In the three years since this site has been alive, I’ve mentioned many times that my musical tastes and interests do not begin and end with metal. I imagine a lot of you are the same way. Put it this way: I bow down as earnestly and with as much reverence to Neko Case as I do to Iron Maiden. No apologies offered either.
There also are tons of releases each year that logically could fit at a place like Meat Mead Metal that aren’t exactly heavy metal–and we’ve done some of those–that don’t feel out of place to me. Last year’s Liar in Wait EP is an example. But how far can you really go? Well, I decided that one day a month at the site, we can go as far as we want, and we will introduce that idea today with the debut of the monthly Crossing Over column. Basically, I’ll give you an in-depth look at one record per month that isn’t exactly metal but at least has some logical reason for appearing on a site like this, and below, I’ll provide capsule glimpses at totally non-metal records from the month in question that have gotten regular play around here. That way, I feel like I can cross over to other areas of music for one day, and maybe I can help you find some stuff that perhaps you’ll enjoy yourselves. Plus, it gives me an outlet for all those promos I get that I love but don’t have a creative space for writing about as I’d like.
Our main record for the first Crossing Over segment comes from Have a Nice Life, a New England-based duo that delves into shoegaze, New Wave, deathrock, goth, post-punk, and even some doomy sentiment. Their latest release “The Unnatural World” is being released by Flenser Records, known for their crop of forward-thinking metal bands such as Necrite, Palace of Worms, Bosse de Nage, and Botanist, but that also put out stuff by Wreck and Reference, a dark-as-hell band that is sort of similar to Have a Nice Life, and is planning to release the new record from Brooklyn’s White Suns. There are no boundaries at that label, which is likely why they come up with such thought-provoking artists, and this one of no exception.
Dan Barrett and Tim Maguca met in college and started making aggressive acoustic music together, getting out to play shows, and eventually keeping their idea moving beyond graduation. In the following years, they built upon their music and eventually released 2010’s “Deathconsciousness,” a record that caught fire, so much so that they had to keep making copies and eventually started their own label Enemies List to keep up with demand. An EP “Time of Land” followed in 2011, and now we’re getting their excellent new record that could find favor among fans of bands such as Swans, Bauhaus, My Bloody Valentine, Joy Division, and Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra.
“Guggenheim Wax Museum” opens the album with whirring keys, murk, and dark vocals, giving off a sense of scary chill and somber feelings. “Defenestration Song” follows and is the highlight of the record for me, with thick, buzzing basslines, a strong, swelling chorus that cuts into your head and burrows its way in, feedback, intense melodies, and demands of, “Get off my back.” The track drowns out in noise. “Burial Society” maintains the dark edge the record has conjured, as it’s slowly delivered, dirgey in spots, and with admissions such as, “It isn’t real, but it feels real,” that sweeps over your senses. “Music Will Untune the Sky” has noisy scrapes, vocals calling from the distance, some doom-infused riffs, and ambiance that glazes over the entire piece, leaving you feeling overwhelmed and hopeless. No one is partying after this one.
“Cropsey” begins Side B in as disruptive, disturbing a manner as possible, with clips from an interview featured on “Suffer the Children” with a young patient John at Pennhurst State School, a place that was a target of many investigations for some horrific child neglect and abuse of mentally challenged patients. The song’s title references the film “Cropsey,” a topic that’ll keep you up at night if you read and watch too much about it, and the song swells with thick synth, murky melodies, and total darkness that perfectly captures the terror and inhumanity of its subject matter. Just chilling. “Unholy Life” pulsates with synth drone, some of the strongest, most passionate vocals on the record, and really catchy sections that are damn-near danceable. “Dan and Tim” has a deathrock feel, with cold, damaged static marring the sound, a New Wave sense, great blurriness that makes you feel like you’re hearing a story told with water trickling out of your ears, and a finish that approaches surfy. The 8:50 closer “Emptiness Will Eat the Witch” has a slow, deliberate build with keys rising like a fog, quivery yet direct vocals, organs swelling to increase the haunting essence of the track, and a long passage where you feel you’re floating away, only brought back by occasional wood block clicks. It’s a dark, unsettling track that might remind you of slipping into a deep nightmare from which, try as you might, you cannot shake..
