Saturday, January 28, 2023

Rumah Sakit - Rumah Sakit (2000)


This is a really great math rock/post-rock record. This band's bassist is Kenseth Thibideau, who was also in Tarentel, which is a really great post-rock band that some of you probably know. These are the facts. This is the post.

Track listing:
1. I Can't See Anything When I Close My Eyes
2. Scott & Jeremiah
3. Careful with That Fax Machine
4. Wind & Wing
5. Bring on the Cobras
6. Stomacheache Due to the Sincere Belief That the Rest of My Band Is Trying to Kill Me


These are links to posts about albums that I think people who like this album would also like:

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

The Declining Winter - Goodbye Minnesota (2008)


Downcast post-rock dirges from sunny West Yorkshire. Room-reverb-heavy acoustic guitars chime, horns rise and fall, violas drone, melodicas wheeze, and warped vocals slide in and out of view like ghosts. I absolutely hate this time of year.

Track listing:
1. Summer Turns to Hurt
2. We Used to Read Books
3. I Don't Really Want to Be Alone
4. To Know Gospel
5. Yorkcitythree
6. Oh God C'mon
7. The World Is an Idiot
8. Last Train to Maple Grove
9. The Clock Gently Ticking in the Hall
10. Hey, Nick Heyward
11. Goodbye Minnesota

Trees sway back and forth

More wintertime classics:

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Disfear - Everyday Slaughter (1997)


"But DEAR SPIRIT," I hear you say, "if you're so busy, surely your pushup regimen must be suffering!" Not to worry, my caring, inquisitive reader, it's not. I'm still shupping like a madman. I've even taken to shutting my camera off and busting out a quick 50 when a classmate in a Zoom lecture asks a question about something I already understand. Today, I did pushups #200-300 to Everyday Slaughter, arguably the greatest straight-up d-beat record ever recorded.

Track listing:
1. With Each Dawn I Die
2. Anthem of Agony
3. Crimescene: Worldwide
4. A Race for Power
5. Spectre of Genocide
6. Everyday Slaughter
7. Subsistance
8. Totalitarian Control
9. Frustration
10. Aftermath
11. 101 Overkill
12. Captured by Life
13. In Fear


More d-beat:

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Artillery - By Inheritance (1990)


A stone classic of epic thrash from a Danish metal institution. If you like old school metal at all, there's a very good chance you'll love this record, if you haven't already heard it. This school term, which is essentially my last (I have one more course to take in the spring) has been extremely demanding from the jump, so I'm breaking out the big guns. Relatedly, I really don't know how much time I'm gonna have for this blog in the coming weeks, so expect posting to be even more sporadic than usual.

Track listing:
1. 7:00 from Tashkent
2. Khomaniac
3. Beneath the Clay (R.I.P.)
4. By Inheritance
5. Bombfood
6. Don't Believe
7. Life in Bondage
8. Equal at First
9. Razamanaz [Nazareth cover]
10. Back in the Trash


You should also hear:

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Domination Through Impurity - Essence of Brutality (2005)


Brutal tech-death from Charlotte, NC. A great balance of sharp, chuggy beatings and explosive, full-tilt drum-and-guitar clinics.

Track listing:
1. Essence of Brutality
2. Pinned to a Guardrail
3. In Rat We Trust
4. Self Destructive Malevolence
5. Terminal Gluttony
6. Bit by a Rat
7. Cleanse the Flesh
8. Wahnsinn


Similar listening:

Friday, January 13, 2023

Tram - Heavy Black Frame (1999)


Total sad-sack slowcore from a relatively short-lived, London-based duo. Songs of heartbreak, self-doubt, anxiety, and the occasional glimmer of hope, with warm, rich instrumentation courtesy of a handful of collaborators that includes producer/unofficial third member Clive Painter and Bill Lloyd of Placebo. It's making me feel a little better about having woken up about 2 hours too early and sunrise not being for another hour.

Track listing:
1. Nothing Left to Say
2. Expectations
3. Too Scared to Sleep
4. Like Clockwork
5. Home
6. I've Been Here Once Before
7. High Ground
8. When It's All Over
9. Reason Why
10. You Can Go Now (If You Want)

Who's gonna catch me the way you used to?

