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:
Dave Hause – Kick
Do you like rock and roll music? Do you like jangly, jittery songs about lost love, living with angst and worse conditions? Do you just enjoy being able to identify with artists who know how to potently connect their stories and memories to our own? Then the latest offering from Dave Hause is for you. Equal parts acoustic troubadour and electric rock and roller, Hause once more brings his updated take on Bruce Springsteen-inspired anthems to your earholes and just in time for summer, too. Listening to this record is like a late night drive through the countryside or the side streets of your city on a sweaty night with the windows rolled down and the radio on 10.
“Eye Aye I” opens the album with a rollicking acoustic riff, some slight piano, and some solid “whoa oh oh”s that toss you the keys to said car as we embark on this album laden with hints of the Gaslight Anthem (and the solo work of Brian Fallon), the Menzingers, Chuck Ragan, and Cory Branan among many others who rock leather jackets and punk rock credentials. “The Ditch” sees things firmly kick into a higher gear with ringing guitars and Hause’s penchant for memorable hooks which recalls ‘80s radio rock like the Hooters.
One of the really cool things about this album is its ability to seamlessly shift between different formats of radio friendly vibes like “Saboteurs” slink spliced with a chorus that is reminiscent of peak Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers to the rapid fire delivery of “Weathervane” that’s almost like what would happen if Alkaline Trio wrote some ‘80s hits or the melancholy jangle pop of “Bearing Down” that careens through direct references to suicide that finally settles on a hopeful moment to bring us back home.
Dave Hause continues to write some of the catchiest and most earnest music out there and it’s great to see him return with Kick. You can get it lots of places and you really should do.
Emily Reo – Only You Can See It
Nothing feels quite as good as the warm and fuzzy embrace of some good dream pop. So let’s thank Emily Reo for her latest musical hug, Only You Can See It. Reo is the Brooklyn triple threat: artist, musician, and audio engineer. So not only can she come up with an original take, and not only does she have the ability to make the music, but she can also glue it all together in intriguing ways. If you stop listening to this record halfway through, I would genuinely believe that there was something wrong with you.
There are a number of ways the triple threat expresses itself on the record. Reo is a gifted songwriter and employs a number of modern techniques to show it off. Dream pop of this nature is very subtle and hard to put a signature sound on, but Reo does it with some lighter than air kind of sounds out of a synthesizer. She wrote some songs that are equal parts heavy emotional tomes and bubble gum lightness, then added a dash of studio magic here and there. PRESTO: you’ve got yourself Only You Can See It.
“Ghosting” is the best example of what Reo can do. The lyrics are equal parts embracing life and being terrified of both existence and mortality. At the same time, there is a lightness to the piano melodies Reo creates combined with the number of synthesizer effects and light percussion. It’s a pretty unique combination of images and ideas that ultimately results in your having a lot of thoughts about the song and Reo. But as with the rest of the record, it’s really not just about the song. It’s about the combination of thought, execution, and presentation. This record presents all three.
Frou Frou – “Guitar Song (Live)”
The last thing I expected to hear was a new track from Frou Frou. After 15+ years of radio silence while vocalist Imogen Heap’s solo career took off, it would be a fairly safe assumption to conclude that the group made famous for their inclusion on the Garden State soundtrack had thrown in the towel. Lo and behold, the band’s first new track in nearly two decades dropped on streaming platforms with little fanfare. Given the low-key, highly atmospheric nature of the track, it’s a fitting delivery. “Guitar Song (Live)” sounds exactly like a song of this title should, and it’s an utterly majestic and understated return for one of my favorite bands from my teen years.
I’ll admit, there’s some personal history in tow in how I approach Frou Frou’s music. One of their songs was on the first playlist I sent to my first girlfriend. It accompanied me through some fairly rough patches of my early twenties, and has been prime long-drive music for my wife and I for years. Whenever a new track drops from a band that has this level of personal buy-in from me, there’s obviously going to be some rose-colored glasses analysis going on. So take that as you will. But having listened to this track over a dozen times, I can state with confidence that the band has channeled the spirit and sound of their best music, distilling it down to its most essential elements: Voice and sparse melody. Gone are the electronic frills that dominated so much of the indie-pop scene’s output in the mid-2000s (think The Postal Service, Goldfrapp, The Bird and the Bee, etc.), instead focusing on Heap’s mesmerizing vocals and Guy Sigworth’s winding instrumental melodies. It’s an enchanting composition that’s nothing more than a simple ear-worm that will live in your head for days after hearing it.
“Guitar Song (Live)” is essentially everything I could have wanted from a Frou Frou recording. Whether this is your intro to the group, or just another step along your journey beyond adolescence, there’s something valuable for you here. A near-perfect return to form.
Meg Myers – “Running Up That Hill”
When you combine a truly original voice in the pop wilderness with one of, in my opinion, the best songs of all time, Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” you hit on something brilliant. Myers does what one hopes artists can accomplish on this cover by, not just paying homage but, creating something all her own within the confines of the blueprint laid out by the original artist. The way on this version that the percussion is brought up in the mix sets us up for this savage take on the classic song.
That Myers followed up 2018’s lush and gorgeous Take Me to the Disco (I highly recommend tracks “Tourniquet”, “Jealous Sea”, and “The Death of Me”) with this updated take on a classic that is challenging at the best of times for other artists and wrings something new and original out of it really shows off her abilities. The delicately fierce warble of her approach is enticing, entreating, and altogether mesmerizing.
On the original, Bush created a danceable art track that pounds in the nails of all of your emotions from defiance to dejection which, if you’ve never heard it you owe it to yourself to do so now, I’ll wait. Then listen to Myers immerse herself into updating those same tendencies towards a danceable beat that lends itself towards an urgency and plaintiveness of spirit that will absolutely haunt you. If this is your first exposure to Myers, again, I urge you to get familiar with the rest of her work. This is an important voice in pop music and one that we should only be so lucky to get more material from in the not too distant future.