As the first few seconds of Weyes Blood’s new album ring out, the ethereal piano perfectly sets up the rest of the album: while beautiful, the arpeggio puts us on edge, and as singer and writer Natalie Mering’s vocals come in, it is clear what kind of ride we’re in for. The album is a trip into the stratosphere, and its songs, the lengthy piano ballads, will make space seem like the perfect place to fall in love.
Front Row Seat to Earth is Mering’s first full-length album since 2014’s The Innocents, another solid effort from the Brooklyn singer, and Front Row picks up right where its predecessor left off. Piano, along with Mering’s quivering alto, take center stage for just about the entire album, pairing off nicely with some truly lovesick lyrics.
Take the album’s second song, the lurching “Used to Be”, which includes the chorus’ aching line, “Used to be the one/that knew me/saw through me”. Mering doesn’t hold back the sadness on this album; she lets it lead the way, wearing it like a badge of honor. On cuts like these, you really start to see shades of Sharon van Etten, another female singer-songwriter preoccupied with pain. And, like van Etten, Mering does a fantastic job of tastefully riding waves of sadness in these songs.
Acoustic ballad “Be Free” includes some truly enchanting harmonies, lifting the song into the same territory as Radiohead’s “How to Disappear Completely” as a song that doesn’t need to be any more than it is, and it works its melancholy magic to perfection. “Be Free” is a truly beautiful song, one of the most major-key songs on the album, and yet it never feels truly happy. It’s a nostalgic song, to be sure.
However, it’s on “Be Free” that I started to notice how long the songs are. This is a 45-minute album, but it only has nine songs on it, eight if you don’t count the two-minute instrumental outro. An album like this needs to give the listener a bit more room to breathe; it’s very easy to get lost in a song, like the six-and-a-half minute “Do You Need My Love”, making it hard to pay attention to the entire thing. The second half of the album tends to get weighed down by this problem. By the time we get there, we’re already worn out from listening.
That’s not to say these songs are bad, by the way. “Generation Why” starts very slowly, but its barren sound is a nice change from the overblown noise of “Do You Need My Love”. It’s vocals, also, echo some of Imogen Heap’s work in the best way possible. This trend continues on the almost entirely vocal “Can’t Go Home”, which is a nice track but really shows the signs of listener fatigue that gets this part of the album. Single “Seven Words” is a nice foray back into percussion; though Weyes Blood is almost always at her best when drums aren’t in the mix, we need them here, to keep the songs moving forward a little quicker. I love the soulful, beachy guitar solo in the middle of this track, bringing a nice swell of melody and color into the song. “Away Above”, the last track with vocals, is one of the best cuts on the album, with warm acoustic guitar and subtle percussion giving Mering a perfect backdrop to sing in front of.
This is a great album for those who are fans of music made out of great sadness. The album is haunting in every way, with special considerations going to Mering’s incredible vocal performance throughout the album, which perfectly showcases both her range and her greatest strengths. The album tends to drag a bit, so don’t expect to be particularly familiar with the last few songs until a few listens in. Any fans of Sharon van Etten and Sufjan Stevens will certainly enjoy this album, but it’s worth a listen for anybody.
Front Row Seat to Earth is available on Mexican Summer Records.
Swedish indie pop band The Radio Dept. is back with a new album Running Out of Love. The band, currently composed only of members Johan Duncansson and Martin Carlberg, has been embroiled in a legal battle with their record label Labrador, delaying new musical releases for several years. This marks the band’s first album since their successful 2010 release Clinging to a Scheme.
Although The Radio Dept. has often been characterized by their blend of dream pop and shoegaze inspired music, Running Out of Love represents a shift towards a more electronic style. Though the band has clearly shown an electronic influence in the past, this album takes that trend the furthest, moving towards a full synth-pop sound.
The upbeat, danceable feeling created by the synths and beat contrast with the somber mood of the album. Though there are still traces of the signature fuzzy and distorted sound typical of the band’s music, the general feeling of these tracks is much more cold than the warm and comfortable feeling of their past efforts. The lyrics, too, are much more solemn and politically charged than in the past. While many of us here in Seattle are preoccupied with American politics as the election grows closer, The Radio Dept. have focused on Swedish political issues in this album, and tackle what the band views as regression in Swedish society.
Opening track “Slobada Narodu,” takes it’s title from a famous anti-fascist slogan originating from WWII, meaning “power to the people.” It begins the album with impactful percussion, slowly building up to the second track, previously released single “Swedish Guns,” a critique of the Swedish arms industry. Other notable topics addressed on the album appear in tracks such as “We Got Game,” which criticizes the actions and biased motivation of the police, and “Occupied,” which details the band’s legal dispute with their label.
Although on first listen there may not seem to be any standout tracks on quite the same level as “Strange Things Will Happen” and “Where Damage Isn’t Already Done” from 2003’s Lesser Matters, or “Heaven’s on Fire” from Clinging to a Scheme, further listens reveal many strong moments on the album, such as the catchy “This Thing Was Bound to Happen,” or the danceable instrumental outro of “Committed to the Cause.” Running Out of Love may not be the band’s greatest work, but it nevertheless serves as another strong addition to their discography.
Listen to Running Out of Love here or listen to single “Swedish Guns” below:
When we saw Kacy Hill make her debut back in Seattle last
winter, we were blown away. When we last left off with her, we said we were
excited what she had to show us because her soft, delicate vocals on her EP, Bloo.
In Hill’s new single, “Lion,” her vocals still maintain their
stunning, clear quality. Reminiscent still of FKA Twigs and Florence and the
Machine, Hill’s song starts with almost eerie vocal coos and whistling
instrumentals. Hill, as she moves into her verse, overlaying strong drums, is
slow with soft, drawn out vocals and instrumentals that give us a hint of Glass
Animals. As Hill moves into her chorus, we’re impressed with strength and power
that reminds of where old school rock ‘n roll powers came from.
