There was always an undercurrent of darkness beneath the neon veneer of the Eighties. We just weren’t sure how to label it. We had Gothic music, we had dark alternative, we had the beginnings of darkwave, but those left a pretty wide berth. We had to listen to music without necessarily putting a label on it.
I wish we did that more often, now.
There’s a delightful ramshackle quality to the newest album by Holly Golightly & The Brokeoffs. All Her Fault has a spontaneous, lively sound, and wickedly witty lyrics. It’s the kind of album that is not only instantly engaging, but also gets better with each listen.
Morning Phase, Beck’s newest album and his first on Capitol Records, has been described as a companion piece to 2002′s Sea Change. Since I hadn’t heard Sea Change in a while, I thought I’d compare the two albums. What I discovered surprised me.
Present Tense, the latest album from Wild Beasts, is like the feeling of holding your breath and fighting back tears while watching an emotionally distressing movie in a quiet theater. You want to give in to your emotions, but the strain has a profoundly exquisite painfulness. Present Tense is darker and more somber than the band’s previous two albums and features far less florid prose. This doesn’t mean the lyrics are any less insightful; it simply means listeners must work harder to decipher them and reveal the beauty within. There’s nothing that’s not beautiful about Present Tense, even when it paints unpleasant portraits.
After a 25-year recording hiatus, The Woodentops have reappeared with Granular Tales, a pleasing return to form. The amazing thing? They don’t sound at all like a band that’s not recorded in a quarter of a century. Granular Tales is, for the most part, vital and alive and inventive.
Dark Entries has quickly become one of my favorite labels, via both their new releases as well as their reissues of more obscure New Wave and dance music from the ’70s and ’80s. Their most recent reissues are from Big Ben Tribe, Lè Travo, and Victrola.
When the time comes move with the feeling,
Lend your young ears to the sound of day.
—Temples, “Move With The Season”
Upon a first listen to Sun Structures, the debut album from Temples, it’s tempting to wonder if they’re time travelers. Sun Structures is drenched in late ’60s and early ’70s psychedelia, full of fuzzy, chiming guitars, phase shifters, mellotrons, faux sitars, and harps. Certainly there are curmudgeons out there who would roll their eyes at “England’s premier retro-futurists,” sputtering the names of a long list of bands from whom these four young men are blatantly stealing. Yet Temples cheerfully admits to their influences, with dozens of YouTube clips posted on their Facebook page indicating who has provided inspiration.
I spent a lot of time in Ohio as a kid. I’m sure there are people who really love that place and there is nowhere else they would rather be. Cool. I’m not one of those people. Even hanging out in Cincinnati like I did, most of the time there was just nothing to do.
Ohio comes in three dehumanizing flavors: generically urban, run-down industrial, or flatland farming. Any of those situations can seem oppressive, and that kind of oppression is enough to make a creative person yearn to break out and do the craziest shit possible to get their ideas out there into the Universe. To get noticed. To get the hell out of Ohio.
The band Brainiac, formed in Dayton, Ohio, certainly felt the backhand of the heartland. In an interview given in 1997, lead vocalist Tim Taylor said, “It might give you the illusion that there’s a happening scene, but there’s not at all. As of right now, there’s not even a record store where you can buy our records in town. You have to go to Columbus to buy a Brainiac record, it’s ridiculous.”
Matters Of Mind, Body And Soul is the first Clan of Xymox studio album in several years, since 2012′s cover album Kindred Spirits. Because of this, and their sudden and short recent return to L.A., there has been some tradgoth excitement about this release. The result is safe but not boring: on the one hand, this album sounds like their music has always sounded; on the other, it’s new and varied.
Chiaroscuro is defined as “the technique of using light and shade in pictorial representation.” It’s a ideal name for the second album from I Break Horses, the musical project from Swedish singer/songwriter Maria Lindén. Rather than a contrast between light and shade, however, the songs on Chiaroscuro are a study in the interplay between the retro synths of ’80s shoegaze and the more contemporary flavors of techno and EDM. In a way, Chiaroscuro reminds me a lot of School of Seven Bells’ Ghostory, but while that album was crystalline ice, these songs are like smoldering embers.