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 covers 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:
Iggy Pop – “Gardenia”
It basically goes without saying that a lot of us here at the blog are extremely excited about Post Pop Depression, the new collaboration between punk rock progenitor Iggy Pop and stoner-rock legend Josh Homme. The fact that two huge names like this is already enough to intrigue just about any music fan, but knowing that this album was a response to Homme’s dealing with the Paris terrorist attacks in November makes the album that much more captivating. While the album’s first single, “Gardenia,” seems rather understated as an initial statement, it’s still got plenty of attitude and atmosphere. Backed by an interesting fusion of retro-punk and funk-infused rock, Iggy Pop croons with a newfound level of confidence that already seems way more exciting than the last Stooges record.
Iggy and Josh just appeared on Colbert’s late night talk show as well, and really seem to show a level of chemistry and friendship that is simply undeniable. In their interview, the two really seemed completely in sync with their new musical vision despite the generational gap between the two. It really does seem like Homme can basically collaborate with any heavy hitter musician (whether it’s John Paul Jones, Dave Grohl or Elton John) and always come out with something exciting, arcane, and timeless. There’s absolutely no reason why Post Pop Depression shouldn’t be one of your most anticipated albums of the year right now.
Start Your Week the Right Way with Floex
Once upon a time there was a game. That game was called Machinarium and it was pretty good. It featured wild landscapes, gameplay that made you think and an overall pleasing aesthetic. But that game also had a soundtrack, composed by one Tomáš Dvořák AKA Floex. That soundtrack was simply amazing: it’s chilled out electronics were a perfect complement to the game. More than that, they opened me up to a discography that is downright amazing. Filled with rich, electronic soundscapes and a dedication to variance and innovation, Floex’s body of work is at once approachable and deep, providing hours of musical journeys.
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Take Zorya for example, my favorite of his albums. Its music moves incorporates wind instruments, dreamy synths, soft basses and expansive structures. “Precious Creature” for example has a wind instrument that sounds like it was sampled directly from Colin Stetson‘s body of work. “Nel Blue”, featuring Musetta, has one of the best female vocals over electronics that I’ve heard, in Portuguese I believe. While the album never gets fierce, preferring to remain subtle and seductive, check out “Veronika’s Dream” for a slightly disconcerting and faster approach to the rest of the album’s sounds.
Long story short, this is for fans of Culprate for example or any other electronic artist who incorporates live instruments into their music. It’s an album that’s much more than chilled out, instead shining better under adjectives like subtle, calm, deceptive and rich. It has highs and lows but its main power lies in its consistency and its ability to experiment from within a secure, well couched sound. Consumption recommendations include a brisk, sunny day, some sort of fruit juice and an easy chair.
Adore Life with Savages on Their Solid Sophomore Effort
Everything about Savages translates into something I’d love: an all-female group playing one of my favorite genres with an impressive degree of intensity and precision. Unfortunately, that impression is based on the acclaim I saw for their 2013 debut Silence Yourself and not from personal experience; my musical current events skills weren’t what they are now. Since Sleater-Kinney‘s 2015 comeback record left me wanting more riot grrrl-esque tunes, I figured there wasn’t a better time to check out Savages than with their sophomore album Adore Life. It also helps that the quartet seem wicked chill and have great taste in music:
So, after much time spent with Adore Life, I can confidently report that the album is…good. I should preface my mini-review by stressing this point; Adore Life is a solid slab of post-punk that fans and newcomers to genre will enjoy. But personally, I expected slightly more based on what people said about Silence Yourself, and now I want to spin that record to compare the two. My first point of concern arrived with intro track “The Answer,” an overall decent track that doesn’t live up to its crucial position in the track listing. Thankfully, “Evil” raises the bar a bit immediately afterward with some morbidly catchy guitar lines that conjure an appropriately depressive post-punk mood. But even then, it’s not an exceptional track, which sets the tone for the majority of the other songs. It ultimately comes down songwriting for me: the intense moments aren’t as let-loose as Iceage and the moodier moments don’t capture that overwhelmingly oppressive atmosphere established by Joy Division back in the day. Jehnny Beth’s vocals don’t help the situation either and often do little more than ensure the tracks aren’t solely instrumentals. Adore Life picks up unexpectedly at the end, with the sufficiently moody “When In Love,” abrasive noise landscapes of “Surrender” and an actual post-punk ripper with “T.I.W.Y.G.” But then the album ends with as minimal excitement as it opened with. “Mechanics” is certainly moody, but it doesn’t offer much more and ends up feeling aimless by the time the record concludes.
If I’m being honest, I feel as though there’s a possibility that Adore Life will grow on me with further listens. Even the tracks I mentioned negatively above aren’t terrible, and I maintain that this is a good post-punk record. But there’s also a distinct possibility that other post-punk albums will arrive later in the year that are more immediate and lasting in their quality. Regardless, I still recommend Adore Life and hope that other post-punk fans can enjoy it more than I do currently.
Tortoise’s The Catastrophist Avoids Catastrophe, but Still Misses the Mark
It would be pretty impossible for Tortoise to completely tarnish their legacy, in my view. Their run of albums including Millions Now Living Will Never Die, TNT, and Standards make them pretty much teflon in that regard. Their two albums post-Standards, 2004’s It’s All Around You and 2009’s Beacons of Ancestorship are both good but not legacy-furthering. Part of that has to do with how music itself and trends have changed in the band’s lifetime. What was once the bleeding edge in post-rock is now beyond common and almost quaint. The band continue to experiment and tinker with different sounds and influences (Beacons has a few great examples of this, particularly the bass/electro freakouts of “Yinxianghechengqi”), but there’s also overall a sense of aimless comfort and complacency in those albums that any band so far into their career can be excused for falling into.
Which brings us to their new album, The Catastrophist, which was inspired in part by a suite of tracks the band put together a few years ago for their home city of Chicago that was meant to be representative of the city’s eclectic music scenes. In the self-titled opening track, there are signs of life in the group that have been unheard of in well over a decade. It’s vibrant, brimming with a certain purpose and energy that’s been missing in so much of their music in the past decade and change, and calls back to their late 90s/turn of the century heyday without feeling dated. And elsewhere the album conjures up some of that old magic, particularly in the skittery “Ox Duke” and the final two tracks “Tesseract” and “At Odds With Logic.” More downtempo tracks like “The Clearing Fills” and “Hot Coffee” call back to the smooth electronic grooves of TNT without feeling too played as well. The Catastrophist, no doubt, contains some of the band’s most impressive work since those halcyon days.
And yet, there is this nagging sense of malaise throughout the album that the better parts of it can’t quite shake. The cover of David Essex‘s “Rock On” sounds like a parody of the kind of bluesy, psychedelic EDM that Darkside mastered a few years ago, and the stream of tracks from “Gopher Island” through lead single “Gesceap” ultimately go by without meriting much reason for paying attention. “Gesceap,” in particular, is a huge disappointment, as the track sounds like a 7-minute intro into some great, explosive classic Tortoise, but the payoff never comes. It simply meanders and builds, but the journey is not worth it alone. Fortunately for The Catastrophist, the same cannot be said of the album as a whole. It’s a worthy attempt and certainly demonstrates that the band still have something to say and a reason to exist. But it’s not a total success, and those greater moments are offset by too much fluff, ultimately making it a rather frustrating experience for fans who still hold out hope of the band releasing another bombshell like those albums of yore.