It might not be a metal record, but Have a Nice LIfe still manage to jab at all of the psychological points many of those bands attempt to reach yet fail. This band is deeply, emotionally immersed in their darkness, and their commitment comes through in huge, black waves. Perfect listening for these final hopeless days of winter where brightness has been suffocated.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Have-A-Nice-Life/273357312191
To buy the album go here: http://store.theflenser.com/
For more on the label, go here: http://theflenser.com/
Other releases from January we really loved:
DUM DUM GIRLS, “Too True” (Sub Pop) — The third full-length from throwback, ’60s-’80s dream rockers Dum Dum Girls picks up where 2011’s “Only in Dreams” left off, that being headed right into Pretenders territory, with extra layers of noise glaze and attitude. Dee Dee sounds at her best vocally, as she has progressed with each release, and the band does dark and noiry just perfectly on tracks such as “Rimbaud Eyes,” that has an impossibly infectious chorus; “Are You Okay?” a slower, tender song that has the band holding their torches high; and “Little Minx,” a charged up number with a steady pace, some bursts of guitar power, and a whole of of bruising. Another really strong record from a band that keeps getting better.
Get the album here: https://megamart.subpop.com/releases/dum_dum_girls/too_true
HOSPITALITY, “Trouble” (Merge) — Brooklyn-based indie pop trio Hospitality sure have grown in leaps and bounds since their 2012 debut record. They maintain all of the approachable charm they had on that record, but they explore their musical ambitions on this one, going into longer sections of jamming and even venturing into prog. Amber Papini’s voice remains a focal point for the band, and for good reason, while the other members have sharpened their tools nicely and should make for an even better live band. The best cuts here are the punchy fun opener “Nightingale,” where Papini calls, “You see ghosts in your bed”; “Inauguration,” where they really stretch out and explore the space with their playing; proggy, fun “Rockets and Jets”; and “Last Words,” their most expansive track yet compete with Steely Dan-style guitar work.
Get the album here: http://www.mergerecords.com/hospitality-trouble
MOGWAI, “Rave Tapes” (Sub Pop) — If you’ve been along for the ride with Scottish post-rock band Mogwai since they launched their debut record “Mogwai Young Team” in 1997, you will and won’t be surprised by their eighth full-length “Rave Tapes.” The band never stays in one place for too long, and they prove that by adding a lot more keys and synth to this album, feeling like they’re perhaps borrow a page from sci-fi duo Zombi. But there are crunchy parts, sections where you’ll feel like you’re floating through a space dream, and even some provocation, courtesy of “Repelish” complete with music swirling around a Christian radio “analysis” of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” by the Rev. Lee Cohen. Other highlights include the ominous, creepy keyboard work on the excellent “Remurdered”; solemn, softer “Blues Hour,” with its gently delivered vocals and Pink Floyd psyche sentiment; and “The Lord Is Out of Control,” the most classic Mogwai cut on here with trickling guitars, pumping keys, and Vocoder-laced vocals.
Buy the album here: https://megamart.subpop.com/releases/mogwai/rave_tapes
WARPAINT, self-titled (Rough Trade) — If I had to pick a best non-metal record of the month, Warpaint’s second and self-titled new record would take it easily. I have listened to this record on and on even since the promo arrived in early January, and it’s dark, nighttime-style, moody, alluring songs get into your bloodstream and refuse to leave you. The band had never composed a record together with full collaboration before, and the results of them going this route for this album bears so much fruit, it’s kind of ridiculous. It’s hard to even start talking about highlights, because the entire running time is one, but be sure to check out cuts such as murky opener “Keep It Healthy”; the off-kilter but ridiculously infectious “Love Is to Die,” where Emily Kokal sings, “Love is to die, love is to not die, love it to dance”; New Wave synth-leaning “Biggy”; and punchy, danceable “Disco//very,” that has some MIA-style voice inflections. This record is perfect for taking time to sulk, dream, and get moving all in a 45-minute span. Great record.
Get the album here: http://shopusa.roughtraderecords.com/rt-homepage-1/warpaint
Brian, is the new Mogwai better than the last one, “REvenant”? I thought that one was more like a superfluous collection of half-baked b-sides. Last one I dug was “Hardcore” and the related EP. Super great!
Well, this is the proper follow-up to “Hardcore” LP-wise. I like it more than “Hardcore” because of the differences. I liked that one, too, though. Yeah, “Les Revenants” felt a little tossed off. I think this is way better. Check back in once you heard the new record and let me know what you think.