If you like this, listen to:

Monday, January 9, 2023

Bishop of Hexen - Archives of an Enchanted Philosophy (1997)


Beautifully Israeli symphonic black metal. Sounds like the guitarists might have forgot to set their alarm on mix-down day, as the mix is all drums, keyboards, and extremely goblin-like, reverb-drenched vocals, with guitars and bass taking on almost a more textural role. However, this makes for a mesmerizing atmosphere that, under the correct circumstances -- nighttime, candles lit, stupid loud volumes -- can be truly transportive. Not to oversell it, but I'm making this post because last night, I decided that I really need to finish making my all-time top 100 black metal albums list, and Archives of an Enchanted Philosophy is in contention.

Track listing:
1. Crossing the Borders Between Light & Darkness
2. The Surreal Touch Between Steel & Flesh
3. Lure My Spelled Emotions
4. Wading Through the Sensuous Journeys
5. When a Witch Becomes a Pale Bride
6. Diaries of Primeval Tragedies
7. To Begin the Quest Towards the Noble Dark Cause
8. The Fascinating Installment of Triumph


More contenders in the same vein:

Saturday, January 7, 2023

Necrophorus - Drifting in Motion (2000)

Related:

Glacial dark ambient for the dead of winter, courtesy of Peter Andersson, best known for his work as raison d'être. Droning synths and icy SFX.

Track listing:
1. Lost Land - Part 1
2. Ice Shifting
3. Frost
4. Partial Melt
5. Lost Land - Part 2
6. Drifting


More arctic ambience:

Thursday, January 5, 2023

The Swimming Pool Q's - The Swimming Pool Q's (1984)


Sweet, bright jangle pop/alternative from a great band that never quite broke through. My dad loves this band, and earlier today he sent me links to a pair of songs from this record, without caption or comment. He underwent pretty major surgery last month and is still recovering, both physically and emotionally. Neither of us have ever been good at staying in touch with people we care about, but a mutual love for music keeps us in regular contact. Tomorrow I'm gonna send him this Ben Watt video -- he kinda hates Pink Floyd so David Gilmour's presence might initially be off-putting, but the song is very much up his alley. Really wish I could just give him a hug, but listening to the same songs will have to do for now.

Track listing:
1. The Bells Ring
2. Pull Back My Spring
3. Purple Rivers
4. The Knave
5. Some New Highway
6. Just Property
7. Silver Slippers
8. She's Bringing Down the Poison
9. Celestion
10. Sacrificial Altar


Other stuff my dad got me into:

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Mandy Morton - Sea of Storms (1980)


English folk rock given to prog-ish, synth-y flourishes anchored by a melancholic, fantastical core. A great record that tends to get overshadowed by its also-great predecessor, Magic Lady. "Twisted Sage" makes my Halloween playlist every year. Is "city witch" still a thing? City witches would love this.

Track listing:
1. Maybe One Day
2. After the Storm
3. Black Nights
4. Compline Anthem
5. Victoria by the Window
6. Ghost of Christmas Past
7. Twisted Sage
8. Wake Up the Morning
9. Silas the Silent
10. Land of the Dead
11. Warriors Grave
12. The Sculptor


If you like this, listen to:

Saturday, December 31, 2022

The Concretes - The Concretes (2003)


Starting the last day of 2022 off with an old favorite. Swedish indie pop/rock perfection. A sugar rush of girl group pop songwriting by way of scruffy, early-aughts-style indie rock. Organ riffs, fuzzy guitars, French horn melodies, and sweet, sleepy vocals. New Years is one of those times when I'm happy to be middle-aged, and therefore no longer obligated to spend the night getting too drunk in a packed bar. My wife and I will be ringing in the New Year by making a huge tray of nachos, watching reality TV, and probably being asleep by 10:30 or so, thank you very much.

Track listing:
1. Say Something New
2. You Can't Hurry Love
3. Chico
4. New Friend
5. Diana Ross
6. Warm Night
7. Foreign Country
8. Seems Fine
9. Lovin' Kind
10. Lonely as Can Be
11. This One's for You


If you like this, you'd also like:

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

José Roberto Bertrami - Blue Wave (1983)


Extremely chill fusion led by Brazilian keyboardist José Roberto Bertrami of Azymuth fame. Makes me feel like I'm on a boat drinking wine.

