Wait A Minute! This Isn't Metal! - February 2021


Written by: RaduP, musclassia, Mr. Doctor, Abattoir
Published: 14.03.2021


Wait A Minute! This Isn't Metal! - February 2021
Metal Storm's outlet for nonmetal album reviews



The place where we'll talk about music without growls or blast beats
unless they still have those but still aren't metal


We here at Metal Storm pride ourselves on our thousands of metal reviews and interviews and article; metal is our collective soul and passion, which is why we bother with this junk. That being said, we'd be lying if we stuck to our trve-kvlt guns and claimed that metal is the only thing we ever listen to. Whether we want to admit it or not, we do check out some other stuff from time to time; some of us are more poptimistic than others, but there's a whole world out there aside from Satan-worshiping black metal and dragon-slaying power metal. We do already feature some nonmetal artists on our website and have a few reviews to back them up, but we prefer to limit that aspect of the site to those artists who have been a strong influence on the metal scene or who are in some way connected to it. This article series is the place for those artists who don't matter to metal in the slightest but still warrant some conversation - after all, good music, is good music, and we all know metal isn't the only thing on this planet for any of us.

Down below, you might find some obscure Bandcamp bedroom projects or some Billboard-topping superstar; as long as it ain't metal and the album itself isn't a best-of compilation, it fits. Obviously, we're certain that not everything will be for everybody (you guys can be viciously territorial even when metal is the only thing on the menu, and we're all supposed to like the same things), but we do hope you find at least one thing that you can enjoy, instead of just pointing and screaming in horror "Not metal!" as if that would be an insult.

Here are our previous features:

January 2021
December 2020
November 2020

And now to the music...






Foo Fighters - Medicine At Midnight
[Alternative Rock]


No artist was safe from the effects of COVID-19; bands large and small cancelled tours and delayed album releases, and rock giants Foo Fighters were among them. Initially slated for a 2020 release, Medicine To Midnight was eventually shared with the world in February 2021. Foo Fighters are relatively unique as far as artists covered in this article series go; not only did I know of them before writing about them, but I actually have a long history of having liked them, stretching back to hearing "All My Life" on music video TV channels way back in 2003. Nearly two decades later, the core songwriting approach of Dave Grohl is mostly intact, and his vocals and guitar work make all the songs here instantly recognizable as coming from the band. However, the style has clearly changed.

After the move to a heavier approach on Wasting Light, the Foos have been gradually mellowing over the past decade, but Medicine To Midnight is clearly and overtly geared towards a poppier direction, with Grohl stating the band were inspired by rock bands that made upbeat danceable albums. Whilst there are more straight-up rock songs, such as "Cloudspotter" and "No Son Of Mine", there's a curious funk/disco experiment on the title track, acoustic mellowness on "Chasing Birds" and stripped-down quirkiness on "Shame Shame". The vocal choirs and slick guitar leads on opener "Making A Fire" and callbacks in the vocal melodies on "Holding Poison" to tracks from One By One and Wasting Light are enjoyable, but whilst I wouldn't describe Medicine To Midnight as necessarily safe due to some of the experiments (particularly with the title track), I feel that, even by Foo Fighters standards, it is incredibly inoffensive. It's a perfectly pleasant and easy-going listen, but I do think that it sacrifices some memorability and impact compared to their strongest albums, or even more recent songs like "Congregation" from Sonic Highways, as a result.

Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Transatlantic - The Absolute Universe: The Breath Of Life (Abridged Version)
[Progressive Rock]


Transatlantic is a long-running, albeit not prolific, prog supergroup featuring the likes of Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater) and Neal Morse (ex-Spock's Beard) amongst others. As if to make up for the seven-year wait following Kaleidoscope, Transatlantic have provided a bumper edition of music for fans in the form of The Absolute Universe, which comes in two editions: The Absolute Universe: The Breath Of Life (Abridged Version), clocking in at just over an hour, and The Absolute Universe: Forevermore (Extended Version), which rounds out at 90 minutes. There is a partial overlap of the tracklist, such that both versions feature some songs that aren't present on the other album, meaning fans will have to listen to both to hear all the new music provided by Transatlantic. I'm sure fans will find that to be an enjoyable endeavor; for me, I'm content sticking to just the abridged version.

Of the big names' former bands, Transatlantic is closer to Spock's Beard than Dream Theater, or at least feels as such due to Morse's vocals and keyboard sound, but it can err at times towards a slightly heavier sound than Spock's Beard typically dabbled with at times, such as during the opening "Overture". For better or worse, The Absolute Universe sounds exactly like you would expect; positive-vibes prog rock with plenty of technical virtuosity whilst still placing focus on established song structures. The instrumental overture leads into "Reaching For The Sky", one of the songs to only feature on The Breath Of Life, and an up-tempo effort with upbeat chorus vocal melodies. I have to confess that there's something about Morse's voice and writing style that I can easily recognize as good, but that only elicits muted enjoyment in me, and such is the case here; however, I do think The Breath Of Life is likely to be very well-received by those with more fondness for his work, as the songs are consistently well-crafted, with enjoyable instrumental solos and a good balance between complexity and accessibility (softer track "Take Now My Soul" features some very pleasant acoustic guitar and keyboard work), and there's enough variety in tone to avoid it blending together. It's not going to be my favourite prog rock effort this year (unless 2021 is far drier than 2020 on that front), but I can easily see it being so for many others, for whom the extended edition will be a welcome treat.

Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - L.W.
[Psychedelic Rock | Psychedelic Folk]


Is it any surprise that King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard's L.W. is in the same vein as its sibling record K.G.? Well yes, it could've been a pair of contrasting albums instead of two albums in the same vein. Is it because, after so many releases, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard have established their sound so much that any experiment they do bypasses me because it already sounds like them, or because, after so many releases, they're comfortable going in circles and playing around with sounds they've already played with. I mean, they didn't name the duo after the band's abbreviated name for nothing?

This one, like K.G. follows up mostly upon the sounds of Flying Microtonal Banana, amping the folk part of the band's sound, but a folk that has seen them tagged as "anatolian rock" (I'd have to listen to some actual anatolian artists to confirm). That part feels even more prominent than on the previous, and definitely with a better execution this time around. But for how short and cohesive L.W. is, it has a lot of moments that still don't work that well, mostly due to the obnoxious mixing. The album's flow is still superb, and the funky hypnotic desert-like vibe is pretty fun most of the time. And for a King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, being fun is pretty much the most essential part. Even though it didn't have any "wow" moments, the band still managed to milk this sound into something that is worthwhile. That said, I will keep the last song a surprise for everyone (wink, wink).

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Psychedelic Porn Crumpets - Shyga! The Sunlight Mound
[Heavy Psych | Garage Rock]


Damn what a band title. It seems that Aussies have a really great scene for this type of psychedelic garage rock, one that sounds genuinely fun. At this point there are a lot of similarities with other bands in the scene, like King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard as a most prominent example, but it would be a mistake to name Psychedelic Porn Crumpets as a KG&LW clone. For one, the sound is a bit closer to hard rock, and it reminds me a lot of early 00s stuff like Queens Of The Stone Age or The White Stripes somehow, even though The Drones might be the best comparison band here, because Australia. Or maybe Ty Segall. And then, PPC manage to keep their take on this sound so fun.

This is a raging album, but also always on the upbeat side. A lot of psychedelic stuff like this is fuzzy and chill, but Shyga! feels like a noisy frat party at its most hyped. This is a nostalgic album, mostly because of the sounds it harkens back to, but also because it's much to fun for these lethargic times. It's like it's from another time in these senses of the word. It's too playful for the seriousness around us. It's almost like I've forgotten how to take ear candy in, because that's what this album is. 40 minutes of playful fuzz, carefree psychedelia, sundrenched punk, youthful sleaze and soaring grooves. It knows how to tackle the moody psychedelia, the fun garage and the heavy riffing. It's just a banger.

Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Needlepoint - Walking Up That Valley
[Canterbury Sound | Progressive Rock]


Playing a decidedly British-sounding style of prog rock (to the extent that it's referred to as the Canterbury sound), the decidedly non-British Needlepoint hail from Norway. The Hammond organ (David Wallumrød gets to use a variety of other key-based instruments as well during the album), gentle rock and dreamy hippie vocals from Bjørn Klakegg immediately bring to mind the likes of Caravan, as well as the 70s prog rock scene in general. However, the musician that arguably steals the show on opening cut "Rules Of A Mad Man" is drummer Olaf Olsen, partially due to how loud the drums are mixed in the latter minutes of this song as he goes increasingly berserk on the kit.

Much like Zopp's excellent self-titled album from last year (covered in the April 2020 edition of this article series), Walking Up That Valley is so deeply embedded in the style it is derived from, right down to the production, that it is a challenge to evaluate it on the terms of an album that has been released today. However, whilst it sounds so much like a lost recording from 50 years ago that has resurfaced, Needlepoint play this style with a lot of conviction, as well as the necessary ability to convert these influences into enjoyable tracks via good songwriting, that it's possible to forgive the lack of originality. The gradual intensification of the instrumental section that comprises the final few minutes of "I Offered You The Moon" is masterfully judged, and whilst soft track "So Far Away" is a bit too twee for its own good, "Where The Ocean Meets The Sky" makes up for it with some lovely guitar work, and an awareness of when to take things easy and when to amp up the percussive/instrumental intensity and kick the song into life. Made by 70s prog fans for 70s prog fans, this isn't a record for those that value innovation, but for anyone with a continued appetite for more music in this style, Walking Up That Valley will be right up your street.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Goat Girl - On All Fours
[Neo-Psychedelia | Art Rock]


I'm a big fan of bands changing up their sound this early in their career and already making it clear that they're not going to settle down for a single comfortable sound just yet. Even if that means that might lead to some duds. It's too early to tell what this will entail for the future Goat Girls albums, but with two albums so far, each with their own flavor, and with no guarantee that a future one will sound like any of them, I can say I'm looking forward to that. Goat Girl's 2018 debut self-titled record found the all-woman group playing around with post-punk, punk blues, country and garage rock, into something that was wild and fun, but also pretty clever and with a clear psychedelic tinge. Well, said psychedelic tinge is expanded upon in On All Fours.

This one feels primarily like a psychedelic art rock album first and foremost, with a lot of the punk, blues and country elements being reduced or eliminated. This does make the sound a bit more focused and streamlined, but also a lot less exciting, hence why I considered it a risky move. Goat Girl do the neo-psychedelia fairly well, but not without moments or synth sounds that just fall flat, especially with the lack of any significant pace changes. The band didn't forego their lyrical cleverness though, and with a more meandering sound, it leaves more room for that to take center stage. They do hit more than they miss, and there's plenty of worthwhile songs here, but it would've made for a more interesting 35 minute album instead of a staler 55 minute one.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Mainliner - Dual Myths
[Noise Rock | Heavy Psych]


The Japanese have a pretty long history of noisy psychedelic music, going from the late 60s with Les Rallizes Dénudés, Taj Mahal Travellers and Flower Travellin' Band, to stuff like Keiji Haino, Ruins and High Rise, and peaking in the 90s with Boris, Acid Mother Tempel, Boredoms, Melt-Banana and even the creation of their own brand of noise music with Japanoise, most famously with Merzbow. Needless to say, the history is there. Part of that history since 1995 is Mainliner, whose 1996 album Mellow Out is pretty much a classic in the genre, but for whom subsequent albums failed to capture as much attention as it did. And with the band slowing down since 2001's Imaginative Plain, with just 2013's Revelation Space in between, Dual Myths comes at an awkward time.

