Hello and welcome to 2019’s first Review Rundown. The build-up to Christmas was chock full of releases, amplified further at the turn of the new year. Join us as five of our writers sum up ten hot records picked from our ever-growing list. This week we have God Alone, Valleyheart, Yvette Young, Old Sea Brigade, Umber, Rosetta, Owls’ Catcher, Marrow, Bedbound By Summer, and Sun Ra. Expect jazz, prog rock, stoner metal, and everything in between.
Should you wish, you can check out the previous collections of Review Rundown by clicking this link.
Enjoy the records!
Hailing from Cork, Ireland, this five-piece band of hometown heroes describe themselves as ‘Sad metal with some dancey bits’ which, on the surface, is apt. However, it is evident that there is far more to the group’s dynamic range than just that. God Alone’s late 2018 release Poll na mBróm remains punctual and succinct, sitting at around the 35-minute mark in duration but contrastingly, doesn’t fail to explore the deeper recesses of the band’s collective and individual talents as well as inspirations.
Listing artists such as Godspeed You! Black Emperor and the almost polar opposite Fugazi, it can be heard what sounds and ideas have been lovingly appropriated from those two worlds, as well as the in-between. Barked vocals backed up by biting guitar tones assert this record’s compositional dominance and violent intent. The tracklisting is broken up as the movements transition track to track with ambient sounds and atmospheric foley. Tasteful employment and imposition of jazz harmony and a clear knowledge of counterpoint and melody, by way of clean guitar passages, allow the backbone of gnawing and abrasive riffing to not be the sole focus of the songwriting as seen with so much modern heavy music.
Also drummers, take note; This album is a total clinic in how to successfully tightrope walk the fine line between tastefulness and exuberant demonstrations of technical prowess. Reminiscent of Richard Christy’s performance on Death’s The Sound of Perseverance.
Fans of heavy and atmospheric music will find lots to revel in here.
Valleyheart – Everyone I’ve Ever Loved
Salem, Massachusetts may not strike you as a particularly fertile breeding ground for revival emo music. However, Valleyheart is universally enjoyable, and therefore a convincing case on behalf of the historically famous witching grounds musical exports.
Released in late 2018, Everyone I’ve Ever Loved is adorned in glossy and modern sounding production that has quite evidently been labored over for countless hours by the band and their producers. Not one of the subtle nuances woven into the fabrics of the songs goes unnoticed. Ranging from the nu-metal style vinyl scratchings heard in opening track “Heaven & Hell” bridging the chorus to the following verse to the tactile use of an R&B style autotune occasionally heard on the vocals throughout the album’s vocals.
Speaking with AltPress last November, Klein mentions a self-professed ‘cognitive dissonance’ of sorts, regarding the monolithic and problematic topics of religion, identity, and the ways in which this record’s poetry aims to document those haunting and lonely experiences.
Hearing this record gave me the same chills I felt the first time I listened to Free Throw’s 2017 release, Bear Your Mind. This record may have arrived too late for any serious album of the year consideration by myself or the Everything Is Noise team, but shouldn’t go unmentioned as one of the more accessible and enjoyable emo releases of the last year.
To call Yvette Young a multi-talented artist might not be a strong enough sentiment. Outside of creating amazing instrumental music with her main project, progressive rock band Covet, she still finds time to create her own pieces of music. Her most recent production is the Piano EP. Stepping away from the intricacies of her guitar, she instead sits back behind a piano and illustrates emotion. That might sound a bit weird, but assure you, once you sink your teeth – or rather, ears – into this record, you will understand exactly what I mean.
Even though it’s a relatively short record pushing around twenty-five minutes, there is an exorbitant amount of emotional power that exudes from it. Each track is made to tell a story or create memories of a specific feeling. Young shows just as much prowess behind the keys as she does behind her guitar. “Yearn” showcases a sweeping progression that is nothing short of impressive, yet it does not seem like too much for the concept of the album. While the record is meant to be a softer piece of art, even parts such as that do not take away from the sophistication of the creation. If anything, it stands as a testament to the sheer creativity and skill that Young has.
It is not a surprise that Piano EP is an amazing work of art, but even I have to admit to just how surprised I was at its ingenuity and beauty. So take my advice: finish the rest of this article, then go listen to this. You will not be disappointed.
It is nice to find an acoustic indie record that feels like home. Ode to a Friend is a warm, inviting adventure through the more intimate parts of life. Nashville-based Ben Cramer’s raspy voice meshes incredibly well with the album’s ambience, creating a wonderful balance that stirs multiple emotions. While there are noticeable inspirations from other renowned indie artists, such as Bon Iver and Iron & Wine, Cramer is still able to define his own sound using country and folk styles to his advantage.
Even though it is his debut full-length release, there is a substantial amount of maturity to this record. Cramer is able to walk a fine line between what is too little and what is too much. Songs such as “Feel You” and “Ode to a Friend” are much softer tracks, with very little vocals added, helping to incite those emotions I spoke of earlier. Contrary to those are tracks such as “Want It Again” and “Seen a Ghost”, which implement an electronic background of drum and bass to help create a driving atmosphere that calls for a foot-tapping.
Ode to a Friend is a great example of a debut album. It is fun and full of life, yet still shows an ability to grow and prosper from what was created. Old Sea Brigade has created something wonderful, and I can’t wait to see what else will come.
This Earth to Another is a celestial and often sombre journey through the dust clouds of tranquility. It is wholly modern in its approach, but with some interesting touches of retro Space Odyssey synth. Its abstract dreamy nature is an instant escape pod from the gravity of physical, everyday Earth; Hence, one might suppose, the reason behind its title.
