My Fridays I’m usually dumbfounded by the tomfoolery of the country I live in and the utopia I dream about. But I’m smacked in the face with reality when things hit close to home. When you wonder what happened to your neighbor and his family because you haven’t seen them in so long, the grittiness of finding out they’ve vanished. No foul play but yeah, foul play. ICE showed up to their home, took the husband and wife into custody, seized their 3 and 5-year-old. I find all this out as my neighbor recounts the story to me when I pull up to greet her, as Wu-Tang is playing in the deck. It’s a sad fuckery of events with parents now deported, and while I never share my politics, you can’t help but feel for those two kids who are lost without the ones that love them selflessly.
A group sometimes has to catch me on a good day to listen to specific genres. There are moments when the urge to seek out what occasionally may seem like long-dead sounds is less than appealing. But there are exceptions to the rule. While there’s no similarity whatsoever, the German trio Jaguwar reaffirmed my faith in the long but not lost art of musical technicality through washes of guitar, which has the band walking the path Kevin Shields paved. But this isn’t about Jaguwar or Kevin Shields, it’s about Lightfoils.
Again, there’s no comparison as the new Chambers by the Chicago quintet takes a lighter approach holding onto a 90’s aesthetic without dating itself. From track to track, the band is pieced together by dueling guitars, consistent rhythms, and sweet, sweet vocal deliveries. You can find all that in the opening “The Bitter Over,” where singer Jane Zabeth Nicholson’s sounds like a much more refined Miki Berenyi. That’s not to discredit the rest of the group here providing the backbone, or the backdrop. The song is a crescendo that gradually rises and explodes without listeners even realizing it. It flows seamlessly into “Duende,” which remains rhythmically hypnotic from beginning to end. The band filters in jangly guitars around blissful washes and at almost 7 minutes in length, ending with restrained feedback fuckery. There may be more to the band than I originally thought as “This Time Is Up” rocks unencumbered by distractions but it’s always on bended notes that catch attention as they play with quick-paced vigor. Once the track ends, that’s when we’re all thrown for a loop.
“Summer Nights” change of pace is obvious, with instruments played through a hazy fog and even Zabeth’s vocals ride along the same way. There’s no confusion here though as the group still wears its influences on proverbial sleeves with washes of guitars shifting in and out as they gradually change dynamics through the track, which clocks in at over 8 minutes long?!? It isn’t even noticeable because the song is that good. When the band tires of the same rhythm and structure, they change it up midway through but remain tightly wound with a fervent and precise execution on instruments. But remove all the noisy wall of guitars and you’ll find Lightfoils remains true to its songwriting. They pop artistry shouldn’t be ignored as they mask songs nicely with a slight dissonance throughout every track. Chambers may be only 5 tracks but it’s over a half hour long. It seems like they’ve made a fan out of me here.
What we have here is yet another instrumental Hip-Hop recording. I can already hear the moans and groans when someone brings up another artist who we’re all supposed to coddle and address with adoration and such. But don’t get ahead of yourself though, hERON isn’t just another bedroom production with wanna-be producers with rants of “hear my beats.” Nah, this right here is something else altogether.
hERON is the project comprised of Erick ‘Progeny’ Arias (Chisme) and Rob Castro (ex-Grayskul), two beatmaker/musicians with a penchant for creating hook-laden, dramatic soundscapes. The Desolate Paradise E.P. (Concuss Music) is the duo’s second release, following the release of last year’s self-titled debut full-length. For this release, the two grab guitars, bass, synths, & beats for a head nodding, beat grinding, no-nonsense ride on a psychedelic journey that will have you thinking you’re frolicking through the mind of David Lynch. That is if Lynch knew how to create dense beats as hERON can. And if he grew up on Hip Hop. But you can get a semblance of that imagery on loungy jazz of “Cruel Intention,” where imaginations can run wild as dwarves dance around wearing thick gold chains, walking backward through velvet curtains. The sadness of “In To Darkness” is accented by Progeny’s guitar while Castro’s bass holds things down alongside the beat and sounds of wind instruments. Murderous bad intentions are in the air with “Human Extinctions,” as crows circle dead tree-line scenery with deafening cawing as they ravage corpses laid under brush. The duo is great at creating backdrops for one’s own imagination, Castro laying out a repetitive and light bass alongside Progeny’s synth play.