And as one might expect from Japanese psychedelic noise rock, Dual Myths is really inaccessible, especially since it's longer than the previous two albums combined. Comprised of four tracks each pushing the 20-minute mark, half of them going over it, this is a pretty patience-testing album. The trio makes nasty reverb-heavy chaos, what one Bandcamp user calls "bone-crushing psychedelia", most of it sounding more freely improvised than simply jammy, and with a few breathing moments as exceptions, it's mostly heavy and noisy beyond belief. Maybe too much so. Especially over the course of 80 minutes. There's only so much bone-crushing one can take before all bones are crushed, but I'm sure a lot of folks will enjoy the endurance test. It's great to hear Mainliner still being at it, but Dual Myths doesn't do much that the scene hasn't already done.

Bandcamp

by RaduP





The Besnard Lakes - The Besnard Lakes
Are The Last Of The Great Thunderstorm Warnings

[Psychedelic Rock | Indie Rock]


That's a mouthful of an album title, and the record is similarly long; a 71-minute psychedelic indie album sounds like a hell of an ordeal to me on paper. I'll be honest, indie, bar one or two notable exceptions (The Dear Hunter in particular), is pretty close to the bottom of the great big list of genres for me in terms of enjoyment. However, The Besnard Lakes surprised me; in truth, whilst there's definitely aspects of indie that come through in some of the vocal melodies and tweeness of the guitar work (the indie side of their sound comes through clearly on tracks like "Feuds With Guns"), the sound early on feels closer to psychedelic rock in the haziness of the vocal harmonies and eeriness of the instrumental arrangements, and the combination works really nicely. Early highlight "Raindrops" moves at a very restrained pace, but the overlaps of the different vocals, twinkly keyboard motifs and gradual filling out of the sound with various instrumental layers results in something disarmingly captivating.

One thing that helps pad out that lengthy runtime is the extensive use of ambience on the album; "Christmas Can Wait" is effectively just 8 minutes of warbling ambient electronica with some vocal passages on top of it, whilst 18-minute closer "Last Of The Great Thunderstorm Warnings" dedicates its final 10 minutes to more ambience. These sections don't necessarily drag, but the group are at their most compelling when the electronics and guitars are combined together, such as on "Our Heads, Our Hearts On Fire Again", in which the psychedelic/indie rock base is given room to expand by some of the shimmering keyboard sections and triumphant brass sounds. The Besnard Lakes Are The Last Of The Great Thunderstorm Warnings offers a distinctive sound and varied journey; I can't guarantee everything will work for you, but it's worth trying out for sure.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Sturle Dagsland - Sturle Dagsland
[Experimental Rock | Avant-Garde]


The self-titled debut album by Sturle Dagsland is just shy of 30 minutes in length, but the sheer overload of different musical ideas on Sturle Dagsland means that it feels longer; how is it possible to fit so much into so little time? There's a stretch early on in the album where you go from ambient neofolk and yodelling to chaotic, noisy cybergrind-style electronica and screams (both "Blót"), and then onto a brief neofolk interlude ("Tales Of Mist", like a demented Wardruna) and subsequently the Björk-esque avant-garde trip hop and vocals of "Waif", in what amounts to less than 7 minutes. Sturle Dagsland is not an album restrained by musical inhibitions; clearly, 'anything goes' was the attitude during writing.

Sturle Dagsland is comprised of vocalist Sturle Dagsland alongside brother Sjur, and between them, the project has managed to rack up some 19 genre tags on Wikipedia before their debut even dropped, not limited to electronic, indie, folk, alternative rock and pop. Probably the most prominent aspects to the album are the Nordic neofolk influences and the exuberant vocals of Sturle, which incorporate yodelling, scat, and what sounds like heavily Björk-inspired singing into a very unique approach. The songs here are all very short, but perhaps the most impressive is also the longest and best-developed, "Hulter Smulter", which take those Björk influences to create something mystical, atmospheric and mesmerizing. I think the tracks such as "Hulter Smulter" or the more folk-oriented ones perhaps work slightly better than the dalliances with heaviness on the likes of "Blót" and rock track "Frenzy", with its brief flourish of guitar soloing and huge drums. The approach on Sturle Dagsland is perhaps a bit too scattered; dialling down the jumps in sound a bit may work in their favour in the future. However, as a first full-length offering, it demonstrates a lot of raw potential.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Black Country, New Road - For The First Time
[Post-Rock | Post-Punk]


I'm sure a lot of people could get the wrong idea by this being labeled as post-rock since it is really different from most of what goes in the genre. Honestly, Black Country, New Road defies easy categorization, with post-rock, post-punk, experimental rock or math rock each feeling like they slightly miss the mark. For The First Time is somewhere in between all those, but I went with post-rock as a main denominator purely because out of all things, the album reminds me most of Slint and Swans, and though each are first-wave post-rock, they're post-rock nonetheless.

