The Thomas Top Five: 10/3/16
After much deliberation, the Thomas Top Five is now permanently a weekly roundup of five 2016 releases, presented alphabetically by artist, that our Editor-in-Chief recommends.
AJJ – THE BIBLE 2
Genre: Indie Rock
Favorite Tracks: “Cody’s Theme,” “American Garbage,” “White Worms,” “Small Red Boy”
I missed the PEOPLE THAT CAN EAT PEOPLE… zeitgeist by a smidge, so I don’t hold the early days of Andrew Jackson Jihad quite as dear as many others, but I know enough to emphatically proclaim 2014’s CHRISTMAS ISLAND a big, fat turd. However, it was certainly a clear break from the band’s early roots in folk punk, and with the official name change to AJJ, it would appear as if Sean Bonnette and company are more than ready to expand their sound and appeal, perhaps alienating their old fan base in the process. THE BIBLE 2 is AJJ doing indie rock, pure and unfiltered, and while it may be less distinctive than their early releases, by all accounts there’s enough of the old sardonic spark to keep the ship afloat. Sure, there may now be lyrics about Shoshanna from GIRLS instead of toppling God and government (“American Garbage”) and piano ballads instead of the chummy acoustic strums of their early records (“No More Shame, No More Fear, No More Dread”), but there’s a clear sense of comfort here that proves that this is where the band needed to end up. This is bright, choppy indie with a kiss of the nonsensical whimsy of Modest Mouse, and I, for one, prefer that over the edgy dissatisfaction of the legions of pimply atheists that put them into prominence.
Head Wound City – A NEW WAVE OF VIOLENCE
Genre: Noisecore, Hardcore Punk
Favorite Tracks: “I Wanna Be Your Original Sin,” “Closed Casket,” “Palace of Love and Hate,” “Avalanche in Heaven”
Formed as a presumed one-off “supergroup” between members of the Blood Brothers, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and the Locust, Head Wound City released a 10-minute EP 11 years ago, became critical darlings, and were never heard from again…until A NEW WAVE OF VIOLENCE. Returning for a proper full-length, this time around Head Wound City make a much more distinct artistic statement, sticking around for 24 minutes of noisy hardcore with just a touch of maturity in terms of classical punk structure and songwriting (“I Cast a Shadow for You”). The grindcore-wary will be happy to know that the members from the Locust stick to bass and drums, merely ensuring a clinically tight rhythm section when Head Wound City deems it fit to unleash the hounds. The Blood Brothers end up being the most clear progenitor of Head Wound City’s, adding the shifting time signatures and high-pitched caterwauling of the parent group’s suped-up At the Drive-In sound, but there is a chord-heavy temperance here that clearly comes from Nick Zinner’s work with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. All in all, A NEW WAVE OF VIOLENCE is short, angry, and loud, and belongs on anyone’s shopping list of modern hardcore punk.
Machinedrum – HUMAN ENERGY
Favorite Tracks: “Morphogene (featuring Ruckazoid),” “Angel Speak (featuring Melo-X),” “Tell U (featuring Rochelle Jordan),” “Isometrix,” “Colour Communicator”
Despite being a decidedly more “mainstream” attempt this time around, Machinedrum weathers the sea change and continues to impress! The most readily identifiable artist working in the footwork genre, HUMAN ENERGY is a far cry from the smoky, late-night streets of VAPOR CITY, instead taking a page from the color palette of its cover and offering up a bright, bubbling 42 minutes of ass-shaking electronic music chock full of references to bubblegum bass and the wonky of Iglooghost. Yes, this is Machinedrum operating in the realm of the festival friendly, but if anything, that demonstrates a skillful chameleonic ability to expand his artistic reach outside of the dank, claustrophobic recesses of the electronic music blogosphere. Expect to hear lots of candy-coated vocal chops and shimmering tropical house mirages, but still paired with the hyperkinetic percussion pummelling that made Machinedrum the beloved figure that he is (“Isometrix”). This feels like Machinedrum’s moment in the sun, and by God, I think he’s earned it.
Money – SUICIDE SONGS
Genre: Chamber Pop
Favorite Tracks: “I Am the Lord,” “You Look Like a Sad Painting on Both Sides of the Sky,” “Hopeless World,” “I’ll Be the Night”
If there’s one thing to say about SUICIDE SONGS, it’s that it’s nothing like you’d expect. Considering the pre-coded implications and conclusions of such a buzz-worthy title, the music itself would have to surprise for the record to land, and I can guarantee you that anyone without previous knowledge of Manchester trio Money would have never seen precocious chamber pop and folk coming. What is most impressive is the fact that melodrama only manifests itself in the song titles; for the most part, Money elects to blend the introspective and somber lyrics of Jamie Lee with a varied collection of orchestral, mid-tempo songs that bring us to the peaks and valleys demanded by Lee’s melancholic exploration of human emotion. With drone-oriented sensibilities and the regular incorporations of lead melodies that toe the fine line of offering hope and optimism, SUICIDE SONGS hits upon a unique tone that acknowledges the travesties of existence but manages to recognize the beauty of it all the same.
N-prolenta – A LOVE STORY 4 @DEEZIUS, NEO, CHUK, E, MILKLEAVES, ANGEL, ISIS, + EVERY1ELSE… AND MOST OF ALL MY DAMN SELF
Favorite Tracks: “Rush (a humor),” “Query As Prayer,” “SCREAM PA MI (for @deezius and kola)”
I’ve heard a lot of music in my day, so when something comes along that I literally have no idea how to process, you best believe that I pay attention. You can check out TinyMixTape’s Foucault and Chamayou-citing dissertation on this record’s exploration of biopolitics that I wish I’d written, but I’ll give it to you straight. This is a kind of uncertain, ominous, and metonymic record that can only be considered as intensely personal, because it gives the listener so many chances to prescribe their own meanings and interpretations onto it. Key words with which to approach A LOVE STORY… are “disjointed” and “fragmented”; there is a sense of death and violence here, as seemingly disparate snippets and whispers of a staggering variety of ideas and emotions are held together by a liminal connective tissue of sound collage, glitch, drone, and noise. However, this liminality is exactly what makes the record so valuable, as it exists in a graveyard of race, sexuality, and identity that is intensely relevant to the modern social climate. However you end up interpreting A LOVE STORY…, this is music that will unsettle, disturb, and engender dialogue and conversation, and if that’s not a noble aim for music to achieve, than I don’t know what is.