Five Notable Releases of the Week (2/24)
Some weeks it's tough to find five new albums I'm excited about, and others it's nearly impossible to narrow it down. This week is the latter, in a very big way. Though I suppose too much good music is a pretty good problem to have.
Before I get to the five I picked, I have to shout out a handful of honorable mentions. The new Dirty Projectors is as eccentric as you'd hope. The new Los Campesinos! is highly spirited and if you think their prime era is behind them, think again. Oddisee's new LP is more proof that no one raps and produces quite like he does. The new Feelies is a must-hear for longtime fans of this reliably-great band. King Woman's debut album on Relapse is a very promising dose of melodic doom that bests her debut EP. After the insanely prolific Future showed off his trap side on his self-titled LP, he goes R&B on his second LP in two weeks. And a few more: Thundercat, Pissed Jeans, Xiu Xiu, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Old 97's, Unearthly Trance, and The Luyas.
I told you there was a lot, and those don't count my five picks which you can read about below. What was your favorite release of the week?
Lætitia Tamko was born in Cameroon but she's been living in New York since she was a teenager, and a few years ago she started releasing music and playing shows as Vagabon. If you live here, there's a good chance you've seen her on a bill with Frankie Cosmos, Sad13, Waxahaechee, Pinegrove, or Mitski; or maybe you've heard her rap on Crying's album. She doesn't rap on Infinite Worlds, her debut album, but if you like anyone in that above list of artists, you'll probably like Vagabon. She has a bedroom-folk songwriting style but she doesn't stick exclusively to soft acoustic guitars. Sometimes she's making loud, crashing indie rock. Other times she's incorporating electronic beats, and on the album's longest song, "Mal á L'aise," she's working exclusively in laptop mode. There are some familiar sounds on Infinite Worlds, but what sets her apart from her peers and her influences is her voice. She's got truly powerful pipes and can belt it in a way that you really don't hear everyday. That said, Infinite Worlds is a humble-sounding album, and a quick listen too (just eight songs in 28 minutes). It's not an instantly world-conquering debut album, but it's the kind of debut that hints at many more great things to come.
It's tough to do anything with thrash that wasn't done in the genre's prime (roughly 1983-1990). Sometimes it feels like the only real reason to have new thrash bands is 'cause the OGs keep playing theaters (or stadiums) and we wanna see this music in a small club where it belongs. With Nightmare Logic, though, Power Trip have made a rare modern thrash record that really breathes new life into the genre. It's hard to put your finger on why exactly Power Trip feel so vital. All their riffs and whammy-bar solos come straight out of the '80s, but they manage to sound as hungry and fresh as many of their influences did 30+ years ago. Even when the riffs sound re-used, the passion is timeless. (Not to mention if you've seen Power Trip at one of those small clubs I was talking about, you know that passion comes through in their truly insane live show too.)
It was pretty clear that Power Trip were the real deal when they released their debut album, 2013's Manifest Decimation, but in hindsight it sounds like they were just figuring things out on that album compared to Nightmare Logic. It's sharper, clearer, and bigger in every way. The band sounds tighter now. As a vocalist and lyricist, Riley Gale sounds like he has more purpose than ever. And even if they're still rooted in a three-decade-old sound, Nightmare Logic doesn't feel like an homage. While Manifest Decimation sounded like it was produced to sound like it came out in 1984, Nightmare Logic has crisp, modern production. Power Trip are also fusing their influences more seamlessly here than on their debut. They're as much a punk band as they are a metal band, but they're not really doing the crossover revival thing that their current tourmates in Iron Reagan are doing. They're making music where you can't really tell the difference between metal and punk, more like Martyrdod in spirit than D.R.I. Part of this is because crossover often had a sense of humor; Power Trip are dead serious. Talking to Treble about the new album, Riley said, "A lot of it is me trying to navigate this unprecedented political landscape we’re seeing. This is all stuff I wrote before a guy like Trump was even considered a viable candidate. So now it’s just a kind of validation for what’s going on."
The Antlers may never make another album as popular as 2009's Hospice, but they continue to make music that's at least as interesting. Their latest album, 2014's Familiars, was one of my favorites of that year. Now frontman Peter Silberman is putting out his first proper solo album, Impermanence, and it's yet another progression for him creatively. Familiars was The Antlers' most somber and minimal album yet, but it sounds like pop music compared to Impermanence. A lot of the music on Impermanence is just Peter's clean electric guitar, some atmosphere in the background, and his hushed voice. It's not an album I recommend listening to if you're trying to multi-task, because it's got the power to take you away from whatever else you were doing. Take "New York," a song that crushes me every time I hear it. It's more a pensive song than a depressing one, but when the words come out of Peter's mouth they emit overwhelming sadness. It's truly compelling songwriting, and it's the kind where you can tell it's been honed over years and years (Peter's been releasing music for over a decade now). Longtime fans should be pleased with the advancements he makes on Impermanence, and here's to hoping it wins over some new fans too. It's certainly impressive enough to.
Fucked Up have been relatively quiet lately, and two of their members have been using the opportunity to revisit the beloved hardcore bands they were in previously. Ben Cook has been playing shows with No Warning again, and Fucked Up drummer Jonah Falco has re-assumed his role as guitarist in Career Suicide. Career Suicide aren't just back for live shows though. Today they release their first album in ten years, Machine Response. Hardcore doesn't have the best history for comebacks -- even the best bands of all time struggle with them (cough Black Flag cough) -- but Career Suicide have managed to put out a record that rips so hard that you'll forget any time has passed since their last LP. It's got cleaner, clearer production than their earlier work (without being "overproduced"), the guitar solos shred but never waste your time, the rhythm section is relentless. But the thing that makes Machine Response such a blast every time is vocalist Martin Farkas sounding like a fucking maniac on every song. He's pretty much the ideal punk frontman -- loud, pissed off, and taking no one's shit, with just the right amount of melody. Like with any great punk record, you can't listen to this and sit still.
Music nerds of a certain variety will always get a thrill from artists who can make pop music out of sounds that are grating to the average pop listener. Kate Bush does, it Bjork does it, and Tiny Hazard, the band led by Brooklyn singer/songwriter Alena Spanger, do it too. At its core, Greyland is the kind of folky pop that was big in the indie rock world around the time Sufjan released Illinoise, but Alena clearly has zero reserves about taking that sound in the weirdest and wildest directions she can think of. On "Sharkwhirl," she delivers a wordless vocal performance so crazed that it sounds like she's literally about to go nuts. On "Little One," she lets out a shriek over Dischord-style atonality one second and gently hums a cappella the next. Most songs are calmer than those two, but even on the calmer songs she's got a unique, uninhibited style that rarely sounds like anyone's other than her own.