Music Reviews

Music Roundup 9/25/17

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This article previously appeared on Crossfader

Hopefully you know the drill by now! Here’s our music roundup focusing on the notable releases of the past week or so, letting you know which ones are worth your valuable time.

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Annabel (lee) – THE CLEANSING

Genre: Dark Jazz, Noir Pop

Favorite Tracks: “Paris, Room 14,” “Scarlet One,” “See Her”

Music that defies solid description is progressively harder to come by these days, but unsung duo Annabel (lee) certainly carry this torch. Annabel (lee) make music that feels haunted—not that this is music that will shake or unsettle you, but rather that this is music that feels imbued with the lifeblood and memories of people, places, and music long brushed under the rug. The listener honestly couldn’t be faulted for initially believing that THE CLEANSING isn’t something along the lines of a release from The Caretaker, a carefully constructed collage of jazz and orchestral music from the early 20th century. This is in large part thanks to the staggeringly beautiful voice of frontwoman Sheila Ellis, so easily placing herself within the pantheon of the vocal jazz greats that she should be seen as a peer rather than an influencee: Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Dinah Washington, you name it… and Sade too! While the first half of the album consists of sparsely plucked acoustic guitar that aims to bring to mind the bossa nova, the latter half is what will interest more seasoned audience members, as layer upon layer of ghostly strings and vocal affectations are stacked up until you’re swept down the dusty corridors of a twilight home you’re just a little uneasy being in (“See Her”); in fact, maybe it is sort of like The Caretaker after all. [Thomas Seraydarian]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup behind

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Behind the Shadow Drops – H A R M O N I C

Genre: Post-Rock

Favorite Tracks: “The End of Daydreams,” “Positive Shadow, Negative Light,” “Utopia (Reprise)”

Yet another moniker of Japanese post-rock/modern classical maestro Takaakira Goto, Behind the Shadow Drops sees Goto as pleasant and amiable as ever, even if it doesn’t manage to challenge or excite on the same token. A personal pet peeve of mine has always been solo or side projects that are more-or-less interchangeable with the parent groups that birthed them, and H A R M O N I C falls into the trap almost immediately, giving us the same net gain as 2015’s CLASSICAL PUNK AND ECHOES UNDER THE BEAUTY (under his own name) or 2005’s I COULD STAND IN HERE (going as Left). For those not in the know, you have the languorous, reverbed guitar arpeggiations of post-rock, the atmospheric strings of modern classical or chamber music, and some droning electronic rhythm structures thrown in for good measure. It’s relaxing, sure, and could presumably soundtrack a pensive evening spent alone in quiet reflection, but “music to fall asleep to” has a very narrow field of appeal, and not one that’s easily extrapolated to daily listening. It’s fundamentally nice, and hard to find much to directly rail against, but Goto’s apparently limited bag of tricks loses efficacy each time he goes digging, and his main group, MONO, is still where his talents and compositional understanding of scope and space are most easily appreciated. [Thomas Seraydarian]

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

music roundup chelsea

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Chelsea Wolfe – HISS SPUN

Genre: Goth Rock, Doom Metal

Favorite Tracks: “Spun,” “16 Psyche,” “Vex,” “The Culling,” “Twin Fawn,” “Static Hum,” “Two Spirit”

She’s done it again. Anyone actively listening to new music within the past few years is aware of Chelsea and the sound of her “doom folk,” which has stolen the souls of critic and casuals alike. Success has even landed her crushing riffs and haunting vocals right into normie household televisions, projecting grimdark film trailers and car ads. Though it’s standard fare for her, HISS SPUN is Wolfe aggressively reclaiming her throne as West Coast goth queen after these past two years. She’s relatively in the same place since ABYSS, that sweet spot between heavy and moody, but has refined her formula even more with help from a plethora of talent wells including Troy Van Leeuwen of Queens of the Stone Age (who are also enjoying a Re-Re-Renaissance). He and Wolfe provide varying guitar textures venturing through melancholic goth, pulsating industrial, and oppressive doom, all while tethered to headbanging hard rock distortion. As usual, her ethereal voice maintains atmosphere throughout, yet it can still be brilliantly complemented with the death doom growls of Old Man Gloom’s Aaron Turner on “Vex.” It’s the deepest dive she’s ever taken into metal, but her signature style is kept intact without caving into KVLT edginess or singer/songwriter pretension pop. Even at its least daring, HISS SPUN echoes highlights of Chelsea’s career, acting as a great introduction to her work. “The Culling” and “Static Hum” are intensely dark meditations akin to something off of APOKALYPSIS, while “Offering” and “Welt” adopt elements of noisy industrial akin to tracks found on PAIN IS BEAUTY. “Two Spirit” could very well have been on her beautiful acoustic collection UNKNOWN ROOMS. All of it is breathtaking. Get this one (and the rest) on vinyl. Do it. Support our queen and the new goth revival. The worst thing we can do when there’s darkness in the world is wade in it alone. *Rips E-cig* [Alec Larios]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup cut copy

