This Week’s Best Albums: August 16, 2011

This Week's Best Albums: August 16, 2011

Each week, editor-in-chief Chris Force and music editor Scott Morrow choose ALARM’s favorite new releases across a chasm of genres.

Mister Heavenly: Out of LoveMister Heavenly: Out of Love (Sub Pop)

Mister Heavenly: “Bronx Sniper”

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In music, unlike the NBA, it’s perfectly acceptable for a hometown hero to enlist his buddies for a maddeningly dominant triumvirate. Formed in 2010 with far less pageantry than the would-be “big three” of the Miami Heat, Mister Heavenly comprises Nick Thorburn (Islands, The Unicorns), Ryan Kattner (Man Man), and Joe Plummer (Modest Mouse, The Shins).

The first 25 seconds of the trio’s debut album, Out of Love, feints left with a strummed guitar and brittle vocals — territory where Thorburn has made his name — and then cracks wide open with pure rock-’n'-roll swagger. With the two songwriters, Thorburn and Kattner, carrying on an exchange of verses and riffs, one expects a certain amount of fragmentation. Instead, the dual vocalists complement each other in surprising ways — a result likely due to the rather unlikely influence of doo-wop.

An ear for nostalgia and a strict set of ground rules keeps Out of Love from developing a split personality. Of course, it’s not doo-wop; it’s “doom-wop,” according to the band. Thorburn can sing a mean hook, and sticky melodies seem to come effortlessly, but it’s Kattner (known for his guttural vocals and manic, face-painted antics) and Plummer (a versatile drummer) who bring the edge and keep things unpredictable.

- Text by Kyle Gilkeson.

NewVillager: NewVillagerNewVillager: s/t (IAMSOUND)

NewVillager: “Lighthouse”

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As a captivating yet mystifying merger of music, art, and performance, NewVillager is an otherworldly project revolving around an elaborate mythology and still-unfolding allegories, denoting three colors — red, green, and blue — as past, present, and future, respectively, while offering black and white as catabolic and anabolic forces.

With these as background, the project’s principals — Ben Bromley and Ross Simonini — use a large cast of contributors to depict different aspects of its creation myth via songs, videos, and installation art. One such video, for the song “Lighthouse,” features ornately costumed crimson- and sapphire-hued characters and draws inspiration from Papua New Guinean tribal aesthetics.

On the group’s debut album, each song focuses on one of the ten aspects of its mythology’s transformations. With rich, multi-layered results, the music intertwines reverberated indie-rock guitars with skittering hi-hat beats, synth grooves, and Beck-style falsettos with baritone weirdness and sing-along refrains.

- Text by Katie Fanuko. Read the full story in Chromatic, available September 20.

All Pigs Must Die: God is WarAll Pigs Must Die: God is War (Southern Lord)

All Pigs Must Die: “Pulverization”

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As another new addition to the ever-growing sub-genre of metallic hardcore, All Pigs Must Die carries a set of credentials that most upstarts do not, counting vocalist Kevin Baker (The Hope Conspiracy), drummer Ben Koller (Converge), and guitarist Adam Wentworth and bassist Matt Woods (Bloodhorse) as veteran members.

God is War is the group’s full-length debut, and following a five-track EP last year, it spreads the band’s assailing sound over more than 30 minutes worth of material. Citing influences that range from the Cro-Mags and Discharge to Entombed and Celtic Frost — and recorded, naturally, by Kurt Ballou of Converge — All Pigs Must Die follows a path that’s well tread but still powerful.

Contemporaries such as Trap Them (and much of the Deathwish Inc. roster) draw close comparisons, but God is War delivers an intensity that is matched by few, bringing more speed to the traditionally doomy Southern Lord roster.

MoHa!: Meiningslaust OppgulpMoHa!: Meiningslaust Oppgulp (Rune Grammofon)

MoHa!: “Brikjande Glime”

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Mixing composition and improv in a sort of “free electro-rock” style, Norway’s MoHa! has been one of the country’s finest avant exports since the mid-2000s.

Just a duo, the two-piece overcomes its size limitations with a barrage of sounds, triggering effects from its drums and cymbals while running electronics alongside guitar and other noise. MoHa!’s live performance is quite the spectacle as well, as quickly flashing lights inundate the audience in synchronicity with the noise-rock insanity.

The duo has three full-length offerings through Rune Grammofon, but it also has an assortment of seven-inches and other hard-to-find releases. Thankfully, that small-run material is now released as this singles collection. The music is every bit as frantic and zany as one would expect — but without the visual accompaniment, you’re not doing yourself justice. Pick this up and then head to YouTube.

Gojogo: 28,000 DaysGojogo: 28,000 Days (Porto Franco)

Gojogo: “Firebird”

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The third full-length from Bay Area classical-jazz quartet Gojogo is a compelling hybrid that blends electronic sampling with strings, upright bass, and Indian percussion. Each member brings a different background to the table, and in the case of percussionist Elias Reitz, who plays dholki and ghatam, learning how to communicate musically with Western-trained musicians was a difficulty in itself. The cross-pollination came with rich rewards, however, as 28,000 days (76 years, or the average lifespan) is masterfully unpredictable and textured.

The album begins with the string-based “Tale of Tales,” which, with its dramatic peaks, valleys, and multiple movements, would be at home in a cinematic setting. Indeed, Gojogo has worked on both film scores and dance performances in its 10-year career, but as the second half of the lead track indicates, the band has no hesitation in plugging in and getting loud.

The deep, plucked bass and the familiar clack of hand-struck drums drive the album through its various moods, creating a consistent backbone for conversational electric guitar and violin. Elements of drone and post-rock are present as well, lending an intensity and hard edge to a laid-back, melodic tour of genres and eras.

- Text by Kyle Gilkeson.

Honorable Mentions

Appetite: Scattered Smothered Covered (Crossbill)

Awol One & Nathaniel Motte: The Child Star (Fake Four)

Braid: Closer to Closed EP (Polyvinyl)

Jeff Bridges: s/t (Blue Note)

Case Studies: The World is Just a Shape to Fill the Night (Sacred Bones)

The Cool Kids: When Fish Ride Bicycles (CAKE  / Green Label Sound)

Matthew Friedberger: Cut it Out LP (Thrill Jockey)

GDFX: One Thing (Impose)

Gold Leaves: The Ornament (Hardly Art)

A Lull: Confetti Reprise EP (Mush)

Sølyst: s/t (Bureau B)

The War on Drugs: Slave Ambient (Secretly Canadian)

Yellow Ostrich: The Mistress (Barsuk)