Black Country, New Road is more than just the blend of those two aforementioned bands, mostly because the vocals are so much more melodramatic, perhaps a bit too much. The songs can get pretty long, and the changes in instrumentation don't always follow the usual build-up routine, but a lot of the horns and strings make them sound so beautiful, in stark contrast to the angst-filled vocals and a lot of the angular guitar playing. There's a lot of focus on the emotional narratives being presented, something I could best describe as "indie kids being afraid of the world", something that is pretty well represented in the tense songwriting, even in the instrumental cuts.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Motorama - Before The Road
[Post-Punk | Indie Pop]


Motorama albums are getting shorter and shorter. They were never the type of band to go over the 40-minute mark, but 2018's Many Night had 27 minutes and this one has 25. I guess Motorama are cutting the excess fat and leaving only the best material here, but they also released a couple of non-album singles around the same time that might've made this go over the 30-minute mark, and also improve the album's quality overall. I prefer it when bands keep it brief, but it's brief enough to be too noticeable.

As for the music, Motorama are kind of a precursor of Molchat Doma, coming from Rostov, Russia. But they sing in English, and don't have as big of an Eastern Block aesthetic. But soundwise there are a lot of similarities in that post-punk coldwave sound that is very dreamlike and melancholic. Before The Road is a bit more on the pastoral indie side, with its colorful artwork, but that isn't proportionately represented in the music. I guess the most "indie" of the songs here is "Voyage", coincidentally my favorite of the bunch. Overall it is really good at what it does, but feels too content with what it already does.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





The Notwist - Vertigo Days
[Indietronica | Neo-Psychedelia]


This is my first contact with German indie rock (among others) band The Notwist, and glancing over their catalogue I was amazed by two things: how far back they go, with their debut self-titled coming out in 1990, and how much more attention their 2002 album Neon Golden got compared to everything else. I did dip my toes into their discography, a bit too briefly for my liking and under a bit of deadline pressure, but I was mostly amazed by the groups ambitious blends in indietronica territories. I can't speak for all of their albums, but I've already sensed them going into post-rock, psyhedelia, folk and a bunch of other directions with their sound. Vertigo Days comes six years after the previous The Notwist album, and it seems to be continuing what I gathered about the band.

Vertigo Days seems to go into a more psychedelic direction without ever going into fuzz, which is what we generally associate with psychedelia. A lot of the effect is achieved through reverb and similar effects, that create a very melancholic atmosphere, especially as far as the vocals are concerned, but also through krautrock-ish repetitions, some that also go in first-wave post-rock territories. The album is pretty ambitious in the amount of ground it covers, both through electronica, neo-psychedelia, folk and indie ballads, in a way that doesn't feel too disjointed or like biting more than they can chew. Their age is definitely now showing, and I could be fooled that this was a younger band, even if the album can get a bit too lethargic instead of just warmly comforting. Also I'm not familiar with any of the guests, but there's a bunch of them.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Spoiwo - Martial Hearts
[Post-Rock | Electronic]


Spoiwo are a cinematic post-rock band from Poland, and I'm sure if I tried to say that name out loud without looking up the pronunciation first I would butcher it. Thankfully, this being a typed article, I can bypass that issue and get to the (martial) heart of the matter, namely their sophomore album Martial Hearts. Their electronic-heavy brand of post-rock is closer to something like Nordic Giants than the tremolo shimmers of Explosions In The Sky or heaviness of God Is An Astronaut, with use of ambient soundscapes and more up-front electronica alongside driving drums and delicate guitars (there is some standard post-rock tremolo in the mix at times).

Spoiwo may have a more electronic-centric approach than some of their peers, but they still make good use of the dynamic ebbs and flows that have come to define post-rock, with opener "Wild Eyes" gradually building, then stepping back before unleashing into its eventual climax. The next track on the album, "Two Mountains", is far more subdued, and also demonstrates the vocal component of Spoiwo's sound, with muted croons over the glacial percussion and warbling ambient synths. I really like the more conventionally post-rock-sounding "Wild Eyes", but arguably the pick of the bunch for me on Martial Hearts is "Riot Sons", which seems to be purely electronic, down to the beats, and works very effectively as a stirring electronic ambient piece. Martial Hearts is a nicely varied and dynamic slab of electronic post-rock that really effectively conveys the emotions and atmospheres it wishes to evoke, and makes for a very promising sophomore effort from Spoiwo.


Bandcamp

by musclassia





John Dwyer, Nick Murray, Brad Caulkins, Tom Dolas & Greg Coates - Witch Egg
[Jazz Fusion]


Not content with pumping out multiple albums every year with Osees (or whatever it may be called now), John Dwyer has formed a side project with ex-Osees member Nick Murray alongside several other musicians, resulting in this new album Witch Egg. Dwyer's main project, from what I can tell, has mainly focused on psychedelic and garage rock; whilst there is some rock present on Witch Egg, it's far more of a jazz album. "Greener Pools" is a promising introduction to the album, as a moody drum and bass foundation is overlaid with saxophone solos and guitar outbursts.