The lyricism on the track is simple, telling a story about
wanting soft love only to awake a powerful empress with strength and fire. We’ve
maybe heard it before, but there’s something about the spin Hill puts on her
track that gives it power. As Hill belts out “But you woke the lion/You wanted
fire,” there are instant chills. Hill isn’t a little girl anymore, giggling on
stage. She’s taking her own.
What is the cause of this new source of power and strength in
her music? Perhaps G.O.O.D. Music, the label Hill signed off with, has given
her new outlets for inspiration and creativity. We wouldn’t be surprised when
she’s worked with Kanye West, producer Rick Rubin, and artist Jack Garratt over
the course of her early career.
Nonetheless wherever she honed her spirit doesn’t matter, we’re
now just anxious for more.
Be sure to keep up to date withKacy Hillfor new music and videos.
Check out more music and news from Rainy Dawg Radio @ RainyDawg.org!
Any major music publication will hastily remind its readers how many great records have come out so far in 2016, many of which are high both in quality and levels of pre-release anticipation. Just to name a few, the year has seen rapturous applause and attention applied to long-awaited releases from
Beyoncé, Rihanna, Radiohead, James Blake, Chance the Rapper, Kanye West, and YG, with more on the way from The Avalanches, LCD Soundsystem, Sigur Ros, and Run the Jewels.
While we wait for the second half of 2016 to continue blowing our minds, the fine folks here at Rainy Dawg Radio would love to wish everyone a happy summer, and we can’t express enough how excited we are for things to kick back into gear this September. Until then, your summer listening material is below, in alphabetical order so as not to spoil my highly anticipated annual Best Albums of the Year list. I’ve also decided to include 5 of my favorite shortform releases of the year so far, just because EPs deserve love, too, and the year has seen many fantastic ones.
Writer’s note: This list is solely the opinion of myself, RDR’s music director, and only includes albums and mixtapes released through the end of June 2016.
50 Best Albums of 2016
Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid
Genre: Hip-hop (alternative/underground)
In brief: This is the alt-rap legend’s seventh album, and also his most lonesome one. The Impossible Kid was entirely self-produced and features no other rappers, making it Aes’ most personal record to date, and quite possibly his best (hot take, I know).
RIYL: Danny Brown, MF DOOM, Run the Jewels
Anohni – Hopelessness
Genre: Pop (experimental/electronic)
In brief: A shockingly catchy political pop album that pulls none of its punches. Anohni is something of a musical trio, composed of the titular Artist, former vocalist for Antony and the Johnsons, as well as A++ production team Oneohtrix Point Never and Hudson Mohawke. The result is an in-your-face, punk-as-hell noise pop record that’s glossy, heavy-handed (for better and worse), and totally necessary and relevant.
RIYL: Bjork, The Knife, The Haxan Cloak
Autechre – elseq 1-5
Genre: Electronic (ambient/noise)
In brief: English experimental duo Autechre may have surpassed expectations with 2013’s Exai, the longest the band had released at that point in their twenty-year career, but nothing prepared anyone for this. Elseq 1-5 presents an astounding four hours of top-notch robotic noise, ambient, and so-called “intelligent dance music.” This record is bigger and denser than any black hole, reaching a seemingly post-human form of musical expression. Is this improvised? Pre-written? Listen to it in one session or ten, just consume all it has to offer.
RIYL: Aphex Twin, Oneohtrix Point Never, Four Tet
Beyoncé – Lemonade
Genre: R&B (pop/hip-hop)
In brief: Now, just what in the hell could I say about this album/its release/the visual accompaniment that has not already been picked to bits ad nauseam by everyone else two months ago? Not much; instead I’ll just say how fantastic the music of Lemonade is, especially considering the amount of sonic variation at play. Each song feels right, necessary, and like it fits, even if Bey jumps from garage rock to bouncy reggae-pop to country without a second’s consideration (and thank goodness for it).
RIYL: FKA twigs, Destiny’s Child, Adele
Big Ups – Before a Million Universes
Genre: Punk (post-hardcore/experimental)
In brief: Although largely unknown, this NY rock group dropped one of my favorite albums of 2014 with their debut, Eighteen Hours of Static. Now, the group is back with a less immediately catchy but much better, more cerebral experience of an album. Inspired by the atmospheric post-rock of the genre’s early contributors, like Slint and Bark Psychosis, Before a Million Universes owes a lot to its influences. Yet, it’s still undeniably a current work, filled to the brim with 21st century anxiety and tension. If you messed up by skipping over this band two years ago, then bring balance to your life by not messing up this time.
RIYL: Fugazi, Slint, Shellac
The Body/Full of Hell – One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache
Genre: Metal (noise/grindcore)
In brief: The Body and Full of Hell make music at different speeds, but for some reason putting their collective minds together makes for a cohesive, fast-paced experience. This record is more than bone-chilling, it’s bone-freezing. Absolute terror lurks here, and it’s more thrilling than the five scariest horror movies you’ve seen combined.
RIYL: Nails, Converge, Cult Leader
Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial
Genre: Rock (Indie/garage)
In brief: Will Toledo has been in business for quite a while, but finally decided to schedule his breakout project for release through Matador Records. Following last year’s salient Teens of Style, this record (Toledo’s first album of all new material for a label) is 70 minutes of some of the finest indie rock you’ll hear all year. Diverse, funny, sad, and totally worth your while.
RIYL: Guided by Voices, The Strokes, Pavement
Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book
Genre: Hip-hop (alternative/gospel)
In brief: In which popular, beloved independent rapper Chancelor Bennett follows up a massively acclaimed mixtape with an even more acclaimed mixtape. Unfortunately for me, Coloring Book is not nearly as good as Acid Rap. Still, though, even Chance’s duds are more of a blast than many rappers’ bangers. If you haven’t already listened to this, what the hell is wrong with you, dude?
