Though Unsane albums, for the past 17 years, have been ostensibly the same, the NYC trio's brute consistency has given it staying power and relevance. And every now and then, the band resurfaces with a new combination of familiar elements that makes you fall in love all over again.
On Wreck, the band's first album in five years, that moment comes from the first single, "No Chance," which features a wailing harmonica alongside dirty, down-tuned riffs and guitarist Chris Spencer's throaty screams. It's a healthy dose of blues metal that pairs well with the usual noise-rock offerings, not to mention the occasional whammy-bar chords, dark surf riffs, and slide guitar.
Spencer also has kept busy in recent years with Celan, a five-piece project that marries the Unsane sound with a variety of other styles. Though that type of experimentation would be welcome on Wreck, the trio sticks to what it does best -- and continues doing it well.
- Scott Morrow
Though difficult to Google, the S / S / S super-group is more than a worthwhile search investment; it's a rare confluence of rap, electronica, and pop, mixing the trademarks of indie rapper Serengeti, indie composer Sufjan Stevens, and singer/beatsmith/composer Son Lux.
The four-song Beak & Claw EP is a culmination of file-sharing between the trio of front-men, and each member's contributions are easily discerned. The opening track and first single, "Museum Day," opens with a curious amount of vocoder on Stevens' vocals, sounding like an "Auto-Tune the News" lead-in to Serengeti's raps over Son Lux's crackling beats. Lux then drops the hook before turning back to the other two, but never does it feel like a contrived game of musical chairs; over its six minutes, the song moves naturally.
The rest of the EP, in fact, is even stronger, pairing Geti's storytelling prowess with his collaborators' melodic skills. On "Beyond Any Doubt," the MC rhymes about youthful overconfidence; "If This is Real" features back-and-forth between Serengeti's raps and an old-school chorus by Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond; and "Octomom" closes as the most playful number, a tune featuringDoseone of Subtle and Themselves about having the time of your life (and having "number nine") with the infamous mother of eight.
- Scott Morrow
What do you get when four guys who’ve gone the post-metal and avant-rock paths just want to crank out some riffs? The answer, perhaps literally, is Split Cranium. Featuring Aaron Turner of Isisand a trio of Finnish madmen — Jussi Lehtisalo (Circle, Pharaoh Overlord), Jukka Kröger, and Samae Koskinen (Steel Mammoth) — the four-piece uses its debut to deliver blistering old-school hardcore/punk/NWOBHM, with a touch of Motörhead for good measure.
Ever so slightly, the lineup’s experimental roots shine through—but only in the minute-long intro to “Black Binding Plague” and a few trance-inducing elements on “Retrace the Circle.” The rest of the album is unadulterated riffing, topped by Turner’s gruff utterances and brief moments of backing vocal harmony and chant. With six one- or two-minute burners, one four-minute jam, and an epic eight-minute closer, Split Cranium doesn’t mince meat: it came to bludgeon.
- Scott Morrow
"Everyone's a Friend"
As another inbred project of Louisville's hardcore-punk scene, Black God is an amalgamation of local favorites Black Cross, By the Grace of God, and Young Widows, featuring Coliseumfront-man Ryan Patterson on guitar. Its latest EP, II, reflects the band’s dedication to music under two minutes, with none of its six potent tracks topping 1:53. The whole release -- just more than 10 minutes -- fits on two sides of a seven-inch.
With Rob Pennington slinging out lyrics in a distinct, restless bark and Patterson delivering punchy riffs, the album delivers on its loud-and-fast aesthetic. Overall, II is a solid second effort by a "young" group, but with such a short run-time and a lack of variation between tracks, those uninitiated to the likes of Coliseum and Black Cross may find themselves wanting more.
- Meaghann Korbel
Margot & The Nuclear So-And-Sos: Rot Gut, Domestic ()
Though Margot & the Nuclear So-and-Sos has enjoyed success since 2006, it wasn’t until the group's 2010 release, Buzzard, that it seemed to find its stride. The band's previous releases could be considered overly sullen and moody with over-the-top orchestral components; Buzzard, however, sought a much heavier grunge sound, leaving the chamber-pop territory in its wake following a departure from Epic Records.
With its latest studio effort, Rot Gut, Domestic, the Indianapolis/Chicago octet continues in the same vein, plunging further into garage rock with grimy guitars and Richard Edwards’ hazy vocals. But Margot and co. hasn’t lost the quirky, acoustic-driven pop that brought its die-hard fans to the fold. “A Journalist Falls in Love with Deathrow Inmate #16,” one of the album’s standout tracks, tells the equally charming and disturbing tale of a reporter who becomes a little too close with her serial-killer subject. Its dreamy, melancholic atmosphere isn’t a replication as much as it's a refinement of the band’s older sound.
- Meaghann Korbel
Creepoid: Horse Heaven (No Idea)
Mirrorring: Foreign Body (Kranky)
Mr. Gnome: Softly Mad EP (El Marko)