Classically trained John Cale served as the scary éminence grise in founding The Velvet Underground — not easy when his partner was Lou Reed. After leaving the band in 1968, Cale shifted into complex orchestral pop and angry punk, but few could have anticipated his latest move in Mercy (Double Six Records), where the 80-year-old Welshman delivers an hour of smooth downtempo dubstep and near-EDM.
Cale opts for partners like Animal Collective and Weyes Blood, providing a haunted quality to tracks like “Time Stands Still” and “Moonstruck” (the latter an ode to his deceased bandmate Nico). The closest the album comes to rhythm is the track “Night Crawling,” but what’s more surprising is that Cale seems happy and at peace, a quality rarely found in 50 years.
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Låpsley, Cautionary Tales of Youth (Believe) – Holly Lapsley Fletcher has released two intriguing albums of electronic-tinged R&B from her Merseyside/Liverpool base, but this third album is all about providing compassion and forgiveness to those struggling with mental health issues. An occasional track like “Dial Two Seven” might emphasize a samba-like beat for the dance floor, but the most powerful songs, including “Lifeline” and “32 Floors,” are meant to assure fans that they are not alone — an ally is near.
Guided by Voices, La La Land (GBV) – Can we just say for the record that GbV and the Australian band King Gizzard provide lessons on overachievement others should emulate? Both bands release three or four albums a year at a minimum, and the quality rarely falters. This time out, GbV provides a crisp and coherent suite of 11 tunes, with many tracks, including “Ballroom Etiquette” and “Cousin Jackie,” bearing a distinct Kinks-like sound. If that’s not your cuppa tea, simply wait four months for another album.