It’s our Bandcamp Picks of the Week, featuring the prog metal delights of Countless Skies and the distinctive power pop of KUNG-FU GIRL!
Countless Skies – GLOW
Genre: Melodic Death Metal, Progressive Metal
Favorite Tracks: “Moon,” “Glow – Part 2: Awakening”
Look, I like Opeth, especially their work pre-WATERSHED, but sometimes I don’t have the patience for 13-minute long suites or Mikael Åkerfeldt’s objectively proficient cleans that nevertheless leave me dry. Enter Countless Skies, a British four-piece entering the crowded space of melodic death metal that aims to be both brooding and euphoric. It’s a difficult line to walk; while their debut record NEW DAWN suffered from tinny production and too many chug-a-chug passages, their latest GLOW showcases a more refined, expensive, layered sound to capitalize on NEW DAWN’s potential. It might give you the same palette as Opeth in half the time, but it never feels like something is missing as GLOW squeezes finger-picked intervals, blast-beats, and huge crescendos into a seven song, 44-minute run-time.
GLOW doesn’t do much new: “Glow Part 1: Resolution” and its whistely mellotrons, clanging acoustics, and knotted bluesy rhythms feel ripped from DAMNATION. The most noticeable aspect are the operatic Devin Townsend-esque cleans, which along with huge choral vocals and symphonic elements like the standing bass, harps, and cellos, create a more progressive sound than the debut. More suited to a power metal band like Powerwolf, the histrionic tenor would normally irritate me, yet is somehow the perfect match for the band’s bi-polar melodeath emotions, and it’s impossible not to get swept in the huge surge of “Summit” or “Tempest.” The arranged elements are well-integrated, the transitions feel natural, and rest assured it still delivers blistering guitar work over blast-beats and demonic growls as effectively as the high key luminous riffing, violins, and operatic cleans. If you don’t mind unoriginality when it sounds this epic and well-composed, be sure to check out GLOW here. [Blake Michelle]
KUNG-FU GIRL – SUNSET PARK
Genre: Power Pop, Garage Pop, Indie Pop
Favorite Tracks: “Little evil,” “rabuka,” and “Popping out”
As a rule, I don’t do much when I’m stoned but eat cheetos and watch TikToks; it just feels safer that way, and I’m not likely to watch or listen to something that demands my utmost respect and attention. But then I broke that rule recently by listening to KUNG-FU GIRL’S latest album, and maybe I should abandon my totally square commitment to music listening.
The 11-track SUNSET PARK is, regardless of my sobriety, a generally great garage pop album. While under the influence of the Devil’s Lettuce, I thought songs like “Ghost girl friend” and “Little evil” were the most rip-roaring punk songs ever written, but even in the cold light of day, it’s frills-free, super fun punk that’s done with the kind of earnest, aw-shucks vibes of a band who genuinely loves playing together. And there are songs I replayed that only improved afterward. “rabuka” is super catchy, with its power-pop hooks and breezy energy, and feels like the best version of the band. I think it proves, without turning this into some anti-drug campaign, that this kind of music is perfectly fun if seen as “disposable” (like when the listener’s high). But there’s some nuance and subtlety here that makes it more than the musical equivalent of ice cream wrapped in Fruit Roll-Ups.
You could lump this band in with Shonen Knife, Kemuri, and The Pillows—all straightforward rockers, heavy on hooks, great vibes, and endless pep. However, there’s definitely bits across SUNSET PARK that demonstrate that the band’s more than that, or even demanding of other categorization. “The sun also rises” isn’t some psych rock gem, but it does have some subtle hints that make it feel more robust than their pop-rock tendencies. “Pet my head” feels like more of a power pop sugar rush, but it’s structured in a way musically that shows some heft and depth that’s not always apparent across other tracks. The same mostly goes for “Popping out:” it’s a grand ol’ finale, and one where you get that sugary sonic explosion with lots of gentle layers. It’s not always apparent, but this is a record that sings the brightest when given the time and chance to unfold in a very whimsical way.
I think if I never returned to this record post-smokeout, I’d still love it (sort of like how I once loved dipping a lollipop in chocolate cake). But coming back to it, SUNSET PARK isn’t just this tasty piece of rock ‘n’ roll nougat layered with pop, psych, and indie folk, it’s something that presents the best version of that and invites the listener to dig deeper. Depending on your efforts, you may find something that resonates with more robust emotions, or which feels more deliberate and thoughtful than its bright exteriors. It’s a record that hits home, however far away you may be (metaphorically) floating. Listen now over on Bandcamp. [Chris Coplan]