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Wait A Minute! This Isn't Metal! - March 2022


Written by: RaduP, musclassia, nikarg
Published: 15.04.2022


Wait A Minute! This Isn't Metal! - March 2022
Metal Storm's outlet for nonmetal album reviews



The place where we'll talk about music without growls or blast beats
unless they still have those but still aren't metal


We here at Metal Storm pride ourselves on our thousands of metal reviews and interviews and article; metal is our collective soul and passion, which is why we bother with this junk. That being said, we'd be lying if we stuck to our trve-kvlt guns and claimed that metal is the only thing we ever listen to. Whether we want to admit it or not, we do check out some other stuff from time to time; some of us are more poptimistic than others, but there's a whole world out there aside from Satan-worshiping black metal and dragon-slaying power metal. We do already feature some nonmetal artists on our website and have a few reviews to back them up, but we prefer to limit that aspect of the site to those artists who have been a strong influence on the metal scene or who are in some way connected to it. This article series is the place for those artists who don't matter to metal in the slightest but still warrant some conversation - after all, good music, is good music, and we all know metal isn't the only thing on this planet for any of us.

Down below, you might find some obscure Bandcamp bedroom projects or some Billboard-topping superstar; as long as it ain't metal and the album itself isn't a best-of compilation, it fits. Obviously, we're certain that not everything will be for everybody (you guys can be viciously territorial even when metal is the only thing on the menu, and we're all supposed to like the same things), but we do hope you find at least one thing that you can enjoy, instead of just pointing and screaming in horror "Not metal!" as if that would be an insult.

Here are our previous features:

February 2022
January 2022
December 2021

And now to the music...






Soul Glo - Diaspora Problems
[Hardcore Punk | Hardcore Hip-Hop]


RaduP's pick


Quite a while ago I staff picked Bad Brains' 1982 debut praising it for its revolutionary style, contrasting breakneck energy with outside influences. For Bad Brains those influences were reggae. Soul Glo is the closest thing to remind me of Bad Brains' ethos since. And no, it's not because they're black punks. But it's because they also have a breakneck energy, which is contrasted with some outside influences. In the header I explicitly named hardcore hip-hop, which is the main one, alongside some noise rock. And also, let's just say that hardcore punk in Soul Glo's time sounds a lot different than hardcore in Bad Brains' time.

The hardcore sound that Soul Glo has reaches almost grindcore levels of chaos, with everything from screamo to emoviolence to post-hardcore having a hand in shaping the explosive sound. But one listen to those vocals makes it clear that hip-hop is a massive piece of Soul Glo's sound. I mean... it's hardcore punk with a triplet flow, the kind you'd find in trap music. Later in the album, hip-hop and trap take more of a clear share of Diaspora Problems' sound, with "Driponomics" and "Spiritual Level Of Gang Shit" pretty much being more hip-hop songs than punk songs, even if the mix of the two still remains one of the album's most unique factor. So: energy and genre blends, that's how you keep hardcore vital in 2022.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Ho99o9 - Skin
[Industrial Hip-Hop | Digital Hardcore]


Rap is, for the most part, very much ‘not my thing’. I have covered a few hip-hop/rap albums and artists in these articles, but two that I’ve been most positive about, Scarlxrd and Backxwash, have clear connections with metal music; when I say that I first discovered another hip-hop band that I like, Ho99o9, when they supported The Dillinger Escape Plan on their farewell tour, it's probably clear that I like my hip-hop to be dark and aggressive (which my appreciate for Death Grips is further evidence of). Before now, I’ve been fond of Ho99o9 more for their live shows, which were great fun both on the Dillinger tour and when I saw them at Hellfest 2018, than for their recorded material, which was a bit scattered and lacked some of the impact of the live performance. With Skin, Ho99o9 get closer to bridging that divide.

They waste no time with build-up; “Nuge Snight” immediately kicks into an intimidating trap groove with barked rapping, only to escalate further with frenetic noise and frantic shouting. Ho99o9 are still choppy on this album; “Battery Not Included” is a scattered mess of samples, riffs, frantic beats, quiet downtime and more slapped together without much flow. However, it’s not a persistent problem throughout; the likes of “Slo Bread”, “...Speak Of The Devil” and “The World, The Flesh, The Devil” are more focused, either sticking to more muted trap throughout (“Slo Bread”) or evolving more naturally towards moments of aggression (“The World, The Flesh, The Devil”). There’s quite a bit of musical variety, and also quite a bit of vocal variety; on top of rapping and screaming, there’s some singing to be heard on “...Speak Of The Devil”, acting as a positive addition to the closing moments of this song. There’s also vocal variety due to the guests that appear, the most notorious of which is Slipknot’s Corey Taylor, who adds some added vitriol to “Bite My Face”. Skin still lacks some of the flow and consistency to rival a Death Grips or Backxwash record, but Ho99o9 are taking forward steps towards becoming a band worth listening to outside of live settings.

Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Drug Church - Hygiene
[Post-Hardcore | Alternative Rock]


Post-hardcore is a pretty varied genre that has come to describe a fairly large variety of sounds, but it was never just the hardcore version of post-punk. That's not really the case here as well, but Drug Church seem pretty close to approaching some post-hardcore from a more post-punk direction, while mixing it with the alt rock and melodic hardcore than have been blended by default from post-hardcore. The result sounds surprisingly similar to a mix between Idles, Mudhoney, and Mastodon.

