Record #355: Comrades – Lone/Grey (2016)

A few months ago, my good friend Pat from Analecta, who also runs a venue in town (and plays in my ska band), nearly demanded that I go see Comrades, other friends of his that he’d toured with. If I remember right, I almost missed that show, but man, am I glad I didn’t, because sleeping on these guys is a mistake. 
With vocals split between drummer Ben Trussell’s hardcore shouting (with a couple clean vocal lines thrown in) and bassist Laura McElroy’s angelic alto, and guitarist Joe McElroy spending half of his time in ambient post rock passages and the other half riffing metallic, Lone/Grey is an album that gets its strength from contrasts. Most notably, subdued, atmospheric post rock and, and this is no joke, middle ‘00s metalcore. This is an album that reappropriates the best parts of the over-the-top xcorex scene (breakdowns are back, you guys) into a strong work that is consistently powerful.

If you’ll excuse me, I have to track down a copy of their previous album, Safekeeper, also.

Record #354: The Association – Greatest Hits (1968)

Despite revisionist history, the Beatles didn’t completely dominate 1960s pop music. Their influence had an undeniably long arm, but certain parts of California were too far for them to grasp. The Association, for example, seems to exist in an alternate universe where the British Invasion never happened and the Beach Boys took on the Beatles’ mantel as Biggest Band in the World. 
Which isn’t to say the Association is just a Pet Sounds-alike at all. Rather, they are a respectable contemporary, like The Who to the Beatles. This compilation is woven with beautiful sunshine pop colors like melodic bass lines, warm swells of strings, bright guitars, and, of course, enormous vocal harmonies. For someone who often yearns for more chamber pop as beautiful as the Zombies’ Odessey and Oracle, this pick out of a curbed collection is a godsend. 

Record #353: Bruce Hornsby and the Range – The Way It Is (1986)

By this point in history, we should all know that genre classifications are by no means a precise art, and that every artist’s work is an amalgam of often disparate inspirations and that compartrmentalizing music is often pointless and sometimes even dangerous. For instance: I have completely ignored Bruce Hornsby most of my life (I was unaware of what the song was Pierce ripped off for his Greendale anthem), until some Pitchfork article brought up his influence on indie darling Justin Vernon of Bon Iver.
 
Record scratch.
So I went back and dug into his work, and let me tell you. When I set aside the “cheesy, Middle of the Road 80s soft rock” label, this album is rich. Hornsby effortlessly pairs interesting jazz chords with heartland rock, which is all wrapped up in a gauzy layer of soft synthesizers. While the most affecting tracks are certainly the title track and “Mandolin Rain,” there’s not a bad track on here. Call it dated if you must, but this album is excellent.

​Especially for a debut.

Record #352: Alcest – Kodama (2016)

kodama

French Blackgaze pioneers Alcest have been mixing their black metal with generous helpings of shoegaze and post rock since before Deafheaven was even a twinkly in George and Kerry’s eyes…
2012′s Les Voyages de L’Ame was an absolute masterpiece that blended the most emotive elements of each palette into one hard hitting work.

​2014′s Shelter, however, seemed content to glide along in shoegaze territory without shifting gears very often. It was a decent album, but the lack of teeth was a little bit of a disappointment. After all–can you really call it blackgaze if there’s nothing black metal about it?

“Mais non!” said Alcest, unleashing upon us Kodama, a concept album based on the works of Hayao Miyazaki (so they say–the lyrics are in French so I can’t verify. That is, when the lyrics aren’t Sigur Ros style ad libs).

And it. is. heavy.

From the opening strains, Kodama plants its feet firmly on the bedrock and refuses to give way. Don’t go in expecting all double bass and chugged guitars–there’s still plenty of post rock prettiness and clean vocals. But its heft is often more emotional than dynamic, relying more on the strength of its composition and atmosphere than just playing fast and loud.

But for all of this, its forty-two minutes seem to fly by in a breeze, demanding repeat listens (a quality even Les Voyages lacked). And it will certainly get those from me.