Weekly Round-Up: 10/4/19 - 10/10/19
by Saint Reverence
Hello again lovely people! Today is 10/10* - are there any perfect albums that have come out in the last week? Well, no. But there are lots of really good albums that are worth listening to, and they're listed below!
1. Norma Jean - Safety Last EP - Solid State Records - Metalcore
In a genre that's been oversaturated with mediocrity, Norma Jean has managed to stay fresh and relevant over the past 20+ years, and this EP is a sign of a continuation of that trend on their next album, due out October 25!
2. Danny Brown - uknowhatimsayin¿ - Warp Records - Hip-Hop
Danny Brown has remained one of the most eccentric and creative figures in modern rap, from his EDM-laced party anthems of the early '10s to the dark, trippy, industrial tinges of 2016's Atrocity Exhibition. On his new album, he dials back the in-your-face antics for a more subtle, yet no less entertaining collection of songs. He's still an outspoken, jokey, outlandish MC, but here he lets his lyrics speak for themselves instead of loud, showy beats. Seriously, the production on Belly Of The Beast is ominous and foreboding and sinister, and it's one of the best things I've heard all year.
3. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Ghosteen - Ghosteen Ltd - Darkwave / Post-Punk / Chamber Pop
On 2016's Skeleton Tree, Cave processes the death of his teenage son seemingly in real time. The songs are dirge-like and somber, the lyrics full of questioning and torment. Even the album art is minimal and dark. Now, three years after Skeleton Tree and four years after his son's passing, Cave writes a more holistic examination of the emotions and after-effects of the tragedy. The songs here are still slow and spacious, but there is a glimmer of hope and resolution that permeates the atmosphere.
4. Mobile Deathcamp - Vol 4-ish EP - Pavement Entertainment - Thrash Metal
What more can you expect from a former GWAR member than a solid, if traditional, collection of violent, goofy thrash metal that's just plain fun to listen to? And if you've ever wondered if there are sharks in the Great Lakes, Mobile Deathcamp has your answer.
5. Molly Drag - Touchstone EP - EggHunt Records - Slowcore
For slowcore to work at its maximum effectiveness, it has to hang in the delicate balance between presence and absence. It must be dense enough to be more than ambient, but not so dense that it becomes overbearing. Walking tempo - never running, never crawling. Molly Drag walks that tightrope effortlessly, with emotional lyrics and a usage of sampling that is all too lacking from the slowcore umbrella, giving a nostalgic feel to an EP that already sounds like it belongs in 1996 (in a good way).
6. Ancestral Memories - am.pm - Raund Haus - Ambient
Ambient music for me has a stronger relationship to environment and physicality than any other genre. Because it doesn't demand your focus, it can become a part of your surroundings. The best ambient music, in my opinion, should add a deeper dimension to the listener's environs. You may just be sitting at your desk, mindlessly doing your job, but when your ears pick up on the music in your headphones and hone in on those enveloping sounds, that moment becomes more than just another day at work, even for only a few minutes. am.pm is a very comfortable album for just that situation.
7. DIIV - Deceiver - Captured Tracks - Shoegaze
I tend to be late to the party on most indie-darling bands (read: Pitchfork-core bands) because they get overhyped and usually end up disappointing me. That said, I have vowed to give everything a chance - and this new DIIV album has been a pleasant surprise. Shoegaze is a genre that I love in theory, but have found few bands that can truly meet the near-impossible standards set by the forbears of the genre. While most modern shoegaze bands like to drown every sound of every song in reverb, the masters of the genre know when to scale back the effects and when to get heavy (it seems that modern acts forget that Loveless is chock-full of riffs). Deceiver makes me want to dig through DIIV's back catalog, and also makes me regret not seeing the band live when I had the chance to.
8. We Lost The Sea - Triumph & Disaster - Self-Released - Post-Metal / Post-Rock
There's a relatively fine line between post-rock and post-metal. You may look at bands like Isis and Sigur Rós and call me crazy, but then you have bands like El Ten Eleven and Mogwai that blur the lines. Some moments on Triumph & Disaster feel like a standard long-form post-rock act, but then there are moments like the openings of the two longest tracks, Towers and The Last Sun, that are undeniably in the metal camp with their dissonance and distortion (you can't not bang your head to Towers when the riff slows down about 2-and-a-half minutes in). The heavy moments of Disaster give way to the softer moments of Triumph, and vice versa, which makes the genre-bending even more pertinent and beautiful here.
9. Syberia - Seeds Of Change - Metal Blade - Post-Metal / Post-Rock
Much like the aforementioned WLTS album, Seeds Of Change shifts effortlessly between post-rock and post-metal, though Syberia gets undeniably heavier than any moment on Triumph & Disaster. While WLTS alternates between straight post-metal and straight post-rock, Syberia combines the two, with post-rock's signature high-register tremolo-picked guitars soaring over crushing distorted post-metal riffs and basslines.
10. Robert Glasper - Fuck Yo Feelings - Loma Vista Recordings - Hip-Hop / Future Soul
Robert Glasper is one of the most talented producers, keyboardists, arrangers, and gatherers of the new millennium. Fuck Yo Feelings doesn't go into any new territory for Glasper, but rather showcases all of his talents in one place. It's a long album, but it's varied enough that it doesn't get old. Whether he's providing a background chord progression or trading solos with none other than Herbie Hancock, Glasper excels at what he does. With Chris 'Daddy' Dave's choppy, stuttered drumming backing him up, the music takes on an otherworldly quality.
