Adrien Begrand: The highly anticipated (by some) new track by the San Francisco critical darlings gets off to such a roaring start that it feels as if they’re revisiting the raw, feral, cathartic sounds of their astounding album Roads to Judah. Soon, however, the worm turns, the guys dish out the usual critics’ catnip, try too hard to “branch out”, and lose sight of what made them so strong in the first place. As a black metal band Deafheaven were—and sometimes are—outstanding, as you hear during the searing first three minutes and 25 seconds, but then ambition gets the best of them. Guitarist Kerry McCoy, a formidable talent in his own right, heads off into arbitrary directions the rest of the way, first nicking the melody from Neil Young’s “The Loner”, then guiding the band through a mellow section that swipes from Alcest (the true innovators of the “metalgaze” sound) building to a decent Ride-goes-prog-metal climax that ends with a predictable piano coda. It’s nothing particularly imaginative, stitched together capably but far from seamless. The biggest problem, once again, is George Clarke’s screamed vocals. Harsh and extremely intense, his screams work very well when the music is equally as extreme, but when juxtaposed with more melodic, sensitive passages, they come off as borderline comical, his goblin snarl devoid of subtlety, creating an oil-and-water mix that never for a second emulsifies. Structurally inconsistent, derivative, and slipshod, and dragged farther down by a voice with zero personality, this is an frustrating failure of a song. But those critics who only listen to one “consensus” metal album every year will likely drool all over this band once again, ignorant of likeminded yet superior artists that deserve more attention. Sorry, tastemakers, but these so-called emperors have been buck naked for a few years now. [4/10]
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Australian folk rock band the Waifs are set to release their eighth album Beautiful You this week, and just in time they’ve put together a great little lo-fi video for the song “Black Dirt Track”. Shot by singer/guitarist Vikki Thorn in the Western Australia beach town she and her sister (and bandmate) Donna Simpson spent a lot of time at as kids, both the track and video hold deep personal meaning for the two women.
A native of southeast London, Kayla Griffiths attended the acclaimed BRIT School, a classmate of Amy Winehouse, Adele, and Jessie J. After a 2013 EP, she’s since teamed up with the production team of Brian Vibberts and Alex Houton, who with partner Adam Wake made her their first signing to their new label Metro 3 Entertainment.
Adrien Begrand: First of all, it’s wonderful to have Mica Levi back, this time with the Shapes after her 2014 score for Under the Skin which was pure genius. Typical of her best work, “Sea Air” works a lot like Damo Suzuki-era Can, in that what sounds alien at first sneaks up on you and becomes weirdly catchy until you hear that unconventional melody bouncing in your head like a crazed mantra. And the video, a super slo-mo clip of a drummer staring daggers into the camera while hammering a solo, while appearing to have absolutely nothing to do with the song, strangely becomes as hypnotic as the track as you stare at those slowly vibrating cymbals. [7/10]
In the wake of a 2014 comeback that saw her album Seven chart across Europe and the UK, British R&B/soul great Lisa Stansfield will be releasing the two-CD live album Live in Manchester next month. Fittingly, there’s no better way to preview this release than with the song that started it all for her, the classic 1989 global smash “All Around the World”. More than a quarter century later the classy yet sneakily gritty song has aged beautifully.