Track listing:
1. Bye Bye Brasil
2. Chorodô
3. Partido Alto #2
4. Shot on Goal (Perigo de Gol)
5. Blue Wave
6. Parati
7. Sheds and Weeds (Barracos e Arbustos)


Similar vibes:

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Jon Bernoff and Marcus Allen - Breathe (1980)


Beautiful, weightless ambient compositions for piano, Rhodes piano, and vibraphone. I'm visiting with my family for Christmas, as always, so I'm not sure that you'll be hearing much from me for at least another week or so, but I'm listening to this while winding down and thought I'd share it with you real quick.

Track listing:
1. Medieval Mist
2. Interlude
3. One Earth
4. Dance on the Wind
5. Travelin' On
6. Space Rendezvous
7. Breathe


You should also listen to:

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

My 20 Favorite (Non-Black Metal or -Iron-Pumping) Records of 2022


This is the part where I would normally talk about how the world is dog shit. But I gotta say, as terrible as everything can be, and as anxious/depressed as I often am, 2022 was an alright year for me. In addition to my aforementioned fitness regimen, which has resulted in me feeling better, sharper, and stronger than ever, I've developed a bunch of healthy habits around organization and self-discipline, found a therapist that I really like, and generally tried to be more present and engaged with the world around me. I realize that a lot of atrocious things happened this year, and that in a lot of ways the cultural and political landscapes are looking even grimmer than in 2020, but for me personally, still, pretty good year. Don't worry, though: as you'll see from this list, I'll always be a sadboi at heart.

I'm tempted to do honorable mentions, but if I do, I'll end up listing like 30 more albums. Suffice to say, there were a ton of records that could've been #21, so if you want more recommendations, ask, I have 'em. And please let me know what I'm sleeping on and drop your lists in the comments. Thanks for sticking around.




#20
Rot TV
Tales of Torment

Australian punk rock and roll. Rot TV has a horror aesthetic but their sound has absolutely nothing to do with The Misfits or The Cramps; it's seedy, catchy punk done as only the Australians can do it.




#19
Cavernlight
As I Cast Ruin upon the Lens That Reveals My Every Flaw

Harrowing post-sludge depicting a world that's utterly devoid of hope. A dense mix layered with piano, synth, and elements of harsh noise and dark ambient. Guitars, while crushingly heavy, tend towards simplicity -- two alternating chords, three descending chords -- as they'd clearly rather keep your head bowed than get it banging. When they do riff, it's that warped, drawn-out kind of anti-riff that Neurosis excelled at.




#18
Greg Foat
Psychosynthesis

Laid-back, smooth-as-hell jazz/funk/fusion played in slo-mo, from one of my favorite jazz musicians on the planet at the moment. A pillowy, lushly synthesized sound-world that harkens to that bygone era in the early 80s when ECM-style ambient jazz and shimmering new age lived together in harmony.




#17
Current 93
If a City Is Set upon a Hill

Possibly the most melancholic entry in Mr. Tibet's extensive discography, and certainly one of my favorites. Chiming piano, weeping violin, ghostly choirs, earthy guitars, and droning electronics form the musical basis for an extended meditation, mixed as a single composition, on... whatever the hell he's on about. The lyrics and themes are more or less the same as always, which is to say: cryptic, fantastical, abstract, fatalistic, and fascinatingly impenetrable. Here, try this one out: "The moon is dead now / Joke moon / Rabbit and hare in the martyr face / By trap and snare and man / 'Kill them all' says Peter Pan." Does he mention sleeping cats? You know he does. But there's a tenderness, even a fearfulness in his voice that draws me in, even in the record's most oblique moments.




#16
ESA
Designer Carnage

Goes ridiculously hard. A tour-de-force of harsh, inventive, wildly entertaining EBM/rhythmic noise. From the mangled strains of classical piano and opera on "Laudanum Dance" and the unhinged (fake) voicemail that forms the basis for "One Missed Call", to the distorted rap verses on "Whom Then Shall I Fear" (Jesus Christ, the featured rapper's name is Pee Wee Pimpin', that sucks) and the black metal-powered breakbeat meltdown that is "Saturnalia" -- ESA punishes eardrums in spectacular fashion.




