Whirr – “Around”

(Photo Credit: Brooklyn Vegan)

Grade: B-

Whirr’s new album is only four tracks long, and falls awkwardly in between an EP and an LP. At 28 minutes or so, it’s roughly the length of some punk albums, but shorter than many of their other albums. This is, unintentionally, symbolic of the album’s awkward placement in between genres, blurring together metal, noise rock and shoegaze into that pumps up the volume but often hangs around longer than it needs to.

The four tracks on “Around” range from 5:53 to 8:47, much longer than the average songs on Whirr’s previous albums. The band is trying out more of a shoegaze sound, possibly inspired by the crazy work being done by crossover geniuses Deafheaven. Shoegaze is an incredibly tough genre of music to pull off, because it requires patience on both the band and the listener. A band has to maintain a sound, even a note, for a long time at maximum volume, without it becoming monotonous. There’s a reason there aren’t many famous shoegaze acts. Whirr don’t exactly pull it off. The songs stretch on too long, ideas too thought-up. The volume is there, and the gloomy, bleak guitars from their previous albums support the ideas. But there isn’t quite enough to keep in interesting.

The third track, “Keep,” is the album’s best, because of a volume change roughly 3:30 into the song. A subdued and constant sound is suddenly dropped out, and guitars kick back in much louder than before. It is this long, drawn out sound with the occasional hiccups that makes acts like Deafheaven and Godspeed You! Black Emperor the inspirational acts they are. The song transitions into the title track, in one long song that would’ve been too daunting and too long to release as one actual track. “Around,” just like the first two tracks, overstays it’s volume, staying quieter for its seven minutes.

I have to commend the band for attempting to blend genres like this. They do a pretty decent job, considering all of the conflicting elements. The songs just stick around too long. The volume, the guitars and the ideas are all there and great, but there’s actually just a little too much of it. If Whirr were to keep exploring this idea, though, I’d keep listening.

-If you like this try: Deafheaven’s “Sunbather.” I’ve already linked to my review a few times before.

-By Andrew McNally

Locrian – “Return to Annihilation”

(Photo Credit: The Sleeping Shaman)

Grade: B+

Key Tracks: “Eternal Return,” “A Visitation From the Wrath of Heaven”

“The ends justify the means” is not a phrase commonly associated with music, but it defines what Locrian sets out to do. The noise rock trio’s largely stellar new album is seven songs long, many of which build up furiously into large and loud ending moments. The final track, “Obsolete Elegies,” builds up for twelve minutes before unleashing a slow but heavy outro for the album. Locrian are a tough and complex band, one that most listeners are going to write off pretty quickly.

With a title like “Return to Annihilation” and song titles like “A Visitation From the Wrath of Heaven” and “Exiting the Hall of Vapor and Light,” Locrian comes off like a metal band. Instead, they are an overdrawn noise rock group sitting on the better side of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Their songs are in no hurry to reach their conclusion, in a fifty minute, seven-track album. Their music is more intense, and often more complex than Godspeed. Locrian’s songs start off on bleak notes, often accentuated by droning guitar and dismal keyboards. The album’s cover certainly helps, one of the bleakest covers in years. I unfortunately did not listen to the album with headphones, but I can imagine that it creates a surrounding experience. The droning of some of their songs grow into their abrasive conclusions, that sometimes feature some screamed lyrics, but not always.

Yet some songs have a certain urgency to them. The album isn’t entirely drones. Opener “Eternal Return” jumps right out of the gate with volume and screaming, ending noisily in only two and a half minutes. The second track, “A Visitation…” is one that builds up, but has more of a defined purpose and less of a bleak nature than the tracks that follow. The fact that many of the songs have a similar structure but vary in tone is beneficial, as the album never gets too bleak or too repetitive, but is instead a dense, heavy, and pleasurably frustrating listen. There is a complexity to “Return to Annihilation” that will never dissipate no matter how many listeners. The album might not hit some of the more disturbing elements it aims for, but it is still a deeply confronting album that works at each of its volumes. Locrian plays for a very limited niche of people looking for challenging and well-conceived noise-rock, but they do it very, very well.

If you like this, try: “METZ” by METZ (2012). Their song structures are much more traditional, and they’re much more upfront with their aural assaults, but it’s an incredible piece of noise rock. The album really makes the listener sweat.

-By Andrew McNally

Pity Sex – “Feast of Love”

(Photo Credit: Brooklyn Vegan)

Grade: B-

Key Tracks: “Wind Up,” “Fold”

“Feast of Love” is the full-length debut for the hyped lo-fi band. The quartet plays a shoegaze-inspired band of emo. The album is equal parts alt-pop, emo and traditional shoegaze walls of sound. Sonically, despite the creative blending of genres, the album could use for some expansion. It is only twenty-seven minutes long but it feels a little tiring. Part of it is the shoegaze itself, it as a genre can often tire and frustrate the listener in the best possible ways. But part of it is a lack of individuality amongst the songs. The album feels like one drawn-out idea, and that’s generally what an individual shoegaze song is to start with, so a full album of similar ideas gets really bogged down. Still, it is a creative blending of genres and is it at times challenging and staggeringly original.

The lyrics are often tough to decipher, which is pretty characteristic of shoegaze (Godspeed You! Black Emperor did away with them entirely). This recent revival of lo-fi emo groups is often accompanied by poetic lyrics that are almost too easy to relate to, that result in heart-wrenching songs. Pity Sex is no different, with some great, poetic lyricism happening. Unfortunately, some of it is buried under walls of guitar.

“Feast of Love” has its faults, but it shows promise as a debut. It is tedious but creative, and is definitely worth a listen for people intrigued by the lo-fi emo revival and shoegaze. Pity Sex is currently on tour with two of the best young bands in America today, Dads and The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die.

If you like this, try: The aforementioned bands, or check out the work done by the bands Teen Suicide and Julia Brown for something wickedly lo-fi.

-By Andrew McNally

 

Sigur Ros – “Kveikur”

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Grade: B+

Key Track: “Brennisteinn,” “Hrafntinna”

Prolific and critically-acclaimed Icelandic alternative band Sigur Ros’s seventh album is a tad darker and more abrasive than their previous works, and it retains the band’s minimalistic qualities in its engrossing songs. I cannot speak to the lyrics of the album, as I know absolutely no Icelandic, but the vocals behind the lyrics fit amongst the band’s haunting music.

The band has always approached their music with a minimalist approach, consistently churning out music that builds upon itself, like a moderately more accessible Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Although they have always taken this approach, and continue to do so many years later, “Kveikur” has a slightly darker tone. The album’s opening track (and longest), “Brennisteinn,” begins with a pounding synthesizer rumble that sets the tone for what is a darker experience than the rest of their albums.

Sigur Ros have never been ones to seem comfortable with fame, and their ever-growing popularity might be a cause for the darker tone. “Kveikur” might serve as a response to all of the critics and musicians that cite Sigur Ros as inspirations and jumping-off points. The album might also be reflective of the loss of keyboardist Kjartan Sveinsson, who left the band last year. This is only their second album without Sveinsson since their debut, “Von,” in 1997.

“Kveikur” is a dense album, with a lot of winding music. It requires some participation from the listener, which is deserved. Sigur Ros are getting a little darker and they expect their core audience to follow. Thankfully, they provide no reason why we shouldn’t. The album builds and builds, and totally engrosses the listener. At points, it is repetitive, but this is Sigur Ros. We should all be on-board with what they’re offering.

-By Andrew McNally