By Alan Ke
August is finally here. Since our last review roundup on Music Mondays, we’ve worked on adding a whole lot of different kinds of music to our ever-expanding library. Sometimes, a new release will fly under our radar and won’t get reviewed until a while after their release. On this week’s post, we’ve collected everything so that doesn’t happen to you! Here are some great new albums to check out, with a few sweet compilations and older titles to go along with it.
44.caliberloveletter – A Hedgehog’s Dilemma
44.caliberloveletter are many things. First off, they’re a screamo band from Sweden, which is already something you don’t see everyday. Their name is a tribute to an Alexisonfire song and this album’s title is likely a reference to Neon Genesis Evangelion.
“…and these streets” comes spiraling right out the gates with a declaration of anti-fascist convictions. They follow this up with a seeming juxtaposition, going from death growls on “draw the curtains!” to the album’s most vulnerable, tender moment in “flowers.” The pop culture references from earlier resurface with “abrupt decay,” the name of a multi-format all star Magic: The Gathering Card. Name aside, it’s a decent albeit short track that leans into more violent sounds. Unfortunately, when this sound makes a reappearance on “xEMOVIOLENCE CREWx” it feels more parodic than potent. Though by no means a perfect project, it’s varied enough to make this an interesting screamo novelty.
Fontaines D.C. – A Hero’s Death
Last year, Fontaines D.C. came crashing through with a fierce debut that breathed a new life into the post-punk scene. Whereas Dogrel was them rumbling right out the gates, A Hero’s Death takes on a more withdrawn, patient approach. It bides its time to make its peaks have more of a punch, while letting the band try some new things along the way. The slower pace of these songs puts more weight onto Grian’s vocals, which were always the main attraction. At times hysterical and occasionally languid, some songs here sound like The Fall while others evoke Protomartyr – all thanks to the varied performances.
Listeners expecting songs born out of the streets of Dublin like those on Dogrel are in for a surprise. Fontaines D.C. look inward on themselves and their fame on A Hero’s Death. Certain songs feel more sophisticated than their sound is suited for, which could be a draw for those who appreciate the more mature side of punk music. Songs like “On Such A Spring” and “Sunny” traverse areas the band has yet to cover, like that of soft folk rock. Though they’ve experimented before on tracks like “Dublin City Sky,” an homage to their hometown that shined as a closer, these songs feel somewhat out of place, breaking up the steady pace other tracks set. “No” perhaps does this the best and feels like an apt closer that also stays true to their sound.
What caught my attention from Fontaines D.C.’s debut were the songs that sounded most like early Joy Division – if they were Irish, that is. “Televised Mind,” “A Lucid Dream,” and to a lesser extent, “Living In America” scratched that itch for me and are likely the tracks that I’ll find myself coming back to most.
Indian Summer – Giving Birth to Thunder
From infiltrating dank, dingy basements to the calm of public libraries, Indian Summer were the force that polluted the NorCal airwaves, primarily responsible for pioneering the shape of punk to come in a post-grunge era. Though often overshadowed by groups like Rites of Spring, Cap’n Jazz, and Moss Icon, Indian Summer are not to be overlooked for their influence on screamo as we know it today.
Giving Birth to Thunder compiles the entirety of their discography – that is, four 7″s released in a span of under a year. These songs are varied, restrained, and explosive, all at once. The compilation opens with “Aren’t You, Angel?,” a song that encapsulates their love for quiet/loud dynamics. It lulls you in with quiet crooning before erupting in a sudden outburst of guitars and screams. Songs like “Truman” establish the blueprint that countless bands studied, revised, and adopted. If you were to listen to this only once in your life, it’s absolutely imperative to put everything down and just pay attention when “Woolworm” comes on – if you let your guard down, you just might miss it. Also known as “Angry Son,” it’s unassuming as the softest song in their catalog, but also that with the most depth. Over the course of its 7-minute journey, it captures an urgency, an angst, a maturity that typifies the anxiety of being at the brink of youth and adulthood. It sounds like repressed emotions and the regret one carries. Potency barely begins to describe the catharsis of hearing one of their songs. I’m sure all those who had the privelege of witnessing their magic live would agree. Their sound is both invigorating and instantly recognizable. Indian Summer is remembrance and all the pain associated with it.
