What Heavy is Really Listening To Playlist Swap

Even a cursory glance of our biweekly “What Heavy Blog Is Really Listening To” posts will reveal that there is a great deal of variety among our staff’s musical tastes. Due to this, we brainstormed the idea of “Playlist Swap,” another biweekly segment that takes place between playlist updates. We randomly select two of the participants from each update, have them pick their favorite track from each of the nine albums in their grid and then send the list over to the other person to listen to and comment on. Within these commentaries occurs praise, criticism and discovery, and we hope that you experience a few instances of this last point as well. This time, we’ve got staff writer and death metal sommelier Jonathan Adams in one corner, and content editor and resident sludge-lord Simon Handmaker in the other.

Jonathan’s Grid and Simon’s Comments

Simon: Funnily enough, the only song out of nine from Jonathan I didn’t like is one of the two metal tracks here, and I’m completely fine with that: I’ve been looking a lot to expand my tastes outside the heavy stuff, so getting a chance to dig my teeth into the lighter side of music here was fantastic. Besides Loss, I really did enjoy everything here a lot, which I’m not surprised by, since Jonathan has great taste both in and outside metal. I always love Playlist Swaps because of the new stuff I get to hear, and this was no different. Barring the always-present chance that I will forget to add stuff here to my later listening list (which has been growing exponentially recently as we move into summer), I can definitely see some of the stuff on here being some of my go-to records for the second half of 2017. Although where Jonathan and I tend to connect is our shared love of Incantation-worshiping modern death metal a la stuff like Heresiarch and Blood Incantation, I’m happy to connect over stuff here like Perfume Genius and The Mountain Goats as well.

The Mountain Goats – Goths – “Andrew Eldritch is Moving Back to Leeds”

Jonathan: Goths is, in my most utterly objective and obviously infallible opinion, one of The Mountain Goats’ best records in quite some time. This song in particular is a beautiful melting pot of essentially everything the band does well: odd incongruity between the darkness of the lyrics and cheeriness of the music, a heavy amount of relatable nostalgia, catchy melodies, and Darnielle’s amazing lyrics (“There’s indifference on the wind” is essentially as perfect as opening lines get). I was hooked on this track from the very opening notes. Good stuff.

Simon: My experience with these guys was pretty much limited to All Hail West Texas before this record came out, and so far I’ve just been absolutely loving Goths. It’s a great indie-rock-pop-whatever record, and this is definitely one of the best tracks on it. Nothing turns me on to a song immediately like xylophone does, and combined with the groovy, plodding bassline of this song, “Andrew Eldritch” immediately became one of my favorites from The Mountain Goats the minute I heard it.

Loss – Horizonless – “The Joy of All Who Sorrow”

Jonathan: This album made me want to die slowly. This may not sound like a ringing endorsement, but Loss don’t leave a lot of space for emotional breathing room or speculation. This track is a funereal sledgehammer to the gonads. It mixes harsh, almost black metal vocal stylings with heavy and plodding doom in a way that creates some incredible emotional heft. And that bass tone… good god. It’s a great track from a fantastic album.

Simon: This has been quite the hit among the Heavy Blog camp since it came out a week or two ago, and I’ll admit that I’ve been a lot slower coming around to it than other people have, which is weird, because I’m definitely one of the larger proponents of doom metal – and funeral doom specifically – on the staff. Loss does it well, and I think this is objectively a good album in the style, but… man. I don’t know. Something about Horizonless just doesn’t really catch me nearly as much as bands like Ahab and Lycus do. Oh well. Hopefully I’ll crack this nut and like this album eventually.

Slowdive – Slowdive – “Sugar for the Pill”

Jonathan: Slowdive always seemed like the poor man’s My Bloody Valentine to me. I wasn’t able to fully get into their music when I was first exploring shoegaze, and that is a shame. As I’ve become more familiar with the genre I’ve come to appreciate them to a much greater extent. Their first album in over twenty years is a certified keeper for me, and this track is so lush and ethereal that I have a hard time concentrating on anything else when it’s on. Guitars loop and swoop in truly beautiful ascending and descending patterns, while the bassline propels the song forward as synths surround in a sea of tranquil noise. I honestly recommend this whole album, but if you had to start out with one track this would be it. Prepare to float into transcendence.

Simon: This is my first foray into Slowdive, which may or may not be surprising given my quasi-purposeful propensity for breadth in my taste in different genres as opposed to depth. While I wouldn’t say I don’t like this track, I kind of feel like the music just… passed me by. It’s really pretty, and it’s definitely not bad; it’s just very insubstantial. I get that that’s sort of the point, but I don’t know. There’s plenty of equally pretty music out there that where I can latch onto something, but I couldn’t really find much here to really keep my attention. It’s on, and then it’s not. Very relaxing, though, so I could definitely see myself putting this on to just chill out and unwind.

Gravetemple – Impassable Fears – “Domino”

Jonathan: I saw Sunn O))) in Denver a few years back. It is an experience I will never forget. It was the single loudest and most visceral concert experience I’ve ever had. When I heard that Stephen O’Malley and Attila Csihar (Sunn O))) regulars) were making a drone/noise album, I lost my collective shit. “Domino” is the only track to be released from the album thus far. It’s one of the shortest, and honestly reminds me of the final ten minutes of Ridley Scott’s Alien. An odd alarm blares constantly at the forefront of the track, while inhuman beeps and blurps occupy that remaining space in some odd form of rhythmic harmony. In all, it’s a fairly insubstantial track in comparison to the ten-plus minute behemoths that populate the rest of the record, but it gives a good taste of the mystery and chaos in store in the full length.

Simon: I’ve been trying to keep my ears away from Impassable Fears until now. I feel as though I have sort of a predisposition to not liking it, since it’s pretty much just the same dudes as Sunn O))) and I’m not a huge fan of theirs, as much as I love other drone metal bands like Earth and Locrian. This is really, really cool though, so I’m glad I was forced to check it out. The blips and whirrs that characterize this track sound like they were pulled straight from some 80’s science fiction film like “Brazil.” There’s not much to say since it’s probably just an interlude between two much larger tracks, but I’m definitely more curious as to the sound of the whole album now. Excited to hear this in context.

Yazz Ahmed – La Saboteuse – “Jamil Jamal”

Jonathan: My sister loves jazz. She frequents clubs, has a solid knowledge of the genre’s history and evolution, and is way cooler than me in essentially every regard. When I shared La Saboteuse with her, she hadn’t heard it before and dug it. Literally a milestone in my life. That aside, this album is just fantastic. “Jamil Jamal” is definitely the track from it that I’ve jammed the most. The incredibly fluid melding of middle eastern music with jazz is revelatory. There’s just something about the almost menacing gentleness of the keys about a minute-and-a-half in that speaks to my soul. Essential for anyone who is even remotely interested in modern jazz.

Simon: I hate to be “that guy” but man, I’m so glad I just randomly stumbled across the promo copy for La Saboteuse in my email inbox one day and decided to give it a spin. This record’s been the talk of the town at Heavy Blog, and for good reason: Yazz Ahmed is amazing. Her horn-centric style of jazz pulls from a variety of esoteric influences and renders out of them a remarkably fluid and individual sound. I’ve been floored by this album every time I play it, and “Jamil Jamal” is a great example as to why.