#15
Arð
Take Up My Bones

Melodic funeral doom with deep, harmonized, choral vocals, courtesy of Mark Deeks of Winterfylleth. It's like he zoomed in on my favorite bits of latter-day Funeral and made an album out of it, adding an esoteric obsession with ancient, dark Christian ritual along the way.




#14
PLOSIVS
PLOSIVS

One of the best supergroups in recent memory. John Reis (Rocket from the Crypt/Hot Snakes/Drive Like Jehu, etc.) and Rob Crow (Pinback) making perfect, propulsive, deceptively complex punk rock.




#13
The Weather Station
How Is It That I Should Look at the Stars

Graceful, searching, timeless songs for piano and voice, subtly filled out by saxophone, clarinet, and pedal steel. It's a minimal musical pallet that asks a lot of the listener's attention span, but close listening is rewarded by songwriting that's rich with expertly rendered, evocative details that speak to a need for connection, a desire to love life and experience the world as it here and now, and the powerful forces -- institutional, intellectual, spiritual -- that conspire to keep us in doubt and at each other's throats. "Endless Time" is particularly stunning -- a misty-eyed rumination on lost love and the transience of happiness that, to me, is literally one of the greatest songs ever written. There are moments of real intimacy and joy, too, such as in "Sway", in which she watches her partner playfully dancing for her in their bedroom, realizing, "Nobody gets to see you dance like this but me."




#12
Maya Shenfeld
In Free Fall

The drifting sounds of analogue synths -- at times intertwined with trumpet or a children's choir -- in a succession of gorgeous, texturally rich ambient pieces. Makes me feel like I'm laying on the soft stone ground of a dimly lit alien planet, drifting off to sleep while gazing at an infinity of stars, half-aware that I'm surrounded by ghosts.




#11
Christian Lee Hutson
Quitters

CLH's previous record, Beginners, just barely missed my 2020 year-end list. So he obviously concentrated his efforts to win my affections with Quitters, which is, sonically speaking, the most Elliott Smith-sounding record since New Moon. The close mic-ed guitars, fluid chord changes, and whispery, double-tracked vocals are undeniably referential, especially on "Sitting Up with a Sick Friend", which sounds lifted directly from Smith's self-titled. Lyrically, though, Hutson is much more inscrutable. He's confessional on a surface level, but closer listening reveals songs drifting from narrator to narrator so regularly, it can be difficult to parse whether a thought or line comes from him, a character, a second character, or some anonymous witness. An engrossing heartbreaker of a record from an increasingly singular songwriter.




#10
Nite
Voices of the Kronian Moon

So the 'gimmick' here is that Nite make traditional heavy metal -- think Iron Maiden or Thin Lizzy, who I realize are not technically metal -- with detached, croaking black metal vocals. The twist? It's actually really, really good. It's just an endless procession of catchy riffs and glorious harmonized leads, and the vocals are surprisingly powerful. Nite isn't the first band to navigate this realm, but they might be the best.




#9
Kathryn Joseph
for you who are the wronged

"Here is the other side / Here are the wronged and blinded." Devastating, minimal, chilling songs made up almost entirely of nervous, chiming electric piano and Joseph's wavering, whispery, wounded voice. Her lyrics are marked by abrupt cutoffs and seemingly incomplete thoughts that suggest, to me, the way our brains can start misfiring during times of intense emotional duress. Or maybe it's just an impressionistic approach to songwriting. Heartbreaking but open-hearted, full of love, pain, and righteous anger, and unlike anything else.




#8
PENDANT
Harp

Colorful, genre-omnivorous electronic sounds splicing dream pop/shoegaze, electropop/R&B, trance, house, grime, and more, all unified by a basic framework of punchy beats and gauzy synths. A rapturous, joyful-sounding record about mourning and emotional pain that's sonically dense but never claustrophobic.




#7
Jenny Hval
Classic Objects

Nervous, tasteful, gently propulsive sounds that kinda sound like Rhythm of the Saints-era Paul Simon filtered through hazy modern indie/art rock. Hval has a knack for building to these big, dreamy hooks that might have filled arenas if she wasn't singing about collecting trash or peeing blood in a movie theater restroom.