Drug Church are already on their forth album, so by now they arrived at a sort of trademark sound. The alt-rock infusions do make the entire thing sound very '90s, with the bass-heavy grooves also bringing some noise rock to mind. There's some chaos and even more dissonance in the whole thing, but a lot of it is pure energetic riffs and melodies, spastic shouts, and a touch of sarcasm in everything. And it's really the kind of thing that doesn't overstay it's welcome, at a very classic hardcore runtime of barely over 25 minutes.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Spoon - Lucifer On The Sofa
[Indie Rock | Alternative Rock]


Tags like "indie rock" and "alternative rock" do lose a bit of their meaning once you see acts like Imagine Dragons being called that, but Spoon have always had a very confident grip on the "rock" side of both of those. And I do indeed feel a bit like a rockist boomer saying that, the "rock is dead" type, but it sure is nice having that sound continued into the current day. Spoon have been pretty consistent in creating guitar heavy music since the mid 90s, so they're pretty much OGs, even if their most renowned material comes from the 00s.

Lucifer On The Sofa is Spoon's first album in five albums, marking the longest gap between albums for the band. But that doesn't mean that either they've lost any of their charm or that they're trying to make up for the lost time with a longer album. Lucifer On The Sofa is barely shorter than 40 minutes and keeps its bluesy and post-punky charm while moving from mellower cuts to bittersweet feelings and more muscular melodies. All the while, this will probably not end up as many people's favorite Spoon album, but they show that they're still vital at this point in their career.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Mental Fracture - Disaccord
[Progressive Rock]


musclassia's pick


There’s some genres where it’s hard to know where to start when writing about a new album that is very much a genre piece. Post-rock is one; prog rock is another by this point. Disaccord is the debut record of Israel’s Mental Fracture, but what do they offer compared to the many other up-and-coming prog rock bands around right now? Well, to start with, although they’ve clearly got a taste for the classic bands in the genre, this isn’t just retro rip-off; there’s a modernity to Mental Fracture, one that draws from acts such as Porcupine Tree and Fair To Midland, but also more metallic fare like Rishloo and Haken. There’s a depth and weight to Mental Fracture’s sound, while still remaining primarily a rock band, so that they can appeal to a wide stretch of the prog fan spectrum, appreciators of old and new, soft and heavy alike.

“Summer Dies” hits all these points at once, with funky, smooth verses brightened by moving vocals in the vein of a mix of Casey Crescenzo and Andrew Mailloux, contrasted with elaborate keyboard solos and chunky, heavier complex riffing. An important element that should not be overlooked amidst all of this is the emotional core of Disaccord; there’s a tenderness to Ori Mazuz’s singing on “Goodbye Forever” that keeps the track grounded while it flexes its technicality, and the instrumental stretches of this song don’t let this impact fade. “Inception Of Fear” hits that golden balance between driving heaviness and quiet spaciousness that latter-day Porcupine Tree and Rishloo deliver, while “Hearts Of Stone” rounds out the album with Mazuz showing off his other talents with some show-stealing keyboard sections. To answer my earlier question, what Mental Fracture offers is just enough of everything that people like about prog rock to please pretty much everyone without having to compromise on anything, which is no mean feat.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Marillion - An Hour Before It’s Dark
[Neo-Progressive Rock]


A quick look at the Wikipedia page for Marillion shows you the battle that the neo-prog leaders have had with public perception; dubbed ‘the most uncool band in the world’, they’ve received a bizarre level of vitriol from critics, particularly when you consider the swathes of far less capable artists that have achieved similar mainstream presence without anything like this amount of negativity. Well, the joke’s on those critics, because Marillion continue to endure nearly 40 years after their debut album, with An Hour Before It’s Dark the group’s 20th full-length record. What’s more, they continue to age gracefully, with their emotional soft prog sound working just as well today as it did decades ago.

By now, Steve Hogarth has been a member for so long that it feels weird to remember that he wasn’t always there, and age has not diminished his impact; it helps that he doesn’t rely on full-lungs belting singing, but the tenderness and ear for melody remain intact. The story is much the same with the other veterans in the group; Steve Rothery’s guitar playing is just as sumptuous as ever, with some delectable leads during the multi-part closer “Care” in particular. An Hour Before It’s Dark is a subtle and subdued record, flowing by such that it surprises you to learn that you’ve just sat through a 15-minute epic (although streaming services compartmentalizing the tracks into their constituent suites helps with that), although the Choir Noir does add some colour to the album, much like the paint spectrum on the cover art stands out against the dark background. Those still complaining about the 80s are missing out; Marillion have evolved wonderfully, and remained timeless in the process.

Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Oh Hiroshima - Myriad
[Post-Rock | Shoegaze]


musclassia's pick


Darlings of the YouTube algorithm, Oh Hiroshima’s In Silence We Yearn used to be an ever-present feature in the suggestions column whenever listening to anything that was post-rock or related on YouTube. Naturally, I gave in and listened to it every once in a while, but I haven’t delved too much into the band. In 2022, they’re back on my radar with Myriad, their fourth full-length record, and “Nour” welcomes listeners back in style, its morose beginnings and understated singing eventually accentuated by bright brass sounds.

Yes, you did read ‘singing’; Oh Hiroshima are one of the post-rock bands that does actually decide to add in vocals, and they work well. They probably fit better because of the evident role that shoegaze plays in the sound of Myriad, particularly on the dreamy “Ascension”, the muted, solemn singing drifting intangibly through fuzzy meanderings. Although the tone of Myriad does generally feel more subdued, there are moments of brashness, such as the wild lead guitar during the eventual climax of “Veil Of Certainty”, and the darker tone and heavier riffs of “Humane” wouldn’t sound out of place on a modern Katatonia record. Ultimately, there was a reason that In Silence We Yearn has become the most-listened album on the wherepostrockdwells YouTube channel, namely that it’s really good, and Oh Hiroshima have not lost their spark in the intervening years, as this is certainly going to be one of the post-rock highlights of 2022.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Caroline - Caroline
[Post-Rock | Avant-Folk]


You'd be forgiven for assuming that Caroline is the artist name of some Caroline Something singer/songwriter whose music is pretty interestingly post-rock-ish. But Caroline is actually a post-rock group in which none of the eight (holy shit) members are named "Caroline". Talk about false advertising, would ye?! With such a large ensemble of musicians, oft including instruments like violins, cellos, trumpets, and clarinets, you might also start getting images of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Yes and no. I mean, it is folk and post-rock, and it certainly comes from music from around the same era, but Caroline's post-rock is a bit different.

