Algiers’ sophomore album, “The Underside of Power,” displays the same wide array of genres that they spanned on their self-titled debut but this time around with an even greater cohesion. Gospel, post-punk, goth rock, electronic and even drone all make their way into the mix and while on paper it may not make sense the second you put on the opening track “Walk Like A Panther” it all clicks. The most notable change in their sound is one from organic to synthetic. While neither sound is absent on either record the debut featured prominent sounds of stomping and wailing guitars and “The Underside of Power” is full of drum machines and synthesizers. It’s still too early to tell which sound I prefer but the execution of each is nearly flawless.
The most unexpected addition to Algiers’ music is strong hooks. The chorus of the title track isn’t simply a chorus but a rallying cry and it contends with even this year’s pop greats for the catchiest chorus of the year. I could go on all day about why I admire each track like the shot-in-the-arm “Animals” or the haunting piano-led “Mme Rieux” but Algiers are one of the few acts out there with a truly individual sound that should be first experienced with little to no expectation to save its full effect. So I’ll simply plead up to listen to this album. Even if it is not your thing it will be hard not to respect Algiers for their sheer originality. [Thomas Coogan]
Recommended if you like: Protomartyr, Savages, Pop. 1280
Listen to: “The Underside of Power”
Quintessential of the Beach Fossils’ soft-spoken lyrics and melodies, their new album, “Somersault,” does not disappoint as a perfect summer soundtrack.
Beach Fossils, an indie rock band based out of Brooklyn, New York, came together in 2009 and debuted their first album, “Beach Fossils,” in 2010. “Somersault,” similar to “Beach Fossils,” is full of feel good songs, with subtle drums and smooth guitar instrumental interludes. The third track on “Somersault,” titled “Saint Ivy,” features a catchy synthesizer riff chorus and surprise flute solo, showcasing the versatility of the Beach Fossils.
The first song on the new album is fittingly titled “This Year.” With what appears to be a self-reflection on relationships and promises that have been made, the lyrics are relatable to anyone who struggles with both. The melody is nostalgic, making the song all the more fitting for a contemplation on one’s year.
“Rise,” the short rapping piece featuring rapper Cities Aviv and set to saxophone, is an unexpected yet enjoyable insert in the album “Somersault.” With profound lyrics–“You put me in a place somewhere between here/ There and the true and living”–the rap excerpt is perfect for a midsummer existential crisis.
Similar to the first song on “Somersault,” the final song is appropriately titled, “That’s All for Now.” The Beach Fossils leave us with some lyrical summer motivation to “Keep moving on,” making for the perfect end to the album. [Aleeza Zinn]
Recommended if you like: Wild Nothing, Dustin Payseur, The Growlers
Listen to: “Tangerine”
“Murder of the Universe” comes hot on the heels of King Gizzard’s most recent album, “Flying Microtonal Banana,” which was released earlier this year. It is the second of four or five albums that the band plans on putting out this year.
King Gizzard have quickly developed a highly dedicated fan base in the past several years. Apart from the high frequency of full-length releases, the band has also gained attention for the complexity of their music and the wide variety of styles employed across their discography, drawing inspiration from such eclectic sources as (Thee) Oh Sees, spaghetti westerns and acoustic folk. More recently, they have garnered excitement for releasing albums (“I’m In Your Mind Fuzz,” “Nonagon Infinity”) that contribute to what fans call the “Gizzverse” – an interconnected narrative universe that most or all of the songs on these albums take place in.
“Universe” seems to be the album most focused on the Gizzverse yet, with extensive narration provided by Leah Senior and a robotic voice that tells three distinct stories as the album progresses. These three sections give the album a very progressive feel and for the most part, it works. The stories are interesting and very influenced by fantasy and sci-fi storytelling. However, the narration is at times overdone. The frequency of it tends to take away from the music being played at the time, which is unfortunate coming from a band as instrumentally focused as King Gizzard.
That isn’t to say that it never works, though. Part 3 – Han-Tyumi and the Murder of the Universe – is particularly well put together, with the instrumental expertly underscoring the inhuman storytelling. There are other things that are attractive about the album as well, such as searing guitars and an increased focus on atmospheric synthesizers.
Overall, this album will likely be most exciting for already die-hard King Gizzard fans who know a thing or two about the band’s previous output. It’s still worth checking out – it will certainly be one of the most interesting releases 2017 has to offer. [Patrick Larsen]
Recommended if you like: (Thee) Oh Sees, Ty Segall, J.R.R. Tolkien
Listen to: “The Lord of Lightning”
Upon first hearing of ’68 in May, I quickly found that many fans liked the rock duo because of its relation to the now-disbanded metalcore act The Chariot. The band’s sophomore effort, “Two Parts Viper,” was released on June 2nd, and has quickly become a summery favorite of mine. Fans of The Chariot and unrelated groups alike will find the record to be a very satisfactory mix of aggressive vocals and abrasive instrumentation that stands out from the band’s contemporaries in the hardcore scene.
What stood out the most to me while listening to “Two Parts Viper” was the range of delivery techniques used by guitarist and vocalist Josh Scogin. On tracks like opener “Eventually We All Win” and “Whether Terrified Or Unafraid,” Scogin shouts over verses and hooks in an equally vigorous manner. On the closing track “What More Can I Say,” he sounds like he’s about to burst into tears, similar to Corey Taylor on Slipknot’s self-titled debut. Rolling folk-rock tunes and melancholic ballads like “Without Any Words (Only Crying And Laughter)” and “No Montage” see Scogin sing very emotionally, as it’s very easy to hear the inflections in his voice. In “The Workers Are Few,” one of my favorite tracks on the album, it’s tough to tell whether Scogin is singing or shouting, or somewhere in between. Overall, the variety of techniques that Scogin uses quickly pulled me in and made me question the what next song would hold.
Beyond what Scogin produced with his voice, ’68 and producer Matt Goldman have created a corrosive, grungy sound that omits the use of aggressive tempos and clean-unclean dynamics that other hardcore-rooted bands like Defeater or Every Time I Die rely on. Scogin frequently sounds like his voice is being recorded through a PA system your grade school might have had, while being forced up right against the mic. Drummer Michael McClellan goes from playing catchy blast beats to nothing at all, and further disorients the listener with off-time fills and transitions. Audio samples and electronic effects are used very liberally throughout the record, and often without any rhythmic backing. Aside from Scogin’s being a founder of The Chariot, this chaotic and confusing sound may be one of the closest ties between his two bands.
Having not listened to ’68 nor The Chariot before this record, the 32-minute onslaught that is “Two Parts Viper” hooked me and has me anxiously awaiting the duo’s next stateside tour. Fans of groups like Every Time I Die, Underoath and The Devil Wears Prada will find the album’s vocals to be very familiar-sounding, but they will also quickly realize that the underlying sound distinguishes ’68 from those artists. [John Carroll]
Recommended if you like: The Chariot, Defeater, Every Time I Die
Listen to: “No Montage”
Be sure to check out our Best of June Spotify Playlist which features all of these artists and many more!