CD reviews: January 19

Crystal Castles.
III.
Shock.

From the harrowing cover image of a Yemeni woman cradling her pepper-sprayed son at a protest through to titles such as Plague, Wrath of God and Pale Flesh, it is clear that Canadian electronica duo Crystal Castles are not eyeing the charts.

Their third album enhances the chilly lo-fi aesthetic established on their 2008 debut, with Ethan Kath's sepulchral soundscapes buttressed by Alice Glass's keening vocals.

At times, the atonal itchiness grates; yet the malfunctioning arcade-game blips and sinister trance stabs of Violent Youth, Sad Eyes and early Cure-evoking Transgender are streamlined enough to exude a thrilling dynamism.

Single download: Violent Youth
For those who like: The Cure, Telepathe, Ladytron
3 stars (out of 5)
- John Hayden


AC Newman.
Shut Down The Streets.
Matador Records
.

Birth, death and the great questions of life, the universe and everything were occupying the mind of New Pornographers frontman AC Newman when he penned his third solo album, not that it's always apparent from his lyrics.

Certainly, the trio of songs that occupy the heart of the album are letters to his newborn son, and the closing title track pays homage to his recently deceased mother, but elsewhere the window to Newman's world is misted. In his particular, sometimes overly meticulous way, he merges pop, folk and '70s AOR into an album that rewards the patient listener.

Single download: I'm Not Talking
For those who like: The New Pornographers, Andrew Bird
3 stars (out of 5)
- Jeff Harford


Julian Temple Band.
Upsidedownbackwards.
Oscillosonic Records

Not as instantly accessible as their last couple of albums, Upsidedownbackwards captures a road-honed Julian Temple waxing lyrical on his trusty acoustic once again. Working from a shadowy palatte that is often at odds with the breezy melodies that Temple conjures at ease, it's the addition of Alex Vaatstra on violin that has the most profound effect. Upsidedownbackwards is a slow burner, a little loose around the edges, but still containing some captivating experimental flourishes that hint of something great waiting in the wings.

Single download: My Heart
For those who like: Grant Lee Buffalo, Tom Waits, Ledfoot
4 stars (out of 5)
- Mark Orton