The post-rock groups that come to mind most are Do Make Say Think, Dirty Three, Gastre Del Sol, but what I feel is most unique about Caroline is that they don't seem to be concerned with getting somewhere unlike most crescendo-core bands do, which is also what I imagine most people think of when the term "post-rock" comes up. With a bit more of a vocal presence, but still not enough to really ground the music in something too conventional, it feels like it's using its own meandering nature as both its greatest tool and its biggest detractor. The listening experience is quite unique, but it's also the kind of album that you're never sure if you enjoyed or not.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





El Ten Eleven - New Year’s Eve
[Indietronica]


Back in pre-Covid times, I covered a band for this article series called Aiming For Enrike, whose Music For Working Out, while not being suitable for working out, had a delightful quirky charm to it, with its all-instrumental mix of electronica, math rock and post-rock. Music For Working Out opened with “Christmas Eve”, so it’s curious that the first album I’ve heard since then that reminds me of Aiming For Enrike begins with a song called “New Year’s Eve”. El Ten Eleven bear more than a passing resemblance to Aiming For Enrike[b]; both are comprised of two members, both opt for an instrumental-only approach, and both hit pretty much the exact ‘weird and wonderful’ musical tone.

Stylistically, the description of [b]Aiming For Enrike
above is fairly apt for New Year’s Eve; a rhythm section base that plays around subtly with time signatures and post-rock dynamics is fleshed out with layers of electronics, whether melodic, percussive or ambient, with everything coming together for a half-hour of bubbly entertainment. Aiming For Enrike aren’t the only musical reference I think of when listening to New Year’s Eve (although it’s a rather obvious comparison for at least “Meta Metta”); there’s more than a faint hint of Gary Numan’s “Cars” to “The Time Knife”. Although the album is pretty chirpy throughout, there are ebbs and flows to the album, with a relaxing indie sensibility to “Isn’t Everything Enough?” and a nice contrast within “Sixteen Candles” between noisy distorted synths around the middle of the track and more mellow serenity of its outro. Short and sweet, New Year’s Eve is a really fun listen.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Pjusk - Sentrifuge
[Ambient Electronic]


Ambient music, by its very nature, walks the line between ambient noise and music, and there’s times when one wonders how wide a scope there is to explore in the space between these two concepts. Pjusk, the moniker of Norwegian electronic producer Jostein Dahl Gjelsvik, makes it apparent just how much can be accomplished in this field by returning from an extended hiatus with not one, but two new albums, which take very different paths while being clearly from the same artist. January’s Salt Og Vind, with it’s black and white nature-themed artwork, had a crisp distortion permeating through the record, resulting in a bleak, obscured outcome.

In contrast, Sentrifuge, coming two months later and adorned with a colourful, eclectic painted artwork, is liberated from this noisy overlay, allowing the mellow, melancholic electronic tones to glisten unimpeded. The result is an album that feels initially brighter, but as you delve deeper into it, this surface clarity falls away and a darker underbelly emerges, particularly on the ominous “Ikke Se Ned”. Lighter yet no happier, “Jeg Går I Land” conveys a strong sadness considering the sparseness of its elements; there’s a real challenge when creating ambient music in taking the loosest of arrangements and turning them into real emotions, and Pjusk succeeds at that on Sentrifuge.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Elektro Guzzi - Triangle
[Minimal Techno]


Techno is pretty much defined as being a genre of electronic music. Seemingly defying that logic, Elektro Guzzi are an Austrian power trio of guitar, bass and drums that play minimal techno without computers, loops or backing tracks. Quite how they’re doing this, I’m not entirely sure, as this sounds very much like electronic music, and it’s not easy to correlate the sounds being made and the instruments being played in the music video for “Okra”, a song featured on Triangle, their ninth full-length record (an impressive number considering their debut was only released in 2010). Although the method in which Triangle has been created is intriguing, the actual sound is conventional, but it’s nevertheless a nifty little minimal techno record.

If you’re wondering what makes something minimal techno, it is based on the use of repetition and gradual, subdued development. Well, Triangle does feature subdued, repetitive cuts with gradual evolution, so the boxes have been ticked. “Prototyp”, the first full track on the album, is based around a single beat that persists throughout, with the pounding bass solidifying through the first couple of minutes before fading backwards towards the end. This makes for a bit of a departure from the predominant approach on the record, exhibited by “Spiral”, “Okra” and “Teleporter”, where the music evolves and slowly fills out to peak late on, even if the difference in intensity is pretty minor. “Teleporter” is probably the most satisfying track on the album due to extent of the journey it takes listeners on; in contrast, “Acapulco” remains pretty much constant throughout. Setting aside the novelty (I assume) of being made on guitars, Triangle isn’t revelatory, but it makes for good listening for techno fans.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Skee Mask - A
[Techno | IDM]


Skee Mask, the alias of German techno producer Bryan Müller, found acclaim last year with his third album, Pool. Coming less than a year later, A is not a successor, but instead a rough deep dive into his unreleased back catalogue, with some of the tracks featured here being recorded before his debut Shred was released in 2016. A compilation of previously unreleased and unmastered tracks, A was thrown together and made available as a fundraiser for humanitarian aid for the Ukraine war; however, despite its slapdash nature, it actually makes for a solid listen independent of the context behind its creation.

It's hard to find words to describe these tracks beyond ‘it’s techno’; it’s got the beats, the lulls, the dance floor mix, and everything else you’d expect. However, it does flow well as an album; “Driver” is a fairly low-key opening, before “Korarchaeota” steps things up with some serious pace with the hi-hat rhythms. From there, it alternates back and forth between faster cuts and milder lulls in pace for a few tracks, giving it a real sense of intentional flow beyond what one might expect from a compilation of unrelated old tracks, before fizzling out with the mellowness of “Birdland Skit” and ambient conclusion that is “TSC0024”. All in all, it’s a pretty decent techno record, although I should state now that the donation drive has ended, so if you do download it now, make sure that it’s because you actually enjoy the album.

