Five June 2017 Albums You May Have Missed
From the ongoing shoegaze revival to the possible rise of a bona fide star to a surprise from Singapore, we have Five June 2017 Albums You May Have Missed.
Editor’s Note: For this month’s edition of five albums you may have missed, our intrepid ex-pat music master blaster Nate Harrison was unavailable to write the opening entry to his monthly column. It’s not exactly clear why, but he does live in Australia, a country/continent where everything wants to kill you. Gusts of wind are probably poisonous. It’s a miracle the country isn’t run by evolved spiders the size of small dogs. Supposedly those Huntsman arachnids are one of the few things that don’t actually want to kill humans. Or maybe they are really good at it and just haven’t been caught yet…
So with Nate gone, enjoy a list of the top soundtracks of the month! The Mummy was a garbage movie, but if you’re looking for a soundtrack to send yourself into a hypnotic trance brought on by completely unengaging music, you’re in luck! And who needs music anyway? There’s a new Doctor Who Big Finish audio recording out! Or maybe.
Oh crap, Nate’s back. I WAS NEVER HERE.
Happy summer to all my American friends! This month we have… was someone touching my stuff? Weird. Anyway, on to the music!
The Underside of Power
Algiers released their second album earlier this week, and already it has garnered a glowing write-up in NPR along with a host of other well-received reviews. So that makes it challenging to say what hasn’t already been said about this frighteningly great album. Things have been simmering for a few years with these
Things have been simmering with these guys for a few years. Their debut album in 2015 showed fiery promise, but now, having had time to further work out their dynamics and with the addition of former Bloc Party drummer Matt Tong, their music seems poised to go from promising opening act to the forefront of our current volatile culture.
Algiers sound like no one else, which makes them both fun and challenging to write about. Mix equal parts gospel, post-rock, R&B, and industrial with a healthy side of experimentation and that might give you some clue but this is an album that just needs to be heard. Title track, “The Underside of Power,” sounds like an updated take on “Get Ready” by The Temptations but with more potent and percent lyrics. Further on, track “Cleveland” sounds like Ministry meeting an actual ministry as drum beats clatter around a church chorus and sample from Rev. James Cleveland’s “Peace be Still.” It’s a song that makes you want to catch your breath, but that’s not possible because the next track “Animals” comes in with an axe to grind and a flammable urgency that will consume your earbuds.
The Underside of Power is either going to be the perfect album for when all hope is finally lost or when power comes back into the hands of more sane people.
Ideas of Beginnings
OK, let’s just get the unfortunate name issue out of the way. This is not the Mark McGuire of juiced baseball fame. This Mark McGuire is the Portland-based guitarist/loop pedal genius and the former member of the influential ambient drone band Emeralds. Savvy?
Ideas of Beginnings continues that output with his most pastoral and easy-going listen yet. There was a time when you kind of had to be in the know to get on the McGuire bus, but this album sounds like something that you could easily hear in the chill out tent of a Bluegrass festival if such things existed. Most of Ideas of Beginnings is just McGuire with an acoustic guitar playing beautiful songs.
You get the feeling that McGuire just retired to a cabin somewhere in a balmy climate and just hit the record button while he sat on his porch, strumming away. The sound of crickets and other ambient noises from a woodland scenario also make appearances. For further proof, here’s a video of McGuire sitting in a forest doing most of the above.
If the entire album continued in that vein it would be fine, but this is a Mark McGuire album and towards the end things get a little more electronic and droney on the closing tracks – but they don’t take away from the album’s soft vibe. More than anything it just seems like a blurred fadeout to a pleasant dream. If you’re looking to turn off your social media and retire to a cabin somewhere to chop wood, make sure you bring this album along with you.
Yes, we’re reviewing a Rancid album in 2017, but that’s a good thing. After all, when you think about it, the band have released consistently good albums whether or not anyone has ben paying attention, so maybe it shouldn’t be that big of a surprise.
A lot has changed since the days of Ruby Soho and 90s-era million dollar deals, but Rancid’s looking-at-the-stars-from-the-gutter brand of punk has stayed the course. The mohawks have turned into beards and they’ve become elder statesmen for a genre that doesn’t even have any promising breakthrough acts, but they’ve also ventured into reggae and rockabilly territory along the way. But they paid respect to those genres and put their diverse capabilities on display while doing so. And no one should ever question their workmanship.
Trouble Maker is another solid entry into the discography. The lead off “Track Fast” comes in a like a bullet and is over just shy of a minute. Rancid’s economy of scale is such that they’re able to make their mark quickly and in the process can pack an album with nineteen mostly memorable songs in a little over thirty minutes. “Telegraph Avenue” is one of many examples, with its acoustic guitar and drum click verses that keep things moving at a reassuring pace. It’s sentimental and shows that these lifelong punks still have a heart for the Bay Area that birthed them even if it seems like a different planet now. “Where I’m Going” keeps the ska spirit alive and “All American Neighborhood” gets right to the point with how addicted most of poor America has become to opioids. A lot of ground is covered. In some
“Where I’m Going” keeps the ska spirit alive and “All American Neighborhood” gets right to the point in addressing America’s opiod crisis. A lot of ground is covered. In some ways, it’s a bit like a retrospective. Listen to it once and it will sound great. Listen to it again and you’ll start picking out your favorites.
Last month we reviewed the latest (and excellent) release from Slowdive and touched on the unasked-for but very much welcome return of shoegaze. After a few years of touring and playing festivals, Oxford’s finest, Ride, another pioneering band of the genre, have now returned with new material. It’s their first since they disbanded in the wake of their disappointing 1996 release Tarantula – an album that occupies a Kingdom of the Crystal Skull-like category in what is otherwise a pretty solid discography.
Album opener “Lannoy Point” is as good a declaration that the band are back and operating at a mostly familiar level. The synth loop at the beginning is a bit of a bait and switch, but once everything comes flooding in the sins of Ride’s confusing departure twenty years ago are quickly forgiven. They make their brand of rock seem so effortless that you have to wonder what problems must have plagued them back in the 90s.
The band had been playing lead off single “Charm Assault” for a few years but after listening to Weather Diaries, it takes on a new context sandwiched in with other songs like “All I Want.” Weather Diaries takes the shape of an older band grappling with a modern reality of a post-Brexit UK and possibly why no one is making rock music anymore. Maybe in the case of Slowdive and other shoegaze acts they decided it was time to take matters into their own hands again. It’s hard to claim they’re just cashing in on nostalgia when they still sound so fresh and relevant.
Quick – name a band from Singapore. You can’t! If you actually can then hit me up. Yes, Singapore punches well above its weight in many categories, but it’s not necessarily the go-to locale for sunny dream pop. Sobs are a three-piece from the island nation and their debut EP Catflap has been one of the most pleasant discoveries of the month. Not a lot is known about the band but it’s clear that they mean business when it comes to warming your heart and soul.
The five songs on Catflap are perfect for a summer drive, chilling with a beverage of your choice, or pining away for that cute person that you think might just like you. The only disappointing thing is that the sugary goodness of this EP ends all too quickly so it’s been on loop around our office in an effort to soak more of it in. Four out of the five songs on Catflap could be singles but the band have decided to release an audio clip for their track “Girl,” which is as good of choice as any.
Let’s show some support and get Sobs some gigs outside of Singapore. They’ve given us twelve minutes of music capable of making you remember that there are beautiful things happening in the midst of crazy-ass times.