Review: When it comes to plugging in mega stacks of amplified prog-rock, Vancouver-area band Black Mountain deliver a retro-futuristic sound that's as large as any Godzilla soundtrack. With Destroyer presenting a fifth LP on Bloomington label Jagjaguwar, Black Mountain go someway in delivering a bold cross reference of only the best and most legendary points of 60s, 70s and 90s rock n roll regalia. With keys and piano mixed with guitars, distortion and vocoders giving the band a futuristic, krautrock (Deutsche elektronik musik) edge, British psychedelic and raw but atmospheric arrangements give the band their own undeniable identity. With songs passing the bottle from slow dancing rock, flashy hair metal, to synthy guitars and cosmic arpeggios, the best metal of today is still way up there, on Black Mountain.
Review: Last year saw Angel Olsen break through with her highly acclaimed third album 'My Woman'. To follow that success comes 'Phases', a raw and intimate collection of demos, B-sides and rarities recorded over the last seven years. Compared to her previous studio albums, these demos are more stripped back - giving a little more room to showcase Olsen's powerful and broad vocals, which here err more on the side of vulnerability than the grungy confidence to be found on 'My Woman'. Considering this is essentially an album of unused tracks, the sheer quality and weight of these haunting and wry offcuts is nothing if not impressive, and in their chronological arrangement provide a guided tour of Angel Olsen's development so far.
Review: Unsurprisingly, Aromanticism - meaning to have little or no romantic attraction to others - is exactly the idea Moses Sumney explores on this stunning debut. Having written the majority of this album's lyrics in the solitude of remote north American cabins, Sumney's songs about loneliness and distance feel natural and sincere. Throughout 'Aromanticism' Sumney shows off his affinity with vocal acrobatics, leaping from his rasping lower register to achingly dulcet falsetto. Both in his instrumentation and as a vocalist, Sumney strikes a pitch-perfect balance between acoustic and digital, exhibiting his ability to blend the two. Sumney blends passages of spoken word, neo-soul, broken-beat, and the vocal harmonies and movements, cascading with gospel precision, that shone on his 2016 EP 'Lamentations'. 'Aromanticism' is a powerful and heartfelt opening statement from an artist well worth keeping an eye on in the future.
Review: Unknown Mortal Orchestra deliver a second album for 2018 and this instrumental missive as the title suggests, was recorded in Hanoi, Vietnam, with the help of local musician and percussion aide Minh Nguyen, who added some traditional instrumentalism and flair to the album's seven tracks. It follows this year's Sex & Food LP, with the New Zealand psych rock group taking this extension of the LP that extra-step by adding a class of exotica to their radical sound. From grungy Dirty Beaches-like tracks to fourth world experimentalism in the vein of Jon Hassell, there's a profound world of sound to be further discovered here.
Review: Crusading Rocker Sharon Van Etten returns from five years away releasing any long player, and, like her latest album attests, she's the come-back-kid. Full of jovial generation X angst and time-passing motifs - "I used to be 17..." sings the phrase in "Seventeen" - Van Etten has here successfully painted themes of '80s Americana & Nostalgia into a new kind or realism. There are heavier, more emotionally-laden ballads like "Jupiter 4", invoking a Melancholia-feel, of Lars Von Trier-esque persuasion, and with electronic production techniques entering her music more than heard before, alongside a bevy of warming but also haunting vocals, Van Etten's script for 2019 is here.