Planes Mistaken For Stars
If you’re not well-versed with the hardcore scene, you probably haven’t heard of Illinois trailblazers Planes Mistaken For Stars. They utterly rocked their scene in the early 2000s, with classics such as Up In Them Guts still standing tall to this day. A breakup eight years ago proved to not be the end of the band, however, and after numerous reunion shows over the last few years, they’ve finally returned to full form. Prey, their first material since 2006’s Mercy, puts them right back where they left off – blistering, filthy post-hardcore alongside vocalist Gared O’Donnell’s distinctive vocal delivery. It’s almost like they never left, as Prey stands as a landmark in their discography already – holding up rather well against all their previous material. Planes are back, and they’re fiercer than ever!
▶ Listen here: ?
Fear Of Life
Run For Cover Records
Creative Adult have reeled it in with this one. At first glance, I nearly passed this by, since their prior work was never my cup of tea… but the cover art entranced me so much I had to give in and listen to it. And I am very thankful I did – Fear Of Life is a masterfully crafted blend of contemporary shoegaze, psychadelia, and all sorts of post-punk influences. Eight-minute bookends surround an album full of creativity, vocals somewhat a blend of the floaty shoegaze archetype and the spoken-word post-punk model. It’s paced perfectly for both lounge-listening and slow-dancing, and provides quite the hazy meditation.
Joyce Manor are a bit of a namesake within their scene. They’re well known for writing quintessential short-but-sweet albums, and moving fast from hook to hook within albums 18, 13, and 19 minutes long, respectively. Cody is their fourth in this chain, and it breaks the cycle – clocking in at a relatively meaty 25 minutes. It’s their first album to feature particularly fleshed-out songs, which they use to finally create some breathing room for exploring their structures more. Rockers like “Make Me Dumb” and “Stairs” are easily some of the best things they’ve ever written – and their length is part of it, with augmented progressions and a real sense of satisfaction that I don’t think their previous work has shown before. Of course, there are the classic short ones like “Do You Really Want To Not Get Better” and “Reversing Machine”, but the album as a whole takes more time to itself than anything they’ve made before. Easily their most crucial work – and their most memorable.
Balance and Composure
Light We Made
I would be willing to argue that Light We Made is the year’s most polarising record. Balance and Composure have always been known for heavy rock jams – from their first two albums, they’ve rarely let off the distortion. It’s rather shocking, then, how their latest record completely shifted pace. Finding themselves in a softer and more poppy sound, B&C rescinded their overdrive for electronics, backing ambiance, and a foot set down on the reverb pedal. It’s somewhat reminiscent of Title Fight’s shift for Hyperview, in that their previous sound is hard to pick out on their newest material. Light We Made is a soft record, and that’s not a negative fact; it’s just something unusual you don’t see often from a band usually so loud.
Persona is a mini-LP that defies expectation. Lorenzo Senni, best known for his wobbly LP Superimpositions, has crafted this genre-defying masterpiece for his first release upon signing to renowned electronic label Warp. And what a kicker this one is. It’s a thought-provoking deconstruction of trance archetypes, stripping any and all percussion in favour of focusing on rhythm, textures, and chord progression. Senni’s done it quite well with this, it’s easily Warp’s most interesting release in years, and utterly essential for anyone even remotely entertained with oddball electronics. I can’t give this enough praise – it’s truly one of a kind, breaking every prediction a listener creates while listening to it; tickling the ears with the skeletal, widely-overlooked roots of modern dance music.
▶ Listen here: Spotify
Ricky Eat Acid
Talk To You Soon
Anyone following Ricky Eat Acid for a while knows how much of a surprise this album was. Upon listening to the first singles, it was clear that producer Sam Ray was straying from his chill ambient roots in order to pursue a more art-pop inspired production style. What wasn’t initially apparent, however, was just how much of a creative beast this album would be. Talk To You Soon is Ray’s debut on Brooklyn-based label Terrible Records, and it’s representative of every influence he’s absorbed in the time between then and 2014’s lauded Three Love Songs. The tracklisting on Talk To You Soon is diverse, with trance-inspired “Call My Name” and bass-heavy “Nice To See You”, alongside oddities like “As We Speak”, the collaboration with post-metal group Wreck and Reference. Talk To You Soon is dizzying and spiraling, exploring how memories are corrupted by the act of personal change – and the anxiety that comes with. It’s quite jittery, from the trembling piano on multiple songs to the warbly ghost of ambience reminiscent of his previous LP pushed through a strainer. Languid and unsure of himself, Ray created a right proper exhibition of the tension behind pop music – and himself.
