EMA, The Future’s Void: On the latest from Erika M. Anderson, she leaves bedroom goth behind in favor of a full-fledged sci-fi concept album — minus the pretension. Robert Ham spent a day with her recently, getting pedicures and talking about the future. Of the album, Maggie Serota says:
On the devastating opening track “Satellites,” Anderson uses an oscillating wall of static and drone to convey dread and paranoia. Her lyrics, here as elsewhere, obsess over the diminishing privacy and heightened personal scrutiny of the digital age — “I remember when the world was divided by a wall of concrete and a curtain of iron,” she sings, sounding positively nostalgic. It’s an effective opening salvo to an album that employs a lot of cold synth lines and beats that wouldn’t be out of place on a late-’80s/early-’90s industrial album. In between the heavier, darker moments, hints of her older sound poke through, like the dreamy pop song “When She Comes” or the fuzzed-out, catchy ’90s grunge throwback (“So Blonde”).
Protomartyr, Under Color of Official Right: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED new album by this Detroit group has all the darkness and ferocity of the Birthday Party, but combines it with acid, sneering cynicism. It is great. Evan Minsker recently ate tacos with the band and talked about their hometown. Of the album, Steven Hyden says:
Sounding like a middle-American update of Nick Cave’s glowering pre-Bad Seeds punk outfit the Birthday Party (or Interpol, if it was tied to a chair, beaten and bloodied, in a windowless room), Protomartyr draws on the depressed anti-mojo of its hometown on Official Right with vivid specificity. Over shrapnel-spitting power chords and intensely jittery drum beats, Casey offers a quick tour of a local hangout in “Pagans” without bothering to explain any of the references. He assumes that you already know local music promoter Greg Baise and understand whatever the hell “drown the frogs’ mouths” means. (From context, I’m guessing “get royally drunk.”)
Terje’s debut showcases his penchant for making exhilarating tracks that convene on the G-spot of house, Balearic, nu-disco and Italo. He’s also able to detour into synth noodling (“Leisure Suit Preben”), Miami Vice-tropical grooves (“Preben Goes To Acapulco”) and whiz-bang Afro-Cuban rhythms (“Svensk Saas”) yet still make it all sound of a piece. Previous singles “Strandbar” and “Inspector Norse” remain the centerpieces, but the album conveys a sense of ecstatic joy usually reserved for eight-year-olds who spin themselves dizzy.
Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks, Enter the Slasher House: Mixed results from Animal Collective side project/supergroup Avey Tare’s Slash Flicks. Winston Cook-Wilson says:
Listeners expecting more of the lithe, Ariel Pink-ish pop of the band’s lead single “Little Fang” will be disappointed, or at least confused, as the majority of the album operates in the compressed, abrasive sonic universe of AC’s most recent LP Centipede Hz. Certainly the songs unfold as quickly and as brazenly. Slasher Flicks feels like a project built off of the promise of an initial jam — the feeling of playing in the right room with the right people with the right string of pedals hooked up. Although the live-band-at-work effect is achieved better here than on the dense and cramped mix of Centipede Hz, Enter the Slasher House still feels over-baked, as if Portner spent too much time in the mixing booth experimenting with effects racks.
OFF! Wasted Years: I am pretty into the fact that this record is called Wasted Years. This is another 24-minute blast of old-school hardcore from Keith Morris & Co. It doesn’t feel as direct and visceral as their last outing, though, and the vocals feel like they’re mixed just a hair too high. Still, fans of classic thrash will no doubt find plenty to enjoy.
Brash, boisterous and proudly unclassifiable, the Toronto band Weaves incorporates elements of fractured art-funk, post-punk, avant-skronk and new wave to make music that is as riveting as it is unpredictable. The group’s fulcrum is vocalist Jasmyn Burke, who was in the short-lived outfit Rattail and who stretches and twists and contorts her voice, occupying a middle ground between singing and performance art. It’s the perfect foil for the band’s obstinate, obtuse playing.
School Of Language, Old Fears: David Brewis’s second LP as School of Language. Victoria Segal says:
It’s the neatness and strength of the scaffolding that allows these songs to soar: The slow, meticulous groove of “So Much Time” and the terse, demanding rhythms of “Between the Suburbs” underpin subtle twists and curlicues, eerie treated vocals and twitchy guitar flourishes. There’s submerged funk — “Dress Up” is Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U” buried deep in its subconscious; “Small Words” dredges up a waterlogged beat that recalls both Tortoise and Kate Bush. Old Fears constructs its own world, a series of closely-controlled meditations on love, fear and time. It’s the sound of a plan gloriously coming together.
