Posture & The Grizzly
I Am Satan
Broken World Media
Posture & The Grizzly are, classically, a punk band. Their debut Busch Hymns cemented them as one, at least, and it’s not a bad guess from the uninitiated to think I Am Satan would be more of the same. However, look closer for clues and you’ll find evidence of planned change. Take their late 2014 EP, containing three songs which would eventially show on I Am Satan, departing from their original sound well before the new LP. Said LP is full of slower songs, and dominated with an indie-inspired overtone – dialing down the growling in exchange for shining clean vocals and subtle post-rock influences. I Am Satan is essentially this in spades – a drastic change in sound, yet still the same moody disposition from singer Jordan Chmielowski (henceforth known as “Jnasty”). It’s colourful, dynamic, and very aware of itself. Jnasty and crew swing and hit hard with this, as a record vaguely about love and love lost: singing “You can do so much better than me,” straight-up asking for someone to “delete me”. I Am Satan reaches out arms to the stars and longs for things to improve, begs for it to get better, and cries when it doesn’t seem to.
Wonderland, the first album by Demdike Stare since 2012’s Elemental, is an abstract expedition through dub, ambient, and the absolute purest essence of UK deep techno. Demdike Stare, having just come off the tail end of the 7 12″ Test Pressing series, are in their absolute prime – the duo have crafted something stepping up to the challenge of expanding the current field-of-view on techno. It’s profound and brooding, with echoing tailored beats painting reverie. Wonderland is malleable, bending jungle and ’90s dancehall influence with dark, textured ambience. “Sourcer” throbs up and down, a winding jungle path – “Hardnoise” exploring ten-and-a-half minutes of uneasy environments and beats. It’s full of twists and turns, picking you up and dropping you off, letting you fend for yourself before it throws another colour and texture at you to absorb. It’s an incredibly enjoyable record and easily the most limber of their catalogue, stretching around the mind and gathering countless sounds into a delectable slice of music.
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After a rightfully killer 12″, Not Waving has finally delivered his Diagonal debut album, Animals. London-based producer Alessio Natalizia hit it out of the park with this one – a dazzling display of colours, bright and sharp, on an incredibly well-crafted album. Natalizia’s newest LP is an experimental hunk of electronic beat music, techno, and finely entwined post-punk influence – from the noisy, brittle “24” to the slow-burning bass twang on “Tomorrow We Will Kill You”. String candy “Punch” spirals into the quivering “Gutsy”, and then properly pounds with “Face Attack”. There’s no lack of experimentation on the album, from the incorporated rhythmic screams on “24”, to the shrill synthesisers and what sounds like an electronic drill present on “Work Talk”. Key elements of ambient and drone are spotted here and there, muddied in EBM and techno, tinted with the technicolor splotches of the eponymous cover. It’s rightfully one of the best experimental electronic albums of the year, and is the pinnacle of Natalizia’s work as Not Waving.
The Fall Of Troy
I think I can speak for every The Fall Of Troy fan that there was a slight air of uncertainty surrounding their recent reunion. Would there come another album as divisive as In The Unlikely Event? Would they stay together for enough time to even release new music? Would the new music sound completely different? It was compounded by no major label announcing any plans with the band, no teasers for albums, nothing. Fortunately, their surprise self-released fifth album OK is an absolutely phenomenal example of what the band can produce if they put themselves to it. OK is quite mathy, with riffs and mantras filling songs, echoing back to the catchy Doppelgänger but incorporating a well-received modern twist. Electronic elements and heavier, more hardcore guitars make OK a monstrous thing, a goddamn beautiful return to form that easily holds ground even beside their most notable past work. “Auto Repeater” and “A Single Word” could be satisfyingly placed high on a list of “best TFOT songs”, and others like “401k” and “Suck-o-matic” expand the band’s sound into territory that I would absolutely adore hearing more of in the future. We don’t know how long they’ll be back together for, or if there will be new music after OK; but hey, at least this album is really damn good.
On Goodness, The Hotelier wanted to write about love. Not like breakup-love, or admiration-love, but… love, as in caring love. Love of onesself, love for each other, love for the world, and the search for said love. Immediately, the cover is the first element of Goodness which stands out to listeners – a group of consenting aged persons who represent a careless, warm existence within the circumstances; a collection of people representing the Hotelier’s search for love. It’s in no way an explicitly sexual cover, no more than naked statues in a museum would be. Release your judgments for Goodness. A soft expanse over a double album length finds solace in the grooves, quiet songs like “Opening Mail For My Grandmother” and “Fear Of Good” singing, blending with the wind carried through the moving “Goodness pt. 2”, “Settle The Scar” and “Soft Animal”. Goodness is found in the Hotelier’s third album, searching through the world and each other for some semblance of childhood youth, innocence, sympathy over their loss. “Goodness is nowhere – but we are following it to where we have to be.”
