There’s a lot happening in the music world, and we here at Heavy Blog try our very best to keep up with it! Like the vast majority of heavy music fans, our tastes 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 bi-weekly column which covers noteworthy 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. This week, we’ll be highlighting a few albums and tracks that struck our fancy over the past few weeks. Head past the jump to dial down the distortion:
Dirty Projectors – Lamp Lit Prose
Hailed as one of indie rock’s most vital acts along with such late aughts stalwarts as Grizzly Bear, Animal Collective, The National, Deerhunter, and Arcade Fire, Dirty Projectors and band founder David Longstreth’s complex compositions melding pop and rock music with chamber pop/baroque/orchestral elements created one of the most singularly individual sound pallets in music. 2009’s Bitte Orca was a masterpiece of indie rock weirdness, providing Longstreth and his many collaborators the opportunity to run wild with their sonic ambitions, and served as the band’s creative peak. That record’s follow-up, Swing Lo Magellan was a lush and delightfully off-kilter batch of songs that built upon the foundation laid by Bitte Orca in satisfying ways, cementing the band’s latter period records as their most diverse and best. Then last year’s self-titled effort brought the band’s bombastic, highly collaborative aesthetic to an abrupt halt. Following on the heels with Longstreth’s high profile break-up with former band collaborator Amber Coffman, that record was a sparse, sullen affair that stripped back the layers of Longstreth to reveal a broken heart and a deep well of genuine sadness and anger. After such a sharp sonic left turn, I was curious to hear where the band would wander next. Their latest, Lamp Lit Prose, answers that question with more joy and texture than I was expecting, and praise the music gods for that.
This album finds Longstreth back to his highly collaborative ways, with Syd (of The Internet), Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes fame, Rostam, Empress Of, and Amber Mark all working together to create what is without question one of the band’s most effusively joyful and fun releases. Those turned off by last year’s very subdued record can breathe a sigh of relief, as there’s plenty of upbeat goodness to go around here. Opener “Right Now” calls directly back to the acoustic musings of Bitte Orca, and is lyrically a direct repudiation of the depression contained in their last record. Infused with hope and positivity, it sets the tone for the remainder of the record both tonally and thematically. Album highlight “Break-Thru” builds on all of these themes with relish, culminating in one of the best tracks of the band’s career. The instrumentation throughout Lamp Lit Prose is fantastic, particularly the guitar work, which lilts in its traditionally off-kilter fashion with verve and vitality, especially in “That’s A Lifestyle”, “Zombie Conqueror”, and “I Found It In U”.
It’s hard not to get swept up in an album possessed by this much positive energy. Looking back on the band’s discography, Lamp Lit Prose helms closest to Bitte Orca (hell, even the album artwork is similar), but this is by no means a carbon copy of the band’s previous work. Refreshed and revitalized after a period of isolation and sadness, Dirty Projectors and Longstreth feel more vital and fresh than ever, and I can’t wait to hear where they take their enigmatic, experimental take on pop music next.
Future – BEASTMODE 2
While the mixtape release is very rarely breaking new ground for a hip-hop artist, Future’s most recent release, BEASTMODE 2, is the most recent in a long line of surprise drops from the trap god and should be celebrated for that. The mixtape in the hip-hop world is much like the EP or split to metalheads. It’s never going to be a classic, though maybe it will have a few good songs on it and it’s enjoyable because it’s more content from a favorite artist.
The most laudable aspect of the album is the fact that Future produces content like a fully functioning hip-hop factory. He simply doesn’t know how to take a break. He’s only been producing major label records since 2012, but he’s put out 13 albums and mixtapes in 6 years. In 2015 alone, Future put out an album and 3 mixtapes. This year, he contributed to the Black Panther soundtrack, wrote and produced the soundtrack for the Superfly reboot, and now the BEASTMODE 2 mixtape. He’s also not producing these records on the backs of others. He is writing the lyrics and often producing the tracks and beats. Of course, it helps to get huge stars like Snoop Dogg, Drake, Young Thug, Zaytoven, The Weeknd, Rhianna and many, many others.
BEASTMODE 2 doesn’t have any major drops on it. It stays very consistent on the entire record, employing slower tempos than most hip-hop tracks and relatively simple beats and loops with huge bass drops. Any track on the record is a shining example of the genre and this record, but nothing beats a good intro like “WIFI LIT”. Anything you would want in a Future track is there: awesome subtle string loop, sparse drum loops with bone-rattling bass beats, and the kind of lyrics that Future can write. The mixtape isn’t earth-shattering by any stretch of the imagination. When it comes to Future, however, these mixtapes become a playground to set up for the next release. Enjoy the experiment for now, but know that Future is probably about to go right back into the studio to produce more of that dirty trap music we love.
Stern – “Missive: Sister Ships”
The world of art-rock consolidated around New Your City is a prolific and disturbing one. Influences from noise, avant-garde, metal, rock, electronic genres and more mingle to create a heady mix of creators and voices. One of the more active voices in this scene, for a decade now, has been Chuck Stern (Time of Orchids is perhaps his best-known project). He’s worked on a myriad of albums but in 2015 he released Bone Torquise alongside Toby Driver, Keith Abrams, and Tim Byrnes (all of Kayo Dot) and the people rejoiced. It was a beguiling and intricate and, we feared (even though an EP preceded it), a one-off affair. But now, we can put our doubts to rest as Stern are set to release a new album and have released a single from it.
Both album and track are titled “Missive: Sister Ships” and they’re fucking weird, guys. The unique vocal styles of Stern himself, and the ponderous antics of the members of Kayo Dot, lend this track and, indeed, the entire album a feeling of a fever dream. Have you ever drank too much and then ate something too spicy and started walking the streets, faintly lost on your way home? I have and this album feels like it; it hits you from several angles, layering vocals on top of each other into one abrasive whole. But it’s not just abrasive: it’s also bewildering and seductive, like it wants your proximity but also hates you with all its guts. In short, it’s a ride and a half and any fans of avant-garde or art rock would do well to keep an eye out for this release.