Ty Segall-Freedom’s Goblin: ALBUM REVIEW

Ty Segall’s a figure worth following that never truly disappoints.  His projects are all consistent in sound and it’s more a matter if he gets the exact shading right for one’s individual tastes than a question of whether or not he’s delivered a fully-fledged collection of tunes.  Not to mention the fact that if an album doesn’t sit right, you probably only got to wait about 10 months for the next one.  Freedom’s Goblin is a big endeavor that sees Segall nail down some psyched out grooves as well as some sweet ballads—always landing in an endearing place.

“Fanny Dog” is bluntly dedicated to Segall’s dog: “FANNY KNOWS WHAT HER NAME IS.”  Sharp melodic writing and the usually biting guitar solo round out the perfect opener.  “My Lady’s On Fire” sees Segall’s first real tender moment, an acoustic guitar proving nimble beneath esoteric, but sweetly sung lyrics.

The backside feels like one long left turn, tossing fiery vocals courtesy of Segall’s wife, a konky saxophone, and warring guitars into one Black Sabbath-induced stew until closer “And, Goodnight” zones out for 12+ minutes.

Freedom’s Goblin feels good.  It fills out 19 tracks and well over an hour without ever feeling stale.  It’s not going to knock the socks of anyone still not awed by Segall’s aura, but it does right by Segall and his fans.  Proving along the way that prolific obsession is in fact the right route for some.

7.5/10

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On the Monthly: January 2018

Lol actually successfully reviewed a lot of stuff this month, enjoy my favorite albums, not really in order although Pop 2 is a masterpiece

Charli XCX-Pop 2

“Pop 2 is a new world that’s not entirely comfortable for all of us but Charli XCX charges up her batteries with ease and sets her sights on the tron-like neon violence of the future.”

Porches-The House

The singles for the latest from Aaron Maine see two sides of the singer-songwriter. “Find Me” is Maine the detached partier, accompanied by rattling horns and driving rhythm, whereas “Country” is a confessional croon, the climax articulated by flourishing vocal layering.  The album leans a bit towards the later, oftentimes showcasing autotuned vocal wandering over sparse territory, but Maine finds ways to sneak uplifting dance-isms into the overarching gloom.  “Goodbye” offers the full scope as a mournful departure finds enlightenment with a soaring chorus and bright beat.  It’s a more patient listen than “Pool,” but Maine’s comforting intimacy again shines.

Cupcakke-Ephorize

“Cupcakke may have difficulty fitting into the FCC regulations for radio play, but her music is wide-reaching—perfectly tuned to tell young folks everywhere that their desires are valid.”

Tune-Yards: I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life

“I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life also sees a little bit of an evolution to sharper and tighter sensibilities, but Merrill Garbus and her collaborator Nate Brenner remain in their relentlessly unique niche, any extra fans coming as a result of sheer will.”

Profligate-Somewhere Else

“Who’s counting but a singular work spanning noise, spoken-word, post-punk-rock, electronic feels so right on Wharf Cat Records and so fresh in the year of our lord 2018.”

Porches-The House: ALBUM REVIEW

The singles for the latest from Aaron Maine see two sides of the singer-songwriter. “Find Me” is Maine the detached partier, accompanied by rattling horns and driving rhythm, whereas “Country” is a confessional croon, the climax articulated by flourishing vocal layering.  The album leans a bit towards the later, oftentimes showcasing autotuned vocal wandering over sparse territory, but Maine finds ways to sneak uplifting dance-isms into the overarching gloom.  “Goodbye” offers the full scope as a mournful departure finds enlightenment with a soaring chorus and bright beat.  It’s a more patient listen than “Pool,” but Maine’s comforting intimacy again shines.

8/10

Profligate: Somewhere Else: ALBUM REVIEW

Riding a wave of arpeggiated synths, minimal drum machines, and dance-able bass lines, Noah Anthony’s Profligate conjures a seething aura on Somewhere Else.  A mainstay of the DIY electronic community, Anthony steps into somewhat of a new realm here.  The ominous landscape that sets in with distant percussion and oscillating keyboards on the title track finds a mood not unlike 2014’s Finding the Floor, but the rhythmic drive is left up to swells of the instruments and noise at his disposal rather than a consistent techno sensibility.