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Cut Copy – HAIKU FROM ZERO

Genre: Dance-Punk, Indietronica

Favorite Songs: “Standing In THe Middle Of The Field,” “Memories We Share”

As Crossfader’s in-house dance-punk expert, I have more than a few thoughts on Cut Copy, the genre’s starry-eyed bards, and their newest record, HAIKU FROM ZERO. Purveyors of ecstasy-driven, romantic disco soirees, the last time we officially heard from the Aussie group was 2014’s FREE YOUR MIND, an album that suffered from the weight of the groups preceding work, namely 2008’s excellent coming out party IN GHOST COLOURS and 2011’s towering, sickly-sweet masterpiece ZONOSCOPE. Four years removed from the growing staleness of FREE YOUR MIND, and further from dance-punk’s last moments of true relevancy, HAIKU FROM ZERO sees Cut Copy at perhaps their least essential, but also at their most relaxed. FREE YOUR MIND’s high profile release status forced the group to try and make “an album,” filled with tiny vignettes and varied, mostly misguided, song styles in an effort to be versatile and create “texture,” with the results always feeling forced. But when the band weren’t trying to create choral alt rock sing-alongs like “Walking In The Sky” (the biggest head scratcher on that album), their affinity for poetic discotheque pop was still unmatched, and HAIKU FROM ZERO is just nine straight dance tracks that, even while sometimes sleepwalking, get back to basics. Cut Copy are romantics, and their lead-off track, “Standing in the Middle Of The Field,” builds with loose ease, offering hypnotic cowbells and lyrics about trying to find love by drifting off to shore. Cut Copy soundtrack a relaxed and comfortable dancefloor, and HAIKU FROM ZERO is less fiery than previous releases. Even when the BPM gets turned up slightly on songs like “Memories We Share” or “Stars Last Me A Lifetime,” they feel restrained, with the beats almost more intoxicated on the night air than in the past. HAIKU FROM ZERO lacks proper bangers, and suffers for it. In spite of its shortcomings, FREE YOUR MIND still had legitimate funk grooves laced throughout in songs like “Meet Me In A House Of Love,” but Cut Copy’s newest isn’t interested in lighting the dancefloor on fire; these songs don’t necessarily lack indietronica dance appeal (you can absolutely dance to these songs), but they hardly deliver truly satisfying moments either. HAIKU FROM ZERO could’ve used some dirty funk and big room EDM drops, something they’ve toyed with to great success in the past, but as it stands, Cut Copy delivered a good album with slightly disappointing returns. [CJ Simonson]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup fergie

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Fergie – DOUBLE DUTCHESS

Genre: Pop

Favorite Tracks: “Like It Ain’t Nuttin,” “Tension,” “Love Is Blind” (But only because it’s my mortal enemy and I want you to suffer alongside me)