The Physics House Band – Mercury Fountain – “Calypso”

Jonathan: God, I love this track. The way in which the drums thunder and blast in erratic and heavy patterns to the point of feeling nearly overwhelming, yet still remain wholly danceable throughout, is impressive. The music surrounding the rhythm section is no less incredible. Textured, multi-faceted, and always being pushed forward into new variations on a theme that never feel stale or overly repetitious. Definitely scratches my instrumental post-whatever itch.

Simon: I’ll admit it, I’m dumb for not checking this album out earlier. This feels like a way more energetic and fun version of Three Trapped Tigers post-rock/electronic/jazz sound, and I’m so into it. Whereas those guys tend to make moody, lush soundscapes that are drenched in reverb, this is a lot more straightforward, option for the good ol’ odd time signature repetition tactic to create some beautifully cyclic patterns. Listen at your own risk: this is dancy as hell, and you will succumb to the urge to groove out.

Paramore – After Laughter – “Rose-Colored Boy”

Jonathan: This song cannot be as good as I think it is. It’s not possible. I haven’t liked a single record this band has produced. I don’t like After Laughter. I LOVE it. This is one of my favorite tracks from the record, and with good reason. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a catchier summer tune than this one. Unless you’re choosing another song from this record, then you may have an argument. The Carly Rae Jepsen vibes flow strong throughout “Rose-Colored Boy”, and this is absolutely a good thing. Mostly because Carly Rae is incredible so fight me, non-believers. 80s synths, lyrics about naive dudes, great vocal variety and well-placed guitar work make this one of the best summer jams of 2017 and we aren’t even to summer yet. Windows down and volume up for After Laughter, metalheads.

Simon: As I wrote in a recent track premiere, the fact that a band as big as Paramore is hopping onto the 80’s revival trend that’s becoming a definite thing in music means that it’s officially a full-blown phenomenon in its own right and not just a small fad. That should be taken in no way as a condemnation, by the way: I love retrowave and future-funk and all the other 80’s revival stuff, so I’m more than ready for this to be a big thing. Everything Jonathan said is pretty much exactly on point so I don’t really have anything to add, other than that this song is definitely as good as he thinks it is.

The Ruins of Beverast – Exuvia – “Exuvia”

Jonathan: This track opens like Twin Peaks on hallucinogens in the middle of a damp forest during the dead of night flailing around an enormous bonfire. But there’s no cherry pie or damn fine coffee here, just trance-like existential dread. Alexander von Meilenwald unleashes the best with “Exuvia”, which roars for fifteen minutes of pure black and doom metal madness. Lots of aggressive guitar work, creepy atmospherics, and generally epic sonic grandeur. It’s incredibly busy yet almost soothingly rhythmic, which is what the band does best.

Simon: Another writer for Heavy Blog (Colin) has been asking me to check these guys out for some time and I haven’t gotten around to it yet, but this fits what I’ve heard about The Ruins of Beverast to a T. I wouldn’t say this is instantly clicking with me, but I do love this style of avant-garde black metal, so I’m really looking forward to listening to this a lot until it does really worm its way into my head. This is grim and beautiful in its isolation to the maximum extent it can be. Reminds me of Bergtatt-era Ulver if they played a lot slower and decided to write a soundtrack to “The Blair Witch Project,” or if Sunn O))) mixed their records Black One and Monoliths & Dimensions into some weird combo.

Perfume Genius – No Shape – “Valley”

Jonathan: There isn’t a track that I’ve listened to more frequently over the past couple of weeks than this one. No Shape is far and away my favorite of the band’s records, and this song gets me right in the feels each time I listen. The waltz-like guitar work is complemented perfectly by the plucked strings and full-bodied orchestration that rises to a gorgeous crescendo halfway through the track. It is one of the most perfect songs the band has created, and I am in love with every inch of it.

Simon: This isn’t what I was expecting from the name at all – I thought this was gonna be way more bombastic and energetic than it is. That being said, this is a wonderful song in its own right: the ¾ backing guitars and plucked violin really give it a waltzy heave-ho that I’m really loving. Reminds me of the more quieter and reserved tracks from The New Pornographers, and that’s always a good thing. And the “drop” of sorts in the latter half of the track hits a great spot in terms of bringing back the track’s main motifs. Very well done overall. Gonna have to check this album out.

Simon’s Grid and Jonathan’s Comments

Jonathan: Playlist Swaps are one of my favorite articles to participate in at Heavy Blog. Not only do I get to gush about songs I love from a multitude of genres, but I also get to dive into some great music that I may not have heard before. It’s an enlightening experience, and Simon’s selection of tracks most certainly did not disappoint. While being a man of excellent taste in general, there were a couple curveballs on here that I was not expecting but definitely thoroughly enjoyed (Ween, especially). This is a great mix of heavy, happy, sappy, sad dad, and rip your face off. Simon has a real knack for finding songs that are thoroughly enjoyable to listen to, regardless of one’s musical persuasion. His picks here reflect a very wide range of musical interests, which made my journey through his selections a thoroughly fun one. Loved every second of this, and I wholeheartedly recommend that you give each of these tracks a listen. Also just read everything he writes. I’m not kidding. Dude is an incredibly gifted, witty, and thoughtful writer and his work here at Heavy Blog is absolute tops. I am genuinely thrilled that I get to work and write with a guy as talented as he is.

Mutoid Man – War Moans – “Kiss Of Death”

Simon: Mutoid Man’s more recognizable stuff may be their faster and more recognizably punk tracks, but these guys can knock out one hell of a Boris-esque groove when they need to. “Kiss of Death” is a short, chunky track powered by a serious Goliath of a riff. It may not be anything particularly original but I’ll be damned if it isn’t enjoyable to an extreme.

Jonathan: This is such a great track. I got into Mutoid Man after I heard Bleeder, and I really like the direction the band is taking. I completely agree that the riff work here is absolutely gigantic, and I feel like as the band has progressed their riff writing has only gotten better, and “Kiss of Death” is a prime example of this. Sidenote: I cannot hear these guys without thinking of Two Minutes to Late Night. Which needs to be picked up and funded immediately.

Wormrot – Voices – “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Grind”

Simon: I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t choose this one primarily for the title. Great track name aside, Wormrot plays pretty standard grindcore, but, like Mutoid Man above them, it’s so well-executed that their adherence to the formula is easily excusable. “Eternal Sunshine” is a perfect illustration of this.

Jonathan: Best song title of all time? Possibly, but most assuredly debatable. But song title aside damn is this a killer track. Voices was one of my favorite grind records of 2016, and for all of the reasons you stated above. I personally think there are better tracks on that particular record than “Eternal Sunshine”, but it is most certainly emblematic of what the band does well. And what they do well is annihilate faces. More soon, please.

The National – Boxer – “Green Gloves”

Simon: Sometimes, you just gotta be a sad dad. Boxer is one of the most melancholy albums I can think of with its lethargic and depressed take on indie rock, and “Green Gloves” is one of the most melancholy tracks on the album. The vocal work and sparse instrumentation complement one another beautiful as this track builds into some of the best catharsis you’ll find this side of shoegaze anthems like “Only Shallow.”

Jonathan: True story: No album that I have heard has had a greater impact on me musically or personally than Boxer. To me, it is an absolute masterpiece in every possible way. Sad dad is good dad. “Green Gloves” is just perfect. Matt Berninger’s lyrics and delivery are so droll, sad, odd and emotionally obtuse that it’s hard not to become transfixed by them. There is a deep well of catharsis in longing and sadness, and The National have found the perfect mix of each here. I love everything about this track.

