Our latest in a series of recaps of albums we loved from the last calendar year…
Starchild and the New Romantic, Language (Ghostly International)
Starchild and the New Romantic is the brainchild of New York-based Maryland transplant, Bryndon Cook. A multi-instrumentalist and vocalist who has also worked with fellow travelers like Devonté Hynes and Solange Knowles, Language is an exemplary slice of lush, 80s-inflected r&b. Drums don’t so much hit as disperse, synths probe longingly, guitars flicker and wane. While the purple one’s haze hangs thick over this set, you also hear the ambitious, heart-on-sleeve arrangements of bands like Force MD’s or the Blue Nile – Cook’s revelatory voice reminiscent of the underlauded Jesse Johnson or Melvin Riley in its plaintive tenor notes. As an added bonus, ‘Only If U Knew’ and ‘Hangin’ On’ might be the best ‘quiet storm’ summoning slow jams I’ve heard in an age. It’s a record that takes things back and pushes them forward simultaneously. Highlights include: “Hangin’ On”; “Language”; “Good Stuff”.
Borzoi, A Prayer for War (12XU)
Austin-based trio Borzoi released their latest, A Prayer for War, last September. I’ve listened to it many times since and, though I find it absolutely stunning, I’ve no real idea what to make of it – and that, friends, is what makes it great. Sure, there’s elements of punk, acid-drenched post-punk, funk, a free kinda jazz, noise, dweebs, wasteoids, dickheads, righteous dudes, a fuckin’ partridge in a mother fuckin’ pear tree. All there. In the end, though, the record breaks down to a feeling – and that feeling is “tenuously hinged”. The skittery, jittery atmosphere is shot through, here, with bursts of melody (“Schlock”) and, in many other places, with a heavy boot to the face (“Lizard Men of the Third Reich”). Buckle up. Highlights include: “Schlock”; “Big Pink”; “The Tonsure Twist”.
Rose Mercie, S-T (SDZ; Monofonus Press)
Rose Mercie is a quartet based in Montreuil, France. Their debut, self-titled album came out last March, and it’s intoxicating. Stripping elements of hypnotic psych, folk and dream pop to their bare essentials – there’s nothing adulterated in the arrangements or production here – then building them up again, with a layer of girl group in the rhythms and vocal interplay. Tracks like highlight, ‘Moyen-Age’, recall a less ornamental Broadcast; elsewhere, ‘The End of Love’ projects The Raincoats jamming in a hazy flat with the Velvet Underground. While largely bucolic in feel, there is a bit of welcome menace “In the Valley” – it’s an album to sit with, the eight tracks unspooling at a deliberate pace. Settle in and listen. Highlights include: “Moyen-Age”; “Floating”; “How Can I Talk”.
Datenight (US), Comin’ Atcha’ 100mph (Drop Medium)
Nashville, TN trio Datenight (US) serve up garage-punk with a side of power pop hooks and classic, driving midwestern rock on last February’s Comin’ Atcha’ 100mph. It’s an apt title, with no more than half of the dozen tracks in the set clocking in on the high side of two minutes. Each cut, though, leaves a mark; the melodies linger long after the band has roared on to the next. Be it the straight up Sonics’ garage rumble of ‘While it Lasts’, the blissful lo-fi jangle of ‘Poor Exchange’ or the perfected combo of highlight, ‘Tennessee Rider’, the set drips with brio – it’ll have you singing along, even when you don’t know any of the words. Fab. Highlights include: “Tennessee Rider”; “Poor Exchange”; “In and Out”.
Gen Pop, II (Feel It)
Olympia, WA-based Gen Pop released a six-track EP last May, entitled II. Lifting off from their devastatingly potent debut, On the Screen (released less than a year prior), II offers a virulent slice of old school hardcore for the modern world. Featuring MaryJane Dunphy and Ian Corrigan from the fantastic Vexx, the band manages to push a swirl of sounds into a tight timeframe. [Update: MaryJane Dunphy has left the band. Elle Svete both sings and plays guitar on “No Change”] features tepid vocals transposed over Flex Your Head-summoning musical righteousness, while tracks like ‘Waxing State’ and ‘Din’ inject a bit of post-punk jitter and Buzzcocks’ guitar melodiousness. Highlights include: “No Change”; “Waxing State”.