Welcome back to Unmetal Monthly, friends. Whether you need a break from the mountains of stellar, albeit abrasive extreme music we often subject ourselves to, or life simply finds you in a mood that requires different vibes altogether, you’ve come to the right place. Here you’ll find everything from folk to EDM and every weird, wonderful stop along the way. We’ll dance and cry and commune with the light tucked deep inside and be still for a moment, together. Doesn’t that sound nice?
Top of the Pops
Anne Mieke - Theatre
While I eagerly await the upcoming Cinder Well album and as winter begins to fade into Spring, my soul and heart yearn for the forlorn, bitter-sweet trappings of good, intelligent, folk-inflected music. Enter Anne Mieke, an Irish artist that has been strumming all of the right emotional strings for me over the past few weeks. Ever since I discovered Theatre, I have been unraveling its insightful lyricism and soft-yet-present acoustic guitar, diving deeper into the unique sonic soundscape that Mieke has created on this release. This is the true staying power for folk albums of this ilk, in my eyes: can they maintain your attention beyond just the initial spurt of beauty, keeping you hooked with compositions and lyrics that hold something more than what they initially seem?
For Theatre, the answer is a resounding yes. Of course, as with any release of this nature, Mieke’s voice is at the center of it and boy, is it a sweet one. It runs the gamut between more airy, high pitched delicacy and a deep-throated, commanding timbre that’s a beautiful contrast to it (and, by the by, which works great with the fluttering drums and bass that provide the warm backline to the music). “Twins”, which opens the album, stays true to its name by channeling both those vocal modes in tandem, almost creating two characters. This is, of course, mirrored by the lyrics as well, musing on the different choices we make in life and which lead us down divergent, yet self-same, paths.
Elsewhere on the album, the lyrics interrogate lost love, religious sentiment, loneliness, the taciturn desire for company and for solace, and many more topics. Throughout, Mieke’s agility is maintained on both guitars and vocals, with a host of guest musicians lending their skills to the execution of this marvelous album and further broadening its sounds with a variety of wood, string, and percussive instruments, broadening it way past the simple “folk” label. Listen to Theatre when you travel, before you sleep, walking alone at night, or drinking with your friends. Listen to it when sad, happy, forlorn, found, lost, in love, sad, and many more. Like all great folk albums, it is a multi-faceted piece of work which approaches many topics from many perspectives and it sounds absolutely breath-takingly beautiful while doing so.
Best of the Rest
Gorillaz - Cracker Island
Genre-hopping animated outfit Gorillaz are back again with a more focused full-length after the Song Machine series and album that were shaped by online pandemic collaborations. Cracker Island fuses synthpop with neo-psychedelia for a light and quirky listen with powerhouse collaborations from Thundercat, Stevie Nicks, Tame Impala, and Bad Bunny, among others. It’s not their strongest showing, but the album has a consistently cool vibe throughout, and any new Gorillaz record is an event worth checking out, anyway.
Paramore - This Is Why
If you’re here on this unmetal column in the first place, I probably don’t need to tell you about this new Paramore record (plus SPOILERS: I’m going to write about this for the next Editors’ Picks column) so I’m going to keep this short. To my perception, they’re one of the most important active rock bands right now. They’ve affected the culture in indisputable ways. You know them. I know them. We are Paramore. This Is Why marks their long awaited return since 2017’s new wave-influenced After Laughter. Six years feels like a long time for a hiatus from such cultural icons, but in spinning This Is Why, it feels like they haven’t missed a day. In their current form, Paramore adopt a post-punk revival sound – think Bloc Party and Interpol – and it’s infectious; danceable rhythms, charismatic and nuanced performances from Hayley and the boys. It’s not pop punk anymore, but it’s doing something for me. See y’all in Columbus this summer.
Skrillex - Quest For Fire
Let me explain. Actually, no. I don’t have to qualify this. Skrillex, aka Sonny Moore, aka arguably the most successful musician to escape the mid-aughts white belt Myspacecore boom, has returned from a long hiatus with not one, but two full albums, and at least one of them slaps to high heaven. Quest For Fire, the first to drop alongside a truncated, highlights-only basement set on YouTube, is exactly what you’d hope for. The other, Don’t Get Too Close, is a watered down pop rap slog with an endless cast of high-profile features (including Anthony Green, flexing his old scene connects) and will not be covered here.
Quest For Fire is aptly named. From the outset, it’s clear this is a set he’s been sitting, brooding, and tuning for a long time. The other album pays the bills – this one is for the love of the craft, and it shows from the jump. Something is different. “Leave Me Like This” is the quintessential warmup with its hard house beat, deviating only to pepper in some subtle grime to prime the listener for the banger: “RATATA” featuring Missy Elliott. I’ve never in my life heard a bad track her name was attached to, and this one is no different.
The rest of the album quickly descends into a hypnotic trip through progressive chillstep, drill, and deep house with huge pockets of space left in the mix. It’s clear Sonny’s painstakingly stripped back the old maximalist dubstep approach to something much more straightforward and refined, letting the tracks be big on their own and not forcing them down the listener’s throat. From this new vantage point, the quest for fire is achieved. It’s easily his most inspired work since the initial dubstep superstar era, and hopefully signals an exciting new chapter from a now seasoned producer.
Tidal Wave - The Lord Knows
There’s something to be said for the shameless main character energy of stadium rock. After all, there’s a reason so many classic anthem rockers have punched their ticket to icon status. But in the year of our Lord 2023, the all-eyes-on-me vibes of stadium rock can feel like too damn much. If we’ve learned anything from the last three years, it’s that crowds of 50,000 people are too much. It’s time to give that rock’n’roll swagger a fresh sound.
Swedish stoner rock quartet Tidal Wave does just that in their second full-length album, The Lord Knows. There’s plenty of old school rock swagger here, but grimy with fuzzed out riffs and laced with cosmic doom. Muscular bass lines transform anthemic rock songs into hazy and deeply satisfying journeys, taking the listener through heart-pounding bangers and psychedelic space trips with equal skill. Tidal Wave builds catchy hooks into heavy, fuzzed out tracks like “Pentagram” for an addictive, head-banging effect, only to spill the listeners’ liquified brains into a shimmering fog with the psychedelic wanderings of “Thorsakir.” It’s anthem rock, but anthem rock for your local dive, backyard hang, or wherever your trip takes you.