After Somewhere Else sputters out, A Circle of opens with screaming shots of noise, eventually jolting itself into a post-punk feeling groove highlighted by eerie high vocals from Anthony’s new collaborator Elaine Kahn.  Enlist exhilarates with a punchy bass line and another spike in energy as a massively distorted melody draws viciously outside the lines.  The project is remarkable in its unity, always seeming to pick up where the last track left off and over the first three tracks, the album evolves from a muttering wind to a barreling freight-train.

Elsewhere, the rhythmic momentum stalls and Kahn’s lyrical side adds complementary poetic imagery to the anxious darkness of the sonic pallet.  After the haunting melodic line on Lose a Little dissipates, she takes over the droney landscape, speaking about “the water’s grey narcotic web” and how “to live is to disorganize.”  Anthony’s vocals tend to remain contained and monotone and Kahn’s ability to both match that and add instances of heightened energy elsewhere helps flesh out the swells of activity.

Between the loosened rhythmic feel and the edition of Kahn, Profligate has reached a new zone.  There’s room to grow from here, but Somewhere Else is a masterful amalgamation of DIY experiments.  Who’s counting but a singular work spanning noise, spoken-word, post-punk-rock, electronic feels so right on Wharf Cat Records and so fresh in the year of our lord 2018.

8/10

Bibio-Phantom Brickworks ALBUM REVIEW

Adding to a long, eclectic discography, Phantom Brickworks sees the English electronic musician’s acoustic side ruminating in ambient space. Although Bibio describes the work as a collection of improvisations, there’s an effortless flow between the tracks, particularly in the first six, where he alternates between hollow, somber energy and more uplifting piano flourishes, culminating in the stunning moment of clarity in “Phantom Brickworks III” where loud pillars of piano descend in shimmering glory. Perhaps this could be seen as a return to his pastoral explorations, but these productions are more muted and meditative with an amplified sense of vulnerability — a hauntingly beautiful collection.

The National-Sleep Well Beast: ALBUM REVIEW

The National are one of those bands where you either believe it or you don’t.  Matt Berninger’s vocals are deep and emotional, but easy to lack impact if the instrumentals don’t properly embolden his baritone wallow.  Spanning nearly 60 minutes and made by a bunch of bros now all upwards of 40, “Sleep Well Best” didn’t give me much hope going in.  However, the work manages to deliver throughout as deeply textured, lush material occasionally reaches for the rafters with big drum parts and streams of crying guitar.  Perhaps it’s not the group’s seminal work, but it’s one that should impress fans old and new.

Particularly catchy single “The System Dreams in Total Darkness” gave the veteran group their first Billboard hit, and it operates well as a centerpiece of sorts.  Opening with pillars of piano, the song’s catchy guitar interjections herald in chugging bass lines and inspired vocalizations.  The whole album sort of emulates it’s cover with the smoldering swaths of black highlighted with dashes of clear, brightness and here, the chorus flourishes with backing vocals and strained high-notes.

Thematically, the work doesn’t necessarily follow a single, cohesive narrative, however, a great deal depicts anxieties within a relationship and here Berninger touches upon the idea of isolation, the phrase “the system only dreams in total darkness,” alluding to the idea that his current relationship only thrives when both parties are totally focused on it and perhaps missing out on other things.  Considering other parts of the record Berninger seems to be critical of his partner and himself, but it shows a certain maturity when he expands his lens in the middle of the work to depict potential systematic issues.

The momentum in this song seems to seep into the rest of the album, but with a lot of different variations.  The band is the most direct on “Day I Die” with the streaming guitar lines and the pounding tom pattern.  “Born to Beg” lilts and yearns, but the Steve Reich-inspired synth backdrop adds a constant sense of tension; and “Guilty Party” drives with electronically induced drum kits injects a pulsing drive to the somber mood.

