Album Reviews: Jane Weaver, Genesis Owusu, Bülow
Genesis Owusu — Smiling with No Teeth (Koforidua, Ghana/Canberra, Australia)
For a visceral and often very danceable listen, Genesis Owusu offers you abrasive music with an inescapable catchiness. So many layered productions and a strong sense of how to guide a song forward keeps this album constantly exciting. "On the Move!" is a blown-out, beat-heavy wonder, that somehow manages to be fiercely grimy and ethereal in under two minutes. Even the simpler rush of "The Other Black Dog" hits you with such energy that you want to just keep moving. There's a much sturdier funk drive on "Don't Need You" where Owusu's sound is cleaned for easily smooth pop, and all the grit is focused into the timbre of their riffing. The punk edge of the record takes over on "Black Dogs!" with Owusu roaring and riding the amazing bass into its fiery finale.
Bülow — First Place (Single) (Berlin, Germany/Durham, Ontario)
Parts hip hop, and indie guitar pop, Bülow creates music that sounds just as varied as the many places they've called home. "First Place" lands with a truly kicking beat, and the bass hits so hard it needs her hazy voice to balance it all out. The glimmer in the guitar lines leaves it from cutting to hard into the movement of the song, as it seems to trade off with the bass. Amongst all of this the synths just give another sunny element to an already glossy track, and just make the whole thing even more enjoyable to take in again and again.
Arab Strap — As Days Get Dark (Falkirk, Scotland)
After a roughly 15 year break, Arab Strap return darker than ever, leaving a sense of unease in their wake. Out to grab the relentlessly serious listener and those with a penchant for orchestral pop, this album lands with a heaviness many are too afraid to tap into. "The Turning of Our Bones" sets this tone sublimely, leading you into a cascading swirl of synths and guitar amongst the group's poetry. The sinister groove of "Compersion Pt. 1" lets the smoky vocals really glide out, leading you to get lost in its dance, while also wondering whether our narrator is friend or foe. Though a little less punchy, there's a moody drive to "Kebabylon" that lets it overtake you in its growing scope. The glow of "Here Comes Comus" has a wonderful New Order sheen to it, that feels parts neon and devastating, letting its troubling tale feel all the more poignant.
Kirty — God Help Us (Single) (Toronto)
The sense of scale that Kirty brings to a simple guitar drone just shows how much they can differ their sound as a solo artist. "God Help Us" captures the bleak energy of a year in pandemic life, not only pleading for help, but also questioning whether that help would ever come. The whole sonic palette of this track is equally inspiring and feeds into this dread too, as a powerful stereo effect emotionally. With mountainous drums coming down like impending doom, these beats can also serve as a charge to move forward. Each cry of guitar seems to emulate a sense of pain, while a few come out with a little glint of sunlight on a new day. It's the euphoric release of its final moments however that send this track over the top as a truly special piece of music.
Jane Weaver — Flock (Liverpool, U.K.)
As one of the few artists able to perfectly capture that vintage psych rock sheen, Jane Weaver lets loose a soothing and magical journey. The interwoven stacks of equally powerful instrumentation leaves the whole record feeling like a constant back and forth from one trippy feeling to the next. "Heartlow" wastes no time with this idea, as Weaver's voice glides over a groove that shimmers, screeches and at times really bumps from the drum and bass combo behind this record. While there's an at times goofy tilt to "The Revolution of Super Visions" it really gets a sense of majesty in the highs Weaver finds in the choruses, just rising and rising in her chords. The amazingly produced drums really bring the entirety of "Flock" together, as its smoky, and flute-laden sound give so much room for your mind to explore its landscape. The textures and imagery in the sound of "Pyramid Schemes" are something to behold too, as Weaver's able to let the whole song slowly brood into a transformative shuffle.