When we last heard from The Black Angels, the Austin psychedelic rock band had reined in some of its looser attributes and focused more on songcraft with Phosphene Dream in 2010. Indigo Meadow picks up from there, presenting a focused rock record with the right balance of riffs, hooks, and timbres.
Listeners will recognize the usual calling cards — dirty guitars, combo organs, and trippy effects — but right off the bat, things are different. The opening title track is one of the darkest, melodically, on the album, and it sets the tone for a disc of grooves and deep, grimy guitar tones. “Don’t Play with Guns” evokes the sort of the heavy, 1960s scuzz pop that Ty Segall deftly presented on Twins last year, and after a series of catchy retro jams in the middle of the album, “Black Isn’t Black” closes in the same vein as the album started. Indigo Meadow is a welcome return.
- Scott Morrow
Built on distorted low-end riffs, punishing rhythms, and vocal brutality, Zozobra is the brainchild of bassist/singer Caleb Scofield (Cave In, Old Man Gloom). Savage Masters, the band's third album and first since '08, is a wicked resurrection, now boasting Cave In bandmates Adam McGrath (guitar) and JR Conners (drums) and bearing the influence of old punk and hardcore favorites.
The result is a blistering cannon of short, straight-to-the-point songs that lasts right around 15 minutes. It’s a diversion from Zozobra’s first two records that, while heavy, were slower paced and more drawn out. Savage Masters is the hands-down scorcher of the trilogy — the fiercest record in the band's litany.
- Oakland L. Childers & Scott Morrow
Brown Bird is a rare animal, a band that, when it says it's bringing out its international influences, surpasses expectations. Fits of Reason is a panoply of culture, from the Western barroom to the Middle Eastern rhythms of a Bedouin tent.
The blues-and-folk mash-up is not an uncommon conceit, but David Lamb and MorganEve Swain’s mix of stand-up bass strums and vocal harmonization make it something special. Tracks like “Nine Eyes” and “Wayward Daughter” aren’t quite modern, not quite throwbacks, but a mix of tambourine tapping and thematic lyricism encouraging repeat listens. Dues are paid to rockabilly as well; “Bow for Blade” finds Swain channeling the Western swing of The Ditty Bops.
Brown Bird circumnavigates the world in Fits and, avoiding what could have been a genre-switching misfire, comes out of it with a memorable and excellent travelogue.
- Lincoln Eddy
"People of the Sticks"
Montreal’s The Besnard Lakes has returned with another offering of nocturnal, atmospheric soundscapes and darkly rich musical textures. The band’s fourth effort, Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO, finds the husband-wife duo of Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas doing what they do best: crafting lengthy, slow-burning anthems that meander, build, and wind around layered vocal textures, swooning strings, and guitars drenched in distortion and reverb.
The Besnard Lakes’ brand of indie rock has found its place by imbedding itself in the dark and dense. And Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO is no different. Perhaps the most accomplished aspect of the album is that it feels just like that — an album. Upon the first few listens, the songs all bleed into each other in a gorgeous, blurry mess through numerous stages of build-up and release. But upon further listens, the veil lifts, and the individual orchestrations reveal themselves. And the result is noteworthy. “The Septer,” “Catalina,” and “Colour Yr Lights In,” among others, all sound like something Brian Wilson could have crafted in an alternate universe of post-Pet Sounds grandeur.
- Michael Danaher
Bonobo: The North Borders (Ninja Tune)
Charles Bradley: Victim of Love (Dunham / Daptone)
Chicha Libre: Cuatro Tigres
Cross My Heart, Hope to Die: s/t EP (Alpha Pup)
Empty Mansions: Snakes / Vultures / Sulfate (Riot House)
Hypocrisy: End of Disclosure (Nuclear Blast)
Kinski: Cosy Moments (Kill Rock Stars)
Mudhoney: Vanishing Point (Sub Pop)
Persefone: Spiritual Migration (ViciSolum Productions)
Telekinesis: Dormarion (Merge)
Warbeast: Destroy (Housecore)