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:
Avey Tare – Cows on Hourglass Pond
There are few albums from the mid-to-late 2000s that could be considered more anomalous than Animal Collective’s seminal record Merriweather Post Pavilion. A masterclass in freak folk, indie pop, psychedelic freak-out amalgamation, it represented peak listenable content for a historically strange band branching into the pop sphere while refusing to fully shed its distinctly “out there” edge. One of my favorite records of all-time, I was all-aboard the hype train in 2009 when the album was first released, assuming that MPP would hail a new dawn in the world of independent music. Strangely, it didn’t. Sure, bands like Yeasayer, MGMT, Akron/Family, and Ariel Pink took elements of the MPP sound and bent them to their own designs, but each eventually left that album’s template behind for their own sonic inventions. For one of the most celebrated albums in indie music history, there’s very little to scrounge in the way of a sonic legacy. Subsequently, Animal Collective’s members began to branch off into their own careers, with Noah Lennox (Panda Bear) releasing the classic Person Pitch and David Portner (Avey Tare) heading into wild, freaky territory with Down There and Eucalyptus. The latter member’s third full-length record, Cows on Hourglass Pond, plunders the watery sonic depths of MPP more thoroughly than any album to come before it, sharpening and refining the sound that made Animal Collective a household name for indie fans in the late-2000s. Thankfully, it’s a glorious experiment, and the best album Avey Tare has yet produced by a wide margin.
Fans of MPP will immediately recognize similarities between it and Cows on Hourglass Pond, namely the syrupy, aquatic production style and vocal effects found right off the bat in “What’s the Goodside?”. However, Avey Tare is here more focused on capturing the essence of what made that and other records in Animal Collective’s discography so special as opposed to recreating them on a sonic level. These tracks are vibrant and full of life and deeply personal, melding gentle acoustic instrumentation with just enough production wankery to feel comfortable in the Animal Collective canon. It’s increasingly evident how significant an impact Avey Tare has on his main project’s music, as songs on this record herald back to Feels (“Eyes On Eyes”), Sung Tongs (“Saturdays (Again)”), and Strawberry Jam (“K.C. Yours”) with ease and conviction. But these tracks never feel like retreads, rather a succinct distillation of the elements that made these albums the unique works of psych art that they are. If you were a fan of Animal Collective at any point in their career, there’s something for you here. But especially for those who find MPP as special as I do, Cows on Hourglass Pond strikes a tone of spiritual succession, proving that the members of Animal Collective still have plenty of coherent, fully digestible songwriting left in the tank.
If I were to rank this record in the Animal Collective + friends release tree, it would most certainly land in the top five, if not the top three. Given the classics produced by this group of musicians and artists, that’s most certainly intended as high praise. Cows on Hourglass Pond is a treasure of a record that serves both as a retrospective of Animal Collective’s musical career up to this point and as a personal, unique statement of musical intent from Avey Tare. While MPP remains a musical anomaly, Avey Tare proves its spirit still vibrantly alive in his latest and best record. Essential listening.
Ibibio Sound Machine – Doko Mien
I like that we, as a music listening society, have begun to drop the term “world music” from our vocabularies. It’s not an accurate term anyway, and in 2019 it could be seen as a pretty offensive and generally ignorant. So I’m glad I heard about Ibibio Sound Machine now because “world music” wouldn’t begin to describe this rich sound. Led by Nigerian singer Eno Williams, this octet makes an incredibly engaging combination of West African funk and modern jazz with psychedelic influences that will ensure your toe is tapping until the final note of Doko Mien.
On a personal note, this is the kind of music I would’ve craved in college. For an American, you’re constantly bombarded by western music in a way that you can forget there’s a world outside of it, making music and art in ways that you simply can’t comprehend. That’s what Eno and her band do exactly. There is a joy and exuberance to this music that few others have. The prominent funk bass from Derrick McIntyre and the wah-infused guitar chords from Alfred Kari Bannerman calls to 70s funk we all know and love. Combined with a wisely employed horn section, and you’ve got a sound that few can truly imitate.
There are also a lot of electronic elements to some of these songs that sound like modern psychedelic rock like Tame Impala. “Tell Me (Doko Mien)” is shaded throughout with these elements. The simply electronic beat at the beginning is very reminiscent to modern sounds along with production qualities such as the reverb on each instrument and the vocals. Synthesizers have an equal ability to give a little extra color to each track.
Doko Mien is probably the most interesting record I’ve heard this year. It is such a unique combination of sounds that makes a wonderfully soulful kind of music. While it is partially an academic exercise of identifying the sounds on the record, you should be more concerned with the work as a whole. Don’t worry about what influenced them or where did they pick that sound up from or anything else other than the incredible funk they produce.