Well, that escalated quickly. While January was surprisingly generous with noteworthy releases, February wasn’t impressed at all. A lot of great albums saw the light of day in the past month, so let’s celebrate some (I would say, the very best) of them!
Xïola Yin is an alter ego for Taiwan-born/Berlin-based artist Aloïs Yang, and Self-Contained Illusion (The Peak) is a disturbingly beautiful, hauntingly mezmerizing piece of art. Created by field recordings and tape manipulation, it blends the borders of analog and digital sounds together with ease, impressing the listener with each layer to be discovered.
Work Money Death – The Space In Which The Uncontrollable Unknown Resides, Can Be The Place From Which Creation Arises
February 5 // ATA Records
Looking for some great jazz? Try this phenomenal work of art, and be careful digesting it. “Dusk” and “Dawn” are ultra vibrant and lively jazz performances, with a laid back pulse and some fascinating melodies, led by the amazing Tony Burkill.
When I pressed play on Herald, I know immediately I was in for a treat. The colorful explosions of compelling and catchy art pop Odette created with those songs is simply wonderful. The more accessible vocal lines play perfectly with the more complex instrumental layers, creating an absolute blast of an album.
Black Country, New Road are so incredibly aware of the musical zeitgeist that it’s no surprise that For the first time works so well. Picking up popular elements and combining them in an exciting and fresh way, uniting their ideas with true songwriting talent. You like post-punk, but are annoyed of the myriad of same-sounding bands? You like indie, but it sounds all the same to you? Try BCNR!
Archie Shepp is a legend, and teaming up with Jason Moran was the right decision. A collection of standards and spirituals, performed in a fantastic duo setting. Inspiring.
Unleashing nightmarish, dissonant mayhem was never more beautiful and delicate than with Ad Nauseam. Once again, the Italian underground darling proves that they are one of the interesting names in extreme metal with a forward-thinking and progressive piece of death metal, showing what boldness and razor sharp songwriting can achieve.
By now, Dominique Fils-Aimé is a regular on those features. Her whole discography is pretty close to my heart, and her newest effort, Three Little Words, is no exception. Channeling old school soul and jazz instead of her more neo soul approach is ironically a breath of fresh air. If you don’t know her music by now, this is a good point to delve into her catalogue!
Jen Kutler – Sonified Physiological Indicators Of Empathy
February 12 // Cacophonous Revival Recordings
The dark ambient, experimental layers Jen Kutler creates on her newest record are mesmerizing, yet horrifying. Sonified Physiological Indicators Of Empathy manages to bring balance with calming arrangements, which always have a compelling surprise up its sleeve to challenge the listener. If you are interested in experimental music as an idea, you can’t ignore this record.
Browsing through Youtube, I clicked on this because the cover looked nice. And it caught me real nice, not releasing until the last notes. UK is bursting with talented artists, especially in neo soul/r’n’b and jazz, and to hear Sun / Moon with Philip Shibata‘s silky smooth voice reassured the quality of the scene. Fans of Tom Misch have to check this album
You just wanna have fun? Here To Stay!‘s got your back. This Indonesian indie trio brings some of sweetest songs you’ll hear all year to the table, especially if you are enjoying the recent ’90s throwback you can hear a lot these days. If a band decide to go on pretty known path, all that counts are songwriting and flow, and Grrrrl Gang have tons of that.
The streak of great skramz continues. But Youth Novel‘s story is a bittersweet one. The band disbanded some years ago, after the some of the members of the originally Michigan-based band moved away, so two of the remaining members worked with a new vocalist to finish some unfinished business (in that case, some songs) to release this album. Is this one of those album you didn’t realize you need in your life? Yes, indeed.
I found all under heaven shortly before I finished this collection of albums for the feature, and was very glad that I was able to include them. Collider presents four very charming and warm shoegaze/alt rock songs, and especially fans of Hundredth‘s new sound should definitely check them out!