You blinked and probably didn’t realize that it’s been over a decade since Fergie dropped her hit-filled solo debut THE DUTCHESS, but that’s only because you listen to “London Bridge” so frequently that it feels like just yesterday her essentialness to modern pop radio was bona fide. Her sophomore record, entitled DOUBLE DUTCHESS, comes to us 11 years later and opens with a Dead Can Dance sample and a Rick Ross introduction, providing an illusion of modern pop awareness. In truth, the beat is the kind of thing that would pass as a deep cut mixtape track in Ross’s catalogue (short of hearing a “Maybach Music” drop every 5 seconds), but this isn’t a mogul rap project, nor is it an album that feels in tune with American pop radio. Unsurprisingly, just like her debut, Fergie’s newest is a stylistic mess, trying a little bit of everything, revealing no real direction or purpose. Reggae (“Love is Blind”), trap (“M.I.L.F.$”), 2000s electropop (“Tension”), ballads (“A Little Work”), and acoustic R&B (“Save It Til Morning”) all populate the world of DOUBLE DUTCHESS, making it a jarring roller coaster of a listen. A lot of the higher energy music here is perfectly suitable, and Fergie hasn’t really lost her step in regards to making club-centric pop music—the best songs on here are “Like It Ain’t Nuttin’” and “Tension,” and they genuinely just sound like vintage Fergie, just as dated, innocuous, and lacking in truly defined style as they were 11 years ago. She even sounds passingly familiar on the dub-infused “L.A.LOVE (la la),” featuring YG, and the poor UK house imitant “Just Like You,” even if these genres don’t totally suit her. But even generously calling many of these songs acceptable, we’re still left with a host of other trash. The decade since Fergie was relevant to radio waves has rendered her legacy to be mostly forgettable, and DOUBLE DUTCHESS stunningly autopilots a comeback that never had much fervor. Also, fuck “Love is Blind.” I’m serious, I hope to never hear this song again. It’s so bad. Honestly, if you’ve made it through this review to this point, and you thought to yourself, “Oh, I’ll at least check out the ‘Favorite Tracks’ section,” don’t. Listen to “Love Is Blind” and suffer with me. [CJ Simonson]

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

music roundup kevin gates

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Kevin Gates – BY ANY MEANS 2

Genre: Trap Rap, Pop Rap

Favorite Tracks: “Had To,” “GOMD,” “D U Down”  

Long existing on the periphery of hip hop artists people sort-of-but-not-really care about, Kevin Gates is most known for his cavalier attitudes towards sexual relationships with immediate family members and a long-documented history of eating ass. The former is in a legal grey area and the latter is perfectly acceptable for those that enjoy it, and neither are reason enough alone to write Gates off from the drop. That being said, both of these characteristics are immeasurably more memorable than any music Gates has managed to produce since his debut efforts in 2009, and both feel like desperate attempts at making some sort of mark on the cultural consciousness when viewed in context. Kevin Gates is lowercase-f “fine,” another output of noise in a southern hip hop scene swimming in it, desperately searching for a signal. While the low-end fetishization of trap rap is present on BY ANY MEANS 2, most of the production is slightly too atmospheric and unassuming to really make a case to be considered alongside Gates’s peers in the genre, missing out on the lethally cold minimalism that lends itself to the standout releases. This tape in particular sees Gates wade further out into the radio accessibility of pop rap, and on certain occasions, he turns in deft interpretations of the sing-song delivery style that has accelerated people such as Lil Uzi Vert and Young Thug to the top. However, a consistent Rolodex of lyrical clunkers, a lack of guests apart from the entirely uncharacteristic PnB Rock, and not quite enough of a grasp on what makes a good hook leaves very few returns for BY ANY MEANS 2 to yield. Kevin Gates is competent enough to turn in mixtapes of mild buzz for the next five years or so, but unless there’s some sort of career reinvention, he’ll always be toiling on the C-list. For the record, though, “D U Down” is a summer-reminiscent, unabashed sleaze fest that’s as fun as the tape manages to get. [Thomas Seraydarian]

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

music roundup godspeed

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Godspeed You! Black Emperor – LUCIFERIAN TOWERS

Genre: Post-Rock

Favorite Tracks: “Undoing a Luciferian Towers,” “Bosses Hang, Pt. I”

Sometimes a convergence of  totally random moments in our collective experience happen to be soundtracked by music, and as ultimately insignificant as that moment may actually be down the line, the music that accompanied it may linger. It’s for that reason that I’m glad that the NFL players’ protests and the release of Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s new album occured on the same weekend.

