There’s a marked difference between the five songs on Bangor-via-New Hampshire power duo When Particles Collides’ new EP, “Ego,” officially available on Sept. 3, and everything else Sasha Alcott and Chris Viner have ever recorded. Namely, that it sounds right – big, clean, well-orchestrated and full of spiky rock energy. That can be attributed to the fact that they recorded it at The Halo in Westbrook, with producers Darren Elder and Karl Anderson. The title track, “Ego,” blasts off with heavy guitar and powerful drumming – accessible yet edgy, not unlike the Foo Fighters or a more self-reflective Green Day. In the opposite way, “Distraction” is tricked out with artfully arranged horns and a Latin rhythm, courtesy of the expressiveness of Viner and his brother, accomplished jazz musician Jeremy Viner. In between, there’s flashes of heavy metal, as on the thunderous “Finally Found the One,” and power pop, as on the infectious, Elvis Costello-esque “Perfect Teeth.” Guest vocalists flesh out the sound, though the soulful vocal coda at the end of “Not What I’m Under” feels a bit out of place among the rock. It’s a bold effort for the pair — one that will likely take them well beyond regional renown into something bigger.
Just one year after forming, Portland-based seven piece Forget Forget’s debut full length, “We Are All,” bears the mark of careful consideration and commitment. It is a purposeful collection of songs, with an orchestral indie rock sound that wears its influences on its sleeve – the Arcade Fire, the National, Neutral Milk Hotel. Makes sense, since the band got Montreal studio Hotel2Tango to mix and indie rock legend Alan Douches to master it. Part of the conceit around “We Are All” is that lead singer Tyler DeVos was inspired to write the lyrics by his day job working in a group home for adults with mental illnessl, which lend a kind of vulnerability and sadness to what’s otherwise a very big, passionate sound. The music is often confident and joyous — violinist-vocalist Patia Maule and cellist Johanna Sorrell help the music soar, as on lead single, “Do You Love Me?” It can also make it move you, as on the delicate “Two People.” The lyrics, however, speak of paranoia, of hallucinatory visions, of a righteous indignation at being misunderstood, as on the album opener, “Cleopatras.” All seven bandmates clearly have an inherent understanding of the power of dynamics; “We Are All” is an album that screams with joy as much as it weeps quietly in the corner.
Bar Harbor five-piece Coke Weed are an excellent band. I love to see them live, I love the attitude they convey, I love that they live Downeast, and I love their new album, “Back to Soft,” which is their third LP in as many years. The album continues to expand upon their signature sound, which is equal parts Brian Jones-era psychedelic Rolling Stones, fuzzy noise-pop a la the Jesus and Mary Chain, New York City alt-rock in the 1990s, and languid, sassy Nancy Sinatra-style vocal delivery thanks to singer Nina Donghia. “Back to Soft” is probably their most accessible collection – check out album opener “Sunseekers,” a groovy, expansive, psych rock hip-shaker that could soundtrack either urban exploration or climbing Mt. Cadillac. Enjoy the building guitars on the epic jam “Anklet,” the slow dance gone wrong ballad “Poison,” or the barn-burning rockers “Maryanne” or “Blue Flag.” There’s very little fat on this album; mostly meat, and delicious, at that. Are they my favorite band in Maine? Maybe. Definitely in my top five.
“VanDyke Brown,” the second effort from Portland mainstay Dominic Lavoie’s partially solo, post-Lucid-hiatus project ShaShaSha, takes two of his strongest suits – his natural affinity for pop and his newfound love of electronic-psychedelic experimentation – and puts them together. From the first song on this new EP, “Epsilon,” a warm, string-drenched bit of colorful psych-pop, it’s clear Lavoie’s getting the hang of this more mature, less overtly Beatles-influenced side of himself. Title track “VanDyke Brown” boasts some synth and bass lines straight out of a Prince or Morris Day album. Then again, those horns wouldn’t feel out of place on a Rustic Overtones album. The simple, Neil Young-like melody and aching harmonies of “Motherbird” contrast with the tight, electronic-esque rhythms of “Y’all Make Me Paranoid,” before wrapping up with the freeform sound collage of “Cargo Cult.” The only major criticism that could be lodged against “VanDyke Brown” is that it ends too quickly; just as you enter into the right mood and mindset for it, it’s over.