Summer as a season of explosive energy is one of the oldest big moods. Summer blockbusters, summer vacation, summer camp, summer jams–it’s a time to cut loose, go on adventures, be maximalist. In particular, the summer jam is an exciting concept; it unifies us, but also acts as a statement of our individuality, for while we might all go nuts when the latest huge hit drops in July, we’ve also got our standby songs to sing along to at the top of our lungs while driving with the windows down. This week, our panel of contributors shares their summer jams on a playlist, and writes about their picks.
Turns out I had a little more to say about each of these albums than I though. It also turns out that rapid-fire publishing nine posts over eight days isn’t a great idea, so I’m clumping most of my favorite albums of 2017 into this post on this final day of the year. Here are my takes on weirdo-pop icon Fever Ray, prog theatrics from King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, a slab of supermassive riffs from Ground, a lightning-fast thrash assault from Lich King, and Igorrr, dear god, Igorrr, what have you wrought?
It’s not every day that an album like Melodrama arrives. It’s not even every year.
Trent Reznor absolutely succeded with this EP; he wanted to make something difficult, and, well, here it is. But it rules, and if you like industrial music, it’s immediately clear that it rules.
Distinguished readers, here is the 2017 album that took BloodLetterPress by storm, the one that we’ve had playing at most of our in-person meetings this year, the latest offering from the man we’ve come to view as the voice of a generation. Neil Cicierega, perhaps best known as the creator of Lemon Demon, Potter Puppet Pals, and countless other internet follies, has graced us with a third mashup album.
If you’ve ever been under a weighted blanket, or dozed off in the trunk of a car during a hot summer, you know the sensation I’m trying to invoke when I say that Ex People’s debut Bird is a comfy doom album. Comfy doom is the kind of music that Windhand plays, the kind that Cloudkicker invoked on Subsume, the feeling of getting overwhelmed by something heavy and soft that pins you down and gets you cozy. It doesn’t need to be scary or capital-e Evil; its power comes from its ability to flatten, to neutralize, to disarm. “You’ll be eating out my hand,” vocalist Laura Kirsop promises on the track “You Creep”. It’s a cool subversion of the macho posturing that some elements of metal fall back on, and given Ex People’s roots in punk and riot grrrl, it’s certainly intentional.
The London quartet bring the low end like nobody’s business on Bird; at its grooviest, this album’s kinetic energy is the kind of meaty lumbering you might expect from an entire slumber of megatherium. But the blunt instruments of the rhythm section don’t just twist and crush aimlessly though the earth; this is not just a collection of nice riffs that become stale after twenty minutes. Ex People craft a heady soundscape, nestling you in layers upon layers of textured guitar, beautiful loud-soft dynamics, and a perfectly matched vocal performance even as you’re driven forth by the low end. Guitarist Calem Gunn said it best in an interview with Metal Hammer: “There’s a unique, addictive feeling to be wrought from playing low and slow. Weight and the absence of weight.” Bird is a colossal creature borne aloft.
Music is really important to me. I grew up in a musical household and have to restrain myself from foisting jams on anyone who will listen, and my written work is often very much informed by music. While I’m inspired by everything from Carly Rae Jepsen to Cattle Decapitation and back, I can’t write to anything but instrumental music and red noise . Today, I thought I’d share four instrumental pieces that I enjoy working to and that hopefully are new to you. Explore; be curious. You never know which piece of music could be the key to coaxing out your next masterpiece.
Voices in video games are something we take as a given now, but they were much more of a special thing back when storage space was a carefully-managed commodity. The voice clips in games like Altered Beast may seem hokey today, but their clarity and frequency was impressive at the time (if, yes, still pretty hokey in their delivery). Thus, Psycho Soldier, released for arcades in 1986 by SNK, is of some historical significance for being one of the first video games to feature a fully voiced song that plays during gameplay: