Tuesday, April 15, 2014

New Music Tuesday! Hello, New Music!

Triptykon's Melana Chasmata; art by HR Giger

Tuesday is the day record labels release new albums. It's just how it is. But why? Why not Friday? Hell if I know.

Conveniently though, with new music consolidated to one day of the week and music streaming services offering just about everything, I've made a habit of listening to new releases every Tuesday, be they from beloved artists or totally unfamiliar ones. And today I'm deep into procrastinating - no, my taxes are done, it's not that, I just can't focus, except on music. So I went with the flow (my fatal flaw!) and jotted down reviews of what I've listened to today. Maybe I'll make this a habit, too.


Chet Faker, Built on Glass, Downtown Records

From the label that brings us Die Antwoord, Miike Snow, and the Scissor Sisters comes this minimal, deep, downtempo/R&B record that’s solidly likable but awkwardly devoid of sexiness or soul. I’d never heard of Chet Faker before, and made it through a full listen before looking him up. SPOILER ALERT: his website describes him as “an Australian electronica musician,” and he is indeed a bearded, white hipster.

Regardless, on Built on Glass, his US debut, he deftly commands silence, empty space, and spaciousness in ways reminiscent of the xx. These are negative space songs, as much if not more defined by what isn’t there than by what is. Unfortunately, “isn’t” includes panty-dropping, baby-making, or even back-seat-snogging. The closest he gets to sexy is on 1998, the housey, languid stand-out. But who knows, maybe he’ll find his groove on future releases, because this is a great album otherwise.

NEEDTOBREATHE, Rivers in the Wasteland, Atlantic Records
Another previously-unknown band. I couldn’t make it through all four-and-a-half minutes of the first track, Wasteland, a white-boy-emotive, Jack Johnson-esque coffeehouse lament. But the second track, State I’m In, an upbeat cross between the Beach Boys and Bruce Springsteen (seriously), redeems somewhat. Track three, Feet, Don’t Fail Me Now, is a serviceable White Stripesy blues pop ditty, and then I stopped listening, because even with divergent styles in the first three tracks, this record is still boring and overproduced.

The 1975, The 1975, Interscope
A beefed-up rerelease of their 2013 self-titled debut. I've been hearing of these guys for a while now but this is my first listen. I’m surprised it took me this long; I was born in 1975 and I love 70s music and assumed from their name they would be 70’s-ish and, I don’t know, just like my own personal sound or something. So wrong. The 1975 is synthpop, straight up. And I like synthpop too. I’ve been bumping much Empire of the Sun and Wild Beasts lately. But this? I hate this. Hate. It’s spuriously perky, cloyingly sanitized, the singing is gratingly over-stylized, and how synthpop can be overproduced I don’t know but these guys pull it off. Thanks for sullying my favorite year, assholes.

The Afghan Whigs, Do to the Beast, Subpop; Shonen Knife, Overdrive, Good Charamel Records
I can’t remember being particularly stoked on Afghan Whigs or Shonen Knife in the 90s. I liked them fine, had nothing against them. They were just part of the landscape, but friends with good taste were always excited about them. Pretty much this still stands with Do to the Beast and Overdrive. They’re, like, fine. They’re good.

SHONEN KNIFE ADDENDUM: Sure the first track is called “Bad Luck Song”, but you will never convince me they’re not saying “butt plug song”. Their own coy little joke?

Triptykon, Melana Chasmata, Century Media
Although I'd never heard of Triptykon, the HR Giger cover art (pictured above) gave me a good sense I was getting into something heavy. Their bio on Rdio describes them as "another avant-garde extreme metal proposition" from Switzerland, the album includes titles like "Tree of Suffocating Souls" and "Demon Pact", and track lengths range from 5:50 to 12:24. @annus_mirabilis recently tweeted "The academic blunder that equates classifying things with understanding them"; in regard to Melana Chasmata, I will not make that blunder. I won't describe this album or even say it's good or bad because I don't really understand it. It is understandable, sure - there are plenty of well-informed reviews out there - but because I'm completely unfamiliar with Swiss avant-garde extreme metal (ahem), I'm going to leave classification alone.

But as it turns out, I enjoyed this album pretty much more than anything else I listened to today, save some old Kate Bush this morning. Suffice it to say, it is heavy, dark, lots of shouting, machine-gun double bass drumming, big distorted guitars chug-chug-chugging, and is either blistering fast or dirgey slow. Beyond that, like, uh, it's well mixed?

TL;DR: I don't know what it is, but I like it.


Little Dragon, Paris, Seven Four Entertainment/Republic

I love Little Dragon so much, but this track gives me zero happiness. It sounds like it’s on the wrong speed, and has a sense of urgency that’s uncomfortable instead of energizing. Also, it’s mixed really weird, like everything’s the wrong volume in the mix. Whoever produced this is a chump totally unworthy of Little Dragon.

Overall Assessment: not a strong day for random new music. Nonetheless, I put all the albums and the single into a Rdio playlist in case you want to confirm today's mediocracy. Have a nice listen. 

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