tThis alphabetical list will be regularly updated whenever I listen to a new album.
Baroness, Purple: A-
A near-fatal bus attack and the loss of half your band isn’t an easy thing to overcome, but John Baizley’s merry band of troubadours trucks on with Purple, an album that coils their serpentine Southern sludge sound even as it proves this band, as if encased in a caterwauling moan as thick as Savannah molasses, can survive anything. Loss lingers in the frayed ends of Baizley’s guitar sound, but Purple is an oddly unkempt, upbeat album from a genre that is notoriously caked in doom-and-gloom. Desperation burns and slithers throughout the album, but Baroness is the sound of a band acknowledging their specters without being defined by them, turning up the amps on life after a tentative meeting with the reaper.
Beastwars, The Death of All Things: A
Stitching bent odds and ends together to amalgamate tortured riffs and cackling solos from beyond, this is metal music in the Sabbath tradition: an unhurried, earth-burrowing, glacial holocaust that understands that the race to the top of the metal world doesn’t have to play out like a thousand-miles-per-hour speedway. The ever-nebulous “heavy” isn’t measured in the righteousness of your licks or the number of fire extinguishers necessary to douse the output of your shredding, but in the bruising, pummeling shake you feel in the darkest caverns of your gut whilst threatening the metal gods by standing atop them at ground level. Real metal doesn’t always reach for the sky; it locates more subterranean ghouls and draws them out of the crust of the Earth like a necromancer. So outside the norm they can’t just be from down under, but from down under’s underbelly of New Zealand, the mostly unknown Beastwars grab Peter Jackson’s lustrous, gawking vision of that region of the world and curdle it down to its primordial bones. An ice-cold killer of an album.
Beyonce, Lemonade: A –
A phenomenal work of insinuation over elaboration, Beyonce’s surreptitiously-released Lemonade is an animalistic bludgeon of sweat-soaked vocal pangs simultaneously lacerating and celebrating infidelity to a soundtrack of shirtless, throbbing sexual urges intonated as thoroughly as an instrument could possibly muster. An album of pants rather than lyrics, Lemonade casually but demonstratively vanquishes thoughts that Beyonce is irrelevant in the modern world, or that her inveterate charisma can’t be channeled into something this coarse and deliciously impolite. With shimmering pop melodies trampled underfoot the sheer vitriol of Beyonce’ s pelvis-stomping vocal performance and, more importantly, the cataclysm of slithering Trap-influence insidiousness she kicks up musically, it’s a veritable anarchist’s cookbook, a study guide in how to build a musical bomb.
Blur, The Magic Whip: B
Our current decade’s ’90s obsession sometimes borders on psychotic, but at least Damon Albarn and the old crew aren’t here partying like it’s 1995. Instead, their first album in over a decade recasts Albarn as a resigned troubadour, a dejected counterpoint to his egomaniac days twenty years before; the spirit of Cool Britain, the very movement the band ruled twenty years ago, looms large over The Magic Whip, but only with the awareness that said spirit is now naught but a specter of days gone by. The Magic Whip is no mid-life crisis, gallantly and abysmally excavating the caves of former glories; instead, dreary malcontents like “New World Towers” twist Albarn’s croon into increasingly desperate, saddened aural spaces. When the band does truck out their libidinous instruments, as on the stomping “Go Out” and post-punk rave-up “I Broadcast”, they relocate a smattering of long-gone adolescent fire. But The Magic Whip’s modest charms are, if never as exciting as Blur’s best albums, worthwhile precisely because the band isn’t pretending they are, or could be, that exciting ever again.
Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit: A
Sardonic, self-deprecating grunge masquerading as pristine pop in a package as ambidexterous and prone to flights of fancy as it is down-to-earth. This denim-jacket-clad slice of slacker rock from Courtney Barnett boasts a deceptively innocent outlaw raggedness of the most disconcerting variety, couching freewheeling edge-of-sanity punk (“Pedestrian at Best”) next to free-floating post-sanity anomie. This album strangles itself on melody, distorting agreeable pop forms into their nastiest, most adventurous, most anti-social selves and distressing them until they turn blood-red and ice cold all at once. Barnett’s almost churlish drone is at once radioactive and addictive, at once assuaging and masquerading her dastardly, devious lyrics tangled further still by the discourteous dissent of her staccato, sizzling guitar abrasions. A wandering collage of scabrous rejection and forlorn dejection, Barnett’s Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit is the most assured debut of 2015, all the more so because its frayed ends coast barely on the edge of reason and suggest an artist with any number of prismatic outward nether regions to explore and exploit in the future.
