometimes turn out. Petey references the 27 Club and how “It’s beginning to feel like I’ve/Been training my whole life for nothing…” One wonders if, when he says “You gotta lean into life a bit,” he’s actually talking to himself.

The album closes on a quiet note. “Tell The Boys” is a purely instrumental track. It was actually a little odd to listen to something without his voice. I enjoyed it though; the song feels experimental, veering from one muffled electronic note to the other.

Petey’s work feels honest in a way I haven’t heard an artist be in quite awhile. His long hair gives his lyrics something of a Messianic quality, as though he’s observing society from a distance and telling it like it is. I’m looking forward to his future releases.

“End of Daze” EP by the Dum Dum Girls

It’s too bad the Dum Dum Girls haven’t come out with anything new since 2015’s Red Sun because they were working with a really unique sound. Their 2012 EP End of Daze encapsulated that variety.

The EP opener, “Mine Tonight”, has an excellent, shaky guitar line underneath Dee Dee’s robust vocals. The beginning is kind of ominous, too, especially with the droning drums. It so paints the image of a girl walking the tightrope line of an unhealthy relationship; when she sings about having “vacant eyes,” she sounds like it.

Then you’ve got the complete opposite style in “I Got Nothing” because the drums are almost bouncy. Dee Dee has got nothing left to say but she kind of sounds…happy about it? Although the chorus has a similar crunchy feedback to “Mine Tonight”, it totally fades out when Dee Dee starts singing that “unto the day [she gives] up her voice” all she wants is to shine. It’s almost like she wants that message to really be heard.

“Trees and Flowers” is not my favorite song from the EP. Aesthetically I get a flower crown ’60s girl vibe. That’s especially clear when, at the beginning, Dee Dee says that she hates the trees and flowers. Her voice here sounds similar to Grace Slick’s in “Go Ask Alice.” It’s also a sad song in a creepy kind of way that I can’t fully identify. (Of course, if you’ve spent any amount of time on this blog, you know I like sad songs. But still.)

My favorite song is “Lord Knows.” It got a lot of replay back in college and so there’s probably some nostalgia factor there. I just love the solidness of the drums. The lyrics are great, too: “a slow burning of Icarus” describes a fading relationship. Later, though, Dee Dee says that there’s “a sanctuary in his kiss.” (Could that be the same kisser from “Mine Tonight”?)

“Season in Hell” closes out the EP. It’s got the brisk drum beat and echoing guitar that’s reminiscent of the ’60s surf sound. No wonder it shows up on my “Summertime Jamz” playlist! There’s also a perfect title drop at the end of the song: “Lift your gaze/it’s the end of daze.” Those lyrics almost get lost in the blistering-feedback-laden end of the song but they fit so perfectly there as a result.

I’m glad I decided to revisit this album. It’s a great little gem.

LANY’s new record “mama’s boy”

I’ve been listening to dream pop group LANY’s latest release mama’s boy a lot recently. It’s a refreshing departure from their usual sad-synth sound that you hear in “Someone Else” and “ILYSB.” Indeed, there’s a real strength to many of the tracks here that I loved.

“you!” is backed by a clear, even drumbeat that explodes as Paul Klein extols how wonderful you are. (The YouTube comments for that song are particularly interesting; some point out that there could even be a religious overtone to that song. After all, the subject did bring Klein back to life and save him from bad dreams.)

I especially loved “my heart won’t let me.” It’s just so urgent. LANY has previously defined itself by being quiet, an echo of the shoegaze era of yore, but in “my heart won’t let me” Klein wrestles with wanting to leave a bad relationship and feeling compelled to stay. The chorus makes it sound like he’s running, he’s really about to leave – but my heart won’t let me.

“cowboy in la” is something of a novelty song. Klein adopts a twang and assures the listener that he’s Not Like Other Guys because, well, he’s a southern transplant who’ll take you out to dinner and ask before he kisses you. I couldn’t help but be charmed by it.

The band has described this album as their growing up and the solid nature of the music here is testament to that. It’s always nice to hear a band find its footing. The soft, even soothing, notes LANY already established provided an unexpectedly fertile place for that to grow without sounding jarring.