Battles - Gloss Drop

Beginning today we’ll be publishing Premature Evaluations more frequently, and in a briefer format. These posts will also feature point ratings via a 5 Star System, but we’ll consider a more flexible alternative down the road. You should submit your own album rating (and hopefully a comment explaining your rationale) after you read our review and hear the album, which (as always) is out on the Internet if it’s being Premature Evaluated here.

The departure of multi-tasking vocalist Tyondai Braxton created a hole that Battles spend the duration of their sophomore full-length Gloss Drop filling — with various guests. You’ve likely heard the sunny, funky, sweetly titled (and almost too poppy) lead track “Ice Cream” with Chilean-born Kompakt-associated producer Matias Aguayo. It’s the album’s red herring. Elsewhere Gary Numan is Gary Numan on the noisier, more fulfilling “My Machines,” Blonde Redhead’s Kazu Makino does up-tempo sultry on “Sweetie & Shag,” and Yamantaka Eye goes off (but maybe not off enough) for closer “Sundrome.” There are also eight head nodding instrumentals that offer some of Gloss Drop’s most satisfying excursions — see the swinging, polished, blown-out quasi-Caribbean vibe of the 16+ minute triad of “Futura,” “Inchworm,” and “Wall Street,” their steel-drummed aesthetic cousins “Dominican Fade” and “White Electric,” the briefly heartbreaking “Toddler.” In fact, Ian Williams, Dave Konopka, and John Stanier are so obviously capable of carrying a tune by their lonesome, and inserting a huge emotional weight without words, that you have to wonder if — outside Newman, moments of Eye (who could’ve easily been inserted as a sample) — adding the occasional outside vocal chords was worth the effort.



Gloss Drop is out 6/7 via Warp.

Comments (31)
  1. I was a little hesitant when I saw your tweet about a new rating system, but a star system with user reviews seems reasonable.

  2. the review seems awful positive for a 3-star review. at the moment i’m somewhere around 7/10 on this album. its missing a lot of the craziness of their older stuff but is still thoroughly enjoyable. it also gets a bit samey at times.

  3. I’ll go ahead and say it: adding the outside vocal cords wasn’t worth the effort.

    I think this review is being far too gentle and forgiving in calling “Ice Cream” a “red herring.” It’s almost an album-killer. The instrumental tracks on “Gloss Drop” are amazing–”Africastle” is a masterpiece–and it’s clear that Braxton’s absence still leaves the band capable of sounding complete.

    It’s just that the vocal performances sound so out-of-place, particularly Aguayo’s (which ruins an otherwise-excellent instrumental), that they come across as tacked-on and pandering to the portion of their audience that didn’t appear until after they incorporated lyrical vocals into their sound. There’s no example here more egregious than “Sweetie & Sha;” there’s always one meandering, seemingly-pointless filler track on every Battles release (“Fantasy,” “BTTLS,” “IZ-US,” “Bad Trails”), but it’s unfortunate Makino gets saddled with it.

    Still, this album was a pleasant surprise–”Ice Cream” is such a huge misstep that it used up a lot of the band’s goodwill, but most of the rest of the album is too damn good to ignore. Minus that song and “Sweetie,” this album’s a solid 4; as it is, I’d agree with stereogum’s rating of a “3″.

    • I don’t disagree entirely that the vocals are unnecessary at times, but at the same time, their whole goal is not to be pinned to an idea of what they’re supposed to sound like (according to interviews).

      Ice cream took a while for me to get used to, but I definitely don’t dislike it. I took at as it is, instead of what I want it to be, and what they want it to be is just as important as what the fans want.

      Also, I’m very curious as to what the frig “IZ-US” is that you mentioned. I believe I have every album track, two misc. tracks, and live tracks, and I even looked that title up, and I’m not finding anything on anything by that name.

    • I agree with everything you said here but ‘Fantasy’ is the shit. There is a reason it’s so long. The song undergoes many subtle changes as it goes. It’s a trip. It’s a little heady but once you get it , it’s fun as hell. Also I believe ‘Bad Trails’ is a little misunderstood. Not nearly as good as fantasy but definitely not filler.

  4. It seems like most people I’ve talked to and most comments I’ve read push the same sentiments across. I agree with the above posts on practically all fronts. The extra vocals were not only unnecessary as the band usually does a fine enough job keeping their tracks interesting, but at times they outright ruined songs. Especially when you compare them with Tyondai’s vocal efforts, they just pale in comparison. Certainly you can’t expect the same vocal stylings, but they seem way too out of place nonetheless. Still, I enjoyed a good portion of this album. I don’t think that it was as engaging as Mirrored or the EPs, even from an instrumental standpoint, and thus far I consider it my least favorite release from Battles. I enjoyed it though. 3/5

  5. premature evaluation 2.0 seems like a good idea. 5/5
    i haven’t given this record any time yet, so ?/5.

  6. how can you not like ice cream? I dont get it, the song is pure fun

  7. Album of the year,

  8. its a sad day when you can’t sense or feel pure joy in music anymore, that you take it so seriously that fun isn’t a factor, and I say this as a musician, that you are going down a wrong path in music, if you lost the fun, battles is f’ing fun. And if you don’t believe the whole, I am a musician credentials, then listen to my new music video, Im the black haired korean dude in the band, this is us, having fun making music, making a fun video, and relating that fun back into the world.

    • Really enjoyed that. Got anymore? :D

    • …or it could simply be that immersing myself in the study of what actually makes an album enjoyable, learning about myself and the music to which I listen from both a compositional and consumptive standpoint is the “fun” part for me (which you probably would have noticed, had you taken the time to read, for instance, my calling one song a “masterpiece,” among other plaudits).

      i’m glad you’re all about what you think is fun–i’m sure it shows in your music.

      but, if you would be so kind as to let me have my fun without telling me I’m “going down a wrong path in music” just because what is fun for me isn’t fun for you, i’d appreciate that.

      or is that all too snarky?

      • all im saying is don’t forget music is fun, diffrent strokes for different folks, enjoy your music your way and keep listening

        • already on it, but thanks for the directive.

          • jeez you come off as such a prick on this

          • To Fearghal: why do I come off as a prick? Because I’m picky, actually have reasons for why I dislike things (other than “OMG DUDE THIS IS PURE FUN”), and hate being condescended to by people who, among other things, use a comments thread on stereogum as a blatant opportunity to self-promote?

            I mean, I think I did a dandy enough job of saying “this is what is fun for me, that’s what’s fun for you, I’ll let you play over there if you let me play over here” long before Mr. Robinson decided to let me enjoy music my way because he couldn’t come up with an articulate enough last word.

  9. Album cover of the year.

  10. i’ve been always wondering that
    how these people heard the music already when the release date is a month ahead?
    Everybody works in the industry these days?

  11. In these premature reviews, I think you should always include a link to pre-order or buy the album from the band or label.
    In this case it would be from Bleep:

    If you like Battles, please consider buying the album online – or better yet, from your local record store.

    I don’t have any connection with them, I’m just a musician – like a lot of folks who read this site.

    Support music.

  12. *Off Topic*: Does anyone have the latest scoop on the forthcoming (lord willing) Avalanches opus?

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