Archive for the best of lists Category

Darryl Zero’s Albums of the Year 2014

Posted in best of lists with tags , on January 15, 2015 by darryl zero

Honorable Mention:

Indian, From All Purity

St. Vincent, St. Vincent

Pink Avalanche, The Luminous Heart Of Nowhere

Cloakroom, Lossed Over b/w Dream Warden

Actress, Ghettoville

Couch Slut, My Life As A Woman

10) Atari Teenage Riot – Reset

Atari Teenage Riot popped back up in 2010 with Is This Hyperreal?, a pleasant extension of the band’s distinctive sound that nonetheless stayed true to its simplistic beginnings.  The “new” line-up–founding member Alec Empire, his chief collaborator Nic Endo (part of the group since 1997) and American hip-hip iconoclast CX KiDTRONiK–only lasted one album, though.  CX left the group, and was replaced permanently by his European tour replacement–British electro-hopper Rowdy Superstar.  Reset is actually better than its immediate predecessor for this reason; Superstar is a full-fledged part of the group, and his energy actually comes across as, well, happy.  The band’s overall sound reflects the shift–emphasizing their dance influences more.

9) Uncommon Nasa – New York Telephone

East coast rapper Uncommon Nasa spits his lyrics with a cynical poet’s affinity for chaos.  While Telephone‘s production-by-committee leads to the predictable inconsistency of tone, Nasa’s flow (an unmistakably NYC, rhythmic drawl) is a great continuous thread.

8) Jucifer – District of Dystopia

It didn’t come out until the tail end of the year, but the 21-year-old band’s latest album continues the band’s continual metamorphosis into the grinding, roaring powerhouse on-record to match their deafening live show.  District‘s lo-fi recording (in the band’s own Nomadic Fortress) surprisingly makes the sonic blitzkrieg seem more intense.  While not as ambitious in scope or execution as 2013’s There Is No Land Beyond the Volga, the lyrics are even more focused, plainly skewering US politics past and present.

6) Electric Wizard – Time To Die

 Stoner metal gods revive their twenty-plus year formula by wisely sticking to it.  The band’s emancipation from longtime label Rise Above finds them DIYing it to the Nth degree, from production (handled by guitarist/only original and consistent member/frontman Jus Osborn) to release.  Not a lot new to note here–the same old crypto-satanic imagery, dark sense of humo(u)r, and bludgeoningly heavy riffs abound–but they’re delivered with new verve and power, perhaps because Osborn and company have more of a personal stake in it.  The album’s title track (presumably a reference to Blade Runner) is the head-nodder, but really every cut on the album is golden.

5) In The Mouth of Radness – Gone Rad With Power

Iowa City thrashers not only have a name referencing the greatest John Carpenter film not named They Live, but they also merge the frantic dirt of Motorhead with the funky soul of any Josh Homme project and the guitar shriekery of latter-era (think self-titled) Daughters.  While the band’s reluctance to take themselves too seriously undermines them at times (the wordplay on “Dude or Die” and “Envision the Bitchin'” is good for a couple of sideways glances), their hilarious lyrics, obscenely good drum work, lustworthy bass tone, and nutso guitar work combine to make a high-energy wall of sound equally proggy, punky, and headbangy.

4) Against Me! – Transgender Dysmorphia Blues

I never cared much about Against Me!, which is less an indictment of their music and more a reflection of the idea that straightforward punk rock has always seemed to be kind of anachronistic.  That’s never really changed about the band, even if their dalliances into slicker (read: Butch Vig) pop sounds have alienated some of their more fundamentalist followers.  Regardless, Laura Jane Grace coming out as transgender managed to make the band interesting to me–and, more importantly, added something to band beyond the affect of their punk roots.

Indeed, the earnestness and comfort Grace carries into the album is so unaffected, it’s surprising to know the band turmoil (with members coming in, members coming out, and members joining Slipknot) that went into the making of the album.  Still, Grace handles herself well, with riffs and lyrics telling great stories.  The punk anachronism is still there (further bolstered when, after the album was recorded, International Noise Conspiracy bassist Inge Johansson joined the band), but Against Me! sounds fresh and new.

3) Helms Alee – Sleepwalking Sailors

To be clear, my beloved Helms Alee’s album is actually the best of their three full-lengths, so the fact that it doesn’t top my list is less due to an drop in quality and more to how good the other releases in front of it are.  The Tacoma trio navigated the end of their former label (Hydra Head) by crowdfunding their recording sessions, then found a new home on Sargent House.

I’m not being hyperbolic; Sleepwalking Sailors is a masterpiece.  the band doesn’t modify their approach too much; three-part vocal harmonies, alternatingly jangly and mammoth-heavy guitars, and that extra gear Ben Verellen gets on his scream when he pulls from his gut and howls.  However, there’s an unmistakable triumphant glee to the songs on this album, something present atmospherically on the band’s previous releases but appears here in brazen glory.

2) Morgue Vanguard & Still – Fateh

Onetime Dälek turntable-destroyer Hsi-Chang Lin (still to the nasty) hasn’t gone away–he popped up a few years ago after a long absence with the Brutalist School and is still making music.  After being contacted by Indonesian political MC Morgue Vanguard, Lin applied his considerable talents to burning the fucking place down.

Seriously.  Fateh is only an EP, but the smoldering fury of Morgue Vanguard’s flow combined with the swirling roar of still’s production create a fucking avalanche of sonic brutality that recalls Faust as much as it does Public Enemy.

1) Emma Ruth Rundle – Some Heavy Ocean

Marriages/Red Sparowes guitarist Rundle’s inevitable solo album succeeds on multiple levels, avoiding the trap of heavy band frontwomen whose solo project invariably ends up being acoustic singer-songerwriter by simply being heavier than her other nominally metal projects despite being largely acoustic.  Ocean‘s somber airiness recalls, among others, Cold Specks or Julie Christmas, but with a snarl born and bred on PJ Harvey.  Frankly, this is the album I would have wanted Harvey to make instead of Let England Shake, only with Rundle’s distinctly stern voice.

Zero’s favorite (at the moment) [post-“Homogenic”] Björk Songs

Posted in best of lists with tags , on April 27, 2014 by darryl zero

Okay, let’s be real–Homogenic is the greatest Björk album of all time–and a Zero shortlist for “Best Album Ever.”  It’s just that good.  Every album she’s put out since then hasn’t quite matched how amazing Homogenic was on the whole.