#6
Tim Heidecker
High School

Comedian and genius Tim Heidecker has now released 2.5 'serious' albums in a row (the .5 is for What the Broken-Hearted Do, a breakup record wherein the joke is that he's happily married IRL.) This isn't to say that he's done away with humor, but that he doesn't seem interested in releasing overt piss-takes or album-length odes to drinking piss. High School is, for me, easily his most successful yet. It's a middle-age record through and through -- driven by memories, good and bad, from Heidecker's adolescence, and a preoccupation with how they shaped and continue to shape him decades on. "Buddy" introduces these themes by way of a high school friend with whom Heidecker lost touch, and who seemingly died by suicide or overdose. He sings of regret and guilt that he feels around the loss, but it's completely devoid of self-pity or -flagellation; it's pure, honest communication from songwriter to listener that is among the most beautifully relatable songwriting I've heard. Another highlight is "Stupid Kid", a story-song about watching Neil Young perform a solo version of "Harvest Moon" on TV; how it inspired him to teach himself to play guitar and sing; his initial disappointment at the studio version; eventually learning to love that version; and putting it on a 90s mixtape that he gave to a girlfriend who dumped him shortly thereafter. It really is as simple as that, and it really isn't.




#5
SPICE
Viv

Hooky post-hardcore for depressives who still just wanna have fun. Instantly memorable hooks abound. It's a collection of meditations on pain, how it enters our life and how we exorcise it; and it's a collection of anthems to shout at the top of your lungs in a packed, sweaty basement. "Ashes in the Birdbath" is one of my favorite songs of any year. The weeping strings, the chiming guitars, the way the words "And I cried all year 'cause some of my friends / They keep dying on me over again" just spill out of his mouth, only to be followed by the clear-eyed "But I saw a sky so beautiful / I believed in hope over despair"... it just sends me.




#4
Drug Church
Hygiene

Just as 2021 was the year that I finally started listening to Amyl & the Sniffers, 2022 was the year that I got into Drug Church, another band that most of my friends have been hyped on for years now. They started as a hardcore band, but over the years gathered elements of alt rock, pop punk, and post-hardcore, culminating in Hygiene, their most melodic, accessible record yet. Crucially, the driving, anthemic punch of hardcore remains, and as lush and, dare I say it, dreamy as the production can be, there's still room for feedback and gnarliness.




#3
Office Culture
Big Time Things

I have been DYING to shout this band out on here, and am so happy to finally be able to. Office Culture makes jazz-inflected soft rock/sophistipop for our anxious age. Had I made a non-black metal favorites list in 2019, Office Culture's A Life of Crime would have had a real shot at the #1 spot. This time around, the jazz-rock influences are spotlighted, allowing for knottier instrumentals, more unpredictable chord changes, and an overall more nervous, fidgety feel. Casually caustic but playful, the songwriting feels like an outwardly directed internal monologue: the kind of imagined arguments that play out in our heads while we're driving to work or trying to get to sleep.




#2
Hinako Omori
a journey...

Aching, longing, synth-based, ambient excursions through mysterious landscapes, filled out by gorgeous, plaintive vocals. Whether or not it was Omori's intention, a journey... perfectly captures the loneliness of the endless inner world -- a world that many of us became all-too familiar with during a year or two primarily spent trying not to get COVID. As her voice comes and goes, it takes on a narrator-like quality, as though she's guiding the listener through this strange world; this quality becomes more explicit on the penultimate track, "Yearning", as she sings, "Let me be your eyes / Let me guide your light / Through the darkness." More than anything, a journey... feels like an expression of love, as if Omori is offering this little piece of solace to anyone who needs it.




#1
Cave In
Heavy Pendulum

Before hearing Heavy Pendulum, I truly never would have thought that Cave In were capable of making my AOTY for any year since the turn of the millennium. Until Your Heart Stops was a major, formative record for me, and I did/do like Jupiter, but nothing they had done since then resonated with me. Then, after bassist Caleb Scofield died suddenly in 2018, I think everyone expected Cave In to take a bow, which they seemingly did with 2019's Final Transmission, a collection of demos featuring Scofield's last recordings that I actually really liked. But at some point along the line since (I'm not that tapped into the Cave In-verse) they got longtime friend and collaborator Nate Newton of Converge/Old Man Gloom to step in as bassist. This is, at a baseline, a sweet, heartwarming development; through the band's darkest hour, they found a path forward by way of their extended band family. It honestly makes me a little verklempt.

