Initial Reactions (2012): Beach House, Sigur Ros, Japandroids

Initial Reactions are just that: my reactions to records after only a few listens (usually 2 or 3). I try to be fair, but if a record doesn’t make much of an initial impression on me, someone’s going to need to tell me to pay closer attention if they think it deserves better. (see the sidebar for rating descriptions)

Beach House – Bloom [B+]: I feel like an exacting a-hole when it comes to Bloom. After ranking Teen Dream #1 in 2010, I feel like I should be a little more excited by album 4. But the rub is continuity. Bloom sounds like the simultaneously-filmed sequel to a blockbuster, no creative break with the past but a gorgeous means of marking time. I should welcome that, right? But blame OK Computer and Kid A; blame Achtung Baby. The best throw it all away for greatness, and I can’t help but feel that Bloom under-delivers. ("Lazuli", "Other People")

Sigur Ros – Valtari [B]: Recently, Sigur Ros have expanded their sonic template (see the "streaker" album and Jonsi’s solo work), but Valtari is mostly a return to form. I won’t wax insightful about what the band are doing here – "creating magical sonic landscapes" seems sufficient – I’ll merely remark that this is a new Sigur Ros record, with two fantastic SR songs and six other lovely ones. There are glimpses of fresh ideas, but the band never really moves beyond a proven template. Thus, enjoyable, but unfortunately not great. ("Eg anda", "Varuth")

Japandroids – Celebration Rock [B-]: With Celebration Rock, we get a one-dimensional trajectory that, for all the RAWK!, reaches monotony in just three songs. Some tunes begin with potentially fantastic hooks, but it’s all a head-long plunge, all power ahead, all rocket pack into the empty vacuum. That’s the point, right? Party hard and all that? I was never a true punk though, and I expect nuance. CR is decent for what it is, but it doesn’t have the ability to expand beyond its own genre. ("The Nights of Wine and Roses", "Continuous Thunder")