That said, it’s not like she just completely fell off.  While none of her subsequent albums has managed to capture the beauty and brilliance as a cohesive whole, she’s still managed to demonstrate on each album how truly transcendent she is.

So, for fun, I put together a list of ten post-Homogenic songs that still rock my fucking world.

1) “The Boho Dance” (A Tribute To Joni Mitchell compilation, 2007)

Released somewhat quietly on Nonesuch back in 2007, the Tribute To Joni Mitchell comp cobbles together an absolute all-star lineup (Prince, Sufjan Stevens, Sarah MacLachlan, Annie Lennox, among others).  It’s Björk that steals the entire show, though, taking Mitchell’s soft-rock tone poem, stripping it of its lush arrangement and rhythm and presenting it over an abstract, beat-less collage of music box-sounding electronics and glockenspiel.  It’s largely intimate (moreso than the original), subtle and soft but for a handful of trademark explosive vocal runs, and it’s tear-evoking:

2) “New World,” (Selmasongs/ the film Dancer In The Dark2000)

I actually prefer the version that she sings in the film (if you haven’t seen the film, this is a mega-spoiler; regardless of whether you have seen the film, it’s a VERY intense scene, very hard to watch, that not even I cannot watch without sobbing, hence the link, not the embed)–the different lyrics, disturbingly happy and optimistic, juxtaposed against the unmitigated tragedy of the story and its coda, all haunt the listener.

That said, the album version of the song, which plays immediately after the version in the film itself (over the closing credits) and is much happier, is just as solid.  “If living is seeing, I’m holding my breath/in wonder, I wonder what happens next/a new world, a new day to see.”  It’s gorgeous.

3) “Undo,” from Vespertine (2001)

While Vespertine is probably my least favorite of her albums (it’s still good, but not one that I listen to as often as some others), there are a few songs on it that truly blow it up.  Everyone remembers Pagan Poetry (NSFW link–boobs), but I’m more a fan of Frosti and, of course, Undo.  I think mostly the sheer scale of the arrangement–the harp and the orchestra blow my mind every time.

4) Wanderlust (Volta – 2007)

Let’s be clear–Volta was a weird, cluttered, unfocused shotgun blast of a Björk album.  Not that this is a bad thing, mind you, but I do wish we’d have been able to hear the original Timbaland beats that appear in some places.  The album has more brilliant moments than I can even mention here, but they’re surrounded by so much chaos that the brilliance gets lost in the sheer tidal wave of stimuli.

5) “Who Is It” (Medulla, 2004)

Medulla was so close to being as cohesive as Homogenic; the songs featuring largely vocals were glorious and inspirational, and Björk wisely didn’t overuse or lean on Rahzel or Mike Patton too heavily.  The problem arose when she went a little too overboard with the collaborators–the album on the whole is too heavy on Tagaq, and the Robert Wyatt and Dokaka collaborations just don’t feel as good.  “Who Is It,” on the other hand, merges all its bits (especially Tagaq and Rahzel) fantastically.

6) “Desired Constellation” (Medulla, 2004)

The best song on Björk’s largely “a capella” album is actually one of the few with a proper instrumental arrangement.  Some critics link this song directly to her Vespertine period; I, on the other hand, think it sounds more like a Selmasongs-esque cut.  A delightful, intimate love song, the studio recording sounds as if Björk is singing into a single mic in the driest, emptiest room imaginable.  The live versions are also dope:

7) “Amphibian” (Being John Malkovich soundtrack, 1999)

I have absolutely no clue what’s being said or sung here, which I think is part of this song’s appeal.  (I don’t even know if she’s singing in Icelandic, here–if anyone knows, please tell me).  This version of the song plays over the closing credits of the Jonze film, a freaky, abstruse, completely messed-up fantasy.  I love the hell out of it–the simple drum part, combined with the harp and what is either whistling or a singing saw.  The trace elements of bass and strings make this a hypnotic, beautiful abstraction.

8) “Virus” (Biophilia, 2011)

Biophilia was the fascinating culmination of a typically Björk idea–release the songs both as an album and as iPad apps, allowing for endless remix possibilities and, logically, no real definitive vision for what the actual album would be.  That said, the Björk versions of all the songs, while charming, didn’t quite reach the same heights that “Virus” reached.  The love song is vintage Björk: bells, whistles, ascendant harmonies, and contradictory lyrics (she refers to the subject of her love as “my sweet adversary”).

9) “Where Is The Line” (Medulla, 2004)

Björk.  Mike Patton.  Duh.

and, finally,

10) “The Dull Flame Of Desire” (Volta, 2007)

I actually prefer the video edit of this song, which is shorter and less self-indulgent.  What really sells this song for me is not that it’s a duet–while Antony Hegarty is a brilliant vocalist, this song feels more like it was a solo song that simply ended up with her on it as an afterthought–but simply because the voices feel very opposing (Björk’s post-punk sear burns the air even as Hegarty’s elastic vibrato bubbles beneath it).  It’s jazz thrust into an orchestral blossoming, although apparently Brian Chippendale drums on it.  (For the record, Chippendale is entirely wasted on this track, relegated to playing a simplistic rhythm that even I could play.)  The song really takes off around 3:30 or so, when Björk and Hegarty begin to sing each part the same way.

Darryl Zero’s Top Albums of 2013

Posted in best of lists on December 6, 2013 by darryl zero

While I liked a lot of albums this year, I was surprised at how many of them came from artists I’d listened to for a long time.  It’s easy to get caught up in the new and shiny; however, I can’t help but admit that a lot of veterans showed up this year and turned in some downright awesome albums.

You might notice the ties in odd places.  Frankly, I just loved those albums in equal amounts, for similar reasons.  In any case, it’s my list, so if you don’t like it, sod off.

Honorable Mention:

Balance and Composure – The Things We Think We’re Missing

Deafheaven – Sunbather

Pelican – Forever Becoming

Medicine – To The Happy Few

Marnie Stern – The Chronicles of Marnia

10) Sigur Rós –  Kveikur

Reduced to a three-piece, one would think the Icelandic epic post-rock band would strip down their sound.  Which they did, but instead of leaning heavily on frontman Jónsi Birgisson’s vocals, they instead went with a rattle and a clang.  While the band had previously experimented with harder musical styles (most effectively on Takk…), Kveikur feels unapologetically heavy and, well, metallic.

