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:
Memorex Memories – Pictures of Purple Skies
As someone who travels a lot, I fully understand both the need to wind-down while on the road and the sense of wonder that it creates, especially air travel. There’s something about the unique mix of excruciating, tedious suffering that air travel entails combined with the insanely unbelievable ability to move so fast that just sets your mind ablaze and dulls your body into an inimitable throbbing. On Pictures of Purple Skies, Memorex Memories capture these emotions and the unique mindset that travelling brings with it, channeling all of these through a thick layer of synths, beats, and chillwave aesthetic.
The covert art of this album is honestly the first thing we should pay attention to. It’s a brilliant take on the vaporwave aesthetic, immediately setting you in the correct mood for the music to come. The font choices, the artwork itself, the name of the album, all of these conspire to very effectively communicate to you what this album will be about. And, indeed, as the first notes of “Arrival (Barca 18)” was over you, they prepared you well. Thick, undulating synths which nonetheless never cross the decibel boundary into anything too aggressive, cloaked drum beats that set the pace and turn the nostalgia dial up to eleven, and an overall sensibility which just seems to whisper in your ears all descend upon you from the get-go.
There are clever deviations from the mean all across the track and, indeed, the entire album. Little clever omissions of beats, unexpected breaks from repetition, and samples all make the album a joy to dive into. Take the fourth track, “Ambervision” as an example. This track, featuring the excellent Hotel Pools, uses samples in a great way; from the marketing spill for LA, to the faint air-traffic noises in the background, the samples really set this track apart on the album. Combined with the deep throbs which accompany the beats, it presents Pictures of Purple Skies in its full, hypnotic, intoxicating, wonder-filled, power. This is a synthwave album for the heart-sick, for those who yearn for the horizon, for those who wish to disappear into the clouds.
Sturgill Simpson – Sound & Fury
I bet you never thought you’d see an anime movie with a country soundtrack. Sturgill Simpson’s Sound & Fury is probably the closest you’re going to get only because Simpson has seemed to dial back on his country music roots and hit the boost on his psychedelic tendencies. However, it’s still a prime example of Simpson’s songwriting virtuosity. He’s making his own music with its own voice for something pretty unexpected both of him and for pop culture at large.
What usually happens with these kinds of records is that they have a lot of hype and are ultimately hugely disappointing. Whenever an artist produces work outside of their wheelhouse, everyone is very interested in hearing what is produced but usually just want to poke holes in it just to intentionally cut it down. These records are almost always highly marketed to build out the hype for it and never try to really encapsulate the record as much as it is trying to sell the record as something else.
However, that didn’t happen with Sound & Fury which really adds to the experience. All that was released prior to the record was a single video taken from the anime itself played under the single “Sing Along”. As a result, you can enjoy the record as a whole without having it be tainted by some marketing dudes who neither get the record nor care about it.
This all helps to benefit the listener as the record plays along. It leans into more psychedelic rock territory and feels more like a Black Keys record than a country record. Simpson’s voice gives the record a dirty rock feel and just makes it very accessible. It’s a really interesting record to consume and will require multiple listens to truly get everything Simpson was trying to do. And it doesn’t hurt that the movie companion is a lot of fun to watch, too.