Weekly Roundup - October 20, 2017
RIYL: Hiatus Kaiyote, Moonchild, Jordan Rakei
When a cult-like band’s charismatic and talented frontperson puts out a solo record, it can sometimes be a cause for concern—that the band’s breakup is inevitable, or that forces are marshalling to turn your cult favorites into mainstream smashes, with the requisite loss of quality. With Needlepaw, Hiatus Kaiyote’s Nai Palm seems to allay both of those fears. Needlepaw feels like a collection of ideas that Ms. Palm just wanted to explore a bit further. Some include reworkings of Hiatus Kaiyote songs, as well as covers and originals. It feels like an intensely personal project that reads more like a b-sides and demos collection. And that actually is part of what makes it so reassuring that there is more to come from Melbourne’s (and indeed probably the world’s) best neo-soul band.
Beach Slang (Quiet Slang)—We Were Babies & We Were Dirtbags
RIYL: Jawbreaker, Restorations, The Gaslight Anthem
Beach Slang’s trajectory has been a curious one to follow. After two of the most beloved EP’s of recent memory, Beach Slang managed to follow it up with a bonafide hit in The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us. Their frignteningly earnest lyrics and Jawbreaker-esque punk-pop sensibilites codified into a new potential powerhouse of a band. Their star was on a meteoric rise. Barely a year later they dropped another full length, A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings, which seemed to cool that hot iron a bit. Not that there was anything particularly wrong with the record, but it felt rushed and despite a stellar live presence, the response at shows seemed to temper somewhat. In the last year they have kept up their pace, releasing two mixtapes and finally this acoustic/string-accompanied EP and its…ok. The strength of their songs really shines through; going so far as to have me reassess my initial feelings towards ALBoTF. Their songs are always a delicate balance of fierce hope, tender defiance, and resigned regret and these reqorkings with piano, cello, and strings really bring focus back to the poignant lyricism. A cover of The Replacement’s “Androgynous” is also a real highlight, and a choice that has been supported by the band’s conduct and persistent choices in openers for their headlining tours, but overall this still feels minor. Those first EP’s had years of writing and practice going into them and for Beach Slang’s next release it would feel amazing for them to roar back with their tightest songs ever. That defiant aspect of their sound is absolutely essential—its what makes their songs perfect for screaming in basements with your best friends and strangers of a kin. Quiet Slang is, of course purposefully, listening to at night alone. Again, not that theres anything particularly wrong with that, it just makes one ache for more Beach Slang bangers.
I the Mighty—Where the Mind Wants to Go/Where You Let it Go
RIYL: Emarosa, Chiodos, Pierce the Veil
WtMWtG/WYLiG is a frustrating listen on the first couple rotations. Connector, the bands last full length, was an absolutely stellar progression of the 2010’s style of post-hardcore-pop-emo, incorporating a myriad of new influences and a gorgeous sheen of production. Their Oil in Water EP doubled down on the diverse influences, trying their hands at various styling’s of their own songs and was absolutely amazing, save for one overly electronic rendition of “The Lying Eyes of Miss Erray”. I the Mighty have continued this trajectory and have released probably their most confident sounding record to date. Where the frustration comes in, however, is that WtMWtG/WYLiG seems to contain some of both their strongest and weakest songs ever right next to one another. Right off the bat, “Degenerates” is incredible, and then “Pet Names” follows it up with an post-emo take on a Justin Timberlake-esque pop song and the results are a little cringe worth. “Chaos in Motion” splits the difference, opting for a very pop-heavy keyboard hook and a pounding beat that, though catchy, feels like a pop cop out/letdown before “Where the Mind Wants to Go” rights the ship again. This dynamic keeps up album wide—positioning them simultaneously as potential pop crossovers and as continued post-emo darlings. It makes for a confusing listen to say the least but one that will easily please their existing fans.
RIYL: XXXTentacion, Dashboard Confessional, Drake
Its tough to imagine Nothing, Nowhere as being anything but a guilty pleasure. A white, unabashedly emo rapper who mixes equal parts Dashboard Confessional (who not-coincidentally also guests later on this record) and Drake. Strangely this heart-on-sleeve feels far more authentic than XXX Tentacion’s 17—its way easier to believe a nerdy emo rapper making references to Senses Fail and Poison the Well crying about rejection and heartache than a convicted abuser. At the same time, one must also wonder the nature of the listener themselves. To some, this could easily be construed as appropriative and exploitative instead of inexplicably embarrassingly endearing. Nothing, Nowhere has talent—he seems to be able to change up his flow at the drop of a hat from reggae-influenced, to rap, to emo vocals and it all seems to work as much as it could. But those bigger questions of appropriation remain, though to his credit he seems to err on the side of emo over hip hop. Long story short, this is a release that is most assuredly not for everyone, but there will be some who absolutely appreciate it.