9) Death Grips – Government Plates

In 2012, Sacramento’s art-noise-rap trio managed to simultaneously blow up and implode in equally enormous ways, from pulling off the unlikely coup of signing to a major label in February, releasing one of the year’s best albums in April, scheduling–and shortly thereafter canceling–an epic (if you’ll excuse the unintentional pun) tour in May in order to record another album, grappling with said major over the release of that second album, only to sabotage their deal by leaking said album, resulting in getting dropped from said major label.  While comparatively quieter, 2013 still found the band courting controversy (mostly through canceling or flat-out not appearing at their shows), such that, when they band finally dropped Government Plates, it was a pleasant surprise to find the band still as focused and interesting as ever.  Plates is remarkably subdued for a band brash enough to plaster their drummer’s erect penis on an album cover: MC Stefan Burnett’s once-prominent vocals lurk in and around the songs for the most part, and the post-digital hardcore electro-rap arrangements lurch and stutter in more challenging directions.  While shallower minds focused inexplicably on Kanye West’s clumsy biting of Death Grips’ style, the band clearly takes a Henry Rollins-esque approach; leave scars, then just leave.

8) Sepultura – The Mediator Between Head and Hands Must Be The Heart

Sepultura continues their post-Cavalera trend of releasing unexpectedly awesome albums.  After Jean Dolabella’s departure, the band found 20-year-old Eloy Casagrande to man the drums–and the youth infusion adds a much-needed sense of raw, punk-y urgency to the band’s sound.  Mediator doesn’t fuck around–it hits hard, fast, heavy, and crushing, with Andreas Kisser and Paulo Jr’s guitars scraping by at breakneck speeds.  Derrick Green–now the band’s longest-tenured frontman–has long since come into his own as a vocalist, but his meaty growl reaches tones so visceral they almost sound like they’re making him bleed.

7) My Bloody Valentine – mbv

Twenty-two years after releasing an album that could convincingly (although not by this reviewer) be called the greatest album ever made, My Bloody Valentine surprised everyone by releasing its follow-up.  While mbv certainly isn’t Loveless, it manages to be the next best thing; the album they ought to have released after Loveless, while still managing to sound future in a musical landscape populated with bands clearly indebted to them.  In fact, the only bad thing about mbv is that it overshadowed another comeback album by a similar band (Medicine’s To The Happy Few, which would have made this list but for the Death Grips album).  While their American counterparts emphasized beats slightly more over bombast, My Bloody Valentine wisely stuck with what brung ’em–Kevin Shields’ cascading downpour of guitar.

6) Hoax – HOAX LP

New England punk rockers Hoax self-released their final release and toured on it shortly before breaking up.  Not unlike other bands of the newer wave of heavier, extreme metal-inflected hardcore punk (think Trash Talk, Trap Them, Kurt Ballou), Hoax scraped the gutteral, crusty edge between punk and metal enough, not so much blurring the edge as bloodying it.  The band’s self-titled LP is entirely too good a step in the right direction to be the swan song it is, apparently, supposed to be.

5) Chelsea Wolfe – Pain Is Beauty

Wolfe’s somber melancholy often finds ways to simultaneously soar and lurk–which separates her from other ostensibly folk singer-songwriters.  At the same time, her unabashed grit and heaviness keeps her from landing in the tiresome neo-goth of the witch house scene, regardless of the amount of electronics she layers beneath her gorgeously haunting voice.  While Wolfe still succeeds most effectively when muscling her way through a guitar-driven arrangement (“We Hit A Wall,” PiB‘s snarling second track), the synthesizer sounds and chattering drum beats suit her surprisingly well.

Tie

4) Oddisee – The Beauty In All

While Oddisee resents being labeled “underrated,” it’s hard to describe someone so visionary that isn’t treated as a genius on par with J Dilla or Dr. Dre as anything but.  Oddisee’s MCing often gets undercut by his disappointing lapses into contemporary hip hop cliché (well, one specific one beginning with the letter “n”), but his production is arguably the best in the business, be it underground, backpacker, or pop.  De facto single “Afterthoughts” demonstrates the Oddisee formula: accentuate samples with subtle touches of sometimes live, sometimes synthesized instrumentation; the end result is almost always golden.

4) Scout Niblett – It’s Up To Emma

Emma Niblett’s break-up record begins pretty by-the-numbers for her: her midrange-y voice cutting across overdriven electric guitars.  Mercifully, Niblett abandons the aloofness that plagued her across previous albums and instead settles into a focused, logical aggression.  Interestingly, for an album about dissolved relationships, Niblett couldn’t have made a sexier batch of songs; her (thankfully) lucid take on TLC’s “No Scrubs” wisely avoids clumsy irony and instead simply repeats the song’s chorus over a stark drums/guitar progression, while album opener “Gun” harnesses a sludge-metal arrangement and lyric sheet, strips it of its lunk-headed bludgeon and instead sharpens its edges:

3) True Widow – Circumambulation

Admittedly, True Widow’s combination of unabashed heaviness and churning understatement are such breaths of fresh air regardless of the scenes to which they easily fall (metal and so-called “indie rock”) that it’s almost stupid not to like them.  That said, Circumambulation finds the band narrowing the scope of their compositions to less-intimidating lengths (the only song that goes over seven minutes does so just barely); while the approach is jarring in how brief it makes the album seem, the band is just so damn catchy that it just plain doesn’t matter.  The band doesn’t quite reach the same levels of brilliance on their earlier releases–there’s nothing as genius as “Bathyscaphe” or “Skull Eyes”–but each arrangement is so, well, hummable, that it doesn’t matter.  The lone exception–“Numb Hand”–is a song that’s just plain fucking perfect:

2) Nails – Abandon All Life

I won’t mince words: listening to Nails sounds like being beaten with a chain feels.  You know the brutality is coming, you know it’s going to hurt, and it still shocks you as much as it completely removes you from reality.  Gloriously unsubtle and unabashedly harsh, the band cuts a bloody swath through ten songs in under twenty minutes–some slow, most obliteratingly fast.  While the twenty-four second “Cry Wolf” is perhaps the most cathartic, second track “Tyrant” is perhaps the most beautiful bit of post-Converge neo-hardcore committed to recording in the past decade:

I struggled for weeks with how to list the following three albums. I honestly can’t rank any one of them above the other, but they’re just so damn awesome that I have to put them ahead of all the rest (which is saying something).  So, we have a tie for #1:

Solex – Solex Ahoy! The Sound Map of The Netherlands

Too few people know and care what became of Elisabeth Esselink, the quirky Dutch record store owner-turned-quirky electro-rock darling.  A solid six-year, four-album run between 1998 and 2004 ended with The Laughingstock of Indie Rock; apart from a 2005 In The Fishtank session with the Maarten Altena Ensemble, little was heard from Esselink (at least, in the Americas) for a solid five years.  2010’s woefully overlooked Amsterdam Throwdown King Street Showdown, a collaboration with Jon Spencer and Christina Martinez, flew under pretty much everyone else’s radar, but after that, more silence.