We can repeat the cycle here over and over without coming across as repetitious. “Keep Drowning” continues wallowing in that same found darkness while “Hummingbird” ends it all flying away quickly, all the while leaving the door open for expectations of more of the same. hERON has pieced together a quick soundbite of intriguing music with The Desolate Paradise and we’d all be fools not to want more of the same.
Failure has always been a group that literally marched to the beat of its own drum. After hearing close to nothing from the band after 1996’s Fantastic Planet, the group resurfaced in 2014 and then released a full-length in 2015 with The Heart Is A Monster. Fast forward to 2018 where we find a new album released in four parts, In The Future, Your Body Wil Be, The Furthest Thing, From Your Mind (I included commas to break those up.) So what do we think, does the band still worth its weight in silver? While everyone wonders, I’m not quite sure. Or am I simply confused? I think it might be the latter.
It doesn’t sound like Failure has missed a step here because the band sounds remarkably like indie rock at its cleanest, the most precise songwriting, along with a styling and ability to control noise as concise as I’ve ever heard it. Not a believer? Don’t take my word for it, just listen to the opening “Dark Speed” led by lazy vocals, an organic/controlled drum pattern, and a bass line that’s catchy AF! And of course, distorted guitars blare in and out with a glorious fervor. That’s all in one song alone. The band has always had a penchant for being creative with effects and single processing but here the band has taken all its years in the creative process for one explosive album of pop songs masquerading as driving indie rock tracks. We all get how clever the band can be musically and on this release, they showcase it all. “Paralytic Flow” utilizes guitar harmonics to open the track as the band erupts with shock waves that match the most volatile volcanos.
Failure goes into straight rock territory with “Pennies” but they’re most fascinating when obliterating amplifiers in their wake. “No One Left” sounds like the sweetest pop song wrapped in chainsaws, razor blades, and pile drivers. There’s no easy way to not fall in love with the band. When they push all the sonic excursions to the side and let the melodies take over on “What Makes It Easy,” you find the band’s knack for creating beautiful harmonies comes easy. Or maybe that’s what they just want us all to think. And then there’s the crescendo of “Found A Way,” where the group sounds as challenging as anything their contemporaries have, or had, ever created. Failure is simply that group that truly never received the adulation it so deserved throughout the years. While In The Future, Your Body Wil Be, The Furthest Thing, From Your Mind may still not offer it up, the one thing that’s guaranteed is Failure always releasing quality music that will stand the test of time.
Entering the fray here in the last possible hour is the new album by Spoken Nerd, which needs to be mentioned at some point here. Essentially, the Nashville based Nathan Conrad is Spoken Nerd, releasing a plethora of material throughout the years and the new I Need You Like A Friend (Fake Four, Inc.) is his fourth full-length release. Now the album doesn’t sound remotely like your standard Hip-Hop album, because here, Conrad sings and raps over organic rhythms and instrumentation and while his words may seem light hearted through his delivery, he tackles heady subjects and prefers the counter culture rather than dealing with mainstream aesthetics.
He duets with Blueprint on “Friday Rich,” which everyone understands on a payday. Living check to check, gentrification taking hold of communities, cheap & unhealthy food forced to consume, and rising prices effectively stifling many everywhere. While Conrad and ‘Print come from two different words, they both echo the same sentiments, all over a musical backdrop over a rich, almost folksy track. He even deals with the privilege some think they have on “This Old Boy,” and does it in a way it comes off comical. But we get the point, over grinding funked up rhythm.
Not sure why but whenever Gregory Pepper finds himself involved in a project, it always seems to be a perfect fit like on “Wrestlemania B.C.” where his backing vocals makes everything perfect no matter what mood you’re in. But, ahem, this is a Spoken Nerd track. He spits over guitar driven composition which is sweet and inviting, and the easy flowing drumming is just as endearing & makes the track a bit more evocative. Possibly my favorite track of the bunch. There’s more humor in his words, combining politics and health in one track with “Vladamir Gluten” while showing his distaste in that political correctness on “The Time You Voted For President.” Don’t call I Need A Friend Like You an attempt at melding rock and rap because it ain’t that. It’s well-thought out attempt at challenging your way of thinking, sometimes directly and at others, tongue in cheek. We get it. We like it.