• By: Owen Maxwell

Album Reviews: Chelsea Wolfe, Brittany Howard, Torres

Chelsea Wolfe – She Reaches Out to She Reaches Out to She
Roseville/Sacramento, CA

In her latest exploration of the dark corners of rock and experimental sound crafting, Chelsea Wolfe is uncompromising. Methodical and morphing, this is a record that breathes to the point of fogging up our headphones, but it celebrates exploring your emotions to their most dynamic. The demented hiss and shrieks on “Whispers in the Echo Chamber” create an unnerving drive for transformation, with Wolfe cutting through both its quietest and most blown-out moments like a blade. The guitars howl with an instantly addictive grime on “House of Self-Undoing,” where sensibilities of 90s electronica bleed into the mix to let Wolfe ride high as equal parts pop vocalist and commander of chaotic soundscapes. Slow as it is, the crawling pace lets “Everything Turns Blue” gain a massive scale to have every note hit like a brutal force of nature wiping everything in its path away. There’s a more cosmic and loose, airy flow to the malaise on “Dusk,” with Wolfe building towards this explosive final chorus where all the intensity of her emotions become too much to hide, and come out in a fiery growl.

Sue Foley – Oh Babe It Ain’t No Lie (Single)

Reviving an Elizabeth Cotton classic, atypical picking and all, Sue Foley finds timeless charm on her latest single. The over-it and worn-out storytelling makes the raspy qualities in Foley’s voice really enhance the lyrics, giving a sense of tiredness to the sonic experience as well. While the guitar plucking can easily feel bouncy and free at times, the complicated and fluid nature Foley’s playing can’t be understated, as she finds the perfect way to make the instrumental break also light-yet-nuanced.

Brittany Howard – What Now
Athens, AL

Though she could easily have played into her rock niches, Brittany Howard has found versatility to be her greatest asset these days. Though most of the cohesion on this album comes from the sonic aesthetics, Howard effortlessly weaves her voice through indie-pop, throwback jams, and even dance music for a surprisingly consistent record no matter what genre she plays with. There’s a lot of vintage glamour to love about “I Don’t” where Howard blends a hip-hop-esque warp of oldies vocals with a great approach reshaping this kind of retro pop that makes it a whole cosmos of its own. The groove takes control on “What Now,” as Howard wails and lets herself get as distorted as her guitars to give the track this otherworldly glow amidst all the ferocious shouts into the ether. Perhaps the most unexpected genre turn here is on the dance-driven “Prove It To You,” with Howard using her soulful vocals to reinvent her tones almost like a sample on someone else’s work, and it really pops. And if you wanted that guitar-heavy, rock & R&B ride somewhere, “Power to Undo” really brings the heat, with Howard singing her soul out on so many exciting vocal layers that the track implodes several times over from the amazing weight she’s bringing to the track.

AV & The Inner City – Low & Lowly (Single)
Edmonton, AB

With a deep spiritual energy baked in gospel influence, AV (Ann Vriend) & the Inner City try to get us through the dark. The swells and hushed notes of the chorus add to this pseudo-religious vibe, and eventually take us to church in the strongest metaphorical sense. The high wailing notes hit with utter satisfaction here, fighting against those pains in life, while being intensely informed and enriched by them. And right when you think the song’s about to ebb out, we get one last massive spiritual boom to send the track out on an inspiring feeling. Even the pianos ring with a sense of glory and comfort, bookending the track with a familiar tone to ease you through those heavy times.

Torres – What An Enormous Room
Orlando, FL/Macon, GA/Nashville, TN

More than any of their previous records, Torres rides a great line between the harshest edges of their songcraft and memorable melodic highs. The surreal, dense production of “Life As We Don’t Know It” creates an immediate haze to put you off balance, with Torres lacing in just enough of a pop core to the track to keep it more addictive than it is abrasive. The slow layering of instruments and sonic shivers on “Wake to Flowers” lets the whole experience wash over you until you lose track of all its pieces, resulting in an overpowering wave of ecstatic noise and droning. With a similar mounting production on “Collect,” Torres pushes that style through a more pop-ready track, dropping a wallop of a chorus that ramps everything up that extra couple (or dozen) notches to make this story blur the lines between a force of nature and a self-assured new companion. Between its swinging spoken intro and the soothing chorus runs it sizzles again and again, “Jerk into Joy” is a late gem on the record, where they find a wondrous sound to match the track’s empowering journey of finding ways through your hardest days.