The emotional impact of this kind of music can often be a little polarising. Some may find great peace and beauty in tracks such as “Altered Fragments” and “Low Tide”. And yet others may find such tender lashings of heartrending soundscapes a little eulogizing. Endlessly bewildered sapiens like myself invariably view ambiance of this variety as a kind of reflection of something lovely that no longer exists, and therefore plastered with the melancholy sensation of loss. It’s a hard feeling to shake off once it starts to take hold.
None of the above is in any way a criticism. The great thing about music this far out from the realms of context is the openness to interpretation. The eloquent collectiveness of this record is a canvas upon which listeners have the freedom to paint their own meaning. Subtlety is the key in this regard, and Umber have mastered the art. One way or another, they have created something extremely effective and, as you can probably imagine, timeless.
Rosetta graces us with 30 minutes of thematically-linked ambiance in their latest release, Sower of Wind. Foreboding pianos meander between enigmatic synths over a plethora of hypnotic noises to deliver an undeniably cool package. The four-track compass points of “East”, “South”, “West”, and “North” ensure to give us a varying range of emotional content. There’s a lot to found amidst a very basic construct.
As far as abstract ambient instrumental records go, I found this one to be just the ticket, with those pauses in between notes serving as ample food for thought. That creepy-crawly opening sets the movie soundtrack tone with great clarity, and the overall tension never really subsides from there until the end. It merely changes to embody different cycles of self-reflection. Listen from start to finish and you should be able to pull together a sense of narrative; A journey that begins in the sinister and finalises in the enigmatic.
The subtle nuances of Rosetta’s latest outing ultimately pull together nicely, and with dramatic resolve. With pretty much zero percussive elements, the impact lies in the pitch and its delivery, with each instrumental layer resonating with ample conviction. Sower of Winds is the backing track to a patiently unfolding yet highly meaningful point in time and space. Thanks to the mastery of composition, listeners are able to feel this event with every breath.
Owls’ Catcher, an electronic post-rock project from all the way from Russia, is the brainchild from Alexandr Veselov with Beyond the Arctic Cycle being his very first musical output (if we disregard a single release in 2018).
When I first listened to this EP, I was kinda surprised at first because, with a total running of fewer than 10 minutes, it is incredibly short compared to almost every other EP in the realm of post-rock. But don’t be fooled by these digits! Over the course of the 9:43 runtime Beyond the Arctic Cycle spans around, you get four beautiful electronic-backed post-rock tracks that will perfectly fit in any ambient playlist alongside well-established bands such as Hammock, The American Dollar, or Balmorhea.
Apart from the slightly unnecessary djenty breakdown at the end of “Forest Cat”, there is nothing really worth criticising. With Beyond the Arctic Cycle, Owls’ Catcher gave the world a first impression of the lovely tunes he is capable of writing and I’m already stoked for his future (hopefully a bit longer) releases.
Over the course of the last few years, I almost completely lost interest for instrumental (prog) records because most of them felt too formulaic and repetitive for my taste. Sure, there were some exceptions here and there (especially looking at you, Night Verses), but in most cases, instrumental music just didn’t do the trick for me anymore.
Luckily, I recently stumbled upon Marrow, a band that kinda restored my faith in the genre. On their new EP Look Outside, they provide six songs full of incredibly entertaining instrumental progressive rock that catches your attention right from the very beginning. Starting off with the upbeat and melodic first standout track “Trilicorn”, the US-based quartet continues to grace your ears with a potpourri of straightforward grooves, dreamy melodies, and nuanced bits of ambiance that is all topped off with a very organic sounding production.
Although every single track is great on its own, there is one particular song worth pointing out. With an intro reminiscent of Meshuggah’s “Bleed” (yeah, you read that right), “Miss Ma’am” keeps up its relentless groove throughout the whole song until it all ends with a tasteful guitar solo.
To sum it all up, I can confidently say that Marrow managed to create a great piece of music that you should definitely check out if you’re a fan of instrumental music.
Someone left the door to the jazz vault open and now it is everywhere. What’s this crystalline synth texture over there? What’s with all this incoherent percussion? No, wait, that is not music trying to escape from anywhere, it’s the new Sun Ra album! Sun Ra is a spiritual nu-jazz ensemble that takes on some world influences. On their newest record, Crystalline Spears, you can hear all kinds of textures, strange rhythms, and intervals that go together in all the dissonant, yet sweet ways you can imagine.
While the intro to the record is relatively chaotic, the follow-up track, “The Eternal Sphynx”, is more in order. Clavinet-like synths, trumpets, and a smooth saxophone solo lead the listener gently into the world of jazz. Speaking of which, the fluttering, cloudy textures of the saxophone immediately draw similarities to John Coltrane’s style of playing, though with less abrupt key changes. “The Eternal Sphynx” is less a song and more a proficient dialogue between highly trained individuals, not unlike an intellectual debate of sorts.
A mixture of textural elements that can be appreciated for their complexity and richness and some masterfully planned jazz tracks make this little record every jazz fan should check.
Well, 2018 was an amazing year for shoegaze with many good tracks I couldn’t keep my hands from, but just like a child sneaking to the cookie jar, I don’t mind having another treat. Or two. And this release has definitely been a treat. A good amount of overdrive, lots of echo, reverb, and a healthy amount of melancholy are the perfect ingredients for this bittersweet blend of shoegaze and emo.
Songs like “Fake A Smile” perfectly blends punk drums, pop vocals and gazey guitar work. Though that is only one of two sides of the band, moving between slower, more atmospheric songs and up-tempo poppy emo ballads, depending on the track. I think it’s a perfect album to get someone familiar with the genre. The pop nature of most songs is engaging in ways reverb-heavy vocals often are not. Still, the band retains elements typical for the genre and doesn’t shy away from some gnarlier, more distorted riffs.