Until 2013, when Solex Ahoy, a long-gestating project chronicling the sound of the Netherlands’ twelve provinces.  Using Esselink’s patented knack for sampling, paired with recordings of street musicians invited into Esselink and her partner’s house boat, the album took shape quietly and was released even more quietly Stateside.

And it’s the best, most vital thing Solex has done since 1999’s Pick Up.

Nirvana – In Utero (20th Anniversary Edition)

It’s hard to tell what’s more shocking–the fact that Nirvana’s last studio album is twenty years old, or that its obligatory reissue was so absolutely fucking perfect.  I suppose both facts were equally inevitable; time catches all, and In Utero engineer Steve Albini’s relentless perfectionism would mean that the eventual record company cash-grab would result in a veritable cornucopia of details–if not the music, than simply for the interviews.  While Albini definitely gave a fantastic interview on the subject, he also stepped way the fuck up to the plate, providing both an exquisitely detailed remastering of the album and–as an even better treat– a complete remix of the album using alternate takes and ideas, largely supervised by Krist Novoselic (with input from Dave Grohl and Pat Smear).  The album’s myriad easter eggs and addenda, far from feeling bloated and/or superfluous (like box set With The Lights Out or the absolutely needless self-titled greatest hits collection), only enrich the mythos surrounding what was, at the time, an album whose hype only barely exceeded its controversy.  And it’s all fucking awesome.

Jucifer – за волгой для нас земли нет

Husband-and-wife nomadic metal duo Jucifer is as known for their annihilatingly loud live show as they are for their surprisingly eclectic, nuanced records.  Their sound has always run the gamut from ersatz-folk-country to black metal, pulling influences from everywhere (grunge, downtempo electronic, twee, even hip hop) to make albums that perpetually confound expectation.  A move to Relapse Records after a long stint on Velocette (which was, in itself, borne of a major-label deal with Capricorn shortly before it went defunct for its second and final time) signaled a slight shift toward the direction of making albums that sounded closer to their ear-slaying live experience.  Throned In Blood, 2010’s sort-of-Relapse swan song, seemed to be about as close as it was going to get.

Until 2013, that is.  How, twenty years into the band’s career, they could release their most vital and visceral album is a question only the band themselves can answer, but the bottom line is that the album–whose title translates to There Is No Land Beyond the Volga and is both inspired by and whose concept is directly taken from the history of the Russian city Volgograd–is both an ambitious story and the first time the band’s live sound has been precisely committed to tape.  The album feels epic, it feels brutal, it feels sludgy and yet beautiful–it feels like a storm of hot, heavy, world-breaking, reality-warping destruction.  It’s Jucifer, twenty years slaying ears (to borrow their own words), and it’s a necessary listen.

Five Actors Zero Would Rather See Play Batman.

Posted in best of lists with tags , on August 24, 2013 by darryl zero

I’m serious when I say this–

no offense to Ben Affleck.

Seriously.

He’s obviously a very good director, and an acceptable screenwriter (although I’ll always maintain Good Will Hunting was wack), but none of that excuses the fact that he’s always been the bro-iest of bro actors.  He can do comedy, albeit with a limited range, but stick him in anything requiring him to be convincing and he just flounders in the presence of charismatic performers.

Oh, and there’s this bullshit:

Even ignoring Daredevilthough, my main beef is that there are so many different directions in which Hollywood could have gone.  I suppose I should be glad they didn’t go after yet another English actor to play an American character, but is Hack Snyder really that desperate for some kind of box office guarantee (yeah, Man of Steel didn’t flop, but even its positive-ish reviews were ambivalent at best, and it wasn’t the world-killing super-mega-beast that WB wanted it to be) that they grasped at the first big name they found?

Eff that.  Because I clearly know better than Hollywood (hey, I’m nothing if not self-aware), I’ll offer you five solid choices that would have been a better choice than Affleck.

1) Wes Bentley

This one’s kind of a “eh, maybe” kinda pick, mostly because he’s not as much of a physical specimen as some of the other guys here (he’s shorter, for one–only about 5’11”), but Bentley has the dramatic range, the ability to play weird-on-the-verge-of-crazy, and the “smoldering beneath this face are layers and layers of layers” necessary to pull off Batman.  Oh, and he’s not afraid to do comic-book films (see Ghost Rider…on second thought, don’t).

Why he’s a good choice: he’s never been far from the limelight since he stole American Beauty from his more esteemed co-stars, but hasn’t taken off in a way that would make him outshine Cavill or anyone else in a Superman/Batman film.  That and he’d be cheap.

Oh, and I’m not the only person who thinks he’d be a good idea; Christopher Nolan, a guy who knows a few things about making Batman movies, thought so, too.

Why it might not be such a good idea: while definitely tall enough by Hollywood standards, at 5’11’, he doesn’t exactly create a formidable enough figure to go toe-to-toe with people, let alone the Man of Steel.  Also, he has yet to prove he’s capable of doing any role that requires the type of physicality Batman demands.

2) Ryan Hurst

Why he’s a good choice: he’s been a charming, charismatic figure on TV’s Sons of Anarchy, capable of conveying ‘tormented’ without going too hammy.  He’s a formidable, athletic actor with a great voice–and, again, like Bentley, someone people will recognize without it being too distracting.  He can do the physical part of the role, and carry the dramatic angle.

Why it might not be such a good idea:  first–and most obviously–at 6’4″, Hurst is a solid three inches taller than Henry Cavill (and an inch-and-a-half taller than Batman is canonically supposed to be).  He could conceivably play an ‘older’ Batman/Bruce Wayne, but he’s just too massive–he’d completely overshadow Cavill.  For that matter, while not an ugly man by any stretch of the imagination, Hurst isn’t a pretty boy, something Bruce Wayne needs to be.  He could pull off the role, but it’d be a stretch.

3) Tahmoh Penikett

Why he’s a good choice: tall, but not too tall–good-looking, but not too-good-looking, physical and adaptable, charismatic and charming yet subtle and versatile–Penikett’s got it all from a technical standpoint.  He carries all kinds of nerd cred (Dollhouse and Battlestar: Galactica fans would freak out) and wouldn’t steal the show from Cavill, but could definitely stand toe-to-toe with him as an equal.

