Medals - Parlour Tricks
Parlour Tricks’ Medals is a collection of raw post-punk recordings that feels a few years displaced. It’s a melding of a few different things, but those things are almost unimportant. What it most sounds like, in this given context, is like a few talented and like-minded friends jamming together in a garage. They noodled around and started finding some common ground, a meeting of the pseudo-spontaneity of punk and the more high-minded and open nature of anything labeled “post-.”
I don’t know if that’s what it is. I suppose I could ask. Given that Medals is a Post-Echo release, it certainly supports that - band member W. Heyward Sims is also Devereaux, a project with a Post-Echo album due in the fall.
An introduction isn’t necessary, though. The music tells the story itself. It betrays familiarity, and a shared appreciation of a certain sound. This sound had a time; our current time doesn’t have much of this sound. Fortunately, Medals is refreshing in its nostalgia, and quite good besides.
Medals is a solid post-punk dozen. Any of the twelve songs can be plucked out and appreciated, though each with enough tricks to make the uniformity in sound more of a setting than a whole, monotonous, one-trick pony. Some highlights include opening salvo “Entropy” and the quick-lipped “Radio Out” (a tad bit of Refused-y funk punk), the sturdy, single-quality “Frequency,” throaty throwback “Red” and the reverb-happy, very finale-feeling “Down In The Minefield Of A Memory.”
One of my favorite qualities in any medium is proper ambition, which can be better (and more favorably) described as a self-awareness and a vision that doesn’t overreach. It’s okay to be fun, or consistent, or just plain good. Medals is each of those.
- Tyler Hanan
"Meanwhile On Main Street" - United Nations
Following up “Serious Business” in the lead-up to The Next Four Years, “Meanwhile on Main Street” takes far more time with the listener, wining and dining before getting to all that shrieking business. The A.V. Club-debuted track has a nice little intro, spiked with drum hits and escorted by a pair of melancholy, nigh-twinkling guitars. Geoff Rickley’s volume escalates, bass breaks in, and the anticipated fury commences. It’s well-executed political ferocity, which is par for the unofficial UN course. It’s a nic ebit of nuance, though, further stoking those fires that burn for the album’s July 15 release on Temporary Residence Ltd. Preorder that obnoxiously packaged sucker here, and check out their tour dates with Frameworks below.
- Tyler Hanan
"Dangerous Days" - Zola Jesus
Well that didn’t take long. Last week, we got an ambient trailer for a new album from Zola Jesus, along with the title Taiga and word that it’d be released in October. This tells us so much more.
We have a release date - October 7 from Mute - but that’s not as important as this song. This song, you guys. Nika Roza Danilova has been getting bigger and more expansive in her music, but this is so much more, so very pop. Crystal clear, melodic pop that soars through night skies, something that could capture the same swath of people that fell for “Midnight City,” the M83 track Danilova wasn’t on.
I loved Conatus, but I’m also immediately in on this new shift. In the past, various permuations on “goth” would often be included in blurbs on Zola Jesus. Danilova is far beyond that now, or at least some brand new version of it. There are still plenty of traces of old iterations - the music, though its jagged edges have been sanded smooth, is still familiar, and the voice is unmistakable - but that first verse could pop up when turning the radio dial without so much as arched eyebrow. Please, let this song start popping up everywhere.
- Tyler Hanan
Taiga trailer - Zola Jesus
Nika Roza Danilova, she of the Zola Jesus moniker, has announced her new album. The follow-up to 2011’s fantastic Conatus and the gorgeous collection of lush reimaginings that was last year’s Versions is due in October.
The new trailer is wickedly fantastic, giving away little while portending much. It’s a confident bit, demanding attention as it crescendos. We don’t get to hear what comes next, but I’m ready for it. These fifty seconds get the imagination bubbling and boiling with furious excitement.
- Tyler Hanan
"Meeker Warm Energy" - Lone
Matt Cutler, the human being behind the sounds of Lone, doesn’t make science-fiction movies. At least, he hasn’t told us about any. If he did, the titles would be magnificent. Reality Testing is Cutler’s follow-up to 2012’s excellent Galaxy Garden, and the two both sound as though they’re begging for film adaptations on the level of 2001.