Aside from the backstory, Nate joining the band helped them to reconnect with their mojo in a big, big way. On Heavy Pendulum, they sound engaged, energized, inspired, and vital. It's a synthesis of the riff-y metalcore they're built on; the psychedelic atmospheres of Jupiter; and the melodic, muscular alt rock of their later albums; all filtered through a modern metal sensibility that's indebted to bands like Mastodon and the like. The barn-burners, of which there are many, slap harder than anything they've done this millennium, while slower songs like "Blinded by a Blaze", "Reckoning", and the title track prove that Cave In can still be extremely effective in space rock mode. Heavy Pendulum is easily my most listened-to album of 2022, and I'm still finding new things to love about it. In an era in which so many artists seem scared of getting caught trying, it's really refreshing to hear a veteran band sticking to their guns and swinging for the fucking fences.


Monday, December 12, 2022

My 10 Favorite Iron-Pumping Records of 2022


I spent my entire adult life in bad-to-terrible shape. I entered my 20s as an extremely skinny (5'9", 105 lbs.) stoner smoking about 1.5 packs of Camel Filters a day. Although I eventually quit smoking weed and cigarettes, I also started eating a shit-ton of desserts and gaining weight -- that naturally high metabolism couldn't last forever -- which accelerated during COVID, culminating in me being what I would describe as "a fatty boy" by the end of 2020. Then one day in April of last year, I decided to work out. Although it hadn't really been the plan, I have continued to work out pretty much every day since. Midway through 2022, while on vacation and without other means of pumping, I became intensely pushup focused, and that's where I'm at now.

Music always plays a major role in all my routines, and I knew as soon as I started working out that it was gonna shift my musical tastes. I was not wrong. My ideal workout music is angry, punchy, and tight, which generally translates to burly hardcore, death metal, and hardcore-infused death metal, so I've ended up listening to a ton of it. These are my favorite records of 2022 that soundtracked me grunting, flexing, and dripping sweat all over my living room floor. Rankings represent the record's efficacy at pushing me over the top, as well as my perception of its quality.





#10
End It
Unpleasant Living

7-minute EP from Baltimore's finest. 'Traditional' hardcore/crossover. hate5six has a bunch of End It videos, here's the one that (I think) introduced me to them.




#9
The Bearer
Chained to a Tree

The Bearer make chaotic, scream-y metalcore like the late 90s never ended.




#8
Static Abyss
Labyrinth of Veins

Two members of Autopsy started a side-project to make Autopsy-esque death/doom, and I like it more than any of the Autopsy reunion records.




#7
Hexis
Aeternum

A black/doom/hardcore hybrid that's clearly indebted to Celeste, but Hexis is currently beating Celeste at their own game.




#6
Corpsegrinder
Corpsegrinder

Death metal with hardcore breakdowns. How has this dude taken on this lovable, weirdly wholesome public persona? He's the Snoop Dogg of death metal, and I love his first solo record.




#5
Descent
Order of Chaos

Australian death metal with Swedeath buzzsaw guitars and enough chugging/general toughness to suggest a hardcore influence.




#4
Mutilatred
Determined to Rot

Brutal death metal from the well-known metal hub that is Toledo, Ohio.




#3
Comeback Kid
Heavy Steps

Hooky, melodic, nonetheless very heavy metalcore. I wasn't sure what to make of those clean-vocal choruses at first but I got there. Of all these records, Heavy Steps best represents how working out has got me listening to shit that I probably never would have otherwise.




#2
Killing Pace
Killing Pace

Swole-as-fuck hardcore/grind made for crowd-killing and deadlifting. Or as someone on Bandcamp put it: "Nothing but heaters and ass beaters from top to bottom." It's only a 12-minute EP but I've listened to it probably around 30-40 times. Probably played a major role in my Spotify year-end wrap-up telling me that I like to start my mornings with "Mayhem Amped Hardcore."




#1
Analepsy
Quiescence

100% perfect technical slamming death. I just don't think the genre can get any better than this. It's a wrap. Slap on your finest mesh shorts and an Obituary sleeveless, turn this up loud as fuck, and drop and give me 50.