11. Dark Lo - American Made - Next Records - Hip-Hop
As Nipsey Hussle's legacy proves, great things can happen when the conscious and the common collide. American Made is at once gritty, brilliant, violent, peaceful, and real. Dark Lo is an aggressive MC, which complements the lyrics well - as do the laid-back vintage beats.
12. Heavy Lungs - Measure EP - Balley Records - Noise Punk
Heavy Lungs bring sludgy guitars to the typically angular world of modern post-punk, resulting in an EP that sounds like what might happen if Queens Of The Stone Age had collaborated with The Horrors in their early days. With melodramatic vocals and a driving rhythm section, Measure is a worthwhile release and I will be following this band to see where they go from here.
13. The Avett Brothers - Closer Than Together - Republic Records - Alt-Country
Prior to listening to this album, the only thing I knew about The Avett Brothers was this video of them covering In The Aeroplane Over The Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel. After hearing Closer Than Together, I have a newfound respect for the band as a staple of the alt-country genre and I look forward to delving into their fairly extensive back catalog to find more gems!
14. Alexa Rose - Medicine For Living - Big Legal Mess Records - Country
Country is not about hanging out with your friends and drinking beer and driving tractors. Country is the original emo. One of the oldest modern genres, its traditions are steeped in heartbreak, pain, depression, and death. Alexa Rose follows in that tradition beautifully, with her Appalachian drawl lending an earnest tone to the somber lyrics; whether they're based in truth or not is irrelevant - she's convincing enough that the listener feels her pain.
15. Facial - Help - Chain Letter Collective - Post-Punk
Lying somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between The White Stripes, Bloc Party, and Screaming Trees, Help is an intriguing blend of styles that almost masks the paranoid, anxious lyrics about addiction, death, and loneliness. The vocals are the key here - they're distinct enough to keep this release from being lost in the sea of deep-voiced dramatic frontmen who are trying to sound like Interpol's Paul Banks.
16. Mathilde Santing - Troublemaker - The Golden Label - Indie Rock / Blues Rock / Singer-Songwriter
Few people can cover Nick Drake and evoke the same haunting emotions as the original, but Mathilde Santing does just that. Throughout the album, whether she's singing her own songs or someone else's, her dark orchestral arrangements and soft lounge-y voice have an undeniably alluring flair to them.
17. GoGo Penguin - Ocean In A Drop (Music For Film) EP - Decca Records France - Progressive Jazz
GoGo Penguin is an experimental jazz trio from England whom I discovered last year and instantly loved for their Squarepusher-esque fusion of frantic jazz outbursts and electronic production. While I love the thought of jazzy drum-n-bass as a film soundtrack, I don't think it particularly works as a backdrop for Koyaanisqatsi. The music is good, but it doesn't capture the same feeling that Philip Glass' original score for the film did - I think this EP would work better as a standalone.
18. Boris - Love & Evol - Third Man Records - Drone Metal / Post-Rock
Boris are no strangers to genre experimentation, incorporating everything from shoegaze to sludge metal to hardcore to indie pop to harsh noise over their nearly 30-year career. On Love & Evol, they stay mostly within the confines of straightforward post-rock with drone metal elements and interludes, not unlike GY!BE's Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! album. Also like that album, the combination of those genres doesn't quite work here. Boris have proven in the past that they can make gripping drone music (see their collaborations with Sunn O))) and Merzbow) and gripping post-rock (2017's Dear), but this album tends to get lost in its slowness - and when it does pick up the pace, it's standard fare for the post-rock genre; Opening track Away From You could have been written by Mogwai in 2001. For as great as Boris can be, this release is a bit disappointing.
19. Lagwagon - Railer - Fat Wreck Chords - Skate Punk
Punk may not be dead, but it's covering Journey - and that's probably worse.
20. Scatterboxx - Icky Phantom EP - Four Finger Distro - Electronic
This is a nice little 5-track EP that sounds like the perfect soundtrack to a cyberpunk video game from the PS2 era. The EP is too short by itself (which is not something I say often), so hopefully these tracks will resurface on a full-length from Scatterboxx in the future!
21. The Shaking Sensations - How Are We To Fight The Blight? - Pelagic Records - Post-Rock
I talked last week about how Pelagic Records has been consistently releasing great music this year and are one of my favorite label discoveries of the past few years, but this album is dissatisfying for me. With the exception of the drumming (especially on the second track, Tremendous Efforts), there's not a whole lot going on here that hasn't been done a hundred times in the past 10 years in the world of post-rock.
22. Wilco - Ode To Joy - dBpm Records - Alt-Country / Folk Rock
I have a lot of respect for Jeff Tweedy as a songwriter and producer, but I have actively avoided listening to Wilco for my entire life. There are a few moments on Ode To Joy that shine, and I'm sure that there are lyrical and melodic intricacies that reveal themselves on subsequent listens, but on first impression it's a bland album that doesn't justify its musical simplicity by being vocally/lyrically interesting.
*It was 10/10 when I started this post, I promise! Also, I have not listened to any music in the past week that was not released in the past week - I've been busy and there were a lot of long albums this week!