"Greener Pools" is a solid start to Witch Egg; however, it loses a bit of momentum early on with the dial tones and aimless saxophone that open "City Maggot". The song eventually becomes a bit more structured, but even then the sax isn't to my tastes. If you're someone like me that finds your enjoyment of jazz to be notably influenced by how prominent and chaotic the saxophone is, there will be quite a few times when Witch Egg loses you; I imagine the album will appeal more to those that appreciate some freeness in their jazz. It's a bit of a shame, because I would otherwise find the eerie jazz drone of "Baphomet" to be quite enthralling without the constant saxophone bursts. Not all the album has this dark intensity of "Greener Pools" or "Baphomet" in the background; the likes of the title track and "Sekhu" are more stripped down and relaxed, conjuring some fairly dreamy environs. I'd say the album impresses more in its darker moments, but whilst it's not going to go down as one of my favourite jazz discoveries for this article series, Witch Egg is an interesting first outing for the ensemble.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Fire! - Defeat
[Avantgarde Jazz | Free Jazz]


Mats Gustafsson might already be quite a household name for jazz fans, especially of the avant/free variety, as his large catalog of solo albums, collaborations and band memberships hasn't gone unnoticed. Metal Storm users might mostly remember him for his collaboration on Sustain, that one Chaos Echoes EP, so uninitiated folks will be "delighted" to learn that the rest of his catalog follows suit of that EP's style, except without the drone metal to back it up. I did cover Fire! Orchestra's latest record in a previous issue, but Fire! Orchestra is mostly an extension of Fire!, albeit with, as the title implies, more members.

Reducing the 14 members of Fire! Orchestra to a mere trio (and two guests, trombonist Mats Äleklint and trumpetist Goran Kajfes), the music of Fire! is a bit more minimalistic in scope, but leaving a huge muscle to the performances of the horn instruments instrument. The flutes and saxophones are often thunderous, especially in comparison to the drums, which take a more constant and subdued role. The bass is also acting as more of a support, but its grooves can get pretty funky and almost hypnotic under the bolts of noise from the horn instruments. The palette can get surprisingly funky and spiritual as a result, but also slightly dark. At a lean 36 minutes, it's far from the most inaccessible of free jazz records, but I doubt anyone will be won over by the genre with this record.

Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Anneke Van Giersbergen - The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest
[Singer/Songwriter | Folk Rock]


The name Anneke Van Giersbergen should be no news to anyone here, from her work with The Gathering, The Gentle Storm and Vuur, plus numerous guest spots on music from artists like Amorphis, Devin Townsend, Moonspell and Napalm Death. But I don't think her solo stuff gets as much attention comparatively. Which might be why there has been an eight year gap since her previous solo record, Drive. But if her previous stuff moved between alternative rock, atmospheric rock, pop rock and acoustic stuff, The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest is her most focused album to date. Stripped of anything but the fundamentals: her voice, some guitars and strings, and a lot of emotional baggage.

The album was conceived during some pretty tumultuous times in Anneke's personal life, ones in which eventually amends were made, and you can feel that the Anneke that we hear here is a bit more mature as a result. At her age, emotional maturity is something that would carry an album like this that is so reliant upon it. Due to the stripped back nature of it, her voice has more room to shine, but she never really needs to give a soaring performance as much as to just showcase her depth. The instrumentals surrounding her might be a bit more stripped back and might not be as interesting overall, but they do a perfectly good job of sustaining the vulnerable atmosphere of the album. And ironically, I think this one has the most memorable songwriting of all of her albums.

Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Rome - Parlez-Vous Hate?
[Neo-Folk]


Neo-folk is often characterized for being a somber genre that dives deep into introspective thoughts about man's place in the world around him. Rome is certainly a project that will make you ponder about the current state of affairs but unlike most neo-folk, Parlez-Vous Hate? is not exactly a dark affair filled with melancholia. Rome presents us with an album that actually carries a fun, joyful aura throughout its run time.

I must admit that I lack an understanding of Rome's large discography so I can't say if this is a good place to start or not. What I can say, though, is that Parlez-Vous Hate? makes me curious about the project's past and how it ended up with this album. Jérôme Reuter sings charismatically through groovy semi-acoustic songs that verge on country jolliness. It's really hard to stand still and not sing along the beautifully composed choruses. The second half of the album feels a bit more pensive but still carries a sense of groove and catchiness that demands the listener to join in.

That might be a double-edged sword though. I never thought I would use these words while reviewing a neo-folk album but Rome's latest output does feel corny and cheesy from time to time. Its' poppy structures can easily be felt through tracks like the Bruce Springsteen's inspired "Born In The EU" or the way-too-tongue-in-cheek "Panzerschokolade". Whatever message it wants to convey, it has to be taken with some tracks that sometimes try a bit too hard. The songwriting generally makes up for it and songs like the title-track, "Death From Above" and "You Owe Me A Whole World" do invite me ever so gracefully, especially the last one which is a favorite of mine with such an infectious performance.

Apple Music | Spotify

by Mr. Doctor





Hayley Williams - Flowers For Vases / Descansos
[Singer/Songwriter | Indie Folk]


It's been a really long while since "Misery Business" was in heavy rotation in my playlist around a decade ago. Ever since I haven't really kept up with Paramore, and by extension Hayley Williams. In the meantime Paramore went pop and I started hearing one or two songs from their new album on the radio, and Hayley Williams started her own solo career too. Though Paramore's pop punk was always a bit more pop than punk, I'm sure this move alienated a lot of fans, but as someone who enjoys pop more than pop-punk, and who thinks that Hayley's vocals are really welcome in this landscape, here she comes dropping a more minimal record.

This is a quarantine record, fairly reminiscent of Taylor Swift's move with Folklore, but not really quite as cohesive or impressive. It's clear that Hayley is still testing the waters here with an indie folk record, one that is perhaps a bit too glossily produced to warrant the label, and she doesn't know to use it to play to her strengths yet. It's too overproduced to be intimate, and too simple to be lush. But it's far from a failed experiment, more like something with some trouble finding a footing. The debut album before this seemed unsure about the direction it wants to go in, and now that she chose a direction for a release, this one doesn't have highs as high, but neither lows as low.

Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Weezer - OK Human
[Chamber Pop | Pop Rock]


Weezer's career has been... interesting to say the least. Starting out as alt rock / power pop with emo tinges, with Blue Album and Pinkerton pretty much being classics, then getting progressively more insipid and uninspired through the 2000s, and then the mid 2010s seeing them somehow making a return to form, only to fall off completely once again. I'm far from the biggest Weezer fan out there, but looking at the Weezer fanbase, most people seem to love the first two albums, and then tolerate the rest to varying degrees. Each new Weezer album is like a gamble. Will it be surprisingly good or terrible?

When Van Weezer was pushed back (we'll likely cover it soon), OK Human came as a sort of surprise. With a title that is a play on Radiohead's seminal album, this one finds Weezer taking themselves more seriously than I remember them, by approaching a chamber/baroque pop sound. Obviously this is still done with Weezer's signature personal and quirky lyricism, which is something that I found to be more impactful when it's bad than when it's good. This time, I found it more good than bad, so that fits with the music also being a lot more lush and less obnoxious, as if Weezer are playing to their strengths here. I still don't find it very appealing, and I don't really have any bone in the fight of which Weezer album is good and which isn't, but this is among the better half of their discog to say the least.

Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





The Weather Station - Ignorance
[Sophisti-Pop | Art Pop]


It looks like Ignorance is already set to appear on most 'best of 2021' lists by the time December swings around based on the acclaim it's already received, but whilst I've not clicked with other recently lauded albums (ahem, Fetch The Bolt Cutters), I can totally understand why The Weather Station's latest has grabbed the critics' attention. The combination of Tamara Lindeman's forever restrained, at times almost whispered singing style with the elaborate pop compositions (the genre tag 'sophisti-pop', as dumb as it sounds, makes some sense) results in something that is insidiously compelling. There is jazz in the mix on some tracks, most notably opener "Robber", but the arrays of strings, synths, piano and more eschew complexity in favour of a rousing triumphant sound that excites even as Lindeman refrains from raising her voice.

My main issue with this album is that it peaks too soon; "Robber" is a truly fantastic opening song, from the slick drum beats, the smooth contributions of the piano and saxophone, all of which is accompanied by Lindeman's smooth stream-of-consciousness performance. The way this song subtly builds, ebbing and flowing, is an emphatic first statement, and one that causes disappointment when the tone shifts for most of the other tracks here, although second song "Atlantic" acts as a bridge between it and the lighter tone of what follows. However, whilst the rest of Ignorance doesn't play to my tastes in the way "Robber" does, I can easily admire the compositional quality of something as dainty as "Heart" or as melancholic as "Subdivisions"; Lindeman has an array of tools at her disposal on Ignorance, but having access to a dozen different instruments and knowing how to bring them all together in the most effective ways are two different problems, and Lindeman has tackled both here. After the more instrumentally bombastic efforts in the mid-period of the record, things are stripped down to give the piano centre stage on moving closer "Subdivisions", nicely rounding off a very successful first outing on new label Fat Possum Records.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Rhye - Home
[Sophisti-Pop | Smooth Soul]


I first stumbled upon Rhye's music through YouTube autoplay taking me to one of their performances live at KEXP, it was pretty alright chill indie music, precisely the type you would find recommended by YouTube if you click on enough indie music videos. I didn't dive deeper than that until after I saw that they had a new record out and I decided to cover it and give their discography a binge. Seems like Rhye is centered around one Mike Milosh, and so far all of their album covers featured sensual unclad women, but Home features a woman's face instead of her body, so there may be a bit of a change this time around.

There's a bit of a change on Home, with it being even more brooding and smooth than previous albums. Rhye's music has always been a sensual type of music that works perfectly as background music, and though it might not convince a lot of critics, could write melodies interesting enough to reward the foreground listen as well. I don't care as much for the monotonous vocals and uninteresting lyrics, but Home and Rhye's music in general has some pretty cool bass and synth melodies with lush production. But were any of them interesting enough for me to tell any specific song apart? Ironically it being even smoother and more serious made it even more forgettable that previous albums. But there is no song here I wouldn't mind hearing again.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Black Dresses - Forever In Your Heart
[Noise Pop | Electro-Industrial]


I was inspired to give Forever In Your Heart a try when I saw that Black Dresses featured Ada Rook and Devi McCallion, both of whom featured on Backxwash's excellent God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out Of It (covered in last June's edition). Quite confusingly, when I subsequently looked up Black Dresses, I found that the project was disbanded last year due to harassment from fans, which makes the release of a new album a bit perplexing. What exactly it means for Black Dresses to be releasing music whilst not supposedly existing can be debated by people that care more for the project than me; as a stranger to the project, I'll just comment on what I hear on this album.

One thing that became immediately apparent when I started listening to the album is that the collaboration between the musicians behind this and Backxwash made complete sense; there is clearly a shared interest in metal music between all three. Whilst Black Dresses don't sample Black Sabbath here, there are numerous sections with aggressive distorted guitars, with an almost industrial metal tone, as well as patches with harsh vocals, such as the heavily distorted screams on "Zero Ultra", one of my favourite songs here. The style on Forever In Your Heart isn't easy to describe; at one end, there's some aggressive metal-influenced guitar work (such as opens "PEACESIGN") alongside screams, menacing electronic work and beats not dissimilar to some of the backing tracks on the Backxwash album, and some really noisy, distorted sections. At the same time, there are some poppy sections, whether in the sung vocals, brash synths or other elements. I've seen 'noise pop' used to describe them, which seems apt, although their sound is more aggressive and abrasive than something like Sleigh Bells, who they are scheduled to tour with. The aspects of the album that focus on this aggressive noise pop approach, such as on "Concrete Bubble", "Perfect Teeth" and the aforementioned "Zero Ultra", whilst not being totally up my street, hold similar appeal to work from the likes of Death Grips and are delivered well. I will admit, however, I could do without the goofiness on tracks such as "Tiny Ball" and "Ragequitted", both of which I found immensely irritating, along with some other songs here.