RIYL: Mick Jenkins, Vic Mensa, Kanye West
Colin Stetson – Sorrow
Genre: Neo-Classical (experimental/opera)
In brief: Colin Stetson has long been impressing folks with his sheer ability as a saxophonist, namely on key releases by everyone from Arcade Fire to Godspeed You! Black Emperor. This time, he put his strengths toward the reinterpretation of a classic symphony by Gorecki, using black metal, post-rock, and jazz as his inspiration through which to create. The result is Sorrow, a frighteningly beautiful album that demands to be heard over and over again.
RIYL: Sigur Ros, Frederic Chopin, Arvo Part
David Bowie – Blackstar
Genre: Rock (experimental/avant-garde)
In brief: Bowie’s swan song; what more is there to it? A vast, gorgeous, totally whacked out record from one of history’s great musical masterminds. As awe-inspiring a late-period album as any of the best from Kate Bush, Tom Waits, Scott Walker, all late-bloomers in their own respects.
RIYL: Scott Walker, Chelsea Wolfe, Iggy Pop
Deakin – Sleep Cycle
Genre: Folk (psychedelic/avant-garde)
In brief: Deakin, a.k.a. Animal Collective’s lost member. My boy here has been working on this record for several years, and the only thing wrong with it is that it’s criminally short. Otherwise, it’s one of the best solo Animal Collective albums ever, rivaling Panda Bear’s beloved Person Pitch. This record is freaky, beautiful, and everything I wanted from Deakin’s solo debut.
RIYL: Vashti Bunyan, The Microphones, Animal Collective circa 2005
Death Grips – Bottomless Pit
Genre: Punk (noise/rap)
In brief: Death Grips are secretly the greatest band of our generation. They fight all boundaries, resulting in otherworldly music that no other set of musicians is capable of even touching. Bottomless Pit, the band’s fifth studio album, serves as further proof that the band can do no wrong. This record is full of noisy, filthy, catchy songs about debaucherous acts, death, and occultish mystery, all of which are subjects from which Death Grips scarcely shies away. Basically, Death Grips do what they do and they do it with equal excellence as they always do.
RIYL: Lightning Bolt, Clipping., The Locust
Deerhoof – The Magic
Genre: Rock (pop/noise)
In brief: Longstanding noise pop group Deerhoof are back with one of their best records in quite a while. Delightfully catchy and outlandishly weird, it won’t be too long before The Magic goes down as Deerhoof’s best late-period album, with its myriad of great songs backed by unrivaled musicianship. One of the most underrated bands ever is back, and probably won’t be converting any non-believers.
RIYL: Kero Kero Bonito, Melt-Banana, Flaming Lips
Denzel Curry – Imperial
Genre: Hip-hop (underground/turnt)
In brief: The latest project from Florida rapper Denzel Curry totally caught me off guard. Imperial is a short, unfiltered psychological journey through the gritty streets of Miami. It’s not the most original record on the block, but it’s angry, consistent, and real damn exciting to listen to.
RIYL: Joey Bada$$, Mick Jenkins, Three 6 Mafia
Diarrhea Planet – Turn to Gold
Genre: Rock (garage/punk)
In brief: Turn to Gold is the third album from the horridly named six-piece Diarrhea Planet. Get past the name, however, and you’re in for one of the most fun, unashamedly upbeat rock records of the summer. Combine the shredding guitar leads of classic Van Halen (praise due to the band’s four guitar players) with the unhinged garage rock Jay Reatard and you have Diarrhea Planet, the one band missing from your life.
RIYL: The White Stripes, Japandroids, Jay Reatard
The Drones – Feelin Kinda Free
Genre: Rock (Garage/experimental)
In brief: Australian rock group The Drones have been kicking rock-n-roll in the head for nearly two decades now, and their music has not reached the wide audience it deserves. The group’s latest record is another in a series of atmospheric, noisy garage freakouts, with deftly political lyrics from the band’s cynical vocalist, Gareth Liddard. You won’t hear anything quite like this in 2016 or any other year.
RIYL: Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Mogwai, Sleaford Mods
Future of the Left – The Peace & Truce of Future of the Left
Genre: Punk (post-hardcore/noise)
In brief: Future of the Left is a Welsh group led by Andrew Falkous, the notorious former lead vocalist of cult noise rock band Mclusky. The past few years have seen him apply his ferocious snarl to Future of the Left, a similarly funny, snide group that paints vivid, disturbing images with its music. A totally bonkers experience, much like all of the band’s albums, and yet another in a series of fantastic Future of the Left albums.
RIYL: Mclusky, Shellac, The Austerity Program
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Genre: Metal (screamo/powerviolence)
In brief: I don’t know much about this band, but I do know that they have a fantastically ridiculous name to go along with their fantastically ridiculous music. This record is a short, no-bullshit explosion of classic screamo, powerviolence, and mathcore. It scratches the itch that can generally be quelled with classic Dillinger Escape Plan and Converge albums, but is chock-full of ugly vocal performances and fierce riffs that feel undeniably fresh.
RIYL: Converge, The Blood Brothers, The Dillinger Escape Plan
The Hotelier – Goodness
Genre: Rock (indie/emo)
In brief: I was blown totally out of the water by New England emo group The Hotelier’s last album, 2014’s Home, Like Noplace Is There. This time around, the band goes for a more straightforward, but still lyrically dense and highly passionate style of music. While not as immediately effective as Home, it reveals its magic and goodness – if you will – with each subsequent listen.
RIYL: The World is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die, The Promise Ring, Foxing
James Ferraro – Human Story 3
Genre: Ambient (experimental/v a p o r w a v e)
In brief: James Ferraro is one of contemporary music’s most versatile underground sensations. He’s released foundational masterworks in ambient, electronic, and beat-based music, from his beloved NYC, Hell 3:00 AM to the underrated Far Side Virtual. I didn’t love his last album, which came out at the end of last year, but I am floored with this one. An experimental piece about our relationship with technology and capitalism, Human Story 3 is an abstract, astonishing experience that will shock you, make you laugh, and maybe make you cry.
