SLOWDIVE

"Slowdive" 

Slowdive's eponymous album arrives after a 22-year gap and sees the hazy shoegazers join the rare breed of successful comebacks, their envelope of sound delivered with an easy aplomb.

The band has been playing live again since 2014, and their eight-track album proves it wise to record new material only after those experiences.

Building on the songwriting prowess of singer-guitarist-keyboard player Neil Halstead, Rachel Goswell (vocals), Christian Savill (guitar), Nick Chaplin (bass) and Simon Scott (drums and loops) sometimes sound slightly poppier than usual and more widely spread out in their trademark sonic space.

If opener "Slomo" applies reverb to enhance diffusion, the animated "Star Roving" is reverb as a tool of commotion.

"Sugar for the Pill" is why dream pop is a shoegaze synonym, while "Everyone Knows" showcases Goswell's delicate singing below the layers.

The album closes with the eight-minute "Fallen Ashes," a slow, deep immersion with an insistent piano similar to a Ryuichi Sakamoto film score. It would have been at home on "Pygmalion," the last of the band's three albums before the sojourn, and carries the hopeful message that despite loneliness and heartbreak, even thinking about love is better than avoiding or ignoring it altogether.

Like the long-awaited returns from extended leaves of absence by My Bloody Valentine or Portishead, Slowdive build on their legacy with a finely tuned effort that ably escapes mere nostalgia and sounds like a couple of decades passed in just a few days.

If this were just like, or even better than, starting over, maybe they'll soon be working on that difficult second, I mean, fifth album.

— Pablo Gorondi, The Associated Press


MAC DEMARCO 

"This Old Dog" 

Mac DeMarco has charmed his way through a couple albums. His random humor and sleaze complements his chill lo-fi tunes. If ever there were a rocker who had a meme aesthetic, it's this guy. 

The 26-year-old has coasted on his warped fashion since 2014's "Salad Days," a breakthrough in style that marked him as a talent to watch. However, on his latest album, "This Old Dog," DeMarco pivots into an acoustic, even more chill territory. As a result, he loses some of his edge. 

On songs like "Sister" and "Moonlight on the River," Demarco goes darker and is more honest than we've ever heard. At the same time, songs like "A Wolf Who Wears Sheeps Clothes" has lines like "keep it light"; and "Baby You're Out" might as well be a Jimmy Buffett outtake. 

On past albums, the balance of serious subject matter and personality was there. Now it's gotten to the point where you ask yourself, "Is he joking or being for real?" Whatever the answer, as he dives into this new territory, I'm more hesitant to listen. 

— Matthew Sigur, The Advocate

Follow Matthew Sigur on Twitter, @MatthewSigur.