Bandcamp

by musclassia





slowthai - Tyron
[UK Hip-Hop]


Out of all newer British rappers, slowthai is the one getting the most hype lately, and it's not hard to see why. From the kinda punky aesthetic to that nasal voice and the combination of confidence and vulnerability made him something more than just another object of hip-hop's fascination with the British accent. I reviewed his debut, Nothing Great About Britain, and though at the time I was more taken aback by the uniqueness of his voice and the beats, partly also because I don't listen to nearly enough UK Hip-Hop, Tyron still finds me pretty in awe.

Here there is a bit more of a divide between the confidence and vulnerability in slowthai's persona, I mean, less in his persona and more in the tracklist. The front of the tracklist is more loaded with bangers, with guest spots from Skepta and A$AP Rocky on two of the songs (and a Denzel Curry one later on), and then growing more and more moody and introspective, even having James Blake and Mount Kimbie on the same track. There line between the two is still blurry at times and the album's flow keeps it from feeling too divided, and slowthai's versatility help them feel like two parts of the same coin. And in its brief 35-minute runtime, Tyron shows slowthai as an even more versatile rapper, but the beats don't feel as colorful as they did on his debut.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Black Coffee - Subconsciously
[Deep House | Afrobeat]


Considering that he's an artist that I've never willingly chosen to listen to, I have heard a frankly excessive amount of Black Coffee in the last year courtesy of my housemate's listening choices. The music I've heard from Black Coffee has been live mixes, which have generally been enjoyable long-form house mixes; listening to an actual album of separate short songs is new territory for me, so I wasn't sure what to expect from Subconsciously. Black Coffee's brought some pretty famous friends along for this outing, with the likes of Usher, Pharrell and Celeste amongst the litany of guests featured here.

Ultimately, I found Subconsciously to be something of a mixed bag. The DJ's house/afrobeat background comes through clearly on the mellow openers "Lost" and "You Need Me"; the first five tracks in general are enjoyable dancefloor pieces with smooth vocals from the various guests and simple yet effective house beats. To be honest; my least enjoyable period on the album is the one featuring the most famous guests; Usher's "LaLaLa" isn't really to my tastes, but is very danceable, with the guest getting plenty of chance to shine. In contrast, the lounge vibes of Pharrell's song "10 Missed Calls" just grate me, as do the vocals on "Flava". Perhaps surprisingly then, my favourite song here is Black Coffee's collaboration with David Guetta on "Drive" (a song that's now several years old after its initial single release), a very commercially-oriented pop track with a very catchy performance from Delilah Montagu and a really pleasant mix to accompany it. Subconsciously musically feels quite toned down compared with the relentless house mixes I've come to associate Black Coffee with, with far greater pop sensibilities, but it's an enjoyable and easy-going listen.

Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Silkie - Panorama
[Dubstep | Grime]


There was a time around 10 years ago, if not more, that "dubstep" was effectively a synonym for "rubbish" to my friends and I. The same could be said of some other styles, and thankfully with age I've matured and expanded my horizons; I supposed me reviewing a dubstep album truly represents the walls of Jericho falling down. It probably shouldn't be too surprising that I find myself liking Panorama, the fourth album by London producer Silkie; I've grown to like electronic music a lot more in the last five years, and the approach on Panorama is certainly on the lighter side compared with the music I came to associate with dubstep all those years ago. "Big 45" is a fairly chill opening to proceedings; there's some beefy bass sections, but also a reggae mellowness to a lot of the track, and aspects that lean towards some more psychedelic electronic that I've heard and enjoyed.

There are cuts here that flirt with the bass drop assaults that I associated with dubstep back when it first become popular, such as those on "Leave It" or "Strong & Stable". However, for every track along those lines, there's something like "Equine Piper", which combines what might be grime beats with a light tone, particularly coming from the eponymous pipes. This track in particular is a captivating journey, as is "Pyrrhic Victory", a particularly slick and groovy cut that meshes gnarly low-end with warbling psychedelic electronics. I also find some enjoyment from the aggressive bass on some of the aforementioned songs; however, I'm less fond on a pair of tracks near the end of Panorama, both of which are among the few here to feature vocals. "Did You Know" is an awkward combination of a heavy bass and dainty keys that is dragged down further by a very annoying autotuned vocal refrain, which is also something that detracts from "What You Want". Those two letting the album down in its closing stages aside, Panorama is an enjoyable release in both its lighter and harder-hitting moments.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Loathe - The Things They Believe
[Ambient | Drone]


A metal band doing an ambient album is generally something to expect from an atmospheric black metal band, so coming from an alternative metalcore band, it's quite a surprise, one that would be in danger of being pretty gimmicky. My mind immediately races to that unfortunate experimental EP from Bring Me The Horizon, but The Things They Believe is something that is neither experimental nor pastiche, it's just compelling atmospheres. I mean, I was looking forward more towards a follow-up to I Let It In And It Took Everything than such a left-turn, but this came as a surprise because I literally wasn't expecting it. I just found out one day that Loathe now have an ambient record. Cool.

