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The Chainsmokers - Sick Boy Music Album Reviews

Trading away the dance-pop trifles of their hits for a faceless stylistic shuffle, the duo seems to be tiring of itself, too.
We’re going to be stuck with the Chainsmokers forever. Though the unctuous duo of Drew Taggart and Alex Pall are probably not destined for decades of unqualified success, their insipid spin on EDM’s big-money boom has become as much an eye-rollingly omnipresent part of our national fabric as “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Most living humans in the Western world have likely had the unfortunate sensation of having a Chainsmokers hit stuck in their head, as gross as gum on a hot bus seat; after all, their Coldplay collaboration, “Something Just Like This,” seems made only to ooze from department-store speakers for eternity. There’s even a goddamn feature-length film based on the M83-aping “Paris” in development. Like so many modern American atrocities, the Chainsmokers are just something we’re going to have to endure.

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Foxwarren - Foxwarren Music Album Reviews

Songwriter Andy Shauf puts his solo success on hold for an atmospheric rock record with his friends—appropriate for these tunes about seeking solace in a lonely world.

For Canadian singer/songwriter Andy Shauf, solo success meant putting band life on a brief hold. Whether narrating the macabre end to an unfaithful relationship or house-party antics gone horribly wrong, Shauf has diligently refined his storytelling during the last decade on a series of albums under his own name. All the while, he’s also performed alongside hometown pals Dallas Bryson and brothers Darryl and Avery Kissick as Foxwarren. After releasing 2016’s self-produced, self-arranged The Party on Anti-, Shauf has pulled the band along for the record deal via Foxwarren’s self-titled debut. From the music’s mild temperament to its orchestral flourishes, there are similarities to Shauf’s solo work. But Foxwarren invest more in lyrical ambiguity than storyboard form, a sense they match with wondrously spacious sounds. These songs reflect the band’s familial bond, radiating warmth like a campfire.

Foxwarren’s 10 tracks range in tone from brooding Elliott Smith-like ballads to Paul McCartney ditties. As a whole, though, they fixate on the dream realm, with the shimmer of warped synths and eerie vocals suggesting a distant surrealism. Sturdy numbers like “Everything Apart” and “Lost on You” support low-ringing strings and wistful steel guitar that afford a luminescent touch, like noticing the glittering grain of concrete beneath streetlights.

“Oh patient day, bring the idle night/Do we live with it if we close our eyes,” Shauf sings during “Lost on You,” his voice a cushioning croon, as he wonders if a piece of his broken heart still remains with a past lover. This poignant bit of dream-like escapism ends with a hollow, reverberating synth, encapsulating the feeling of being lost in a tenebrous space. The album’s centerpiece, it exemplifies the conflicting interpretations of dreams, captured elsewhere by the glum minor chords of “Lost in a Dream” and the finger-plucked sunniness of “Fall Into a Dream.” One suggests a doomed consciousness, the other whimsical spontaneity. Both entail a sense of self-erasure, whether it means asking to be forgotten or accepting a helpless state.

Loss permeates Foxwarren, actively and passively. On “Sunset Canyon,” Shauf’s gentle vocals give day drinking and a “sunset cigarette” a haunting languor. He searches for answers (“Could I find myself on the other end/Of my cigarette half-lit?”) but falls back into hopelessness: “See it flicker ’til it falls apart.” On the standout “Everything Apart,” Shauf looks for “someone who can keep it all away.” Avery Kissick’s tightly kept drums, which kick with the persistence of a long-distance runner, lead the search, while Darryl Kissick’s bass urgently ticks away the time. Shauf’s friends help him investigate his darkest emotional corners.

Even though Foxwarren come from a place of companionship, their debut navigates isolation and escape. There’s always a pull away from the physical world here, away from company and toward deterrence. Still, these songs suggest the continuous struggle to be comforted, and Shauf finds himself stronger in the company of others. Even in the detail of lonesome battles, Foxwarren’s kinship and warmth persist.


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