MUSIC, BOOKS, GAMES, COMICS, MOVIES, DVDS, TV AND MORE Goo Goo Dolls, Boxes (Warner Bros Records)
• Goo Goo Dolls,
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This Buffalo, N.Y.-hatched songwriting juggernaut almost single-handedly made the 1990s worthwhile, if not for top-drawer singles like “Slide” and “Iris” then for their stubborn refusal to release lousy tunes. You may not know that they started as a punk outfit slumming at the Metal Blade Records ghetto back in the 1980s and have since completely lost their original fan base, such as it was. But this is one of those ultra-rare cases in which that’s actually a good thing, being that they eventually came to own rock’s Best-Boyfriend-Ever space by combining loping, sweeping Adult Top 40 hooks with lyrics generally centered around not just digging on girls but actually protecting their hearts and minds — their personas are a credit to their gender, one reward for which was frontman John Rzeznik’s being inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2008. Their 11th album is nothing new, made of captivating AOR ear candy, beginning with the U2-vs-Mumfords semi-rocker “The Pin,” upon which the listener gets sucked right into the sort of gravitas that only guys who really, really know how to write pop songs can conjure. They flirt with ripping off John Cougar on the title track, but then comes one of those hooks again, and then later Robby Takac lends his Joey Ramone rat-voice to “Free of Me.” The push single is “So Alive,” a mild dabbling in hip-hop beat-age. A very strong album all around. A — Eric W. Saeger
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Braids, Companion (Arbutus Records)
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This Montreal threesome broke through in a big way in 2015 with their third LP Deep in the Iris, a lonely-hearts joint that spoke of loneliness and all that rot while checking off all that’s hip. It was a little bit Massive Attack (who by this point have to be the Led Zeppelin of the high-tech takeover of rock itself, and, no, I don’t want to argue about it) with Vampire Weekend on the incidental steel-drum percussion side, all with just the right amount of glitchy but polite dubstep. Yep, a masterpiece of sorts, with a few epic ghetto arias from singer Raphaelle Standell-Preston, she of the professed bouts of depression and love for Top 40 during her early years, even if she cites Aphex Twin and Burial as main influences, but I don’t want to argue about that stuff either. All that junk brings us to this new foursonger, leading off with the title track, a morose, mousy, amniotic thing in which it’s inferred that they know the Vampire Weekend stuff was overdone, and in its place is, um, uh, accordion. “Joni” trots out some understated jungle rinsing while channeling Michael Jackson; “Trophies for Paradox” is woozy music-box experimentalism; “Sweet World” is drowsy, glitched-up ’90s-pop. I detect a mild dearth of ideas, but they’re certainly on the right track. B+ — Eric W. Saeger
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• All you ’90s kids know the Shirley Manson-led Garbage from the old single “Stupid Girl” and an ensuing string of trying every sound known to man on for size, up to and including triphop, shoegaze, techno and anything else that might keep them from becoming massively popular. Now that they’re facing their 50s, it’s time for them to tone it down and write a romance novel (no, I’m not kidding), the accompanying album of which is Strange Little Birds. They’re still cool, funnily enough — one of the singles, “Empty,” has a kickass grunge-meets-Primus sound backing up a Cheap Trick sort of ditty. The more I listen to this, the more I like it, which of course means I’d better shut it off before I start saying crazy nonsense about rock not being dead or whatever. • Swedish indie-pop meatballs Peter Bjorn and John have rudely insisted on making albums for 14 years now, their career apex coming when Drake and all sorts of other rappers suddenly decided they were important or something, I forget. Breakin’ Point is their new album, so let’s slog over to the internet machine to listen to the title track and make me wish I’d been born with no ears, like a happy starfish, how nice it must be to be a starfish with no ears. OK, here it is. Lots of high-pitched twee noises, then some Beatles-like singing over a nasty little beat that deserves better, then some off-key harmonies (drink!) and a few volleys of noisy glitch. In other words, full speed ahead, it’s like 2008 has risen from the grave and I wish I’d been born a starfish. • During the 1960s, The Monkees were a monetized set of Beatle hairdos who were systematically ripped off by Don Kirschner and all those scumbags, and all they got in return was being famous and getting free hot rods and gymnasiums full of girls; let’s all weep for their old days. Davy Jones, a.k.a. the short cute one, died a few years ago, which was sad, but the show must go on, even after a million billion years, and so this week these greatgrandfathers will release Good Times, their first album since … oh who cares, since their last one, that’s when, let’s wrap this up quickly. “She Makes Me Laugh” is the single, written by Rivers Cuomo from Weezer. They sing good. There is tambourine and those twangy Byrds guitars. It’s like it’s 1964 again, meaning I need diapering. Someone help, please. • Let’s find one more, one that’ll just finish me off once and for all. Hmm, who are these people, this Nite Jewel band? Wait, that’s not a band, it’s a fake nym for Ramona Gonzalez, who’s supposed to sound like Lisa Lisa and all that 1990s bubblegum stuff. This is my face when I can hardly wait. The new album is called Liquid Cool, and I just found the single “Kiss the Screen.” I dunno, this is disco chill, but it doesn’t sound like Lisa Lisa, it sounds like Goldfrapp, thick techno chill and a filthy little backbeat. Then she starts singing high notes and it sounds kind of immature, but not bad. — Eric W. Saeger
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