And for a band that isn't primarily into ambient music, this is a really great foray. Sure, earlier forays were done in interludes and the likes, but Loathe manage to keep things interesting for the 35-minute duration of the album, which isn't that long, but ambient is a pretty hard genre to keep interesting if all you do is subtle electronics. There's a bit of a new age vibe to The Things They Believe, which might be a bit ironic considering the title, but it sounds a lot like a more hopeful Tim Hecker at times. It's like it's simultaneously ambitious enough to keep trying multiple ambient tricks (including the saxophone) but restrained enough to know that they're still rookies and to play to their strengths. And now instead of just wanting more alt metalcore from Loathe, I want more ambient too.

Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Biosphere - Angel's Flight
[Ambient | Drone]


In the world of the boundless reverie, Norway's Biosphere is one of those performers that stands firm within the borders of ambient music for more than 20 years. Behind the moniker of this project operates an experienced producer and composer Geir Jenssen, who strives to create and innovate with a constant of an otherworldly experiences through the experimentation of classical music and integrated synthetic sounds. These two main components, fuelled by the irreplaceable usage of electronic input, encapsulate in its core his last work, titled Angel's Flight. The latter is actually an output comprised of 12 songs based on Beethoven's String Quartet No. 14 that Biosphere manage to compose into his own modified magical journey.

Basically this album could be divided in two parts or more appropriate to say in two halves. The first one being balanced and soaked with the floating of distant-sounding drones and synth pads. The transition into the second part of the album is not really that notable, however, the synthesized presence of repetitive strings magnifies the Biosphere's exploration of a classic-electronic combination even more. With his interpretation, Jenssen's tunes reflect the atmosphere of an echoing drone sound in a very somber and saddened manner throughout the entire Angel's Flight.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by Abattoir





John Carpenter - Lost Themes III: Alive After Death
[Horror Synth | Synthwave]


There can't be many people who have played a larger role in shaping the sound of what is considered to be horror move music than John Carpenter. Not only did he direct some of the genres greatest classics in The Thing and Halloween, amongst others, but he was a (co-)composer of the majority of his films' scores. His directorial career has slowed down greatly since the turn of the millennium, but the past few years have seen a resurgence in his musical exploits; in addition to scoring the latest addition to the Halloween series in 2018, he has initiated the Lost Themes studio album series in collaboration with his son Cody Carpenter and godson Daniel Davies. Free from the restrictions of putting music to movies, Carpenter was able to have fun writing music for music's sake, and this liberation has now resulted in three entries in this album series. Lost Themes III: Alive After Death is my first encounter, and without any background on the aims of the project, it was clear what was meant by "lost themes"; the music here sounds exactly in the vein of the electronic horror movie soundtracks that are so intrinsically linked with Carpenter's films.

"Alive After Death"'s central motif is played on the high-pitched synthesizer that is so recognizable as a critical element of 80s horror; later on, it features a nice guitar solo with a beat underneath that draws a clear connection between this music and the synthwave genre that owes so much in terms of inspiration to Carpenter's soundtracks. That synthwave link is even more obvious on "Weeping Ghost" thanks to the pulsating rhythms underlying the track and sinister keyboard arpeggios. I do feel like compared with the acts that have taken Carpenter's work and gone ahead with it, the sound on this track is a bit thin, as if there's something missing to fully flesh out the mix, but the actual components are very fun. Not all the album follows in the same vein; several tracks ("Dead Eyes", "Turning The Bones") keep things on the quieter side, sounding like the interludes intended to soundtrack the less exciting parts of the imaginary movie. Overall, this is just a really fun album that revels just as much in 80s nostalgia as so many other acts do today, the only difference being that Carpenter was actually around to shape the sound that everyone is so nostalgia about these days.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia




And that was it. You've made it through still alive. Congrats. See ya next month.



 


Comments

Comments: 3   Visited by: 11 users
08.04.2021 - 15:45
Moose

Appreciate the work, team!

Enjoying quite a few of these! In particular: Weezer, Spoiwo, Fire!, The Weather Station, Rhye, Silkie, John Carpenter.

A couple of non-metal albums that I've had on replay this month (and which I'd be interested to see if they make the next edition, but no pressure of course):

- Floating Point, Pharoah Sanders & London Symphony Orchestra | Promises
- For Those I Love | For Those I Love
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08.04.2021 - 21:19
musclassia

Written by Moose on 08.04.2021 at 15:45

A couple of non-metal albums that I've had on replay this month (and which I'd be interested to see if they make the next edition, but no pressure of course):

- Floating Point, Pharoah Sanders & London Symphony Orchestra | Promises


A colleague introduced me to Floating Points late last year, so I was quite intrigued when this popped up on my radar, but sadly it wasn't quite for me - could've done with more Floating Points in the collab for me. Pleasant enough listening though.
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09.04.2021 - 02:07
Moose

Written by musclassia on 08.04.2021 at 21:19

A colleague introduced me to Floating Points late last year, so I was quite intrigued when this popped up on my radar, but sadly it wasn't quite for me - could've done with more Floating Points in the collab for me. Pleasant enough listening though.


Fair enough, I too hope we see a lot more solo Floating Points music going forward! Still really enjoyed this one though. It came to my attention when I saw it was near the top of both the critic and public album rankings at Album Of The Year, which has been a reliable source for me: https://www.albumoftheyear.org/ratings/6-highest-rated/2021/1
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