• By: Owen Maxwell

Album Reviews: The Hives, Noname, Genesis Owusu

The Hives – The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons (Fagersta, Sweden)

After essentially a decade off of albums, The Hives return to give us a sinisterly-toned album that feels like a summation of their whole career. Where many other bands’ take their turns back and go to much into “Back to basics,” The Hives nail the classics of their sound to make a record that feels more like a “Greatest Hits” of songs you never heard before. “Bogus Operandi” ties every vocal lick from the band’s repertoire into a military charge full of blistering feedback and fun, sleazy rock stop and goes. The character to the hooks in “Countdown To Shutdown” gives you so much of the band’s sass before that iconic chorus, with Pelle Almqvist as charismatic as ever, and the band’s wails just as feisty as ever behind him. There’s a maturity to the tones and chord voicing in “Smoke & Mirrors” that let the grandeur of the track really soar in its anarchic glee, with all the claps and throttling drums really adding a sense of scale to the track. You can feel the teenage glee and really ecstatic early Hives on “The Bomb” with its feral punk fury, as the band rips through the most simplistic yet exciting thrashing on a track that feels informed just enough by their decades of experience to enhance the little details.

Levitation Room – Scene for an Exit (Single) (Los Angeles)

With a very 70s groove and slide to their rhythms, Levitation Room do some great retro revival on “Scene for An Exit.” There’s explosive, bombastic highs on every chorus riff, and tons of glossy beauty to the guitars all over the track. The band’s effortless ability to maneuver between these two feelings and then shuffle right into a jam-heavy bridge to round it all out. Though the song refrains from being too flashy on its vocals, the group makes sure the few lines we get hit with a memorable melody. The track is short and sweet, though by the amount of effort and sublime feel they put into the sound itself, Levitation Room have clearly mastered the art of finer details.

Noname – Sundial (Chicago)

While not quite as long as The Hives, Fatimah Warner’s delay on new music was concerning, but worth the wait. Noname returns with a more cosmic energy on her new record, getting particularly frantic and off the wall the further the record goes on. There’s a sublime blend of bass and harmony to set the record of on “Black Mirror,” that opens up to Warner’s flow and a classy flute run to tie it all together beautifully. The more rhythmically charged drive of “Balloons” sees Warner moving in and out of the driver’s seat, while the percussive piano and cymbal moments really elevate every phrase of the whole track. There’s a more dire push on “Boomboom” between Ayomi’s belting, the horns and that frenetic drum work, standing as an unhinged rush on the album. Taking this lead, “Namesake” gets even more funky, with the drum and bass playing off each other’s wild energy to get more and more loose, all while the speed seems a breaking point.

Jessia – He’s A 10 (Single) (Ucluelet, British Columbia)

Tearing down dreamy guys that are actually nightmares, Jessia turns a reality check into a banger on “He’s a 10.” Right out the gate, the track’s numerical wordplay makes for a hilarious and instantly memorable chorus that will make you laugh while you’re singing along. Jessia’s ability to swap between the angrier shouts and the more intimate advice lends a strong dynamic range to the track, and lets each chorus hit that much harder. All the while, Jessia levels on how easily we all get pulled into the charm of beautiful faces, even growing blind to their more obvious red flags. Arguably it’s the step-by-step teardown of where the dream falls apart that cements the track’s standout quality, but Jessia sells its catchy notes so well that it’s easy to get caught up on just one for a while.

Genesis Owusu – STRUGGLER (Koforidua, Ghana/Canberra, Australia)

While Genesis Owusu was making fun and quirky music a few years back, his latest iteration feels like he has transcended into a fearless artist. Blending growling vocals, nerd and art-pop sensibilities, and intense production, this record (and Owusu’s new live show) bring a brashness that’s refreshing in modern music. Like Devo crossed Nine Inch Nails and Death Grips, “Leaving the Light” has an electric rush, a powerful abrasiveness, and undeniably cool air to just how out of left field its fusion of tones is. The grime and light of the metropolis feels tangible on “The Roach,” as its futuristic grime feels like a lost track from the “Cyberpunk: Edgerunners” soundtrack. The addictive groove on “Tied Up!” is impossible to not strut across the floor to, with such a cutting bass and drum combo that Owusu’s own magnetic performance takes it from the stratosphere to the moon. Even the more pop-punk-driven flow of “Stay Blessed” works in Owusu’s in-your-face world, feeling so refreshing on every chant that the more familiar roots in the song can easily be overlooked.