Bandcamp

by musclassia





Aquarian - Mutations I: Death, Taxes & Hanger
[Drum & Bass | Techno]


The first of two Mutations EPs on the way from Canadian electronic producer Aquarian, Death, Taxes & Hanger is his debut on Dekmantel Records’ UFO series. At 30 minutes, it’s still a substantial body of work, and served as a good introduction for myself to Aquarian’s spin on drum & bass. The title track starts off fairly calm, closer to IDM/techno I’ve been used to than DnB, but before long it’s powering along with breakneck speed and plenty of dirty bass sounds. I don’t have much DnB experience, mainly having only listened to Pendulum from the genre, but this song does feel light on the bass for portions; still, that’s not a bad thing, as the combination of fast drum rhythms and shimmering electronic layers works nicely.

This stays true for much of the rest of the EP, with “Rene Likes The Steak” dominated by a bouncy repeated melodic synth motif without much backing it up on the bass front. Packing more on the ‘wub-wub’ front is “San Handwich”, a track that’s hoping people still remember the laurel/yanny conundrum from 2018, as both are repeated throughout. Both of these cuts are fairly repetitive across their runtime, remaining pretty constant throughout. Mixing it up more is the lengthy closer “Dead Whale”, which filters in plenty of layers, from ominous ambient synth tones to aquatic sounds and morphing dance floor blares. Mutations I is a cool EP, but the diversity and fluidity of “Dead Whale” does let it stand out from the remainder of the tracklist; hopefully Mutations II will feature more in the same vein.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





DEADLIFE - Tortured Waters
[Synthwave]


DEADLIFE’s City Of Eternal Rain was one of the first synthwave albums that I covered for this article series. By now, I feel like I’ve reached the point where I don’t have much left to say about synthwave albums; at least Perturbator mixed things up last year by going in a goth rock direction. DEADLIFE’s follow-up to City Of Eternal Rain is very much what you’d expect from a synthwave album; however, while I struggle to find much new to say about Tortured Waters, I can at least say that it’s a good, enjoyable album for the style.

I wasn’t sure I would enjoy it too much when I first started playing it; “Zealous Veins” hits on a type of synthwave that I don’t fully jive with, specifically with the weird electroswing melody in the ‘chorus’ and quirky, bouncy rhythm. Still, when “Afterlight Special” gets going, a very similar chorus (quirky synth melody, faux-choirs et al) for some reason feels far more compelling. Nevertheless, it’s when the album moves into the ‘peak hacker music’ bass pulsations of “Lost In The Pipes” and slick neon city grooves of “A Call Away” that I find myself warming more to Tortured Waters. With 13 tracks, there’s plenty to get stuck into on Tortured Waters, and there’s a healthy amount of diversity to keep things interesting, from the moody, slow waves of “Emotional Barrier” to the pounding beats of “Bitter Streets Of Hubris”. Tortured Waters doesn’t especially stand out amongst the range of synthwave albums I’ve heard in the past couple of years, but it’s also very decent at what it does.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul - Topical Dancer
[Art Pop | Tech House]


RaduP's pick


There's something so effortlessly cool about this album. From the album title "Topical Dancer" already informing you very clearly about two of the album's most significant characteristics: it's topical in its topi... I mean, it's the kind of thing where the lyrics were obviously a very integral part and they're very witty about the socio-political aspect; and that you're probably gonna be able to dance to it. I wasn't familiar with neither Charlotte Adigéry nor Bolis Pupul before, so I went into this one purely based on how cool the entire presentation of this album is. And guess what, the music on this is also effortlessly cool.

As far as the music goes, a lot of it takes from a very European brand of electronica and EDM, a lot of it very 80s and 90s like, and moving between techno and art pop and new wave and electro-disco and EBM to create a sound that's pretty eclectic, even if it's not always really danceable, but it is more often than not. And as far as the lyrics go, it's rebellious against the state of the world in a way that is very free of the cynicism you can expect from how disheartening it is to live and hope for the better. And here, hope is playful, humorous, witty, and most importantly, not dumbed down just because it's fun.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Blue States - World Contact Day
[Alternative Pop | Downtempo]


It’s been a bit of a topsy-turvy months for me as far as navigating genre tags is concerned. Just after I heard Elektro Guzzi, a ‘live techno’ band making full-on electronic music with a power trio guitar set up, I came across World Contact Day. Blue States is the project of Andy Dragazis, and it seems that at some point in the past that he was an electronic music producer, as I saw this record described as downtempo and electronic pop, despite not really feeling all that much like either. More than anything, World Contact Day had me thinking of bizarro-pop such as Vanishing Twin, with Rachael Dadd’s floating, peaceful singing and quirky background harmonizing working wonderfully against a gentle guitar/drum instrumental backdrop on opener “Plain Sight”.

