2021-12-03
The Bug Club
Pure Particles

Ignore the twee name and aughts-ass sketchpad cartoon bubble letter cover art. The Bug Club is simple and Welsh and fun as shit. Bare-bones rock-n-roll power-pop indie-boogie-woogie, blues licks and guitar solos, endless earworms and the dryest humored lead singer since Gruff Rhys. I love every one of its 20 minutes.

2021-12-03
Peter Talisman
The Lord of the Harvest

An avant-garde electronic chamber prog folk instrumental rock opera which is also the soundtrack to a video game and one of the most beautiful things I've heard all year.

2021-11-15
Courtney Barnett
Things Take Time, Take Time

This new Courtney Barnett album is kind of a bummer so far. But I'm going to give it some more time and get back you on it.

2021-11-06
Geese
Projector

Geese is supposedly New York's hottest buzz band. They're four Brooklyn high schoolers whose primary influences are Interpol and The Strokes, and I'm as shocked as you are when I say holy shit they're actually good! Like really! I was so, so ready to hate everything about this, but they kinda nail it. Yes they clearly give off some early aughts Strokesy, dance punky, post-punky vibes, but they actually seem to have fun doing it. And with swagger! Meanwhile, the singer actually sounds like he knows what he's doing, he actually goes for it. Hitting notes, singing—holy shit—melodies.

I don't know man. This isn't the instant classic that Is This It and Turn On The Bright Lights were, but it's a deeply pleasant surprise, and something tells me that Geese (ugh) maybe has a masterpiece in them once they're old enough to start drinking.

2021-11-06
Tems
If Orange Was A Place

Between this and the Obongjayar EP from earlier this year, I guess Nigerian Afrobeat is my thing now?

2021-11-04
Mastodon
Hushed and Grim

There's a new Mastodon album, and while it's not as good as their last EP (which was great, best thing they've done in 10 years), it's got a lot of cool stuff on it. Problem is there's too damn much of it.

Chalk it up to the digital music era, but I had no idea until I was done listening to it that Hushed and Grim is a double album. It's long. Too long. And it covers a lot of the same territory and there's really no reason to double it up. Not only that, but the actual sequencing of the tracks feels at times completely random, giving the thing no flow whatsoever.

So as a handy guide for my loyal readers, I've distilled this mammoth (um pun intended!) collection down into one single-disc, single hour tracklist for your iTunes playlists and CDR burns to keep in your car.

1. The Beast*
2. Pushing the Tides
3. Peace and Tranquility
4. Had It All
5. Sickle and Peace
6. Dagger**
7. Teardrinker
8. The Crux
9. Eyes of Serpents
10. Pain with an Anchor
11. Gigantium

* The Beast is far and away the best on the album, and is also not coincidentally the most interesting song on the album. Like much of that EP that I love, it's essentially a Brent Hinds country-fried solo song translated into a Mastadonian context. It's truly great and even though it's not the usual album opener, I think it would knock people's socks off to lead with it. I just wish there were one or two more similar tracks on this album.

** Dagger is nearly as odd and interesting as The Beast, just not quite as good. But it has this part in the middle where the guitars essentially hold one chord, and it turns into a hypnotic, Middle-Eastern flavored percussion drone. That's the kind of thing that usually makes me roll my eyes, the whole Middle Eastern motif gets easily overused with some metal bands, but in this particular song Mastodon nails it. I have an alternate dream version of this album where they get to this part and then just keep repeating it, ad nauseam, for 10 minutes or something. Close the album with it. It would be incredible.

2021-11-02
Valley Queen
Supergiant

Pillow Queens is the best new band I've heard in a while. They're from Dublin and play passionate, literate, grungy shoegazey alt rock, and their lead singer Sarah Corcoran sings with this barmbrack-thick Irish broogue that makes her one of the most distinctive lead singers you'll hear.

When I first listened to Valley Queen, I was perplexed. The band played a little looser, a little lighter, and something closer to Laurel Canyon classic rock rather than amp-blistering alt rock—but if you told me I was listening to an earlier Pillow Queens album, I would've believed you. The singer emotes with the same exact cadence, similar melodic tendencies, and that same distinctive Dublin accent. Uncanny.

Well obviously they must also be from Ireland, and simply share that same natural manner of singing? No! Valley Queen is from Los Angeles! Their singer was born and bred there! She went to college at Loyola Marymount! Why the fuck is she singing like her parents spent their youth on the run from the IRA?? What is going on??

I have no answers. I've looked into it, and the only thing that I can say is that she's cited The Cranberries as an influence, and I imagine both she and the members of Pillow Queens have done well to ingest some of Dolores O'Riordan's stylings into their arsenal. But when you sit and listen to the Cranberries, you hear a lot of different colorings from Dolores that never made their way to Pillow Queens or valley Queen, it's mostly just the accent. But still, that's all I've got. And I have to admit it's pretty fucking annoying to think about someone from LA singing with such an intensely put-on affectation. I'd say it makes me like the band less, but honestly I still think they're pretty good and the album is pretty enjoyable.

