Marissa Nadler, July
Marissa Nadler’s limnetic new album, July, is both eerie and soothing, a lullaby written to induce nightmares. Burrow deeper and the odd hallucinatory qualities reveal themselves; images blend, fade and reform with no real discernible pattern. This album is composed of memories, the kind that your mind tries to reshape over time to shield you from what really happened. On standout “Dead City Emily”, you can feel the strain in each pull of the guitar strings as “the leaves turn from red to green”. Skeletal in its composition and driven largely by Nadler’s frail vocals, a work this understated requires your undivided attention before it can begin to pay dividends. B+ [Brendan Frank]
Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra, Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything
When Godspeed You! Black Emperor won the Polaris Music Prize last year, they had some harsh words for the event’s extravagance in a time of “normalized decline”. Those parting jabs clearly weren’t enough for Efrim Menuck, lynchpin and co-founder of both Godspeed and Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra. The latest from the latter Canadian post-something-something act taps into a wellspring of indignation over society’s ills, and tries to be as loud as it can in the process. Its bluntness, lyrical and sonic, is hard to look away from, even when it is something less than listenable. Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything explores the moral murk of our times with glorious abandon. Righteous. B [Brendan Frank]
Temples, Sun Structures
If you’ve been following Temples at all then by now you’ve already heard the comparisons to The Beatles and Tame Impala, so let’s get them out of the way now, because they’re true and it needs to be said. It needs to be said, because well, this is a good album inspired by a lot of good music and pretty much every song is catchy and listenable, but there’s not a lot to hear that’s incredibly new. Rather than trying to capture and update the 60s, Sun Structures just tries to be the 60s, which is great but by now you’d think we’d have made a little progress. It’s Tame Impala, without the weirdness or the forward movement.
All of this perhaps sounds too negative considering how nice the album actually is to listen to, and how much I actually do like it and recommend that you go out to listen to it. It’s light, jangly, and just right for the summer at the end of this wintry tunnel. The guitar work is great, and the hooks do just that. Just make sure you’re expecting “Revolution” instead of a musical revolution and you’ll be fine. After all, the bands that laid the groundwork for Sun Structures stopped making music decades ago, and there’s only so many times I can dig through my dad’s classic rock before he tells me to go out and get my own damn music. B [Jesse Nee-Vogelman]
Have A Nice Life, The Unnatural World
I’m a little skeptical of bands that come with as many genre descriptors as Have a Nice Life - drone, shogaze, post-punk, doom metal - because all those things usually add up to mean precisely nothing. Such is the case on their new LP, The Unnatural World, but less because it's music that evades description and more because there's very little that stands out.
In some ways, that’s part of the point of Unnatural World. It’s loud and ambient and the vocals blend in and out of the background cacophony in a way reminiscent of every other post-punk band to crawl out of the hole left by Joy Division. Still, there are flashes where Have a Nice Life seems to indicate they have more to offer us than their peers - a bassline that’ll catch you by surprise, and some moody, somber, and even beautiful harmonies in the album's nooks and crannies. Ultimately, The Unnatural World is a frustrating album. Just when a breakthrough feels within reach, it hits a ceiling. C [Jesse Nee-Vogelman]
Maximo Park, Too Much Information
Paris, December 2004: The Libertines play their last show before Carl Barât announces their dissolution. In the wake of their departure the UK’s indie-rock scene goes supernova: a miniature echo of the birth of time, in the process spitting out more gunk than the death throes of a dying star. But as any budding astronomer knows: gold, platinum, precious metals - they're all created as a crippled star bleeds. So while we had to endure the success of Kaiser Chiefs, The Enemy, and The Automatic, we were gifted with the rise of Arctic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand, and Maximo Park.
Maximo's strength has always been in scorching post-punk anthems ("Our Velocity", "Graffiti") and hyper-literate melancholic balladry (“Acrobat”, “This Is What Becomes of the Broken Hearted"), which work so well when bolstered by Paul Smith's erudite lyrics and uniquely accented delivery. They pull off the former on "My Bloody Mind" and the latter on the excellent "Leave This Island", but elsewhere the hooks and melodies rarely match the frontman’s grasping literary pretensions. Disappointing. C [Benji Taylor]