The above sentence has weight, assuming you’re a GY!BE fan, but given how intensely doomsday-driven the band’s catalogue is, it may shock you that my experience with LUCIFERIAN TOWERS was jaw-droppingly optimistic. My first listen came shortly after the NFL Players Association, the union that represents players, posted a dismissive, yet positive, video in response to President Trump’s rally speech on Friday. And while history has proven that the music I was about to press play on would more than likely suck the energy of that video, I’m pleased to report that was not the case.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s LUCIFERIAN TOWERS was an uplifting experience, strangely. The instrumental post-rock group have made an album for uproarious, yet joyous, protest. The piccolos and trumpets that defiantly march forward on the opening track, “Undoing a Luciferian Towers,” act as a celebratory on-the-run rally cry, perhaps not backing a wholly victorious moment, but providing the hope for something down the line. “Bosses Hang, Pt. I” brings us back to the Civil War battle field that GY!BE so often return to, only this time the fiddles seem to represent a changing tide. “Fam/Famine” continues with restrained beauty, before the serious “Anthem For No State” delivers a renewed portrayal of the Old West, with all its hopefulness, longing prosperity, and, in classic Godspeed You fashion, ravaging brutality. To watch the NFL positively refute our president’s claims all weekend with LUCIFERIAN TOWERS playing in my head was an unexpected joy. While it’s not the band’s best work, it’s their most obvious and delightful evolution. [CJ Simonson]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup hgm

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Hiss Golden Messenger – HALLELUJAH ANYHOW

Genre: Americana

Favorite Tracks: “Jaw,” “Harder Rain,” “I Am the Song,” “Gulfport You’ve Been on My Mind”

About a year ago I had the opportunity to attend Neil Young’s Bridge School Benefit Concert. Unbeknownst to me, it may have been the last Bridge School event that will ever be organized, but it was an absolutely lovely experience, a breezy NorCal evening filled with lots of tallboy beer and stripped-down acoustic sets from everyone from Cage the Elephant to Metallica to Willie Nelson. For better and worse, Hiss Golden Messenger sounds like every act at Bridge School benefit, but while half of the fun is seeing radio-regular performers you know in a more fully fleshed-out format pushing their musical chops to work in a different parameter, HALLELUJAH ANYHOW is further proof that Hiss Golden Messenger can play one style and one style only, and doesn’t seem too keen on shaking things up. And yet, it’s hard to really muster up the vinegar to explicitly denounce anything on here at the same time. It’s low-stakes, summer evening, folk-y Americana, full of delicate finger pluckings, lots of harmonicas, homespun percussion, and M.C. Taylor’s Dylan-esque whisper. While certainly not mood music in the case of any presence of ambience, it’s a soundtrack to a specific time and place, one not meant for careful consideration, but for a lazily inebriated outdoor picnic with a loved one. Apart from “I Am the Song,” which suggests a more amped-up and energetic Hiss Golden Messenger could get billed as an opening act for The Black Keys, you’ve heard the core essence of HALLELUJAH ANYHOW on records from an exhaustive list of peers such as Iron & Wine, Houndmouth, My Morning Jacket, and heck, even Zac Brown Band. I can’t quite bring myself to not recommend it, as it’s resolutely pleasant, but replay value is unlikely. [Thomas Seraydarian]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup horrors

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The Horrors – V

Genre: Neo-Psychedelia, Post-Punk 

Favorite Tracks: “Press Enter To Exit,” “Something To Remember Me By” 

February 13th, 2011. This was a big day for music fans everywhere—the day Arcade Fire beat out Eminem, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and Lady Antebellum for album of the year with their album THE SUBURBS. Sometimes, this is a day I wish never happened. While I’m all for a lesser known band beating out mainstream artists, I think Arcade Fire’s success paved a way for bands like The Horrors to release an album like V and get praised for it, an album that sounds like a 2010 YouTube DJ mashup of Muse and the aforementioned group of Canadians.

Sure, the production quality is fine and the album gives a nice array of tones and different instruments, but my praise ends there. V is something you turn on and swear you’ve heard before, something that goes in one ear and out the other. There is not a single song, other than maybe “Press Enter To Exit,” that resonates. On “Weighed Down,” the band chooses to structure the song around an ambient guitar opening which ends up sounding completely tacky, with vocals that come off as frontman Faris Badwan trying way too hard to get a deep, dramatic sound. The pulsating drums and gradual buildup on “World Below” literally sounds like a Win Butler tune off REFLEKTOR. I understand trends and movements in music, but when it becomes tough to distinguish between artists, that’s when all originality has gone out the door and you’re left with a barren archetype of a song that just needs four guys with long hair and a key to be complete. This may be a lot of pent-up anger I’ve had with alt-rock bands for a while all coming out at once, and for that I apologize to The Horrors. However, I still fucking hate their album. [Emmett Garvey]

