See our Best of Detroit 2020 winners.

Crank 

Wet-palmed reviews for the easily distracted!

AU

Both Lights

Hometapes

2.5 Stars

Riffing: Charm and obnoxiousness in equal measure on overly busy showcase that sounds like a different band from song to song: classical-infected baroque here, power pop and bizarro noise there.

Reference points: Architect Luke Wyland digs Animal Collective-derived headfucks, but Panda Bear and company are better at making them cohere. You stay unsettled, especially on wildly sprawling individual cuts like "Solid Gold."

If you like: Turning every radio in the house on at once indiscriminately while spinning around in an office chair.

La Sera

Sees the Light

Hardly Art

2.5 Stars

Riffing: Vivian Girls bassist Katy Goodman brings melodic bliss to serviceable if not particularly distinct pop tunes, peaking with the cathartic "Break My Heart" and glorious riff-machine "Please Be My Third Eye."

Reference points: Goodman's major asset is her voice, which soars triumphantly over more engaging examples of Spectorian girl-group garage rock like Dum Dum Girls and Colleen Green.

If you like: Besides the obvious, No Joy and Wavves — yet you long for more straightforward seriousness in your emotionally heavy punk.

Lee Ranaldo

Between the Times and the Tides

Matador

2 Stars

Riffing: With Sonic Youth's future up in the air, axman Ranaldo makes a serious bid for solo recognition on agreeable but stodgily bland record.

Reference points: Simple guitar-driven rock is pleasant enough, but the songs and arrangements recall the dullest adherents of the Tom Petty aesthetic. A strong example of the in-vogue "indie easy listening" — so if that's your thing ...

If you like: The pleasantness of Real Estate sans sprightliness; Dean Wareham at his calmest.

Suckers

Candy Salad

Frenchkiss

4 Stars

Riffing: Restless Brooklyn boys take a left turn from their debut to present hummable, disparate, thoroughly engaging pop worth relishing, as eclectic as AU but infinitely more pleasurable.

Reference points: Intricate production bubbles underneath solid, ageless songcraft with an earnest bent. "Chinese Braille" and "Figure it Out" are catchy-as-hell examples, but the climax comes with the ridiculous Beach Boys shimmer of "Turn on the Sunshine."

If you like: Improbably, Matthew Sweet! And the Shins, especially if you were fatally disappointed by Port of Morrow.

WhoMadeWho

Brighter

Kompakt

3 Stars

Riffing: Copenhagen disco punks have trouble fitting in because they're neither as spirited as LCD Soundsystem nor as starkly serious as Cold Cave. But their songs occasionally soar.

Reference points: The first half is four-star material, as fun and ingratiating as something like Cut Copy's Zonoscope. Then, malaise sets in like a dull afterparty, but how many of us even played Side Two of our Camouflage LPs?

If you like: Depeche Mode, New Order, Hot Chip, the more playful side of Wire and Cabaret Voltaire.

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More by Nathan Phillips

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October 21, 2020

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