Detroit quintet Handgrenades are on the cusp of releasing their sophomore album, and song for song, it’s one of the strongest underground indie rock releases of the year. In some ways, Tunnels is more an alternate debut album than a successor to 2012’s The Morning After. There’s a new lineup, with singer-songwriters Nick Chevillet and Andrew Pawelski and drummer Joby Kaslowski joined by fellow songwriter Jesse Shepherd-Bates and keyboardist Joel Sanders. Largely absent are the prior album’s Motown and Beatles emulations, traded in for a more nuanced and esoteric approach influenced by the likes of Radiohead, the National, Jeff Buckley, and Ryan Adams (one song even lifts an Adams lyric). Reflecting the change, the band has nixed the “the” prefacing their name and have ceased capitalizing the “G” as well.
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Jared Skinner: Bucolic, hypnotic, unique, and immersive are just a few of the words to describe the Swedish folk-rock group Goat. Goat represents a long line of timeless musical tradition that exudes vitality, culture and emotion. See for example, “Union of Mind and Soul” the first song off their new album Try My Robe. The track is the glorious conglomeration of a steady drum beat, pastoral flute line, an ever strumming acoustic guitar, and a bass that moves in such a way that you’d think the strings themselves were animate. Top it off is the unknown female lead singer howling lyrics like “open your mind” to create a truly unique musical experience. [8/10]
Andrew Paschal: Radiohead may take a more stripped-back approach here, but they are anything but complacent or relaxed. The CR-78 drum machine, listed as a full-fledged band member along with Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood in their latest set of live videos, lends a nice bedroom pop feel that the studio version lacks. Lyrics like, “The system is a lie” are somewhat cliché in 2016, and anything that could be conceivably uttered by Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, and Thom Yorke alike is probably lacking in some specificity. Nonetheless, the ubiquity of the sentiment supports Yorke’s insistence that we need to “take back what is ours”. [7/10]
Adriane Pontecorvo: Emeli Sandé is raw pain in “Hurts”, a song filled with sweeping, open feeling. She wears her heart on her sleeve, which is a simple thing to do with a song about heartbreak, but the sheer range and depth of her voice takes catharsis to new heights. For the heartbroken, it’s a perfect expression of bittersweet agony, and even for the content, Sandé‘s lyrics are so personal and her delivery so breathtaking and urgent that “Hurts” commands attention. It’s a memorable song, with a sincerity that bleeds through its straightforward sentiments, propelling it into the emotional stratosphere. Emeli Sandé‘s voice is always a sonic treasure to behold, and here, she proves that her soul goes even deeper when she lays herself bare. [8/10]
Portland-based independent label Deer Lodge Records is releasing Bruja, the debut solo album from Reno, today just in time for Halloween. Reno is Mike Lund in real life and he expands beyond the rock of his previous musical project, Drugstore Cowboy, in his solo career. As Reno, Lund adds in Americana and honky tonk country elements, as well as psych rock. Reno’s latest single is “Heaven” and to celebrate the release of his solo album on Halloween, Reno enlisted Von Porter from Scabby Knee Productions to create an animated video based around the idea of a fictional series called Edgar Allen Poe’s Mystery Hour. Reno tells PopMatters that “Heaven” is about that is beyond the singer’s reach. He jokes that witchcraft can’t even help.