Hey! Listen To VIRTA!

Though I dislike making sweeping musical generalizations here, I’m going to start off this post with a couple of them. If it can be said that many of the breakout acts in American jazz in recent years can be described as being heavily-indebted to hip-hop, r&b, and adjacent genres (think BADBADNOTGOOD, Kamasi Washington, Thundercat, and more), then a lot of the more impactful jazz exports from Europe, particularly northern Europe, have seemingly been more indebted to influences from the electronic/IDM sphere, post-rock, and more. You have the likes of GoGo Penguin in England, who have certainly been pushing the definition of what jazz really is with their blend of acoustic jazz instrumentation and influences with more classical-style playing and heavy electronic influences. Norway’s Jaga Jazzist is, of course, the current reigning champion of blending jazz with electronic music (from IDM to synthwave and more), post-rock, krautrock, and far more. And to that list of great European bands finding new and interesting ways to explore the world of jazz fusion you can now add Finland’s VIRTA, whose sophomore album Hurmos is one of the more unexpected and brilliant albums I’ve heard this year.

Soulburn – Earthless Pagan Spirit

Soulburn seem to have finally found their comfort zone – and it makes for quite the uncomfortable listening experience in the best of ways. After returning in 2014 in their current form with the impressive The Suffocating Angels, the Demonic Dutch quartet seem hell bent on bringing forth a new dark age, and may our souls be damned. Their latest effort, Earthless Pagan Spirit, is one majestic, evil beast of an album that makes the prospect of a demonic dark age sound quite appealing.

Innocence and Experience: Subversion in the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back”

The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” has emerged from the musical frenzy of the 1960’s as one of the era’s most enduring singles. Although it enjoyed worldwide success upon its initial release, there was nothing about its chart position to suggest it was anything more than one of the flash-in-the-pan hits being churned out by the Motown musical machine. Yet it’s this song that launched Michael Jackson’s nascent superstardom; this song that was revived as the cornerstone of the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack that topped the Billboard 200 for 11 weeks straight; this song that has been called…

Heid – Alba

A relatively unknown band from Spain, Heid aren’t apologetic about the style of metal they play. Their press emails, drafted by the band themselves, proudly declare their self definition. And for good reason; they don’t only make excellent music which draws on folk instrumentation and composition but they also infuse their music with Iberian mythology, a flavor of paganism not often witnessed in metal. These two elements combine to create Alba, a moving and catchy album which offers entrance into a rich world of myth which we (as in, Western culture) don’t often stop to consider.

59 – AOTY 2016 Deliberations, Part 1: Vape In

So we’re doing a two-part series on picking the podcast’s official albums of the year 2016. We start with the blog’s list of 400+ albums that are worth consideration this year, whittle it down to 86 albums we care about, and then start cutting them. The objective is to get to a ranked list of 10 items and an overall list of 20 albums. We get down to about 45 this week until the cuts really start to hurt. This was real fun to do, so I hope you all enjoy too! The lists will be posted below.

Witchery – In His Infernal Majesty’s Service

Blackened thrash veterans Witchery are back, once again with significant line-up changes. These changes, thankfully, embellish the ethos which have made the band, in all their previous installments, vital in their respective field throughout the years. With new vocalist Angus Norder and drummer Christofer Barkensjö now in the fold, In His Infernal Majesty’s Service marks a new chapter in the band’s career, a chapter which sounds as ferocious, angry and evil as ever. It’s business as usual for the Scandinavians, and the horror-themed occultisms coupled with copious amounts of thrashing are all present and accounted for. No pretenses. No nonsense.

In Defense of End-of-Year Lists

It’s the week following Thanksgiving in America, which means two things: one, everyone is being inundated with the sights, sounds, and manic anxieties of peak-holiday season, and two, music fans are similarly being flooded with waves of end-of-year lists from major publications and friends alike. More than any other artistic medium – perhaps due to the overwhelming scope of options out there and relative ease of accessibility – list-making has become a well-trodden tradition in music journalism, one that has only proliferated further in the age of social media, listicles, and clickbait.

The Difficulties of Album of the Year

Here we are, at the end of another year. Critics and bloggers internet-wide (including yours truly) are struggling to put together top 20, top 50, top 100, top 10,000 lists of best albums. And it’s kind of a lot of work. It doesn’t seem like it would be; after all, we’re simply talking about listening to a ton of records and choosing your favorite. To reduce the process to its most basic level, there are really only two responses for a listener, blogger or no, to have to an album.