Lyrical highlights include opener “Nobody Else Will Be There” where Berninger seems to be meeting up with a past love interest: “Can you remind me the building you live in/I’m on my way.”  He feels as if there’s still something there and hopes they can put everything behind them and embrace: “Goodbyes always take us half an hour/Can’t we just go home…nobody else will be there.” The line, “Holding our coats/We look like children” helps paint the scene as Berninger wonders about the childishness of it all.

Here and there, Berninger seems to throw a lyrical air ball: “It’s so easy to set off/The molecules and the caplets.” Get it? Instead of Shakespeare it’s drugs (side eye), but “Carin at the Liquor Store” encapsulates the sonic and lyric wins on the project.  That piano line flows like hot tea with a glorious atmospheric guitar line rounding out the ending.  The lyrics are still dark “so blame it on me, I really don’t care, it’s a foregone conclusion,” but with the embolden sonics, it feels like and ending point on a journey of self-disovery.

The album is still long, but each song is inspired and unique, yet committed to the smoldering mood.  Feels good to hear an indie act aging with grace and still occasionally kicking ass.

-Donovan Burtan

8/10

Laurel Halo-Dust: ALBUM REVIEW

“What’s In my Bag?” can go a lot of ways, many of them rather inconclusive—New Order bought a Lady Gaga remix album for a daughter, Lightning Bolt seemingly bought a bunch of random shit with cool covers, and Krist Novoselic was included for some reason.  In the case of Laurel Halo, however, the results are telling.  Citing a rather misfit bag of avant-weirdoes—cult figure Father Yod turned out to be an interesting Wikipedia search seeing as he died by hang-gliding accident “despite having no previous hang-gliding experience”—Halo illuminates the loose rhythmic and melodic sensibilities of her latest album “Dust.”

Artists like the Art Ensemble of Chicago or Henry Flint only sidestep typical song-form and allow for jarring cuts in the program and the blurring of rhythmic structures as their acoustic collages fly through space.  Halo fascinatingly places this ideology through an electronic music lens with tunes that throw together sketches of club beats and dive into complete abstraction in seemingly the same breath.

Although a hyperdub signee, Halo’s beats aren’t the straightforward, dance-able type.  On the opening cut, sparse bass lines juggle non-militant snares as her slightly juxtaposed vocal lines clash over top.  “Jelly” incorporates odd surface sounds that almost sound like taking a bite out of an apple.  The mid-range again is disorienting as a reliable, but disjointed bass sound rumbles beneath.  Perhaps the catchiest moment comes on “Moontalk” with the dazzling sounding sample and the fluid vocal lines, but overall Halo leaves you in a sort of liquid space not entirely dedicated to dance or abstraction.

The shorter cuts amplify this.  As “Jelly” reaches its space-bound completion, “Koinos” centers odd ball rhythmic motions around a subtle, looping melodic device.  Then wildly pitch-shifted vocals come through, adding to the hypnotic disorientation.  “Nicht Ohne Risiko” is a jolting mix of angles as textures bathe between the minimal “Who Won?” and the album’s closest pop moment.  Somehow, Halo never loses momentum on the album, but these tracks certainly pull the concept of time into a lot of different zones.

Halo’s lyrical sense is appropriately odd and occasionally charming. “You don’t meet my idol standards for a friend” charismatically bounces out on “Jelly.”  “Who Won?” throws together some masterful political undertones as saxophones wander over top: “what’s the password…the house is very big I only have five dollars.”  “syzygy” remains equally vague as Halo paints a despondent scene to complement her sonic gloom: “I was in a dead devil’s car she said get ready I turned my eyes away and she release an evil laugh…I said get up, I said tough love.”

On the other hand, Halo does tend to sneak up on her listener, which accomplishes an addicting aura as her collage somehow coalesces into one entity.  As the despondence develops on the six-minute burn “syzygy,” that “tough love” couplet becomes a kind of hook with a lushness gradually building up with each passing repetition. “Do U Ever Happen” follows with rumbling undertones that eventually turn to late night synthy glory with layers of soulful earnesty.

Halo’s sonic world is wholly unique and her understanding of past avant-garde endeavors seems to drive her aesthetic ideology, making for an album equal parts out and slow burn.  It won’t make sense on first listen, but you’ll come right back.

-Donovan Burtan

8/10