The seven tracks on L’Orange L’Orange are anything but human sounding. They take their cues from places where the dramatic mind can’t go. Need to take the edge off at the end of your day? Gregg Kowalsky is a fine replacement for a tumbler of bourbon.
No matter how mathematically and compositionally sound the record is, it’s still impossibly heavy and pretty, casting its drama in a thick haze of intermittent drums, neo-classical geekdom, and various other idioms of post rock.Mechanics of Dominion is too heady for its own good, but still holds ground as a wonderful combination of influences and post-genre style. It takes time for it to reveal itself, and it’s usually worth the investment.
Relatives In Descent packs as much content into each song as possible. Within ‘A Private Understanding’ alone, there’s talk of Elvis’ final days, lead-poisoning by snide men in Flint, and Heraclitus the Obscure, a philosopher who cried endlessly about the awful state of the world. If punk rock was originally intended to inflame and inform the underserved masses, Protomartyr haven’t fallen off the mark; just be sure to keep an encyclopaedia next to your headphones.
If you pay close enough attention, you can see the underserved masses finally defenestrating that which Godspeed have been sonically dueling for the past two decades. Even naming the band member by member doesn’t complete the puzzle of intention, since Godspeed You! Black Emperor are much more than the sum of their succinct parts. It’s almost a picture we can hang on the wall of our living room to help remind us of the beauty that can be found in humanity; and how much it’s at stake in the era the band operate in.
Light Information is much more direct and less impressionistic than what we’ve heard before, and the rabbit hole of ideas isn’t as deep. However, Chad has certainly retained his sense of humor: “Should I take the advice of the graffiti on the wall telling me to go suck it?” he asks on “Broken Bell”, almost giving in to defeatism. But, Chad has a wife, daughters, and way too much ingenuity to acquiesce to anyone else’s mantras. “Try to remember as much as I can/and try to keep faith in my fellow man”, he decides cheerfully on closer “Static Shape.”
McMahon doesn’t use fire and brimstone to convey his ideas. He’s got rough drum takes, glaring equalization problems in the guitars, and a tired-sounding voice. These are all he needs. If it weren’t for the loose production, the record would lose much of its charm; and if McMahon was screaming his rhetoric from the pulpit, Golden Juice wouldn’t be as relatable and moving. Any element you could perceive as negative is also a strength.
What’s new about this particular Avey Tare is that the overflow of ideas, lyrics, and themes doesn’t turn spastic and blurry like it has on records past. Eucalyptus, though adventurous, is down to earth and focused. It’s by far the most spiritual Avey Tare has ever sounded (except for the transcendent love on AnCo staple ‘Fireworks’). The pieces of the record are spread out all over the cutting room floor. As you pick them up, they’ll shapeshift and tell their stories whether apocalyptic or teeming with life.
When Beach House’s Thank Your Lucky Stars - the band’s second record of 2015 - dropped, many fans thought it was a b-side compilation. Together with the track ‘She’s So Lovely’ and the pearls spelling out the title, it was a throwback to their debut. Other songs like ‘All Your Yeahs’ sounded distinctly like 2015 Beach House, focusing more on long buildups instead of the rhythmic payoffs like 2010’s Teen Dream.
Over time it became clear that this was not the case – that Lucky Stars was a separate work, and that an argument could be made for its being the superior 2015 Beach House album. ‘Majorette’ and ‘Elegy to the Void’ now seem indispensable, and the band proved that “inessential” isn’t a word in their vocabulary. Funnily, a lot of songs on the new B-Sides and Rarities seem to span the whole career of the band, just like Lucky Stars. Sadly, this is more a record for hardcore fans than casual ones, though there are some distinct highlights.
There are positives and pitfalls to be had by being bashful. On one hand, you don’t wear out your welcome. On the other, a lack of confidence can turn the room red with discomfort. Incidentally, Big Thief were asking for the softest blue lights they could in between many of the wonderful songs performed last night at the Cedar Cultural Center. Frontwoman Adrianne Lenker didn’t want to be underneath a spotlight of any intensity during her songs. As such, there was an awkward relationship between performer and back of house throughout much of the show.
Incidentally, none of this shyness translated to the performances themselves. After all, people don’t go out and see a band like Big Thief for the stage performance. They go to hear the songwriting. I only mention the strange banter and awkwardness because anything that upset the soft vulnerability of songs like “Mythological Beauty” was uncannily felt. That is to say, the folk rock sounds the band put out were a blanket of warmth. When they ended, it was as if someone had ripped the covers off.
Hey Colossus have many hard rock contemporaries, but have been suspiciously absent from broader conversation for the duration of their nine album career. They don’t have a Wikipedia article. Their presence in their home UK has always greatly outsized it elsewhere. Their records In Black and Gold and Radio Static High, secretly two of the smartest and best records of 2015, made few end of year lists. Why the band aren’t brought up in the same conversation as Electric Wizard, Sleep, or even Ty Segall is beyond this writer.
There’s a chance I’m getting all of this wrong, that they’re more than just a secret go-to for when I need a heavy fix. This would be in keeping with their general pastiche of totally kicking ass. Metal fans of the brazen drug abuse of Amon Duul II or the sludge pioneers of eighties black metal could find a nice home in the amounts of attention and creativity Hey Colossus add to their tones.