Five Notable Releases of the Week (12/7)
We're officially in the final month of 2018 and the album release schedule has significantly slowed down for the year. Album of the Year lists continue to roll in (from artists, critics, the Grammys, Spotify, and more), and we'll be posting a few lists of our own here on BrooklynVegan in the coming weeks. (Meanwhile, I posted my favorite metal albums of 2018 on Invisible Oranges. Check it out!)
Even with a much slower release schedule, there are still a handful of worthy things out today. Check out my picks below, but first a few honorable mentions: Van Morrison, XXL (Xiu Xiu + Larsen), Gucci Mane, and Ice Cube.
What was your favorite release of the week?
Juan Mendez has been releasing techno singles under one moniker or another for about two decades, and he's had his Silent Servant project going steady since 2006, though Shadows of Death and Desire is only his second album under the name, following his 2012 debut Negative Fascination. And it seems pretty clear that he wasn't going to do another full-length until he had something truly new to say, as Shadows is not at all a repeat of its predecessor. It's still rooted in a similar type of jittery techno, but Silent Servant goes in a clear post-punk/industrial direction this time around, and it makes for a killer record that can transport you out of your seat right to 3 AM at a goth club. The new direction is most pronounced on the vocal-led "Harm In Hand," which could pass as an actual industrial band if you didn't know any better, but Silent Servant also blends those vibes with beat-focused dance music on songs like "Damage" and "24 Hours." Shadows of Death and Desire's best song, though, is one that isn't like anything else on the album. Closer "Optimistic Decay" is a song that you can legitimately call "pretty," with its string-like swells and the ethereal, dream pop-like vocals from Juan's Tropic of Cancer bandmate Camella Lobo. It'd be a great song no matter where it was sequenced, but it's especially effective as the album's grand finale, making the payoff from the more grueling songs extra worth it.
Graf Orlock is one of the craziest and weirdest projects of Justin Smith (who also plays in Ghostlimb, Dangers, and other projects and runs Vitriol Records). In case you're unfamiliar, he actually uses a fake name in this band (Jason Schmidt), and all of the long-running band's albums are in some way based on movies (as is the band's name). For this new album, Graf Orlock say the album is exclusively based on films released in 2017, and are "rumored to range from John Wick 2 to Blade Runner 2049." Even if the lyrics can be a little tongue-in-cheek, Graf Orlock deliver in a way that couldn't sound more serious (and it's not easy to understand what they're saying anyway). Without paying attention to the themes, Examination of Violent Cinema, Volume 1 is just a hardcore punk record, and it's raw, ripping, and a lot of fun. It's also got metallic breakdowns and grindy blasts and other moments of heavy fury thrown in to shake things up. As far as unpolished, unpretentious hardcore goes, this is basically as ideal as it gets.
The Out_Circuit is the band led by Frodus bassist Nathan Burke, and they returned today with their first album in a decade (and third overall), Enter The Ghost, released on Frodus frontman Shelby Cina's Swedish Columbia label. While The Out_Circuit always had a more atmospheric indie rock side, some of Nathan's more aggressive post-hardcore roots remained on the band's first two albums, but that's not the case on Enter The Ghost. This one sees him diving head-first into ethereal dream pop and psychedelia, often sounding closer to bands like Mew and Sigur Ros than anything Nathan had done before. Beauty Pill's Rachel Burke (Nathan's wife) provides harmonies all over the album, and the counterpoint that she offers really adds a lot to these songs and helps give them a much wider range. Nathan also brings in a few guest vocalists, including Beauty Pill leader Chad Clark, and they help shake things up and widen the spectrum of sound as well. But Enter The Ghost is really Nathan's baby -- he wrote, performed, and produced almost the entire thing himself -- and the sounds he got on this one are really effective. The swelling synths, the chilled-out percussion -- it all makes for a very compelling album. And Nathan's own voice has never been in finer form. Though he came up playing in punk bands, this much calmer sound suits him very well at this point in his career. It's always exciting to see a veteran musician evolve into something new, and Nathan Burke has done that with Enter The Ghost.
While (former?) Odd Future members like Tyler, the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt continue to forge unpredictable paths that don't sound much at all like Odd Future's early days, their old groupmate Domo Genesis has been honing a more traditional approach. His new six-song Facade Records EP is a short but rock-solid collection of songs that sound like they could've come straight out of '90s West Coast rap, especially the G-Funk-channeling "Online" and title track. The whole thing was produced by Mike & Keys, so it's got a very cohesive sound, and Domo says it was largely inspired by his grandfather falling ill and the death of Mac Miller. You can hear that pain influencing Domo's rhymes, which feel more sinister than what he's done in the past. "Get your fucking skin crawling / Till death, destined to live, had to revenge often / My heart black as a lit cig, the wrist flick killing all in spite of a n**** just on some sick shit," he spits on the psychedelic "Creepshow," and that should give you an idea of the kind of mode he's in on this EP. That song also opens with an equally furious verse from the great IDK, and other quality guest appearances include Cozz's fast-talking verse on "Power Trip," and Buddy straddling the line between singing and rapping over the dark, trap-ish production of "Consecutive Normal Punches." Facade Records is over and done with too quickly to make any kind of grand statement, but it leaves you with the reminder that this underrated Odd Future member still has some tricks up his sleeve.
Last year, goth-punk vets AFI returned with AFI (The Blood Album), which was touted as a return to their classic Sing the Sorrow (down to its red and black artwork), and it actually had a few bangers that could bring you back to the Sing the Sorrow era. But it also lacked the consistency of their early work and tended to drag on for too long. Their new The Missing Man EP is cut from the same cloth, and I'm not sure if it's necessarily better, but the brief release works to their advantage. It's just five songs, and all of them have that classic early 2000s AFI sound. It's a nice, quick dose of AFI that reminds you why you fell in love with them. It's still kind of a watered-down version that lacks the depth and the charm of Sing the Sorrow, but when Davey Havok lets out those trademark high-pitched yelps, longtime fans will feel like they're being wrapped in a warm, fuzzy (or cold, gothy) blanket of nostalgia. The fast-paced songs like "Trash Bat," "Break Angels" and "Get Dark" are the easiest to like, but the "Leaving Song Pt. 1" vibes of the slowed-down title track are a nice touch too. I'd love to hear this band really recapture the magic of Sing the Sorrow (or The Art of Drowning or Black Sails in the Sunset), but this "almost-there" return to form will have to do for now. Hey, at least it's better than Burials.