If there’s one thing Michigan’s Pop Evil do better than most American hard rock bands these days, it’s creating music that isn’t mired in post-post-grunge drudgery, but rather fun, retaining the heaviness mainstream rock fans like but always mindful of strong hooks. Audiences are starting to catch on, too, as the hard-touring band is steadily building its fanbase, and new record UP should catapult them to new heights.
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Over a spooky Fennesz instrumental, King Midas Sound croons, “Let’s just hold each other tight.” Instead of comforting, the deep ambient sound drags listeners under the titular waves, finding that such a tight grasp leads to drowning. “Paradise” is referenced, but it’s difficult to imagine this fitting anywhere more perfectly than in a preview for a horror film, the sweet words masquerading a sinister end.—BRIAN DURICY [7/10]
Wolf Eyes famously careened their way onto Sub Pop in the mid aughts, ushering in a year and a half wave of “What is Noise Music?” thinkpieces and overviews that eventually flooded the No Fun Fest with enough hipsters claiming to know which of the 2004’s 785 RRRecords was actually the greatest that the scene’s literally tens of fans began to look elsewhere for their fix. Wolf Eyes, late to jump off board, dumped the noise tag themselves and started touting themselves as “Trip Metal” a few years back. It shouldn’t be surprising then that a decade after the aftershocks of their Sub Pop signing, the band has weaseled their way onto a release on Jack White’s Third Man Records. And yet it is. What in God’s name is happening here? Trip Metal tag aside, the eclectic group has always prided themselves as being distinctly inapproachable. Vocals you can almost make out and that sound slightly like Big Black era Steve Albini? Discernible guitars and fast-paced drums? A tidy, concise three minute running time? Wolf Eyes takes liberties to throw some spatial squeals and atmospheric crunk atop the post-hardcore tune they’ve birthed here and maybe that’s just the cold allure the tune needs because it’s engaging, if well-oiled. Perhaps the most dissonant thing about it is that the group on the label is named “Wolf Eyes”. At least they didn’t try to huff out 12-bar blues.—TIMOTHY GABRIELE [6/10]
Indebted to the melodic heavy rock of Thin Lizzy and the vintage heavy metal sounds of Diamond Head and Angel Witch, Pittsburgh band Carousel might seem like throwbacks, but classic sounds never get old, and their approach to the styles is refreshingly vibrant. The music might be brisk, but like the bands 35, 40 years ago, melody is just as or even more important than aggression, and as you can hear on “Man Like Me” from their forthcoming second album 2113, they know their way around a good hook or two.
Barely a year after forming, Portland band Crow and the Canyon sound like a tightly-knit unit on their debut album Leaving Soon. Highlighted by the dual harmony vocals of Ben Larsen and Leigh Jones, their sumptuous, gently rustic folk music hearkens back to another much more innocent time. Indeed,, it feels like you’re swept back decades when you listen to the new track “Gentle on My Mind”.