This Week’s Best Albums: April 23, 2013

Each week, editor-in-chief Chris Force and music editor Scott Morrow choose ALARM’s favorite new releases for This Week’s Best Albums, an eclectic set of reviews presenting exceptional music.

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Beastwars: Blood Becomes Fire

(Destroy, 4/23/13)

"Caul of Time"


Delving the depths of gruff, grungy sludge, New Zealand stoner-metal quartet Beastwars has amassed steadily growing buzz since the release of its self-titled debut in 2011. (The group even won a local music award for its exquisitely detailed cover art by Nick Keller.)

There’s no sophomore slump with Blood Becomes Fire, an album that rages from start to finish, whether with riff-borne fury or slow-boiling buildups. Methodical and mid-tempo, the music again abides by the mantra to “obey the riff,” as drifts of distortion blanket a soundscape of grooves, bass-heavy beats, and throaty anguish. There are no surprises here — but none is needed.

-- Scott Morrow

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Friend Roulette: I'm Sorry You Hit Your Head

(Goodnight, 4/23/13)

"Earthrise"


Borne from two months of recovery from being hit by a bus, Friend Roulette is the Brooklyn-based brainchild of guitarist/singer Matthew Meade (he of said accident) and violinist/vocalist Julia Tepper (she of moral support). Together, the two have assembled a stable of talent to create progressive, percussive, chamber-infused pop that’s charged with vocal interplay.

Pulsing woodwinds, wailing horns, and swirling strings set the mood for airy vocals, all over tom-heavy rock beats and effect-driven guitars. “Earthrise,” just one of many highlights, is seven minutes of pop dynamics that leans on swanky woodwind harmonies — with a banjo cameo, the proggy EWI (electronic wind instrument), and a deep, winding bass clarinet. I’m Sorry You Hit Your Head is an auspicious debut.

-- Scott Morrow

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Lilacs & Champagne: Danish & Blue

(Mexican Summer, 4/23/13)

"Sour / Sweet"


In Grails, their genre-bending band gig, multi-instrumentalists Emil Amos (OmHoly Sons) and Alex Hall channel a gamut of influences from psych rock to “world music,” library music, and film scores. Together as Lilacs & Champagne, the duo released a self-titled debut last year as a sample-based tribute to that range, dealing in weird and obscure recordings from around the world. Their second album, Danish & Blue, is a moody, darkly melodic, deftly assembled followup.

“Music history is one way we’ve learned to appreciate other human beings,” Amos told us in 2011. If Grails didn’t make that clear enough, Lilacs & Champagne does it in spades. The two add atmosphere and wailing psychedelic solos over the top of lounge-y strangeness, funk grooves, 1960s and ’70s cinema sounds, classical guitar, and much more. Danish & Blue would have merit simply as a well-curated collection of deep cuts; instead, it demonstrates its creators’ breadth of ability.

-- Scott Morrow

Honorable Mentions:

The Appleseed CastIllumination Ritual (Graveface)

Dark Dark DarkWhat I Needed EP (Supply & Demand)

Talib KweliPrisoner of Conscious (Javotti Media / Capitol / EMI)

PhoenixBankrupt! (V2)

Jozef Van WissemNihil Obstat (Important)

Rob ZombieVenomous Rat Regeneration Vendor (Zodiac Swan / T-Boy / UME)