Tag: review

CD Review: Tiny Little Houses – Misericorde

PHOTO CREDIT: ANETA URBONAITE

Band: Tiny Little Houses
Album: Misericorde
Label: Ivy League
Release: November 19th, 2021

Rating: 9/10


The tagline for Misericorde boasts that it chronicles Caleb Karvountzis’ “search for salvation through suffering”. That’s enough to lure in any emo worth their eyeliner, but what’ll keep them buckled in are the gristly, jacked‑up pop guitars, brute-force beats and razor-sharp honesty. 

Three years removed from Tiny Little Houses’ debut (2018’s Idiot Proverbs), Karvountzis has levelled up from a tinnie‑slamming sad-boy to a cosmopolitan family man. Thus – and yes, we acknowledge how cliché this is to say – it’s a notably matured album. Such is tangible in the gravity of Karvountzis’ songwriting, but even moreso in the band en bloc’s musicality: the riffs are bold, crunchy and calamitous but never grating or obnoxious, and the hooks, while buoyant and catchy, wield a striking emotional weight.

Please note: this review is also printed in #145 of Australian Guitar Magazine, syndicated here because AG’s album reviews are no longer published online.

Misericorde is set for release on November 19th, 2021 via Ivy League. Click here to pre-order.

CD Review: Snail Mail – Valentine

PHOTO CREDIT: TINA TYRELL

Band: Snail Mail
Album: Valentine
Label: Matador / Remote Control
Release: November 5th, 2021

Rating: 9/10


Equally as glittery as it was melancholic, Lush – the aptly titled debut from Maryland indie stalwart Snail Mail (aka Lindsey Jordan) – had a notable ‘lightning in a bottle’-esque quality. It wowed with meticulous production and conscientious songwriting, but it also shone for its blithesome looseness and brazen confidence, Jordan committing herself wholly both as a classically trained musician with an ear for technicality and a dorky queer teen living in the peak of meme culture.

Three years on, Jordan doesn’t try to recreate that magic. It would seem she isn’t so keen, either, to reinvent herself – she knows she has a niche, and she’s happy to lean into it – but there’s a clear determination to evolve and experiment. Where warm, fuzzed-out Jaguar chords laid the groundwork on Lush, they’re just one small chunk of a much broader, more vibrantly vegetated soundscape on Valentine. We open with the title track, filmy and ethereal synths flooding the mix as Jordan’s cool, honeyed rasp dances over them – until about a minute in, when she and her band erupt into a bold and emphatic chorus. 

There’s a fierce, St. Vincent-channelling swagger on “Ben Franklin”, and a dip down into the doughier, more pensive indie flair of Jordan’s early work on “Headlock”. In succession, these three tracks paint an orphic and arresting picture of the album as a whole: rich, soul-baring songwriting twined around poignant and pictorial – and above all, interesting – melodies.

But as the album continues to unwind, so too does it continue to surprise – whether it be via the folky acoustic fingerstyle and warm violin on ‘Light Blue’, heady tinges of blustery ‘90s pop on ‘Forever (Sailing)’, or subtle, smoky prongs of bass guitar on ‘Madonna’, tastefully accented by eerie stringwork and a warbling synth. Even the most zealous fans are bound to blindsided by something unpredictable – yet entirely welcomed – as not a second of Valentine feels like it was penned without the utmost care and consideration.

Jordan’s use of space is especially admirable. A track can have two guitars, a kinetic beat, strings and synths in abundance and her own dryly sung, kaleidoscopic quips, yet never feel cluttered. In fact, the record often sounds distinctly lowkey, Jordan maintaining a prudent tact throughout despite such a dense array of colours and tones at her disposal. 

This, too, is reflected boldly in her lyricisms – sharp and stormy, but delivered in such a way that makes Jordan come off as down-to-earth and reticent. She never teeters on vaudeville, but the dramatisation of her inner turmoil is always gripping and grandiose. She drums up a wealth of emotion, potent and impassioned, and makes it all look effortless in the process.

So, on Valentine, Jordan doesn’t look to recreate the magic she made with Lush; instead, she makes a whole new kind of magic – one that is endlessly more… Uh… Magical.

Please note: this review is also printed in #145 of Australian Guitar Magazine, syndicated here because AG’s album reviews are no longer published online.

Valentine is set for release on November 5th, 2021 via Matador / Remote Control. Click here to pre-order.

