Like the grand majority of modern metal fans, our tastes here at Heavy Blog are incredibly vast, with our 3X3s in each Playlist Update typically covering numerous genres and sometimes a different style in each square. While we have occasionally covered non-metal topics in past blog posts, we decided that a dedicated column was warranted in order to more completely recommend all of the music that we have been listening to. Unmetal Monday is a weekly column which will cover noteworthy news, tracks and albums from outside the metal universe, and we encourage you all to share your favorite non-metal picks from the week in the comments. Head past the jump to dial down the distortion:
Gorillaz Announce New Music is Coming in 2016
OK, listen: if you don’t like the Gorillaz then there’s something wrong with you. It’s OK to like some of their things and others less, but if you don’t really, really like one of their albums then you’re doing something wrong. It doesn’t get much more intelligent, self-referencing and evolving than them: just listen to Demon Days and then to Escape to Plastic Beach and you’ll see what I mean.
Now, we’ve known that the first album to be released since 2010’s Plastic Beach is on its way but it’s always nice to receive more confirmation. That happened last week when mastermind Jamie Hewlett confirmed in an interview that it was indeed happening and that 2016 would be its year of release. Check out what he had to say:
“That’s next year. I’m working on it at the moment, and it’s going very well. I’m very excited. I don’t want to say too much about it, but I’m at that phase of experimentation. What I try not to do when I’m working in this creative period, the cooking of the mess, is go to other peoples’ exhibitions and look at other peoples’ work. I close my eyes, and don’t want to know what anyone else is doing. Doing that has kind of ruined the creative process for me in the past, and I don’t want to let that happen again.”
Color. Me. Excited.
Arca – “EN”
Not everyone is down with Arca‘s goal of “sensuality and impulsiveness as escape routes out of rigidity” on his upcoming sophomore album Mutant, due out November 20th via Mute. When the Londond-based producer uploaded explicit single-art for another Mutant track named “Vanity,” he provided a subsequent update that Twitter had deleted his account permanently. That reaction should seem appropriate after listening to the actual aforementioned tracks; Arca’s apparent approach is admittedly uncomfortable due to their openly sensual sounds. “EN” in particular is a simple track: low rumbling noise and chords, ambient, moan-like drones and persistent vocal samples repeating apparent bursts of audible ecstasy. The result is a track that mesmerizes with it overall simplicity but intrinsic detail, eliciting numerous discomforting emotions. If this is how all of Mutants‘s twenty tracks pan out, the experience will be one of masochistic pleasure.
Elo – “When the Night Comes” & “When I Was a Boy”
So, when I opened my computer the other day, I never imagined that a message reading: “errr, apparently ELO are back?” would be displaying. But it was. Hesitantly, since I grew up on the band among other influences, I clicked on the two links attached. And you know what, I had a great time. Sure, I wasn’t blown away and nothing on them “brings back” the glory of their long career but they’re good track.
“When the Night Comes” is this chilled out, almost reggae track that reminds one of The Police at parts and The Clash on the others. The vocals go by smoothly, the guitar is pleasant and everything just screams “veteran musicians who know what they’re about”. Sure, it’s dad rock but it’s enjoyable and interesting.
The other track, “When I Was A Boy,” is a bit more stock, in the sense that you always knew what this track would sound like. But that’s cool as well; it’s nice to see the guys (or those who are still actually part of this iteration of ELO) do their thing.
War Baby – “Master Blaster”
Receiving an email entitled “Future Unmetal Monday with War Baby?” was a heartening thing to read, as it demonstrates that his column’s reach is strong and allows for a healthy, symbiotic relationship of discovering new music and showcasing new artists. While I was able to stream the entirety of War Baby’s upcoming full-length Death Sweat thanks to the band but only have a stream “Master Blaster” to offer in this post, I can promise that the track is an accurate testament to the strength of the album as a whole. War Baby captures the veracious energy of Bleach-era Nirvana while adapting the guitar-warping magic of Dinosaur Jr., making for a listen both engaging and energetic. Through the noise is a subtle tinge of melody, sometimes reminiscent of Nirvana and the Pixies‘ melodic sensibilities and ocassionally going so far as to warrant minor comparisons to Weezer (via Pinkerton, not any of that “Beverly Hills” or “Pork & Beans” bullshit). If all of this sounds like alt-rock bliss (as it should), be sure to spin “Master Blaster” and plan on picking up Death Sweat on October 30th via P. Trash in Europe and Bummer Records in North America.
