New Music: Friday Roll Out! With Muncie Girls, Peace To Mateo, Frøkedal, The Imperial Sound

I’ve found that I’m not the only person that procrastinates. Time after time, just like a Cindi Lauper song, a lot of people fall short of deadlines, so I tend to think I’m not much different from most in that respect, but the difference is I try to do better. All the time. Maybe this is where we all fall short as a society; we seem to be ok with mediocrity and doing enough to fit into the status quo. Or some just quit at doing things just because. It happens but for fuck’s sake man, do better just for yourself!
Musicians, rappers, artists, that goes for them as well, yet here I am again with a handful of albums wondering what I should do with them. This Friday Roll Out! is dedicated to releases out the week of, so when someone questions if they can have their album included although it dropped 4 months prior, come on, there’s a method to the madness here. There are also things we won’t do. Let’s say a band, remaining nameless but we can call them Alice In Chains for shits ‘n giggles, recently released an album and a publicist requests incessantly for a review. Sometimes you’ll question yourself on whether and why you should do it because seriously, is it really Alice In Chains without Layne Staley? But I digress. There are new records out today by John Oates, who I always ignore because what is Oates without Hall? Come on now. EMINEM has a new album Kamikaze out today as well and while it’s unmistakably EM, he plays within the current culture. No matter what you think of him, the kid is nasty. I don’t like everything he releases but he’ll go down in history as one of the greatest.
So here, I’m feeling a bit cheated here because I just discovered that the Muncie Girls is a trio that isn’t made up of just “Girls.” The UK 3-piece reveal its sophomore full-length release Fixed Ideals (Buzz Records) which leaves me in an awkward headspace here. Vocalist/bassist Lande Hekt takes the lead here obviously, and her voice, yeah, it’s pleasing. She doesn’t hold onto any high-pitched whines which for some reason I’ve been bombarded with as of late. Yeah, that’s possibly the lamest comparison I can make but I think I’m going somewhere here. The girl can definitely sing and hold her own against the catchy melodies the band, which you can hear on the melodic and harmony-filled “Jeremy.” The band doesn’t play things up too much, allowing the rhythm to ride out naturally. The song just feels right. Then there’s a shift in dynamics all around with “Picture Of Health,” where the aggressive pop inflections seriously afflict the band in more than one positive way. Right out the gate, one understands Dean McMullen (lead guitar), and Luke Ellis’ (drums) tightly knitted inclusion as the cataclysmic addition to the Muncie formula. Musically the band pieces together a song that’s tighter than a muskrat’s ass, yet full of melodic twists and turns. The band continues drenching songs in melody and more than enthusiastic drumming here, which I’m definitely a fan of. “High” rolls all over the place while “Clinic” fits in space where it’s needed. But there are blemishes on Fixed Ideals one just can’t get past. Midway through a dose of “Bubble Bath” is thrown in with bubbling sound effects that are unnerving and seem ill-fitted here. It’s a cheese factor that I can’t cosign on. Then it’s back to business as usual with “Fig Tree” and “Locked Up,” filled with crunchy guitars and more of what listeners should want. Aside from that one bump in Muncie Girls’ Fixed Ideals, I’m pretty happy listening to the album. The band tones down its heavier edges at the end of the album with quieter “Hangovers” and the bit more spacious “Family Of Four” which leads me to think the band is capable of doing so much more. Time to repeat here.

