Album Reviews: Lake Street Dive, Howler and The Casket Girls


Lake Street Dive, Bad Self Portraits (Signature Sounds Recordings)

On its second full-length album, Boston-spawned collective Lake Street Dive spins out a collection of smart pop songs that evoke the past but retain a youthful freshness. From the clever, bluesy title track (written by stand-up bassist Bridget Kearney) to the woozy, down-tempo “Better Than,” the rich, soulful voice of lead singer Rachael Price easily morphs from throaty to sultry, carrying Bad Self Portraits‘ throwback odes to love, heartache and loneliness. Though there are upbeat standouts—mischievous “Bobby Tanqueray” and tempo-shifting “Seventeen”—it wouldn’t be at all surprising if sorrowful, piano-driven closer “Rental Love” became this year’s “Someone Like You.” ★★★★✩


Howler, World of Joy (Rough Trade)

The one-time bedroom project of gravel-voiced Jordan Gatesmith evolves into a proper four-piece band on Howler’s sophomore album, spending its 10 brief songs surveying the history of alternative rock. It’s all there: from the punk-y, Ramones-like “Drip” to the jangly, Replacements-channeling “Don’t Wanna,” World of Joy sounds like a disc that would have been spun heavily on late-1980s college radio. Given the lack of younger bands playing real rock ‘n’ roll these days, it’s a refreshing turn, especially with gems such as the Nirvana-esque post-punk-psychedelia of the title track and “Here’s The Itch That Creeps Through My Skull,” an almost wistful ballad awash with here chorus-laden guitars and subtle keyboards. ★★★✩✩


The Casket Girls, True Love Kills the Fairy Tales (Frontiers)

Graveface Records founder and namesake Ryan Graveface is the maestro behind this second musical collaboration with fellow Savannah, Georgia, residents (and sisters) Phaedra and Elsa Greene. The siblings’ alternately ethereal and haunting dual vocals pair well with Graveface’s dreamlike synths and mid-tempo electronic beats, but there’s a sameness to the 10 tracks on True Love Kills The Fairy Tales that renders them somewhat indistinguishable. “Ashes and Embers” kicks things up with a Nine Inch Nails-like grinding edge, and “Chemical Dizzy”’s refrain of “there’s nothing more dangerous than a wounded heart” is catchy enough, but even those songs fade into the ether once they’re over. ★★★✩✩