Capsule Reviews: Against Me, Arcade Fire, Angel Haze

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Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues
Plain and simple, Transgender Dysphoria Blues is Against Me!’s best album since 2002’s Reinventing Axl Rose. It’s also their most emotionally-cutting. On the production side, the album is unrelentingly catchy and propulsive, like decades of angst and suppression unleashing itself in half an hour. Lyrically, Transgender Dysphoria Blues is a powerhouse showing for Laura Jane Grace. This album is powerful, occasionally transcendent, always honest and never less than entertaining. B+

Arcade Fire / Spike Jonze – Her
Spike Jonze’s wonderful new film, Her, credits Arcade Fire for its score, but when it was time to accept an Oscar nomination, only Will (not Win) Butler and Owen Pallett were named. I don’t know what that’s about, but there is a lot to love in the film’s instrumental score; even more in the accompanying soundtrack (Karen O’s gorgeous “Moon Song” is easily one of my favorite songs written for a movie in years). If a film score is judged by how it elevates the visuals on the screen, Arcade Fire’s score is a resounding, indispensable success. If a soundtrack is judged by its how listenable it is beyond the film, Her struggles until “Moon Song” comes in. It’s a good thing they throw it in there twice. B

Angel Haze – Dirty Gold
Dirty Gold – disappointing, misguided, flaccid – gets a C for the too few glimpses of the fiery, ferocious Angel Haze we’ve come to know. Wake me up when the real Angel Haze releases an album. C

James Vincent McMorrow – Post Tropical
This album can pass you by without making much of an impression if you let it. That is perhaps Post Tropical‘s most obvious strength and weakness. James Vincent McMorrow’s impossibly ballsy falsetto, moving from beard folk to James Blake / Bon Iver territory here, can as easy disappear into the ether as it can break your heart. This album moves and soothes, if it does anything at all. B

Childbirth – It’s A Girl 
The premise of It’s A Girl is simple enough – an all-female Riot Grrrlish band singing very funny songs related to childbirth, either directly (“Will You Be My Mom?”) or indirectly (“I Only Fucked You As A Joke”). Only three of the album’s ten songs breach the two-minute mark, which seems about right for humor-oriented explosions of punk. Not every song works, but highlights like “I Only Fucked You As A Joke” more than makeup for some of the lesser songs on the bundle. B

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