Mangy Love by Cass McCombs and 25 25 by Factory Floor
No musician sounds quite like Cass McCombs. His songs feel invertebrate, squiggling around and circling back to melodic touchstones that bury themselves deeper with each pass. His lyrics are puzzle pieces that take dozens of listens to decipher and don’t always come together to form the picture you expect. He releases music in large bursts, alternating between dreamlike stories and direct sentiment. On he addresses the troubles of our times in mostly oblique fashion. In “Opposite House,” he sings of being trapped in a depressed mindset by using surrealistic imagery of halls full of snakes and meditations on magnets while returning to the phrase “rain inside when it’s sunny out.” On the album opener, “Bum Bum Bum,” he sings of racist congressmen and police shootings with lines such as “How long before this river of blood congeals?” while easing the pain by gently landing each stanza on the rhythmic phrase of the title. Lest the mood get too dark, he unfurls a song called “Laughter Is the Best Medicine” over a bedrock of soulful music reminiscent of Van Morrison. The Grateful Dead influence creeps in here and there, as on the Jerry Garcia-esque “Switch,” and like Garcia, McCombs lets his rich compositions follow their own path, allowing the words to grow into something resembling folklore along the way. — Robert Ker
After just one album — 2013’s self-titled dance-funk workout — London trio Factory Floor has slimmed down to a duo. Perhaps relatedly, their already minimalist compositions became even more spare, and features several tracks that are positively skeletal. The songs often consist of one warbling electronic squiggle that serves as both the bass and the lead melody, along with a smattering of live and programmed percussion. On top of this foundation, the duo adds dublike sound effects and abstract, heavily reverberating dashes of vocals, none of which stay stagnant for long. The effect of these additions is akin to driving on a rainy night and passing neon signs that appear as blurs of color against your windshield, receding in the distance as quickly as they arrived. Sometimes, the juxtaposition of sound effects can be playful, as on the descending bass line and call-and-response moans of “Relay.” This is still dance music, albeit in an artistic fashion that often recalls the combination of early rap and art school of the 1980s Talking Heads spinoff band Tom Tom Club. The album’s early singles “Dial Me In” and “Ya” rely on a clear, steady pulse that the duo gradually tinkers with, similar to the approach of their more-ballyhooed labelmates LCD Soundsystem. — R.K.