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February 25, 2014 at 10:03 AM

TacocaT, The Notwist, Beck | New recordings

Bree McKenna, of TacocaT (Alan Berner / The Seattle Times)

Bree McKenna, of TacocaT (Alan Berner / The Seattle Times)

TacocaT, a cool Seattle band with a cool name; The Notwist, a German band gunning for a comeback on Seattle’s Sub Pop label; and Beck, a cool guy who has nothing to do with Seattle, are the artists with new releases we selected for review this week. Read what our critics have to say — and don’t miss the videos at the bottom of this post.

TacocaT, ‘NVM’ (Hardly Art)

Gentlemen, get ready to sing about menstruation. Even if you feel squeamish watching commercials about barely there feminine products, you will be helpless to the powers of the impossibly catchy “Crimson Wave,” a standout track from Tacocat’s “NVM,” the Seattle band’s first LP for Sub Pop’s Hardly Art imprint. Sure, “All the girls are surfing the crimson wave,” but all the boys will be singing along to this: “Can’t believe all the pain I’m in/Gimme white wine and Vicodin.” How long will it be until we get a male cover? (Unnatural Helpers, are you listening?)

All the tracks on “NVM” are on the “Crimson” spectrum: They’re full of smart lyrics and catchy melodies that have the buoyancy of ’90s ska acts like Save Ferris and Reel Big Fish — usually delivered without horns. It’s impossible not to nod along to “Bridge to Hawaii” or laugh in agreement to the punk-rock sendup, “This Is Anarchy”: “My crust fund pays my rent/Gotta show the world my discontent.” Ouch!

Playful, irreverent and, of course, menstrual, this is a rare LP that’s spot free from start to finish.

Chris Kornelis, Special to The Seattle Times

Notwist, ‘Close to the Glass’ (Sub Pop)

Belying its name, The Notwist’s career path hasn’t been straight.

Emerging from Germany 25 years ago with a style built on cacophonous, metallic walls of noise, the group drastically overhauled its sonic palette for 2002’s “Neon Golden,” which placed it atop a burgeoning indie-electronic scene — “glitch-pop,” critics called it — alongside found-sound architects The Books and pre-Postal Service project Dntel.

The Notwist has kept a low profile since then, leading some to dismiss it as a one-album wonder, but “Close To The Glass” challenges that view.

Though the 12-song set is schizophrenic, jumping from percussive clamor (the title track) to wistful balladry (“Casino”) to minimalist shoegazing (“7 Hour Drive”), Markus Acher’s plaintive, whispered intonations — frequently multi-tracked to hypnotic effect — steadily guide the listener through its maze of chiming guitars, eerie strings and gurgling analog synthesizers.

Had “Glass” arrived immediately after “Golden,” it could’ve been massive. By now, it’s unclear whether it’ll connect, or push The Notwist back underground. Regardless, it’s a trip worth taking for those who prefer their modern pop music more organic than robotic.

Charlie Zaillian, Special to The Seattle Times

Beck, ‘Morning Phase’ (Capitol)

You never know what a new Beck record might bring. It could be anything from disco to folk, hip-hop, psychedelia, R & B or — in the case of 2012’s “Song Reader” — no recording at all, just sheet music.
Billed as a companion to 2002’s languid, dreamy “Sea Change,” the Californian’s 12th LP, “Morning Phase,” is a meditative slow-burner draped in wall-to-wall harmonies and grand orchestration.

But it can be sullen, its dozen songs teetering between introspection and monotony. Unlike the candid breakup jams of “Sea Change,” these keep their distance.

Ironically, this emotional chill is warmed by an Icelander, Birgir Jón Birgisson, whose shimmering production invites the listener in even when the material doesn’t.

If you occasionally struggle to reconcile the inward-gazing “Morning Phase” with the slacker snark and showman’s flair of catalog favorites like 1994’s lo-fi, all-acoustic “One Foot In The Grave” and 1996’s cross-genre triumph “Odelay,” you’re not alone.

Still, to know Beck is to love his chameleonic style — and while he may be less spontaneous these days, his maturation as a songwriter and arranger continues to impress.

Charlie Zaillian, Special to The Seattle Times



Comments | More in Rock/Pop | Topics: "Close to the Glass", "Morning Phase", "NVM"


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