There are a couple of tracks on World Contact Day that betray a affiliation with electronic music, specifically the quirky indietronica sounds on “Alarms” and the subtle synthpop beats that appear on “Warning Signs” and “Serial Recall”, but it’s the other instruments that flesh out each track. These instruments are generally built off a base of simple-yet-effective quiet drumming and either acoustic or clean electric guitar, but beyond that there’s strings and trumpet sounds that expand the likes of “Science Or Fiction?”, “Tiers” and “Trust In Wires”. These sounds come together effectively in different ways, whether it’s contrast between a slight sense of drama coming from the strings and the otherwise mellow nature of “Tiers”, the mild ‘old melancholic prog’ energy in moments of “Trust In Wires” or the dreamy, soothing tone of “Warning Signs”. It’s not an easy album to encapsulate in a couple of paragraphs, but World Contact Day has an understated yet compelling energy to it that clicked nicely with me.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Tears For Fears - The Tipping Point
[Pop Rock | Synthpop]


Many - if not most - of you reading this were not even born when Tears For Fears started playing music. Still, I bet very few of you have never heard tracks like “Mad World”, “Shout”, “Everybody Wants To Rule The World”, or “Woman In Chains”. The Tipping Point comes 18 long years after Everybody Loves A Happy Ending, which actually had a title that insinuated ‘final album’. It was a long and arduous journey for this one to see the light, with the band initially ‘speed-dating’ younger musicians for potential collaborations, but that idea turned sour and the result did not sound like Tears For Fears. Some of the collaborations with Sacha Skarbek were kept, but The Tipping Point was mainly written by Roland Orzabal, with some help from guitarist and producer Charlton Pettus. It bears the mark of the state of affairs in the world in the last few years, as well as the death of Orzabal’s wife in 2017.

The sound of The Tipping Point is impeccable (the surround mix was made by Steven Wilson - check out “Stay”, in particular), and this is evident from the opening track, “No Small Thing”. The production and the orchestrations are superb but this album is surprisingly good in the songwriting department as well. The title track and “My Demons” are fantastic synthpop songs, reminiscing the best of the band’s ‘80s material. “Break The Man” is an upbeat track that has a great bass line, and thematically starts where “Woman In Chains” ended back in 1989. The atmosphere of the latter is present on “Rivers Of Mercy”, which is quite an emotional track. Actually, the middle of the album is heavily emotional with “Please Be Happy” being a ballad that echoes Paul McCartney and “Master Plan” screaming The Beatles; it was very clever to place these songs one after the other. Overall, The Tipping Point seems to have been created as an album, as a cycle of songs. It flows so gently and so naturally that when the last track ends it makes sense to go back to the beginning. It’s fresh and familiar at the same time. I did not expect much from Tears For Fears in their sixties, but this is such a beautiful album and they must be really, really proud of it.

Apple Music | Spotify

by nikarg





Destroyer - Labyrinthitis
[Synthpop | Art Rock]


A lot of music falls under either the "synthpop" or the "art pop" or the "art rock" label. But Destroyer make music that thread in between these, doesn't really sound that much like what you'd expect from a band named "Destroyer" and just makes music that's effortlessly cool and relaxing. I've already covered their previous release, 2020's Have We Met, which was an even synthy-er record for Destroyer standards, so Labyrinthitis is somewhat of a return to a more anxious sound for Labyrinthitis. Don't get me wrong, it still sounds effortlessly cool, and it still feels pretty soft for the band name, but it's not really something I'd listen to when I wanna chill.

Dan Bejar's voice is still surprising and may take some getting used to, but here it fits the darker vibe of the record. John Collins' keys still play a large role on the record, though not as overbearing of a role as on Have We Met, so the soundscapes of Labyrinthitis are a bit more varied and mysterious. The album is pretty unpredictable, though it takes a bit from new wave and art pop, but it really shines in it's soundscapes and its dark lyricism. It's like drifting, but you're not always sure where you're going, sometimes you might be anxious about it, but there's no better response than just going along for the ride and wishing for the best. Kind of like in life.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Stromae - Multitude
[French Pop | Dance-Pop]


I think all of us got to know Stromae (if at all) through his "Alors on danse" hit from more than a decade ago, the most sarcastic and blasé dance song you could think of. I figured there might be more than meets the eye, so one day I watched his Racine Carrée Live concert, and turns out that, hey, it's pretty good! Sure, a lot of it has been described as "essential French teacher core", and as someone who still doesn't understand French as well as I wish I did, that fit a niche. But what was most perplexing was how Stromae seemed to vanish off the face of the earth. An album in 2010 and one in 2013, and then nothing.

You could guess my surprise when I saw that there's a new Stromae album, after nearly ten years. And once again, it's not the kind that needlessly tries to make up for the lost time with quantity. Multitude is a bit over 35 minutes in runtime, and it's quite clearly that it has Stromae trying as hard as he can to be a serious artist, with the instrumentation being plastered with endless influences from Latin and Caribbean music, as well as intricacies in rhythms, melodies, and production that makes this such an interesting listen, even if some of the experiments do turn a bit more grating rather than rewarding. If Stromae can come back, what's next? Gotye?!

Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Babeheaven - Sink Into Me
[Trip-Hop | Indie Pop]


musclassia's pick


Long past its heyday, trip-hop still remains alive in the UK, and genre fusion takes on the style such as that conjured up by Babeheaven help it to remain relevant. With singer Nancy Andersen bringing an R’n’B/soul influence to the understated vocals and an indie/dream pop undercurrent flowing through the instrumentals, this muted ‘bedroom soul’ project combines an air of wistful longing with a gentle serenity. Andersen is the star of the show here, ensnaring with heartfelt croonings on opener “Heartbeat”, with the slick drumbeat, funky bass licks and background-swelling synths capably backing her up.

The dream pop comes through more so on the jangly indie cut “The Hours”, on which Andersen’s vocals are mixed to give them an even lighter and ethereal tone during the chorus. I’m personally more drawn towards the soul-oriented tracks with the trip-hop beats, with “Don’t Wake Me”, “4 Days” and “Fading” sticking out in particular; Babeheaven go even further into ‘-hop’ territory on “Make Me Wanna”, which features a rap cameo from Navy Blue. This feature adds an interesting change of pace to the tranquillity of Andersen’s vocals, but ultimately her irresistibly silky vocal melodies are the main selling point of Sink Into Me, and a fine selling point they make.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by musclassia





Charli XCX - Crash
[Dance-Pop]


Well, it should be no surprise by now that I love pop music. Or at least some of it. I also love metal, but that doesn't mean I love all of it. You get the point. Charli XCX has been on the forefront of making the kind of pop that I especially like, a mix of older sounds and forward thinking approaches in sugary and bombastic production. Like she was pop, but you're not gonna hear "VROOM VROOM", "Claws" or "Cross You Out" on the radio with a production like that, all the while still having a lot of really accessible mainstream sounds. Judging by the singles prior to Crash, it became pretty clear that it was gonna be more of the latter than the former.

