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. As is tradition, 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:
Tash Sultana – Flow State
If you haven’t heard of Tash Sultana then strap yourself in because you’re in for a real treat. Chill rock jumps out as perhaps the most apt description of their sound, but it also does their compositional and instrumental talents and flexibility a great disservice. Honing their skills for years as a busker/street performer in Melbourne Australia, 24 year-old Sultana can play over 15 instruments and they put those to good use throughout. They splendidly interweave the likes of alternative rock, surf rock, psychedelic rock, pop rock, blues, reggae, soul and more from one track to the next. It’s seamlessly done, each track distinct and yet at home among its brethren. Despite tracking in at a chunky 60+ minutes, their debut record Flow State is equal parts entrancing and enrapturing as it effortlessly holds the listener’s attention. Personally, I’ve seen Sultana perform on the streets as a teenager. I’ve watched them live in a tiny room, playing as a one-person band and piecing their songs together with loops. Now they’re selling out arenas and conquering the world one city at a time and, despite knowing their debut album was coming out last year, I slept on it. And frankly, I’m embarrassed. Flow State would have featured highly on my end-of-year list and I implore you to give it a spin.
There really is something for everyone on this record. “Seed (Intro)” showcases the chill rock aspect and an aural affinity with Matt Corby with its tasteful guitar tone and their trademark vocal style. “Big Smoke” does more of the same, only to rip into a psychedelic solo, Sultana shredding away for the last minute of the song. “Cigarettes” makes you wonder whether you’ve just found a missing INXS hit with an addictive jangly guitar riff in the bridge that just makes you want to dance. “Seven” highlights their versatility and compositional flair, a stunning instrumental that goes from dramatic, to glitchy, to contemplative and back again. I could go through every single track and tell you a highlight, a memorable moment, a reason why you cannot skip it. But it would be remiss of me not to mention “Blackbird”. Just when you think you’ve heard it all, you find a near 10-minute track where they are absolutely shredding on an acoustic guitar. Think John Butler Trio, add a dash of metal attitude and a healthy dose of drama and you wouldn’t be far off. It’s pure brilliance. Flow State is a phenomenal album, distinctly Australian in sound and unapologetically Tash Sultana. Step into their wonderful world, head first, and you’ll thank yourself for it.
– Karlo Doroc
Pale Waves – My Mind Makes Noises
It’s a good time to be nostalgic for 80’s goth pop. The 1975 popularized this scene of former emo kids grabbing at the John Hughes aesthetic over the past decade, and the latest band to pop up in their wake is fellow British indie pop act Pale Waves, who incidentally are signed to the band’s label and are the direct support on their upcoming North American tour. Pale Waves’ debut album album, My Mind Makes Noises, dropped back in September, but was unfortunately kind of overshadowed by The 1975’s much lauded new record A Brief Inquiry In Online Relationships. Some of us here at Heavy Blog enjoyed that record quite well, and we covered it quite positively in another Unmetal Monday post.
Now, with A Brief Inquiry’s new release buzz fading, it’s time to reach back and check out Pale Waves initial full length offering, out now on Dirty Hit Records. It’s very much in keeping with The 1975’s influence, albeit far less experimental, bringing to mind the more straightforward pop cuts from the band’s discography such as “Girls” or “UGH!”, but bolstered by frontwoman and guitarist Heather Baron-Gracie’s charismatic presence and expressive voice. Pale Waves offer something akin to Cyndi Lauper’s massive synthy pop hits by way of The Cure’s goth aesthetic and melancholic rock sensibility, and it’s a formula that is satisfying in a very specific way.
My Mind Makes Noises is packed with back-to-back earworms with hooks that sink in deep. Sort-of title track “Noises” has angst so thick it’s almost sickening if it weren’t for the undeniability of the songwriting. “Television Romance” is an upbeat and glossy pop rock track that is most likely to earn them comparisons to The 1975 with its playful and repetitive guitar leads. It also helps that the single version of the track was produced by The 1975’s Matt Healy and George Daniel. “Came In Close” is a personal favorite, and is a flirty and dancy number that really sticks with you.
Pale Waves’ debut is a fun and catchy pop rock record worth exploring for those into that nostalgic indie pop sound, but is often formulaic and rarely experimental. Expressive and valuable as Baron-Gracie is (protect her at all costs), she does not give herself opportunity to explore much emotional or technical range. Granted, she does extraordinarily well in the context or confines of individual songs, but across the record, the formula and narrow set of sounds becomes more obvious. Noises is full of great songs, but hopefully we’re just seeing a young band find and establish a base sound that will be expanded upon in future releases. Surely the band want to move out from under The 1975’s shadow, but they could stand to take some cues from the band as they branch outward into a wider set of noises moving forward.