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Drowning The Light'
Among The Ghosts (Pre-Order)Lucero's ninth studio album, Among the Ghosts, is their first for noted Nashville indie label Thirty Tigers. It was recorded and co-produced with Grammy-winning engineer/producer and Memphis native Matt Ross-Spang (Jason Isbell, Margo Price, Drive by Truckers) at the historic Sam Phillips Recording Service, the studio built by the legendary producer after outgrowing his Memphis Recording Service/Sun Studio.
Recorded primarily live as a five-piece, Among the Ghosts eschews the Stax-inspired horns and Jerry Lee Lewis-style boogie piano featured on some of the band's past recordings for a streamlined rock & roll sound that pays homage to their seminal influences as it seeks to push that legacy into the future. For a band who carried the torch of the alt-country movement back in the 90's and helped pave the way for what is now called Americana, Lucero have re-discovered what inspired them in the first place. The sound is more their own and at the same time not exactly like anything they've done before. This is a band settling into their craft. The 10-song disc's title is both a tribute to the spirits which roam the streets of their fabled city, as well as the hard road the determinedly independent band set out on 20 years ago. The band played around 200 shows per year for many of those 20 years.
With a nod to his younger brother Jeff Nichols, an acclaimed filmmaker whose movies include Loving, Mud, Take Shelter, Midnight Special, and Shotgun Stories; Nichols has written songs that are cinematic short stories, steeped in Southern gothic lore. There are nods to regional authors like Flannery O'Connor and Faulkner, as well as newer writers like Larry Brown (Big Bad Love, Fay), Ron Rash (The Cove, The World Made Straight), and William Gay (The Long Home).
As the first album he's written since his marriage and the birth of his now two-year-old daughter Izzy, Nichols approached the task as a narrator rather than in first person. It's a dark palette that includes tales of a haunting ("Among the Ghosts"), a drowning ("Bottom of the Sea), a reckoning with the devil ("Everything has Changed"), a divorce ("Always Been You"), and a shoot out ("Cover Me"). And that's just Side A. Side B is a letter from a battlefield ("To My Dearest Wife"), a crime ("Long Way Back Home"), a straight-out rocker ("For the Lonely Ones") and even a spooky spoken-word cameo from actor Michael Shannon, who has appeared in every one of Nichols' brother's films. The song's title "Back to the Night" references a line from Nick Tosches' Jerry Lee Lewis biography, Hellfire. In addition, there's a song Nichols wrote for his brother's movie Loving, which appeared in the film and on the soundtrack, re- recorded for Among the Ghosts with the whole band.
"You could also say there's a rescue, a getaway, a survival story and a middle finger to Satan himself," laughs Nichols. "It's all in your perspective."
Several songs juxtapose going off to battle with a rock & roll band's endless touring, shifting time periods like the spirits which haunt the album, the happiness of domestic bliss undercut with fears of loss and the specter of mortality. Among the Ghosts simultaneously reprises the past and looks to the future, while being firmly anchored in the present.
Musically, the band highlights range from co-founding member Brian Venable's Dire Straits-meets-War on Drugs guitar pyrotechnics in "Bottom of the Sea" and "Cover Me" to the Springsteen vibe of "For the Lonely Ones," Rick Steff's skeletal piano lines on "Always Been You," John C's bass lines in "Everything Has Changed" and "Long Way Back Home," and drummer Roy Berry's dynamic shifts from the powerful and brutal title track "Among the Ghosts" to the marching drive of "To My Dearest Wife" and the subtlety of "Loving." Throughout, Nichols' bourbon-soaked growl has become even more distinctive and commanding.
Among the Ghosts offers a timeless perspective on Lucero's distinctive sound. The lyrics could've been written 200 years ago or yesterday. Representing a new South compared to the one that's been mythologized, Lucero have formulated their own ideas and culture which, in some cases, contradicts what came before them (no Confederate flags), but also updates and reconsiders those traditions in a new light.
"I think we've tried to remake this place that we love and cherish in our own fashion. We are very proud of where we are from and we've spent the last 20 years trying to bring a bit of our version of home to the rest of the world It may have taken 20 years, but everything has fallen in place right where it needs to be," acknowledges Nichols. "There were some dark days in those middle years, but we've learned how to do this and survive. We still write heartbreak songs, but now, with a family at home, it's a whole new kind of heartbreak."