Maybe it makes sense if rumors of this being more of a "last album on a label contract" kind of deal, but also not just a half-assed effort. Most of Crash still has the Charli XCX trademark sound, albeit a more "presentable" version. There's songs with a pretty strong 80s vibe, complete with synths and gated reverb, like "New Shapes", which also features Christine & The Queens and Caroline Polachek. "Beg For You" featuring Rina Sawayama is pretty close to being a cover of September's "Cry For You". And the rest of the album sounds like a pretty sanitized version of a pop medley of the past 30 years, albeit still more listenable than the average billboard topper.

Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Rosalía - Motomami
[Reggaetón | Art Pop]


I'm still pretty out of my element in a lot of Latin American music, but if there's one of its genre that has quite a negative stigma to it it's reggaeton. It had plenty of contact with it, and I'm not even close to a Spanish speaking country, so I can't imagine how absolutely inescapable it would be in one. It's probably no surprise that some of the experimental pop artists from the region, like Arca, have been dabbling in some of its sounds lately, bringing a more experimental take on the genre. Now it's Rosalía turn.

Rosalía started out as more of a flamenco singer, which is something I have an easier time appreciating, but her previous album expanded her sound more into pop and R&B, so the jump to reggaeton isn't that far fetched. But I can't say I'm really pleased with it. Maybe it's just culture clash, and me being unable to understand the lyrics certainly plays a part in this, but I can't really feel like the sound is really fit for Rosalía. She kind of makes a hyperpop version of latin electronic music, which should be fine and dandy, but Motomami pulls from a lot of places, never really develops much, and overall just feels too much like a bunch of vignettes. But still, it has a song with The Weeknd singing in Spanish, so that's about all I could ever wish for anyway.

Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Jenny Hval - Classic Objects
[Art Pop | Ambient Pop]


A lot of art pop can only be called pop because of its lineage, rather than any push to get airplay, or whatever we'd want to define pop music as anyway. The entire concept of ambient pop sounds pretty antithetical to radio pop. And Jenny Hval has been making very weird pop for quite some time, infusing avant-folk and drone and experimental rock into something that at least has the form of popular music. But not its soundscapes. If anything, her 2016 album, and my favorite of hers, Blood Bitch is the only one that was actually more accessible, with 2019's The Practice Of Love continuing down that line to create some really compelling left-field pop music.

Out of all of these, it's Classic Objects that feels like it traces it's art pop lineage most clearly. As in you can imagine the inspiration that 70s or 80s art pop acts might've had on this a bit more clearly. The album still sits more in an ambient side than what's usual for the genre, relying a lot on elegant piano and lush soundscapes to create something that feels very fragile. Even as accessible as it is, Jenny Hval's music always feels at least a bit out of reach, and Classic Objects is no exception, but at least if feels more content with its freedom from impression. Like a ghost accepting that they'll never live again rather than haunting for spite.

Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





The Weather Station - How Is It That I Should Look At The Stars
[Singer-Songwriter | Chamber Pop]


I wasn't really familiar with The Weather Station before their 2021 album, Ignorance, and even with how much I loved that album, I never really dared to dive much deeper into their catalog, even though that includes four more well-received albums. I'm not sure why? Lack of time? Fear that they won't compare to Ignorance? Really, that one was the kind of album that received universal praise and really hit the nail on the head in terms of what works for this sound. But seeing that there's a new The Weather Station album coming out, and seeing the lukewarm reception for it, maybe it's time to figure out exactly what that was.

Listening to How Is It That I Should Look At The Stars, the listening experience is still pretty comfortable. The instrumentation, even as sparse as it is, still has a lushness to it. Tamara Lindeman's (no, not that Lindemann) vocals are warm, and the lyricism is still pretty compelling. And yet, the entire thing comes and goes and nothing really stays with me much. Even for a 32 minutes song, it just feels very non-descript other than very beautiful. And coming back to Ignorance, I realized how much of it was carried by the fantastic "Robber" opener, and even if the rest of the album didn't quite live up to it, How Is It That I Should Look At The Stars is what it sounds like when you strip all remaining excitement from it.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Aldous Harding - Warm Chris
[Chamber Pop | Singer/Songwriter]


I suppose there's a pretty high chance you stumbled upon the "YouTube recommended core" of Aldous Harding's video for "The Barrel". Alongside jokes about how she would definitely not have survived the Salem witch trials, lies a Kiwi singer/songwriter that's a bit hard to describe in other words that "quirky". Even that, alongside words like "weird", feel like they have a sort of negative connotation. And indeed, it's Aldous Harding's quirks as a vocalist and performer that make her music both more unique but also a bit more hard to digest for people who might find it a bit too close to parody.

Warm Chris is already her fourth record, so it's quite a trademark sound that has been established so far. However, Warm Chris feels more surreal, warmer, and sparser. The production of the album has a slight dreamlike quality to it, one that works very well with a lot of singer/songwriter music that for me evokes feeling of drenching in the sun while lying on the grass. The tuneful nature of it is a bit more elusive, but it's really a listening experience that, even with the vocal quirks, is incredibly pleasant. Part of me wished that said quirkiness expanded more towards the instrumental side too, but the end result still conjured a pretty unmistakable sound.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Ibibio Sound Machine - Electricity
[Afto-Funk | Electro-Funk]


RaduP's pick


Considering how many genres can be traced directly or indirectly to African music, usually through the African-American branch, it's still amazing to hear merges of modern popular music with a strong African tradition. Ibibio Sound Machine is one of the spear-headers of this, blending Afrobeat with a lot of synth sounds, funk, disco, EDM, and even bits of dance-punk. I got into their music through 2017's Uyai and I somehow missed the release of their previous record, Doko Mien, but now that I did listen to it, I feel like it didn't really live up to the potential of the sound. I can't say the same for this year's Electricity.

