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:
The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships
I don’t think there’s any better way to talk about The 1975 than through a ridiculously-too-soon hot take. The band is, in many ways, emblematic of the time and space in which we (primarily referring to millennials here) live. Their latest record, the ludicrously titled A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, is far from brief. Expanding over an hour with enough stylistic changes to fill a dozen modern pop records, it’s a whole lot to digest. So let’s not even try. HOT TAKE TIME.
After two albums that showed the band evolving from boy band to moderate pop sensation, ABIIOR is the album that will break most fence-riders, enthrall diehard fans, and further entrench critics. I’ve always been somewhat of a fence-dweller when it comes to the 1975, so I was curious to see how this record changed my perspective, if it all. After listening, color me equally confused and intrigued.
More listens may or may not lend more perspective to this record, but on first go it’s equal parts baffling and brilliant. Frontman Matt Healy’s well/publicized stint in rehab and battle with heroin addiction is obviously a rich contextual palette around which to create a record, but between every deeply personal confession and meaningful exorcism is a bombastic, utterly ridiculous load of rock star hubris. It’s actually pretty impressive, if I’m being honest. And while there are plenty of cringe-worthy moments here, the highs are utterly exceptional. “Love It If We Made It” is without question the best song the band have ever written, and one of the better songs describing the frightened, vapid, addicted, and eternally seeking generation it stems from. It’s an instant classic, like much of this schizophrenic album. “Be My Mistake” fills some of the band’s most sparse, intimate musicianship with some ludicrous lust. It’s these types of contrasts that will make or break your listening experience.
Being that this is a record from The 1975, there’s obviously more here than your basic pop fare. “The Man Who Married A Robot” is absolutely tragi-comic, while the Bon Iver-isms of “How to Draw / Petrichor” work as well as one could hope. And for every auto-tuned stinker is a heartfelt ballad like “Mine”, which dabbles playfully in the delightfully sappy. There’s just a whole lot here, but by the time I’d finished my first listen I felt like I’d listened to a complete work by one band. That’s pretty darn impressive, and time will tell it that feeling holds up.
Is this album all over the place stylistically? Yes. Is it an eye-rolling exercise in bombast? Certainly. Are there some certified stinkers on here? Well, maybe not. But not all of these tracks are great. Are the highs worth the investment? I say yes. On the whole, ABIIOR is a baffling and, at times, brilliant pop record that is well worth the time investment.
– Jonathan Adams
Long Arm – Darkly
“Wet” is not an adjective I thought I’d ever use to describe an album. And yet, here we are; it appears that Long Arm has chosen to deliberately create the sensation, sound, and feel of water on his latest release, Darkly. It’s an electronic album influenced just as much by trip-hop as it is by jazz, melding chill melodies and beats (like on the opening track, “For All People with Broken Hearts”, which is dominated by an eerie sample of what appears to be a child crying) and deep, somber creations for the piano which remind us of Deaf Center‘s haunting work (this can be found on tracks like “Lullaby”, all punctuated piano echoing out over an expansive distance).
But throughout both of these approaches, there is a unique feeling of wetness. It makes itself known first and foremost by a constant static at the back of many of the tracks, a static which sounds like water flowing or rain falling. Indeed, sounds from nature (like strange, animal cries on “The Light” and in other places) give the album the sensation of a rain forest, a close, redolent, thick blanket of muffled sound. The tones also express this aquatic nature; whether piano, beat or other engineered sound, all the instruments on this album enjoy a tone that can be best described as fecund; they are infected with the faint swish-swashing of tree leaves, the fuzzy sound of a stone hitting the puddle. It’s almost as if the tones on the album were taken from the materials which made them, knuckles cracking on speaker cases made of wood, legs moving across undergrowth made of piano keys.
In short, it’s a very unique album. We often use the term “transports” to describe the moods which an album instills in you or the imaginary places to which it takes you and nowhere is it more fitting than here. The whole of Darkly, tone, effects, samples, and composition, is singularly designed to envelop you and take you elsewhere. It also offers a variety of approaches in achieving this goal, whether beat-centered trip-hop or moving, jazz-inspired compositions. It’s an album to be savored, taken in slowly as its own beat hints at, like you would when moving through some beautiful landscape or natural artifact. Take it easy, tune your heart to “open” and let Darkly wash over you.
– Eden Kupermintz