THIS WEEK’S NEW ALBUMS REVIEWED | FEATURE
The Bitter Truth (Sony)
We’re the best part of 20 years on since debut album Fallen put the rock genre on notice, as Evanescence [pictured, top] made a mammoth size impact on airwaves worldwide. Spring 2021, meanwhile, sees studio album number five released: dark and heavy, it’s as close to the earlier material as Evanescence have come. I’m sure that’ll resonate differently with various fans, but it’s a thumbs up from me.
Broken Pieces Shine’s intro of thundering drums and deep, ringing, power chords sets the scene for Amy Lee’s unique vocal to cut through the music like a knife through butter. Yeah Right, again, sees Lee’s singing transcend: call it rock, metal, it’s even operatic at times. Feeding The Dark is a perfect example of the album’s heavier side, with thumping, rhythmic guitar, crashing drums and the haunting vocal of Lee ringing out as if it were a bewitching spell.
Having drifted away from Evanescence somewhat in recent years – although their last album of new material was a decade ago – the record pleasantly took me back to 2003 or thereabouts. Eerie, captivating, and nostalgic. Best played with the volume cranked up loud.
words OWEN SCOURFIELD
Head Of Roses (Sub Pop)
Sometimes, an album cover perfectly encapsulates its music’s tonal and emotional tenor. Head Of Roses, the second solo album by Jenn Wasner aka Flock Of Dimes, is a colourful and impressionistic work, mirroring its gentle and oblique art. However, also like its cover, its contents are blurry and vague, heavily stylised but lacking bite or idiosyncrasy.
Wasner’s sonic palette drifts between retro synthpop, hazy indie and folk-inflected silkiness. These three elements are intertwined elegantly enough, yet the end result is an album that fails to land any real emotional blows. Price Of Blue trudges through its predictable structure, while the Americana guitars and drum shuffles of Walking and Awake For The Sunrise imagine Smog covering Julien Baker, but without ever achieving the devastating insights that either of those artists have the ability to conjure up.
The ambient, almost Radiohead-esque No Question uses layered pianos to evoke true wonder, and is by far the album’s highlight. However Wasner’s clumsy and platitudinous lyrical turns of phrase, including Two’s especially poor “we’re all just wearing bodies like a costume till we die,” compound atop the muted songcraft to make Head Of Roses a decidedly one-dimensional canvas of prosaic indie pop.
words TOM MORGAN
G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END (Constellation)
Hard to believe these fin-de-siecle post-rockers have been (in as uncapitalist a way as possible, naturally) peddling their wares for a quarter of a century now, but here we are. As the world falls apart in a tidal wave of pandemic, demagogues and shipping mishaps, who better to soundtrack the malaise than the cheery Canadians?
Little has changed in Godspeed world: slow-building, instrumental epics, with largely impenetrable titles and unconventional use of upper case, still being the order of the day. ROCKETS FOR MARY, 20 minutes or so long, moves from radio static into distorted delta blues, soars to a crescendo of muezzin like guitars, threatens to turn into a kind of post-Trump Nantucket Sleighride before collapsing into a collage of birdsong and distant explosions.
The similarly lengthy GOVERNMENT CAME takes its time building, almost falling in on itself, eventually finding the darkest bassline in history before climaxing in an anthemic, almost upbeat wave of strings and crashing guitars. Such optimism is reinforced by closer OUR SIDE HAS TO WIN, both in its defiant title and stirring string arrangement. A remarkable record.
words PAUL JENKINS
Course In Fable (Husky Pants)
“Fuck me, I’m alive” exclaims Ryley Walker on Rang Dizzy. It’s a strikingly direct line from someone whose lyrics usually tend towards the obtuse. Little wonder he sounds surprised, relieved, defiant, even exultant, having survived a suicide attempt in 2019 while on tour with Richard Thompson. And thank fuck he did. Produced by Chicago legend John McEntire of Tortoise, Course In Fable is testament to the now drink-and-drug-free Walker’s singular talents.
Striking Down Your Big Premiere opens with the muddy thud of 70s drums and a tricksy dance of guitars – not for nothing has Walker taken to referring to this as his “prog record” – but then slows and mutates into something else altogether. He’s a master of misdirection, whether he’s twisting a nimble jazzy exercise into a On The Beach-era Neil Young song (A Lenticular Slap), introducing Sonic Youth or Lynyrd Skynyrd into the soulful Axis Bent and Clad With Bunk respectively, or bitterly announcing “I declare a happy birthday to every mouth full of shit” over the warm, enveloping vibes of Shiva With Dustpan.
These are complex songs built on shifting sands, but they wear the weight of their musicality lightly, meandering and freewheeling without ever forgetting about the listener and retreating into their own little world.
words BEN WOOLHEAD
West Lothian’s youthful indie combo The Snuts [pictured on front page – credit Gaz Williamson] have numerous singles and EPs under their belt already, but W.L. is their debut full-length proper. Jack Cochrane’s vocal is like a hammer to the eardrums on opening track Top Deck but once I was over the shock, and the annoyance that he sounds remarkably like someone else that I couldn’t pinpoint, I settled quickly into this album.
There’s a hint of Florence And The Machine about The Snuts and Cochrane has a distinctive break in his voice many singers try to cultivate. W.L. has been described as raucous and hook laden’ but it’s actually more chilled and poignant – particularly Boardwalk. Musically tight, these 13 tracks (17 or even 20, should one plump for one of the so-called deluxe editions) of catchy poppy-ness have hidden depths.
words LYNDA NASH