New album reviews: Phox, Deadmau5

  • Updated: June 30, 2014 - 1:49 PM

POP/ROCK

Phox, “Phox” (Partisan)

Monica Martin, the lead singer of Phox, usually sounds so blithe and nonchalant that it takes a while to notice how her songs teeter amid reassurance and anxiety, companionship and betrayal.

Phox was formed by six high school friends from Baraboo, Wis., who started the band while sharing a house in nearby Madison. Martin writes lyrics and melodies; the band collaborates on the music, which has the amiable lilt and handmade eccentricity. There’s a touch of Dave Matthews in the acoustic syncopations of the music, and a larger dollop of Feist.

Phox and its producer, Brian Joseph (an engineer for Bon Iver) make the most of studio flexibility in songs that develop and transform themselves radically as they go. “Shrinking Violet” opens with the lightest of drum taps, a repeated guitar note and a plinking banjo. But as the romance solidifies, Phox becomes a rock band flanked by saxophones and, later, what sounds like a glockenspiel-topped marching band. (The Baraboo High School Symphony Band is credited.)

All the changes in the music elucidate songs in which love, friendship and family ties are always in flux. In the bouncy, chipper-sounding “Evil,” the singer catches her lover and her best friend in the act of cheating; hurt and anger gradually give way to the consolation that “evil will find its own demise.” In “1936,” the singer strives to patch things up with an ailing grandmother. She confronts her own temptations in “Noble Heart.” The emotions are convoluted, and Phox finds a winding and heartening path through them.

JON PARELES, New York Times

Deadmau5, “While(1<2)” (Astralwerks)

Deadmau5’s double-album leviathan makes room for many new moods while playing with his genre’s formulas. The producer born Joel Zimmerman is famed for his profound skepticism (if not outright loathing) of EDM culture, and his latest artist album reflects his uncomfortable alliance with it.

“Creep” shivers with Squarepusher-style noise bursts levied with genuinely pretty pianos; “My Pet Coelacanth” starts as a wall of white noise, then unravels into a prickly after-hours banger. Album closer “Seeya” has some fun with Chicago house, poking its down-tempo piano bounce with modern, evil synths.

The album comes with two remixes of Trent Reznor projects Nine Inch Nails and How to Destroy Angels, which suggest that’s more where his allegiance lies than the fields of rave fests. It’s a smart move — after all, Reznor has made some pretty classic albums.

August Brown, Los Angeles Times

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