Weekly Roundup: December 1, 2017
There is a never ending onslaught of music coming out. Each Friday sees the release of a slew of new records worth your time and notice. Here are a small fraction, rounded up and reviewed to the best of our ability:
RIYL: Poison the Well, Thursday, Underoath
I’m not even entirely sure what to say about this release or how excited I am about it or what it means or what it may mean to me…Glassjaw are unequivocally one of the best bands to ever grace this green and blue earth that we as human being find ourselves living on. After two of the most breathtakingly stunning records of history, the band took a long hiatus, returning with promising EP’s in Our Color Green and Coloring Book. And then…nothing for a good couple years. They had seemingly fallen prey to the reunion fever sweeping the third wave emo and screamo scenes (see similarly afflicted bands like Underoath, Alexisonfire, and Thursday) of bands who broke up, waited a bit, got back together and rather than create new music continue to tour of the (undeniable) strengths of their previous releases. And to be honest…that’s fine. All those bands have created the songs that mean the absolute most to me and have helped shape me as an individual. They deserve all the success for the least amount of work for the rest of their lives as far as I’m concerned. But the greedy, grasping person inside me wants nothing more than new music from old favorites. Thankfully, Material Control, Glassjaw’s third full length release, is finally hear and it absolutely does not disappoint. While I was busy wondering if anything they made new would inhabit the space between Our Color Green or Coloring Book, the band totally excelled and exceeded and eschewed any possible expectations, creating a sonic bridge between Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Silence and Worship and Tribute. Because that is exactly what Material Control is—it might as well have leapt right through some alternate timeline and god almighty does it feel GOOD to listen to.
RIYL: Culture Abuse, Creative Adult, Basment
There’s an interesting subgenre of hardcore/punk that has been slowly developing despite sharing very little commonalities sonically with the parent genre. Culture Abuse, Creative Adult, Drug Church and others have garnered an insane amount of hype and love from the hardcore scene, dispite being sunny, disaffected punk rock that shares more in common with similar-sounding dispassionate acts like Joyce Manor, Elvis Depressedly, Basment, Tigers Jaw…and at this point near countless others. Instead of the classic punk sneer, however, this punk rock is played with a perpetually rolled eyes. As if expressing disbelief at the subject of whatever song they happen to be playing. Bugg is another band in this same vein releasing their debut on Pop Wig, and have near-assured modest success charted before them. Where Bugg manage to really excel is in allying themselves more closely to Culture Abuse, a band that has showed marked success I think in no small part from their association with the hardcore underground scene where they can fulfill a specific role and specific niche that is not met by the scene majority brooding self-importance. Bugg similarly provide a breath of optimistic, if slightly muted, fresh air and the undeniable talent to craft bright, shred-heavy pop-punk.
Blackbear – cybersex
RIYL: 2Chainz, Post Malone, Bryson Tiller
Every once in awhile I duck my head out from under the massive country-sized rock under which I live and dip my toes into the mainstream, curious as to just what it is that I may be missing out on. Blackbear’s cybersex is a competently executed, catchy, and empty-feeling reason for me to scuttle back into the void from whence I came. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the music—Blackbear, in fact, creates some of the most palatable R and B/trap influenced pop and is achieving a great deal of recognition and respect expecially on this record which manages to boast support from some of the iggest names in popular culture including 2Chainz, Rick Ross, Cam’Ron, Machine Gun Kelly, Ne-Yo, and T-Pain. As someone who doesn’t much particularly follow any of those artists individually (though I did very much enjoy Pretty Girls Like Trap Music), this offers somewhat of a concentrated dose of what the mainstream has to offer, particularly as it applies to trap-pop. I’m sure that this is great stuff to many people but there is just nothing in cybersex which holds any appeal for me. It all feels too constructed, too conforming, too safe, too obvious, too much. From the Sapphic-grime of the cover aesthetic to the autotune and guest spots…like Post Malone’s music, which is undeniably popular and successful, it just happens to go over my head entirely.
The Faceless—In Becoming a Ghost
RIYL: Between the Buried and Me, Meshugga, Veil of Maya
The Faceless have had a rough year. From dropping tours to dropping members, its been a never-ending litany of problems and challenges. That they have pulled together to release a record at all this year is something of an accomplishment in itself. In Becoming a Ghost, however, is somewhat a product of this tumult as well. Granted, I am coming at it as never having been a follower of the band to begin with. Their brand of ultra technical death metal has never quite appealed to me, though I have always recognized its power and talent. They are a near universally recognized modern innovators of the death metal genre and had a crazy amount of influence in the just over ten years of their existence. In Becoming a Ghost, however, is a bit of a difficult beast to grasp. It very clearly has the ambitions of a Between the Buried and Me album—any Between the Buried and Me album, with changing time signatures, weird musical segues, blindingly fast soloing, extended bridges, breakneck music turnarounds, and a heavy dose of melody and clean vocals. It’s a sort of everything but the kitchen sink approach to tech death. This manages at once to both elevate the band from out of the trappings of their genre, but also makes for a confusing, distracting listen. It feels like either too many ideas all at once or not enough to create well thought out, varied songs where some parts of songs hit absolutely hard as hell and others fall flat. Some of the flatness is from clean vocals that occaisionally, seemingly uncontrollably, hover in between Cynic and Creed. But at the same time its that strangeness and the bands absolute lack of fear of experimentation that account for some of the albums soaring highs. The one aspect which absolutely sinks the album, however, are the strangely Vincent Price-esque overly serious yet obviously campy skits in between much of the record. Imagine the opening for All Killer No Filler stretched over the course of the whole album—fairly cringe-worthy when you’re not sure if it was done ironically or authentically and bad either way.