Five Notable Releases of the Week (8/12)
It's a good week for side projects of major bands. One of my picks is a band with members of The National and Menomena, and another is a solo album from a Broken Social Scene co-founder. More on those, and my other three picks, below.
What was your favorite release of the week?
There's been no lack of melodic, epic doom metal of high quality coming out over the past few years. Pallbearer (who have a surprise EP out this week) may be the biggest and one of the best, but they're hardly the only modern band doing this kinda thing. Last year we got the great debut album from Crypt Sermon, and this year we get one from Spirit Adrift (following an EP from a few months ago). Not to mention bands like Candlemass, whose pioneering Epicus Doomicus Metallicus turned 30 this year, are still active. :25]
Spirit Adrift is the project of Nate Garrett, who also plays in the Relapse-signed death metal band Gatecreeper and the genre-defying Take Over and Destroy, and he started the project after detoxing from alchoholism. Unlike his other projects, this one's very much coming from a similar place as Candlemass and their many disciples. Even if it's not exactly reinventing the wheel, this sound is so addictive and Garrett has the pipes and the riffs to make Chained to Oblivion more than just another average doom album. Especially with this type of metal, writing a good pop song is often more important than bringing the brutality, and Garrett absolutely knows how to do that. Whether or not you're a doom nerd, if you like your choruses with a little meat on them, this album is worth hearing.
John Dwyer's ever-shifting garage rock band Thee Oh Sees have a zillion albums so far (give or take), and this year's A Weird Exits is not exactly what you may expect from the band. It's their first album with their current two-drummer lineup, and as Bill pointed out, it goes into krautier territory and is often a very freaky record. Live, Thee Oh Sees are all about force, but this album is heady and trippy in a way that may have you feeling mesmerized rather than have you bouncing around. Though it may upset some people to hear me suggest this, I'd say the album has as much or more in common with the jam band scene as the garage rock scene. The album really takes its time, and the parts where it wins me over most are the parts where the rhythm section is just pounding away and Dwyer is off in space doing who-knows-what. Dwyer's singing is always on point -- in case you're unfamiliar, he has a great '60s-style psych rock voice -- but it's the extended instrumental passages where it feels like this record can really blow minds.
(Souncloud via Spin)
Last year, National frontman Matt Berninger and former Menomena member Brent Knopf released a very solid album as EL VY. That was actually one of two spinoffs of those two bands to release an album that year though, as Pfarmers -- the project of The National's Bryan Devendorf and Menomena's Danny Seim (with Sufjan/St Vincent collaborator Dave Nelson on horns) -- also released Gunnera. This year, Pfarmers are back with album #2, Our Puram. With Berninger singing, El VY naturally sounds more like The National, but Pfarmers is very much up Menomena's alley. Danny Seim sings in both bands, and you'll instantly recognize his style from some of Menomena's best-known songs on this Pfarmers album. It shouldn't be a surprise that this lineup would make a good record, but just in case you're afraid it's a tossed-off side project, it isn't. There really isn't too much music like this. Seim's voice is calming, but the music behind it is anything but. This album is all over the place, with polyrhythmic percussion, various sound effects, and more, making it sound much more spastic than the vocals alone would have you guess. It's truly spirited stuff from a group of musicians who just never slow down.
of Montreal have become quite a consistent band, if not a bit of a predictable one, and the sound you know and love is all over their fourteenth album Innocence Reaches, but they're deliberately exploring new ground this time too. There's still hints of late '60s Beatles and '70s Pink Floyd, but main member Kevin Barnes also namedropped Jack Ü (aka Skrillex & Diplo), Chairlift, and Arca as influences this time around. A more modern, danceable take on psychedelic pop has been of Montreal's game for years now, but you can definitely hear the new influences in the bass-y electronics that flesh out this record. As ever, he's making fun songs that go down easy without succumbing to cheap thrills or mass appeal.
Like fellow beloved Canadian indie rockers Wolf Parade, Broken Social Scene made their live comeback this year (in the US at least), but that isn't stopping founding members from working on other projects. Brendan Canning returns this week with Home Wrecking Years, his followup to 2013's You Gots 2 Chill. He recorded it with fellow BSS members Sam Goldberg and Justin Peroff, plus Liam O’Neil of The Stills. His stuff here isn't a thousand miles away from BSS, though definitely on the more subdued and less communal side. There seems to be some nostalgia in the air for that type of indie rock -- with those BSS and Wolf Parade comebacks, plus Land of Talk's, the Okkervil River nostalgia tour and more -- so it's a good time to get a new album like this one.