New Releases: Bigger message enlightens fans of LumineersBy MIK DAVIS,
For their third album, the one-time hitmakers ("Hey Ho") take their anthemic Americana down a darker path. Split into three segments, "III" is woven together with a narrative thread. Each song tells a story, but much like the chapters in a book, the larger message is revealed once you put them all together. Like "Cleopatra" the band retreated to the Catskills with producer Simone Felice. Unlike their debut or its hit followup, the band tackles addiction head-on and many Hattiesburg residents were lucky enough to see their power when they performed here in May.
(LP/CD)(Grand Jury/The Orchard)
Chicago's Twin Peaks have put their writing through all the paces during the last 10 years. For "Lookout Low" they leave the garage sound behind and attempt to emulate classic records like "Music From Big Pink." On "Ferry Song" they wield both horn charts and distorted background vocals. "Dance Through It" is propelled by bongos and tambourine. While they were overdue for a transitional record, "Lookout Low" beats the odds because of its consistent ear for hooks and clever sing-along choruses.
(Sandy) Alex G
House of Sugar
Here, for your examination, are two fantastic modern songwriters. Both have never even skirted the charts despite culling several brilliant singles and collaborating with some great artists (Alex G helped Frank Ocean, Cameron duetted with Angel Olsen). The Australian Cameron is a scintillating live performer carrying that wounded lounge lizard routine to beautiful chaotic means ("The Comeback"). Alex G still retains the intimacy and closeness of his homemade records (this one is No. 9 for him) but continues to improve as a writer.
On Cameron's newest "Miami Memory," he takes a spellbinding turn to the sexual and blistering reality of relationships. The title cut is daring and has an inescapable melody and structure. "Divorce" is as simple as previous brilliance ("She's Mine") but driven by a dangerous poetic sense of revelation. When he belts out the very Foxygen-esque "I'm drinking in the dark because my batteries all ran out," it feels like Leonard Cohen circa "Death of A Ladies Man." "Miami Memory" has a lot to say and is brutal yet beautiful.
Having followed Alex G since the pre-Sandy daze of "DSU" in 2014, "House of Sugar" is a triumph for the singer/songwriter. While the other lackadaisical discoveries have grown tiring, Alex G. coats his songs with all manner of hypnotic near-psychedelic production, but never leaves the simple swaying hooks behind.
"Gretel" carries a distinct sadness above its drum loop that lets Alex G turn a haunting song into an anthem of sorts ("I don't wanna go back/Nobody's gonna put me off track") that then disappears back into the weird loop. The loss of a friend to Fentanyl in the flickering beauty "Hope" is enough to make you cry as he commits the memory of grim events to such a beautiful light-hearted acoustic strum. As "House of Sugar" reveals and conceals the dichotomy of modern life, drugs, and depression, it never becomes a downer record. Instead, Alex G. seems to keep those melodies floating along as a reminder that there is somehow always hope.
Birth of Violence
SAMPA THE GREAT
So much has been written about women in folk and women in country. Add to that list two brave new albums from females who take a lot of chances to establish new identities. Chelsea Wolfe has made a handful of rock records that border on doom metal and yet carry that dramatic thrill of seeing a magnetic performer as the ringmaster of it all.
"Birth of Violence" represents a quiet but dense change in her writing. While it is bleak and dark, hearing Wolfe sing against scratchy strummed guitars represents a new kind of thrill. Wolfe has made somber acoustic records in the past, but "Violence" feels well-traveled and inspired.
Sampa The Great was born in Zambia but raised in Sydney, Australia. Her high, squinting voice takes a moment to get used to. Listen to her bob and weave like a boxer around the cool soul textures of "Freedom," and you can see why her voice works so well. With the jazzy Whosane, she lays down her modus operandi on "Heaven" with some wild autobiographical rhymes. While the sizzling single "Final Form" feels like classic hip-hop electrified back to life. There is a poetic simplicity to her lyrics that allows her positive lyrics to slice through the grooves. Jonwayne's production casts her a new M.I.A-ish polyglot in the making.
DISCOVERY OF THE WEEK:
Along with fellow Melbourne band Terry, this quartet is out to put a new spin on post-punk. No Sister brings punk back to its atonal roots on the spellbinding "Influence." "My New Career" sets you adrift on chiming harmonics and a steady almost dub-like bass line that rubs against it. "
Pacific" is bracing with guitar sounds spiraling up and down with siren-like intensity while Mino Peric and Tiarney Miekus sing/talk against it. The whole effect is quite like Daydream Nation-era Sonic Youth dueling with classic Gang of Four. "Influence" dares you constantly to find the vocals and rubbery bass lines beneath guitars that never sound like guitars.