Why it might not be such a good idea: well, for starters, Penikett was already in Man of Steel.  (Oops.  This is what I get for boycotting Zack Snyder.)  Second–while he’s definitely an icon to those in the know, absolutely no one else would know who the fuck he is–and it wouldn’t be like there’s a mainstream smash hit TV show to turn to for proof.

4) Josh Hartnett

Why he’s a good choice: if you’d have asked me this question years ago, I’d have laughed you the fuck out of town.  Hartnett was a pretty boy, pure-and-simple; the actor equivalent of Trip Fontaine

And then I saw this:

and I was like–“yeah, okay.  I’d buy it.”  Tall, menacing, and downright lithe, Hartnett can do the physicality, although he’d need to go full-on method like Bale in order to really become the Bat.  He’s got Bruce Wayne fuckin’ down, though, which I’d really love to see.

Why it might not be such a good idea: while Hartnett’s got the star power, the talent, and the physicality to successfully do Batman, he’s always sort-of kept himself away from the spotlight, preferring ensemble pieces and seemingly accepting high-profile starring roles almost as if his agent twisted his arm.  As the sole bright spot of Pearl Harbor, he…oh, fuck.  He was in that, wasn’t he?

5) Billy Zane

Why he’s a good choice: where do we start?  Um–well, since the current thinking is that the Batman in the films would need to be an established, older, Dark Knight Returns-esque age Batman, Zane–47 years old and still in great shape–is pretty much the only fucking choice.  He’s good-looking, he’s tall, he’s mean, he’s sexy–and, unlike most of the other people on this list, he’s actually a practicing martial artist.  He’s been the only choice for Batman for years.

Why it might not be such a good idea: can’t think of one.  Sorry.  Seriously–just watch this and tell me I’m wrong.

Darryl Zero’s Albums of the Year – 2012

Posted in best of lists with tags , on January 9, 2013 by darryl zero

10) Converge – All We Love We Leave Behind

It’s fucking Converge.  They refuse to die, and they refuse to stop kicking ass.  Kurt Ballou’s guitar continues to stay up front for this album, although Jacob Bannon actually pulls out some new tricks for this album (the chorus of “Coral Blue” comes to mind).  Converge has pretty much put out a constant stream of artistic touchstones since Jane Doe, so it’s important to know how good this album is within the context of that.

9) Whirr – Pipe Dreams

While we’re all killing time waiting for Kevin Shields to finally put out the new My Bloody Valentine album (2013, he says), his legion of lesser imitators continues to put out records (although his greater imitator–Tim Lash–has kept Glifted conspicuously silent).  Pleasantly, Whirr managed to keep interesting with Pipe Dreams.  Leaning heavily on the Cocteau Twins-esque idea of keeping the beautiful vocals obscured by projecting them from the other end of a very long tunnel, the band wisely avoids the shoegaze 101 mistake of trying to be My Bloody Valentine and instead takes a more Stratford 4/jangle-pop sloppy approach, to considerably pleasant effect.

8) Conan – Monnos

Liverpool’s Conan dropped an anvil on the latter part of the 2012 spring.  Monnos is a dense, simmering kettle of beauty-from-agony, and the low end–oh, the low end.  Guitars sound low as basses, and the bass is earbud-destroyingly intense.  Somewhere in there, the voices–both gritty and melodic–float about, and the din is this gorgeously sludgy mass of punishment.

7) Public Enemy – Most Of My Heroes Still Don’t Appear On No Stamp

While Public Enemy never really went anywhere, per se–before they took a five-year-hiatus back in 2007, they’d been on a pretty steady “every other year” album clip–their triumphant return in 2012 with two solid albums was a welcome respite from the rampant coonery all over Black music airwaves.  The time off not only allowed some of the more embarrassing Flavor Flav antics to fade from public memory (allowing the rest of us to remember that he was, actually, a surprisingly articulate cat), it also allowed Chuck to take stock of the ever-changing world around him and do what he does best–observe.  The end result: two albums of PE’s best, most smoldering work since the Terminator X days.

6) Oddisee – People Hear What They See

Oddisee’s Rock Creek Park blew up last year, elevating the producer/MC from industry “it producer to something on the verge of household name.  Despite an online screed in which he bristled at the term “underrated,” the adjective is easily the best way to describe one of the most talented hip hop artists since Jeru the Damaja.  People Hear What They See was part of the usual constant stream of work from the DC-based artist, finding him refining his soulful craft quite nicely.

5) Death Grips – No Love Deep Web

What is there to say about No Love Deep Web that hasn’t already been said?  If you know anything about the band, you probably know that the album was released as their second album of 2012, for free, by the band, and effectively killed their relationship with Epic.  Which is a shame, because not only is No Love Deep Web a fantastic album, it also showed the band as one of the first to truly embrace how to stay relevant and how to stay on top in the iPod, downloading generation: don’t give your fans a chance to relax or grow complacent.  While not as much of a game-changer as 2012’s first Death Grips album (see below), it still is a tightly-focused, hyper-aggressive burst of mind-blowing freakiness, and the most edge-pushing album to hit mainstream music since Atari Teenage Riot.

4) High On Fire – De Vermis Mysteriis

Matt Pike and company’s wild ride around the best producers of loud rock music stops with Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou at just the right time.  Ballou’s broiling mix adds an extra grit to the band’s sound last heard on 2005’s Blessed Black Wings; that, combined with one of their better concepts (that of a time-traveling, stillborn twin of Jesus Christ), turns the album into their best in years.  Pike’s guitar is as snarlingly gorgeous as ever, but Ballou’s best contribution is making Des Kensel’s drums sound overwhelmingly large.  The songwriting is top-notch, caroming from firing-on-all-cylinders post-hardcore to the stoner doom for which Pike is held as legend (see below); while not entirely a return-to-form, as the band never really fell off, the album does rejuvenate their sound.

3) The Mountain Goats – Transcendental Youth

It’s virtually impossible to write anything new about The Mountain Goats albums; a writer as literate and aware as John Darnielle tends to inspire those that write about him to take up the challenge.  That said, there’s something about Transcendental Youth that makes even the prolific Darnielle seem like a cheapskate holding out on his listeners; in short, the album feels like there could have been at least thirty songs written for it, but the crew Goats distilled it to its essence.  Which is fine; the album is easily the band’s best since its now-decade-old(!) game-changer Tallahassee.  While all of the tMG trademarks are still there and intact, the refinement of the official lineup (Darnielle, Peter Hughes, Jon Wurster) has lent itself to a tightness of arrangement that makes this album a high water moment.

