Music reviews: Wilco, Rob Thomas, Carly Rae Jepsen, Beach House

Bill Lamb, Contributing writer

Wilco :: ‘Star Wars’

Ever wondered what Wilco would sound like if they simply walked into the studio and let the tape roll? Now you can find out, thanks to their new album Star Wars, a self-released, super-DIY record that sounds even better than many of the band’s more intricately constructed past works. In the midst of all of the fuzzy guitar and avant-pop rhythms, there is an elegant grace that keeps you listening. “You Satellite” is one of the most beautiful tracks Wilco has ever written, and the buzzing flood of guitars on top of drums that chaotically roll off the rails by the end makes the song even more striking. While the album has more introspective moments, it is the rollicking sound of noisy tracks like “Random Name Generator” and “Pickled Ginger” that will stick in your mind. 

Rob Thomas :: ‘The Great Unknown’

It’s been six years since we last heard solo work from Matchbox Twenty frontman Rob Thomas, and he’s lightened up considerably since Cradlesong. This new album is more akin to Thomas’ catchy debut, kicking off with the R&B-inflected “I Think We’d Feel Good Together” and segueing into uptempo lead single “Trust You.” There are big ballads like “Paper Dolls” and “Pieces,” but the danceable beat of “Things You Said” is more memorable. Six years is a long time to be away, but hopefully pop radio will give this record a chance.

Carly Rae Jepsen :: ‘E-MO-TION’

The hazard in a smash hit single as big as “Call Me Maybe” is it tends to overshadow everything an artist does afterward. Carly Rae Jepson has struggled since 2012 to find a compelling follow-up to her international debut Kiss, and it’s masked one of the stronger talents in the mainstream pop universe. E-MO-TION could change that. Jepsen says she looked to Cyndi Lauper and Robyn for inspiration, and it shows on the album, infused with the simultaneous bursts of joy and creeping melancholy that distinguishes both artists’ best work. Kiss was a quality contemporary pop statement. E-MO-TION speaks even louder.

Beach House :: ‘Depression Cherry’

Beach House, the duo of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally, has emerged as a key architect of what is known as dream pop. It is a sound in which vocals and melodies seem to emerge out of a soothing electronic haze. It has carried Beach House to nearly universal critical acclaim and a top 10-charting album, Bloom, in 2012. Depression Cherry is the first release since, and it seems a bit like a letdown. The songs on Depression Cherry aim to go to a somewhat darker place, but too often they seem to be lost in the mist. The single “Sparks” is more distinctive with a somewhat rougher sound, but much of the rest of the album is so comforting that the attention of the listener can frequently waver.