This Week’s Best Albums: September 25, 2012

This Week's Best Albums: September 25, 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.

The Casualties: Resistance (Season of Mist)

"My Blood. My Life. Always Forward."

Twenty years since its first EP, iconic NYC punk quartet The Casualties makes another incensed return with Resistance, its ninth full-length album and first for European metal giant Season of Mist.

With one exception, Resistance is comprised of 15 two-minute blasts of fury, railing against corporatism, capitalist failures, and restricted rights over the usual blend of punk and hardcore. There's a more pronounced element of thrash, however, and thus the album should have a stronger appeal to metal fans (who already were being more exposed to the band thanks to recent tours with GWAR and English Dogs).

By and large, Resistance is The Casualties by the book, led by the larynx-shredding screams of singer Jorge Herrera and his compatriots' gang-vocal anthems. To some, it might be just another dose of political punk, but the band and its themes remain as relevant today as they did 20 years ago.

- Scott Morrow

Murder by Death: Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon (Bloodshot)

"Lost River"

With its sixth full-length album, Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon, Murder by Death has further defined its particular brand of alt-country. The recording is the band’s first for Bloodshot Records, but it marks another notable occasion: the writing contributions of multi-instrumentalist Scott Brackett (previously of Okkervil River and Shearwater), whose work on piano, trumpet, accordion, and backing vocals provide new musical details throughout.

In general, though, the band’s material is as well constructed and fully realized as ever, bridging country-western styles with punk- and chamber-rock sensibilities. Befitting the album (and its new label), singer Adam Turla’s words about loss, lies, and loneliness are delivered with a cinematic beauty that recalls moonlit nights and warm whisky.

- Text by Megan Dawson. Read the full review here.

The Bad Plus: Made Possible (E1)

"Seven-Minute Mind"

Following its all-covers vocal album in 2008, jazz-rock trio The Bad Plus has made a point to remind fans just how unique and dynamic its original material is. Of course, that material always was a majority and a focal point, but certain albums (such as 2007 release Prog) skewed the "cover ratio" and featured more pop interpretations.

Made Possible is another nearly all-original effort (with one cover of jazz great Paul Motian). But this time, synthesizers and electronics provide surprising new accents to the band’s sound, whether in the form of buzzing harmonies, dense electronic beats, or squiggly and staticky effects.

Drummer David King again infuses the rhythms with rock energy, while pianist Ethan Iverson and bassist Reid Anderson provide the usual melodic complexity. Together, the three continue traversing territory that's all their own.

- Scott Morrow

Efterklang: Piramida (4AD)


Efterklang can hear dead people, or so it seems. Perhaps that’s why the Danish post-rock ensemble visited Pyramiden — a ghost town on the Arctic Norwegian island of Spitsbergen — to create its new album of similar name.

At the abandoned Russian settlement, its members wandered a landscape of streams and mountains, recording the sounds of seabirds, footfall, and rushing wind. In the studio, they added the ethereal vocals of a choir and the chime-like peals of a glass-bottle collection. Whether or not these sounds are messages from another realm, they summon haunting melodies and shiver-inducing rhythms. It makes perfect sense, considering that “efterklang” means remembrance and reverberation.

Piramida resonates with hints of the year 2000, re-imagined in a contemporary context of globalization and the rampant spread of EDM. Organic elements are prevalent as well, as footsteps converge with meditative piano chords, sprightly bells, and those atmospheric vocals.

- Jessica Steinhoff

Honorable Mentions:

Ahleuchatistas: Heads Full of Poison (Cuneiform)

Alec K. Redfearn & The Eyesores: Sister Death (Cuneiform)

Car Bomb: w^w^^w^w

Caspian: Waking Season (Triple Crown)

Eagle Twin: The Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale (Southern Lord)

Fight Amp: Birth Control (Translation Loss)

Lightning Bolt: Oblivion Hunter (Load)

Murs & Fashawn: This Generation (Duck Down)

Valgeir Sigurdsson: Architecture of Loss (Bedroom Community)

Ben Sollee: Half-Made Man (Thirty Tigers)

Rudi Zygadlo: Tragicomedies (Planet Mu)

Winterfylleth: The Threnody of Triumph (Candlelight)

Xibalba: Hasta la Muerte (Southern Lord)