Machinedrum - Vapor City: If you're unfamiliar with the aesthetic of producer Travis Stewart, his alias will give you a good starting point. Machinedrum accrued significant acclaim for 2011's Room(s), which blended the breakneck rhythmic complexity of jungle music with a Burial-esque urban griminess (you should probably be listening to more Burial). On Vapor City, Stewart is owning this sound rather than experimenting with it, bringing us some of his finest productions to date. Lead single "Gunshotta" is a breathtaking display of technical mastery; it rumbles along on a tidal wave of shakers, pitched-up toms, and snare rims that echo with a force worthy of the track's title. It's followed by "Infinite Us", a 7-minute epic that plunges some blissed-out piano strikes into a transdimensional wormhole washing machine, or something. As a harp-like guitar pattern and ethereal vocals enter the mix, I'm reminded of the opening moments of Cosmogramma - it's exhilarating (and dangerous to my respiratory system) to hear this stuff build before twisting itself inside-out. The album begins to wear out its welcome during the latter portion of its 53-minute runtime (avoid "U Still Lie", which comes off as a simplistic and lifeless chillwave experiment), but for the most part Stewart refuses to lean on the same bag of tricks from track to track. Honestly, just play "Gunshotta" and "Infinite Us" back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back... ZN
Recommended Tracks: "Infinite Us", "Gunshotta", "Vizion"
Yuck - Glow and Behold: As Daniel Blumberg left the band earlier this year so too did a huge component of Yuck’s sound. The phased out scuzz rock of old is virtually nonexistent on their second album. I guess no more comparisons to Dinosaur Jr! That’s not to say, however, that Yuck is breaking new musical ground with Glow and Behold. It just means that Max Bloom’s influences have taken center stage, and it’s pretty easy to tell who those influences are—MBV, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, his shoes… The majority of this album can be defined by said article of clothing; songs are repetitive and simple, but melodic and endearing. The single, “Middle Sea”, affords us the well-deserved opportunity to stretch our necks with an upbeat tempo and catchy lyrics. “Lose My Breath” is also quite peppy, but “Memorial Fields” does quick work of diverting your gaze back to its intended trajectory. “Nothing New” is one of the most aptly named songs on the album… Glow and Behold may not do it for all of us, but for the typical podophile it’s 45 minutes of paradise. SHILL
Recommended Track: “Middle Sea”, “Lose My Breath”
Haim - Days Are Gone: These ladies are the modern incarnation of Wilson Phillips. Hailing from the heart of Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Haim has been positively buzzing through peak chart positions. Days Are Gone implements indie folksy influences and vocal R&B sounds, a formula that could create a supremely harmonious album. Unfortunately, it falls short and the tracks don’t really push past synthesized poppy folk. Haim can construct an undoubtedly groovy beat, but they are missing any trace of an original voice. Hell, if Shania Twain and Wilson Phillips are your thing then you should absolutely pop this in. Finding this album an enjoyable experience depends entirely on the person. I appreciate the snappy instrumentals, but the album in its entirety has its bounds. Ari
An intern named Kenneth Jarvis was in complete disagreement with me about the nature of Days Are Gone; he very much liked it. Here is his rebuttal:
“Haim’s debut album is heavily indebted to the music of the 70s, especially Fleetwood Mac during their Rumors era. The band combines classic rock instrumentals with soulful vocals and catchy choruses. The album has many highlights, most of which were released as singles prior to the albums release (“Falling”, “Go Slow”, “The Wire”, “Don’t Save Me”). Although the group wears its influences on their sleeves, their lyrics and unique musical image (formed by playing music since they were kids in a family band) gives Days Are Gone a sound that is more interesting than many of this year’s albums.”
Oneohtrix Point Never - R Plus Seven: You walk into an empty room. Upon entering you turn around only to find that the door you entered through has disappeared. Suddenly the room is pitch black, and as you stare into the infinite abyss, you begin to lose touch with the self-construed perception that forms your reality. Leaving you no chance to contemplate this newfound awareness, the floors of the room collapse and you find yourself falling through the a vacuum of memories that have collected cerebral dust in the deepest crevices of your subconscious. “Perhaps this is all a dream,” you tell yourself, yet you can’t help but feel that this is the most concrete you have felt your whole life. Slowly the anxiety fades, replaced by a lucid tranquility. You have begun to like this space and constantly find yourself compelled to return. This is the world that Brooklyn-based producer Daniel Lopatin has generated via his first release for Warp. R Plus Seven takes on a life of its own, thrusting you head first into a tumultuous realm filled with meditative ambience broken up by industrial soundscape. With R Plus Seven, Lopatin establishes himself as a musical visionary, constantly one step ahead of you. Albért
Recommended songs: Boring Angel, Americans, Zebra, Still Life
Touché Amoré - Is Survived By: Touché Amoré are a group as easily hailed by their fanbase as they are sneered at by doubters. While the numbers on both sides have grown since the band’s inception 5 years ago, they may yet win over nay-sayers with “Is Survived By.”Dealing with themes of mortality, legacy, and being stamped with a somewhat banal title are all potentially points yearning heavy judgement before the music has even started. But then it does. And it is muting, and deafening, and gripping. With one fell swoop of post-hardcore meets shoegaze madness, Touché have secured a place in the current hardcore hierarchy. In just under half an hour (29:05, to be exact), the band have singlehandedly silenced all doubts of a slump in creativity and have completely justified every second of larynx-grinding screams. Sonically, it is a near-perfect approximation between their other two records: The grittiness of “...To the Beat of a Dead Horse” balanced by the gorgeous clarity of “Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me”. For a project that was granted extended freedom with the opportunity to use high-grade recording equipment, it is humbling to hear such an untouched and “live” sounding collection of songs as the finished product. Tracks like “Harbor” churn and flex in unison as though the recorded take was straight from the stage of one of their infamously fierce club shows.
When I first read about the pairing of Touché with producer Brad Wood, I was skeptical, but intrigued. I wondered if the erratic shifts between delicate dual-guitar melodies and brutal blast-beats would be captured efficiently by someone more suited to record a band specializing in one or the other. But then I flipped through Wood’s resumé and felt much more comfortable: Sunny Day Real Estate’s first two albums, Smashing Pumpkins’ “Adore”. This is a man who knows how to work with instant dynamic changes and really highlight the inherent grit of a tightly-synched band. “Is Survived By” ebbs and flows tastefully, with rushed drum fills and guttural vocals conveying moments of anxiety and agony with intense realism. Classic-emo guitar interplay is matched by heavy and fast bursts of rhythmic syncopation to create a record that truly covers the whole spectrum. Touché’s previous efforts may have proved a bit too abrasive for the ears of many listeners, but this could very well be the album that lets them crossover and expand. Nick
Recommended Tracks: “To Write Content”, “Anyone/Anything”, “Non Fiction,” “Harbor”