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 s 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:
Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters
Classic records, in many regards, are as beholden to time and place in regard to establishing their reputation and legacy as they are to the quality of their content. Sure, good music should to a large degree transcend time and remain relevant regardless of circumstances due to its universal themes, but an album that fits broadly within specific categories of angst in modern life as well as the zeitgeist of the present moment is both rare and exhilarating. Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters is one such album that ascends into that rarified musical space, and is as close to an instant classic as I’ve heard in some time.
Over a career spanning five records and two-and-a-half-decades, Apple has transfixed, beguiled, and bewildered music fans with her unique and eccentric take on the singer-songwriter genre. Fetch the Bolt Cutters, her fifth offering, is perhaps her most organically constructed record yet, being written and recorded mainly at home in some form/manner of personal isolation. Much of the percussion involves Apple banging her hands against household items and walls, and the musical melody drives forward almost exclusively from her vibrant piano. It’s a simple, stripped down formula for songs this emotionally complex and honest, and it works like a charm. Opener “I Want You To Love Me” is an Apple tune through and through, balancing lo-fi sonic sensibilities with emotionally resonant and compelling songwriting and lyricism that re-establishes Apple as a voice that is as relevant today as it was back in the mid-90s. While sparse in arrangement at times, the tracks here never feel anything less than vibrant, striking a beautiful balance between intimate and explosive.
There isn’t a weak link in the track list. These songs carry the weight of self-imposed isolation and deep self-reflection, which given our current reality is an emotional state of being that feels even more relatable than it normally would. The album’s title track is a stand-out that works both as an uncomfortably raw anthem of emotional claustrophobia and physical isolation, making lines like “fetch the bolt cutters / I’ve been in here too long” hit like mantras of modern day rage that work on multiple levels. The entire record is chock full of such apropos moments that I will find just as relevant and meaningful in two years as I do right now. Which, above all else, is the mark of a timeless storyteller operating at the peak of their powers. This is that moment for Apple, and it’s glorious to behold.
Those itching for more music from the likes of Joanna Newsom and Julia Holter will find their idiosyncratic indie singer-songwriter itch scratched thoroughly by Fetch the Bolt Cutters. It’s a record that I feel will stand the test of time not only as a collection of tracks that not only clearly and passionately expressed the feelings and sentiments of its contemporary context, but approached them as universal issues with such skill and clarity that it’s hard to imagine them ever ceasing to be relevant. It’s a record made for a specific time, that just may last for all time. A glorious return for one of modern music’s most unique, independent, and influential voices.
Tita – “En Mi Mente”
Tita Moreno has released two absolute gems of electronic driven dream pop so far this year. The Guatemalan radio host previously provided vocals for Niña Indigo, a collaborative project between herself and other Guatemalan artists that delved more deeply into esoteric realms of electronic music. “En Mi Mente”, released a few weeks ago, feels a lot, initially, like a cabaret karaoke version of bossanova. But the track unfolds and expands around several layers of vocals in the mix and keyboards that utilize effects that harken back to early ‘80s pop music.
This year’s previous single, “Si Tu Estas Bien”, feels more like the softer side of Bjork (and is absolutely worth seeking out as well) with a vocal track that leans more on a hip hop, almost spoken word, style. In contrast, “En Mi Mente” relies on a more arresting performance of breathy sing-song that leads to the titular chorus dropping in and gluing itself to your brain. She alternates between this style and something more akin to hip hop in different spots here which is part of what makes the song a worthwhile repeat listen.
Tita’s music, at this stage and small sample size, the kind that is built to generate positive feelings. If the likes of Portishead were more upbeat, colored in pastels, and infused with Latin rhythms and melodies you might get somewhere close to where Tita’s music lives. It’s going to be very interesting to watch her solo act evolve, particularly if the close release of these songs means there is a full-length album on the horizon. The tracks we have so far point in the direction of this being something worth hoping for as the year continues to unwind.
Bilmuri – Muri and Friends
So I’ve talked up the eccentric and angular music of Bilmuri in past columns and every time it’s about the manner in which Johnny Franck molds the band’s approach. There’s a certain layer of almost sophomoric humor mixed with a disdain for the spotlight that sits at the heart of what this project does. That and friends. This time out, it felt unfair to isolate this just to the space I save for what’s going on in the punk scene. That’s because on the Muri and Friends EP that just dropped a couple of weeks ago we get team-ups on seven well known pop tracks.
I gave up any pretense of being current on pop music many years ago. I am barely current on the punk I write about. That said, I caught wind of “Youngblood” that features Lauren Babic recently and spent way too long thinking thoughts that varied from “well… this is certainly new territory for Bilmuri but…. Not surprising?” to “Wait, this sounds really familiar….” before I finally recognized it as the massive hit by 5 Seconds of Summer. An Aussie band that I don’t actually keep tabs on for once.
From there you’ve got Tilian from Dance Gavin Dance doing his best Halsey impression on “Graveyard” and heavy metal/hard rock cover king, Jonathan Young, tearing into the Fallout Boy song you couldn’t escape in 2007 and 2008, “Thnks fr th Mmrs”. In a time where there’s so much serious shit raining down on us every moment of every day it’s nice to have something irreverent, fun, and catchy as all hell. This fits that bill and then some. One of the coolest side effects, too, is that it shows that a well-crafted pop song often easily transcends the genre it may have originally been conceived in. There are lots of examples of this littering the history of music but it’s not something we get as much of now. Regardless, this is a joyride when we really need one.