The Dead Weather, Dodge and Burn: B
As gruesome and dust-caked as antiquarian auteur Jack White would have wanted it to be, The Dead Weather’s third LP is a sandstorm in a jar that only occasionally comes up for air. Torrential acid rain like the wonderfully nasty “I Feel Love (Every Million Miles)” upends traditional rock anthem structure.“Open Up (That’s Enough)”, where the riffs seem to strangle you where you stand, reminds us that The Dead Weather was always the barbed peanut brittle to The White Stripes’ peppermint twist and the Raconteurs’ salt water taffy. It’s what you’d get if satanic horror maestros Goblin went punk instead of prog. The album isn’t the most consistent bag of shredded nails and screws, and White’s continued growth as a musician has left some of his ferociously closed-casket simplicity back at the crossroads. For a man whose best material always felt like tearing down the walls of rock’s maturation and rendering it primeval once again, there may be a little too much, dare I say, maturity on a few of the songs. Still, there’s enough fire-and-brimstone here to tide you over till whatever rock’s premier carnival barker strums up next. It’s flawed, but it’s another feather in White’s cap for his life long dream to earn a place in Satan’s personal jug band.
Deafheaven, New Bermuda: A+
New Bermuda is a possessed album, pitched in the nether realm betwixt the existential funk of modern metal and the torn-and-tattered, free-floating feelings of avant-garde post-pop. It feels like part of the natural architecture of both the deepest, dankest regions of the human mind and the furthest, most frigid regions of eldritch space and time, with music at once glacially flowing and arhythmically barreling forward in a non-stop flurry of tightly tethered catch-and-release anxiety attacks. The closer it veers to white noise – the less distinguishable the individual notes are – the more the album perplexes and befuddles. A cathedral of the damned that avoids all the math-y pretension and all-hands-on-deck bro-isms of modern metal, New Bermuda rises to the occasion like a titanic slab of noise filled with enough porous holes to let the wallowing melancholy right in to your soul while its pounding on your head. One of the only modern albums that sounds genuinely invested in exploring untapped regions of the sonic palate.
Deerhunter, Fading Frontier: B+
Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox has made no qualms about sharing his influences with the unusually placid Fading Frontier. Specifically, lazy-day commercial rock like Tom Petty and collegiate soul-searchers like R.E.M are on the menu. But, while Fading Frontier strips those influences for melodic parts, the album’s unperturbed tranquility attains a voice of its own as its lush, deceptively innocent acoustics cascade over you more like The Kinks at their most melancholy and least overtly British. The hazy lo-fi sound mix – all woodland critters and gauze-draped free-floating space – belies the very prescient questions of loss and alienation bubbling underneath songs such as the sinister, slithering T. Rex-at-the-dance-floor number “Snakeskin”. It is tempting to take the album at face value and proclaim Deerhunter a band no longer perched at the frontiers of alternative music, receding into some kind of pop-sanity cave, but for this band pop is a heretofore untapped frontier. They’re boldly going where many artists have gone before, but they’re also warping and twisting the “where” to their own liking. They are Deerhunter after all.
The Eagles of Death Metal, Zipper Down: B-
Jesse Hughes, the cauterized id to Josh Homme’s rock superego, seems like he enjoys a good time, and his unblemished carnality is both Zipper Down’s boon and its undoing. This is rock music with its phallic guitar hooks placed firmly in cheek, but Hughes’ earnest naughty-neighbor-next-door charisma perches the album closer to the sincere, amusingly endearing party rock of pre-1980 Kiss than the corporate posers once the original catman and space ace went to the jungle and Mars respectively. The vampire-crooning, desert-prowling, satan-worshipping after-party rock of Queens of the Stone Age (Homme’s day-job band) is no where to be found on this relatively uncomplicated affair of back-to-basics swagger and lust. Sultry, swinging “Complexity” sounds like an STD waiting to happen, but the song’s freewheeling commitment to its indulgences shines through in the end.
Faith No More, Sol Invictus: B
Rock music’s most demented Grand Guignol theater show returns with an effort that’s a little too midlife crisis and not enough “Midlife Crisis”, sounding defiantly like a band aiming for former glory rather than snaking out in new directions. As a mimic of past crisis, though, Sol Invictus scores points for oblong weirdness and thrillingly abrasive amalgamations of disconcerting sound. Some of it can feel overdetermined and even programmatic in its soft-to-loud parade (the specter of Kurt Cobain looming large to this day). But the highs (“Cone of Shame” is one of the best things devil crooner Patton has ever jack-hammered out of his demon-portal of a throat) sure feel like the rust bucket modern hard rock could use right about now. At any rate, for a band whose greatest claim to fame today is having influenced numerous, lesser bands (System of a Down is the only band that to follow in Faith’s footsteps that isn’t outright comatose), this is the sound of a crusty old godparent carting out their patented lumbering-spry thing one last time and showing the copy-cats how it’s done.
Father John Misty, I Love You Honey Bear: A-
A great new-fangled folk album, an even better anti-folk album as ex-Fleet Foxes stickman J. Tillman perverts the lost spaces of Americana history for his own purposes, subsuming wry, scabrous remarks on the state of society beneath ostensibly unfinished, even distressed rustic aural spaces. As much George Carlin as Tin Pan Alley, songs such as “The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apartment” or “Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Cow” meld low-slung acoustic riffing and spacious Appalachian ennui with a post-modern vocal bark sneaked in underneath Tillman’s intentionally broken croon of a voice. Imagine a great Levon Helm solo album script-doctored by Flight of the Conchords, and then reworked by Bob Dylan to strip away any of the arch-irony for a revelatory, rebellious dose of the very thing most absent in modern music, especially folk music: legitimate sincerity and romanticism, earned via the music’s otherwise prickly comic underpinning that stabs into the album whenever it threatens to become melodramatic. The lyrical foreplay masks a real homespun, backwoods earnestness here, and, unlike with Mumford and Sons or whatever other quasi-folk flavor of the month you’re listening to these days, Father John Misty rejects ersatz fake-folk histrionics for world-weary restlessness. Even at a young age, you get the sense Tillman’s seen it all; next to him, Mumford and Sons are still shitting their diapers.
A Giant Dog, Pile: A-
Scorching, desert-wandering riffs and blinding Texan sun from this mostly unknown Austin hard rock band, this is Southern Gothic music updated for the modern generation, minus all the cloying molasses-thick hipster indie folk posturing so common to music that claims the weight of Southern history today. While most bands bask in this swampy texture, A Giant Dog weaponizes it with a blast of perverse, nasty-winking humor and voracious, appetite-driven, fist-pumping, impulsive punk-metal buzzsaw riff-ramps.
Iggy Pop, Post-Pop Depression: B
Time and loss have curdled Iggy Pop’s once venomous screech into a demented howl, and the late-night vampire rock of Post-Pop Depression slides into the ghoulish tempo of a late-night moan. Abetted by the same iridescent urban-monster Josh Homme production that helped helm AM for The Arctic Monkeys, Post-Pop Depression is a sinewy, sinuous post-mortem on Iggy Pop’s career, an album on which the various tributaries of Pop’s life come home to roost. Tracks like the downtuned molasses-blues of opener “Break Into Your Heart” or the pliant, shimmering “Gardenia” cross-pollinate styles, but not recklessly so, ably touring moods past for Pop (who has expended as much energy chasing new sonic palettes as his dearly-departed friend David Bowie).
Best of all, Pop’s weather-worn voice sounds like a penitentiary of the past encasing a throat as it sputters its last breaths. Post-Pop Depression is amiably distressed, even as the music is buttressed with an elemental thud and swashbuckling bottom-end by a killer backing band (composed of Queens of the Stone Age, Dead Weather, and Arctic Monkeys members, proof enough that Pop is worshiped by the new gods of rock). But the tone is more ruminative and hypnotically cryptic than obstreperous; the beguiling mixture of post-disco elephant thump and battered ego sabotages the carnal bravado Pop has become known for, replacing it with a more insidious, plaintive vision of a once-playful titan floating off into the nether. One maybe wants for more vituperative snarl from one of rock’s most libidinous rapscallions, but in the wistful, lascivious, fecal “Chocolate Drops” his escape from the world is rejiggered to fit the tone of one last guttural joke at the earth’s expense.