The Mountain Goats – Goths – “Stench of the Unburied”

Simon: The opening lyric, “incoherent, but functional” is how I describe myself somewhere around 95% of the time. Jokes aside, though, Goths is a great album and this is a very nice, pleasant track from it. To be completely honest, I was going to choose “Andrew Eldritch” as my song from this but Jonathan beat me to it so I went with my second favorite instead. What else is there to say, really? This is as pleasant and nice as it really gets. Sit back, listen, and smile.

Jonathan: While very sorry for stealing “Andrew Eldritch” from you (so so sorry), I agree with everything you wrote here. The first time I heard the first the opening line I laughed out loud. Incredibly relatable. This is a bit more laid back than the above mentioned track, but I think it gives Darnielle’s lyrics a greater stage than other tracks on the record. Whether it’s being conscious at sunrise (for the third time this week!) or listening to Siouxsie and the Banshees on KROQ, he paints such vivid pictures of scenarios and characters that give the band’s music so much extra power and impact. Love it.

Ween – The Mollusk – “Ocean Man”

Simon: Okay, haha, good joke, right? Wrong. “Ocean Man” fucking rules. The Mollusk is a great album and “Ocean Man” is an excellent track that got done dirty by being made a joke song. It’s catchy and perfect and if you disagree I’ll fight you. It’s simple and repetitive, sure, and Dean Ween’s vocals are goofy, but try and tell me you don’t get hype when that first “Ocean man” comes in.

Jonathan: OH MY GOD I DIE THIS SONG IS THE ABSOLUTE BEST!!! One of my favorite Ween tracks, no question. It rules multiple universes and all who think otherwise are objectively incorrect. Go to a beach and listen to this track and just try to resist running fully clothed straight into the water like a fool. This is two minutes of pure happiness. I played this song for my wife in the car today and she immediately started singing it loudly with a huge smile on her face. It’s just grand.

My Bloody Valentine – Loveless – “Only Shallow”

Simon: Man, if you don’t lose it to the bombastic riff of this track, I just don’t know what to tell you. Although I think a lot of Loveless doesn’t really go anywhere, and that it’s kind of an overrated album overall, “Only Shallow” might be my favorite opening track to an album ever (the main competitor is “The Saddest Day” from Converge’s Petitioning the Empty Sky). The verses are lush and beautiful, and then that vacuum-cleaner-apocalypse chorus comes in and it’s impossible not to get lost in the groove. My enjoyment of this track should be pretty clear since I’ve already mentioned it multiple times in this article.

Jonathan: Yup. One of the best tracks to open an album of all time. Talk about a statement of purpose. Four drum strikes, followed by an absolutely glorious wall of noise that stuns and transports immediately. Kevin Shields’ guitar work is on incredible display here, and while the rest of the album doesn’t always live up to the promise of the opening track (though I still think it’s pretty damn good overall), we will always have this nearly perfect example of everything shoegaze can be.

Ween – Pure Guava – “Don’t Get 2 Close (2 My Fantasy)”

Simon: After seeing me listening to The Mollusk a lot this week (read: listening to “Ocean Man” on repeat), a friend recommended Pure Guava to me and I’ve been really loving it. “Don’t Get 2 Close” is a really, really weird song, but Ween is definitely at their best when they’re doing bizarre for the sake of the bizarre. It’s pretty poppy for an experimental rock song, but with such the typical Ween-ish idiosyncrasies that it could never be mistaken for anyone else. Also, that opening chord totally sounds like Cynic. Just that single opening chord, though. Nothing after that. Just wanted to point that out.

Jonathan: The vocals on this track almost remind me of a song you’d here on a musical interlude in South Park. That isn’t meant to be an insult, but more to highlight how odd they sound throughout. The music and lyrics here are hazy, obtuse and pretty great. Hadn’t heard this track before now, and I’m really digging it. Now I just want to go on a Ween kick for the next few weeks. Damn you, Simon (jk love you)!

Touche Amore – …To the Beat of a Dead Horse – “Nine”

Simon: This is my favorite song that’s under a minute long. Like, god damn, that groove is strong. When I talk about bands not doing anything outside of what’s absolutely necessary, this is exactly what I’m referring to. Most of Touche Amore’s stuff I’m sort of indifferent on but this song just fucking rules. The various takes on the leitmotif at hand segue perfectly into one another, building into this really raucous tension that gets totally released towards the end of the song. It’s just this short but extremely powerful explosion of emotion, and I love it a lot.

Jonathan: This track is incredible. Probably one of the tightest songs I’ve heard in a long time. There isn’t a single wasted note or second. It feels full, rich, and varied without sacrificing brevity. So many bands need to listen to this track and take from its example. You don’t always need ten-plus minutes to get your point across.

Prurient – Bermuda Drain – “A Meal Can Be Made”

Simon: I needed to throw something weird at Jonathan towards the end, so, uh, sorry but also not sorry. Weirdo power-electronics/death-industrial artist Prurient is a personal favorite when it comes to the electronic stuff I like. This song may not be a great example of why, but it is a really fun song: it sounds like someone screaming over a video game soundtrack (especially when the bells come in) without being Nintendocore and that’s a very niche and very appreciable market.

Jonathan: Don’t ever be sorry (not sorry) for recommending Prurient. One of the best noise/industrial bands by a good margin. Though I think I prefer Frozen Niagara Falls to this record, this track is exceptionally good. He does propulsive mania unlike anyone else, and the unrelenting and crushing forward motion of this track is a pretty good example of what you’re getting yourself into when you start a Prurient record. While the music of Prurient isn’t for everyone, those who have a hankering for avant garde noise should give this a listen. It’s incredibly intense and up there with contemporary acts like White Suns when it comes to aggressive noise.

Source: Heavy Blog is Heavy

What Heavy is Really Listening To Playlist Swap

Even a cursory glance of our biweekly “What Heavy Blog Is Really Listening To” posts (last week’s update here) will reveal that there is a great deal of variety among our staff’s musical tastes. Due to this, we brainstormed the idea of “Playlist Swap,” another biweekly segment that takes place between playlist updates. We randomly select two of the participants from each update, have them pick their favorite track from each of the nine albums in their grid and then send the list over to the other person to listen to and comment on. Within these commentaries occurs praise, criticism and discovery, and we hope that you experience a few instances of this last point as well. This week’s post has Nick and David going tête-à-tête with some things the two already share their admiration for and some unexpected surprises!

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Nick’s Grid & David’s Comments

Nick has a fairly eclectic taste that shares as many similarities as it does differences with mine. To me, that’s pretty much the ideal scenario for a playlist swap, as it allows for discoveries to be made in genres that both are familiar with but don’t regularly listen to. On my part, this was definitely true – in fact, this was the most enjoyable swap I’ve done so far. All nine tracks I got from Nick were at least decent, with most of them being great.

Thank You Scientist – “Caverns”

Nick’s Comments: It’s honestly difficult to pick just one track from this album to highlight because the entire thing is just monster jam after monster jam. Stranger Heads Prevail will almost certainly be near the top of many of our year-end lists next month for very good reasons, but tracks like “Caverns” are definitely a huge part of that. It’s more aggressive than their earlier output and far more adventurous from the get-go with the mind-bending instrumental intro. It also happens to be exceedingly catchy between the chorus and the shouts of “Been a long December!” at the climax. If you’re still unfamiliar with this group this is a perfect entry point.