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

music roundup lemon twigs

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The Lemon Twigs – BROTHERS OF DESTRUCTION

Genre: Psychedelic Pop

Favorite Tracks: “Night Song”

Hailing from Long Island, New York, brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario have delivered joyful, yet shallow, work on their newest EP, BROTHERS OF DESTRUCTION. Wrapped up in a baroque pop and alternative rock exterior, Lemon Twigs’ newest EP is instrumentally perhaps the group’s strongest work yet. Out of the gate, the song “Why Didn’t You Say That” comes at the listener with a seriously groovy piano riff. I found myself impressed by the D’Addario brothers’ fuller and more fulfilling sound, as shown by the unexpected but welcome inclusion of a saxophone backing. Despite this, the lyrics come off as derivative of countless other pop songs: “I needed her then more than I’d ever again /  Fell on my knees and begged / Said I’m sorry that I waste you.”

The track “So Fine,” much like the previous song, is kiddie-pool-deep when it comes to its lyricism: “You’re so kind and you’re so fine / Now that we have spent some time / I find everything I say or do displeases you.” Just 30 seconds in, the track has a drastic instrumental change, revving up slowly into what first appears to almost be a post-rock sound, unheard of from Lemon Twigs. Yet as soon as this revolutionary change to their sound comes, the rug is pulled out from beneath the listener and the Twigs’ usual syrupy instrumentation kicks in. For those who are fans of the D’Addarios past work, there is much to like on this track, but I found myself, only three tracks in, already knowing how the rest of the short, 18-minute EP would go.

When I saw Lemon Twigs perform live a few months back, they performed a drastically different set then what is heard on BROTHERS. They displayed a bombastic stage presence coupled with an energetic magnetism which left me excited for what was to come. BROTHERS OF DESTRUCTION is not a progression forward in sound or concept, merely a stagnation. Despite the half-baked product that is this EP, I still look forward to hearing what they have coming down the pipeline next. I wait with hope that they haven’t already stalled and are simply stuck in a suffocating sameness. [Will Turmon]

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

music roundup gemini

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Macklemore – GEMINI

Genre: Pop Rap

Favorite Tracks: N/A

My passionate hatred for Lil Dicky runs so deep and essential to my current existence that listening to Macklemore’s GEMINI almost felt like outgrowing an old plaything. Don’t get me wrong: I think Macklemore is still just as much of an embarrassing, haughty, pretty boy culture leech as he ever was, but truth be told, I must admit that he’s the lesser of the two evils. I know you come here for the hate, but honestly, while GEMINI is boring and irrelevant, it’s not notably or offensively so. Macklemore has always been clunky and awkward on the mic, turning in jagged rhythm changeups that feel like driving over bumpy pavement, and nothing much has changed here. It’s clear that he’s more comfortable when he has production that steadily churns and builds behind him (the claps and “woah-ohs” of “Glorious [featuring Skylar Grey]”), but he’ll never be anything more than the white, wannabe rapper in high school who kept performing PG-rated singles at assemblies because the administration felt bad for him. At his most tolerable he sticks to what he knows, with touches of horn arrangements and pervasive piano chord plinks; at his most repulsive he tries to sit at the big boy table of trap rap, and falls flat on his face as a result, such as when he literally tries to sound like Migos on “Willy Wonka” before Offset shows up and does Migos better. But when it comes to lyrics . . . I’ll let a few speak for themselves.

