There were lots of whispers and mumbles about Palma Violets before the release of the band’s debut album 180 in home country Great Britain, and quite rightly so.
The quartet really is bringing something fresh to a somewhat stale chart with growling guitars and pounding drums, and there isn’t anything quite like it kicking around at the moment.
The album’s opening track Best of Friends allows elements to slowly build, first with a carefully plucked chord set, then the pound of a drum, topped off with howling vocals. Lyrics are simplistic. “I wanna be your best friend,” yowl singers Chilli Jesson and Sam Fryer.
Highlights of the album include We Found Love, again showcasing the simplistic yet optimistic lyrics, and Three Stars, which brings a calmer moment to the otherwise raucous record.
— Sian Watson
Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us
A can of Coke contains roughly nine teaspoons of sugar. Lunchables were created as a way to revive interest in bologna. People like chips that snap with about 4 pounds of pressure per square inch.
Those are just some of the nuggets Michael Moss feeds readers in Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us. But Moss doesn’t just want to entertain. He systematically shows readers how processed-food makers manipulate their goods to get consumers to buy, often at the expense of their health.
Moss takes readers on a grocery store tour through the lens of three key ingredients: salt, sugar and fat. By the time he’s done, a host of iconic American products, from Oreos to Hot Pockets and spaghetti sauce to soda, don’t look so appetizing.
Moss researches the tactics that companies use to create cravings. He inspects the cheese in the refrigerator of a former cheese expert with Kraft. He visits the headquarters of one food industry supplier that sells 40 different types of salt, one that’s perfect for popcorn to others used in soups and cheese. And at a food lab, he watches a 6-year-old down a series of different vanilla puddings to determine her perfect sweetness level. He meets tastemakers from former leaders at Coca-Cola and Frito-Lay and the creators of Cheez Whiz and instant pudding.
What he learns is enough to give readers indigestion. Companies often add salt to products rather than fresh herbs, because it’s cheaper. Coca-Cola says it won’t market to kids under 12, but targets them anyway by advertising at amusement parks and sports venues.
Moss, a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter, is at his best when he’s acting like a journalist: talking to people, sifting through and explaining documents, and writing with finger-licking flair.
He doesn’t really offer solutions for getting companies to produce healthier products. The companies argue they’re producing what Americans want, and Americans seem to agree by continuing to buy them. In the end, his message is that we’re the ones who decide what we put in our mouths.
— Jessica Gresko
The Invisible Way
The husband-and-wife team of Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker form the core of the Duluth, Minn., group Low. Their latest studio album, The Invisible Way, is a glorious culmination of 20 years spent honing a slow-tempo, melodious sound with arresting male-female harmonies and cerebral lyrics.
Produced by Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy and engineer/producer Tom Schick, the album’s overall sonority is an almost mesmerizing union of sparse and lush —a dichotomy of sound similar to Radiohead’s marriage of bombast and sublime.
Lugubrious and wistful, Low’s music may come across as too melancholic for some. But while plumbing the infinite store of human sadness and brokenheartedness, Low does so with a poetry so rare in popular music, it’s exhilarating.
The album begins with Plastic Cup, a haunting, exceptional tune that references the affliction of substance abuse, replete with both irony and mourning.
Just Make it Stop, sung by Parker, is absolutely gorgeous songwriting and the record’s standout. It’s gut-twistingly beautiful.
Listeners please note: There is beauty and soulful enrichment in melancholy. Take it in.
— James H. Collins