Album Reviews: March 18, 2019
The Coathangers – The Devil You Know (Atlanta, GA)
Beyond great punk, a band like The Coathangers had to evolve and take their music somewhere new. Though it's not as much of a step-forward as one would like, this album offers fans something new and some great rock to just cut loose to. You get a fun shift in the band's town on "Bimbo" as all the raw distortion is now used as a counterpoint to their deeper exploration of pop. They really jump around in their writing and dynamics on "5 Farms" while the use of rhythm is constantly shifting throughout the track. Even as The Coathangers slip into more jam-oriented playing in tracks like "Step Back," they use a more familiar musical base to get really abrasive in their sounds. Where a track like "F The NRA" could easily slip into overtly blunt lyrics, it brings out so many touching stories to back up its attitude that you'll be ready to cry along with the band.
Tev – Colours (Ottawa)
There's a true magic that the right mix of creativity and production talent can bring out, and that's Tev's power. In the radio-ready pop fury of "Your Way" the strong vocal cores are expanded into these kind of overbearing walls of emotion through heavy synths and intricate sampling. This talent runs the spectrum of genres on "Colours" where tones of reggae, hip hop and hard-to-place pop comes out in a blend that ties into Tev's core sounds. "Limelight" is a blown-out party banger on the other hand, with so much raw grinding energy behind its overt delivery that you'll want to get up. The pop takes a more sombre note on "Colours Are Gold" for a piano-driven ballad whose message is elevated through all the rising harmonies on the track.
Chai – Punk (Nagoya, Japan)
Though it can foreign-language pop can take some time to adjust to, Japan's Chai does such a phenomenal job in their writing you'll probably forget about language. With some great rock and production play that feels reminiscent of Superorganism, this is one album you can't miss. "Choose Go!" starts the record with a furious and fast punk stomper, where the band is constantly kicking up the ante with weird synths and electronics. There's a hardy dance energy to "Great Job" that sees each member layering vocals in chaotic ways, while their choruses play out in weirdly ambient tumbles. "This is Chai" is perhaps one of the most entrancing listens and the strangest, as an electro-swing tone is swept up in strange radio-tones and blown-out vocals to make a song that feels ripped from "Jet Set Radio Future." Blondie is called upon in tones on "Fashionista" where a disco-rock groove moves, while all the sweat of the seventies comes out in their aggression and weird breathing.
Opium Winter – Opium Winter (Ottawa)
With a weight and sense of constantly driving energy, Opium Winter holds nothing back in their music. You can feel the tension behind "Quarantine and Exegesis" where every heavy metal chug is building towards a fiery peak. As drawn-out as "Aletta" can feel, Opium Winter do a lot to give their textures real colour as a result. For pure metal fans, "The Dark Tigress" is a fantastical and dark song that goes all out while tapping into a lot of familiar ground. They do bring a menacing feeling on the other hand to "Photosynthetic Purgatory" as every riff feels like it has a kind of danger to it.
Julia Jacklin – Crushing (Sydney Australia)
Whether it's sad tones or the party-rock of Phantastic Ferniture, Julia Jacklin has made a point of highlighting emotion in her work. As a mature step forward, this latest record hits even harder by touching on particular thoughts that are otherwise hard to describe. This kind of maturity might by the most obvious on the slow-burn of "Body" where Jacklin focuses in on a story to really set up the kind of narrative template she's playing with on this record. The kind of pop-genius she's captured over the past few years comes out in a wave on "Head Alone" where even the most sorrowful verses are bookended with about five different infectious hooks. Though she goes for a simpler direction on "Pressure To Party" there's such an anxiousness lent to the vocals and tempo that every moment feels vital and addictive on repeat listens. "You Were Right" takes a more rhythmic approach on the whole, with Jacklin reflecting on her past relationships for better or worse.