Our picks: Music reviews


“How We Operate”

4 stars

Some bands don’t change. They fail to realize that producing the same mix of sound and structure album after album will cause them to go stale.

Gomez is not one of those bands. They have painted themselves as an industry paradox: a band who over the course of its career can almost completely restyle itself while consistently creating its own sound and retaining fans worldwide.

In Gomez’s sixth studio LP, the experimental undertones that marked the band’s earliest releases and enabled its first album to win the Mercury Prize (Britain’s highest musical honor) have disappeared.

In its place stands a fresher, poppier version of the band, which places among the finest in Britain today.

Vocalists Ben Ottewell, Tom Gray and Ian Ball each contribute their unique vocal styles to the 12 tracks on this record.

“How We Operate” contains the same strong rhythm section and memorable guitar hooks that characterized the band’s previous releases.

So what does all this mean? In the end, Gomez is a band that continues to grow and soar – without selling out.

Key Tracks: “All Too Much,” “Girlshapedlovedrug,” “See the World”

Drive-By Truckers

“A Blessing and a Curse”

4 stars

Could it be that Drive-By Truckers is the best band south of the Mason-Dixon Line?

That’s not an easily answered question, but if I had to answer right now, I would agree.

Most bands these days do not boast two quality songwriters. Many cannot even claim to have one.

Drive-By Truckers, on the other hand, possess three high-quality songwriters: guitarists Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley and Jason Isbell, each of whom steps up to the mic and takes over lead vocals on his respective songs.

Unlike the last record, “The Dirty South,” which saw the songwriting duties split fairly evenly among the three, this disc (their sixth studio album) is dominated by the group’s patriarch, Hood, who penned six of the 11 tunes.

The gritty, swampy, three-guitar attack, in combination with the often eye-opening lyrical content, arguably makes the band the greatest southern rock band since the heyday of Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Where most southern rock bands succumb to clich?s and garish stereotypes of the south and fail, Drive-By Truckers is able to overcome them and succeed.

Key Tracks: “Easy on Yourself,” “Little Bonnie,” “Feb. 14”

Built to Spill

“You in Reverse”

4 stars

Built to Spill was never an MTV-type band. Its members were never considered the saviors of rock, a label that was hung on the head of early ’90s counterpart Pavement.

It was often overlooked, flung into the dark, incessant shadows of the Hooties, Dave Matthews and Creeds of the world.

Yet despite this, Built to Spill was one of the seminal bands of rock over the last 12 years and one of college radio’s biggest names.

After five years, the group finally returns with “You in Reverse,” its sixth studio album, to re-establish itself as paragons of rock excellence in an era that desperately needs it.

Frontman Doug Martsch proves that he is still the master craftsman and indie guitar hero that he once was, weaving intricate and awe-inspiring patterns of guitars through fractured, post-modern song structures.

Much like the band’s previous efforts, this album is drawn out: its overall runtime clocks in at just under an hour for a 10-track record (I’ll leave you to do the math on average song length).

Despite this, the individual songs do not feel overcooked, as Martsch’s guitars melt into the loose and spacious jams that have become one of the band’s trademarks.

Built to Spill will never be one of the most popular bands of our era, nor would I suspect that it wants to be.

But the boys from Boise, Idaho prove once again that they are one of the most important.

If you have not paid much attention to them up to now, this is as good time as any to jump right in.

Key Tracks: “Conventional Wisdom,” “Traces,” “Liar”