As we get deeper into the year, we’ve got another solid round of new releases — including two personal favorites: the ragged, gutsy, give-it-all-we’ve-got sophomore effort from Augustines and the spectral, arresting new record from Marissa Nadler Here’s what we have to say about ‘em.
Augustines, Augustines: I have been playing the hell out of this record ever since I got the advance late last year. Powerful, bone-rattling, gut-wrenching, pull-yer-heart-out rock music delivered with passion and conviction. This album is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as is the fantastic feature Ian Cohen wrote about them for us. Of the record, Annie Zaleski says:
Lyrically, you can feel the unburdening, in small, hopeful increments. The narrator of “Nothing to Lose But Your Head” recounts rock-bottom moments (“Have you reached out in a cold, cold night?/ Waved goodbye into headlights”) but ultimately makes a bid for survival: “You gotta get me outta here.” Even the album’s seemingly hopeless situations — the romantic rut of “Don’t You Look Back” or the suffocating cityscapes described in “Kid You’re On Your Own” — come with a redeeming tinge.
Broken Bells, After the Disco: James Mercer and Danger Mouse made another record, apparently. Ryan Reed says:
At its most propulsive (“Holding On for Life,” the opening electro-kraut-rock epic, “Perfect World”), this is Mercer and Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton’s strange version of “disco,” both sprawling and hallucinatory. It is a more muscular, rhythmic sequel to their similarly spaced-out 2010 debut, but it also feels more like a true synthesis than that album — which (at its weakest) came off more like a fascinating meeting of giants than a real-life “band.”
Marissa Nadler, July: On her first Sacred Bones release, Marissa Nadler lets a pale ray of hope into her characters’ bleak stories. I love the way Nadler writes — stirring, ghostly and evocative. This one is RECOMMENDED. Paula Mejia interviewed Nadler for us. Of the record, Ashley Melzer says:
Doubled vocals, tambourine, strings and a finger-picked guitar envelop the listener on “1923,” a generous plea for a lover to return. “Fireworks” is a memory delivered with charity. “I know better now, I don’t call you up at night,” she admits, “Baby, you’re a ghost and I have changed.” It’s an end without a hint of kiss-off. Her Emily may be stuck in a dead-end situation, but Nadler won’t let her plunge into desperation. “Any other man would have run, run away/ Emily, he’s something more.” Melancholy might have numbed her characters before, but Nadler grants them small moments of knowing, and it’s in these moments that July excels.
Behemoth, The Satanist: The first Behemoth record after Nergal’s triumphant recovery from near-fatal leukemia, The Satanist proves the Polish black metal titans haven’t wavered in either sound or philosophy. The songs still hammer and claw, and their core remains pure evil — terrifying darkness delivered only the way someone who has stared down death can. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Have a Nice Life, The Unnatural World: Man oh man do I love this. Mysterious New England group kick out a new album full of gloom and doom — thick clouds of funereal guitar fuzz smother howling vocals, minimal electronics cough and scramble. It’s no wonder it’s brought to us by the fine folks at the Flenser. Perfect for the kind of people who consider The Cure’s Faith “too poppy.” RECOMMENDED
Musi-O-Tunya, Give Love To Your Children: Second volume of sizzling ’70s cuts from this Zambian rock band is just as essential as the predecessor. Musi-O-Tunya blend the classic, percoalting Afrobeat rhythms with the heavy fuzz of psych, making for music that manages to be heavy while still possessing an undeniable groove. Musi-O-Tunya are the Iron Butterfly of Afropop. This is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
The Bellicose Minds, Buzz or Howl Sessions: Never mind the Minutemen reference in the title — this is pure pitch-black death rock, with sawing guitars and grim, severe vocals. Fans of the Killed By Deathrock comp that came out not long ago, here’s one to help you keep the funeral party going.
Delicate Steve, Positive Force: The latest from NY guitar wizard Delicate Steve runs the gamut, from electr-gilded stompers to moody, atmospheric numbers that are more texture than sound. Dude is the kind of pulling weird sounds out of his instrument. This is sci-fi style soundtrack rock at its finest.
Juan Wauters, N.A.P.: North American Poetry: Juan Wauters is a member of lovable Queens rascals The Beets. Where that group tends toward lo-fi tomfoolery, Wauters’ solo record is full of charming ’60s folk-pop — giddy, bouncy, heavy-strummed music that recalls Donovan and Caetano Veloso. It’s rickety enough to be charming, but grounded by a solid sense of melody. RECOMMENDED
Nicole Atkins, Slow Phaser: Call it singer/songwriter in space. Nicole Atkins’ new record is stately and kind of weightless; each song has a kind of intergalactic atmosphere — twinkles of electronics, space age disco rhythms — but they’re all anchored in Atkins’s sturdy, smoky vocal melodies.
CEO, WONDERLAND: Eric Berglund turns his childlike vibe up to 11. Barry Walters says:
Everywhere there are the voices of tykes, some sung and rapped, some extensively sampled, and some approximated by Berglund himself. Produced by former Studio member Dan Lissvik and fellow Sincerely Yours act Kendal Johansson, who also contributes instrumentation, this record of emotional and musical extremes alternately suggests Animal Collective’s squawking Centipede Hz, syrupy Enya jams or, most often, a foolhardy mashup of both.
Sunn O))) & Ulver, Terrestrials: A collaboration between metal titans Sunn O))) and Ulver, two bands known for testing the boundaries of their chosen genre, delivers all the power and portent you might expect. This one is RECOMMENDED. Catherine P. Lewis says:
With the exception of the beginning of “Western Horn,” Terrestrials isn’t as dense or as heavy as Sunn O)))’s typical work. Much of the album leans more towards Ulver’s spacey, experimental point of view: The strings on “Eternal Return” come courtesy of guest musicians Ole-Henrik Moe and Kari Rønnekleiv, who also played on Ulver’s 2013 release Messe I.X-VI.X, and the keyboard and vocals that close that track fall squarely in line with Ulver’s proggy, theatrical melodies. But Sunn O)))’s presence can still be felt rumbling just beneath the surface.
At nine tracks and 33 minutes, Earthbeat is a cohesive blur, each track reworking variations of the same trippy template — on headphones, late at night, it’s difficult to discern when one track ends and another begins. Eventually, though, individual moments emerge from the absorbing fog — from the new-wave Lord of the Flies pulses of “Captured Heart” to the stutter-stepping closer “Hideaway” to the chiming vistas of “Ghost Dance.” The most blissful moment is also the briefest, as instrumental opener “Totem” sets the pace with its tribal tom-toms and ethereal synthesizers.