This Week’s Best Albums: June 26, 2012

This Week's Best Albums: June 26, 2012

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.

Old Man Gloom: NO (Hydra Head)

"Common Species"

This year has marked many rock-band reunions, but none may be more exciting than that of  Old Man Gloom, an all-star noise-sludge lineup that has moved in mystery since the end of the 1990s. Now the Boston-based four-piece has released NO, its first recorded effort in eight years.

If you were to reach into the blender and take out the ingredients that make up Old Man Gloom, it would be pretty easy to guess what the new album sounds like: members of Isis, Zozobra, Converge, and Cave In playing down-tuned, blown-out, and feedback-drenched metal. This isn’t just a dolled-up hardcore album; it’s lathered in dynamic melody and intelligent movements.

“Grand Inversion” sets the tone of NO with cryptic intrigue. The mellow keyboard progression at the end of the introduction moves directly into the opening chords of “Common Species,” which rains down like the heaviest storm. The percussion is relentless, as blast beats appear and disappear like bursts of lighting; the guitars throb, chug, and squeal; and the vocals are, to put it bluntly, terrifying. Hit for hit, the band makes every note count.

Elsewhere, “upbeat” tracks (read: not entirely despairing) like “The Forking Path” demonstrate Old Man Gloom’s fluency in dynamics. At its inception, harmonized leads bleed through the sludge-metal mix. Later, after the song devolves into an industrial hell, a slithering, backwards guitar effect emerges, reflecting the thought and range put into the album’s epic 56 minutes.

- Text by Bobby Markos. Read the full review here.

A Place to Bury Strangers: Worship (Dead Oceans)

"You are the One"

Now on its third full-length album, A Place to Bury Strangers — previously called "the loudest band in New York" — remains fastened to its style, offering a modern take on European noise rock, post-punk, and shoegaze of the 1980s.

With Worship, the band's core attributes still define it, emphasized by buzz-saw guitars, blistering feedback, Oliver Ackermann’s airy vocals, and a special dichotomy between noise and melody. But these 11 tracks, following the slightly poppier (but equally loud) Onwards to the Wall EP of February, might best capture the inherent tension in that balance.

"You are the One," the album's first single, is deceptive, calmly pulsing and swirling, building ever more intense before ending in a hail of inhuman shrieks. "Mind Control" follows with a fully fuzzed bass and wall of feedback, but it quickly morphs with Ackermann's dark, understated delivery and a double-time hi-hat that mimics a flickering guitar effect.

Of course, it's quickly back to the hurricane of sound, and the rest of Worship accentuates this contrast. Whenever a moment arises such as the cheery guitar lead on "Dissolved" — as close to The Cure as APTBS gets — it makes sure not to overstay its welcome.

Perhaps it's because there are so few current "indie" bands that are authentically influenced by The Jesus and Mary Chain, Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine, and their ilk, but despite APTBS' reluctance to stylistically stray, it seldom seems derivative or uninspired. Instead, as again evidenced with Worship, the trio is a familiar and welcome experience — particularly for listeners of a certain age and taste.

- Scott Morrow

Jesca Hoop: The House That Jack Built (Bella Union)

"Born To"

Born to Mormon parents in Northern California, singer-songwriter Jesca Hoop — under the guidance of Elbow’s Guy Garvey — moved to Manchester, England, home of The Smiths, The Buzzcocks, Joy Division, and...Oasis. Years before that, though, she already had some big-name friends in the biz: namely, Tom Waits. After nannying for the gravel-voiced crooner, he said about her style, "Her music is like going swimming in a lake at night."

With such acclaim behind her, it's little surprise that she's made a name for herself with three LPs, a handful of EPs, extensive tours with the likes of Eels and Andrew Bird, and duties as a touring vocalist for Peter Gabriel.

Now Hoop has released her first full-length in three years, titled The House That Jack Built. Written after her father's death, the album is a meditation on her childhood and her tumultuous relationship with her parents. Though the album, at times, deals with her cultural/political perspective — as on "Peacemaker" and "Ode to Banksy" — songs like "Born To," "DNR," and "Deeper Devastation" are the standouts, showing a complexity of emotions in her songwriting, and reconciling a deeply personal loss with angst and confusion from her past. We see these conflicting emotions on "Hospital (Win Your Love)," where she recalls childhood memories of physical injury and the hopes that it might afford her some affection from her parents.

With The House That Jack Built, Hoop continues to perfect her craft. It's one that showcases her range from moody and reflective to catchy and quirky. It's also an album that proves Waits right: it's perfect for a summer evening in the lake.

- Meaghann Korbel

Honorable Mentions:

Beachwood Sparks: The Tarnished Gold (Sub Pop)

Castratii: Eora (Time No Place)

The Flaming Lips: The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends (Warner Bros.)

Lorn: Ask the Dust (Ninja Tune)

A Lull: Meat Mountain EP (Lujo)

Milk Maid: Mostly No (FatCat)

Open Mike Eagle: 4NML HSPTL (Fake Four)

V/A: The Cinematic Orchestra presents In Motion #1 (Ninja Tune)

William Brittelle & ACME: Loving the Chambered Nautilus (New Amsterdam)