David’s Thoughts: Reviewing Thank You Scientist’s debut was the first thing I ever did on Heavy Blog. I still regard the album as a great one and stand by my praise of it, so naturally I was looking forward to see how the band’s next outing would unfold. Even so, I hadn’t gotten around to it for a while, and this swap was just the push I needed to go and listen to the entire album. I’m glad I did it, as I found Stranger Heads Prevail to be just as dazzling as its predecessor, while also more mature and cohesive overall. ‘Caverns’ is one of the better songs on here, too!

Janelle Monáe – “Ghetto Woman”

Nick’s Comments: Listening to a lot of Solange‘s latest (excellent) album A Seat At The Table also got me itching to listen to the ever-eclectic and funky Janelle Monáe. The Electric Lady was a bit of an overstuffed mess that lost the thread of her Metropolis/Blade Runner storyline somewhat, but it still hosts an incredibly strong set of tunes. Of those strong songs though, “Ghetto Woman” easily rides above the rest for me, from it’s amazingly nasty deep jungle synth groove, to its touching personal lyrics about the inspiration Monáe’s mother has served for her, all the way to the deliriously great rapped climax and instrumental outro at the end. Though she’s been spending much of her time lately building up her acting career, I’m hopeful for new music from her within the next year.

David’s Thoughts: I had heard some strong praise for Janelle Monáe before, but perhaps that made me go into this expecting a bit too much, as “Ghetto Woman” turned out to be pretty lukewarm. That’s not to say it’s bad in any way – this is light years ahead of most drek that gets dragged around as R&B these days, and I can understand why someone would legit enjoy it. I just didn’t have any real connection with this song. Chalk it up to my ambivalence towards the genre, I guess.

Mammoth – “Obscurements”

Nick’s Comments: Despite Mammoth‘s blend of jazz fusion with progressive rock/metal and some electronic influences seemingly being tailor-made for me, it actually took me a few listens to Deviations to really warm up to them. Blame it on the strong association I have with slap bass and terribly cheesy “fusion” from the 80s and 90s. “Obscurements” was definitely a track that I felt a connection with almost immediately though, which isn’t surprising given that it features…wait for it…sax. Even barring that though, “Obscurements” is a brilliant piece of instrumental prog that puts almost the entirety of the rest of the field to shame. It’s technically complex and dense but not at the expense of compelling composition and songwriting. It’s eclectic while still sounding like a cohesive singular piece of music. And it grooves like a motherfucker.

David’s Thoughts: Back to prog means back to awesome. The cover for this Mammoth album impressed me immediately, and I appreciate it even more after listening to the song since it’s so fitting. Obvious comparisons like Plini aside, “Obscurements” reminded me of Paul Wardingham in its futuristic atmosphere, and Lye by Mistake in the overt jazz fusion influence. The transitions were a bit jarring indeed, which is kind of a given in the genre. Otherwise, though, this was ten minutes of musical bliss.

A Sense of Gravity – “Shadowed Lines”

Nick’s Comments: I already wrote my thoughts about this track when we premiered the video for it, but basically, yeah, I’m pretty hyped on this album, and so are many of us on staff who have listened to Atrament already. It’s pretty great.

David’s Thoughts: I wrote about another song off of this album in my previous swap with Noyan, so not much to say here. ‘Shadowed Lines’ is more of the same, which is definitely a good thing. It takes a bit of a slower approach but is just as interesting from an instrumental perspective. Like before, the keys absolutely steal the show.

Anciients – “Worshipper”

Nick’s Comments: Once again, I wrote about this album recently for our latest Editors’ Picks, so won’t elaborate much more beyond that, but this album is just a non-stop shit-kicker of bombastic progressive sludge, and this track is an absolute highlight of it. A must-listen for all fans of pre-Crack the Skye Mastodon.

David’s Thoughts: I remember briefly digging these guys’ debut back in 2013 and then forgetting all about them. A shame, really, as “Worshipper” reminded me just how solid of a band Anciients is. Their music is enjoyable Mastodon-core at worst, and dazzling modern progressive metal at best. “Worshipper” definitely veered towards the latter, framing an onslaught of riffs into quite the epic song structure.

Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society – “Dark Alliance”

Nick’s Comments: Starting to sound like a broken record here, I know, but I’ve spilled more than enough words about this album over the past month and a half to last me quite a while. I keep returning to “Dark Alliance” as my go-to track for introducing people to Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society and Real Enemies though if only for it’s sheer wtf factor. If you’re preparing yourself mentally to hear “big band” and then listen to this you will undoubtedly be surprised by its mixture of 80s electro-funk, Star Wars Cantina-like boogie, and peppy Latin grooves for good measure to draw the connection between the Reagan administration’s War on Drugs with the blind eye they turned towards the drug trafficking from Nicaraguan Contras.

David’s Thoughts: Although I’m not as knowledgeable of the genre as Nick is, I’m an avid jazz fan just the same, so naturally this song was a pure gem. Like a lot of classic jazz, “Dark Alliance” is densely packed with ideas on all fronts. Throughout the song I heard everything from acid/303 synths, a swath of brass instruments that I struggled to tell apart, and a salsa section (?!). That last one felt a bit tacked on, but that’s it as far as criticism goes.

I also have to commend whoever did the mixing and mastering here. The production is pitch perfect, a feat twice as impressive considering how many elements are at play.

Perturbator – “Neo Tokyo”

Nick’s Comments: I legitimately had trouble deciding which track to choose for this one. Perturbator‘s The Uncanny Valley is great in large part because it spends so much of its time eschewing classic retrowave tropes that have become commonplace in favor of more interesting eclecticism. Ultimately I went with its much more conventional opener though since it’s just a solid piece of what Perturbator has always done well. Not my favorite track off of the album, but if you’re looking for excellent retro high-octane sci-fi electronica then this is the place to start.

David’s Thoughts: I went into this already wanting to like it because of the Akira/Neo Tokyo reference. Alas, its name remains the coolest thing about this otherwise respectable song. There’s just something off-putting about the sound here texturally, as if the synths are a bit too…synthetic? Seems like a weird thing to say, but the majority of electronic music I listen to has a bit more of an organic, and often atmospheric flair to it. Still, it’s easy to see this as part of an alternate soundtrack to Akira or any similarly dystopian movie, so I dig it anyway.

Latitudes – “Body Within A Body”

Nick’s Comments: We’re at the point in the year where I’m starting to actively revisit albums from earlier in the year that I loved and see how well they’ve held up. Old Sunlight from post-metal band Latitudes is absolutely one of those albums that has held together remarkably well, and “Body Within A Body” continues to be the absolute highlight for it. It’s just constantly simmering with barely-contained emotion up until it comes to a breaking point at the track’s climax. I am generally skeptical of vocals when it comes to a lot of post-metal, but this track and album are utterly carried by them.

David’s Thoughts: The “plurals” band name had me skeptical, but “Body Within a Body” proved to be yet another great entry in what was already a winner of a swap. Its second half in particular was simply stunning. If I’d have to nitpick, I was a bit irked by how abruptly the song opens, as it feels like a continuation of the previous song more than a proper beginning. This wasn’t outright bad per se – it merely persuaded me that listening to Old Sunlight in its entirety seems the way to go. Which I’ll definitely do soon!

