Review Rundown: Panda Bear, Twin Atlantic, OTEP, Destrophy, Nazareth

This, the 42nd edition of the Review Rundown, offers looks at new releases from the likes of Panda Bear, Twin Atlantic, OTEP, Destrophy and Nazareth.

Purchase - Tomboy
File Under: Bouncy Experimentalism
Panda Bear – Tomboy (Paw Tracks): Sure Tomboy isn’t exactly a new Animal Collective album, but as Panda Bear is the side project of Noah Lennox, founding member of the former, it comes close and should register as a comfortable listen for all those involved. For the most part, Tomboy is a literal ocean of sound, one filled with swells of overdubs and waves of reverb, a sound that requires a bit of work to slog through. The record is at its best when Lennox takes his dense, layered sound and strips it down, exposing his own unique pop sensibilities, moments in which the albums true groove expose themselves (“Slow Motion,” “Last Night at the Jetty”), but unfortunately there’s a darker side to the album that lacks certainty. In these instances, Tomboy sounds lost and distant (“Drone,” “Scheherezade”). While Lennox’s vocal remains lush and beautiful during these cold segments, it’s hard to feel a part of these songs and look at them as anything more than just mere songs on wax. When Tomboy is focused, it’s undeniable catchy, but it’s those despondent times that keep pulling the album closer and closer to the doldrums. Regardless, it’s decent for what it is, and simply taking it at that is your best bet. (
Grade: B-
Go Download: “Last Night at the Jetty”

Purchase - Free
File Under: Scot Alt-Rock
Twin Atlantic – Free (Red Bull Records): With Free, just the sophomore outing from Glasgow, Scotland’s Twin Atlantic, the criminally underappreciated group avoids any and all signs of the dreaded sophomore slump by delivering a record rife with high-arching melodies and bombastic rock riffing. Though they suffer a bit from the Billy Talent syndrome (beloved in their hometown, mostly overlooked elsewhere), Twin Atlantic return with Free, an album on par with their feverous debut Vivarium, doing so with a brazen methodology that’s unafraid in nature. Vocalist Sam McTrusty's is allowed more freedom to flex his gruff vocal muscles this time around and for those who ever had any doubts about his vocal abilities, immediately turn the dial to “Crash Land” and watch all your feelings of apprehension quell. Twin Atlantic’s decision to drop an instrumental track (“Serious Underground Dance Vibes”) midway is puzzling because it saps some of the albums steam up until that point (listen to “Edit Me,” “Free”), but thankfully the next track, “Eight Days” brings listeners back to Twin Atlantic’s world via some of the albums finest guitar work. Free finds the bands perhaps finally carving out their place in the scene, a record that should end the year as an under-the-radar favorite with a touch of that “it factor.” (
Grade: B+
Go Download: “Free”

Purchase - Atavist
File Under: Yawn-Core
OTEP – Atavist (Victory): OTEP’s main problem was always that they’ve been seemingly afraid to change, and their latest Atavist, is simple proof. This, their fifth studio release, shows a band in OTEP that have not really wavered from the sound that put them on the map back around the turn of the century, still clinging to that heavy, nu-metal style that so, so, so many bands have since abandoned. Sure, OTEP is one of the few to survive the much maligned nu-metal phase, mainly due to the talents of frontwoman and brainchild Otep Shamaya, the bands one true saving grace. It’s her vocal contributions that make Atavist worth stomaching, and regardless of the music backing her, or how bellowing or whisper soft her vocals are, few of these tracks are able to stand out, but rest assured the good ones are worth the time spent searching for them (“Drunk on the Blood of Saints,” “Fist Fall”), though ironically enough for a ‘heavy metal’ band, the albums best cut is also its most innocent, the acoustic offering “We Dream Like Lions,” a song that finds the band waxing all things vulnerable. In typical OTEP fashion there are those spoken word tracks (“Baby’s Breath,” “Bible Belt”), but not even Shamaya’s superior poetry skills can truly save Atavist. (
Grade: C-
Go Download: “We Dream Like Lions”     

Purchase - Cry Havoc
File Under: Arena Ready Rock
Destrophy – Cry Havoc (Victory): Destrophy’s sophomore release Cry Havoc is less a full-on metal effort and more an arena rock record with slight metal tendencies, which is something people should know right off the bat. Longtime fans of the band should be disappointed in Cry Havoc, if for nothing else the fact that it seems as if the band has lost any and all of their discernable edge, instead careering towards a career of mediocrity as it were. Gone are the razor sharp licks, low end booms and deep 808 drops, which have been replaced with banal riffs, cookie cutter structures and just plain vanilla songwriting. Sure, Cry Havoc is nothing if not overtly anthemic, but that quality alone isn’t enough to sell itself. Cry Havoc is comprised of mainly two types of songs with basically no middle ground, meaning that if you aren’t listening to the smattering of mid-80’s inspired hard rock (“We Are Alive,” “Closer,” “It Ends Tonight”) that means you’re embroiled in balladeering cheese, both of the power and non-power variety (“What Would We Say,” “Hello,” “Misery”). For a band that just two years ago showed a good amount of promise, it’s sad to see them follow-up with a release of this quality. Suffice to say, it will be interesting to see where Destrophy goes from here, if anywhere. (
Grade: C
Go Download: “Seven Nights”

Purchase - Big Dogz
File Under: Veteran Rock
Nazareth – Big Dogz (Eagle): It’s hard to imagine that Nazareth, with most of its members well over the age of 60, could get any more mature on Big Dogz, the bands 22nd release, but it’s true. And honestly, if you look past the cheese-fest that is the combination of the album title and artwork (a four-headed cartoon dog); you’ll find a solid record in Big Dogz, one that shows Nazareth still has some fight in them. Apparently as well, you can teach an old dogs new tricks, proof of which being the saccharine-laced ballad “Butterfly,” which finds 65-year-old frontman Dan McCafferty gushing forth like a young lad. Having been a socially-aware band throughout the years, Nazareth also touches on some of today’s biggest social issues on Big Dogz, topics like gang warfare (“Watch Your Back”), corruption in government (“Lifeboat”) and religion (“When Jesus Comes to Save the World Again”). The introspective and commercially-viable “Radio” is also a quality cut off of Big Dogz, an album that should be more appreciated than it probably will be. Overall, this new release finds the long-running veteran band settling into a more mature place, and for a band that has accomplished what Nazareth has (more in Europe than stateside), that’s surely saying something. (
Grade: B-
Go Download: “Radio”