RIYL: Dean Blunt, death’s dynamic shroud.wmv, Arca
Joey Purp – iiiDrops
Genre: Hip-hop (alternative/pop)
In brief: Joey Purp’s sophomore tape is one of the most fun hip-hop records I’ve heard this year. Believe it or not, this Chicago rapper’s new project, iiiDrops, did more for me than the latest releases from his counterparts, Chance the Rapper and Vic Mensa. This record is full of great hooks, amazing production, and some notable bars from Joey Purp. This tape is just waiting to be your summer jams mix.
RIYL: Chance the Rapper, Mick Jenkins, Le1f
John Congleton & the Nighty Nite – Until the Horror Goes
Genre: Rock (experimental/noise)
In brief: John Congleton deserves praise for many reasons. He’s the Grammy-winning producer behind albums from groups like Swans, St. Vincent, and Explosions in the Sky. He’s also the former vocalist for avant-rock group The Paper Chase, one of the most original groups to ever exist. For his debut solo album, Congleton takes all the frightening, morbid imagery he’s known for writing about and filters them through bizarrely catchy and legitimately great tunes. This one is super under-the-radar, and I don’t know why I haven’t heard much buzz over it, but it’s totally worth checking out.
RIYL: The Paper Chase, AJJ, The Mountain Goats
Kanye West – The Life of Pablo
Genre: Hip-hop (R&B/gospel)
In brief: It’s fuckin’ Kanye, man. It’s TLOP, dude. Just get over it.
RIYL: Kid Cudi, Chance the Rapper, Travi$ Scott
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – Nonagon Infinity
Genre: Rock (garage/experimental)
In brief: This is King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard’s ninth album in half as many years, and through their intense recording/touring schedule they still somehow produce phenomenal music. Case in point, Nonagon Infinity, perhaps the band’s finest, sharpest work yet. The album works as an endless loop, with refrains and hooks popping up repeatedly throughout the album’s runtime. Nonagon Infinity feels like one really long, amazing song, and features some of the most passionate, tight musicianship I’ve heard this year.
RIYL: The Wytches, Tame Impala, Ty Segall
Lemon Demon – Spirit Phone
Genre: Pop (alternative/experimental)
In brief: It’s time we give Neil Cicierega the crown he deserves, because the man is a musical genius. Recorded entirely by himself, Spirit Phone is the latest record under Neil’s Lemon Demon alias. Being the man responsible for “The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny,” the Potter Puppet Pals, and 2014’s two fantastically blasphemous mashup records Mouth Sounds and Mouth Silence, I should have expected that he would outdo himself once again. This album is a weird, hilarious new wave album that piggybacks off the music of Devo, Talking Heads, and They Might Be Giants. Few albums are as fun to listen to as this one, and the fact that more people aren’t talking about it is a travesty.
RIYL: They Might Be Giants, Devo, Talking Heads
Lil Yachty – Lil Boat
Genre: Hip-hop (New ATL/#Based)
In brief: Lil Yachty is one of the more polarizing musical figures to drop out of an already polarizing musical scene. In a sea of rappers trying to cash in on the popularity of Young Thug, Future, and Migos, Lil Yachty stands alone as a creative talent with a vision and a whacked-out concept. I fully recognize that Lil Boat is not the most highbrow record to come out of hip-hop this year, but it’s one of the catchiest, simplest, and most memorable. It achieves what it was trying to, and then some, and it’s all the more fun for it.
RIYL: Young Thug, Lil B, Migos
LUH – Spiritual Songs for Lovers to Sing
Genre: Rock (indie/pop)
In brief: Once, Ellery James Roberts was the sore-throated vocalist for beloved indie rock group WU LYF (pronounced, “Woo! Life!”). After releasing one great album, he broke the band up to pursue a new project, a musical/visual duo with his girlfriend called LUH, which is short for Lost Under Heaven. Spiritual Songs for Lovers to Sing is the duo’s debut, and it’s a pretty ambitious undertaking. Roberts’ vocals sound as gnashed as ever, and his placement atop squelching synths and thunderous drums makes for a truly epic musical experience.
RIYL: King Krule, The National, WU LYF
Matmos – Ultimate Care II
Genre: Ambient (musique-concrete/electronic)
In brief: Matmos has built its career off of making music out of non-music. No one takes sampling quite as seriously as this electronic duo, and it has resulted in one of the finest discographies in sample-based music. Ultimate Care II manages to be unlike anything Matmos has ever done, seeming almost like a joke or a dare gone horribly right. The record is based entirely off samples of a washing machine, the model of which the album is named after. Sounds pretentious and stupid, but it’s a thoroughly beautiful and engaging record that if played for someone not privy to the concept they would have no idea any clothes-cleaning devices were involved.
RIYL: Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada, Tycho
Mitski – Puberty 2
Genre: Rock (indie/emo)
In brief: Mitski’s newest record is a slow burner as well as a barn burner. She crafts amazing tales and disguises them as catchy, depression-rock ‘90s jams. Seriously, “Your Best American Girl” might be the best song Hole never wrote. It takes a few spins to really unravel the emotions and stories at play here, but the music is simple, haunting, and another example of an independent bedroom pop artist releasing a capital-R “Rock” opus.
RIYL: St. Vincent, Frankie Cosmos, PJ Harvey
Modern Baseball – Holy Ghost
Genre: Punk (pop/emo)
In brief: Fans of Philly kids Modern Baseball already know what the band is capable of in under 30 minutes. The group’s previous two albums, You’re Gonna Miss It All and Sports, are some of the finest pieces of modern indie rock music this side of the emo spectrum, and Holy Ghost manages to surpass both of them in equal stride. This brief, dual-sided journey into the minds of the band’s two vocalists/songwriters is perhaps not as immediately catchy as the band’s previous work, but still mature, funny, and dreadfully sad.