Grizzly Bear – “Will Calls”

Nick’s Comments: God, this song. It’s the mark of a truly excellent band when their B-side material is just as good, if not better, than the already great album material they’ve put out. “Will Calls,” while sharing some of the darker ambience of much of Shields, rightfully was kept off the album since I really can’t imagine where it would have fit in sequence-wise except perhaps as a closer, which means that it would have needed to replace “Sun In Your Eyes,” which would have been a monumental shame. That said, this track easily ranks up near the top of the band’s catalog and features Ed Droste letting loose in a way he really hasn’t before and I wish he would more often. I would absolutely love if the band played around more with these kinds of sounds for album #5, but if not, I will be content with this gem of a track.

David’s Thoughts: Probably not a consciously made choice on Nick’s behalf, but this sure was a case of saving the best for last. As weird as it feels to say that about a B-side, “Will Calls” completely deserves the praise. At face value, it’s just an awesome song start to finish. I loved the usage of brushes during the verse, as well as the vocals with their soothing timbre. Even the slightly lo-fi production style worked well in that it brought a touch of sincerity. More impressive yet was the song’s near seven minute length, a rarity in indie rock that I haven’t seen much this side of Cymbals Eat Guitars. Then again, I wouldn’t be able to tell this is indie rock if I hadn’t read so beforehand.

David’s Grid & Nick’s Comments

As David already said, the two of us have a lot of musical overlap, which perhaps makes the potential for drastically clashing opinions on stuff we share less likely, but since our respective areas of expertise are definitely not one in the same there’s still an awful lot the two of us can introduce to the other. There are several things here I’m already intimately familiar with, but still more than enough that I’m not to make this an interesting and worthwhile swap.

Nicolas Jaar – “Three Sides of Nazareth”

David’s Comments: Over the past decade, Nicolas Jaar has evolved into one of the leading figures in contemporary electronic music. He’s carved out a pretty distinct style for himself, too, starting with deep house in his early days and adding influence after influence to the point that it’s hard to classify most of his recent music. Part of his latest LP, ‘Three Sides of Nazareth’ is a melting pot of styles even on its own. There’s shades of post-punk, downtempo, new wave and more, stitched together in a way that sounds unmistakably Jaar.

Nick’s Thoughts: I am pretty intimately familiar with Jaar and Sirens, and you can read my more elaborated thoughts on it here. That said, “Three Sizes Of Nazareth” was an excellent track, if somewhat unconventional to Jaar, to choose here. Its straight-forward groove belies everything that is actually going on here in terms of genre and influence. It’s a densely entertaining piece of work though, which is pretty much what you can say about all of Jaar’s best work, even as he continues to push himself on albums like Sirens.

Joey Bada$$ – “Piece of Mind”

David’s Comments: One of my favorite hip hop albums from the 2010’s, B4.DA.$$ is all the proof you need that boom-bap can still be relevant when done right. It sees Joey Bada$$ incorporate his Wu-Tang Clan influence into something more personal, which is all the more evident through the introspective lyrics of tracks like ‘Piece of Mind’. Above all, though, it displays a superb knack for production and flow, which are the main reasons I listen to hip hop anyway.

Nick’s Thoughts: I have a complicated relationship with a lot of hip hop. I tend to gravitate towards the music that is more heavily-indebted towards its jazz instrumental roots and allows me to view the vocals as just another instrument thrown into the mix. In that sense this track from Joey Bada$$ definitely hits the sweet spot for me in terms of what I like about hip hop. It’s got a great, laid-back groove, and his vocals are able to float above them perfectly to form a cohesive flow. This is definitely enough to motivate me to give this album a shot.

Radiohead – “Weird Fishes / Arpeggi”

David’s Comments: Difficult as it may be to settle on an album as one’s favorite in all of music, for the past few years I’ve inevitably come back to In Rainbows when deciding mine. There are others that work better in certain moods, yet the universality of my obsession with this album is second to none. That said, I don’t know where to begin singing its praises, so I just won’t. Even ‘Weird Fishes / Arpeggi’ has enough outstanding qualities on its own to write a mini-review. As sublime as the album’s most delicate ballads and as energetic as any of its upbeat rock tunes, it’s a perfect summary of In Rainbows as a whole, and a favorite among favorites.

Nick’s Thoughts: This is an another area that David and I were already in firm agreement on, so I don’t really have too much to add to what he said. This track is definitely a highlight for In Rainbows and the band in general. It’s also a great example of the genius of Jonny Greenwood’s contributions beyond guitar, as the airy key instrument whose name is escaping me at this moment was the perfect touch to put the overall mood and feel of this track over the top.

Ulcerate – “Yield to Naught”

David’s Comments: Ulcerate occupies a weird spot in my music collection, as I think I’m more infatuated with the idea of the band than the band itself. Their suffocating post-death metal style fascinates me, but works best when reserved only for the most masochistic of moods. Even then, it’s exhausting to sit through any of their albums in full, so I rarely end up listening to them. Shrines of Paralysis is no different, though it does splice enough dynamics into the usual mayhem to make it an exceptionally memorable effort.

Nick’s Thoughts: Ah yes, here comes the part where I have to do the whole “this has some interesting stuff in it but is really just not for me” thing. Ever since filming them live back in 2014 I’ve really respected drummer Jaime Saint Merat’s incredible skills, and I like how prominently he’s featured in their mix, giving the music a much more rhythmically dense and percussive feel. Ultimately though this kind of brutal death metal is just the kind of thing that grabs me and makes me want to listen to more, and this track does little to change my mind on that. I do appreciate the post-metal sounds featured towards the end of the track though.

Alva Noto + Ryuichi Sakamoto – “Uoon I”

David’s Comments: The pairing of electronic producer Alva Noto with legendary Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto has produced several landmark albums, of which none are more essential than their debut Vrioon. It’s difficult to wrap one’s head around what makes these guys good, as their music is very understated. At its core, Vrioon is an almost hour’s worth of low-key piano melodies backed by subtle ambiance, glitch noises and the occasional beat. That might sound tedious, but for me it’s all in the eye for detail and masterful composition.

Nick’s Thoughts: I also struggle with my feelings about ambient music, by-and-large. I love its ability to truly immerse you in a world of sound and allow you to live inside it for extended periods of time. On the other hand, I often get impatient and bored with it much of the time because I want it to build off of that great sonic foundation into something more immediately gripping. This track is a pretty excellent example of that. I love the aesthetic and overall feel of this, but after a few minutes I can feel my attention start to waver and crave something a bit more grounded. If I needed something to throw on in the background that wouldn’t distract me I could see this working though. Beyond that I can’t say I have too much interest in it.

Lustmord – “Black Static”

David’s Comments: Lustmord pretty much invented the genre of dark ambient with his 1990 album Heresy, and has remained at its forefront ever since. Dark Matter, his latest effort, is hardly new despite being released in 2016. It’s made up solely of deep space recordings gathered from NASA and similar sources over the past fifteen years, which is intriguing enough on its own. It sounds somewhat like one would imagine space does, too – an infinite abyss of sub-bass drones drenched in reverb, so esoteric that distinguishing its nuances becomes a nigh impossible task.

Nick’s Thoughts: Oy, and here’s the darker flipside to my feelings about the previous track. I actually really love the atmosphere here, and knowing that it’s comprised of NASA space clips makes it all the more interesting. I can easily see throwing this on while taking care of other work and simply forgetting that it’s there, which is both a positive and a negative. Definitely not much room for active listening though.