CD Review: Mastodon – Hushed And Grim

PHOTO CREDIT: PATRICK MCBRIDE

Band: Mastodon
Album: Hushed And Grim
Label: Reprise / Warner
Release: October 29th, 2021

Rating: 8.5/10


Whether it really makes the most of its 86-minute runtime is debatable, but immediately clear is that with Hushed And Grim, Mastodon have thrown all caution to the wind – it’s epic both in size and statue, stacked to the brim with fretwork as striking as it is sophisticated. In the six-minute “Sickle And Peace” alone, the band employ mind-boggling technicality, walloping shreddery and a truly empyrean solo.

Throughout the record at large, they expertly balance the prodigious might of their narrative prowess with the ashy bleakness of their sludge metal roots – there are stoutly cerebral moments that call for deep, contemplative reflection, but just as many moments that beckon an instinctive whipping up of the horns and thrashing of the head. It’s not a “heavy” record, per se, but it is positively intense.

Please note: this review is also printed in #145 of Australian Guitar Magazine, syndicated here because AG’s album reviews are no longer published online.

Hushed And Grim is set for release on October 29th, 2021 via Reprise / Warner. Click here to pre-order.

CD Review: Every Time I Die – Radical

PHOTO CREDIT: MICHAEL WATSON

Band: Every Time I Die
Album: Radical
Label: Epitaph
Release: October 22nd, 2021

Rating: 8/10


In the five years since Every Time I Die dropped Low Teens, shit has, to say the very least, hit the fan. Radical concentrates those five years of social disarray and capitalistic chaos into the Buffalo group’s most vicious and evocative album yet, laden with brutally intense riffage and visceral, incendiary rage.

It’s the more artful and considered moments that stand out, though: the swampy, pared-back plucks on “Thing With Feathers” and the soaring melodies on “Post-Boredom”, for example, or the white-hot angst of closer “We Go Together”. These tracks make some of the more straightforward hardcore stompers (“Hostile Architecture”, “Distress Rehearsal”) fall a bit flat – there’s certainly some mud amongst the opals here – but to say Radical ever overstays its welcome would be patently false. 

Please note: this review is also printed in #145 of Australian Guitar Magazine, syndicated here because AG’s album reviews are no longer published online.

Radical is set for release on October 22nd, 2021 via Epitaph. Click here to pre-order.

CD Review: Thrice – Horizons / East

PHOTO CREDIT: MATT VOGEL

Band: Thrice
Album: Horizons / East
Label: Epitaph
Release: September 17th, 2021

Rating: 8/10


A sinuous odyssey through all the lustrous highs and pummelling lows of Dustin Kensrue’s psyche, there’s a gauzy, intoxicating cloudiness that lurks around every corner on Horizons / East. It ebbs and flows between a meditative calm and a baleful storminess, twining glimmers of thrashy and visceral punk-rock with the glittery, pastoral flavours of shoegaze and prog.

The rusty, shred-centric steeze of early cuts like “Scavengers” and “Summer Set Fire To The Rain” pave way for the record’s lighter and more silvery back-end to bloom; riding on the back of the blood-rushing highs of “The Dreamer”, “Robot Soft Exorcism” feels therapeutic – the calm after the storm, if you will, with a soaring and cinematic crescendo that makes the silky, dreamlike lulls of “Dandelion Wire” and “Unitive / East” all the more impactful.

Please note: this review is also printed in #145 of Australian Guitar Magazine, syndicated here because AG’s album reviews are no longer published online.

Horizons / East is out now via Epitaph. Click here to get around it.

CD Review: The Buoys – Unsolicited Advice For Your DIY Disaster

PHOTO CREDIT: MAYA LUANA

Band: The Buoys
Album: Unsolicited Advice For Your DIY Disaster
Label: Spunk
Release: October 13th, 2021

Rating: 8/10


Lacquering their youthful, sunkissed power-pop jams with lyrical barbs that shoot straight for the heart, The Buoys’ sophomore EP would feel just as much at home roaring from the PAs at next year’s Splendour In The Grass as it would through a pair of AirPods during a casual quarter-life crisis.

Zoe Catterall and Hilary Geddes’ yin-and-yang fretwork sears with a frisky, jangly grunt, contrasted wonderfully by Courtney Cunningham’s rounded and propulsive basslines. Teeming with energy even at their lowest point, the band often veer scarily close to the edge of overkill – you know what they say: if you ain’t redlining, you ain’t headlining – but they always know just when to reel it back in. Case in point: the dizzying bends and bubbly hook on slow-burner “Lie To Me”. 

Please note: this review is also printed in #145 of Australian Guitar Magazine, syndicated here because AG’s album reviews are no longer published online.

Unsolicited Advice For Your DIY Disaster is out now via Spunk. Click here to get around it.

