editors-the-weight-of-your-love.jpgEDITORS: The Weight of Your Love
PIAS, 48 minutes
Rating: 2.5 / 5

True to their name, Editors used to excel at crafting modern rocks songs that stripped away all non-essential elements. Early singles like "Munich" and "All Sparks" eschewed complexity for direct emotional impact, which may not have won over critics but made their debut album an accessible standout of the early-aughts post-punk revival.

But that kind of no-frills approach doesn't age well, leading Editors to forsake their own appeal with the intermittently interesting but bloated An End Has a Start (2007) and all but abandon it entirely with the unfortunate synth-rock homage In this Light and On this Evening (2009).

Four years and a couple lineup changes later, here is The Weight of Your Love, the kind of record you might expect to follow a commercial and artistic failure. It intentionally recalls the band's earlier work while failing to recapture its youthful energy. Its best track "Sugar" comes early, cleverly playing ominous bass and shimmering guitar riffs against each other to illustrate a conflicted love affair; "It breaks my heart to love you" — awkward but endearing in its faux-profundity, but it is an Editors song after all.

Elsewhere, Editors roll back the clock so far they practically reappear in the '90s; "A Ton of Love" is more Pearl Jam than post-punk, while "Formaldehyde" and "Two Hearted Spider" fit the very era-appropriate practice of sticking an album's most disposable tracks way in the back where most people won't find them. That said nothing here is nearly as groan-inducing as Evening's worst turns.

daughngibson_memoan.jpgDAUGHN GIBSON: Me Moan
Sub Pop,
Rating: 3.5 / 5

Hear Daughn Gibson once and he's hard to forget. His ambitious, sample-happy electro-gospel-country-rock hybrid style is completely his own, with a deep, rich baritone voice few others have the cajones to attempt. Even if you don't particularly like his songs, you must admit they are uniquely memorable in a take-it-or-leave-it, Tom Waits-ian fashion.

Gibson's voice was the focal point of many critical assessments of his debut All Hell (2011). For its follow-up and his first album for Sub Pop, Me Moan, he takes it to an even greater extreme. On the album's most immediate songs (i.e. its potential singles) — "The Sound of Law," "Kissin' On the Blacktop" — it's deeper, twangier and, in some ways, less impactful. He's taken what is clearly his most definable quality and defined it even further.

But while his vocal approach here is sometimes exaggerated to the point of cartoonish-ness, Gibson's songwriting has improved immensely. Some of All Hell's weaker tracks felt underwritten, and had a tendency to just wander off instead of concluding in any meaningful way, but nothing on Me Moan is done halfway. From the guns-blazing lead of "Law" to the piano-driven closer "Into the Sea," he proves he can make songs that are themselves worthy of sampling. 

desspartscover.jpgDESSA: Parts of Speech
Doomtree, 44 minutes
Rating: 3.5 / 5

You could call what Dessa does "rapping," but her new album Parts of Speech isn't the first or fifth album of the year I'd recommend to anyone who calls themselves a "rap fan." Its first song, "The Man I Knew", doesn't make her methods very clear, adopting the swagger and verbosity of rap while superficially resembling the kind of soft-pop song more expected of a white girl who probably went to college.

When a hip hop beat does emerge, as in "Warsaw," it is soon offset by a soulful turn like "Dear Marie." The urban radio-friendly "Fighting Fish" is preceded by a Bruce Springsteen cover. Unlike just about any rapper I can think of, Dessa is as good a singer as she is a rhymer, and like all her albums previous Parts of Speech has her playing both talents against the another.

The closest contemporary to Dessa's sound may be another act you've probably never heard of but should definitely seek out, Subtle — both use the bones of rap music to construct something that barely resembles it, and both are compelling and head-scratching in their hyper-literate lyricism.

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