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Sound Check

1/22/2014

cd Against MeAgainst Me!

“Transgender Dysphoria Blues”

Total Treble

Never doubt the power of transformation. Against Me!’s last release, 2010’s “White Crosses,” was a big, loud disappointment. The album was too glossy for its own good, and the band never seemed to get on track. In the ensuing four years, there have been changes in label — farewell, Sire — as well as at drums and bass. But easily the most important change was up front, as singer Tom Gabel came out as a woman. The newly christened Laura Jane Grace fronts “Transgender Dysphoria Blues,” and the effect is immediately noticeable. Grace’s voice isn’t yet particularly affected by the ongoing hormone treatments, but on every track Against Me! sounds more comfortable as an outfit than it probably ever has. There are ugly spots on the album (“Dead Friend,” frankly, blows), but from top to bottom, there’s no doubt that the band — like Grace herself — is finally happy in its own skin. CV

 

HIV

cd WarpaintWarpaint

“Warpaint”

Rough Trade

Warpaint sounds like a bunch of hippies. Sporting a heavy New Age vibe, the L.A.-based quartet’s self-titled release is the kind of thing you put on as background noise while getting high, or maybe while having your chakras realigned. But there’s more than a little artistry folded in as well, for those who are willing to look for it. “Go In” and “Teese” in particular have enough subtlety and nuance to them to make the album worth repeat listens. Every time you sit through a track, new bits reveal themselves to you in a way that’s lovely and a little conspiratorial. But that’s not to say that the album is a total winner. There’s still plenty here that’s listless and seemingly pointless. “Feeling Alright” comes across as half-formed, like an anecdote that the teller abandons halfway through, because the point is not as clever as they originally thought. CV

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