Five Notable Releases of the Week (6/10/16)
It’s a pretty wild weekend for live music if you live in and around NYC. It’s the Northside Festival, which means you can see a double bill of Conor Oberst and Kacey Musgraves! You can see Grouper twice! You can see Brian Wilson play the second best Beach Boys album Pet Sounds in full! Or maybe you’re off to Asbury Park for Punk Rock Bowling so you can see the fucking Descendents who just put out a song off their first album since 2004 (and Cock Sparrer and the reunited Dag Nasty and FLAG and Subhumans and just like, holy shit this lineup, right??). As you’re commuting to all these rad shows, you’ll need something for your iPod and here’s five suggestions of quality albums out this week.
Check out my picks below. What was your favorite release of the week?
The band Isis is no more, but frontman Aaron Turner (also of Old Man Gloom and Mammifer) has been staying active with his band Sumac, which also includes bassist Brian Cook (Botch, These Arms Are Snakes, Russian Circles) and drummer Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists). Last year they released their debut album The Deal on Profound Lore, and now they’re already back with a new album and a new label. (It’s once again the great Kurt Ballou on the boards though.) Sumac is maybe the heaviest of all of Aaron’s bands, with harsher screams throughout and not much of the prettier atmospheric stuff that Isis was known for, and What One Becomes is their most refined statement yet. The Deal was a rawer, filthier record, but they sound sharper and livelier on What One Becomes. The album’s almost an hour long, with one song (“Blackout”) crossing the seventeen-minute mark, but it manages to feel concise and whip by. That’s not to say it’s fast music by any means — this band still has Aaron Turner in slowed-down sludge mode — but it’s so constantly interesting and ever-changing that it never drags. The pedigree of Sumac’s rhythm section doesn’t hurt either. Brian Cook spent years playing schizophrenic mathcore and Nick Yacyshyn is a pummeling skins-master in a hardcore band, and they can’t help but let some of that show here. It’s noticeable on all the songs, but never more so than around the 10-minute mark of the aforementioned “Blackout,” where the whole thing evolves into mind-melting complexity and speed.
Pittsburgh’s The Gotobeds aren’t the only band around putting the “punk” in “post-punk,” but they might be having the most fun doing it. If it wasn’t clear from their punny album title that these guys like to have a good time, it’s instantly clear from the music itself. Sometimes bands pulling from this particular world of art punk (their band name is a reference to Wire’s drummer) practice brainy restraint, but The Gotobeds know how to let loose. Noisy feedback, big rock riffs, and shouts that turn into screams are all fair game for a Gotobeds song. And their rhythm section has the strong, driving backbone you need for that kind of stuff. Blood // Sugar // Secs // Traffic isn’t all rippers though. “Red Alphabet” is calm and melodic, “Glass House” is drunken swaying garage rock. Songs like those add a nice change of pace to the album, and also prove that The Gotobeds aren’t just taking cues from any one particular sound. Individual parts of songs may sound familiar for sure, but these guys can throw it all together in a way that’s very much their own.
You can catch The Gotobeds this Saturday during the Northside Festival.
Hot Chip’s appeal is of course in their ability to make dancefloor bangers, but something that’s helped keep them consistently interesting over the years is singer Alexis Taylor’s ability to inject a real dose of human songwriting into those robotic grooves. For his new piano-and-vocal solo album, he shows off that human-ness with absolutely no frills at all. If you were unsure at all that Alexis could deliver melodies that can stand on their own without a danceable beat, Piano should erase those doubts. There’s some new music written specifically for this album on here, but there’s also reworked versions of some of his older songs (like Hot Chip’s “So Much Further To Go”) and covers (like Elvis Presley’s “Crying In The Chapel” and Crystal Gayle’s “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue”). “The idea with this record was to choose songs of my own and others’ that were personal to me and to document live performances which were intimate and unadorned. I wanted to reduce everything to the barest elements, record a great piano well and do as little as possible to the recordings EQ or effects-wise,” Alexis said. The approach works, and Alexis has his soothing and instantly-familiar voice to thank. Hot Chip have always been a band you can throw on at a party, but with Piano, Alexis Taylor now also gives you the album you can rely on at 4 AM when you’re falling asleep on someone’s floor.
Maybe the alternative world considered Garbage a little too mainstream in their ’90s prime, but like a lot of bands from that era that you can say that about, they only seem to gain more respect and more fans each year. Also like a lot of ’90s bands, their two albums from that decade (1995’s self-titled and 1998’s Version 2.0) are stone cold classics but nothing that followed ever managed to reach that level. Also like a lot of those ’90s bands, they’re touting their latest record as a return to form. It’s their second album since reuniting, following 2012’s less-than-great Not Your Kind of People, and you know what? It may actually be their best album since Version 2.0. It does in fact return to the sound of those first two albums, somewhere between trip-hop, grunge and pop, and it’s hard to get mad at that in a time where “sounds like 1995″ is used as a compliment for new bands. Shirley’s voice sounds great, and the production sticks to that classic Garbage formula, staying away from the hard rock direction they eventually headed in. It’s probably not another classic for them or anything, but it’s been a good time to be excited about Garbage — last year they toured their debut in full, and recent/upcoming tours are with cool modern artists who probably owe them some debt like Screaming Females, Torres and Kristin Kontrol — so it’s nice to get a pretty solid album out of them too.
Wye Oak went in a synthier, poppier directon with their last album Shriek, but the new surprise-released Tween (which they say contains songs written around the same time as Shriek but that didn’t fit on that album) is a bit of a return to the sound Wye Oak fans fell in love with in the first place. It’s a short album, with eight songs including one that’s mostly an atmospheric intro track, and the whole thing is instantly satisfying. They tap into Fleetwood Mac-y pop on “If You Should See,” moodier rock on “Too Right,” expansive prog-pop on “Better (For Esther),” and head-bopping acoustic pop on the closing track “Watching the Waiting.” Tween accomplishes a lot with a little, and has me hitting that “replay” button every time it ends.