2) Death Grips – The Money Store

How Death Grips managed to get dropped by Epic in less than a year is hardly surprising (major labels tend to get angry when you give away what you can just as easily sell, after all); the real mystery is how the band, as viscerally non-commercial-sounding as bands get, got signed to the label in the first place.  The Money Store is a work of art treading dangerously in “classic” territory, uniting the unabashed noise-mongering of Atari Teenage Riot, Tricky’s abstract, art-rap lyricism and a bullhorn baritone delivery straight from the Chuck D playbook, only to throw it into a blender with post-2000s media overload.  The end result is as punk rock as it is hip hop, industrial, or metal.  And it’s amazing.

;

1) Cold Specks – I Predict A Graceful Expulsion

Compared to some of the other albums on this list, Cold Specks’ full-length was released this year to somewhat muted fanfare, despite appearances on Later With Jools Holland and the slew of award nominations that would follow.  Frontwoman Al Spx’s star continues to rise, however, as her music has already broken into the lucrative US licensing market (including a memorable use of the song “Lay Me Down” on the FX show Sons of Anarchy); Graceful Expulsion‘s sticking power comes partly from Spx’s charismatic voice and mostly from her gorgeous arrangements.  With healthy help from PJ Harvey producer Rob Ellis, the album is a constant stream of somber, moody, gorgeous stories, sometimes abstract, sometimes painfully clear.

ZERO’S LIST OF 100 GUITARISTS WHOSE ABILITIES HE APPRECIATES MORE THAN THAT OF JIMI HENDRIX, JIMMY PAGE, ERIC CLAPTON, AND ALL THE OTHER GUITARISTS EVERYONE FREAKS OUT OVER

Posted in best of lists, music with tags , on June 1, 2012 by darryl zero

I have ten guitarists I love above all others: 

1) Prince

2) Eddie Hazel

3) Chuck Berry

4) Ian Williams (Battles)

5) Tyondai Braxton

6) Vernon Reid

7) Dr. Know (Bad Brains)

8) Carlos Santana

9) Michael Hampton

10) Ben Verellen (Helms Alee)

and the rest, numbered only to keep place–I love them all in no real order

11) PJ Harvey

12) Kim Thayil (Soundgarden)

13) Marnie Stern

14) John Frusciante (whose music I actually don’t like, but the dude can play)

15) Mahavishnu John McLaughlin

16) Andreas Kisser (Sepultura)

17) Stephen Carpenter (Deftones)

18) Buckethead (possibly the only wank-virtuoso that will appear on this list)

19) Stevie Salas

20) Lindani Buthelezi (BLK JKS)

21) Tim Lash (Hum)

22) Dan O’Hara

23) Marc Ribot

24) Wes Borland (Limp Bizkit)

25) Buddy Miles

26) Vieux Farka Toure

27) John Vanderslice (dude never solos, but writes ridiculous riffs)

28) John Congleton (could possibly be the best guitarist on this list)

29) Che Arthur

30) Kevin Shields

31) Adam Franklin (Swervedriver)

32) Ian Thornley (Big Wreck)

33) Bob Mould

34) Matthew Ashman (Bow Wow Wow)

35) Unknown Hinson

36) Nicholas Sadler (Daughters)

37) Brian Molko (Placebo)

38) Billy Corgan

39) Ernie C (Body Count)

40) Jack White

41) Nils Frykdahl (Sleepytime Gorilla Museum)

42) Amanda Machina

43) Nile Rodgers

44) Lauren K. Newman

45) Terrica Kleinnecht

46) K.K. Null

47) Noel Gallagher (Oasis)

48) Dino Cazares

49) Eddy Grant

50) Sananda Maitreya (Terence Trent D’Arby)

51) Dean Ween

52) Ike Turner

53) Jimi Hazel (24-7-Spyz)

54) Steve Albini

55) Arto Lindsay

56) Max Cavalera

57) Crispin Gray (Daisy Chainsaw/Queen Adreena)

58) Kurt Ballou (Converge)

59) Justin Broadrick

60) Kyle Fischer (Rainer Maria)

61) Tony Iommi (yeah…sometimes everyone gets it right. early Black Sabbath is some of the greatest music ever written)

62) Paco de Lucia

63) Coley Dennis (Maserati)

64) Tom Reno (The Mercury Program)

65) Josh Homme

66) Eric Gales

67) David Pajo

68) Chris Carothers (Ativin)

69) Jon Fine (Bitch Magnet/Don Caballero/Coptic Light)

70) Shuggie Otis

71) Keziah Jones

72) Jimi Haha (Jimmie’s Chicken Shack)

73) Dave Holmes (Dub Trio)

74) Ernie Isley

75) Trevor de Brauw (Pelican)

76) Shaun Lopez (Far)

77) Jason Cropper (Weezer/Chopper One)

78) Wendy Melvoin

79) Micki Free (Shalamar)

80) Mick Thomson (Slipknot)

81) Dean DeLeo (Stone Temple Pilots)

82) Gary Shider (Funkadelic)

83) Aaron Turner (Isis)

84) DH Phillips (True Widow)

85) Frederik Thordendal (Meshuggah)

86) Uffe Cederlund (Entombed)

87) Alex Newport (Fudge Tunnel)

88) Gabriela Quintero (Rodrigo y Gabriela)

89) William DuVall (Comes With The Fall/Alice In Chains)

90) Jerry Cantrell

91) Cameron Greider

92) Adrian Utley

93) Elliot Sharp

94) Phil Elvrum

95) Takaakira Goto (Mono)

96) Amadou Bagayoko (Amadou & Mariam)

97) Daniel Ash (Bauhaus)

98) Manu Chao

99) Freddie Stone

100) Rocky George (Suicidal Tendencies/Fishbone)

and

101) John Congleton (because he’s so godly he has to appear on this list twice)

Darryl Zero’s Top Albums of 2011.

Posted in best of lists with tags , on December 28, 2011 by darryl zero

Darryl Zero’s Top Albums Of 2011

This year evaporated. For real. It seems like yesterday I was freaking out over the Yuck album—which is good, I suppose, in that it actually did have some sticking power.