I said ‘Don’t worry I’m timeless’ / Watching TOY STORY 3, that’s a great fucking movie

King of the road I drive slow like whoa / And I just switched over to Geico like whoa

I want world peace, but I wanna watch Worldstar

I wanna be a feminist, but I’m still watching porno / I wanna eat healthy, but I’ma eat this DiGiornos

OK, I can feel the blood rage rising again as I collect self-damning lyrical snippets, so once more, I will have to Go In. I cannot imagine anyone who is so boring, vapid, brain dead, and culturally aloof as to give one single flying fuck about anything that is on Macklemore’s mind. He is literally the fake ally fuckbois on your timeline who post middling thinkpieces written by white people about police violence, don’t use trigger warnings, and then ignore the calls from affected communities to do the same. Macklemore is real frumpy that our web-mediated culture is fake and pursues outrage without change, but like . . . have you ever looked at a picture of Macklemore? Thankfully we’re only intermittently treated to Wokelemore on GEMINI, clearly having gotten his rocks off with “White Privilege II,” but it comes as no surprise he has hot takes on fame and celebrity with less value than the items from his pervasive radio hit of yesteryear. Macklemore likes to talk about how he’s rich and famous, and continues to focus far too much on his presumably nonexistent dance prowess from arrangements that lost vogue three decades ago (“You don’t wanna see me when I start doin’ the zombie, Thriller / Master P, barbeque chip, Percy Miller / That’s a rap snack, I’m a fat dad, I got fat abs / Sweatin’ like I’m eatin’ jalapenos out in Baghdad”). And that’s about it! He’s also pretty salty at critics and makes a somewhat cogent commentary on music journalism being very, very white (“The same writers criticizing my rhymes / Are the same writers that are gentrifying Bed-Stuy”), but this loses some efficacy when he brags about growing up in affluent Seattle, “bumpin” southern hip hop, appropriates black gospel music throughout, and mentions how he’s a fake liberal who doesn’t activate any of his outrage for political change. This has been another Thomas Seraydarian joint, but it really could have all been summed up with this one burner from “Firebreather”: “Got a Guns N’ Roses T-shirt, and never listened to the band / Just being honest, I just thought that shit looked cool.” [Thomas Seraydarian]

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

music roundup mastodon

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Mastodon – COLD DARK PLACE EP  

Genre: Progressive Metal

Favorite Tracks: “North Side Star,” “Blue Welsh”

Mastodon’s grungy return to concept albums, EMPEROR OF SAND, was originally supposed to be a double-disc release, so the band took one of the scrapped tracks (‘Toe to Toes”) along with three leftovers from 2014’s ONCE MORE ROUND THE SUN, and created this EP. Those who like Mastodon’s more progressive and zany impulses are going to be happy. The six-minute opener “North Side Star” features jangly Celtic folk with chaotic, spiralling riffs, an odd four-on-the-floor rhythm that pops up on several tracks later down the list as well, and several awesome solos. Drumming is usually the driving force behind Mastodon’s music, but here it’s not as flashy or prominent, allowing other members to take center melody and letting the few drum fills have much more impact. “Blue Welsh” has subtly funky verses, while “Toe to Toes” packs several effective transitions between traditional hard rock and layered progressive rock in its four-and-a-half-minute run-time. However, the overall depressed and morose mood becomes unbearable on the title track, which reads like a formless redo of THE HUNTER’s title track without any of the dramatic vocals or guitar melodies. It’s still the biggest return to the band’s progressive roots in a while, with sprawling, layered, colorful songs, new musical ideas, and plenty of variety. If you’ve enjoyed any of Mastodon’s past material after the bestial LEVIATHAN or REMISSION, you’ll find something to enjoy. [Blake Michelle]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup metz

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Metz – STRANGE PEACE

Genre: Noise Rock

Favorite Tracks: “Cellophane,” “Caterpillar”