What’s not to love about this wonderful EP? arm’s length play beautifully written post hardcore/alt rock/emo, and they are so damn good at it. Everything is in the right place, it creates all the right feels, it’s nostalgic, it’s fresh, and most of all, it’s incredibly dynamic and energetic. Everything Nice is the band’s second EP, and I can’t wait for the debut full-length.
I’m a big fan of The Entrepreneurs since I first heard their fantastic record Noise & Romance, so I was super eager to its follow-up, Wrestler. Cat out of the bag, Wrestler is a tiny bit weaker than its predecessor, but nevertheless a top notch album for every fan of noisy, weird and charming indie/alt rock.
Black Sheep Wall came a long way. When the project released their first, now legendary album I Am God Songs, I was very happy that Admiral Angry (which was the previous project of some members, and also a stupidly heavy sludge band) had a worth follow-up. Over the years, BSW became more than I ever would have dreamed of, reaching new heights with their masterpiece Songs for the Enamel Queen. Still digesting, ttyl.
Black Nash marries catchiness and accessibility with a good portion of weirdness, even channeling some Conan Mockasin vibes from time to time. Which acts as a sizzling light to my inner moth. His self-titled album might be kind of an overlooked sleeper hit, and the mention of it here probably won’t change that, but I for one am super stoked to know about this album. Give it a try, it’s wonderful.
Drone, dark jazz, and doom seems to be a match made in…well, not necessarily heaven, but an equally hot place. Through Aureate Void pushes the right buttons, playing with pulsating grooves and mesmerizing soundscapes. And oh, that sax. Thanks for that, Five the Hierophant.
The one record which challenged Ad Nauseam for the best metal album of the month, and even the best metal album of the year so far. I was able to spend a lot of time with Klexos‘ Apocryphal Parabolam, since we teamed up with them for their full album premiere. And with its devastating soundscapes and majestic riffs, it made itself very comfortable in my rotation.
Burning In Heaven, Melting On Earth delivers the occult doom which Sunnata already established on their previous album Outlands. Often times, this whole shamanic persona comes off rather gimmicky, but Sunnata made that convincingly part of their identity, and a major part of their appealing sound.
So, big praise incoming: Modern Grotesque will not only be one of the best skramz record of the year, but is also one of the greatest releases within the current new wave of the genre. Period. There is so much fantastic stuff going on with Dreamwell‘s new album, that it’s quite impossible to give a full picture of its quality. Any fan, or anyone even lightly interested in skramz have to listen to this.
Hailing from Glasgow, Scotland, Nighshift dabbles with kraut rock and psychedelic folk on their new album Zöe. Two styles which easily raise my interest, and if those styles are executed well, it’s an easy win. There is the exact amount of weirdness which is necessary to make everything work. Listen!
Mapstation – My Frequencies, When We
February 26 // Bureau B
Listening to this album at night with headphones was a transcending experience. German artist Stefan Schneider really hit it out of the park with his project Mapstation, which dabbles into meditative rhythm patterns and extremely immersive electronic soundscapes. There is a certain randomness to My Frequencies, When We, which weirdly adds to a very vibrant and natural feel, almost irresistible.
The biggest problem of post-rock is its formula. Most of the bands heavily rely on its effectiveness, ending with mediocre crescendos and constantly boring build-ups. Only a few bands manage to rise from that, and I’m really glad that Krane not only left behind those tropes with damn good songwriting, they also created a fantastic identity with some of the best post-rock currently around.
All you need is charm! Julien Baker is no stranger to great music, as proved by her previous records Sprained Ankle and Turn Out the Lights, as well as her work with boygenius. But I have to say: Little Oblivions is her best work yet, and it will be with me for the next months. And I’m already excited for her next magic trick.
How can I allow myself not to include this record in here, even if the first half of it was released back in December? Lost Horizons is an incredibly interesting project featuring Richie Thomas of Dif Juz and Bella Union mastermind Simon Raymonde, who was part of fucking Cocteau Twins! The result is as beautiful as you might expect!
Thanks for scrolling!