Prince Rama – Top Ten Hits of the End of the World
For their latest release, Brooklyn duo Prince Rama invented 10 separate entities to sing pop songs to soundtrack the end of days. Prince Rama’s apocalyptic thing might be shticky, but it also serves to highlight how the Brooklyn duo’s second album represents the strongest statement yet of their inverted pop aesthetic. “Those Who Live for Love Will Live Forever” channels ’70s and ’80s schlock like “The Hussle” and “Physical” through an art-pop lens that ends with a tribal background and the girls shrieking “forever” until the floor falls beneath them. “No Way Back” resuscitates forgotten new wave pop groups like Shakespeare’s Sister and Strawberry Switchblade in its girlish pop ambition, but the sound of it finds kinship with outsider sounds like the lo-fi pop of Ariel Pink. The way Prince Rama blends simplicity, as on the bare-bones riffery “So Destroyed,” with otherness, as in that song’s exotic call and response, takes them farther than the album’s admittedly fun premise. Hopefully whoever or whatever finds Prince Rama’s Top Ten Hits of the End of the World jammed in someone’s tape deck after mankind is long gone thinks we were pretty cool ’cause of it.
NON – Back To Mono
Boyd Rice’s latest release as NON continues the experimental artist’s streak of highly experimental noise compositions, marked by drone, distortion and looping noise into infinity. Rice pull off the rock ‘n’ roll joke of naming his album Back to Mono, after the classic Phil Spector compilation, and giving his song titles tongue-in-cheek names like “Watusi” and “Turns Me On Dead Man,” a play off a misheard Beatles lyric. In reality, “Turns Me On Dead Man” is as playful and lively as its title would suggest, taking an indeed Phil Spector-ish backdrop of reverb-laden 12 bar blues and overlaying metallic noise that ebbs and flows over the lush backdrop, sometimes overtaking it, sometimes stepping back. In contrast, the punishing title track sounds a bit like early Jesus and Mary Chain, a band who also played with Spector-era rock ‘n’ roll convention, but takes out the sugary melodies (or any melody at all) as well as any variation — it’s pure distorted drone. Rice’s history as a member of the Church of Satan comes into play in the Anton LaVey-ish “Seven Sermons to the Dead,” combining piercing noise with organ drone and what sounds like an angry mob buried in the background, yelling incomprehensibly while another muffled voice comes in partway through delivering some unearthly sermon. Similarly terrific (in the truest sense of the word) is “Scream,” which calls to mind the near-end sequence of any number off horror films with its maddening loops and occasional disembodied wail — terrifying in concept, yet strangely serene in execution, given its repetition and often dissolution into white noise. Whatever you may think of Rice’s beliefs, his adherence to them musically is something to behold, and the bizarre, often harsh sounds of Back to Mono can be breathtaking when you submit to them.
Isis - Temporal
LP $32.98 [OUT 11/19]
A band whose unique metal/post-rock fusion was so immaculately constructed as Isis’ deserves a follow-up after that band breaks up. Thus we have Temporal, which delivers a batch of demos, remixes and other songs from the band’s career that is of interest not only to completists, but to anyone who is a fan of the band or is curious about them for the first time. A less bass-heavy and rawer version of Wavering Radiant’s closer “Threshold of Transformation” starts the set on a fierce note, balancing its combustibility with a gorgeous instrumental portion. The band’s instrumental chops are on fine display as well on an alternate demo of “Ghost Key,” eliminating Aaron Turner’s razor-lined vocals and allowing the focus to be on the band’s proggy buildup and evolution of structure. The demos nicely add some rawness to Isis’ densely layered songs, capturing the visceral impact of the vocals on “Carry,” for instance. A cover of Black Sabbath’s “Hand of Doom” lets the band have a bit of fun, while a booming remix of “Not in Rivers, But in Drops” by the Melvins and Lustmord adds some variation. As the fluttering instrumental title track shows, Isis had plenty of nuance to their sound, and across Temporal we get a sense of how Isis arrived there with this stunning conclusion to their career.
Lindstrom - Smalhans
Lindstrom records sound like the best party you’ve ever been to, impossibly sleek yet as much fun as a backyard rager. From the outset, Smalhans is both lean and muscular while still emitting an exotic, luxurious glow, coming on strong with “Ra-ako-st’s” hard bass and gleaming synthesizers. It doesn’t let up from there across its six tracks, the beats kicking your ass on songs like “Eg-ged-osis,” graduating its dancefloor thrills with a highwire climax before kicking back into gear for a danceable finish. He seems to have listened to his critics from his last album, this year’s muddled Six Cups of Rebel, and eased off on some of the clutter and ditching the singing, giving much-needed space for songs like “Vos-sako-rv” to wriggle into your heart. Smalhans is a great entry point, too, for those new to Lindstrom, as its no-filler approach makes it a winner all-around.
Graveyard - Lights Out
LP $19.98 [OUT 11/19]
Swedish rock inspired by gothic-leaning classic rock. The rawness of tracks like “Goliath” helps Graveyard break through the soil with heavy blues riffs and Joakim Nilsson’s growling (yet still soulful) vocals singing funny, accented lines like “the world is full of snakes whispering in your ear!” that more conservative native-tongued bands would never let themselves utter.
While some argue over who has best played James Bond (really people, you didn’t want Daniel Craig?), film soundtrack fans can now argue over the latest composer to score the Bond series: Thomas Newman, who becomes the ninth person to soundtrack a Bond film. His soundtrack to “Skyfall” is appropriately tense yet spacious, recalling some of the electronic dread of Trent Reznor’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo soundtrack while retaining the strings that are a hallmark of the Bond series and flirting with Eastern tones befitting of the film’s Turkish and Chinese backdrops. Newman, working with director Sam Mendes, as he did on the soundtracks for American Beauty, Road to Perdition, Jarhead and Revolutionary Road, is in fine form here, building tension over time, subtly interjecting the original James Bond theme into “Brave New World” and then taking it over with a grand crescendo marked by Eastern strings and clicking percussion. He also lets loose when the time is right, as on the riveting second half of “Quartermaster,” making the Skyfall soundtrack a dynamic listen with or without the film. It should be noted that the soundtrack unfortunately does not include Adele’s Shirley Bassey-vibing theme song “Skyfall,” though it does include an instrumental interpolation of the song by Adele and Paul Epworth, while the radio version will be released as a physical single in the U.S. the same day as the soundtrack.
Andy Stott – Luxury Problems
LP $29.98 [released 10/18]
UK dub techno artist Andy Stott pairs beauty and bleakness on his latest release, Luxury Problems. The female vocals that float around a track like “Numb” seem as angelic as they do struggling to stay afloat atop of one another as deep bass keeps everything submerged. That bass gets even murkier on songs like “Sleepless,” its repetition and disembodied vocal samples truly replicating an insomniac’s nightmare state.
Emeralds – Just to Feel Anything
Emeralds’ stunning new album wraps its listeners in mechanical comforts and post-rock mystery, popping harder than their breakthrough release, Does it Look Like I’m Here? Beefier guitars mark songs like “Adrenochrome” and “Everything is Inverted,” adding Regan-era guitar solos to the band’s analog-synth soundscapes, while “Before Your Eyes,” similarly to the latest M83 record, recycles ’80s tropes into a huge wash of sound.
Kylie Minogue – The Abbey Road Sessions
An orchestral reworking of Minogue’s oeuvre, recorded at London’s Abbey Road Studios and featuring the new song “Flower.”