Music Reviews

Music Roundup 4/14/20


We’re here to tell you what’s hot and what’s not on this week’s music roundup

music roundup Empress Of


Genre: Synthpop, Art Pop

Favorite Tracks: “Love Is A Drug,” “U Give Up,” “Give Me Another Chance”

Empress Of’s 2015 debut, ME, has aged like a fine wine. A playbook for a type of modern sound that remains steadfast to this day, Lorely Rodriguez’s arty synthpop continues to dazzle with a hybridization of cavernous club beats and soaring near-apocalyptic hooks that complement her dynamic vocals perfectly. While 2018’s US was very much a follow-up sequel, a mirror in sound and scope, her 2020 release I’M YOUR EMPRESS OF creatively challenges in ways US for better or worse didn’t. There is a dancing-by-yourself simplicity that defines much of Empress Of’s latest, reserved bangers by her standards that feel confined almost by design. A lot of the production lacks the instant, inviting warmness of her previous pop songs, leveling into a cold sparseness that in context is really compelling, from the steely, regretful minimalist ballad “Should’ve” to the slow-churning house beat of “U Give It Up.” Singles “Love Is A Drug” and “Give Me Another Chance,” both highpoints on the record, pulse and rumble with a kind of unique isolation—horny, tired, anxious, heartbroken, I’M YOUR EMPRESS OF wasn’t conceived in quarantine, but it’s the kind of COVID-19-era dance music that, like Charli XCX’s recently released “forever,” I could see being a tonal template for the next year-and-a-half of pop music. It’s not her most obvious work, but there is something gratifying about the music meeting us at a point of isolation that’s worth commending. [CJ Simonson]

music roundup Igorr


Genre: Avant-Garde Metal

Favorite Tracks: “Camel Dancefloor,” “Himalaya Mating Ritual,” “Lost in Introspection,” “Overweight Posey,” “Polyphonic Rust”

I worry that I gawk at the unremarkable in my reviews too much, that I am too musically sheltered and thus overstate uniqueness and originality when there is little. But I can confidently state that will not happen with Igorr, the alias of French musician Gautier Serre and one of the most unprecedented acts in modern metal (and likely music as a whole).

The “basic” formula of blast beats, crushing grindcore riffs, operatic vocals, jingling Eastern European folk, and fidgety breakcore somehow smooshed into three-or-four-minute songs has not changed on his latest, SPIRITUALITY AND DISTORTION; the biggest new additions are ouds and qanums, instruments most responsible for what you think of as Arabic tones, and a heavier emphasis on Primus-esque rubbery bass. The classical elements of pianos, choirs, and violins are gorgeous, and Igorr’s doomish riffs are more immense and dexterous than ever. Sarre’s compositional skills continue improving, and for as maximal as his sonic palette can be, he knows when to dilute the instrumental pool and let individual elements shine. The jumpy oud lick that opens “Camel Dancefloor” anchors the track even as dubstep warbles step in, and the plucked, gentle strings of “Overweight Posey” feature some impressive virtuosity to bookend the track. The spastic Aphex Twin pastiche and glitchy manipulations were the biggest downside to their last record SAVAGE SINUSOID, but they are not the focal point here, and at their best when limited to kinetic drum patterns like on “Lost in Introspection.” “Himalayan Mating Ritual,” the longest song here, could be mistaken for a straight-forward folk metal tune from Eluveitie, and it’s all the better for it. It’s too long—this band should be making 40-minute albums, not 55—and I’m not sure it rewards additional listens like avant-garde metal should. Nevertheless, Igorr continues to prove they have the talent to arise above being something to merely gawk at into something to enjoy. [Blake Michelle]

Trace Mountains – LOST IN THE COUNTRY

Genre: Indie Folk

Favorite Tracks: “Rock & Roll,” “Dog Country,” “Cooper’s Dream,” “Benji,” “Fallin’ Rain,” “Turn To Blue”

On his latest release as Trace Mountains, ex-LVL UP songwriter Dave Benton presents us with a collection of tracks that shed the lo-fi scuzz of his prior releases and embrace a transcendental sophistication that evokes the golden age of Woodsist. LOST IN THE COUNTRY is, at its core, an East Coast record. There is a New England resplendence that surges through every track on the concise 30-minute album, and Benton’s songs are appropriately about dogs, escapism, and disconnection from technology and life in the city. Opening track “Rock & Roll” is the record’s rowdiest moment, Benton conjuring satanic imagery that alludes to the unwholesome struggles of being a touring musician and living in Brooklyn. From there, the album mellows out into a collection of intentionally twee songs about the magic of nature and rugged solitude. “Dog Country” and “Cooper’s Dream” both heavily rely on rivers as motifs and title track, while “Lost In The Country” is a bewildered ode to the woods that makes me want to start wearing hiking boots and move as far away from the greater Los Angeles sprawl as possible. Although there is a Thoreau-esque angst to the urban denouncement, LOST IN THE COUNTRY is surprisingly and refreshingly kind—you can safely put this on in the car with your mom alongside Wilco, GRACELAND, and others in the certified Cool Parents™ canon. Trace Mountains’ latest isn’t trying to be anything other than an approachable ode to the magic of the world outside of the constraints of society. Though it is far gentler and less math-y, it feels similar to fellow SUNY Purchase alumni Peaer’s wonderful record A HEALTHY EARTH  in its themes and its constantly shifting and surprising instrumentation. While it may be a heartfelt ode to appreciating the outdoors, Benton has grown into a nuanced songwriter in the two years since 2018’s A PARTNER TO LEAN ON, and there are layers both sonically and ideologically on LOST IN THE COUNTRY that beg to be analyzed and prompt multiple listens. While LVL UP may still be sorely missed, Trace Mountains is a promising project with the potential to make a name as one of the definitive artists of 2020s indie rock. [Ted Davis]

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