Now, this isn’t the first go around for Matt Black, who records under the moniker Peace To Mateo. Some Strange Reason (Young Heavy Souls) the Detroit artist’s fourth full-length release where the soundscape artist creates a pastiche of sound and imagery. Comparisons are cheap, but sometimes I can be the most frugal of individuals, and so my hand is occasionally forced. What Peace To Mateo does here is reminiscent of other artists that put the music first. They’re able to create without looking ahead and placing another layer, like vocals, right on top. It’s that keen ability that brings to mind artists like Blockhead, Factor Chandelier, Japan’s DJ Krush, and a few others. The music holds the ability to stand alone without need of anything else.  With “Blue Light Ocean,” there’s a wide array of instrumentation compiled together creating a loosely dense wall of sound. The imagery is in the musical eye of the listener here, as one’s own imagination can allow for a variety of things with this track set as backdrop or soundtrack. The good thing about Peace To Mateo is his obsessive use of melody, dropping a catchy beat over a melody like on “Splash Damage” keeps me intrigued. But it’s also the variation here that’s done with intent that keeps you from losing interest. The bass and guitar that drives “Vanilla Shore” is both compelling and hypnotic. Add in some staticky keys and it simply works. There’s a lot of musicality layered throughout Some Strange Reason, which isn’t easily classifiable as one thing, or has the ability to fit singularly under one genre. It seethes with an unrestrained fervor, again, something I can appreciate. This right here, it holds on tightly to the reigns of dopeness.

It’s not difficult to find yourself swimming within the confines of How We Made It (Propeller), the new album by Anne Lise Frøkedal known by her stage name Frøkedal, This is only the second long-player for the Norwegian folk pop singer/songwriter but the album reeks with maturity of a seasoned musician. Given, she previously performed with the lesser known Harry’s Gym for a few years, obviously where she’s hones her skills. But here, Frøkedal easy delivery on each and every track is smooth and seemingly, filled with sincerity. Her voice is soft and soothing, much like Lena Karlsson of Sweden’s Komeda, but more restrained and effortlessly embracing the soft sounds emanating guitars, keyboards, strings and percussion here. “I Don’t Care” is the edgy lite track filled with guitars that freely flow alongside keyboards as Frøkedal sings beautifully.  And then you have “Cracks” which coos breathlessly allowing you to fall in love with her voice as “Stranger” takes a different approach with what sounds like a haunting dualed guitar line opening into a strum fest as it fills out with lush harmonies. Wallowing string arrangements elevate “Paper Tiger” as percussive beauty keeps “David” edgy and fascinating. I’m hard pressed to find anything wrong with any of the songs here and that’s what one might find frightening. The devil doesn’t come with horns, a tail, and a pitchfork in hand. It comes as everything you’ve ever wanted and How We Made It is wickedly good.

Hesitation sometimes plays a part in my connection to writing something down for an artist and there were a couple of moments that caused me to pause here. The Imperial Sound hails from Chicago and released the album The New AM (Pravda Records), and their look alone gives the thought, ‘Possible soul music?’ which isn’t a stretch considering photos of members with horns were included. But then again, with true R&B and Soul having been on the rise the past 15 years or so, was it something out of the ordinary? Well, The Imperial Sound is derivative or more than that. With a core base of 6 members, the band finds solace in Soul, but also in admitted influences. A Daptone mimicry this ain’t. The band opens with “Yesterday (feat Nora O’Connor)” which is more soulful than it isn’t, with obvious nods to clever pop songwriting. O’Connor’s vocals allow from keeping the group pigeonholed into a singular abyss. Ok, the band gets your attention there from the get-go. The band’s pop influences are a bit more obvious on “Daylight” which circles around a couple of catchy riffs, backing horns and consistent keyboards. Guitarist Frederick Mosher and Kenn Goodman dual up vocals at points here, knowing when to piece the harmonies perfectly together. The combination of influences here seems different here like on “The Quarry” which comes off as a soulful endeavor with easy listening vibes. But then the band will switch things up with more rocking numbers like “Tracing The Lines” or “Get Along,” the latter of which delves more directly into a Clash-like Ska vibe with Joe Strummer-esque vocals. Not a bad song but it’s easy to make that comparison. With the 12 tracks of The New AM, I think I’m more confused than anything else. “Ain’t Crawlin Back” there’s a duet with Kelly Hogan and Peter Himmelman, which while not bad, doesn’t add much flavoring into the mix. The songs here aren’t bad but the group’s influence don’t seem to coalesce well with one another.