So basically, at this point in the new year, there aren’t a whole lot of releases being dropped that I want to review, and yet I still have the urge to talk about some random selections of music right now, so basically, this is going to be me just doing some stream of conscious thoughts about music that I really love and that you should check out.
Baroness– Purple (2015) Genre: Metal
This right here was by a country mile my favorite record of 2015, and it’s up there among the best rock albums of the 2000s in my opinion. There’s only one word that really fits the vibe of this collection of songs, and that’s triumphant. After a tour bus accident that almost ended the band, Baroness came back with this masterpiece. Owing to such a harrowing experience, the lyrics of the whole album seem to follow a theme of rebounding from some sort of adversity, and in that, it’s pretty damn inspiring, both in lyrical terms and it’s soaring melodies. This is a melodic metal album of the sort that doesn’t come along much anymore, while avoiding the supposed neoclassical cheese that many bands going for anthemic seem to end up. I think that most people could get into this even if you don’t particularly like metal.
Track to Check Out: “Shock Me”
King Crimson– Larks’ Tongues In Aspic (1974) Genre: Experimental Rock/Jazz Fusion
Coming off of the back of an album like Purple, which is full of focus and purpose, Larks’ Tongues In Aspic is a completely scattershot mess, but it’s a damn beautiful mess. King Crimson aren’t exactly the most accessible group, and this represents them at their most abstract and obtuse. Just take the first track, a thirteen minute instrumental that opens with several minutes of island percussion and wind chimes. This is sort of like if a bunch of modernist classical music composers got together and tried to make a jazzy rock album. While displaying musicianship that is almost unparalleled in terms of musical and genre dexterity. There are numerous possible starting points to getting into King Crimson, like the epic symphonic sounds of their 1969 debut record, the heavy metal riffs of 1974’s Red, or the funky grooves of 1981’s Discipline, this sort of seems like an album that you need to work your way up to, only after ensuring that you can withstand the bizarre musical adventure the average King Crimson record delivers.
Track to Check Out: “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic (Part 1)”
Andrew Norman– Play (2014) Genre: Classical
Speaking of modernist classical music, this is something that is definitely an acquired taste. As someone who only recently started dipping my toes into 20th Century classical music, I absolutely hated this upon first listen, but like with most records that I don’t like at first, I had a morbid fascination with this. Andrew Norman’s Play is total chaos. It’s almost as if someone took the tape of a “regular” symphony, cut it into millions of pieces, and then reassembled it randomly. Every instrument just sort of smashes into the space of other instruments and the whole things starts and stops at random, but even underneath all of the clatter, there seems to be some sort of structure to the whole thing, even if I can’t necessarily perceive just what that structure looks like. It’s the sort of thing I’d love to see the notation for, and part of me suspects that there are tons of notes scrawled into the sheet music by the performers.
Track to Check Out: It’s a symphony, listen to the whole thing
Comus– First Utterance (1971) Genre: Folk
This is one of the most fucked up, off-kilter, frightening, mentally unsound, and deeply disturbing fifty minutes of music one could ever hear. It seems odd to say, but it appears the lyrical precedent for most death metal bands was set in 1971 by this bizarre little folk band. I have to say before I go any further that this album pervades my psyche in a way that few things else do. Talk about something wholly unique; find me another record like this and you are truly the master of obscure cult classics. Underneath the backing of intricately wound psychedelic folk music, you can hear some influence from progressive rock in the multi-part song structures. In sharp contrast to the preachy sloganeering folk music was obsessed with in the early seventies, First Utterance tells tales of murder, death, sacrifices to pagan gods, and insulin shock therapy. The lyrics to “Drip Drip” in particular still make me a bit uneasy, Listen to this at night, especially outside. You’ll be looking over your shoulder for the rest of the night.
Track to Check Out: “Drip Drip”
Marmozets– The Weird And Wonderful Marmozets (2014) Genre: Rock
To my ears, Marmozets almost seem like two different bands pulling in two completely stylistic directions. On one end, you have a crazy technical math punk band playing these angular, spiky riffs in weird time signatures. On the other end, you have a really poppy radio rock band with massive arena ready choruses. In many cases, having such polar opposite drives would result in something really messy. But with these guys, the two sides fit together like jigsaw pieces. I think what really holds this whole thing together is the singer Becca Macintyre; she fits right into the middle ground between the two sides of the band’s sound. She’s got the technical chops to sing over the big melodic choruses but can easily go down a more deranged, screamy route when the songs require it. I’ve been really impressed lately with the amount of bands that seem to hit their first record fully developed. This band are one of that elite, and I’m pumped for the second outing which is supposed to drop sometime in 2017.
Track to Check Out: “Why Do You Hate Me?”