February. Wow. What a month.
The world keeps spiraling closer and closer to certain doom, and in spite of that, people kept on releasing new albums. Here are my favorite albums for the month.
- The Dirty Nil – Higher Power
These Hamilton, ON pretty boy punks’ first LP has been a long time coming, and it doesn’t disappoint. Over the past decade, the trio have been on a mission to Make Rock and Roll Fun Again™, releasing singles and EPs which slowly but surely refined them into the kickass, way-too-good-to-actually-be-playing-Warped-Tour band they are now. Higher Power culminates their finest work from their past while looking into what will surely be a very bright future. I need to know where Luke Bentham got that dope t-shirt with the stars on it. Hit me up, buddy.
- Sarah Neufeld – The Ridge
Let’s see if I can go this whole review without bringing up Arcade Fire. Wait. Oops. Well I guess it’s out of the way now. Sarah Neufeld, commonly known as violinist/back up singer for Arcade Fire, is actually a fairly prolific artist in her own right. Hot Take Incoming Alert: Neufeld’s work outside of the ‘Cade is actually a lot more interesting than anything that band has produced. Last year she released a collaborative effort with Colin Stetson, Never Were The Way She Was. That particular collab made a lot of sense, as like Stetson, Neufeld has an almost preternatural relationship with her instrument, able to evoke a vast range of emotionally resonant tones and textures from her violin one would have never thought possible from the instrument. The Ridge is difficult to classify – epic minimalist post-neoclassical pop, uh, let’s go with that – but is a fascinating and engrossing listen that will likely free her from the ‘Arcade Fire back up singer’ label and place her in the spotlight she deserves.
- Årabrot – The Gospel
As per usual, Årabrot went and quietly released what will probably be the best hard rock record of the year, and as per usual, absolutely no one has taken any notice. Guys, this really has to stop. This band, despite the seemingly problematic name (IT’S NORWEGIAN OKAY) has been steadily releasing some of the best music of this decade with essentially no fanfare from North American publications. We are dropping the ball hard and it’s pathetic and I will make it my personal mission if I have to to ensure that this band gets the credit they deserve this side of the pond. Go listen to this album then go throw your fucking Foo Fighters CDs in the garbage because you’re better than that now, honey.
- Kanye West – The Life of Pablo
Did y’all see Ye’s evisceration of Deadmau5 on Twitter today? You probably have; it was hilarious, and the media has this thing where every single GOD DAMN THING KANYE WEST DOES gets reported these days. And do you know why that is? It’s because Kanye West is the single most entertaining person on this earth, and has been for over a decade now. I use the word ‘entertaining’ very deliberately here, due to its neutrality; sometimes the entertainment is good (‘can you perform at my daughter’s birthday party in a Minnie Mouse head?’), sometimes it is bad (‘I OWN YOUR CHILD’). But regardless of the moral vector, or the banality of the act, Kanye makes headlines with everything he does because everything he does is just SO Kanye, and Kanye is inherently fascinating. The Life of Pablo is our best testament yet to the chaotic contradiction that is Kanye. Brilliantly constructed gems of songcraft sit directly next to obviously unfinished scraps, yet all manner of songs are presented with such wide-eyed earnesty that distinctions such as good, bad, classic, trash, unfinished, distasteful or what have you, blur away leaving only the bewilderment that this is the album Kanye wanted us to hear (or is it?). Life is complex.
- Oranssi Pazuzu – Värähtelijä
I had already managed to nab a copy of this record and had it on heavy rotation when I wrote the inaugural edition of Phil’s Phive back in January. I mistakenly believed it had been released in January, and couldn’t wait to give it the number one spot on the list. Learning it was actually to be released in February threw a bit of a wrench in my plans, and I had to rewrite my entire list. A month or so later, my feelings towards this record haven’t changed in the slightest. It’s only March, but I’m comfortable saying Värähtelijä will be the metal Album of the Year, if not the AOTY across all genres. There’s been a lot of talk and controversy recent years over the crossover black metal movement, with North American bands like Deafheaven, Liturgy, and Wolves in the Throneroom taking the misanthropic genre and reforming it in their own populist visions. Those bands have released great records in their own right, but Värähtelijä is the true watershed moment of this movement, due to its ability to appeal to both hardcore Black Metal purists, and more open minded folk. Despite its 70 minute runtime, I have found the time to listen to this record every single day since coming across it, and it’s equal parts of unhinged aggression and mindbending psychedelia never cease to be engrossingly captivating. And the way the beat comes back in 5/6ths of the way through the 17 minute long ‘Vasemman Käden Hierarkia’…well, it’s something you just have to experience for yourself. This is THE psychedelic black metal record. Anything before Värähtelijä is moot, and anything after will be in its image.