At the time of its release, Metz’s 2012 self-titled debut was one of several fashionable returns to noise rock, emerging in a banner year for the genre alongside other garage-and-hardcore-adjacent releases like The Men’s OPEN YOUR HEART, Cloud Nothings’ ATTACK ON MEMORY, iceage’s NEW BRIGADE, and Savages’ SILENCE YOURSELF. But while each of the aforementioned acts would find ways to refresh themselves on future releases, Metz’s sophomore release, II, was a lazy carbon copy of the debut, still centered around thrash metal drums, harsh, uproarious guitar sounds, and Alex Edkins’s strained screams; while II certainly continued validating many people’s claims that the band sounded like BLEACH-era Nirvana, The Jesus Lizard, or Steve Albini’s band Big Black, it lacked any kind of imagination, and the final product felt flat. While Metz regained some of the swagger that was lacking on II, STRANGE PEACE’s evolutions are tactful, abandoning some of the darkness of their previous work in favor of the slightest sense of hope, resulting in a few songs that feel strangely conventional by Metz standards. “Cellophane” is as accessible a track as the band has ever written, complete with a fun-to-sing chorus, and songs like “Sink” and “Caterpillar” commit to taking the foot off the gas for the first time in the band’s career, exploring hollow guitar tones and no-wave chaos. But beyond these interesting adjustments, the band’s signature brand of rock prevails; a sense of same old, same old dominates a mixed bag of fast, chaotic, scuffed-up noise rock. While “Dig A Hole” rushes by in a refreshing, breakneck bull rush, “Mess of Wires,” “Lost in the Blank City,” and “Mr. Plague” stare down the band’s droning guitars and snare-heavy drumming with an almost bored sense of familiarity. The almost six-minute closer, “Raw Materials,” has moments of brilliance, mainly the melancholic passages in between the chorus when Edkins screams, “They won’t stop pushing us into the background,” and the crescendoing finale, but still falls into similarly played-out tropes. While there are things to appreciate about STRANGE PEACE, Metz stagnates as the exact same band they were in 2012, and if that’s what you were looking for, enjoy. [CJ Simonson]

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

music roundup wolves

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Wolves in the Throne Room – THRICE WOVEN

Genre: Black Metal, Dark Folk

Favorite Tracks: “Angrboda,” “Fire Roars in the Palace of the Moon”

Wolves in the Throne Room continue to prove that they’re a leading force in American black metal with THRICE WOVEN. A darkly mythic atmosphere, reminding listeners of everyone’s return to the earth, permeates every second of this beast of an album. Five tracks, four of them meatier than an abattoir, are packed with tons of epic instrumentation and vocals emerging from the unrestrained ferocity of the Weaver brothers, as well as a plethora of guest talent. Anna von Hausswolff’s soft, haunting vocals give brief calm between the opening black metal onslaughts of “Born From the Serpent.” She returns alongside harpist Zeynep Oyku for another soothing hush in “Mother Owl, Father Ocean” before the gargantuan finale of “Fires Roar in the Palace of the Moon.” Steve Von Till of Neurosis gathers toward an open fire, spreading the wisdom of “The Old Ones” and their connection to the natural world before the second track kicks into blackened doom. “Angrboda” serves as the record’s vehemently intense centerpiece, showcasing the extremes Aaron Weaver’s drums and his brother Nathan’s guitar and vocals are willing to broach with Kody Keyworth eagerly following. THRICE WOVEN is a truly monumental release in the band’s already solid catalog and gives even more hope to the American black metal scene. Check out the interview we did with Aaron here! [Alec Larios]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup young martha

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Young Thug and Carnage – YOUNG MARTHA 

Genre: Trap Rap

Favorite Tracks: “Homie (featuring Meek Mill),” “Liger” 

The conceit of YOUNG MARTHA’s “Liger” is that Young Thug doesn’t want a standard tiger as an exotic pet like so many other rappers do, but a liger. It’s a pretty good summation of why Young Thug has never much appealed to me; at the of the day, he’s still doing what every other vanity-and-material-obsessed rapper is doing, only slightly stranger. Nonetheless, he can put together some competent bangers (“Good Times,” anyone?), and his vocal control and versatility has certainly improved dramatically over the years. Carnage’s beats are crisp and engrossing the whole way through, with a coiling, dramatic organ on “Homie” and a sweet flute melody on “Liger.” The percussion is also much more diverse and stimulating than the usual monotonous trap snares, especially on the textured “Don’t Call Me.” However, Young Thug and his guests’ performances are much more inconsistent. Meek Mill matches Young Thug’s energy pretty well, but Shakka is totally forgettable even as he dominates much of the final song, and Thug’s presence is barely felt despite a pretty funny opening verse. The third track, “10,000 Slimes,” seems to go on forever with a redundant chorus and Thug sounding way too slurry and drawling. Having never been into Young Thug before, however, this was still a lot more consistent and fun than I expected. Thug and his guests may not have brought their full A-game, but Carnage did, and his beats are worth the price of admission. [Blake Michelle]

Verdict: Recommend

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1 Comment

  1. I loved the whole Annabel (Lee) EP(?) Made me think of Leonard Cohen. Very unique and accessible.

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