Furthermore: Pillow Queens! Valley Queen! Pillow Queens! Valley Queen! Do you see it? Do you see it?

Anyway. This particular Valley Queens record is from like 2016, and I've listened to a couple of their newer songs, and it sounds like they've toned down the fake Irish thing. If anything, she's singing with an equally put-on indie girl quirk, which is maybe even more annoying.

2021-11-01
Cerce
Cowboy Music

I usually hate this kinda shit, but something about these motherfuckers is working for me. File under: sassy hardcore.

2021-11-01
NOLTEM
Illusions in the Wake

I'm creating a new tier of metal bands in my mind palace. (NOTE: This portion of my mind palace is designed like a two-page spread in Kerrang! magazine). This tier includes bands like Necrot, SUMAC, Mare Cognitum, and can basically be summed up with "extreme metal bands who don't really engage me intellectually or otherwise leave much of an impression, but whose music is spiritually gratifying upon listening and goes down smooth as pudding."

Obviously the point here is that NOLTEM is one of these bands. I can tell you that they kinda sound like some combination of early-Opeth and Agalloch—and Mare Cognitum and Necrot—but otherwise I couldn't hum a single melody or lap-drum a single riff from this album. I don't currently remember any of it. But I've listened to it about a dozen times.

2021-11-01
Deerhoof
Actually You Can

Deerhoof is still doing it.

2021-10-20
Sufjan Stevens
A Beginner's Mind

Sufjan Stevens has been in the mix for so long now. Michigan was like, what, 20 years ago? So long! And what's interesting is that, this whole time (so long), every Sufjan release has felt like some sort of event. They've been grand experiments, comforting returns to form, stylistic left turns, theatrical projects, deeply personal confessions. Whether or not they've all been successful (though he does have a better 20-year batting average than most), they've all felt like something happening. A Sufjan release makes you notice.

A Beginner's Mind is the first new Sufjan album that I can really remember that just kinda came out and that's that. I think there's a bit of a theme to it: it's technically an album co-attributed to Angelo De Augustine, written and recorded by the two of them during the pandemic, locked up in a cabin somewhere, seemingly writing songs about the movies they were watching and books they were reading. Or something like that? The point is that isn't really important in this case. It's not a grand testament about life and the cosmos. It's not a confessional ode to his parents. It's just a nice collection of songs, maybe his best in a handful of years. A comforting return to form.

2021-10-17
Low
HEY WHAT

I had a borderline religious experience listening to this album last week and extraordinarily high volume while walking around the city late at night. I'm certain it's the best Low album and I'm not sure when I'll ever listen to it again.

2021-10-17
Shannon Lay
Geist

This is a mostly straightforward folkie Americana singer-songwriter album, but it's an awfully good one.

2021-10-17
Sweeping Promises
Hunger For a Way Out

The first couple tracks on this album got me real excited to hear a new post punk band that eschews post punk monotony and revels in melody. Then the rest of the tracks just kinda do post punk stuff.

2021-09-28
Fluisteraars
Gegrepen Door de Geest der Zielsontluiking

Fluisteraars has done this to me twice now. They got on my radar a couple years ago by releasing one of the most interesting black metal tracks I've ever heard—interesting in that it didn't seem to have much interest in black metal orthodoxy, occasionally throwing in some alt rock power chords and some actual humane vocals. Then they put their first full-length out, and seemed mostly to fall back into your standard black metal. I was bummed.

But then I kept listening to it. Something kept pulling and pulling me back, and I started to hear that humanity inside of it, even without any of the alt-rock tricks. It ended up being one of my faves of that year, and I listened to it a ton.

The same thing seems to be happening with this new one. The band recorded it almost on a whim, with the intention of creating something lo-fi and honest, the sound of a band in a room. And just like last time, my immediate reaction was disappointment. Because, well, it sounded lo-fi and like a few guys screaming in a room. But also like last time, I keep coming back to it, and man I think I like it.

If you sat me down and asked me to describe to you what makes Fluisteraars good, I couldn't do it. I don't know. I don't know what they're doing that other black metal bands aren't, I just feel it when I hear it. There's just more passion, more desperation, more soul in the sounds that they make. The screaming feels more human, the drums are hit with a little more catharsis, the guitars feel like they're in a room instead of plugged into a 4-track. And I guess also that they actually play melodies. Simple ones, but melodies nonetheless, which turn into earworms. There's a few other odd bits on this album that make for something—extended drum breakdowns, some trancy shit—but mostly it's Fluisteraars doing their Fluisteraars thing. And at this point I'm fully on board wherever they want to take me.

2021-11-01
StrangewaysBrooklyn
Coriander crusted swordfish, crispy rock shrimp

Strangeways is a totally respectable hip-but-not-annoyingly-so modern new-American-ish restaurant in Williamsburg. My review of it is: it would be great if it was better.