• By: Owen Maxwell

Ibibio Sound Machine pushes their electronic sounds into aggressive new territory


Jack White – Fear of the Dawn (Nashville TN, Detroit, MI)

After years of mutating his own brand of garage and country-influenced rock, Jack White has decidedly turned his sharp riffing knife on experimentation. While he balances this with a lot of classic touches from across his various bands, this step forward can still take some getting used to. That said, it’s great to see him forgoing homage again. “Taking Me Back” spins the classic White riff banger with a lot of weird guitar effects and a wonderfully grimy set of keyboard solos and unhinged instrumental shrieks, just pop-centric enough to stay the course. Meanwhile, the operatic opening of “Hi-De-Ho” lets the bass crawl come in with punch, and his rhyming with Q-Tip land perfectly in the mix, quirky choices be damned. The multi-part charge of “Eosophiobia” makes for one of White’s most ambitious productions in ages, mixing dark melancholy, fiery punk-charges, and even a little country twang in its bridges. It’s totally bizarre but for a fan of all of White’s projects it does a surprisingly good job of making them all work in one song. Along with several tracks from the record’s second half, “What’s the Trick?” harnesses the fury and weight of the Dead Weather into a chunky, dark and relentless track complete with unusual motor sounds and tons of weird tonal choices to keep you guessing, which is a refreshing return to form for Jack.

The Flamingos Pink  – I Don’t Care (Single) (Montreal)

Through their fuzzy guitars, The Flamingos Pink drop an easily danceable new single on “I Don’t Care.” Between the stop and start of their verses and the bouncy chaos of each chorus, this track gets your hips shaking. The group never lets their momentum sit for a second either, as each section rises higher than the last, with feedback and simmering drums leaving a tension the keep you gripped. The vocals here also push a lot in the dynamics of the track, with the already ecstatic kick going into a full-blown party on every chorus, and notch it up yet again.

Papercuts – Past Life Regression (San Francisco)

With a penchant for illuminating the otherwise downbeat energy that shoegaze often runs into, Papercuts latest record is just as dazzling as ever. Taking their signature take on the genre through an eclectic set of melodic influences, this is another fleshed out release that sees aesthetic and craft at their peak. The glimmering soul of “Lodger” sets the record off with a slow but moving groove, hitting our ears like a glorious beam of sunlight. The hook immediately captures your mind on “Sinister Smile” leaving you floating in a beautiful haze of cheer and a little bit of “Dear Prudence”-like melody. Amidst a bit of kinks in the strings, “My Sympathies” feels instantly classic, and the masterful arrangements set against the airy vocals makes for a magical listen. This all culminates in the dense sound of “Palm Sunday,” where Papercuts makes this into a whole wall of noise, with bells ringing, guitars wailing in feedback and every note collapses into one another perfectly.

Rachel Cousins  – For Myself (Single)  (St. John’s, Newfoundland)

On her latest single, Rachel Cousins’ vocal highs and melodic finesse meshes perfectly into world that JEM and Daniel Adams create with her. This track feels equal parts modern and vintage, with touches of Bruno Mars and Whitney Houston respectively sprinkled here. There’s such a strength in Cousins’ delivery and use of vocal layering too, and it takes the self-empowering message of the track and makes it all the more impactful.  Every guitar line feels fiery, and the way Cousins is able add a new catchy edge to every inch of the song makes for a pop track way ahead of her peers.

Ibibio Sound Machine – Electricity (London, U.K.) 

Aside from a few clear influences, Ibibio Sound Machine always manages to surprise us in the way they spin classic dance roots into something guttural. For a record that pushes their electronic sounds into aggressive new territory, they manage to infuse enough pop that this record never alienates. “Protection From Evil” gets the vicious charge running right away, with the angry shouting and bubbling synths rising like charging forces, and hitting such explosive highs in the breakdowns that you won’t be able to listen to this and stay in your seat. The pump of the beat and dance of the synths provide the perfect place for Eno Williams voice to fly on “All That You Want,” as it provides a disco-like glide that the group hasn’t touched on quite like this before. However, the club drive of “Wanna See Your Face Again” brings its own soulful rush, with Williams harmonizing off herself in such intricate ways that it elevates the already heavenly rhythms to syncopated greatness. They hit a cool pop streak on “17 18 19” and bring in a lot of quirk keys to create a fierce disco-rock banger, but one that has the weirdness of Devo in its bones too.