Orphx – “Zero Hour”

David’s Comments: Pitch Black Mirror is on my short list for the best album of 2016; more than that, I’d say it’s perhaps the best dance music album of the decade. It was recorded mainly with analog hardware, and makes (unconventional) use of several guest vocalists. Stylistically, it’s rooted in industrial techno, but also draws from post-punk, ambient, EBM and electro. What I like the most about it, however, is its mastery of tension and dynamics, which it maintains regardless of how raucous things get.

Nick’s Thoughts: Now this is what I was hoping to find more of in a playlist swap with David. I don’t keep particularly close tabs on EDM and electronic stuff even though I enjoy much of it, so I was hoping for some good recommendations from him here. This track from Orphx definitely fits the bill and helps fill a bit of the void I’ve been feeling with the lack of new soul-suckingly dark electronica from The Haxan Cloak of late. Definitely going to need to give this album a proper spin, and I may come to feel as enamored with it as he does.

Alcest – “Untouched”

David’s Comments: I kind of lost track of Alcest for the past few years, with 2010’s Écailles De Lune being the last album to pique my interest and actually maintain it. I wouldn’t even consider myself a purist for the black metal part of their sound – on the contrary, the shoegaze influence was always what appealed to me most. Maybe shoegaze on its own wasn’t enough, I guess, as all it took was a reestablished sense of urgency on Kodama to bring the band back into my attention. I still haven’t listened to it that much, but it only takes one listen to realize all of it is great. Plus, that cover tho.

Nick’s Thoughts: As we’ve noted elsewhere, Kodama is literally everything that Alcest should have been following Écailles De Lune rather than what ended up being Shelter. It’s a perfect blend of their heavier black metal roots and the lighter, shoegazey sound they’ve been playing around with for years. The shoegaze is certainly more front-and-center than in their earlier material, but unlike Shelter it doesn’t consume their entire sound. There is still plenty of room for darker, harder-hitting moments and grooves, providing a necessary contrast that has been the hallmark of their best work. “Untouched” is definitely one of the lighter moments on the album, and on it’s own it’s definitely not my favorite from Kodama, but it fits in very well with everything else happening around it.

Biosphere – “The Things I Tell You”

David’s Comments: I already rambled about Biosphere in the swap with Noyan. Substrata is my favorite album of his, and is widely regarded as an ambient classic. Each song on it is great, but ‘The Things I Tell You’ stands out because of its unusual structure. Its unassuming start is not too different from many an ambient song, yet it takes a detour towards the middle as a brief Twin Peaks quote gives way a bleeping, icy synth.

Nick’s Thoughts: I actually listened to the Biosphere track included in that swap, and I was intrigued enough that I added them to my Google Music library, though I haven’t listened to more yet. This is the kind of ambient music I am probably drawn to the most since there is more going on here in general for me to hold onto. Though it’s unlikely that it’ll become something I love nearly as much as David does, I can definitely appreciate it, and I look forward to digging into Biosphere’s extensive catalog more in the future.

Source: Heavy Blog is Heavy

What Heavy is Really Listening To Playlist Swap

Even a cursory glance of our biweekly “What Heavy Blog Is Really Listening To” posts (last week’s update here) will reveal that there is a great deal of variety among our staff’s musical tastes. Due to this, we brainstormed the idea of “Playlist Swap,” another biweekly segment that takes place between playlist updates. We randomly select two of the participants from each update, have them pick their favorite track from each of the nine albums in their grid and then send the list over to the other person to listen to and comment on. Within these commentaries occurs praise, criticism and discovery, and we hope that you experience a few instances of this last point as well. This week’s post has Noyan and David getting together for the first time for a steamy exchange of liqu… playlists.

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Noyan’s Grid & David’s Comments:

The only playlist swap I’ve done so far was with Scott, with whom I probably share the most similar taste on Heavy Blog staff. That’s why I found the idea of swapping with Noyan particularly interesting – this time I would be exchanging music with someone whose tastes drastically differ from mine. Though, this hasn’t always been the case. I became rather disinterested in most metal about two years ago, but prior to that I had been listening to many of the same bands and subgenres as Noyan (ie a lot of tech death and prog). Hence, this was a chance to break out of my usual listening habits, and revisit a bunch of styles that I once held dear.

Fractal Cypher—The Human Paradox—“Imminent Extinction”

Noyan: I just wrote about these guys a few days ago, gushing about them in an HLT, so I’ll just be lazy and link you there.

David: I went into this song with no knowledge of Fractal Cypher beyond Noyan’s recent HLT post, in which he heavily compares the band to prog titans Dream Theater. This would normally be a turnoff for me as I’ve never enjoyed DT’s take on the genre, but I found the song to be pretty good! The guitars kept me glued the entire time, especially whenever they would segue into the next section a few moments before the rest of the band caught on. This made each transition perfectly seamless. The rhythm section was entirely respectable, too, with the drums near the end being particularly of note. The over-the-top synths and vocals were the only aspects I didn’t like, though they weren’t too much of a bother.

Aborted—Retrogore—“Retrogore”

Noyan: I have a love/be-mildly-underwhelmed-by relationship with Aborted. They’re great, but sometimes they get a bit tiring. I kind of overlooked this year’s Retrogore, which in retrospect (hah) was a bit of a mistake. I still love the crew’s output in Oracles, but this song is just heavy. Nothing else to it really, great and heavy. It’s been on my workout playlist lately, hence its presence here. While David’s comments below about other bands are totally true, sometimes you need that dumb heavy thing for the heavy lifting.

David: I never got into Aborted’s studio output, however I had the chance to see them supporting The Black Dahlia Murder, and I have to say they put on a fun, heavy as fuck show. I think it makes sense, too, that their music would work better in a live setting, which is something this song confirmed for me. The relentless nature of its blasts, riffs and growls seems tailored to whip crowds into a frenzy. Of course, it sounds pretty potent when listening at home, too, but it’s ultimately not something I can connect with. I just feel that, even in the niche genre of deathgrind, there are artists like Cattle Decapitation and Cephalic Carnage who create much more dynamic and multi-faceted music than this. Just not my thing, I guess.

Anaal Nathrakh—The Whole Of The Law—“Hold Your Children Close And Pray For Oblivion”

Noyan: For the longest time, Anaal Nathrakh wasn’t really my thing. They were too abrasive when I was first getting into metal, then they were too primal when I was into more intricate stuff. Well, somehow this album really clicked with me, and I’m quite happy with it. In this particular song, I really enjoy the over the top chorus and how non-stop fast the whole thing is. The electronic drum beat in the verse is kind of stupid and unnecessary, but the rest of it is so good that that short but doesn’t break it for me. Yet another good workout song, by the way.

David: Speaking of music that is decidedly not-my-thing, we have this Anaal Natrakh song. A quick glance at Wikipedia told me they play a fusion of various extreme metal styles with industrial music. Well, that sounded interesting on paper, as I’m a big fan of industrial, but as soon as I turned this on I knew it had “not for me” plastered all over it. An example of this would be the bizarrely distorted beat during the verse, or the ridiculous chorus vocals. Actually, the more I listen to it the more things I find that put me off, so I’ll just leave it at that.

Crator—The Ones Who Create: The Ones Who Destroy—“The Judge On War”

Noyan: Somehow Crator evaded me. I love Origin and Gorguts, so a project with John Jongstreth and Colin Marston shouldn’t have flown under my radar. I blame my work and life situation as of late. Anyway, recently I got turned onto this, and of course I love it. It takes what I love from Origin, aka the relentless heaviness, and spices it up with some Marston-style weirdness that prevents it from getting rote. Honestly, I’d listen to pretty much anything as long as John Longstreth is playing on it.