CD Review: Sam Teskey – Cycles

PHOTO CREDIT: KRISTIAN LAEMMLE-RUFF

Band: Sam Teskey
Album: Cycles
Label: Ivy League
Release: October 8th, 2021

Rating: 6.5/10


On his long-awaited solo debut, Sam Teskey eschews the blues in favour of hazy, fuzz-laden psychedelica. Albeit rather derivative – Teskey mines the ‘60s like a proud fanboy, but adds little of his own flair to the fray – the talent employed on Cycles is undeniable; from the Hendrixian swagger of “If The Dove Is Sold” to the Dylanesque twangs of “Til The River Takes Us Home”, or the Floydian fizz of “Let The Sun Bring The Light” and “Then Love Returns”, Teskey nails every strum, pluck and solo like the seasoned virtuoso he is. 

We could’ve done without the plodding intros and outros (which occupy over a quarter of the album’s real estate), but they’re not entirely egregious. All in all, Cycles makes for a decent Sunday evening apéritif. Serve chilled, preferably at dusk. 

Please note: this review is also printed in #145 of Australian Guitar Magazine, syndicated here because AG’s album reviews are no longer published online.

Cycles is out now via Ivy League. Click here to get around it.

CD Review: The Bronx – Bronx VI

PHOTO CREDIT: MIKE MILLER

Band: The Bronx
Album: Bronx VI
Label: Cooking Vinyl
Release: August 27th, 2021

Rating: 7.5/10


Perfectly suited for a particularly erratic time, Bronx VI is heavy, hard-hitting and headstrong. It’s a step backwards in the band’s sonic evolution – Bronx V stood out for its tasteful shift into a more summery, groove-inflected Britrock flavour, whereas Bronx VI is mostly cut-and-dried, no-frills punk – but that’s not to say it isn’t a wondrously well-crafted record.

It’s a rabid and unrelenting love letter to fans of the first three Bronx LPs; the riffs are venomous, the chugs walloping and the solos soaring, and the screams lacquered over them are enthralling and impassioned. Best is how it crystallises all the meteoric might and inimitable fury of the band’s live show – especially so via the breakneck‑paced intensity of “Breaking News” and the frenetic, fist-pumping grunt of “Curb Feelers”. 

Please note: this review is also printed in #144 of Australian Guitar Magazine, syndicated here because AG’s album reviews are no longer published online.

Bronx VI is set for release on August 27th, 2021 via Cooking Vinyl. Click here to pre-order.

CD Review: Bleachers – Take The Sadness Out Of Saturday Night

PHOTO CREDIT: CARLOTTA KOHL

Band: Bleachers
Album: Take The Sadness Out Of Saturday Night
Label: RCA / Sony
Release: July 30th, 2021

Rating: 8/10


Though perhaps not as grandiose or eccentric as its predecessors, LP3 is certainly more ambitious, sprawling and considered. The instrumentation is downright luscious, with dazzling horns and delicate strings dancing over meticulous outlines of glassy keys and acoustic twiddling. 

The Springsteen cameo on “Chinatown” marks an early highlight – and it’s well-earned, as his influence can be felt at many points throughout of the all-around cinematic, emotive and nostalgic affair. 

Although of course it’s the big and bold pop belters that shine the brightest (see: “How Dare You Want More”, “Stop Making This Hurt”), heartrending slow-burners like the silky “Secret Life” and smoky “Strange Behaviour” add to the record a wealth of depth and character. 

Please note: this review is also printed in #144 of Australian Guitar Magazine, syndicated here because AG’s album reviews are no longer published online.

Take The Sadness Out Of Saturday Night is out now via RCA / Sony. Click here to buy a copy.

CD Review: Alice Skye – I Feel Better But I Don’t Feel Good

PHOTO CREDIT: ATONG ATEM

Artist: Alice Skye
Album: I Feel Better But I Don’t Feel Good
Label: Bad Apples / Universal
Release: July 23rd, 2021

Rating: 8/10


Equally pensive and punchy, Alice Skye’s second LP is nothing short of breathtaking. Ebbing and flowing between deep, simmering melancholy and bright, captivating dreaminess, the Wergaia stalwart simply refuses to hold back; she’s crafted a record perfect for those long, introspective late-night road trips. 

Guitars on the record are subtle and understated, but strikingly impactful when they do lead the fray – take for example the gravelly, distorted leads on “Everything Is Great” or the shimmery, ‘70s-channeling strums on “Grand Ideas”. Less really is more throughout; the bold, attention‑grabbing solo on “Browser History” feels so because it’s underscored by a simple, cantering beat, Skye’s warm, honeyed ruminations so easy to melt into on either side of it.

Please note: this review is also printed in #144 of Australian Guitar Magazine, syndicated here because AG’s album reviews are no longer published online.

I Feel Better But I Don’t Feel Good is out now via Bad Apples / Universal. Click here to buy or stream.