Album Picks: Michael Vidal, Jenny Hval, Damaged Bug, No Joy

Posted by Billy Gil, June 9, 2015 10:48am | Post a Comment

Michael VidalDream Center

Layers of heavily effected guitar hang loosely as a faded tapestry behind Michael Vidal’s pensive croon on his first release as a solo artist. Formerly the frontman for L.A.’s great tropical-punks-turned-darkwavers Abe Vigoda, Vidal is a modern-day goth romantic with his deep voice and yearning lyrics, the gleaming guitar lines and gently pulsing beat of “Dreams (Come Back to Me)” calling to mind bands like Cocteau Twins and The Durutti Column. “Burn” is the emotional centerpiece, as Vidal’s sensitive lyricism pours over looped arpeggiated guitars on a track that recalls the best of The Cure or Adore-era Smashing Pumpkins. Drizzling instrumental “Mono No Aware” moves into the percolating guitars of “Appraisal,” while “Sky Blue” takes that mechanically layered guitar and gives it a regal flair, evoking its namesake somehow both scientifically and dreamily. The album closes on a wash of guitars so hazily rendered they could to float away. At just seven songs, the album manages to leave its mark, a heavenly set of songs for nostalgic dreamers.


Jenny HvalApocalypse, girl

Norwegian artist Jenny Hval’s peculiar sound world incorporates spoken-word performance, of disjointed observations and sexually exploration, and an unpredictable singing voice, at times softly melodic, other times creepily singing about “shaving in all the right places” over cerebral pieces built on musique concrete and classic goth-rock. Listening feels like stepping into a darkened room and following a pinhole’s light. You’re unsure of what you’ll find, yet you’re oddly compelled to move forward through songs that feel more like dream-logic scenarios in which borders are unrecognized. Some echoes of Broadcast, Laurie Anderson, Bjork and Kate Bush poke through, but Hval, schooled in gothic metal, writing and performance, has a solitary perspective that can’t truly be forced into traditional influences. More accessible tracks like the loose, organ-driven “The Battle Is Over” give way to avant-garde sound pieces like “White Underground,” built on layers of ascending vocals and wails and synth drones that emit horror movie vibes. Hval skillfully keeps things tied together and swinging back and forth between the esoteric and tangible, moving back toward the latter for the French Pop-inspired “Heaven” and soulful wonderland of “Why This.” Hval’s ability to transmute her dreams and internalized feelings into pop-distorting pieces is a rare thing, giving Apocalypse, girl the thrilling feel of discovering the obscured.


Damaged BugCold Hot Plumbs

John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees’ Damaged Bug project can hardly be called a side gig after hearing Cold Hot Plumbs. He brings the same anxious glam sensibility from his other band to songs like “The Mirror,” which vintage synths whirring and beeping in place of guitar squalls. Melodic and proggy tunes like “Der Mond,” the robo-rock of “The Frog,” Silver Apples-ish “Very” and the synthedelia of “Jet in Jungle” give the album fine variety, while interstitial tracks have the feel of ’70s science video soundtracks. As with Thee Oh Sees, Dwyer’s work has an effortless, tossed-off feel that belies how well-made the songs are, as though written perfectly in the first go. It’s a curious place that Damaged Bug occupies; follow Dwyer down the rabbit hole and you’ll be rewarded.


No Joy More Faithful

No Joy engage in more voluminous shoegaze noise and shy melodicism on their third album. While second album, Wait to Pleasure, took a couple of stabs at dream pop with drum machines of the Cocteau variety, true to its title, More Faithful is a return to the pure sonics of the band’s first album, Ghost Blonde. Jasamine White-Gluz and Laura Lloyd lacquer on the noise and punk beats for tracks like “Corpo Daemon,” but their breathy harmonies come through lush tunes like “Judith” and “Moon in my Mouth.” For those of us who can’t get enough of this stuff, More Faithful is a worthy entry into the shoegaze canon.


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Album Picks (146), Michael Vidal (4), Jenny Hval (1), Damaged Bug (5), No Joy (2)