Pye Corner Audio
Stasis is Pye Corner Audio’s second LP on electronic outfit Ghost Box, a spiritual successor to 2012’s magnificent Sleep Games. Martin Jenkins, the head technician behind the Pye Corner Audio name, has released numerous other albums on other labels in the space between the two Ghost Box releases – most recently, 2015’s minimalist techno exhibition Prowler. The delivery on Stasis is, fittingly, in the same ballpark as his prior Ghost Box LP; an experimental, abstract, ambient-leftfield release, presenting luscious soundscapes and progressions. Old-style analog mist shrouds the album, using techniques which could be likened to 80s dystopian synth soundtracks. It’s an elegant return to usual mysterious form, practiced on Sleep Games and honed on Stasis by the Head Technician, Pye Corner Audio.
Flower Girl Records
In the three years after the release of Old Gray’s debut An Autobiography, a lot has happened, and a lot has disappeared. People have changed, people have disappeared. Loss is not an easy thing to deal with, especially when one is dealing with depression themself. Slow Burn, Old Gray’s pounding second album, is a very heavy one – talking in an extraordinarily stark and raw manner upon depression, harm, suicide, and the loss of people you are close to. It hides no feelings, no thought is too revealing for the album – lines such as “Put down the knife. I love you too much to let you take your life,” define hopelessness and the far-too-real event many far too many people have been through. The topics in the album are dark, full of blinding emotion expressed by the utterly devastatingly loud instrumentation and fierce vocals. The stark depiction of deep depression in “pulpit”, the deadly aftermath of a car crash in “blunt trauma”, the wholly consummate poetry uttered in “like blood from a stone”… every experience detailed is as absolute and as terrifying as it could be in music. There is not a single album on this list that expresses depression and terrible distress as realistically and starkly as Slow Burn.
Tired Of Tomorrow
Philadelphia genre-defying rock band Nothing have absolutely killed it with their latest work. Tired of Tomorrow is an anthem of antipathy, compulsiveness, depression, and generally trying to figure out how to live in the place we’ve ended up in life. Coming out of major success with their landmark debut Guilty Of Everything, frontman Dominick Palermo found multiple bouts of adversity while attempting to push out the second LP with his band. Palermo describes Tired of Tomorrow as a diary, detailing “whatever I am going through, when I am at my worst.” Inspired by the likes of shoegaze, punk, grunge, and alternative rock; the record goes through songs fueled with loud bursts of massively fuzzed-out distortion, paired with floating, reverberant vocals. A beautifully gorgeous follow-up with intricately emotional lyrics, Tired of Tomorrow is just as much of a future classic as its debut counterpart became.
Oathbreaker have pushed every boundary of black metal with their groundbreaking third LP, Rheia. The album, over an hour long, swings back and forth between vocalist Caro Tanghe’s supple clean vocals and the brutal attack of her blackened screams. Melodically being a much larger exploration into post-rock and post-metal than their prior work, everything is much more drawn out and extreme. Extraordinarily quiet lows pair perfectly with ravaging highs, in pairings like the opener couple “10:56” with “Second Son Of R”, “Stay Here / Accroche-Moi” with “Needles In Your Skin”, and the closing triad of “I’m Sorry, This Is”, “Where I Live”, and “Where I Leave”. Her quiet vocals echo folky black metal, swinging into subdued shoegaze inspiration and punk pounding. Passionate, charged emotions seep from every corner of the record, with standout moments like the buildup and ending to “Second Son Of R” shivering every bone in the body. Rheia is a masterpiece, pushing the definition of any label you could pair with it, changing tempo and timbre with persistent, unrelenting force.
