Blonde Redhead, Barragán: The sound of seasoned vets surrendering to the studio moment and finding themselves fully charged by a new, carpe diem confidence. Sharon O’Connell says:
The band chose to record “live” in the studio, as a full ensemble, and to use analog acoustic instruments. These changes allow the silken-voiced Kazu Makino to ad lib with sweet ooh’s and aah’s in “Can on Tin Roof,” as Amedeo Pace’s guitar slips into funky time-marking, his slight uncertainty a vital part of the song’s allure. The band’s hesitation about where to steer the motorik drive of “Mind to be Had” is almost audible (toward Berlin-era Bowie, as it turns out), and the extraordinary “Defeatist Anthem (Harry and I)” switches from dream-pop lament to alt-folk to drone, complete with didgeridoo. You can hear these decisions being made in real time on Barragán, and it is thrilling. It might be their ninth album, but Blonde Redhead’s horizon has just broadened afresh.
Zammuto, Anchor: An equally ambitious but far more accessible sequel. Ryan Reed says:
Like its predecessor, Anchor was written, recorded and mixed at Nick Zammuto’s home tractor-garage studio, located on an idyllic Vermont farm. Unlike its predecessor, it feels like a confident, fully realized vision. The arrangements still sprawl with genre-splicing glee, but never at the expense of melody or dynamic force; and instead of masking his voice in effects, Zammuto sings frequently in warm, natural tones (the boyish cadence of eerie opener “Good Graces”), exploring the full depths of his vocal register (the almost sexy low croon on “Henry Lee,” an explosive twist on a traditional ballad supplemented with lyrics about crabs crawling out of skulls).
YOB, Clearing the Path to Ascend: A natural progression toward becoming greater than they already were. Laina Dawes says:
September’s off to a quiet start new release-wise — just a handful of things worth calling out today. They are as follows:
The sound on Ascend is tactile: The listener can feel vocalist/guitarist Mike Shiedt’s callused hands sliding up and down his guitar neck, pressing into the strings and visualizing the rapid, frenetic delivery of his riffing on “Nothing to Win.” The chord structures and tremolo picking — perhaps influenced by Shiedt’s recent blackened hardcore side project, VHÖL — is a departure from the rest of the album with a catchy, clearly defined chorus. Despite its length, the 11-minute track is the closest YOB has come to creating a mainstream-sounding song.
Roman Flugel, Happiness is Happening: A lushly textured set of tracks that prove Flugel is still testing out exactly who he wants to be. Abby Garnett says:
Flügel’s genius is in the details, and Happiness is Happening is a lushly textured set of 10 tracks that run the gamut from craggy Border Community-style synth workouts (“We Have a Nice Life”) to deep-burn tech house (“Stuffy.”) While he seems more concerned with stylistic emulation than advancement, Flügel finds beauty in his close-up examinations — see the sparkling flourishes that light up “Wilkie,” or the woody percussive flares on “Tense Times.” He also indulges in the kind of dramatic affectations not typically associated with house and minimal techno, particularly on opener “Connecting the Ghost,” where he lets the churning theme peter out into ambient wisps only to return with a wallop after several seconds of complete silence.
Earth, Primitive and Deadly: The heaviest Earth has been since reforming a decade ago. Ron Hart says:
While the six songs on Primitive and Deadly don’t exactly throw it back to the crushing doom drone of their primordial beginnings 25 years ago, the lengthy guitar epics that bookend this record, “Torn by the Fox of the Crescent Moon” and “Badgers Bane,” do constitute the heaviest Earth has been consistently since reforming a decade ago. This time, however, it is with the help of new bassist Bill Herzog of Sunn O))) and cameos from Built to Spill’s Brett Nelson and mathcore outfit Narrows’ Jodie Cox.
Jeezy, Seen It All: The Autobiography: He’s dropped the “Young” from his name, but the music is still full of ice-cold synths, which are scraped and scuffed by Jeezy’s inimitable, grainy voice.
Charlotte OC, Strange EP: Woozy, ghostly balladry topped with Charlotte’s wrenching, emotional vocals. Think a slightly more commercial Bat for Lashes and you’re on the right track.
Christopher Willits, Opening: Lovely, airy ambient music from San Francisco musician Christopher Willits moves as slowly and peacefully as clouds across a springtime sky.
Code Orange Kids, I Am King: Punishing hardcore from Pittsburgh group that hammers and slams. Courtesy of Deathwish, the same label that gave us Deafheaven.
Homeboy Sandman, Hallways: Spry, energetic hip-hop with production that swings from ruthlessly futuristic to defiantly boom-bap. Sandman’s voice bears a passing resemblance to Kool Keith’s, and it skips nimbly across the dusky beats.
Counting Crows, Somewhere Under Wonderland: There is also a new Counting Crows record out today.