David: I’m interested to hear any band with Colin Marston in it, and when it’s a supergroup that also features two Origin members…well, needless to say, this was one of the songs I was most excited about. And for good reason, too, as Crator absolutely deliver. ‘The Judge on War’ is an onslaught of left-field tech death, of which I loved every second. The production was particularly praiseworthy for how organic it was, and how it gave Marston plenty of room to shine. Following his basslines was a treat as he schizophrenically hopped from playing off of the guitars or drums to doing his own twisted things.

A great song overall. Will definitely listen to more of this band in the future.

A Sense Of Gravity—Atrament—“Guise Of Complacency”

Noyan: This is kind of cheating, as the song isn’t publicly available yet, but I love it. It’s everything I loved from ASOG’s debut Travail taken to the next level. I don’t want to spoil this song too much, so I’ll just give you the single released from the album so far that’s the closest to this one. But let me say that without doubt this album is going to be awesome, and the best of it hasn’t even been revealed yet.

David: I really enjoyed A Sense of Gravity’s debut album, Travail. Its mix of modern and classic prog with elements of death metal was executed beautifully. Hence, this was another song that I was eager to hear, and likewise, it completely justified the hype. The musicianship on display here is frankly staggering. I could praise the guitar and drum playing for days, but the keys stood out just as much. The subtle synth that crept in near halfway through immediately put a smile on my face. From there the song kept getting better and better, segueing into two killer solos before finishing with a somber piano outro.

Looking forward to hear the whole album once it drops!

Thrawsunblat—Metacthonia—“Fires That Light The Earth”

Noyan: I don’t know why Eden particularly singled out this one, but he quickly pointed it my way once he discovered it, and I’m glad he did. I love folky/blackened stuff, but there’s just too much chaff out there that’s either just cheesy-ass folk metal or poorly written black metal. This is neither, as it takes a Wintersun-like sound and makes it a lot more serious and makes it feel a lot folkier. It has good black metal screams, great cleans and overall great composition. A big winner.

David: Ugh, I’ve seen enough folk/black album art to know where this is going… If there was ever a genre that I automatically dismiss without even bothering to give it a chance, this would be it. I do enjoy black metal in some of its other forms, but when passed through the already cheese-infested filter of folk metal, it leads to some of the most cringeworthy music I’ve ever heard. Having said that, I admit my bias was unfair in this case, as ‘Fires that Light the Earth’ was actually a solid song, with some pretty cool guitar parts to boot. Alas, it’s a bias I can’t remove myself from.

Job For A Cowboy—Sun Eater—“Eating The Visions Of God”

Noyan: I mean, this doesn’t really need introducing. It was our album of the year when it came out, and it’s an amazing death metal album with really cool sections and noteworthy bass playing. Just listen to it if you’ve somehow lived under a rock in the past few years.

David: Sun Eater is the only album on Noyan’s grid with which I was already well familiar. Nonetheless, it had been a while since the last time I spun it, and this was basically a convenient excuse to do so. Like the Crator song above, ‘Eating the Visions of God’ reminded me once again how much I love perfectly audible bass in progressive death metal, especially when it’s played this masterfully. This holds true for the rest of the album too, and the fact that Sun Eater marked such an unexpected change of trajectory in Job for a Cowboy’s career makes it doubly impressive.

Gods Of Eden—From The End Of Heaven—“Gods Of Eden”

Noyan: When I first heard this song in 2012 it blew my fucking mind, and I still haven’t gotten over it. One of the best pieces of progressive technical metal I’ve ever heard, I still love this song so much and can’t get enough of it. My impressions linked above still stand true after all the years, so go read that if you must.

David: I was meaning to check out this band, seeing as virtually everyone else on Heavy Blog staff seems to be enamored with them. After listening to the song, I can see why. While it isn’t exactly up my alley purely in terms of aesthetic (read: a bit too cheesy and overproduced), I was very impressed with how Gods of Eden manage to achieve a perfect balance between melody and technicality. The breakneck riffing was a joy to listen to, and the flamenco-inspired acoustic guitar parts were an awesome surprise.

Coma Cluster Void—Mind Cemeteries—“Everything Is Meant To Kill Us”

Noyan: I’m going to be lazy again and link my thoughts on this very song from when I premiered its video.

David: Similar to Crator, Coma Cluster Void was a band that I hadn’t heard of prior to this playlist swap, yet became immediately interested in once I read up on them. Also similar to Crator, their music is fucking insane. ‘Everything is Meant to Kill Us’ is four and a half minutes of batshit crazy, mathy death metal that sounds absolutely suffocating. It reminded me of everything from Meshuggah and Car Bomb to Pyrrhon and Ulcerate, and it weaves all those influences together to form an entirely singular brand of madness. I didn’t even try to understand the music on a theoretical level by e.g. guessing the time signatures, as I was perfectly content to just go along this headfuck of a ride. “Mind cemeteries” indeed.

David’s Grid & Noyan’s Comments:

Like David said, I knew he used to listen to more prog/tech stuff a few years back, but I haven’t kept up with what he’s listening to lately. I find that these swaps are a good opportunity both to catch up on each other’s tastes, but also to expand my horizons, so I usually try to get into swaps with people whose tastes diverge from mine a bit. Some of the artists here I’m familiar with in varying degrees, like Boris, Meshuggah, Mouth of the Architect and Earth. Others, I have no idea, so we’ll see where this goes!

Biosphere – Dropsonde – ‘In Triple Time’

David: Ambient grandaddy Geir Jenssen a.k.a. Biosphere is probably one of my top 5 music artists. The Norwegian has constantly tweaked his style over the many releases he’s put out, yet his artistic imprint – an icy cold atmosphere which permeates through virtually all of his songs – is unwavering. That said, Dropsonde simultaneously feels like one of his warmer, friendlier albums, which is mostly due to its prominent experimentation with jazz. ‘In Triple Time’ is one of the cuts where this marriage of ambient and jazz is most evident. It’s basically a triplet beat and a bassline with layers of hazy synth on top, but what I love most is the feeling of coziness it evokes – like sitting near a wood fire, wrapped in a blanket while everything outside is freezing to death.

Noyan: I’m not the biggest fan of more ambient, chill-out type of music. See, I’m generally a more urban type of person. When I was younger, during summers my parents would drag me to beach clubs because they enjoyed it, so I must do as well, right? Of course those were miserable experiences for me. They always played house/lounge styled chill music, which always evokes a visceral negative reaction in me. This song really reminded me of those times, so I can’t really view it objectively! That being said, the jazz feeling in here is much appreciated, and I checked out a few other songs from this album and they resonated more with me because they didn’t sound like beach music to me.

Mick Jenkins – The Healing Component – ‘Drowning’

David: Chicago emcee Mick Jenkins has been on my radar ever since dropping the excellent mixtape The Water[s] in 2014. The prospect of a proper debut album – and another conceptual project, at that – was especially enticing, but the end result is surprisingly lackluster. The Healing Component falls flat on both a musical and lyrical level, with some of Mick’s least interesting instrumentals setting the stage for a rather bland narrative. Thankfully, the album does redeem itself on a handful of tracks. Of these, ‘Drowning’ is the clear highlight, and is possibly Mick’s best song yet.