RIYL: Joyce Manor, Spraynard, The Front Bottoms
Moonsorrow – Jumalten Aika
Genre: Metal (folk/black)
In brief: This is the latest record from long-running Norwegian black metal band Moonsorrow, a band with whom my familiarity begins and ends with Jumalten Aika. This record caught me off guard, as it nicely combines the epic, atmospheric nature of black metal with folk music without losing a bit of raw sonic energy. This record is long-winded in the best possible way, and features some unforgettable metal music.
RIYL: Korpiklaani, Agalloch, Panopticon
Nails – You Will Never Be One of Us
Genre: Metal (hardcore/powerviolence)
In brief: At 21 minutes in length, this is the longest album yet from California grind trio Nails, a group notorious for their blistering, uncompromising sound. For their third record, Nails deliver more of the same short whirlwinds of distortion and screams while also demonstrating their ability to experiment and try something new. This is for all fans of loud rock, hardcore, and getting their teeth kicked the fuck in.
RIYL: Dead in the Dirt, Pissgrave, Slayer
Open Mike Eagle & Paul White – Hella Personal Film Festival
Genre: Hip-hop (underground/alternative)
In brief: Open Mike Eagle has a consistently great discography that grows greater and more expansive with each release. Hella Personal Film Festival, a collaboration with esteemed UK producer Paul White, is probably the finest, most introspective work Mike has dealt so far, and his ironic sense of humor blends right in with his depictions of anxiety, racism, and living with one’s significant other.
RIYL: Milo, Das Racist, Danny Brown
Oranssi Pazuzu – Värähtelijä
Genre: Metal (psychedelic/black)
In brief: Oranssi Pazuzu is a Finnish metal band that has been expanding and warping the boundaries of black metal for several years, to mixed results. Värähtelijä is the finest record the band has ever crafted, distilling black metal through psychedelic rock, krautrock, and noise, resulting in a hell of a cerebral experience. This record is highly inaccessible, but far-and-away one of the best metal records of the year so far.
RIYL: Darkspace, Krieg, Ulver
Parquet Courts – Human Performance
Genre: Rock (indie/garage)
In brief: Indie rock transplants Parquet Courts never fail to impress, whether it’s their one-off experimental EPs or their wonderfully written rock LPs. Human Performance is the latest and most immediately pleasant record from the acclaimed band, and it is unbelievably good. There are actually moments where it sounds like Parquet Courts are writing their version of a pop song, and it totally works. If the band hasn’t done it for you in the past, get a load of this and try again.
RIYL: The Velvet Underground, Pavement, Wire
Pop. 1280 – Paradise
Genre: Rock (industrial/noise)
In brief: Another terrifying listening experience! Paradise is the latest record from fearless noisemakers Pop. 1280, and it sounds especially apocalyptic. Even when it sounds like a Marilyn Manson album, it sounds legitimately creepy and weird. If that description sounds like this album will do something for you, it probably will.
RIYL: Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, Youth Code
PUP – The Dream is Over
Genre: Punk (rock/emo)
In brief: Canadian band PUP comes through with a bigger, better sophomore album. The Dream is Over is a fierce bummer of an album, and it’s one of the best damn rock albums of 2016. I can’t stop listening to it. Someone help me, please.
RIYL: Rozwell Kid, Joyce Manor, Jeff Rosenstock
Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
Genre: Sad (ambient/damn)
In brief: Radiohead. There is literally nothing I could say beyond that, because it’s been said before. Just listen to the damn thing. If you don’t like it, no one’s going to sue you or call you a bad Radiohead fan. I happen to find this record mystifyingly beautiful and very sad.
RIYL: Feeling Thom Yorke’s tears pour from your ducts for some reason
Skepta – Konnichiwa
Genre: Grime (hip-hop/real shit)
In brief: I often find grime albums to be disappointing. They’re generally stuffed with filler, bad hooks, and tend to run long. International superstar (and friend of Drake) Skepta, however, defies all those complaints with a tight, cohesive bruiser of a grime LP. Even the bad songs are really good. If you’ve been unconvinced with grime, like many Americans tend to be when first exposed to the strictly British genre, check out Konnichiwa, a.k.a. the best grime album in years.
RIYL: Dizzee Rascal, Jme, Kano
The Sooper Swag Project – Badd Timing
Genre: Hip-hop (alternative/experimental)
In brief: This one caught me off guard, to say the least. Badd Timing is the latest album from Chicago heads and yunk-destroyers The Sooper Swag Project. The premise for this record is deceptively simple: math-rap. Yet, somehow the group manages to put together a pretty great LP of catchy, goofy hip-hop songs that have no interest in your damned 4/4 time signature. At one point, there’s a song whose beat spells out a hidden message in Morse Code, over which one of the trio’s rappers spits effortlessly. It’s fucking weird and I love it.
RIYL: Clipping., Open Mike Eagle, Milo
Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
Genre: Country (folk/soul)
In brief: Like many, I was first turned on to the music of Mr. Sturgill Simpson two years ago when he released the acclaimed album Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. I didn’t love that record, but it made me look forward to what would come next, and Simpson did not disappoint. Written as a horn-heavy self-produced country concept album dedicated to his young son, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth is a breathtaking album that packs a lot into a little. Come for the gorgeous opener, stay for the shockingly lovely Nirvana cover.
RIYL: Bill Callahan, Uncle Tupelo, Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings
Swans – The Glowing Man
Genre: Post-rock (Experimental/ambient)
In brief: The Glowing Man is the fourth and final album of Swans’ second official incarnation, closing out one of the finest album runs in modern rock history, especially considering Swans enjoyed a diverse, ambitious career during their initial run from the early 1980s to 1997. This record isn’t as urgent as its predecessor, To Be Kind, but it’s still a fantastic, dreary, meditative album that sticks to Swans’ current formula without a dull moment ever touching its two-hour length. This album is a monolith, but one worth diving into with every bit of your attention.