I also suppose this is one year in which there isn’t really much of a surprise at what’s on the list. It’s completely fair if you dismiss this as the rantings of a complete homer—wrong, but certainly fair. Still, I can’t get past it—there weren’t really a lot of new artists that spoke to me, and a lot of familiar faces released solid albums (so much so that I relegate the PJ Harvey and TV On The Radio albums to Honorable Mention); furthermore, the Helms Alee album did deliver on the considerable promise of its predecessor, and to deny it that just because it’s the predictable pick would be doing a disservice to the album, the band and, well, my own opinions. That said, I want to impress upon everyone just how good the #2 albums really were. I spent weeks going back-and-forth between the two before making it a tie.

Anyway, without further preamble–

Honorable Mention:

Wizard Smoke – The Speed Of Smoke

TV On The Radio – Nine Types Of Light

PJ Harvey – Let England Shake

Witch Mountain – South Of Salem

Shohmo – Bad Vibes

Elzhi – Elmatic

Special Mention:

Praxis – Profanation: Preparation For A Coming Darkness

Before I continue with the list proper, I wanted to give props to an album that I wanted to include on this list, owing to the fact that it didn’t get a proper, non-import release in the U.S. until this year. Praxis’ Profanation was one of the band’s finer moments, a work of remarkable coherence and focus despite having a veritable laundry list of guest collaborators (everyone from System of a Down’s Serj Tankian to Mike Patton to frequent Tricky collaborator Hawkman and Ghostface Killah). Had the album not been properly released in Japan back in 2008 and on a limited basis during the same year, I couldn’t in conscience put it on the list—I had it slotted at #8 for a long time before finalizing the list as you see it. Profanation, according to Praxis driving force Bill Laswell, was the last Praxis album, a mind-blowing end to a nearly twenty-year project, and definitely an album to check out.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes:

10) Snowman – Absence

Snowman’s farewell release (they announced their break-up as Absence hit stores) isn’t as stark as their previous album (2008’s no wave-y The Horse, The Rat and The Swan), nor is it as atonal; in fact, there are many moments on the album that are almost sweet. “Hyena,” in particular, throbs along a two-chord progression with atmospheric vocals, jangly guitars, and primal drumming. The rest of the album alternates between a weird, Cocteau Twins-esque fogginess and Shellac-y post-punk punishment—call it “dream core,” if you will—coasting to a somewhat unresolved ending, much like the band’s too-short career.

9) Tombs – Path Of Totality

This popped up on my radar at the tail end of the year, but blew up my iPod to the point I had to toss it on. And yes, it’s on everybody’s end-of-year lists this year, but with good reason—it marries the ferocity of more extreme blends of metal (I hesitate to throw around the term “black metal” post-Liturgy, but it fits here) with the edgier breeds of progressive rock in a way that somehow doesn’t sound obnoxiously pretentious—or even like Mastodon, for that matter. Tombs doesn’t adorn their songs too much, which works in their favor–Path Of Totality bruises and bashes from opener “Black Hole Of Summer” to the final strains of “Angel Of Destruction.”

8) Omega Massif – Karpatia

German instru-metal titans Omega Massif specialize in the kind of glacial-paced crunch long-since abandoned by the likes of Pelican, Isis, and Kayo Dot—that is, they’re actually okay sticking with the awesome riff that catches your attention instead of changing things up every sixteen measures. This Mogwai-esque restraint seems to have disappeared from instrumental post-rock sometime since the mid-1990s—shit, not even Mogwai uses it anymore—to the point at which anyone who doesn’t create sixteen-minute song “suites” out of four separate fragments of unfinished songs (I’m looking at you, Explosions In the Sky) is a welcome relief. All that said–Karpatia is actually a damn fine album that finds the band stretching its muscles (they actually have a complete song under four minutes—not an interlude, an actual song) and growing in a way that doesn’t involve them tossing a bunch of unnecessary shit everywhere in an attempt to justify the “post” prefix in their genre.

7) John Vanderslice – White Wilderness

The first of two albums involving the pAper chAse frontman/ridiculously prolific-and-awesome-super-producer John Congleton (see #6), Vanderslice’s first album with a proper orchestra (Bay Area-based Magik*Magik Orchestra) actually sounds more tender and intimate than the albums that essentially consisted of only him and Scott Solter (who cedes his longtime Vanderslice producer role to Congleton, and appears elsewhere on this list—see, uh, #6 also). While it’d be easy to say White Wilderness because of Congleton’s ability to bring out the most expansive of qualities in any band he records, the truth is that it’s Vanderslice, despite his penchant for pushing himself to the background of his own recordings, who makes this album shine.

6) The Mountain Goats – All Eternals Deck

I won’t mince words: All Eternals Deck is the most arresting work The Mountain Goats have released since 2002’s paradigm-shifting Tallahassee. It could be argued, of course, that Eternals is just as much of a shift—although the sound and approach are somewhat similar to 2008’s Heretic Pride, it’s almost as if the band was sitting around one day and one person (probably bassist Peter Hughes, because he’s crazy like that) said “hey, wouldn’t it be awesome if we worked with Solter and Congleton on the new album?”, and then John Darnielle looked up from the game of dominoes he was playing with Suge Knight via Skype and got a stern look on his face for a few minutes before saying “Yo, yo, I can behind’at, but only if we work wit’ [Morbid Angel’s] Erik Rutan too, knaamean,” and Hughes and drummer Jon Wurster sighed because they knew it was just one of those things Darnielle does when he decides he wants to do something fucking awesome and they went and did all three things just because they’re the fucking Mountain Goats and can.

Oh, and the album kicks ass, by the way.

Curiously, in what seems like an unlikely turn of events (although Darnielle would probably say otherwise), it’s the Rutan-produced songs that end up working the best—especially “Beautiful Gas Mask” and “Birth Of Serpents” (the former being the album’s best track). The rest of the songs are just as solid, forming a surprisingly cohesive whole despite having been recorded in at least four different studios—but the Rutan-produced songs are just that much more transcendent, it leaves hope that the band works with him again.

5) Yuck – Yuck

Yuck was another band beginning to blow up at the end of 2010—their video for “Rubber,” with its full-frontal human and canine nudity, was almost enough to distract from how awesome the song itself was. Much has been written in more prestigious forums than mine about the band’s obvious 90s-revival sloppy post-punk style—with good reason, as their lack-of-fear of noise comes as a welcome respite from all the irritating, soulless, ball-less synth-crap, folk-crap, or epic-crap that seems to dominate independent music as if the 1990s (THE GREATEST FUCKING ERA IN THE HISTORY OF MUSIC) never happened in the first place—but the best aspect of the band isn’t their style, but their technique. The opening chords of “Get Away” display a band built around two incredibly talented guitarists—Max Bloom and Daniel Blumberg—whose songwriting benefits from the presence of a tight rhythm section. Drummer Jonny Rogoff, the band’s Jew-froed American, keeps the band’s arrangements bouncing along (with bassist Mariko Doi), while Bloom and Blumberg’s guitars play tag. Whether they’re playing gentle (“Shook Down” or “Suck”) or pulling out the noise-tricks (“Operation” and, especially, “Holing Out”), Yuck’s youthful energy (none of the band members are over 22) pulls their obvious influences into delightful new territory.

