Bandcamp Picks

Bandcamp Picks of the Week 5/13/20

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Bandcamp Picks of the Week is back and better than ever

Bandcamp Picks Choir Boy

Choir Boy – GATHERING SWANS

Genre: Sophisti-Pop

Favorite Tracks: “Toxic Eye,” “Complainer,” “Nites Like This,” “Eat The Frog”

Bands simply don’t come out of Utah. It’s weird. Neon Trees were the state’s biggest export over the last 10 years, and they were a straight-to-radio act that hardly carried with them any kind of regional flag-waving; Andrew Tolman of Imagine Dragons fame would be the state’s other major musical fixture, although beyond the band’s documentary BELIEVER, there’s again not much to tie him or the band back to Utah specifically. Not that Utah should, per se, play into a band’s narrative. But it’s strange that nearly NO notable indie rock acts have made it beyond whatever local scenes are going on in Salt Lake City and Provo. I suppose technically speaking, Choir Boy is as devoid of those local ties as Neon Trees and Imagine Dragon, but the cultish darkness that tethers the band’s layered sophisti-pop sound simply makes more sense knowing it comes from a state filled with vast, quiet state parks and Mormonism.

GATHERING SWANS, Choir Boy’s latest, navigates the dark passageways of cloudy day indie pop as well as any band has since The Drums released PORTAMENTO nearly a decade ago. Its highest points are moody but undeniable pop songs with curious hooks, Adam Klopp’s shadowy falsetto a confident force—lead singles “Toxic Eye” and “Complainer,” two of the album’s early highs, are slap-happy and playlistable whist harboring a distinct mystery to them. The album’s slower cuts, the foggy and isolated “Nites Like This” or the trumpet-led berceuse closer “Gathering Swans,” are obvious and natural fits for Klopp’s atmospheric turn of phrase and vocals, but fortunately those tracks simply add texture amidst the more uptempo pop songs. At its goofiest it’s also at its most uncanny, “Sweet Candy”’s surrealist backing vocals emphasizing the devilish nature of the candy in question in a haunting, almost laughable fashion. GATHERING SWANS is the level-up fans of Choir Boy have been waiting for since PASSIVE WITH DESIRE four years ago, sonically cutting to the quick with satisfying pop songs and bigger choruses. It’s summer bummer music of the highest quality, the clouds you’ll hope for on 100-degree days. Give it a listen on Bandcamp.

Bandcamp Picks Infant Island

Infant Island – BENEATH

Genre: Screamo, Post-Hardcore, Black Metal

Favorite Tracks: “Signed In Blood,” “Content,” “Stare Spells,” “Someplace Else”

The front of Infant Island’s viceral, demanding debut BENEATH is a striking oil painting by English artist John Martin titled “Sadak In Search of the Waters of Oblivion.” Painted in 1812, the oil painting, a brooding, stony, hellish landscape depicting Sadak falling prey to the memory-destroying “waters of oblivion” that surround him, was Martin’s first success as a painter. It’s a fitting choice for Infant Island for several reasons beyond the fact that BENEATH instantly sounds and feels like the crossover album casual fans of these genres wait several years to hear. To take it a step further, BENEATH’s cover has developed a far more melancholy look and feel to Martin’s original, striking oranges now blue shadows, the waters of oblivion an unassuming marker of isolation, sonically capturing the albums many ruminating, towering passages better than my words describing it ever could.

Infant Island initially traverse these waters with heavy, lumbering aggression, opener “Here We Are” a fast and furious introduction to an album that by and large rides harsh noise and powerful black metal aesthetics to points of mind-wiping serenity. From there, “Signed in Blood” and closer “Someplace Else” are siren songs guiding us to and from the stony cliffs of Martin’s painting, and in between are some of the finest metal songs released all year. Infant Island trade off vocalists, giving a range of textures to the fierce howls expressed on each track, early highlight “Content” even bringing in Logan Rivera (of hardcore punk act Gillian Carter) to give a third look. “Stare Spells,” the band’s most palatable crossover moment and one that will be bringing fans of Deafheaven, An Autumn For Crippled Children, Full of Hell, etc. to the party, hypnotizes in its urgent beauty. “I tried to keep it in, some sort of memory…” vocalist Daniel Kost screams, the waters of oblivion roaring even louder. “I tried / Growing through a shade of grey light / I laughed in the dark unknown and in short aired breaths to lather in the calm—I tried to keep you out.” There is a tremendous, Biblical fury to Infant Island’s sound here, tracks like “One Eyed” and “Death Portrait” each passionate and intense songs radiating a sense of finality that’s damning to experience.

Fittingly, BENEATH’s back cover circularly features another work by Martin, this one painted near the end of his life entitled “The Great Day of His Wrath.” The sun is black, judgement day swallowing the Earth. It’s a nice final image to leave us as the rising static of “Someplace Else” slowly engulfs us, the album itself a journey to the end. The Virginia act was already quickly becoming one of 2020’s most exciting new bands (listen to SEPULCHER from earlier this year) but BENEATH’s swiftly delivers the sounds of Judgement Day in 2020. It’s out on Friday (5/15) on Bandcamp.

CJ Simonson
CJ Simonson is Merry-Go-Round's Editor-in-Chief and representative for all things Arizona. The only thing he knows for certain is that "I Can Feel The Fire" by Ronnie Wood is the greatest closing credits song never used in a Wes Anderson movie. Get on that, Wes.

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