RIYL: Current 93, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Chelsea Wolfe
Told Slant – Going By
Genre: Rock (indie/emo)
In brief: I was properly introduced to Told Slant when they opened up for The Hotelier a few weeks before the release of this album. I was especially taken with the group’s principal songwriter/vocalist/member, Felix Walworth, whose stage presence, lyrics, and vocals captivated me. Most of the songs from which Told Slant played were from the as-yet-unreleased album, Going By, which would strike me just as much upon release as it did when they were playing the songs live. This album is a sad, sleepy slap in the face that finds uplifting messages of advice and love in between bits of unrelenting self-loathing.
RIYL: Low, Xiu Xiu, Frankie Cosmos
Ty Segall – Emotional Mugger
Genre: Rock (Garage/psychedelic)
In brief: Quick question – Why the hell aren’t more people talking about this album? Emotional Mugger is far-and-away the greatest thing Ty Segall has ever come up with, serving as a parody of the very fuzzy garage-rock from which Segall pulls so many of his ideas. Centering around a character who’s essentially a giant, whining baby (literally), Emotional Mugger replaces the desire for sex and drugs with candy and a mother’s attention, resulting in an unsettling, heavy, glitchy, catchy rock record that also happened to make for one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen.
RIYL: Thee Oh Sees, Fuzz, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard
Various Artists – Southern Family
Genre: Country (folk/bluegrass)
In brief: TWO COUNTRY ALBUMS?? That’s right, y’all, your boy’s branching out. Southern Family was probably the sleeper hit of 2016 for me, mostly because I did not at all expect to love this as much as I do. I didn’t even know about its existence until Mr. Anthony Fantano (shout out The Needle Drop) gave it a good review on his channel. This thing is a compilation LP assembled by country-producing mastermind Dave Cobb, and each song features a different artist. It feels like a warm, safe quilt of wholesome, gorgeous country music that feels unified yet diverse.
RIYL: Chris Stapleton, The Civil Wars, Zac Brown Band
Vektor – Terminal Redux
Genre: Metal (thrash/space)
In brief: Beloved technical thrash metal band Vektor is back with their long-awaited third album, a sci-fi concept album about madness, revenge, and mind-control. It’s an experience worth having along with the album’s lyrics, which nicely explain the events that take place. The solos are like lasers blasting an enemy’s fleet, while the vocals are wretched and captivating. Terminal Redux is a long LP, but it’s so interesting and fun to play all the way through that the 70 minutes will fly by.
RIYL: Voivod, Havok, Gorguts
Weezer – Weezer (White Album)
Genre: Rock (pop/garage)
In brief: Weezer is on their second official hot-streak. Upon returning from a short recording break in 2014, the famous rock group released their greatest album since Pinkerton, which was titled Everything Will Be Alright in the End. If this is the end, then that prediction was 100% true. White Album is the fourth self-titled album from the band, and would be a fitting bookend to a career that has taken many dives. By shortening and simplifying things, Weezer managed to come through with an even more fantastic album than its predecessor, which is full of great hooks, interesting lyrics, and sticky melodies.
RIYL: Best Coast, Joyce Manor, old school Weezer
Xenia Rubinos – Black Terry Cat
Genre: Rock (Experimental/pop)
In brief: This is my first musical experience with NY singer/songwriter Xenia Rubinos, and boy is this a good one. Black Terry Cat is a catchy, infectious experience that blends an innumerable amount of genres into a seamlessly weird, unique record. The drumming on here is some of my favorite of the year, and some of my favorite songs of 2016 land on this album. Don’t sleep on Xenia and her ultra-tight grooves.
In brief: Noise pop stalwart Xiu Xiu covering the soundtrack to beloved television drama “Twin Peaks;” what’s the worst that could happen? Whatever it is, it didn’t happen here. Xiu Xiu’s rendition of Angelo Badalamenti’s original score is gorgeous, faithful, and damn frightening. The group, led by Jamie Stewart’s dramatic vocal, took just the right amount of creative liberty with this record, and it’s worth listening whether you watch the show or not.
In brief: YG got a lot of attention for his last album, My Krazy Life, and rightfully so. Still Brazy, the album’s follow-up, happens to be a much better, more well-held-together album. The songs on here are so good it’s kind of unfair to other rappers with lesser beats and weaker hooks. Also, “FDT” is this year’s defining millennial anti-GOP jam, and every other song on here is just as good.
RIYL: Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Ty Dolla $ign
5.0 Best EPs of 2016
Charli XCX – Vroom Vroom
Genre: Pop (dance/experimental)
In brief: In which famous UK dance-pop vocalist Charli XCX teams up with EDM provocateur SOPHIE for one of the strangest, catchiest short-players of the year. I love everything about this EP, and I can’t wait to have more music from these two.
RIYL: QT, Hannah Diamond, Danny L Harle
Clipping. – Wriggle
Genre: Hip-hop (noise/experimental)
In brief: In case you didn’t know, Daveed Diggs, the Tony-winning co-star of hit musical “Hamilton,” is the frontman of a group that has virtually no crossover appeal with “Hamilton,” a noise-rap collective called Clipping. These guys combine grating harsh noise, found sounds, and fairly traditional but expertly delivered gangsta rap. Following their studio debut two years ago, it’s nice to hear these guys doing exactly what they do best, which Wriggle is full of.
