This is Music Mondays, a weekly music column.
June was undoubtedly a busy month for music. I’ve reviewed new albums from Bleachers, AJR, Phoenix, and Vince Staples. That doesn’t come close to scratching the surface though. This week and next, I will be reviewing some albums I missed in June. This week, it’s Lorde’s “Melodrama” and 311’s “Mosaic”. Next week, I will be reviewing Fleet Foxes’ “Crack-Up” and Portugal the Man’s “Woodstock”.
Lorde, “Melodrama” Review
It feels extremely weird writing a review of an artist who is only a year older than I am. But indie pop singer Lorde, at age 20, relates to me in a way that most artists do not. Her understanding and, perhaps more importantly, misunderstanding of youth is what makes “Melodrama” so special.
I would not have classified myself as a Lorde fan prior to this record, but the changes she has made to her songwriting immediately won me over on my first listen of “Melodrama”.
Lorde has lost much of the sometimes brash, sometimes minimalistic instrumentation found on her first studio album “Pure Heroine”, and this change is for the better. The instrumentation on “Melodrama” is much more pleasant, appealing to more mainstream pop sensibilities without sounding cheap or easy.
“Green Light” is a bona fide pop hit, complete with danceable piano chords and a driving percussion beat. “The Louvre” ends with a melancholic guitar solo that could fit perfectly in an ‘80s movie prom scene. “Liability” is a beautiful piano ballad, and is one of the best tracks on this record.
The most important improvement on “Melodrama” is Lorde’s personal lyrics. “Melodrama” is a near perfect encapsulation of youthfulness. As she is a pop superstar, Lorde’s stories may not necessarily be relatable, but the album’s themes of love, friendship, and living while you’re young are as grand, heartbreaking, and wistful as they should be.
“Liability” is enough to break your heart, as Lorde sings how her career and schedule has essentially ended friendships and romances. “Writer in the Dark” is a break-up song that isn’t spiteful, but painfully intimate. “Supercut”, another one of my favorites on this record, is tragically nostalgic, with Lorde looking back on the “magic” of a relationship before the “love was lost”.
Not all of the songs on “Melodrama” are sad however. “Homemade Dynamite” is a fun send-up to doing stupid s*** while you’re young. “The Louvre” is romantic and finds Lorde with her head in the clouds, and is sure to bring a smile to the listener’s face. The closer “Perfect Places” is a celebration of youth, with all of the successes and failures that come with it.
A lot of things happen while you’re young. Some are magical and mysterious. Others are heartbreaking and unthinkable. Lorde nails all of these moments, and paints the spaces in between beautifully.
“Melodrama” is undoubtedly one of my favorite records of 2017. It’s both joyous and heart-wrenching. Lorde runs the emotional gamut on this album, and she nails it. The more approachable pop sound of “Melodrama” is a perfect shift for Lorde, and the personal nature of “Melodrama” is what truly makes it special.
Youth is complicated, but the quality of “Melodrama” is not. It’s amazing.
311, “Mosaic” Review
Rock-reggae-rap group 311 is one of the most underappreciated groups in music today. The band has been making music since the early ‘90s, and has never stopped touring and writing new material.
While some critics laugh off the group and view them as a relic of the ‘90s, the band has retained the fun energy that made them so special in the first place. They continue to be a positive force in rock music, and their twelfth studio album, “Mosaic”, is no different. In fact, “Mosaic” is one of the group’s best albums in years.
“Mosaic” is a purely fun rock record. Lead single “Too Much To Think” fuses the band’s classic rock-reggae sound to near perfection, and the song is capped with a great guitar solo. “Wildfire” warps through multiple sounds, with reggae, harder rock, rap, and soft rock all being displayed by the band.
“Mosaic” runs over an hour, which is often too long for my taste, but there are very few duds on this album. The tracklist is constantly interesting, and the band changes its sound enough with each song to keep the entire runtime exciting. The vocally boring “Extension” and the overly long “Too Late” are the only songs that could have been left out in my opinion.
While the tracklist remains interesting, some of the rap sections sound tired in the middle tracks of “Mosaic”. “Perfect Mistake” and “Extension” just lack the zealous energy for rap that some of the band’s earlier records have.
This being said, the second half of “Mosaic” is actually stronger than its first half, which cannot be said for many albums. From the song “Hey Yo” to the triumphant closer “On a Roll”, the band recaptures the energy and sound of many of their earlier records, especially 1999’s “Soundsystem” (my favorite 311 album).
Tracks like “Forever Now” and “One and the Same”, ignoring their modern production, could fit in with the classic songs from 311’s mid-’90s records.
311 will not win over any new fans with “Mosaic”. They have not changed their sound, which will turn off listeners who never liked their fusion of rock, reggae, and rap in the first place. However, for fans of the band, they will be elated to see the band has released one of their best records in years.
“Mosaic” boasts great energy, a strong tracklist, fun guitar solos, and the expertise of a band that has been making music for over 20 years. The band rarely sounds tired. Rather, “Mosaic” sounds like the group has taken their experience and improved on what has come before.
“Mosaic” is totally worthy of a recommendation to 311 fans and newcomers that want to find a band full of youthful energy, even if they are in their late forties.