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:
Pvris – Hallucinations
Pvris’s debut album, White Noise (2014), showcased a better feel for the strengths of both pop and heavy(ish) rock than most other acts who have sought to combine the two styles in recent years (or, at least, those who aren’t called Don Broco). It’s follow-up, 2017’s All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell, unfortunately, almost discarded the heavier edge entirely, and a lot of the band’s inherent explosiveness and intrigue along with it. The five-track EP Hallucinations sees the Massachusetts trio bringing back the punchier side of their sound while continuing down their more explicitly pop-oriented path, to great effect.
There still isn’t much of a “rock” influence on Hallucinations but, once again, the band’s sound is more Chvrches than Florence and the Machine. The EP delivers a batch of hard-hitting electro-pop that lean toward the more upbeat, if not entirely heavier, end of the genre’s spectrum. Four out of its five tracks are built throbbing bass lines and Lynn Gunn’s sultry drawl, which remains the strongest weapon in the band’s arsenal. Her delivery of “fuck your California dreams” is at once spiteful and seductive, and she’s the crucial factor in pushing standouts, such as the otherwise fairly formulaic title-track and “Death of Me” over the edge into pop perfection.
The lone exception to the EP’s thumping soundscape is penultimate track “Things Are Better”: a downtrodden ballad that wouldn’t sound out of place on either of the last Bring Me the Horizon records. Here Gunn, takes centre stage, and her delivery remains both powerful and captivating, even if the track is ultimately marred by the overuse of electronic vocal layering that has become so rampant within contemporary pop music. It’s still a fine song, but, while it’s certainly the most distinct track on the EP, it’s also by far the least inspired, and just goes to show how much better the band are when they play into the heavier side of their sound than when attempting to come across more subdued.
I’d still really like Pvris to write another song like “My House” or “Fire”. The band show no intention of doing so, however, and—if that’s the case—then I’ll happily take Hallucinations in its place.
Elbow – Giants of All Sizes
There is a special corner of my heart which has Elbow written all over it. Their music, lyrics, and themes have shaken me to the core, lifted me up, broke me down, and in general have been a soundtrack to my life for the last decade or so. I came to them late but I fell deeply in love with their earnesty and penchant for making music that’s both intelligent and catchy, for their talent of blending the “high” and the “low” together. On Giants of All Sizes, Elbow display a more somber take on their sound, certainly more somber than their previous release, Little Fictions. Where that album was filled with a childish wonder (sometimes literally, like on “Magnificent(She Says”), this release is sober, disenchanted you might even say, and not willing to flinch away from the world’s imperfections.
Take “The Delayed 3:15”, with its description of a run-down train station and the myriad of condescending, lost, and melancholic people who fill it. Or the ending-oriented dirge of “Seven Veils”, describing a relationship floundering on expectations, our narrator left with nothing more than an admission of their insufficiency. Whatever the subject, Giants of All Sizes draws on the pop-rock approach of Elbow’s yesteryear, channeling The Seldom Seen Kid more than Little Fictions, rougher edges utilized to describe the rougher world the album seems to gaze out upon. To this are added synths clothed in many moods, suited to fit the track they’re on; on “White Noise White Heat” for example, their more abrasive sound supplements the guitars and underscores the urgency of the track while on the aforementioned “Seven Veils”, they added to the mournful atmosphere of the track.
In capacity, Elbow’s instruments are always worthy dancing partners for their lyrics which are, once again, some of the best in the field. Whether they describe heartbreak, social derision, mourning, beginnings or ends, Elbow’s words are second to none. On Giants of All Sizes this is no different, the album packed with turns of phrase, metaphors, and descriptions that set the album and the band apart from any of their contemporaries. Like on previous release, when lyrics and instruments are joined, we get a deep, funny, disarming, and honest album, another in a set of releases which set Elbow as one of the best British bands of the last two decades.