Unmetal Monday // 12/30/2019

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. Seeing that we are at the end of the year, we will be covering a few of our favorite non-metal releases from 2019. So head past the jump to dial down the distortion:

Nick Cave & The Bad SeedsGhosteen

Darkness has marked the music of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds over the last several years. The tragic death of Nick Cave’s teenaged son haunted their 2017 release Skeleton Tree, and permeates the entirety of the band’s 17th full-length record. Much like Skeleton Tree, Ghosteen dials down the band’s more bombastic elements, presenting instead a subdued and minimalist shell around the album’s emotional core. But what gorgeous music is contained in these sparse compositions. Presenting some of Cave’s most direct and emotionally jarring lyrics yet, the album is in turn an artistic tribute to inconsolable grief and the rebuilding/healing process, culminating in one of the most rich and beautiful albums of the band’s storied career. 

The National I Am Easy To Find

Name a working band with a more consistently stellar discography than The National. Pretty tough, isn’t it? With a minimum of three bona fide indie rock classics in their storied catalog (four depending on how you feel about Trouble Will Find Me), there’s no band from indie rock’s heyday that has churned out more quality music. I Am Easy To Find is the type of album that you’d expect a band like The National to make in the latter stages (presumably) of their career. It’s bold, expansive, experimental, and committed to its sonic vision to a fault. In another unprecedented move for the band, the album is also accompanied by a short film giving unique visual life to the gorgeous music contained therein. With all of these unusual elements peppering the band’s firmly established sound, a career fumble seemed likely. The strange thing is, rather than I Am Easy To Find being a fun but inconsequential aside in a career, it’s once again a fantastic collection of resonant, intelligent, and focused music. As loose and adventurous as the band sounds here, they never sacrifice quality. Which is just about all you can ask for from a band this consistently special. 

Lightning Bolt Sonic Citadel

There is really no other band on the planet quite like Rhode Island’s Lightning Bolt. With a career now spanning decades and more than one noise rock classic under their belt, they are in peerless territory in their chosen sonic space. Which makes Sonic Citadel, their seventh full-length record, all the more remarkable. Building on their previous punch to the throat Fantasy Empire, Sonic Citadel expands the band’s sound further than it has ever gone while maintaining and refining its core components into something that feels both familiar and adventurous. It’s punchy, aggressive, loud, and diverse. In short, it’s one of the legendary band’s best yet. 

Little Simz – GREY Area

Honestly, the reception this album has been getting from publications has been pretty baffling to me. Most places paint this album as “mature”, a “coming of age”, or saying things like “on GREY Area, Little Simz has found her voice”. Don’t get me wrong, GREY Area is definitely darker and more direct than previous releases but it’s also a direct continuation of Stillness in Wonderland, her 2016 album. It almost feels like people didn’t really listen to that album all the way through (which is understandable since, especially in its deluxe edition, it was a long release) since that album featured quite a lot of the same fierce individuality on GREY Area. Regardless fo the shortcomings of other publications, it’s without a doubt that GREY Area is yet another excellent release from one of the most exciting voices in British hip-hop today. From new instrumental flourishes for Simz (from wind instruments on the first track to deeper and bigger beats than she’s ever had before) through cutting, brisk lyricism, and all the way to the personal, intimate nature of the album, GREY Area was one of the best hip-hop releases of the year.

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