What a damn fitting title! Electricity is even more focused on synth sounds, which makes sense considering that the production is handled by indietronica band Hot Chip. It's a bit weird that the album drops a bit after the first two tracks, especially with some of its flow issues, but the soundscapes are always amazing regardless. The second half builds up again with its bold synth bursts and infusions from funk and disco. I've already praised the production and synths, but this wouldn't be half the record it is without Eno Williams' amazing vocals, that work on everything from soul to spirituals.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Immanuel Wilkins - The 7th Hand
[Post-Bop]


All this talk of post-metal and post-rock and post-industrial and post-punk has led us away from recognizing the original of the "post-" genres: post-bop. Now it's true that I don't have as good of a grasp of jazz history as I'd like to have, but you can consider post-bop as the bridge between the hard bop jazz of the 50s and the avant-garde and free jazz of the late 60s. This era of jazz, not necessarily all within the post-bop umbrella, has given birth to some of the well renowned jazz records, from Charles Mingus to John Coltrane to Thelonious Monk. That sound lives on.

Saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins brings his second album to a pretty cool balance between technicality and flow. There's still some free jazz improvisation, but a lot of The 7th Hand is pretty easy to listen to even for the uninitiated, as he clearly borrows from some greats, has some inventive guest spots, and brings the chops. However the worst thing about The 7th Hand is that half the runtime of the album is taken up by the last track, one that one would expect to be monumental, but sadly I feel like it kinda collapses under its own weight by not doing nearly enough to justify its runtime nor do anything actually interesting.

Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Black Flower - Magma
[Ethio-Jazz]


Readers of this feature might remember that this is not the first case of an album's context leading to my desperation. Here we have an Ethio-jazz album done by white Belgians. You ought to understand my frustration every time I come across a jazz album, I see it tagged as Ethio-jazz or something similar, and I see no actual Ethiopian. As fantastic as the music is, and as clear as the respect that comes from the band to the progenitors of the original sound is, I can't help but feel a bit deceived. It's like checking out a Chinese post-black metal band, only to find that they're from North Dakota. At least in Black Flower's case, they didn't do anything wrong, they're just playing in a genre that has a culture attached to it.

The sounds on Magma aren't exclusively Ethio-jazz influenced, with the dub and the neo-psychedelia, as well as a more non-specific oriental vibe, without falling dangerously close to some orientalist fetishization. There's some skill required to pay the necessary respects to the sounds without appropriating them, even while distorting them, and Black Flower have that. Magma is pretty mellow overall, relying a lot on the atmospheres being immersive and quite relaxing, but also bringing the fire when necessary.

Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Etran de L'Aïr - Agadez
[Tishoumaren]


It was just in the last edition that I had already covered another Tishoumaren album, Imarhan's Aboogi, while also joking about there being more Tishoumaren artists other than the most well-known ones in Mdou Moctar and Tinariwen. Tishoumaren is not exactly such a niche genre, especially considering that it is spread over multiple countries, from Morocco to Niger and everything in between, but this Saharan desert rock feels like it only exploded in popularity in the Anglosphere quite recently. A lot of the acts that I've mentioned have had their hand in it, and Etran de L'Aïr's short studio discography, with their first record out in 2018, might make them seem like riders of the wave rather that initiators, but the band has been active in some form or another since 1995.

Agadez, named after the Niger town that the group hails from, truly feels like a communal experience. Perhaps a bit of familiarity with Saharan culture would help, but there's something still very universal in how the free-flowing music generates this jolly energy. With no less than three guitarists, the band is very playful with how they harmonize their arpeggios and how they shift their rhythms and use their percussion. "Dreamlike" is something that's quite a given with most psychedelic music, and this one is a bit more of a jolly fever dream rather than anything, like the heartwarming version of the sound, making it so approachable and welcoming.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Conway The Machine - God Don't Make Mistakes
[Conscious Hip-Hop | Boom Bap]


I don't keep up with hip-hop as much as I'd like to, and often a lot of the hip-hop albums I listen to I don't end up writing about. At least since starting this feature I've been paying a lot more attention to what names pop up lately, and some of them are really prolific, which put me off even more from writing about it, since I could always write about the next one, or I'd have a hard time figuring out what to say about each of them anyway. Conway The Machine is one of the names I've seen at least two more times since starting writing this, and each of them were close but not close enough to make the cut. But God Don't Make Mistakes finally convinced me that I have to give Conway The Machine his dues.

Conway The Machine is also part of Griselda with his brother Westside Gunn and cousin Benny The Butcher, both of whom appear on the "John Woo Flick" track, and both of whom had great albums this year that I didn't end up talking about. But God Don't Make Mistakes is much more than that, even with its numerous features, some of them pretty big names, is still wholly Conway's vision and the most whole album of his that I listened to. Though it isn't doing anything necessarily new, it's extremely versatile at using hip hop's penchant for introspective lyricism in crafting something that is seeping with rap greatness.

Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP





Denzel Curry - Melt My Eyez See Your Future
[Conscious Hip Hop | Southern Hip Hop]


Denzel Curry is the kind of rapper I'd be hopping made it big if they didn't already made it big (at least relatively). I've been a fan of his music since 2016's Imperial, but the versatility he's shown since then only cemented my admiration for the man. 2018's TA13OO and 2019's ZUU have bridged the gap between his underground and mainstream success, so it would be expected that his first album in quite a while would capitalize on what has already made him appealing. But Melt My Eyez See Your Future comes out pretty odd.