American Football (LP2)
It’s not often you see bands catch lighting in a bottle twice. I’m sure, if you’ve ever remotely touched the words “midwest emo”, that you’re aware of American Football’s eponymous self-titled album – a timeless classic now, that much is indisputable. You may also be aware the band broke up very shortly after the initial release, leaving the album to grow to cult classic within the time the band had apart, working on other projects. It was to great joy when American Football reunited in 2014, to play countless sold-out shows and release a nostalgic, wistful music video for “Never Meant”. It’s the announcement of this album, then, that’s the most surprising – how could they possibly follow up such a classic? Well, they did it, and they did it quite well. The self-titled LP2 captures the feeling of nostalgia so many have for their younger selves, relates feelings of detachment with how everything’s changed over time. Softly singing, Mike Kinsella delivers vocals much more controlled than their first album – evident by his evolution in solo project Owen, although an Owen album this is not. Ripe with odd time signatures and polyrhythms, LP2 is a carefully designed piece – every drum rhythm and guitar riff meticulously written and practiced out. Songs like “Give Me The Gun” and “Home Is Where The Haunt Is” perfectly capture crisis, uncertainty about one’s life, and a lofty desire to somehow fix all the messes life created. American Football are truly a timeless band.
Upon the announcement that Florida post-hardcore band Frameworks were signed to Deathwish, it was clear that something great was on the horizon. Their phenomenal EP released right before the signing, Time Spent, is an incredible taste of a refined Frameworks sound. Smother, then, proceeded to drop in early July and destroy any expectation fans may have had for the album. Post-hardcore, punk, grunge, and all sorts of genre influences blend into something utterly unique and individual – the massive improvement is immediately apparent on opener “Fear Of Missing Out”. The mastering on debut album Loom left a bit to be desired, and Smother improves upon that too – with clear, booming drums paired perfectly behind spectacular guitars, and the especially idiosyncratic vocals of Luke Pate bringing the album to stardom. The emotion behind the delivery is as potent as a gas fire, ready to ignite and flame up any second. “Purge” presents a bright, major-key dreamscape alongside this destruction, immediately trailing into the bombastic “Song Of Myself” and the grungy “Tinnitus”. “Trite” starts filthy, with a frenetic melody rumbling along with Pate’s impeccable vocals. Closer “The New Narcissistic American Dream” ends Smother on a high note, with reverberating guitars and a pacing beat flowing into a fading melody, which pounds out the ending phrase to one of the most eloquent and essential hardcore releases of the decade.
Touché Amoré’s fourth album, Stage Four, is an album primarily about documenting frontman Jeremy Bolm’s experiences and emotions regarding his mother dying from stage four cancer – hence the album name. It’s a bit of a mournful concept, and yeah, it does get somewhat down at times – but Bolm tries to keep his spirit up throughout the album, feeling as it’s his “humble form of catharsis.” The languid concept album rolls around with Touché’s now-classic vocal delivery and guitar style, adding some cleaner sections depending on emphasis and song. What’s really special here, though, is the story told alongside the backing instruments.
Opener “Flowers and You”, sets the tone for the album. Bolm sings about watching his mother’s condition worsen, and his inability to do anything to make it better – alongside a major regret of his: how he took the time for granted, and didn’t spend enough time talking with her. “New Halloween” represents his reflection upon a year past, how he wishes he could have been more present, and how he still finds it hard to live without her. He sings “Somehow it’s already been a year, embracing all diversions to make this feeling disappear. Now I just feel you everywhere.” Following is the rolling “Rapture”, wishing he could return to before he lost his mom, thinking back on how he thought his life could only improve. “Displacement” and “Benediction” note how Bolm feels conflicted about his mother’s belief in God, unsure of what he believes – “I couldn’t worship the god that let her fall apart… But I know she’s looking out for me.” Standout songs “Eight Seconds” and “Palm Dreams” complete the center of the album: on the former, Bolm recalls the phone call he received, while he was onstage touring, telling him his mom had died. On the latter, Bolm wishes he could know why his mom made the decision to move to California, noting in an interview, “If this song inspires anyone to ask the questions they’ve never asked their loved ones, I’d call it a success.” The album continues on, until the last song, “Skyscraper”, where Bolm tries to find closure with his mother’s death.
At the very end of the album, Bolm included the very last voicemail his mother left to him, a voicemail he himself couldn’t bear to listen to until months after his mom died. Stage Four is a heartbreaking, intimate album that will connect if you’ve ever experienced anyone who’s suffered through the hell that is cancer. It helped me reconnect with my mom, who only recently recovered from early-stage cancer, and helped me realise the connection I had with her wasn’t something to take for granted. It’s a beautiful, melancholic album, and will no doubt become one of the most impactful albums of this decade.