RIYL: Death Grips, Shabazz Palaces, Dalek
G.L.O.S.S. – Trans Day of Revenge
Genre: Punk (hardcore/lo-fi)
In brief: G.L.O.S.S. is necessary, especially in a time of increased visibility and discrimination of trans people. Following last year’s acclaimed demo, the group is back to kick Pride Month in the ass with Trans Day of Revenge, which presents all of seven minutes of gender-neutral-genitalia-to-the-wall hardcore punk. Ferocious lyrics and killer performances abound.
RIYL: Against Me!, Downtown Boys, All Dogs
Gorguts – Pleiades’ Dust
Genre: Metal (death/experimental)
In brief: Rather than follow their most recent masterpiece with another full-length album, recently re-booted Canadian group Gorguts returns with an EP, which is actually one 33-minute song. Months following its release, I still haven’t fully dissected this brain-buster of a song. I just know that it is absolutely fantastic, and I notice something new every time I listen.
RIYL: Death, At the Gates, Revenge
Kendrick Lamar – untitled unmastered
Genre: Hip-hop (R&B/jazz)
In brief: A year after the release of the modern classic To Pimp a Butterfly, Kendrick is back with a new EP that proves his demos to be better than most rappers’ full-length projects. King Kendrick can do no wrong. Long live King Kendrick.
Valentine’s Day is probably one of the year’s most polarizing holidays. Some of us embrace it and look forward to it, while some of us try to pretend it doesn’t exist and eat ice cream with our friends because we don’t have dates. Some of us just don’t really care at all. But no matter how you celebrate Valentine’s Day (or don’t), that shouldn’t stop you from listening to some great tunes.
I’ve been putting together a playlist over the last few months that’s full of songs that remind me of the soundtrack to some indie love-story movie. Some of them are upbeat, some of them are sad. Some of them don’t really seem to relate to love at all, but they’ll give you a nice dance break. Artists range from The Velvet Underground and John Mayer to Blackbird Blackbird and Youth Lagoon.
To be honest, this playlist is a bit of a mismatch of the moods that make up the different stages of a love story. So you can skip all the sad breakup songs and only listen to the happy ones, or vice versa. Or listen to all of the tracks, because they’re all good. Anyways, happy V-Day, Huskies.
If you’re a firm believer in the idea that less is more, then you probably should avert your ears from St. Lucia’s sophomore LP, Matter. If you love 80s-inspired synthpop that’s extra-synthy, extra-poppy, and extra-excited, you should keep reading.
Jean-Philip Grobler, the man behind the music, had few reservations in creating his newest production, which is his first release in over two years. The album, a follow-up to 2013′s When the Night, contains not only the same retro-shimmery sound that put St. Lucia on the map (bad geography pun, anyone?) in the first place, but somehow adds even more hyped-up, repetitive choruses, sometimes to the point of excess.
This album is a monster. It’s 11 tracks and 53 minutes of non-stop dance/power ballads, giving H&M stores a lot of new material to play over their speaker systems for years to come. It opens with “Do You Remember”, a tune with a similar sounding backing track to “Elevate”, the lead single from the first album (but hey, that’s the St. Lucia sound you came for, right?). The song is pretty catchy, and is probably one of the less “retro” sounding tracks on the album. For a minute, I actually thought I was listening to a new Bleachers or CHVRCHES single. “Dancing On Glass”, the album’s first single, is a huge favorite of mine, and was one of my top tracks during October. It’s catchy, it’s fun, and it still feels innovative and new, all things that remind us why this album was so highly anticipated. “The Winds of Change” is also pretty good, which is due to fun vocal hooks and choruses.
This balance of indie-pop and dance is where the album (and band) shine, but, as the album moves on, we see how Grobler moves away from this, walking a dangerous line between modern edginess and straight-up overproduction. This is apparent in “Rescue Me”, which appears to be a six-and-a-half minute long mashup(?) of just about every artist to ever play on a soundtrack to a John Hughes movie, “Thriller”, and Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Relax” (now I’m getting all excited thinking about Zoolander 2, dammit). By this point, the album is already starting to sound repetitive and tiring, and we’re only at track 8.
During the last few tracks of the album, Matter really loses its momentum. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that I don’t like the album, but I feel like there is a large proportion of weak tracks. This is amplified when the album is almost an hour long. However, I definitely have a few of the songs added to my playlists and listen to them frequently. One way that the sometimes excessive production might work is that it could translate really well to live shows(and St. Lucia will be at the Showbox in Seattle on March 2!).
So if you need a pick-me-up on a drab day, love synthpop, or still can’t let go of the fact that you were born too late to live in the 80s, don’t hesitate to give Matter a listen, and see what you think.
Bonnaroo-bound folk-pop quintet Lucius is on a beautiful trajectory. In 2014, they performed in a high
school classroom. In November of 2015, they played for the Alzheimer’s Society in Washington and participated in Bedstock to support MyMusicRx (an
organization that curates musical performances for hospitalized youth.) Now,
Lucius is becoming too popular for these intimate venues and more local causes – but
they are still wholeheartedly about the music – and that unadulterated passion manifests in their work.
The earliest version of the Lucius ensemble was a vocal duet: Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, who met at Berklee and began working together. Their resolution to sing melodies
in unison was a happy accident that has since become their auditory trademark. Mutual
friendships brought guitarists Andrew
Burri and Peter Lalish and
drummer Dan Molad into the mix, and
a sixties-esque synergy ensued. Jess and Holly dress identically for
performances, usually with corresponding coordination from Andrew, Peter and
Dan. But their sound is even more cohesive than their aesthetic; Lucius has
synchronized their groove while leaving room for the individual members to
contribute singular dynamics.
“Born Again Teen”, the first single on Lucius’s forthcoming album Good
Grief (out March 11th)Is
a romping celebration of a return to adolescent boisterousness, with a playful
video to match.