See, it's not unusual to call a rapper's delivery "fire". But for Denzel Curry it really really fit. However he's a bit less fiery on here, in the sense that Melt My Eyez See Your Future is more of an introspective rather than in-your-face affair. Not like introspection is anything new for Denzel, but it was an element alongside the energy he expels. Melt My Eyez takes more from jazz hip-hop and psychedelic trap and neo-soul, sporting some fantastic production, one that really supplements the more personal stories told here, and Denzel's flow adapts to the vibe just as well.

Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

by RaduP




And that was it. You've made it through still alive. Congrats. See ya next month. Here's a Spotify playlist we compiled out of stuff featured here:







Comments

Comments: 12   Visited by: 131 users
15.04.2022 - 10:43
Deadsoulman

I'm not the biggest Stromae fan, but that guy really did find his niche and he's pretty good at what he's doing. Although they sometimes border on demagogical, his lyrics are (and have always been) his forte - he's quite sarcastic and has a strong focus towards self-deprecating humour. His videos are awesome as well. FYI, there's no mystery as to why he disappeared for almost 10 years: burnout and depression. That's what his song "L'Enfer" is about.
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15.04.2022 - 11:18
JoHn DoE

Thanks for having Marillion here.
I'm also gonna listen to Mental Fracture and Destroyer properly.
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I thought the two primary purposes for the internet were cat memes and overreactions.
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15.04.2022 - 11:56
Deadsoulman

Written by JoHn DoE on 15.04.2022 at 11:18

Thanks for having Marillion here.



Good album, too. I've always enjoyed the Hogarth albums more than Fish's, whose sound I find a bit too "80's" if you know what I mean. I hadn't listened to a Marillion album in over 10 years I guess, glad to see they're still going strong.
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15.04.2022 - 11:57
JoHn DoE

Written by Deadsoulman on 15.04.2022 at 11:56

Written by JoHn DoE on 15.04.2022 at 11:18

Thanks for having Marillion here.



Good album, too. I've always enjoyed the Hogarth albums more than Fish's, whose sound I find a bit too "80's" if you know what I mean. I hadn't listened to a Marillion album in over 10 years I guess, glad to see they're still going strong.


It's one of my favorite bands.
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I thought the two primary purposes for the internet were cat memes and overreactions.
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15.04.2022 - 12:06
Deadsoulman

Written by JoHn DoE on 15.04.2022 at 11:57


It's one of my favorite bands.


They're actually the second band I've ever seen live (first one being Pink Floyd). My mom, being a huge Marillion fan, took me to one of their shows in the mid-90's (must have been on the Brave tour - I'm not sure, but in any case it was before This Strange Engine). Needless to say it was awesome :-)
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15.04.2022 - 12:08
JoHn DoE

Written by Deadsoulman on 15.04.2022 at 12:06

Written by JoHn DoE on 15.04.2022 at 11:57


It's one of my favorite bands.


They're actually the second band I've ever seen live (first one being Pink Floyd). My mom, being a huge Marillion fan, took me to one of their shows in the mid-90's (must have been on the Brave tour - I'm not sure, but in any case it was before This Strange Engine). Needless to say it was awesome :-)


I've seen them live in 2012. Great show.
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I thought the two primary purposes for the internet were cat memes and overreactions.
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15.04.2022 - 16:31
AndyMetalFreak
The Nice Guy
Written by Deadsoulman on 15.04.2022 at 12:06

Written by JoHn DoE on 15.04.2022 at 11:57


It's one of my favorite bands.


They're actually the second band I've ever seen live (first one being Pink Floyd). My mom, being a huge Marillion fan, took me to one of their shows in the mid-90's (must have been on the Brave tour - I'm not sure, but in any case it was before This Strange Engine). Needless to say it was awesome :-)

You've seen Pink Floyd live? You jammy git, I've only ever managed to see tribute acts.
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15.04.2022 - 17:24
Deadsoulman

Written by AndyMetalFreak on 15.04.2022 at 16:31


You've seen Pink Floyd live? You jammy git, I've only ever managed to see tribute acts.


Haha, "jammy git", can you be even more British?

And yes, August 11, 1994, Place des Quinconces, Bordeaux. A family trip including a not-yet-13 me, my mom, my 10-year-old brother and my grandma (yes, my grandma rocks) that got us and 90,000 other lucky fellows through two and a half hours of pure musical and visual bliss on one of Floyd's last shows ever. Still my most cherished concert experience
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15.04.2022 - 18:22
AndyMetalFreak
The Nice Guy
Written by Deadsoulman on 15.04.2022 at 17:24

Haha, "jammy git", can you be even more British?

And yes, August 11, 1994, Place des Quinconces, Bordeaux. A family trip including a not-yet-13 me, my mom, my 10-year-old brother and my grandma (yes, my grandma rocks) that got us and 90,000 other lucky fellows through two and a half hours of pure musical and visual bliss on one of Floyd's last shows ever. Still my most cherished concert experience

Yep definitely very British, how could you have guessed?
It's certainly a moment to cherish, that was the year Division Bell came out if I'm not mistaken, and I would of only been 4 during that show. If there was ever only one band I could choose to see live it would of been Pink Floyd, I've seen many tribute bands, but it will never
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15.04.2022 - 23:34
Nejde
Philosoraptor
Already listened a lot to Mental Fracture and DEADLIFE. Definitely gonna check out Spoon and Drug Church some more. Charli XCX was a nice surprise too.
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"You have the right to believe in what you want. I have the right to believe it's ridiculous." - Ricky Gervais
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16.04.2022 - 18:54
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
Msrillion and Tears For Frears are to my taste, but I love Charli XCX artwork, best.
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Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
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22.04.2022 - 21:40
Crème fraiche

Loved all the hip-hop albums you dropped here. Conway the Machine and Denzel Curry have been killing it lately! VERY pumped for the new Kendrick Lamar album coming up soon!!!!!
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