Iron Maiden, The Book of Souls: B-
Even 35 years on, Iron Maiden’s trademark gallop still hasn’t slowed to a crawl. Replete with guitar runs, guitar walks, guitar skips, guitar scampers, guitar hurtles, and even guitar waltzes in a rare move for the band, The Book of Souls expands Maiden’s hyper-literate instrumental proficiency and even doubles down on their European classicalism (in comparison to the distinctly American brand of European rock perpetrated by Lemmy and his band of hooligans dishing out thousand-mile-an-hour blues). With 18 minute piano-led symphonies sending them off into the stratosphere, let no one say this is Maiden by numbers. Trouble is, experimentation isn’t everything, and over the album’s sometimes lumbering (occasionally laborious) 92 minutes, you miss a little of the punchy spark of the classic Maiden rampage epitomized by numbers like the ferocious, brazen “Speed of Light”.
John Carpenter, Lost Themes: B-
Lo and behold the greatest cinematic horror composer of the 1980s (oh yeah, he also happened to direct a few films here and there) release, at the ripe old age of 67, his first studio album proper. Listening to Lost Themes feels a little like a tease to locate a film that matches, as a handful of these “themes” feel like hammers in desperate need of a nail. Specifically, Carpenter has been forced to double down on the chilly, malevolent synths and the soul deep guitar histrionics to mask the carefully modulated silence that would have existed in a proper soundtrack to, say, Escape from New York. Without the evocative quiet passages of a movie, where the music can bleed out and dissipate into an uncontainable terror, the album feels a little too busy and over-worked for its own good.
Those hypothetical moments, where the film’s death-marked imagery would take the forefront, are absent on Lost Themes, and you feel like Carpenter felt the pressure to pack the album full with symphonic shifts and alterations to his themes that are afforded less time to breathe, expand, and chill to the bone when they’re shoved right up in your face like this. Lost Themes benefits from a surfeit of ominous, flesh-eating negative charisma, and its best moments instill the autumnal cult procession dread you hope for listening to a Carpenter soundtrack. But in compartmentalizing a film’s worth of music into three or four minute chunks, Lost Themes sacrifices (presumably to the devil) the bold empty space the director so masterfully commands on the screen and in the recording booth.
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Nonagon Infinity: A
A razor-wire, thoroughly disreputable electric storm of brewing fury that lives to kick up dirt with the past rather than plant its feet in it, Nonagon Infinity is a hot-box of musical chords both ever-closing and breathlessly expanding outwards. It’s groovy, cosmic, and ultimately space-faring without ever subsuming itself into the trivializing Novocain of unending progressive rock masturbation. Protoplasmic in its psychedelia, the Gizzards recontextualize the neo-psychedelia lurking in most modern indie (including their own previous albums) by treating it as a catalyst for a much more uncouth explosion of centrifugal chaos; if most modern psychedelia feels a little like pastoral window-gazing, Nonagon Infinity exhibits no compunction about metastasizing the usually benign tumor of psychedelia into a malignant berserker trampling over indie music’s precious flowers by turning them inside out and reveling in the bedlam of the innards lurking within.
Kvelertak, Nattesferd: A-
Most retro-rock bands bow down at the altars of Page and Iommi until they can’t get up again, encasing themselves in the penitentiary of the past until they are frozen into torpor by their own undying, immobile affection. They worship others to hide the fact that they have nothing to bring to the table themselves, shackling themselves until the séance they pine to provide for the masters of old curdles into a turgid lecture on the merits of ossifying oneself in the past. While they posit a monomaniacal affection for the past, Kvelertak is a classically-tinged rawk act with a difference, a Norwegian death ‘n’ roll strut that plays like Thor rampaging through the frozen fjords of the past and lighting them on fire yet again. Spidery riffs and ambling ice-pick vocals shatter and fracture into white-hot, anthemic choruses, a contrast that ensures the material is always perched at the knife’s edge between disquieted torpor and furious kinesis. Call it Hearse Halen.
