Three of February’s best album releases

Andrew Critchelow mug

Andrew Critchelow

1. “Is the Is Are” by DIIV:

It’s been four years since Brooklyn-based band DIIV released its sprawling debut record “Oshin.” A record that favors atmosphere over song structure, “Oshin” showcases a dream pop band that seems to prefer the “dream” part. Though this follow-up is largely in the same vein, the record is less of a plunge into the abstract than its predecessor. Songs such as “Dopamine” and “Under the Sun” bring a new sense of eclecticism to a band that, for better or worse, usually sounds like The Cure performing in a cave.

2. “The Life of Pablo” by Kanye West:

“I miss the old Kanye, straight from the ‘Go Kanye, Chop up the soul Kanye, set on his goals Kanye,” raps Kanye West on his latest album “The Life of Pablo.” This strange perception of self is present all throughout Yeezy’s latest project, which might make some wonder: what did happen to the old Kanye? Fortunately, this beautiful, schizophrenic mess of a hip-hop-meets-gospel record proves that there’s no reason to be nostalgic for any Kanye. It’s a record that can praise Jesus, then turn around and diss Taylor Swift. It’s a record that samples Nina Simone and Future. Yeah, it’s a mess, but as West puts it, “name one genius that ain’t crazy.”


3. “Life of Pause” by Wild Nothing:

On Virginia-based indie band Wild Nothing’s third album, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jack Tatum channels the same approach to production made by Tame Impala on its third album “Currents.” The approach is to take spaced-out guitar music and give it some soul. Though Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker wasn’t always successful in combining these elements, Tatum finds a fairly comfortable balance in “Life of Pause.” Tracks like “Reichpop,” “TV Queen” and “Lady Blue” channel a soulful sonic palette that never dares to intrude on Wild Nothing’s established jangle.