Battles – Gloss Drop
Losing a band member between albums is never easy, but Gloss Drop paints a picture of a group that has adjusted to the defection of Tyondai Braxton with remarkable adroitness. Arguably, it was Braxton's vocal innovations on 2007's Mirrored that expedited the band's evolution from post-Don Cab notables into a fully weaponized experimental rock machine and the group have addressed this by drafting in four guest vocalists with generally striking results (the cornball funk of Ice Cream featuring Matias Aguayo being the album's only significant misstep).
The rest of the album sallies between balmy vignettes (Toddler, Dominican Fade) and bracing kinetic workouts (Futura, Wall Street – the latter of which has track of the year written all over it) underpinned by the kind of hyper-detailed production that repays a serious audio setup. Above and beyond its considerable technical accomplishment, it's Gloss Drop's sense of playful optimism that augurs most auspiciously for this band's future. [Mark Shukla]