Motorhead, Bad Magic: A-
Bad Magic will forever be burdened with the weight of finality, but one senses that the dearly departed Lemmy would prefer the album to be discussed on its own terms, for its terms are the terms of an old hooligan who’s bloody scream never lost an ounce of ferocity with age; the average age of the players may have pushed perilously close to 60, but Bad Magic is album forever young at heart. Feel-bad barn-burners like “Fire Storm Hotel”, “Shoot Out All of Your Lights”, and the downright filthy, tribal “Evil Eye” rekindle a spark the band never really lost, and reveal that Lemmy went out as combustible and cantankerous as he always wanted to. If anything, age allowed Lemmy to play even lower to the ground and nastier, reminding how essential and dependable his band really was. Rock trends came and went, but Lemmy was always there kicking up dirt by planting his feet right in the ground.
Muse, Drones” C-
There’s a temptation to rise a lighter to Muse in admiration of their sheer willingness to elevate butt rock to the realms of the radio again, dusting off old arpeggiated guitar runs and leather pants like Eddie Van Halen and Steve Vai still occupied the throne in college dorm rooms all across the land. There’s a temptation, yes, but Muse’s cloying, overdetermined self-sincerity and waterlogged pretension sabotages the minute semblances (the strutting “Dead Inside” and the muscular “The Handler”) of carnival funhouse guilty pleasure to be had with the album. Muse are far too encased in their own intestines to explore any of the garish Sweet-meets-Rocky Horror camp beating their little hearts underneath the corpulent cholesterol-caked musical masturbation of the album proper. If Muse wasn’t so damn dead-set on catalyzing their own self-importance, then maybe, just maybe, they’d be actually important to begin with.
My Morning Jacket, Waterfall: B
My Morning Jacket–by-numbers, but also a reminder of what a powerful force the cosmic region occupied by Jim James’ wrong-side-of-the-tracks falsetto and his band’s low-slung, countrified howl can be, even when they’re all playing against the weight of known expectations. If It Still Moves and Z, still the band’s two best works, were raging-against-the-darkness albums, the sweeping, sociable Waterfall is a band at the top of a hill, playing right into the light. By now, the band’s solar-powered radiance isn’t the newest thing in the world (Tame Impala dropped the Southern crawl and flew straight into the levitating psychedelia always circling around My Morning Jacket’s outer orbits). But the brew of loping, earthbound haze and stardrift rays – this Kentucky outfit has always seemed as comfortable amidst the clouds as slinging down moonshine in the backwoods – is as comfortable, inviting, and occasionally (“Thin Line”, “Tropics”) singularly transcendent.
Neil Young, The Monsanto Years: C+
Less savage than scraggly, Neil Young’s cynical The Monsanto Years ultimately lacks the scathing commitment of its convictions. Young’s impulsiveness occasionally shines on this sub-Crazy Horse collage of modern day malaise, forlorn and dirt-strapped Americana, and instrumental malleability, but the music is too slight, too whimsically detached, and too cute even to hold up over the long haul. The lyrics, encased in metaphors as lumbering as Young’s dinosaur guitar stomp, are a wash, and the careless, haphazard music cannot decide whether it wishes to rage against the corporate monstrosity of Monsanto or admit defeat against that beacon of all-seeing agricultural oppression. More than any Neil Young album ever, this one feels like sketch-work, not inherently a bad thing for a hippie who is always at his best when his ragged disdain and raw, unkempt rage misses notes for rampaging irregularity. Too bad The Monsanto Years lacks the burning, caustic astringency of Young’s best wandering-soul guitar roadtrips.
Protomartyr, The Agent Intellect: B+
Protomartyr’s The Agent Intellect feeds industrial era dusty Detroit proto-punk through the wheat thresher of post-industrial British haze circa Joy Division and comes out of the decrepit desecrated urban fog with a sound all its own. It’s a feel bad album because it finds the snarling panic-attack bark of The Stooges keelhauled and tortured into a post-lobotomy drone of often thrillingly artless negative noise. The ramshackle guitar spasms of the punk sound curdle into desperate threats of pure cynical noise just demanding to escape from the locked cage of its own mind. It’s all pretty same-y, but monotony has seldom sounded so satisfying. Or not satisfying. You get the picture.
