Album Reviews: Brendan Benson, Mogwai and Against Me!

Retro Rock

Brendan Benson, You Were Right (Readymade Records)

Frequent Jack White collaborator Benson returns with his first solo album since 2012’s What Kind of World. Released on his own label, You Were Right collects both songs originally released as part of a monthly singles series and newly recorded versions of outtakes from his previous albums. The opening track, “It’s Your Choice,” isn’t dissimilar from the Nashville musician’s signature Southern-tinged power-pop, but once the Moog-accented “Rejuvenate Me” kicks in, the rest of the album weaves and bobs through the sounds of the 1960s and ’70s. From the Paul McCartney-like, piano-driven “Swallow You Whole” to the psychedelic “I’ll Never Tell,” You Were Right crackles with enjoyable familiarity, even if it’s not exploring any new ideas. ★★★☆☆


Mogwai, Rave Tapes (Sub Pop)

On its second album for Sub Pop, Scottish post-rock band Mogwai once again delivers an addictive collection of challenging music—one that strikes a balance between the organic, Wall of Sound approach heard on earlier albums such as Mr. Beast and the tighter, synth-heavy material found on its Sub Pop debut, Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will. Typically bereft of vocals, the surprisingly brief 10 tracks (clocking in at just 50 minutes total) on Rave Tapes feature syncopated rhythms, pulsing keyboards and a production that feels somewhat claustrophobic, save for a select few songs, such as the expansive, cymbal-drenched “Master Card” and the mild, haunting “Blues Hour” (which features the only proper vocals on the album). ★★★★☆


Against Me!, Transgender Dysphoria Blues (Total Treble)

Against Me! founder Laura Jane Grace has never shied from getting personal in her folk songs disguised as punk anthems. Transgender Dysphoria Blues doubles as a concept album about a fictional transgender prostitute and as a document of the singer/songwriter’s own transition from male to female. Despite the heavy subject matter, the songs charge along with the same shout-along choruses, jangly distorted guitars, bouncing bass and snappy drums that propelled 2011’s White Crosses, occasionally veering into thrash-ier territory on songs such as “Drinking with the Jocks” and “Osama Bin Laden as the Crucified Christ.” It’s a bold album on which Grace’s forceful growl is more honest and raw than ever. ★★★★☆

Disc Scan

Upcoming on Pj’s radar …

FEB. 11: Electronic trio The Glitch Mob returns with its first full album in four years, Love Death Immortality, while the Casket Girls unleash another disc of goth-tinged pop music on True Love Kills the Fairy Tale. FEB. 18: Retro-pop quartet Lake Street Dive releases Bad Self Portraits, just in time for an appearance on the Late Show With David Letterman. ALSO IN FEBRUARY: Beck is slated to release the long-awaited Morning Phase, a spiritual follow-up to 2002’s acclaimed Sea Change.