▶ Listen here: Hype Machine
Everywhere At The End Of Time
History Always Favours The Winners
Arguably one of the most praised voices in that of avant-garde electronics is Leyland Kirby, better known as any one of his stage names – the coarse V/Vm, the lucid Stranger; and perhaps most important of all, The Caretaker. Kirby grew to fame with his outright classic An Empty Bliss Beyond This World, exploring Alzheimers and the fading ability for patients to recall their own memories. After a rather quiet spell, Kirby announced the final stint of the project – a six-album long exploration into the decay of dementia, starting with Everywhere At The End Of Time. This first entry into the series reminds fondly of Empty Bliss, however with a brighter tonality and a tendency to “remember” more of the music it samples. It’s hazy, foreboding, and most of all – haunted, just like the ballroom Kirby draws from. It’s sad to see the project go, but as the final albums appear throughout the next few years, it will leave a lasting memory – until that, too, fades away.
You Blew It
Triple Crown Records
You Blew It quietly grew to local fame within the emo-revival scene, releasing Keep Doing What You’re Doing in 2014 to praise, popularity, and multiple tours with huge acts like Motion City Soundtrack. Nevertheless, they continued to work hard – doing exactly the opposite of the previous LP’s namesake and changing it up wildly with their Triple Crown Records debut, Abendrot. It’s a quieter, more subdued record – embracing subtlety in a way their prior works did not. Frontman Tanner Jones sings with a softer voice, dynamic and emotive, lending itself to the new blend of instrumentation. Produced by Evan Weiss (earlier mentioned with Into It. Over It.), Jones wrote the album during the years describing his emotions immediately following university: “It’s that slow gradual panic that sets in after you graduate,” he says. Quiet depression and self-doubt seeps through Abendrot, yet it persists as predominantly beautiful, perhaps a statement on hopeful recovery. Abendrot is a wistful record, painting pictures of long walks along the beach, or staring out a window some snowy winter day.
Procrastinate! Music Traitors
Social matters and a desire to get something started pervades Kevin Devine’s seminal ninth full-length, Instigator. Devine is one hell of a prolific songwriter, but the highlight of his busy last few years is unabashedly this. Its namesake is exactly its intention – written as a commentary on recent events and civil unrest, Devine wants to use his platform to inform. Of course, it’s written with his classic temperament – energetic on songs like “Magic Magnet” and “No Why”, yet pensive and musing on “Freddy Gray Blues” and “I Was Alive Back Then”. It’s the duty of people in the public eye to bring to light and inform on social issues – Devine addresses inequality, prejudice, and hypocrisy for his fans to see. Instigator is simultaneously intimate and mutual, exposing oneself alongside exposing one’s culture.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Katie Dey is one of the most distinctive and idiosyncratic musicians in today’s scene, full stop. Last year’s glittering asdfasdf introduced her glitchy, peculiar style of electronic art-pop to the main scene and I’ve been craving more ever since. Fortunately, her Joy Void debut album Flood Network provides in spades. Her writing has evolved tenfold, with the stylistic quirks and shimmering backing instruments tuned to perfection. I don’t know how she creates these textures, but she does whatever it is perfectly. Dey wrote the structure of Flood Network with interludes between every “main” song, and it’s an excellent decision: the musical and tonal transitions provided by the interludes create a virtually seamless record. Refreshing and inspiring, Flood Network is pure art, existing in a niche no other artist but Katie Dey has yet to thoroughly explore.
Dreams Of Suffocation
Dog Knights Productions
Dreams Of Suffocation is an album about loss. Multi-instrumentalist Logan Rivera composed the album as a memorial to his dead dog, and the album is ripe with thematic nods to such – “Rotting”, “Rest In Peace” and “Fragments of a Eulogy”, to name a few. Rivera shrieks despondent lyrics over most the songs, with bullet-fast drums and shrill guitars backing his every cry. The album itself is raw and tender, a wound not yet healed that hurts to the extent of irresistible screaming. Fragility lines the core like a geode – Dreams may have a rough exterior, but break it open and it’s heartbreakingly beautiful. Rivera created a mangled form of catharsis, in a way, in the shape of auditory venting… attempting to numb the shattering, frightening realities of life.