PUP, Sleep in the Heat: A –
Song titles like “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will” and “My Life is Over and I Couldn’t be Happier” probably reveal all you need to know in this ferocious, unsettling mixture of jarring pop(ped)- punk and insouciant pandemonium, but PUP are not without a trick or two. Among them are the hemorrhaging broken comedy on the album and a stirring, anthemic melodrama that feels defiant in its open-hearted call for emotional brazenness amidst the doldrums of always-over everyday life. Either way, songs like “DVP”, “Doubts”, and “Old Wounds” are about as pure as rawk ‘n’ roll comes. PUP turns the monstrous hybrid of Titus Andronicus-styled spitfire ennui and post-Ramones disarming childlike innocence into brokering a peace agreement between the two. Closer “Pine Point” is an open-casket funeral for the death and destruction of their Toronto hometown and a séance for Neil Young’s early days as a Canadian troubadour who kindled this industrial malaise and youthful indiscretion into distorted, bellowing guitar workouts and haunted, disheveled ghostly beauties.
Sheer Mag, Sheer Mag II: B+
Sheer magnitude of momentum on this kinetic-emission from Philadelphia upended classic rockers who remain literate of their ancestors without succumbing to the conservative, five-and-dime bro-blues epitomized by slick, corporatized arena rock these days. Imagine Skynyrd stabbed in the back by The Sex Pistols, Thin Lizzy threshed by The Ramones, or ZZ Top fire-tested by The Stooges, and you’ve divined just a smidgeon of the toxic brew of rock ‘n’ roll influences for this ferocious power-pop-as-panicked-dread take on music as old as dirt. Left-of-center politics married to left-field music.
Sleater Kinney, No Cities to Love: A
Thinking of not-just-underground-but-subterranean Sleater-Kinney as mainstream rock royalty in 2015 is a puzzling notion. They were perhaps the only artistically viable heavy band to survive the great rock ‘n’ roll purge of the late ’90s (also known by its more demonic name, “post-grunge”). The rise of the “new garage rock” in the early ’00s didn’t faze them as they followed their own distorted waves into hazy, corroded classic rock territory with their masterpiece, 2005’s The Woods (the best Led Zeppelin album since 1975’s Physical Graffiti).
That album was of a part with their earlier works, but also a natural stop-gap and a changing of the guard. After a decade of venomous riot grrrl’ing and tightly-coiled gutter punk, there was no point in pretending they were outsiders anymore; The Woods was the sound of a band finally riding that golden chariot into rock Asgard on the back of the tectonic “The Fox”, the most volcanic rock song in their entire canon. It was the sound of a band acknowledging their influences and twisting their own barbed knife into the thick, concrete-slab stomach of their classic rock forebears, inscribing themselves in the rock pantheon without sacrificing their vitriol by going respectable about it.
With No Cities to Love, they crawl back into the darkness of their grotto-infested early albums without denying the melodic ripples of light they always smuggled in underneath their battle-born musical assault. Opener “Price Tag” is a viscous punch to the gut and an instant marker of the band’s absent time, a takedown of the economic crisis that befell the world hot on the heels of the band’s initial breakup, almost as if Sleater-Kinney’s playing was the thing keeping the world’s various sharp angles tentatively stitched together in the first place. There’s weather and age here, but Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein summon a twin-guitar attack as lacerating as ever, and Janet Weiss’ attack-dog of a drum kit forms the grimy underbelly of an album that salvages the name of independent rock from the deluge of flighty, anemic twee-pop it descended into long ago. No Cities to Love is a turbulent aural wildfire from a band seemingly beyond the grave; on Vinyl, it’ll probably melt.
Titus Andronicus, The Most Lamentable Tragedy A-
Swarthy and slapdash, The Most Lamentable Tragedy’s literary title both evinces the world-spanning classicism of Titus Andronicus’ newest release and belies the sort of freewheeling, spitfire duel of desolation and fist-crunching rebellion that only music can create. The band’s punk album, perched halfway between crusty Springsteenian roots rock and curdled post-Ramones fever-punk, it sounds a little like what might have happened had Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart” actually gone to The Ramones, as originally intended. “Dimed Out” out-flanks the Dropkick Murphy’s, “Fatal Flaw” encases working-class melancholia in rampaging bar rock with more spit and slather than The Hold Steady have managed in a decade, and “(S)he Said/ (S)he Said” is an unsanitary, blood-stained totem of a rattlesnake anthem that can outdrink anything The Arctic Monkeys have ever put out. It’s too long, as most double-albums are, and the one-note recklessness loses some of its fire-starting tinder over time, but it’s a hell of a flame while it lasts.