Ecca Vandal—Self Titled
RIYL: Bikini Kill, No Doubt, Rituals of Mine
Pop has been trying to assert its punkishness for as long as punk has existed. You can see hip hop artists sporting battle jackets (for a really interesting case, Kanye West wearing a replica of the jacket from American Nightmare’s Background Music is a head scratcher) or Miley Cyrus and her ilk using a garish mishmash of punk aesthetics and pop sensibilities, or the Kardashians promoting extreme music t-shirts. And its gone the other way, too, with everyone from Green Day to No Doubt to Fall Out Boy to My Chemical Romance and a host of other formerly punk bands being offered as sacrifices to the mainstream. Sometimes those punk-as-pop aesthetics work, but most of the time it feels cloying. Ecca Vandal’s self titled release is the first time that borrowed punk aesthetics for a pop/r and b/electronic sound feels surprisingly authentic. Imagine Macy Gray crooning over breakneck punkified electronic beats with the occasional guitar scream before settling down into the odd dub ballad. It’s an incredible mix of influences and musical cultures that is an amazing testament to how these diverse genres can cohabitate in a near impeccable and true way. Also a guest spots from Refused’s Dennis Lyxzen and Letlive’s (and The Fever) Jason Butler will very nearly guarantee my support. If she can bring an updated Bikini Kill/No Doubt sound to the masses, she has the full support of this blog.
Gwar—The Blood of Gods
RIYL: Motorhead, Meat Loaf, Dio
Its been years since our supreme overlord Oderus Urungus departed this plane of existence. One can only assume that he returned to lord his dominion over the tortured souls of wherever he ended up. His loss was surprisingly emotional, despite Gwar being an off-ridiculed somewhat-considered novelty act. Hey…its tough to be taken seriously when you have eight foot alien penises spewing blood and green goo from stage. But one tends to always forget that Gwar is composed of real artists who are passionate and dedicated masters at their craft—it just so happens their craft is having fun. So, soldiering on in dear Oderus’ memory, Gwar have returned to us with The Blood of Gods and it may truly be some of their strongest, most fun material to date. I mean just look at that Simon Bisley cover. It’s everything you could want and more. Galactic Viking metal at its absolute best and will, surprisingly, make you want to deep dive into the bands previous 13 LP’s before attending your nearest concert/slaughterhouse to be dismembered as a sacrifice to their greatness. They hit LA in late November with Southern alternative faves He Is Legend.
And So I Watch You from Afar—The Endless Shimmering
RIYL: Russian Circles, Caspian, Animals as Leaders
Belfast’s And So I Watch You from Afar have always been the raucous, joyous answer to the ponderous, often self-important genre of post-metal. They specialize in bright, tingling, fast-paced shredding punctuated by the occasionalgang chant. It’s a sound that is utterly unique to them as so much of post-metal gets lost in deep chugging or expansive soundscapes. Over the course of their first three records, ASIWYfA perfected a sound but never seemed bound by it. Each release felt like a natural extension and evolution from the last—the band was constantly pushing themselves to newer and greater and brighter heights. Their fourth LP Heirs felt like the first time there was not as much passion behind their dizzying riffage. The songs were there, it just lacked some kind of oomph. The Endless Shimmering, I am happy to say, is a return to form. The songs here feel just as bright, joyous, and challenging as any form All Hail Bright Futures or Gangs, with some new quieter parts that feel closer to the noodly emo of Sixpartseven or Pele if those bands had taken a more djent-y sound. If that sounds like gibberish to you, suffice it to say this is bright instrumental post metal of consummate technicality and talent.
RIYL: Rosetta, Old Man Gloom, Neurosis
I am ashamed to say that I am very late to the Amenra party. The band is regularly name checked by bands like Converge and Neurosis, and whispered about in revered tones across music messageboards but for some reason I just never had the not-insignificant requisite time on my hands to dive through their back catalogue. Of course if you’re brought up in the same breath as bands like Rosetta, Neurosis, and Converge you are more than likely not only guaranteed quality but probably also a small but fevered cult following (to which I will inevitably file my application soon). Not being as familiar with their output I can only say that Mass VI feels of a kin of all the rest of their music—crushing, dark, deep, expansive, emotional post-black-metal.
The Bloody Beetroots—The Great Electronic Swindle
RIYL: Does it Offend You Yeah?, Ratatat, Girl Talk
I honestly have no idea what to make of this. It is loud. It is confident. It demands attention. I can only handle it in small doses. It’s probly the best that dance electronic can get. It features everyone from Jet to Gallows to another appearance by Letlive’s Jason Butler (also Deap Valley and Foxy Shazam’s Eric Nally). I don’t know. Listen to it before you go out.