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:
Lena Raine – Oneknowing
Last a year, a video game called Celeste was released. It was an incredibly well crafted and challenging platformer which accompanied a charming protagonist on her way towards self discovery via the proverbial mountain and its climbing. The game was accompanied by a fantastic soundtrack by one Lena Raine. In fact, the OST stayed with me even longer than the game did; it was wonderful in its glitchy chillout, capable of a faster pace when the game called for it but for the most part setting the mood brilliantly for a very moody game. Imagine my excitement then when Lena Raine announced a full length album, another addition to a prolific track record which extends well beyond the OST.
Happily for me, that excitement was more than matched when the album itself dropped. Oneknowing is definitely a Raine album and bears a lot of the tones which made the Celeste OST so good. But it also features more prominent vocals, especially on the lovely opening track, “Tsukuyomi”. This dreamy, atmospheric track is a good introduction to both albums but also to the original voice of Raine as it comes into fuller fruition on this release. Further along the album, the elements introduced here will be extrapolated upon to create darker takes, like “Insomnia” paired with other instruments and vibes like on the static-filled “Momodani” or brought back for heart-wrenchingly beautiful moments like “Light Rail” which soon follows it.
Thus, Oneknowing definitely revolves around similar themes but hits them from different perspectives, creating an album as rich as it is comforting, awash with light but not afraid to vary things up and make things move faster or hit harder. All in all it’s a fantastic release for a light-washed weekend or an especially panoramic car ride, as its sense of wonder is palpable even at its most quiet and intimate moments.
American Football – LP3
Somewhere between growth and subversion sits the uncomfortable territory demarcated by the latest effort from American Football. Lyrically, the band, particularly Mike Kinsella, shows that they have indeed grown out of the phases of youth and into an adulthood as shrouded in mystery and misunderstandings as the past was… only different. From top to bottom, the first vibrations of opening track, “Silhouettes”, to the somber closing of “Life Support” the listener receives a glistening version of this band that sounds all lonely living rooms after a fight with a loved one or the hum of wheels on highways leading to a home you not sure you have anymore.
The evocation of these feelings is no more present than on the trio of spectacular guest vocal tracks “Every Wave to Ever Rise” (Elizabeth Powell), “Uncomfortably Numb” (Hayley Williams), and “I Can’t Feel You” (Rachel Goswell). The second of these tracks is almost bouncy compared to the majority of the fare here and that’s no knock against either. After all, if you’re coming to an American Football record for upbeat material you’re in for a rude awakening especially on what can only be described as their most mature batch of songs to date.
“Heir Apparent” might be the most engaging and exemplary song of the band’s current state while showing off the range of their capabilities. The oddness I’ve always felt with this band is how everything manages to sound so damned complex while retaining the kind of comfort level and a kind of shabbiness that belies the skills of each band member within their execution. The chorale in the closing section is also a powerful emotive tool and shouldn’t be slept on. There’s a lot in this track that might have been unthinkable for this band until, you know, they up and did it.
My personal favorite song here is “I Can’t Feel You” particularly because of the interplay of the rhythm section. The backbone of the song here feels like a more sophisticated take on Death Cab for Cutie, which honestly could be a way to contextualize the entire album, and allows the guitars, vocals, and other instrumentation the opportunity to experiment with sparseness. The duality of the track is part of what proves so attractive. That said, part of the inimitable beauty of LP3 is the way each track is a stand alone tapestry for a narrative on adulthood that we didn’t know we needed.
You can pickup American Football’s LP3 through Polyvinyl here.
Billy Woods & Kenny Segal – Hiding Places
Kenny Segal has flown under the radar for the last 5 years or so as one of the most creative and interesting producers in the hip-hop scene. Known mostly for teaming up with members of the growing underground “art rap” scene such as milo, and Open Mike Eagle, and for his solo instrumental-hip hop work. The “art” in art-rap was coined to parallel the art in “art rock”, signifying a more avant-garde approach and to differentiate from the muddied ‘underground’ moniker. Last year, Bandcamp did a little feature on him taunting him as one of ‘LA’s revered producers’. Kenny’s way with dream-like little melodies and contrasting, experimental textures and pads is unlike much I’ve heard in the genre and really connects with me in a way that you can get lost in. “[you] think. ‘Gee, I remember when beats commanded this much of my soul’ – but you don’t and you can’t, [because] they never did, Milo says (Bandcamp).
Here we see Kenny team up with New York rapper Billy Woods for his impressive 11th album since 2003. The unconventional song-structures, jazzy beats and unique sampling seems to mesh perfectly with the more abstract, poetic and borderline spoken-word lyricists who indulge frequently in political and social issues and never shy away from flexing their lexicon with dark metaphors and obscure similes. Billy uses these often for cynicism and senses of dread, which is prominent motif for the album. You can tell he’s feeling very defeated and isolated, and the poetic narratives don’t shy away from pointing this out with dark comedy.
“Life is just two quarters in the machine
But, either you got it or don’t that’s the thing
I was still hittin’ the buttons, “Game Over” on the screen… Fuckin’ with the joystick, pretendin’ I was really playin”
Vocally, Billy has a delivery and timbre somewhere between Ghostface Killah and MF Doom in the mid-to-lower range with moderately fast cadence. He generally keeps to one range and type of flow, but Kenny’s jazzy chord changes, and use of samples and guest vocals such as in “a day in a week in a year” keep the overall flow from going stale. If you’re looking for a fun party hip-hop album, this probably isn’t it, but it is some of Kenny and Billy’s best work to date and a genuine and sincere listening experience.