• By: Owen Maxwell

Shame have carved out a unique place in the alt landscape

Gorillaz – Cracker Island (London, U.K/World)

While Damon Albarn and his entire Gorillaz project has shifted notably to a more one-off pop direction as of late, there’s a lot of gems to take in from his explorative process. Though a lack of particularly strong singles weaken this album even compared to the Song Machine releases, Albarn is at least dropping enough worthwhile moments to relish on this record. Even in its simple writing, the tones and sense of sonic depth on “Cracker Island” is an overwhelming feeling, and that’s all before the unreal bass work by Thundercat takes the song over. “Oil” follows the more drifty and floating work Gorillaz have started to avoid, layering a lush electronic world and Stevie Nicks’ affecting vocals to create a sunny wash of hope amidst a story that feels relevantly bleak. In line with many of Kevin Parker’s other throwback collaborations, “New Gold” is a fun bass-driven production that never ceases its grooves and intoxicating psychedelic haze, letting the darker textures of the album keep it unhinged. Tapping into the project’s fun quirk and rap combo, “Crocadillaz” is a fun return for De La Soul, though this track in particular suffers at times from how loose its production can feel.

Ragers – Only Sins No Tragedies (Single) (Montreal)

Kicking with a raw post-punk fury and a more modern alt-rock production, Ragers bring a cathartic fury on “Only Sins No Tragedies.” The back and forth of cries to the ether on choruses and a more freeflowing spoken word on the verses sees the project giving dynamic weight to the track, and keeping things from growing too stagnant moment to moment. Nevertheless, the constant momentum of the track is palpable and each vocalist comes into their verses with charisma to heighten their the pre-choruses and refrains into wonderfully tense releases.

U.S. Girls  – Bless This Mess (Chicago, IL/Toronto)

Meg Remy had always played with a lot of homage in her work, while it mostly felt like aesthetic over form. While her new album sinks into more of a pastiche-based energy, Remy’s attitude and knack for letting her arrangements get wild keeps the album from suffering more.  Though it plays in a weird choral cloud, “Futures Bet” cuts out with some booming George Michael suave and enough bravado to keep you hooked along its swinging beats and gasping breaths. The dangerous disco punch of “So Typically Now” really expands the scope of the whole production, with Remy skipping and hopping with her vocals to enhance that groovy trance. “Tux (Your Body Fills Me, Boo)” rides in on the pastiche feeling of the record and sees Remy going full tilt on her sassy lyrics, delivery and overall funky take on the base sound to create a modern disco gem that takes things up a notch on every front to keep you lost in the dance. “Pump” rounds out the more unusual beats of the record for a track that sees Remy and Alanna Stuart playing off each other’s spirits to make a sultry and body-shaking track.


Das Mörtal – Wasted (Single) (Montreal)

Dropping you in a synth world reminiscent of Disasterpiece and even Kavinsky, and mashing it with hip hop beats, Das Mörtal drops you into a faded place on “Wasted.” The massive bass notes and trickling highs collide to create a smoky mix on the track, while even the background production seems to evoke a visual space of desolation at times. And in this very pointed delivery its cool that Mörtal lets the track breathe for almost too long to emulate that feeling of wasting time they speak of. This lets the whole feeling of the song overtake you, and gives Das Mörtal’s track a truly otherworldly quality.

Shame Food For Worms (South London, U.K.)

Between an oppressive rock sound and more warm productions, Shame have carved out a unique place in the alt landscape. With a brighter sound than we’ve heard from them in some time, the band manages to bring a range in their sound that makes it hit all the harder. “Fingers of Steel” rushes the album out the door on a sunny and brutal grind, letting every vocal and guitar tone hum with a ghostly feeling, and every drum feel like a primordial force. Exploding with a very RHCP “Higher Ground” kick, “Six-Pack” holds nothing back in its funk-punk assault, losing a bit of identity while giving fans a visceral sonic shock. “Alibis” gives a great chunky punk wave, with the already guttural drive of the song going into cataclysmic overdrive on every feedback-burnt chorus. Meanwhile, the angular approach to “The Fall of Paul” harnesses the menacing front of the band into this jagged and abrasive beast, with every section bringing the band together in this damaging wall of fear.