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:
Brittany Howard – Jaime
Looking to move beyond the baffling notion she’s a one-trick pony, Brittany Howard has released her first solo record without her Alabama Shakes bandmates. Jaime is a collection of tracks that both mirror and differentiate Howard from her Southern blues rock band and let her spread her wings in new arenas. While there is still a lot of Southern-style soul to the tracks, there’s also a ton of experimentation for her average release and include some ideas from soul, gospel, rock, and even hip hop and electronica.
From the outset of “History Repeats,” you can tell that you’re in for something just a little different than an Alabama Shakes record. Howard did not limit herself to any kind of sound or story like she might when she’s with her established and acclaimed bandmates. It’s not that she’s intentionally going for something to separate herself; it’s just that these songs are totally and completely hers. She can have an uncompromising effort to create with her own rules. Wherever she wants to take a song, she can go there. And she definitely takes full advantage of being the only voice in the room.
It’s a genuine treat to hear a record have such an eclectic combination of sounds. “History Repeats” slinks through your headphones with a jaunty funk that takes you for a fun ride. “He Loves Me” follows with its smooth yet percussive love tribute. Each track separates itself from the last with subtle changes such that the intro and outro tracks sound wildly different while each individual track sounds a little like the songs on either side of it. The whole record, though, is a wonderful trip through current pop music as told by the singular voice of Brittany Howard.
Dorian Electra – Flamboyant
I can put my attraction to Dorian Electra’s music down to three things: i) the sheer boppish-ness of the dance beats and sugar rush of the hooks; ii) the incredibly on the nose, yet convoluted sense of humour; and iii) the cathartic, chuckin’-out-the-rubbish handling of gender identity. These three qualities coalesce into the sparkly and iridescent presence, yet understated conviction to pushing pop music into more socially confrontational territories. ‘Hang on!’ I hear you say, ‘how can something be blunt but also be understated?’ Ok, hear me out on this one.
Electra’s music pulls strongly from the world of PC Music and the works of its primary founder and producer A. G. Cook, where bulldozer-sized synthetic beats and garish rhythms combine with post-ironic glimpses at the modern world we all struggle to navigate. Look at the cinder block burst at the chorus of “Career Boy”, the hedonistic tale of workaholic men who slave away in glass towers finding a sense of eroticism in the deliberate pursuit of burnout. The lyrics—while reading as classic pop innuendos—have a dark and staggeringly real underbelly of corporate manipulation and human dispensability: ‘Cheap office coffee/Stays pumping through my veins/I work for the man, yeah/But you know I love the chains’.
At its core though, Flamboyant is truly a work about gender. Electra, who identifies as non-binary, has a curious method of songwriting whereby they provide essays on intersectionality and similar topics to songwriters and producers who taint and twist these into highly suggestive tracks like “Career Boy” and the actually quite grimy “Emasculate”, for Electra to then lay down their androgynous vocals on top.