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:
Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour
Taylor Swift’s evolution from a country music star to a pop goddess has been well-documented. With her popular music sonic sensibility kicking off most obviously in RED and only increasing with each subsequent release, it wouldn’t be shocking if many of her fans had no idea she started in the country music world. In similar fashion, Kacey Musgraves has experienced some unique shifts in her musical style, though her incorporation of foreign sounds into the country template has been much more amebic in nature. Her third full-length release, Golden Hour, is an absolutely gorgeous mixture of country, folk, and pop sensibilities that is one of the most stunning and pleasurable releases in music this year.
The one-two punch of “Slow Burn” and “Lonely Weekend” is just about as good an amalgamation of the sounds cohabitating on this record as you’re likely to find. With Musgraves country-inflected vocals providing the genre’s principal grounding, the acoustic guitar work points to an indie-folk composition focus, while the drums on these tracks (and production flourishes) propel these songs through some fine pop percussion. The album’s pop elements are realized in their purest form in “Butterflies” and the auto-tuned wonder of “Oh, What a World”, the former of which features a refrain of keys that would fit nicely into a 500 Days of Summer-esque compilation as it would on a country album. These are magnificent tracks that display with deft precision how an artist can maintain their sonic roots while expanding that sound into uncharted territory. The entire record is stuffed with such songs, and each of them offering something different, but never feeling anything less than fully cohesive.
Golden Hour is an absolutely gorgeous album, full stop. I’m obsessed with this record. Start to finish, Musgraves has created one of the best country/folk/pop albums of recent years, standing toe-to-toe with anything these genres have to offer. Here’s hoping we get more music from this treasure very soon.
Dallas Campbell – The Seven Sisters and The Serpent
One of the real tragedies of this life is that, often, the albums that will pass under your radar are exactly those albums which most deserve your attention. This is because complexity, nuance, and ambition (three traits which are almost essential for true musical and, indeed, artistic greatness) tend to create works which are inherently hard to decipher and appreciate at first glance. Thus, you flit over them and often don’t find a point of purchase, moving on instead of delaying further, missing out, perhaps forever, on something great.
But, sometimes, you get to go back and fix your mistakes, looking deeper and finding that spark you didn’t notice when it first came around. That’s exactly what happened to me with Dallas Campbell‘s The Seven Sisters and The Serpent. We’re talking about an album which takes synthwave and runs it through a David Lynchian mirror before spinning it back up across John Carpenter lines. Think Dune but even more of an acid trip; think the vastness of space and the mind stretched out over fifty minutes of electronic beats and rich, undulating synths. That’s what this album is like, a deep dive into a Chris Foss drawing in glorious 4D. It utilizes various electronic sub-genres to get that feeling across and create a tapestry of sound that’s hard to grasp at first but promises plenty of places to explore for the intrepid listener.
“Ulker Cerig” would be a good place to start, its initial buildup giving you that kind of “what if space but on drugs” feeling while the main synth line delivers visions of a neon drenched future right to your lizard brain. But while you’re exploring theme and metaphor, listen also to how carefully the different synth tones are produced and to how they bleed beautifully into each other by the time the big synth hook rolls around, just before the two minute mark, joined by that beautiful bass line. Other points of interest include the reggae/dub influenced, and aptly named, “Spice Flight”, and the gorgeously freaky “Harnessing Local Quantum Spookiness”. With these waypoints in mind, give The Seven Sisters and The Serpent a try; it might not catch you the first few times, but I promise that if you let it, it will sink its slow-release hooks into you.