Five albums from October 2016 you may have missed
Happy Halloween! Have you bought your jumbo bags of fun size candy yet? Are you already tired of pumpkin-flavored everything? Are you unsure if dressing up like Donald Trump is actually a good idea? We probably can’t help you with that decision but we’ve produced a decent bounty of musical delights that should help to enhance and come down from an impending sugar rush.
Lush indie rock, experimental Brazilian music, and technicolor dance jams are all in tow. There’s even some Swedish metal you can use when you’ve run out of candy and it’s time to truly scare the trick or treaters off your lawn. It’s all below in our monthly wrap up highlighting five albums October 2016 you may have missed.
If you spent your college years walking around, lamenting a failed relationship and hoping you didn’t run into that person on campus but kind of wish you did at the same time all the while toting a Discman and book of CDs in your backpack, then American Football may occupy a special footnote in that chapter of your life.
Did I just get way too specific on that?
Anyway, you’ve probably changed a lot since those days when the band released their one – and up until now – only album. An album that was released in 1999 and influenced a new generation of bands, while growing into near mythical status with every passing year. In the song “I’ve Been So Lost for So Long” frontman Mike Kinsella sings, “I can’t believe life is happening to me.” Truer words have rarely been sung so earnestly.
There was some speculation if a follow-up would help or damage American Football’s legacy. Well, guess what? LP2 is beautiful, it’s engaging, it’s probably everything a fan of this band would want in this era. If you loved this band then you may have already known that LP2 has been in the works for two years and that we would have it this month, but for those who may not worship at the altar of American Football’s earnest photo-emo sound, then you might be in for a treat if you consider subtly complex time signatures and pastoral melodies to be a good thing. The irony is that enough years have passed since the band’s first album that the songs on LP2 actually sound like something new and fresh.
Makes you wonder why they didn’t do it sooner.
From Indian Lakes
Everything Feels Better Now
If you know From Indian Lakes, then you’re probably familiar with the backstory of the band’s creator, Joey Vannucchi, a guy who grew up outside of Yosemite National Park without electricity and other things that most people take for granted. In spite of that, Vannucchi taught himself how to play every instrument he came into contact with during his childhood spent in a mountain community, so when he released his first album, 2009’s still excellent The Man with Wooden Legs, it was a fully realized offering thanks to his musical prowess alone. If you liked your indie rock more on the energetic side, then From Indian Lakes is for you.
Vannucchi enlists a full-time band these days, but you always know that the music on From Indian Lakes albums starts and ends with him. Seven years and three albums later, Everything Feels Better Now is probably the most relaxed album from the band.
Absent are the driving melodies and urgent rhythms of previous albums. Instead, we get a softer, more thought provoking record that’s perfect for the autumn season it’s being released in. Vannucchi calms his voice down to an etherial croon that at times sounds reminiscent of Jeremy Enigk from Sunny Day Real Estate. Songs are more reliant on keys and reverb than urgency, but that doesn’t translate into something boring.
Everything Feels Better Now is ripe with an interesting melancholy and complexity that shows just how quickly this bedroom project that began back in the days of Myspace has evolved into a promising and diverse band that still hasn’t run out of ways to conjure up something new and different to offer.
Fio da Memória
Six years can make a huge difference in anyone’s life, but in the case of Brazilian singer Luisa Maita, it’s allowed for a reinvention of sorts.
Her last album, 2010’s Lero Lero, was ripe with the kind of neo Bossa Nova you might see featured in the “World Music” category of an in-flight entertainment menu. That’s not a knock against her but it was the kind of made-for-export music that a lot of audiences outside of Brazil tend to embrace more than some of the other exciting genres happening within the country. That’s not the case with Fio da Memória (Thread of Memory). The São Paulo native has put electronics first and retained the samba and bossa nova for
The São Paulo native has put electronics first and retained the samba and bossa nova for the more simplistic bones of her music. The focal point here is space, and the sparse electronics that she’s chosen to work with. This is an incredibly strange and at times risky album for an artist in her position, but the best thing is that she seems to be in complete control of that risk throughout the album’s runtime.
In fact, this is nicely captured on a song called “Musica Popular,” which is a bit of a dig since the song sounds like nothing one would hear in the realm of popular music – especially in Brazil. Instead, it showcases Maita’s unhurried whispering with a methodical but driving beat and hints of melody only provided by keyboard twinkles and single string guitar notes. Doesn’t sound like much, but listen to it. It’s amazing.
Maita could’ve taken an easier path. Her father was a highly regarded composer and her mother is a well-known music producer, so it might have been expected that she tow the line and keep making safer material. Instead, she’s chosen to move the genre forward. As to what that genre specifically is, she may have just invented a new one in the process.
Take a terabyte worth of R&B and popular dance music, smash it into a thousand digital bits, and give it to a hyperactive kid to reconstruct on his MacBook and you might come close to something like Human Energy.
Machinedrum is Travis Stewart, a musician from North Carolina now based out of Berlin. He’s been making extremely cool music on several trendy labels since the turn of the century, but really hit a unique sound with his last two albums, Room(s) and Vapor City. Both of those albums showcased a darker and more mysterious mood, along with a great use of sampling and beat-making, but those now seem to be mere darker chapters in his trajectory. With Human Energy, Stewart not only seems to be moving toward the light, but spraying it all over the walls. The positive vibes on this album are almost seizure-inducing and a huge departure from what fans of his previous albums may have wanted out of this follow-up.
Early single “Angel Speak” is a hyper dancehall-influenced track that begins with a token build up before the crescendo takes the listener through so many syncopated layers that one might either A) positively lose their shit when they hear it or B) turn it off within thirty seconds. “Tell U,” the track that follows is one of those songs you might hear once and not think about too much but with repeated listens it just might become one of the best, most disjointed club songs of the year. But one of the best examples of Machinedrum’s new outlook is on the song “Spectrum Sequence” where the colors of the rainbow are fed out by robotic voices and the music alters accordingly with each one. It’s an attempt to paint with sound and you know what – he actually kind of pulls it off.
This is party music for the most positive and hyperactive party imaginable. That’s not even my scene but I find myself wanting to go every time I listen to this.
The Violent Sleep of Reason
Sweden – home of ABBA, IKEA, and one of the most progressive living standards in the modernized world. Sweden is also home to Meshuggah, one of the most consistently brutal and technical metal bands in the modernized world. I hate to
I hate to generalize, but there are likely two camps when it comes to this band: those who love them and those who can’t handle the Viking power with which they wield their uncompromising sound of dominance. When you press play on this one you’re basically pummelled for a straight minute before vocalist Jens Kidman even feels like singing – if that’s what you want to call it. The opening song, “Clockworks” is basically a seven-minute HIIT workout that pretty much dares you to step to it. As always, the Meshuggah brand of metal puts rhythm before melody and crunch before choruses. People with doctorates have spent time trying to define the band’s song structures, while complimentary memes have celebrated Meshuggah’s craft.
These guys have been around long enough to take the mantle of elder statesmen, but they certainly don’t act that way. When you push boundaries and time signatures as much as these guys do, it doesn’t leave you much room to just clock in and do something easy.
The Violent Sleep of Reason is ten straight songs that pit the band against their past accomplishments and see them trying to outdo everything they’ve done before. The result is a lesson in controlled musical brutality, more engaging than 2012’s Koloss and possibly one of the best metal albums we’ll hear this year. By the time you get to the halfway point of the album’s title track you might feel compelled to hit pause and take a small break. Don’t. A true Viking would never do that.