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:
Destroyer – Have We Met
There’s no one in the music world quite like famed The New Pornographers/Swan Lake contributor and Destroyer mastermind Dan Bejar. From his poetry-drenched, sing-song crooning to his impressionistic lyrics, his is a delivery that’s so unique and distinctive that it’s nearly impossible to fail to recognize music he has contributed to. His solo (and, in my humble opinion, best) project has been churning out synth-heavy indie rock since the mid-90s, but gained more widespread acclaim with 2006’s Destroyer’s Rubies. The band’s ultimate musical form, however, wouldn’t manifest until 2011’s Kaputt, which is without question one of the best indie rock records of the last decade. Needless to say, following up a record of that magnitude is a daunting task, and I’d certainly not go as far as to say that Destroyer’s has accomplished that fear. Poison Season was one of my favorite records of 2015, and Ken was another enjoyable romp, but neither fully recaptured the magic of Kaputt. Unfortunately, Have We Met is not the revelation some bands were hoping for. Which, honestly, is a large part of why it works so damn well.
Album opener “Crimson Tide” displays Destroyer at its most relaxed and confident in years, and brings with it a distinct low-key vibe that carries through the remainder of the record. Thick bass lines chug beneath sinuous synths and simple, propulsive beats that congeal around Bejar’s traditional wry delivery in a way that feels as complete and assured as we’ve heard Destroyer sound in ages. “Kinda Dark” continues this trend with a sexier, darker sonic template featuring hazy atmosphere and sparkling keys, eventually moving into the album’s bounciest, most anthemic track “It Just Doesn’t Happen”, which has the most infectious melodic synth line I’ve heard in years. I haven’t been able to get this track out of my head since I first heard it, and it’s without question one of my favorite songs of a very young 2020. In all, if you find yourself taken by the first three tracks of this record, keep listening. Have We Met will continue to charm.
There’s a significant weight put on bands when it comes to trying to match the greatness of their finest work. In many ways, such expectations can cripple a band (Interpol, anyone?), causing them to chase after a lightning-in-a-bottle scenario without success for the majority of their careers. Destroyer avoid this mainly due to their enigmatic front man, who based on copious amounts of interviews couldn’t give two shits what anyone thinks about his music. That singular vision causes his music to go exactly and only where he wills it, and has made Destroyer a band that’s both hard to pin down and consistently enjoyable. We may never get another Kaputt, and I don’t think Bejar could care any less. Have We Met is Destroyer being Destroyer, and that’s all this fanboy will ever need.
Long Arm – Silent Opera
Long Arm’s of dark, somber, and folk tinged techno-jazz is not something you just blithely play on a whim. The project’s previous release, the aptly named Darkly, was tour-de-force in a nightmare land and not one of those vivid, chromatic nightmares either but rather a nightmare of the body, of the deep recesses of the night, of introspection. The project’s latest release, Silent Opera, builds on these foundations, adding in even more lushness of sound, expert use of samples, and a rhythm scheme that echoes the heart’s beat between dream and waking.
It’s enough to listen to the opening track, “How I Loved That”, to get an immediate feel for what this album is about. The main sample, elongated and chopped up just enough to make it eerie but not enough to lose the sense of the original, runs as a spinal loop throughout the track while a host of percussive instruments wreak havoc with our sense of location. These rhythm generating instruments work beautifully with the piano, harmonica, and other hosts of effects to create the lushness that Long Arm spins so well, making the track feel like so many bugs humming in the distance of a jungle canopy.
The album does not relent. Other tracks, like the majestic “Sprouts of the Big Forest” with its beautiful wood instruments or the whirling “He’s Afraid to Eat” with its addition of African-influenced singing, only serve to add more and more layers to the Long Arm formula. The end result is an album which coaxes you from many angles, inviting you deeper and deeper into its textured realms, exploring as it does human states of being and of feeling. It is Long Arm’s most accomplished release, stretching the project’s potential almost to the breaking point and expanding its aural repertoire to new and exciting places.