KMRU – odra
KMRU is a field and sound artist from Nairobi presenting their fourth project of 2020, Odra, with no signs of stopping. With this brief three-track EP, KMRU captures a gorgeous harmony between synthetic and natural sound. This is the kind of music that promotes introspection, that ponders the metaphysical without the listener even necessarily seeking such answers. On odra, the mechanical comes to life with synths that flicker with vitality, evoking entrancing stases of oceanic depths. These explorations steadily take the listener through tranquil pools of sound, peeling back layers of synthhs to reveal grottos teeming with life. Let’s take the plunge, shall we?
Marietta – Summer Death
When sentimental, apologetic midwest emo is all you’re craving, there’s nobody who gets the job done like Marietta. Their music is essentially the benchmark every modern emo band is held up to. Though Marietta mostly stick to their guns on Summer Death, there’s not a single weak song on it. You won’t get too many flooring breakdowns but in their place, Marietta offer sing-alongs filled with heartbreak and lament. Interspersed with charming samples of dialogue from old films, these little vignettes allow you to piece together a fuller story, coated in regret and sorrow.
It’s easy to see how these songs grew into a suburban soundtrack documenting the youth of a crew of awkward teens, both behind the mics and in the crowds. In the wake of the disbandment of both Snowing and The Brave Little Abacus, Marietta provide something that’s a bit of both but rooted in the twinklier side of emo. Songs like “cinco de mayo shit show” and “deck wine” will have you singing your heart out while one spin of “chase, i hardly know ya” will leave you picking up its pieces.
Protomartyr – Ultimate Success Today
Protomartyr pick up right where they left off, descending deeper into their cryptic dystopia with Ultimate Success Today. Though forever political, Protomartyr’s usual philosophically wrapped language is repurposed into a tool that’s more topical and pointed than before.
Protomartyr are ironists through and through. Despite the title “Ultimate Success Today,” this is about as bleak as their sound gets. Joe Casey’s ramblings are still delivered with unforgiving force and appropriate dread, setting the album’s weary tone. There’s no more laughter to be heard. They’re no longer mocking the mess they’re in, but taking it at face value. Some songs fiddle with semblances of hope but never once does it come from sincerity. Protomartyr know very well that disappointment is always on the horizon.
Ultimate Success Today embodies everything from the sardonic to the introspective. The monstrous “Processed By The Boys” greets the apocalyptic present with feigned optimism, a motif that also appears on “Michigan Hammers” and “Modern Business Hymns. On other tracks like “The Aphorist,” they raise a mirror to themselves and examine their absurd existence. Ultimate Success Today recommends you do the same.
Somme – Somme
Somme, based in Finland, is composed of multi-instrumentalist Argonui and vocalist Myst. Outside of that, there really isn’t much out there on these musicians. Though the two have made atmospheric black metal under the moniker Fallen Forest, this project takes a new, darker turn for the group. Somme is cold, vicious, and harsh. It invokes the biting cold of frosty, Nordic landscapes just from its hollow, sweeping guitar sound. As most black metal goes, Somme is incredibly lo-fi, but these mixes really do their best to be as compact as possible. At Somme point, you reach a level of low fidelity that hurts the songs more than it helps. The liberal compression ends up dampening the drums a little, in particular the stale-sounding snare. If these instruments were given more room to breathe, this would be an enveloping, atmospheric experience. But as is, the creative choice to make these songs so dense make them more so narrow passageways full of precarious traps and thorns, prickling the listener at each and every turn. Flaws aside, I personally find that it passes the litmus test of good black metal, it makes me wish it were winter.
Valium Aggelein – Black Moon
Before they were known as Duster, Slowcore legends Duster were the cryptic, quiet entity known as Valium Aggelein. Though absent for a long two decades, the band reunited in 2019 with a comeback celebrated by slowcore fans. However, the new material didn’t end there. With Black Moon, the breadth of their discography under their former moniker is finally accessible to fans, both new and old. On it, you’re able to experience the blueprint to their sound on 1998’s Stratosphere, which would end up defining both them and the genre they helm.
The material on Black Moon is a lot more subdued than you might be used to. For a band as mellow as Duster, that’s saying something. The majority of these songs are instrumental, varying mostly in execution but staying consistent in its mood of calm. The one song that was salvaged from these, “The Landing,” was good enough to make it onto Stratosphere and it truly sounds like a standalone track with its unparalleled calm. Though the sparseness tends towards some of the songs blending into each other, there’s still a lot to enjoy. The moments that do stand out are wondrous pockets of serenity. Songs like “Dream Scientist” are enough to bring someone to tears, or at least to the verge it. Even instrumental cuts like “Slower” find their footing and strike a masterful balance between lethargy and action. Sometimes spacing out to music is a good thing and there’s no better backdrop for that than Black Moon.