Deerhunter – Fading Frontier
It’s strange to think of Deerhunter as a “veteran” band, but seven albums and over a decade into a career that’s launched them into the upper tier of indie rock, it’s difficult to call them anything else. And Fading Frontier is pretty much the encapsulation of a “veteran album,” one that is far less concerned with making a bold statement than expertly projecting a sound that the band have refined over time. It by-and-large feels like a continuation of their 2010 album (and widely considered to be their best album) Halcyon Digest, a collection of songs steeped in dripping nostalgia muddied by trauma, psychological and emotional torment, and death. Their previous album, the gritty and angry Monomania, seems much more like a detour placed in context to the dreamy and almost alarmingly content quality of Fading Frontier. Frontman/songwriter Bradford Cox and guitarist and writer Lockett Pundt turn their attention towards matters of adulthood, of finding pleasure and happiness in the things life offers, of figuratively shedding their skin of past troubles (as Cox expresses in “Snakeskin”). Even the title Fading Frontier is an acknowledgement of entering a stage in their musical career and personal lives where there is perhaps less new ground they see ahead of them than what they’ve already traversed behind them
More importantly though, Fading Frontier is a gorgeous and delightful album demonstrating many of Deerhunter’s best qualities as a band. “Breaker,” which is shockingly the first duet between Cox and Pundt, is everything that works about the group’s brand of shoegazey guitars and brilliant melodies. “Take Care” and “Ad Astra” represent some of Cox’s best dreamy ballad work, and the aforementioned “Snakeskin,” upbeat outlier it might be, is a genuinely unexpected and thrilling mixture of funky guitars and Cox’s trademark howling vocals. Though the album feels a bit brief at 9 songs over 36 minutes, it’s appropriate for an album so streamlined and stripped down to the barest elements of what’s transformed Deerhunter from the raucous noise punk band that put out Turn It Up Faggot into the dreamy pop group with an avant-garde edge that they are today. And though fans often find the term “mature” anathema, Fading Frontier is a mature album in the best sense — one that is unlikely to be considered the best in their catalog but holds true to the band’s strengths in all the right ways while still feeling fresh.
Nulabee – Treefall Gaps
What the hell does EDM even mean anymore? It’s seems as if at some point, this genre dived back from the mainstream into the wonderful place that is the internet and was re-introduced to a lot of the influences and genres that spawned it in the first place. Take Nulabee‘s Treefall Gaps for example: it’s part EDM, part retrowave, part disco. Yes. How does all of these things come about? First of all, in the choice of synth tone: a lot of it is straight from some 70’s sci-fi city/electronic forest, humming and buzzing with childish energies. Secondly, the structure of the songs is often EDM: those typical build ups, the drops, the use of sweet, ethereal feminine vocals.
But then, it also knows how to go straight forward and just drop the fast beat into your lap. Just listen to the opening track, then put on “Northless” and skip right to “Breezechild” near the end and you’ll see what I mean. This is an album when you want something to surprise and entice you but also when you need a sick groove to smooth out your day. Pro tip: listen while driving, windows rolled down. Thank me later.
Raury – All We Need
Listening to this album for the first time immediately after that Deerhunter album, I can’t help but remark at the stark differences presented here in the sprawling debut album of the young and aggressively eclectic artist (and like Deerhunter, also from the state of Georgia) Raury. Combining a melting pot of hip-hop, folk, soul, art-rock, and plenty else, the ambitious 19-year-old first caught my eye when he made his debut TV performance on Colbert’s Late Show performing “Devil’s Whisper,” clad in an anti-Trump Mexico soccer jersey (Trump was Colbert’s guest earlier that night) and with a striking political voice backed up by an exciting mixture of musical elements. In All We Need, Raury certainly carries that politicized voice through many of the tracks, tackling issues that plague the black community both from within and outside it on tracks like “Revolution,” “Forbidden Knowledge,” and “Peace Prevails.” Raury does not appear to want to be as pointed a crusader for the heart and soul of “blackness” as the likes of Kendrick Lamar however, but rather he demonstrates the multifaceted priorities of the emerging “late millennial” generation — one that is generally much more socially conscious and steeped in the language of social justice but not necessarily as consumed by it and worn down by cynicism as their older counterparts.
All We Need is certainly ambitious in scope, comprising 14 tracks at nearly an hour, and it demonstrates the young’s artist’s promise handily while also falling into many of the trappings debut albums can suffer from. It’s a bit overstuffed and a bit too unfocused, with some of Raury’s experimenting with different sounds and genres a bit less successful than others. He’s proven himself to be a very solid songwriter as well as singer, though as a rapper he falls somewhere in the middle — not bad, but not really interesting enough for it to stand on its own without everything else he does surrounding it. Many of the best songs, in fact, are the ones that allow his singing voice to shine, such as opener “All We Need,” the sentimental retro-soul stylings of “Mama,” and the happy-go-lucky poppiness of closer “Friends,” an ode to global interconnectedness and the relationships made possible in the age of social media ubiquity. In the track’s final lines he sings, “I have some friends who are the future. They need this world much more than me,” a modest proclamation that both recognizes the need and importance to change the world in the ways he decries in the album’s more critical tracks while suggesting (optimistically) that the future will be brighter and better because of the people of his generation. With All We Need, Raury certainly makes a case for both, all the while making a case for himself as an important and unique artist you will definitely want to keep your eyes on.