4) Björk – Biophilia

Full disclosure: after Volta, which was good-but-not-great, I’d resigned myself to the fact that Björk wasn’t going to release an album of the cultural and artistic significance of Homogenic (one of, if not the best albums of the 1990s). Biophilia isn’t as great as Homogenic–very few things are—but it’s definitely a step up from her somewhat-meandering post-Vespertine output. From the shrewdly understated opener “Moon” to the almost lo-fi-sounding closer “Solstice,” Björk wisely uses Biophilia to create a somewhat understated (at least by her grandiose standards) approach, wisely letting her music do the talking. Even fuller disclosure: I haven’t bothered with the iPad apps that apparently accompany every track on the album—and, because of how pleasantly coherent Biophilia is, I’m not even curious about them—the album is that solid. “Virus,” one of the album’s early singles, is one of Björk’s most arresting love songs in decades, and the warbling atmospherics of “Dark Matter” and “Hollow” allow the singer to flex her muscles as a songwriter more than her previous releases (which at time seemed more dominated by her desire to use her collaborators’ vision more than her own acumen) have in over a decade.

3) Atari Teenage Riot – Is This Hyperreal?

Atari Teenage Riot’s abrupt, unexpected return in 2010 couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. With punk little more than an oft-exploited cosplay scene, electronic music back in its club-centric, insular world, and a wave of wimpy hipsters riding the post-ironic 1980s nostalgia wave flooding record stores and independent music websites with the type of ball-less, indistinct synth-pop that inspired the band’s creation in the first place, frontman/braintrust Alec Empire clearly decided he’d had enough. Enlisting longtime collaborator Nic Endo and American MC CX Kidtronik, he kicked out the incendiary single “Activate” last year. Is This Hyperreal? followed in mid-2011, building upon the single’s promise and signaling the group’s proper return. As far as music goes, ATR’s formula is blunt, brash, harsh, and completely radio-unfriendly: riot beats, riot noise, riot sounds, and vicious leftist lyrics. Using the same gear used in the 1990s, Empire and Endo craft a shrieking soundscape with a surprising maturity in their approach, deftly softening the blow when necessary (check out the outro to “Shadow Identity” or the surprisingly low-key title track). Kidtronik brings more to the group than his “featuring” credits on Hyperreal suggest; his vocal turns (especially on album highlight “Codebreaker”) are not only a deft, welcome change-of-pace from Empire and Endo’s relentless shouting—they’re an important reminder that the group owes as much to Public Enemy as they do Public Image Ltd.

[Tie] 2) Oddisee – Rock Creek Park

DC-based Amir “Oddisee” Mohamed’s Rock Creek Park was treated much like a mixtape when it first appeared in early September (at least as far as hipsters were concerned), and with somewhat good reason: it’s a largely instrumental affair, largely a showcase for Mohamed’s skill behind the boards. Regardless of how you classify it, though, Rock Creek Park is an unqualified revelation, a perfect jolt of retro-inspired hip hop with a post-millenial spin, like DJ Shadow with more of a sense of focus and less of a fear of being pigeonholed. From the soulful styles on “The Carter Barron” and “Mattered Much” to the more funky “Uptown Cabaret” to the somber, pensive “Closed After Dark,” Rock Creek’s instrumentals are range from head-nodding to the kind you just have to stand up and say “damn” to. The vocal tracks are even more amazing, particularly “For Certain,” which takes “Closed After Dark” and adds some of the most emotionally arresting verses in recent memory. Oddisee apparently has another, proper album in the works; if it’s half as good as Rock Creek Park, it’ll be an album of the year contender next year for sure.

[Tie] 2) True Widow – As High As The Highest Heavens And From The Center To The Circumference Of The Earth

”Jackyl,” the first cut off the Texas band’s unwieldy-titled LP, begins with a slow, simple drum beat that slows down even more after two measures, setting the tone for the album before a single melodic note is played or sung. Indeed, As High As The Highest Heavens is as single-minded in its purpose as it is clever in its execution: it doesn’t affect the listener’s personal atmosphere so much as gather the listener up, wrap them in sound, transport them light-years away, blow them into millions of pieces and scatter the pieces around the cosmos. Singers Nicole Estill (bassist) and Dan Phillips (guitarist) trade lazy, ethereal vocals as their instruments thump and flutter; drummer Timothy Starks keeps the vastness of the band’s sonic space as centered as it can possibly be. The band’s self-classification as “stonegaze” couldn’t be more accurate; “Blooden Horse” and “Boaz” roar with metal grit as much as their vocals kiss and tease, and “Skull Eyes” and “Doomseer” dance through druggy, reverb-drenched hazes to annihilate the listener in paroxysms of almost-sexual intimacy.

1) Helms Alee – Weatherhead

“Predictable Zero,” you sigh wearily. It’d be easy to say you were right: I found Helms Alee’s Night Terror by accident in a record store and immediately shoved them to the top of my “favorite bands” list, eagerly awaiting a follow-up like little kids wait for Christmas. A couple of years passed, the band handling their day-to-day businesses and grown-up lives, and anticipation of the follow-up reached a point at which I declared it had damn well better be awesome.

And then Weatherhead came out, and it was even more awesome than I wanted it to be.

Broader in scope than Night Terror, heavier, more intricately melodic, and downright ambitious, Weatherhead manages to blend all of the band’s apparent influences into a blistering explosion of flowing, shimmering sound. From the delicate acoustic guitars of “Anemone Of The Wound” to the ferocious post-punk bite of “Ripper No Lube,” from the overdriven, Bob Mould-esque guitar strains of “Mad Mouth” to the germanium diode-crushing guitar stomp of “Pretty As Pie,” from the ethereal female vocals on “8/16” to guitarist Ben Verellen’s thunder-summoning roar later in the very same song, Weatherhead manages to go absolutely everywhere while still maintaining a coherent vision and distinct identity. That Helms Alee is not a band as wildly popular as Nirvana, Slayer, or Metallica is one of the world’s greatest injustices; hopefully, Weatherhead is just another stop for the band on their way to the top of the world.