The Thomas Top Five: 9/26/16
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.
Algae Bloom – I AM EVERYONE I’VE EVER MET
Favorite Tracks: “Safer Scene,” “untitled,” “(；⌣̀_⌣́)”
Alright kiddos, buckle up, it’s time to sit on yer Uncle Tom’s lap and hear once again about emo and screamo! Let’s take the easy way out this time around and assume that after months of keeping up with Crossfader, you now know what those words mean. So how does I AM EVERYONE I’VE EVER MET differentiate itself? What I find most appealing about this release is how comparatively high the production value is, with each note of Matt’s guitar loud, proud, and crystal clear. On that note, Algae Bloom take the interesting route of rarely, if ever, electing to use distortion in the instrumentation, coming across as a far more emotionally evocative descendant of Foxing in the process. While, as forever and always, screamed vocals won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, the twinkle of the compositions are so appealing and accessible that I like to imagine a world where that alone isn’t grounds for dismissal. Besides, as far as screamo goes, the vocals are among the more mature examples I’ve come across, never screeching (except for perhaps on the Jerome’s Dream-esque closer) and occasionally just intelligible enough for the lyrics about the band’s “greatest personal failures” to resonate. You can listen to it here.
Christian Fennesz & Jim O’Rourke – IT’S HARD FOR ME TO SAY I’M SORRY
Favorite Tracks: “I Just Want You to Stay”
Everyone who’s a faux-intellectual fussypants on the internet was hyphy for this one, and if you consider yourself a member of their rank, it’s easy to see why! Christian Fennesz (more popularly known as Fennesz) and Jim O’Rourke have long been two of experimental and avant-garde music’s most restless voices, with innumerable solo releases, guest spots, and collaborations across their long and storied careers. Their third collaboration together sees them aim mostly for traditional ambient appeal, with two long-form, slowly-but-consistently evolving embraces of sustained chords, sea-like washes of noise, and Fennesz’s touches of glitch. It’s nice to see O’Rourke step away from the abrasive noise-based work he’s been doing in Japan the past few years, and Fennesz’s decaying sonic palettes recall the golden days of 2001’s ENDLESS SUMMER. With a heavily improvisatory sense carried over from their younger, wilder days, IT’S HARD FOR ME TO SAY I’M SORRY is a pleasant reminiscence between two old friends.
Jameszoo – FOOL
Genre: Free Improvisation, Nu-Jazz
Favorite Tracks: “Soup,” “Flu (featuring Arthur Verocai),” “The Zoo (featuring Steve Zuhn),” “Meat”
While certainly not a particularly calm or collected musical statement, Jameszoo’s FOOL represents a bold move on Brainfeeder’s part, a daring combination of the unstructured energy of free improvisation and the late night, recreational nature of nu-jazz. It is this dichotomy of the unpleasant and soothing that ultimately carries the release, as FOOL only makes use of the most schizophrenic and frenetic sense of structure over its 43-minute runtime. Yet, there is a certain charm to it, as there’s a tangible sense of fun and goofiness here that elevates it above its occasional forays into sheer wankery. The two obvious highlights are when Jameszoo’s stream-of-consciousness composition is pared by another creative presence, but if there’s anything to say about FOOL, it’s that it remains entirely unpredictable throughout, and that’s a quality that becomes rarer by the day.
Lost Under Heaven – SPIRITUAL SONGS FOR LOVERS TO SING
Genre: Art Pop, Indietronica
Favorite Tracks: “Unites,” “Loyalty,” “The Great Longing”
I don’t think it’s any secret that the Thomas Top Five can be a bit…particular. So I’m going to give you a record that I may have not found personally engaging, but that I could and would easily recommend to the average passersby. Taking the theatrical passion and grit of Future Islands’s Samuel T. Herring and giving it the festival indietronica treatment of Tycho, SPIRITUAL SONGS FOR LOVERS TO SING isn’t the record to show your blog-lovin’ liberal arts major, but is a worthy next step after one grows tired of XM indie. The balance of the vocal styles keeps things from becoming too self-indulgent and brow-beaten, and the production does a great job of referencing a varied Rolodex of main-tent sounds from Outside Lands. With earnest attempts at more organic balladry popping up later in the runtime, SPIRITUAL SONGS FOR LOVERS TO SING is music to listen to while drinking a beer in the daytime and holding the hand of a Local Natives fan. There are probably worse things in life.
$uicideboy$ – ETERNAL GREY
Genre: Hardcore Hip Hop
Favorite Tracks: “BREAKDALAW2K16 (featuring Pouya),” “Chariot of Fire,” “Ultimate Suicide (featuring Denzel Curry)”
They’ve popped up here and there on Crossfader before, but if you’re just tuning in, $uicideboy$ are currently one of the most prolific voices in underground hip hop, in both the productive and aesthetic sense. As careful viewers will notice from the cover, in many respects, they’ve stepped up to fill the hole of memphis redux as left by Lil Ugly Mane, turning in brooding, cavernous production, themes of alienation, anger, and depression, and just a touch of the occult to boot. But ETERNAL GREY finally sees Oddy Nuff da Snow Leopard and DJ Scrim throw some wrenches in the creative gears, to mixed but artistically motivated results. In what I’m hereby terming “fuckboi rap,” innovation is few and far between, and elements of ETERNAL GREY such as the dancehall delivery on “Eclipse,” the tortured screams bordering on crunkcore that regularly rear their heads, and strange little stabs of pop rap hook delivery (“Elysian Fields,” “Leave Your Things Behind II”) finally see $uicideboy$ break the mold. Although this certainly isn’t their most traditionally enjoyable release, this is the first time I’m willing to consider them as paradigm shifters.