Noyan: While seeing words like “emcee” and “mixtape” tend to put me on edge, I enjoyed this one. I like the style of singing and the minimalist instrumentals juxtaposed together. It evokes a southern vibe that also feels modern. The jazzier turn near the end was neat too, however it almost distracted from the rest of the atmosphere in the song. There’s probably two songs’s worth of material here. Might be worth digging deeper for me.

Oureboros – Dreaming in Earth, Dissolving in Light – ‘Devoid of All Time’

David: Oureboros is the side project of members of another act, Orphx, which happens to be my favorite in all of electronic music. Both are steeped in an industrial aesthetic, with the latter making music that’s more kinetic and beat-heavy, while the former focuses on meditative sound design. Dreaming in Earth… blends industrial music with dark ambient and drone, as well as elements of shoegaze. Modular synths are the dominant force at work here, backed by occasional live instrumentation in the form of percussion and reverb-drenched guitar. I feel that, despite being one of the more abstract cuts, ‘Devoid of All Time’ is suitably representative of all these styles and elements, and its foreboding atmosphere always captivates me.

Noyan: Straight up, misspellings of “Ouroboros” always tick me off. Pet peeve. Regardless, I’ll give this one a fair shot. However, there’s really nothing here for me. People with a creepily keen memory might remember from my last swap that I really don’t enjoy industrial music. I wouldn’t let that stop me from trying to enjoy this one either. Unfortunately though, I can’t say I took away anything from this. It’s probably my ignorance of the genre, but it just sounds like six minutes of ambient noise to me. Hard pass. I tried!

Esoteric – Paragon of Dissonance – ‘Abandonment’

David: We continue with the theme of dark, foreboding music, albeit quite a different breed. Esoteric’s style of psychedelically-tinged funeral doom makes them one of the most interesting bands in the genre, in my opinion, and Paragon of Dissonance is one of the best examples why. Like pretty much all of its tracks, opener ‘Abandonment’ stomps onward at a monolithic pace, conjuring an impenetrable mist of melancholia and crushing heaviness. Yet it also displays the band’s interesting musicianship and sense of dynamics, both relatively rare feats in the realm of doom.

Noyan: Alright, this one’s definitely more my speed. Older swap fans and general longtime followers of my shitposting career here on the blog might know that I don’t really enjoy doomy stuff either, but for some reason this clicked with me. Maybe it’s the palate cleanse after the previous song, or maybe it’s the harmonic minor-ish leads. Maybe it’s the crushing chugging in the background. I like this. Good stuff, and from within a genre I generally dislike as well!

Cymbals Eat Guitars – Pretty Years – ‘Have a Heart’

David: New Yorkers Cymbals Eat Guitars blew me away with 2014’s LONE, an indie rock masterpiece that is both incredibly emotive and twice as infectious. They followed it up this year with Pretty Years, an album which, despite being a far cry from its predecessor, proved to be formidable in its own right. Though my favorite track from the album is probably the saxophone-led ‘Wish’, I felt like giving Noyan ‘Have a Heart’ would be more fitting, as it shows what the band do best – indie rock tunes filled with endearing vocals and catchy, delicate guitar melodies.

Noyan: Ok, I’ll admit my bias here. Looking at the artwork and which sites are the top google results when you look up the album, I expected my eyes would roll as soon as I hit play. And while some of my preconceived notions were totally validated, I still enjoyed this song. While I dislike indie rock in general, I have a soft spot for old school europop/britpop, which this is evocative of. The overly dreamy sound I could do without, but I get that it’s almost a necessity for indie bands these days, so I’ll give them a pass. Good pick!

Boris – Flood – ‘Flood III’

David: Although I’ve been aware of them for a long time, I only recently took the plunge into Boris’s colossal discography, becoming obsessed shortly afterwards. This Japanese powerhouse has put out more releases than I can bother to count, and has drastically changed their sound just as many times. Of the handful of albums I’ve spun so far, Flood probably does the best job at summarizing their various styles – minus the J-pop, that is. Equal parts melancholic post rock, feedback-drenched sludge and endlessly repetitive drone, it’s a truly beautiful album that truly tests the listener’s patience.

Noyan: Similarly to David, Boris is one of those artists who I’ve heard about all the time but never really dug deep into. Starting as repetitive post-rock, the song later on turns into j-poppy-sludge, which was a nice twist. Though, being a fan of full-on j-rock and looking at David’s blurb, maybe I should dig deeper and figure out where the cheesier stuff in the discograpy is. I promise, one day I’ll take the plunge!

Earth – The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull – ‘Hung From the Moon’

David: And now for something completely different, it’s yet another drone album. Seminal drone doom outfit Earth is essential listening for any fan of the genre, and the best thing is, some of their albums are totally accessible compared to those of their contemporaries. The Bees… is definitely one of these albums. Sure enough, it’s still repetitive both in the density of musical ideas explored per song and in its monochrome palette of moods. In the end, though, it’s all executed with a certain mastery and attention to detail that make it easy to love and even easier to appreciate.

Noyan: I knew that I was eventually going to have to listen to this album. While I definitely appreciate the melodic texture they’ve got going and the overall sound, I am an active listener of music and need more defined structure to latch onto. As a result, while I can definitely enjoy this as it plays in the background, I can’t just sit and listen to it and truly enjoy it. Just not my speed, literally!

Meshuggah – The Violent Sleep of Reason – ‘Nostrum’

David: Not much to say about Meshuggah that hasn’t been said already. They’re one of my favorite metal bands, and one of the few for which my adoration has only grown after becoming drawn to electronic music more than metal. I found The Violent Sleep of Reason to be mind-blowing even by the band’s impossible standards, which speaks volumes at this point in their career. I probably could’ve picked almost any song off of it, too. Ultimately, I chose ‘Nostrum’ because dem drums.

Noyan: Obviously I am very familiar with this album and have listened to it several times. I’ve spoken about it with friends privately many times and on the podcast as well. While I think this album is a cop-out for Meshuggah and a disappointment for me as a very longtime fan, it’s not necessarily a bad one and I probably like this song more than the rest of it. Listen to the podcast for my thoughts on the album though!

Mouth of the Architect – Path of Eight – ‘Stretching Out’

David: New Meshuggah aside, Mouth of the Architect’s post-metal opus has been another top contender for metal album of 2016. There’s so much to love about this record: the production is near flawless, the rhythm section astounding, the structure of each song well developed, and the clean vocals some of the best in metal this side of Intronaut. Most important is that, like Intronaut, MotA make sparse use of actual heavy sections. In my opinion, this gives the atmosphere a lot more room to breathe and emphasizes said heavy parts when they do arrive.

Noyan: This album caught my attention when browsing iTunes for new releases a few weeks back. The artwork was really captivating and I gave it a listen. From the name and art I thought it was going to be a djent band, so I was pleasantly surprised when it was a legitimate progressive metal album. I’ve enjoyed most of what I’ve heard so far (except for a few overly drawn out sections) and I’ve been meaning to dig deeper, so this was a good chance. I like the Intronaut comparison David made, though I gotta say I like Intronaut’s latest album a bit more because it doesn’t actually make that sparse use of heavy sections! Maybe if they were heavier when they hit I’d appreciate them more, but it feels a bit too sludgy to really make a mark. Solid album, but not too much to my taste unfortunately. There’s some good stuff in there, but it’s lost among what my post-rock-blind brain considers as filler.

Source: Heavy Blog is Heavy