If you’ve spent some time away from Galaxy Garden, then Reality Testing might strike you as more of the (fantastic) material you heard two years ago. Don’t be fooled—Cutler is consistent, but not repetitious. Reality Testing fills out the holes and tinny corners of Garden and crafts robust, hip-hop bent beats that go for miles upon miles upon miles. “Meeker Warm Energy,” like much of Reality Testing, feels as though it goes on for much longer than it actually does. In Lone’s case, this is a positive sensation. The cosmic black of “Meeker” isn’t boring or threatening. There’s calm in the idea of drifting forever, and Cutler has a pretty good grasp on that.
Lone’s Reality Testing came out on June 16, 2014. Buy it here.
- Kyle Minton
"Afraid of Nothing" - Sharon Van Etten
Etten has a voice that never sits still, so her third LP, Are We There, makes a lot of sense as a travel record. It perfectly aligns with neighborhood strolls and the occasional night of highway speeding. You can lie down and enjoy Etten’s songwriting, but you can best relish her songs with a destination and journey in mind.
"Afraid of Nothing" isn’t the immediate pick from Are We There. It lacks the grandeur of “Your Love is Killing Me” and the complicated shadows of “Taking Chances.” Instead, Etten begins the record with a simple request on the song: “I need you to be afraid of nothing.” Music blogs (inadvertently) encourage a lot of indoor listening when we post, but Etten requests the courage of the listener to travel somewhere new, somewhere terrifying. We can talk up the song’s elegant build, or it being a prime example of Etten’s continued evolution as a powerful vocalist, but the core message is worth taking out into the world: get out, without fear or trepidation of what lies ahead.
Sharon Van Etten’s Are We There came out on May, 27, 2014. Purchase it here.
- Kyle Minton
"Don’t Make Me Over" [Dionne Warwick cover] - Julia Holter
A live version of “Don’t Make Me Over” appeared on Holter’s 2010 Engraved Glass release Celebration; this studio version sounds like it could have been recorded in the same sessions as Loud City Song. Nite Jewel sang backup vocals on the cover, and Cole M.G.N. produced it.
The final product is quite delightful, so much so that it even overshadows the eloquent “Hello Stranger” a little bit.
Domino will also be reissuing Tragedy once more on August 19, with this rerelease being a North American one.
- Tyler Hanan
"Hold Tight" - Sinkane
Presented without comment.
"Serious Business" - United Nations
United Nations is still a thing, which is amusing in itself. The fact that they’re reemerging the relative “biggest” they’ve ever been is beyond fascinating. I remember buying Never Mind the Bombings, Here’s Your Six Figures years ago and reading the brief diatribe about how the real UN made the new UN take down their website, or some such thing.
I never quite knew how seriously to take the band behind the presidential masks. They were another one of those bands always somewhere between thought-provoking and trolling, both more and less overt about it. That seems to hold to this day. You can’t call a song “Serious Business” without people seriously questioning just how serious you are. And really, I hope “Serious Business” as a title is a joke - otherwise it’d be way too… well, self-serious.
The band’s membership has always been something of an open secret, regadless of whether it was Glassjaw or Pianos Become the Teeth members who permeated it. They return now with the latter, along with an album called The Next Four Years that’s due July 15 from Temporary Residence Ltd. Judging by TRL’s description, the “Serious Business” title isn’t wholly in jest, what with phrases like ‘a furious homage to the pioneers of punk, and a scorching critique on the current state of “punk.”’ The mystique fades. The enigma emerges from its beloved shadows.
My own jesting aside, the song is fittingly ferocious and earns a fair amount of that smugness. That moment at 2:05 - mmhmm. I’ll certainly be listening, even as I make silent, smug asides of my own.
- Tyler Hanan
Pineapple Flex promo trailer - Devereaux
It’s a good clip. The specific color scheme, the height difference, the tension between nerves and seduction… the pineapple… it’s fun. The music, catchy and playful, quite ably pulls the trailer. I’m left intrigued as to whether all of Pineapple Flex will follow suit. If it does, I’m certainly down for another serving.
There’s even a good fashion pro-tip. It’s too bad about young Sims, though. He just wanted to enjoy his pineapple.
- Tyler Hanan