This Week’s Best Albums: October 5, 2010

This Week's Best Albums

Sailors with Wax Wings: Sailors with Wax Wings

Sailors with Wax Wings: s/t (Angel Oven)

Sailors with Wax Wings: “Yes, I Have a Thousand Tongues, and Nine and Ninety-Nine Lie”

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Led by vocalist/producer R. Loren, Pyramids emerged in 2008 as a compelling new voice in atmospheric post-metal via its self-titled debut on Hydra Head.  A collaborative album with “shoegaze-metal” duo Nadja followed in 2009, and now R. Loren has debuted the first of two new solo projects — due in successive weeks — that each feature small armies of standout guests.

Sailors with Wax Wings is the first of the two, featuring members of Swans, Krallice, Nadja, and Current 93 as well as solo artists such as James Blackshaw and Marissa Nadler.  Though a few contributions seem larger than the rest — notably the guitar presence of Colin Marston (Krallice) and Aidan Baker (Nadja) — nearly all blend into the greater aesthetic.

When combined, the contributions create noisy, fuzzy post-rock/metal with cavernous drum hits and epic qualities, reflecting influence from bands such as Godspeed! You Black Emperor and Mono.  In addition to his “textures,” Loren is responsible for droning, echoing vocals, most of which float in and out like another instrument.

The second new project, White Moth, has a few similar characteristics, but it’s much more electronic and varies more from track to track, featuring a few digital-hardcore tracks, an improvised sax solo, and a guest rap.  Check back next week for more on that.

Marnie Stern: Marnie SternMarnie Stern: s/t (Kill Rock Stars)

Marnie Stern: “For Ash”

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In 2007, Marnie Stern broke on the scene with a debut that marked her as one of rock’s most shred-worthy female guitarists.  The album, In Advance of the Broken Arm, also drew in listeners with her quirky vocals and the wild beats of Hella drummer Zach Hill, who has recorded in Stern’s band since.

Like In Advance of the Broken Arm and its successor (This Is It…), Marnie Stern is a dizzying mix of rapid-fire finger tapping, Stern’s falsettos, and some of Hill’s most straightforward (yet untamed) beats.

This junior release is a bit more direct, however, and a few more of the freewheeling high-string riffs are underpinned by single power chords.  This isn’t a new dynamic, but it’s emphasized more, and Stern doesn’t follow those high notes with her vocals as often.

Frankly, the material on Marnie Stern could fit on any of her three releases, but each album has gotten a little closer to perfecting Stern’s style.  This one is as good as any to be introduced to her.

Dark Dark Dark: Wild GoDark Dark Dark: Wild Go (Supply & Demand)

Dark Dark Dark: “Daydreaming”

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The vocal- and piano-driven chamber folk of Dark Dark Dark deftly balances commanding harmonies and melancholy melodies. The sextet’s music is beautiful and potent, but each tune has the potential to break hearts. (Think of a musical place between the dense indie folk of Mirah and the haunting sounds of The Black Heart Procession.)

Wild Go, the band’s second full-length, is another stunner, expanding on the instrumentation and breadth of The Snow Magic, the group’s debut LP.  Led by multi-instrumentalists/singers Nona Marie Invie and Marshall LaCount, Dark Dark Dark uses Wild Go to flesh out the direction of Bright Bright Bright, an EP that was released in March.

Invie’s vocals are particularly powerful, but they couldn’t achieve what they do without the group’s backing vocals or its variety of sounds, including piano, upright bass, accordion, banjo, and guitar.  According to Invie, it’s Dark Dark Dark’s most personal and open material — but regardless, it’s the band’s best.

Shad: TSOLShad: TSOL (Black Box / Decon)

Shad: “Yaa I Get It”

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Born in Kenya of Rwandan parents, hip-hop artist Shadrach Kabango — better known as Shad — was raised in London, Ontario, where he has attained quite a deal of success on the Canadian charts.  (His second album, The Old Prince, was nominated for Juno Award and a Polaris Music Prize, and TSOL — originally released in May — got as high as 24th on the Canadian Albums Chart.)

TSOL, now available in the USA, is Shad’s third full-length album.  His vocal style exudes a bit of a Kanye West vibe, but his delivery and rhyme scheme also are reminiscent of P.O.S — who put out one of the best hip-hop albums of 2009.

Many of Shad’s rhymes are lighthearted and reference anything from Kindergarten Cop to lychee bubble tea, but occasionally he references serious topics such as the Rwandan genocide and Obama haters.  And though one of his tracks falls victim to “I’m a great rapper” syndrome — the single “Yaa I Get It” — it’s also one of TSOL‘s hardest-hitting and best tracks.

Many songs lean heavily on soul samples — particularly the first non-intro track, “Rose Garden,” Shad’s remix of / take on the Lynn Anderson song of the same name.  Cuts of soulful strings and horns are all over TSOL, partnering with a few scratches, electronics, and solid if unspectacular beats for Shad’s rap verses and some sung/synthesized vocal choruses.

TSOL has similarities with some of the better radio rappers of the USA — Common, Mos Def, Talib Kweli — but Shad goes toe to toe and delivers another album with some indie appeal.

Honorable Mentions

Clinic: Bubblegum (Domino)

Alain Johannes: Spark (Ipecac)

Mark McGuire: Living with Yourself (Editions Mego)

Mary Halvorson Quintet: Saturn Sings (Firehouse 12)

MiM0SA: Silver Lining (Muti Music)

Soars: s/t (La Société Expéditionnaire)

Tricky: Mixed Race (Domino)

Tom Zé: Estudando a Bossa (Luaka Bop)