Among the Ghosts lays out that new territory with alacrity, as Lucero shines their Morning Star, burning just as brightly, if not more so, 20 years later. As one of the album's song titles so aptly puts it, "Everything Has Changed," but one thing hasn't Lucero's music remains more vital than ever.1. Among the Ghosts
2. Bottom of the Sea
3. Everything Has Changed
4. Always Been You
5. Cover Me
6. To My Dearest Wife
7. Long Way Back Home
9. Back to the Night
10. For the Lonely Ones$19.99Vinyl LP - Sealed PRE-ORDER Buy Now
AntisocialitesAntisocialites is the much-anticipated follow-up to Alvvays' 2014 self-titled debut. Across its 10 tracks and 33 minutes the Toronto-based group dive back into the deep end of reckless romance and altered dates. Through thoughtful consideration in basement and abroad, Alvvays has renewed its Scot-pop vows with a powerful new collection of manic emotional collage.
The album opens with the excellent strum-'n-thrummer 'In Undertow,' a hi-amp breakup fantasy that is both crushing and charming for its level-headedness. You find a wave and try to hold on for as long as you can, you made a mistake you'd like to erase and I understand, sings Rankin, her voice full longing not for another person necessarily, but for what to do next. Meditate, play solitaire, take up self-defense, Molly continues, laundry-listing some strategies for moving on. What's next for you and me? I'll take suggestions, she deadpans under crashing waves of feedback and Farfisa.
Replete with more songs about drinking ('Forget About Life,' 'Hey'), drugging ('Lollipop (Ode To Jim)'), and drowning ('Already Gone'), Antisocialites is a multipolar period piece fueled by isolation and loss. Perversely enjoyable dark drama springs from Rankin's phonetic twists, quick-sung rhymes and irreverent syllable-play. So morose for me, seeing ghosts of me, writing oaths to me, the self-described introvert sings on the Cocteau-pop stunner 'Dreams Tonite,' the song from which the album's name is derived. In fluorescent light, antisocialites watch a wilting flower.
Antisocialites details a world of ice cream truck jingles and radiophonic workshop noise, where Rankin's shining wit is refracted through crystalline counterpoint. 'Not My Baby' is a centerpiece, a meditation on the rapture of escape following the sadness of separation. Elsewhere, 'Plimsoll Punks' is the band's answer to Television Personalities' 'Part-Time Punks' and a winking surf opus indictment of the self-righteous who intend to condescend. Molly wrote the rapid-fire sugar stream 'Lollipop (Ode to Jim)' after singing 'Just Like Honey' with Jesus and Mary Chain. 'Your Type' is a beautiful primitive stomp about running around Paris with vomit on your feet post-Louvre ejection.
The record concludes with a movement that is at once stark and celebratory. On 'Forget About Life,' the apartment stands in disarray as undrinkable wine is inhaled: When the failures of the past multiply and you trivialize the things that keep your hand from mine, did you want to forget about life with me tonite? The resonant freaks in Rankin's tales don't find much resolve, but with equal doses of black humor and heartstring-tugging, Antisocialites rings a truer tone.1. In Undertow
2. Dreams Tonite
3. Plimsoll Punks
4. Your Type
5. Not My Baby
7. Lollipop (Ode To Jim)
8. Already Gone
9. Saved By A Waif
10. Forget About Life$18.99180 Gram Audiophile Virgin Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
BirthdaysIn this frantic Twitterworld, where all the genres of music are either mating with other genres, feeding on the past or searching for the next trending wave, Keaton Henson personifies the moment when time stops still. It's the almost shocking sound of one man and his gently stoked electric guitar, which flicks like the embers of a fire, as the singer's voice glows in the reflected light, safe in his panic room.
Crippled by anxiety since childhood, to the point that he rarely goes out or plays live, the wondrously bearded Keaton is the archetypal tortured recluse who channels his emotions not into shopping or clubbing but his art: he's a skilled illustrator too, of bare-boned drawings that are as starkly delineated as his guitar-playing.
Birthdays follows 2012's cult debut album Dear..., and for its first half, Henson avoids slipping into post-dubstep, chillwave or hiring Skrillex in order to fit in.
But there is change underfoot. Dear featured one drum track, so the subtle beat behind The Best Today is no biggie. But half way through the following Don't Swim, it's like an ember has landed in your lap. The song's sudden electrical charge, which persists through the following, thunderous Kronos, is the sound of Henson wrenched from his comfort zone. Birthdays' second track suggests he's even reached Paris.
In fact, the whole album was recorded in California by American producer Joe Chiccarelli (The Shins, The Strokes). And various guests, including Jesca Hoop on ghostly backing vocals, have chipped in. Birthdays' second half takes Heaton closer to Jeff Buckley's turf: the unforced vibrato, the goosepimply effect and romantic hunger. But it's a subtle shift, and the instrumentation only partially reconfigures the secluded spell.
