Stop moaning about the weather and catch up on some of Summer 2016’s best albums. It’s the second part of our look at the best releases from June and July.
Swans – The Glowing Man
Do yourself a favour with this one – clear two hours in your schedule, dim the lights and perhaps get the kettle on.
Swans, known for once playing so loudly that people would physically vomit at their shows, may not quite be brandishing the brutality of the likes of ‘New Mind’ and ‘A Screw’ these days, but The Glowing Man, the industrial noisemakers’ fourteenth album – and a double album at that – doesn’t lack an intensity that sends a shiver down your spine.
If vocalist Michael Gira’s long, growled cries of commands and statements like ‘I’m blind’ and ‘Surrender!’ don’t give you the willies, there’s always his choice of song subjects, like his wife Jennifer’s attempted kidnapping on ‘When Will I Return?’, which she actually provides vocals for.
I won’t lie – this album is hard work, but it deserves a full two hours of your time. You’ll only waste them otherwise!
Weaves – Weaves
There’s a lot going on on the self titled debut album from Toronto’s Weaves. Some of it seems strange, off-kilter at times, different musical styles bent and twisted together to create something pretty unique and altogether compelling. As an album it all feels very malleable. I’m predictable, my particular favourites are the rockier cuts such as ‘One More’ which bubble over with enthusiasm but there’s something for everyone on this record. If you wanna rock you can rock, or you can chill and space out, or maybe an edge of reggae suits you? Whatever it is Weaves have more sides than the Cheesecake Factory menu and there’ll be something in here to thrill you.
Cough – Still They Pray
It’s odd really. Despite the brooding, oppressive nature of this Richmond, Virgina trio’s mixture of doom and sludge metal, there is an undeniable sense of freedom and liberty to their winding and raw explorations. Still They Pray is the group’s first record since 2010 Ritual Abuse, and immediately takes its place among the monsters of the genre. To be fair, this record could have been released at any time in the last three decades. But that’s not the point. The point is that they take all that has come before and conspire to smelt it into something newer. The hookiness of Electric Wizard is soldered to the drawn out trip of Sleep and the overwhelming menace of Funeral. Unrelenting and malicious.
Yung – A Youthful Dream
After releasing a debut album of raw punk entitled Falter in their native Denmark in 2014, and a succession of increasingly restrained and melodic punk in the form of the These Thoughts Are Like Mandatory Chores EP and their ‘Blankets’ single it should be no surprise that the Yung’s international debut album A Youthful Dream continues to see the band eschew their aggressive past in favour of more a anthemic and alternative rock tinged sound. Some tracks here continue to be noisy and somewhat unhinged (‘The Hatch’, ‘A Mortal Sin’ and ‘Sound Of Being OK’), however the majority see the band to begin to sound like Paul Westerberg writing songs for Black Flag. A potent combination.
Mitski – Puberty 2
New York based and Japan born Mitski is a fascinating musician. For instance, after her second record Retired from Sad, New Career in Business, which was recorded with a 60 piece orchestra, was released in 2013 to praise from all quarters she completely rejected the professionalism and expansive nature of her first two albums in favour of recording the lo-fi, fuzzy and vulnerable Bury Me At Makeout Creek in 2014. Puberty 2 sees the alternative rock singer/songwriter continuing that trend. This time, however, the songs are even better if that is even possible. Tracks like ‘Your Best American Girl’ and ‘Happy’ drip with effortlessly big melodies, fuzzed up guitars and neuroses a plenty. On Puberty 2 Mitski presents a cathartic and gloriously catchy record.
G.L.O.S.S. – Trans Day of Revenge
On their debut EP Trans Day of Revenge, hardcore quintet G.L.O.S.S. (Girls Living Outside Society’s Shit) manage the remarkable. This is foot to the floor unrelenting hardcore, but also manages to be nuanced and thought provoking lyrically. Over the course of the EP’s seven minutes the group touch on police brutality, queer erasure, the treatment of trans people within the queer community, the media’s tendency to present queer experience in a rather two dimensional manner, while creating a depiction of the world as a violent and uncharitable place in which the only response is to fight fire with fire. Fascinating, and engrossing, stuff.
Martha – Blisters In The Pit Of My Heart
On their second album Blisters In The Pit Of My Heart, Durham DIY pop punks Martha basically do what they’ve been doing up to now, except with more confidence, intelligence and aplomb. It’s wonderful to see a group so effortlessly and adeptly mix the political and inquisitive with the majestically melodic and catchy. It shows that nuance, depth and boat loads of fun are not mutually exclusive.
Take first single ‘Goldman’s Detective Agency’. This is a track reimagines 20th century anarchist Emma Goldman as a private detective. The track is wonderfully playful (it even sports Thin Lizzy esque duel guitars) but also has the biting line, “There is no one I can trust/And the cops are so corrupt/All protected by the politicians/In their wicked clubs.”
Elsewhere, there is a story about queer students at a Catholic school entitled ‘St Paul’s (Westerberg Comprehensive)’ inspired by The Replacements track ‘Androgynous’ and references to the Russian playwright Anton Chekov (‘Chekov’s Hangnail’). Essentially, the nuance and understanding of their kitchen sink drama inspired lyrics and way with a melody is remarkable. Simply. remarkable.