Denver's Nathaniel Rateliff continues the trend of making a record without your band. However, Rateliff has long recorded more folk and introspective songs without one. "And It's Still Alright" is more a personal reclamation than solo record.
Having survived personal trauma, "Alright" is largely about healing and listening to that voice within again.
These are simple songs that assuage pain and try desperately to make sense of those he has lost. Both paths generally are solo journeys, so it is somewhat appropriate that Rateliff would take back his solo path.
And It’s Still Alright
The Slow Rush
On their first album in over four years, Tame Impala (mostly Kevin Parker) gives us the full appraisal of what followed the consistent success of "Currents." Where you would expect a return to rock, Parker swerves headlong into pop celebrating his success yet questioning it. "The Slow Rush" differs from all other Tame Impala albums because it tries hardest to find its own sound. Gone are the daze of the Revolver-esque "Lonerism" and even the uptempo effervescence of "Currents." "The Slow Rush" is as advertised. The hangover. The after-party. Tracks veer into heavy synthesizers like it was 1986, and Parker simply allows them to bubble but never boil. The effect is intoxicating as every other danceable rock band goes for broke, Parker draws the songs together and may have singlehandedly created the sound of the Twenties.
[LP/CD] (Mutually Detrimental/The Orchard)
Denver's dynamic duo continues to mine 70's and 80's pop for the best parts of each. "Dreamer" sees them fuse their piano-based songs with more instrumentation. "Need Your Love" with its sickly keyboard and descending bassline sounds like a lost Foxygen cut, while "Runner" pushes the Eighties angle over its slow build. They continue to be at their best when joining dance beats and hazy melodies like "How To Forgive."
[LP] (Sacred Bones)
With all of its Oscar victories, the beautiful score of Jung Jaeil was a little lost in the process. Its mixture of piano and string pieces are alternately delicate miniatures and thrilling underscore to build the rising action of the film. While most film scores are meant to sound "classical," "Parasite" truly does. "Zappaguri" builds and peaks marvelously without the film, while "Ghost" is equal parts haunting and enchanting, drawing you into its rainstorm. When he holds on the strings to allow tension to simmer on "Mr. Yoon and Park," it matches the tonal changes on screen perfectly. Where Bong Joon-Ho's film straddles multiple genre tenets, Jaeil's score is providing the net below to catch this highwire act of filmmaking.
Chicago indie rockers go for that Julien Baker-meets-Best Coast mix of emotion and sunniness. Lili Triffilio has one of those great quavering voices that makes choruses sound more like they emerged from some chasm beneath the heart rather just a journal page. Even with all the juvenile titles of the past ("Prom Queen" their breakthrough), the hooks are surprisingly labyrinth and tough. "Ms.California" tips the power pop hand, "Dream Boy" goes after classic indie rock and "Cloud 9" drives headlong into pop. After all of her solo recordings, "Honeymoon" shows her and her band's potential.
More than just girls with guitars, this Detroit trio beautifully revive the drive of their city's music with a hint of the Paisley Underground from California sound. Guitars chime and ring like a Byrds album, but the hooks are surrounded by harmony and that irresistible garage swish. "Charades" is a front runner for single of the year, while the abstract bridge of the title track proves that “Shadow Show” is not to be missed.
ARBOR LABOR UNION
New Petal Instants
In the latest iteration of indie rockers, there are a growing number of wild guitar bands that throw back to both the hippie daze of classic dead and the beginnings of alternative in the Eighties like Camper Van Beethoven and Meat Puppets. Arbor Labor Union hit all the notes to qualify as what we will call New psychedelia on their latest LP. The drony organ. The merciless but twangy bends on guitars. Songs that never settle for structure and aim to jam until they run out of road. "Lasso" begins the record in a blaze before the soaring boogie (yes, they do) on "Flowerhead" makes you race for your "Meat Puppets II."
Electronic records are often explorations of sound and thought. On her new record synthesist and vocalist Gately is trying to summon human emotions from her cascading patterns of dark synths. Written and recorded while she took care of her ill mother, "Loom" is sad but not gloomy. Her compositions are trying to put her sadness into words. Use the nearly 10 minutes of "Bracer" as your opening to this thought-provoking album. "Loom" is strangely soothing but its aim is to transport you to place of deep thought and reverence for life itself.
Metal as always is a tricky beast. Stray too far toward one of its myriad of subgenres and you risk missing the entire audience for the thrash, crash and bang. Kvelertak is huge in their native Norway.
Over three albums they have solidfied their place as a critical choice but are still missing the US audience. "Splid" looks to end that streak. In "Fanden ta dette Hull!" they trade their AC/DC grind for a breakneck conclusion that interweaves both a classic metal audience and the new one.
The raging "Crack of Doom" brings Troy Sanders of Mastodon to sing in English. They even revisit punk on the awesome string skipping riffage of "Bratebrann." While the band's music has never sounded more American, "Splid" is still true to Norwegian bands like Turbonegro and even the blastbeat and hardcore from the UK.
Sculpture of Violence
[LP/CD] (Holy Roar/The Orchard)
Violence is a lot to toss into music, but it remains prevalent in metal.
German hardcore band Giver (pictured above) do not glorify it, but instead prove that metal, specifically hardcore and all of its throat-shredding screams are a replacement for it. "Evil Is" has lyrics as vigorous as its riffs, while the crushing "These Words Are Rain" introduces sad guitar chords over its full-throated chorus.
However, it is the harrowing "Night Season" that opens the record with its Husker Du-ish buzz and double-time chorus that really hints at their future power.
Mik Davis, an avid music listener and historian, is the record store manager at TBONES Records & Cafe in Hattiesburg.