L’Orange, The Orchid Days: Mostly-instrumental record from excellent producer L’Orange, but the few vocals come courtesy of rappers like Homeboy Sandman and Blu — in other words, they’re well-chosen. L’Orange favors a sample-based, crate-digging production style that swings between scratchy old slow jams and smoky jazz. The whole mood of the album is dusky and low-lit — it would be the perfect soundtrack for wandering around empty city streets at 2 a.m., the only illumination coming from a few scattered streetlights (which, coincidentally, is more-or-less what happens in the video above). I think L’Orange is massively underrated, and this album is continued proof of of his skill and savvy. It’s RECOMMENDED
Emmylou Harris, Wrecking Ball Reissue: Reissue of classic 1995 Emmylou Harris record somehow does not contain a cover of the recent Miley Cyrus hit, which seems like a real missed opportunity to me. This is a bold, beautiful record, and it’s HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Peter Blackstock says:
For Wrecking Ball, Harris enlisted adventurous producer Daniel Lanois, who imbued the album with his trademark atmospherics. She selected material from rock icons (Dylan’s “Every Grain Of Sand,” Hendrix’s “May This Be Love,” the Neil Young title track) to established roots acts (Steve Earle’s “Goodbye,” Lucinda Williams’ “Sweet Old World,” Kate & Anna McGarrigle’s “Going Back To Harlan”) to a couple of then-upstart Americana songwriters (Gillian Welch’s “Orphan Girl,” Julie Miller’s “All My Tears”) to Lanois himself (“Where Will I Be,” “Blackhawk,” and “Deeper Well,” a co-write with Harris and David Olney).
Screaming Females, Live at the Hideout: For as ferocious as they are on record, Screaming Females truly shine in the live setting, where frontwoman Marissa Paternoster unfurls endless, knotty guitar solos and generally becomes rock & roll personified. This live album was recorded by Steve Albini, and captures the band at their rollicking best.
Ratking, So it Goes: New outing from NYC hip-hop collective has all of the darkness and tension of early ’90s hip-hop, but with weirder, futuristic production. Some moments are better than others, but the briskness and toughness throughout keeps things enervating and engaging.
Donovan Wolfington, Scary Stories You Tell in the Dark: More neo-emo from the reliable Topshelf Records, this from New Orleans group Donovan Wolfington. Like many bands of their age and ilk, Donovan W. actually tend more toward the first round of emo — Mineral, the Promise Ring — than the spit-shined version that started invading malls in the mid ’00s. That means lots of distraught vocals and proudly messy guitars, with a few panicked, hollered choruses thrown in for good measure.
Tweens, Tweens: Great, riotous new garage-pop album, full of sticky-sweet melodies and big, clanging guitars. This one is RECOMMENDED. Marc Hogan says:
Frontwoman Bridget Battle graduated to Tweens from high school choir, but her delivery tends more toward Poly Styrene or Ronnie Spector than Glee. Drummer Jerri Queen and bassist Peyton Copes honed their scuzz-pop chops in the similarly minded bubblegum punk outfit Vacation. Tweens’ self-titled debut album pairs Battle’s yelpy directness with Ramones-huffing rowdiness, and the results are as sure to improve a humdrum Friday night as an older friend with a valid drinking-age ID.
The Faint, Doom Abuse: Once upon a time, the Faint made a record called Blank Wave Arcade, and it was a great, panicked blast of future-shock acid-fried new wave, one that predicted a future wrecked by technology and full of music that was menacing and vital. This is their new record.
Denney & the Jets, Mexican Coke: Good-time, drink-n-fight swagger rock, like the Black Crowes if the Black Crowes weren’t terrible, or like a Southern boogie bar band with a little more attitude and only a passing regard for proficiency. If you like your blues/garage sloppy and sneering, this is the album for you.
Highasakite, Silent Treatment: An ambitious, sprawling debut from Norway’s Highasakite. Laura Studarus says:
Highasakite’s debut full-length Silent Treatment is populated by an extensive cast of colorful characters with painful stories — from low-grade delinquents (“Since Last Wednesday”), to abusive lovers (“Leaving No Traces”), to a digger attempting to make it all the way to Japan (“Hiroshima”), to any number of broken hearts (all of the above). It’s a lot of emotional anguish to digest, but it goes down smoothly on the back of the band’s widescreen, shape-shifting pop, which contains traces of Vampire Weekend-style afro-beats, jazz, and the occasional Spaghetti Western homage.
Skull Defekts, Dances in Dreams of the Known Unknown: I loved this band’s last record, which was their second collaboration with Daniel Higgs from Lungfish. This one continues the collaboration, with songs that are just as toothy and tough, but a little more streamlined — keyboards are slightly more prominent, and Higgs sings more than snarls, but it still has all the relentless coiled energy for which the pairing is becoming known. RECOMMENDED
Full Ugly, Spent the Afternoon: Great new record from Aussie combo Full Ugly on the alarmingly consistend Bedroom Suck label. If you’re familiar with the label’s past releases, you’ll have a rough idea of what to expect here: wobbly, timid, guitar-driven indie, bashful in attitude, tuneful in sound. Reminds me a lot of this band Joe Christmas that I can’t imagine reading this has ever heard, for a number of reasons. RECOMMENDED
Sleepyhead, Wild Sometimes: Now here’s a reunion I never would have expected! I was obsessed with this band’s 1994 album Starduster (released on the legendary Homestead Records), which was a tangle of fuzz-covered riffs combined with the de rigeur whispery indiepop vocals. It was great, and long overdue for a reissue — maybe now more than ever, since Sleepyhead appears to be reactivated! This one is cleaner and leaner than Starduster, more straight jangle with a few slight nods toward country. I wrote up “Red Letter Daze” for a Listen to This not long ago. Welcome back, guys.