Beekeeper's occasional bouts of rock doesn't drown out the soft peals of banjo, while the swell of French horns, martial drum and Henson's fluttering voice in Sweetheart, What Have You Done to Us sounds like he's still in his bedroom. Up there, warmed by the fire, he's cloistered away from Twitter and all the other evils of this parish. There's no better way to shut out the din than by putting this record on.
This LP also includes a CD of the album.1. Teach Me
2. 10am Gare du Nord
4. Lying to You
5. The Best Today
6. Don't Swim
9. Sweetheart, What Have You Done to Us
10. In the Morning$19.99Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
Seventh SwamphonySeventh Swamphony is the seventh studio album by the Finnish melodic death metal band Kalmah and is their first album with new keyboardist Veli-Matti Kananen. The album was recorded at Tico-Tico Studios in Kemi, Finland, and was mixed and mastered by Jens Bogren.
Few would deny that in the late 1990s and very early 2000s, Finnish death metal began shifting it's direction across the board. Although Amorphis themselves never lost any stride, the whole 'depression metal' thing just kinda faded away, to be replaced by something far more aggressive and energetic. Bands such as Children of Bodom, Norther, and Insomnium broke through with a sound that although was still firmly rooted in the brutality of death metal, were not too shy to throw in the occasional thrash and black metal influence to in turn create something new and exciting. With the exception of perhaps the aforementioned Insomnium, Kalmah had always been perhaps the most flat-out extreme and agro, and has steadily upped the ante with every succeeding release.
Right from the get-go, this disc opens up with a synth-hit-infused blasting skank-beat that flows easily into the pit-worthy yet SUPER-catchy chorus. This kind of sets the tone for this whole disc, and you get eight incredibly intense-yet-focus fistpumping/headbanging perfect examples of memorably melodic death metal that oozes every ounce of brutality that it can out of the riffage contained herein. A theme that is echoed in practically every song they've ever done is their effortless use of solemn, slightly-folksy lead guitar melodies on top of the high-energy thrashy rhythms underneath. Songs such as Deadfall and Wolves On The Throne are amazing and true-to-form for this band; heavy on melody and light on respite. The former song also features a glimpse of the ivory-tickling prowess of new keyboardist Veli-Matti Kananen, who in both his melody lines and also in his soloing has an almost youthful whimsy as he jams up and down the board. Once you notice it for the first time, you tend to notice that this may be one of the most keyboard-heavy albums the band has ever done, but that is because this may be the first time since 2002 that the band's keyboardist has had anything meaningful to add to the table in terms of songwriting. Maybe that's a bit drastic, but that's sure what it sounds like here, and that isn't to say that the omnipresent keys drown out the massive wall of guitar and bass. Antti Kokko is still one of underground metal's unknown guitar heroes with how deftly he weaves his melody lines through these tracks, and never mind how ridiculous his solos are. Need a point of reference? He's a straight-faced, serious, no-B.S. version of Alexi Laiho. And his brother Pekka Kokko's voice has never sounded better either, easily crossing from the higher-pitched, black metal-version of Mille Petrozza he always used to do on the older records with the flat-out demonic growl he's wielded since the masterful The Black Waltz album. He even manages to weave in a bit of clean singing for the first time that I can remember hearing on a Kalmah record, and speaking of which...
...remember how in the first paragraph we kind of stated that the melancholic Finnish death metal of yesteryear has been kind of hard to find as of late? Well, Kalmah decided to dish out their own version in fourth track Hollo. After listening to it maybe 10 times now, I've realized that I just need to stop the internal dialogue on whether or not it's a good direction for the band and instead just focus on how amazing the song itself is. For most of the track it really is one of the best pieces of old school Amorphis-worship that I've ever heard, before doing a Viking metal shift about halfway through, complete with calling horns and battle-ready gang vocals. Apart from this tune, the most that Kalmah otherwise deviates from what they know works is the almost-punky opening of Windlake Tale.
A lot of people unfairly write this band off as Bodom clones, and it's really unfortunate when they put out such amazingly dark and heavy records like this that really set them apart. If anything, I feel that this record will continue to appease Kalmah's core fanbase who've stuck it out since the beginning, but with it's perfect mixjob (except for some questionable leveling of the opening melody of Wolves on the Throne) where everything comes through crisp and clear (or as crisp and clear as a band as loud and agro as this likes to get), it can be an easy-to-get-into album for those still uninitiated.
Raise a horn of mead to the swamplords...they did it again!
- ArnoldHablewitz (The Metal Archives)1. Seventh Swamphony
5. Windlake Tale
6. Wolves On a Throne
7. Black Marten's Trace
8. The Trapper$19.99Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now