Tribulation, The Children of the Night: A
It doesn’t seem like Ghost (or Ghost B.C., or whatever fairground haunted house nomenclature they’re going by these days) is about to claw its way out of the cartoon limbo they’ve dug themselves into with their past two albums. But Tribulation has already done the good devil’s work and measured their corpse, dug their grave, and undertaken the whole undertaker’s role on their newest release The Children of the Night. Dark prince maelstroms like “Strange Gateways Beckon” fell like the natural melding of retro-progressive Scandinavian pomp-and-circumstance and Deafheavan-style art-metal, with The Children of the Night as much an exercise in candy-coated fuchsia as pitch-black destruction. This is thinking person’s metal, a Headbanger’s library.
Ty Segall, Ty Rex B+
The omnivorous Ty Segall plays homage to one of his gods by opening up new wounds on some of his hero Marc Bolan’s snappiest, kitschiest numbers, turning “20th Century Boy” and “Buick Muckane” into veritable cacophonies of wild guitar sloppy seconds. Segall’s distended, ferocious, wooly mammoth guitar work proves a natural extension of T. Rex’s camp-rock, but it’s the plaintive, introspective side of this covers album (see “The Slider”, disturbed and plaintively reduced to a barren, minimalist plea for sanity) that finds Segall breathing a little air into his Frankenstein’s monster patchwork of ballast and bombast. Although he pushes the elements to the edge, it’s albums like Ty Rex that remind you that Ty Segall is perhaps the only rocker today evoking the disarming, drunken innocence and deceptively desperate, wry mournfulness The Kinks used to embody when they cut against the psychedelic romanticism of The Beatles in their heyday.
Ty Segall, Emotional Mugger: A-
With a song like “Candy Sam”, garage rock is more reckless and ruthless than it’s been since Jack White before he tried to weigh himself down with the entire girth of the Americana spirit, back when the big three killed his baby and his guitar was a cannon and a revelator. Even more than White, Segall’s phantasmal, demon-addled guitar sounds like the sound of rock ‘n’ roll dying at 100 miles an hour and rising from the grave to play at its own funeral.
Weezer, Weezer C +
Everything is only just all right on Weezer’s fourth self-titled album, whose pallid white palette suggests something nebulous for the band but speaks more openly to the neutered texture of this follow-up to comeback/return-to-rawk album Everything Will Be All Right in the End, a refreshing switch-hit in comparison to the band’s mostly turgid dalliances with sugar-coated pop throughout the better-forgotten ‘00s. This Weezer slides back into anxiety-pacifying mechanical production, sabotaging and sanding off the rough edges and inching Weezer back to the chromatic-sheen they had supposedly rescinded with their last album. There’s not much rocking on this mostly peppy, corporate album, although Cuomo does deserve a point or two for at least jumping head first into his atrocious lyrical sensibilities for what easily amounts to his most rococo, bananas slab of self-immolating poetry to date.
Perhaps Weezer is fodder for his one-man performance-piece, but the band around Cuomo – the backbone of any great rock band – is basically left by the wayside. The album’s wackiest moment – the lead single “Thank God For Girls” – is a tour-de-force of oblong, pliant upended power dynamics in the vocal department, but the flaccid, over-baked music – nearing Muse levels of precocious obviousness and hollow, shrill white-noise – tempers both the humor and the viciousness of the album until it all feels plastic.
White Lung, Paradise: A-
Another hoarse Riot Grrrl inquisition from White Lung, diluted just enough for the group’s adenoidal pop edge to flower more fully without dethroning the fermented political anti-matter on righteous songs like “Kiss Me When I Bleed”. Adding new wave influences into their salt-water punk produces a brackish, swamp-tarnished lo-fi sound with reinvigorated feminist vocals smuggled in underneath the ostensibly more romantic tone of the music. Now, their music is both fire-sparking and sparkling, crystalline and coal-black, with invective hurled from both Kenneth William’s lacerating, wolfen riffs and frontwoman Mish Barber-Way’s gastrointestinal barked attacks on the nature of respectable feminism, reclaiming feral vulgarity as a viably human, rage-tinged tactic for critiquing society and slashing respectability politics to tatters while at it. Withering and barbed, her voice, and the band backing her, transforms the female body from a nondescript birthing vessel – how their enemies would like it to be viewed – into a full-frontal assault of brutal femininity.