But the second single, “Madness”, is where the promise of
the new album truly lies. “Madness” is more complex and exhilarating than the
songs on Lucius’s previous album, Wildewoman
(which has a slightly more subdued merit of its own.) It is a climactic
declaration of stylistic progress. Richly
textured instrumentation constantly shifts beneath the melody, until thrilling
halts in sound announce the hopelessly catchy chorus. Violins you didn’t even
know you needed enter the mix midway through and give the song the flare of
innovation that is characteristic of Lucius’s whole discography. Soon after, a
surprising foray into a higher key (perhaps meant to demonstrate a fit of
madness) adds intrigue to the already captivating ride. Experience the brilliance
If Lucius’s new sound is this kinetic in studio, we can only
dream of what it will be like in concert. This group is a force of nature on
stage, always nailing vocal challenges and adding nuanced theatrics to live
renditions of their work. I had trouble choosing which live performance to
feature here because each one is inimitable. Ultimately I decided on the one
where I liked Jess and Holly’s look the best. Feast your eyes and
ears – and drive yourself to sweet, sweet, madness.
You probably didn’t know that you needed noisy, lo-fi garage rock made by an all-girl band from Spain, but here’s the thing: you do. Not to fret, though, there’s a way to satisfy this need: listen to Hinds.
Originally named Deers, Hinds was founded in Madrid as a duo by Carlotta Cosials and Ana García Perrote. The Singles “Bamboo” and “Trippy Gum” put the girls on the map before Ade Martín and Amber Grimbergen were added to the ensemble. The resulting group is cute, fun, and fresh, but not in an all-girl-bubblegum-pop-group kind of way. It’s more of a running-around-the-streets-of-Madrid-while-drinking-a-40oz-and-smoking-a-cigarette-while-chilling-with-your-besties kind of way. It might have been easier for me to just show you a video instead of typing out all those hyphens, though:
Hinds delivers a style of rock which seems to be male-dominated in recent years (don’t worry, Sleater-Kinney, I’m not forgetting you). In my opinon, it’s refreshing to listen to loud, angsty songs about boys for a change. Their newly-released debut album, Leave Me Alone, is already capturing the interest of music bloggers everywhere. The band’s also embarked on a European tour, and they’ll be here in Seattle on March 27th at the Sunset Tavern.
The band’s songs are catchy and just straight up fun. They’re perfect for singing along in a convertible with the top down while driving down the sunny California coast, or, more realistically, humming to yourself while you try not to slip on Red Square on the way to class on a rainy day. (But I’ll admit it: sometimes it’s hard to understand exactly what they’re saying. Not that it really matters.)
So, if you like good rock, girl-power, or need something to scream at the top of your lungs and stomp around to, look no further. These girls are the real deal. And, going back to how cute they are, they even have a cute arcade game on their website, complete with sangria and chilis. Yes, really. I’ll leave you now with a quote from one of their YouTube video descriptions that really resonated with me: “VIVA EL ROCK !! WOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHOOOO ROCK IS THE MISSION!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Notable tracks: “Bamboo”, “San Diego”, “Garden”
For fans of: Best Coast, King Tuff, The Velvet Underground, Alvvays, Courtney Barnett
If you know me, you know that I’m always looking for new indie pop that I can belt out in the shower (or in public…). This week, while scrolling on the new releases page on Spotify, I found Sprinter EP by Kaptan. I’d never heard of the band, and, as it turns out, not a lot of people have, either. However, after listening to the new release, I knew that this band was going places.
The EP starts out with “Way Out”, a catchy, upbeat tune with a sugary sweet riff that makes you want to dance in the same way as Wild Cub’s “Thunder Clatter”. “Everything” sounds like the perfect summer tune that you want to sing from the rooftops. “Closer Now” takes a much slower, more sultry position on the EP, featuring lots of layered vocals.
The entire EP definitely sounds like something a well-known indie pop band would be releasing, which just goes to show how much potential Kaptan has. Despite having less than 600 likes on Facebook, it seems like their Spotify exposure will be viral. They already have 260,000 monthly listeners, even though the EP only dropped five days ago.
The only place I’ve been able to find the EP so far is on Spotify, but stay tuned for Kaptan’s tracks to hit iTunes or SoundCloud soon.
(By the way, according to their Facebook page, the band is from Seattle, so that means you pretty much have no reason not to listen to them.)
For fans of: Grizfolk, Wild Cub, Pacific Air, MisterWives
After accepting the fact that rain would be a constant occurence during my time at UW, I also accepted the fact that I would need to create the perfect rainy day playlist. You know the kind I’m talking about– one with songs that are chill, low-profile, and even a little melancholy. Well, my playlist ended up just being full of one artist whose music met all of those requirements and then some: Day Wave.
The solo project of Oaklander Jackson Phillips, Day Wave combines bedroom rock and surf pop to form a delightfully dreamy brand of shoegaze. Phillips’s songs sound as muted and as beautiful as the polaroids on his Facebook page, and often focus on themes such as young love and loneliness. Catchy guitar riffs and vocals are commonplace as well, and are reminiscent of that OG indie sound we all love (Joy Division or The Cure, anyone?). It’s hard not to sing along to several of the songs’ choruses, including (but not limited to) “Drag” and “We Try But We Don’t Fit In”.
Day Wave’s first EP, Headcase, was just recently released. It features five tracks that really outline the sound of the band. In fact, all of the instruments on the record were played by Phillips himself. Two new singles have already dropped since the EP, as Day Wave begins to get into the live show scene (They’ve already scored opening for Albert Hammond, Jr. of The Strokes for a leg of his tour). A standout track is “Come Home Now”, which is more upbeat than other previously released songs.
All in all, Day Wave has something for everyone, whether you’re an avid surfer, skater, or Suzzallo studier. While no West Coast gigs are in the near future, we can definitely expect to see some more content from this band sometime soon. Until then, this live performance at KEXP should hold you over, because, hey, at least it’s Seattle-related, right?
For fans of: Joy Division, Albert Hammond, Jr., Hippo Campus, Mac Demarco