In the past few years, Spoken Nerd has delivered. With every subsequent release, his delivery has become…for lack of a better word, harder. Not hard in the sense where you’ll find him sportin’ colors off Crenshaw with a gun in his belt, but he’s hitting his phrasing with exclamation points. We can argue or debate about it but the truth is in the music, and I like it. He’s released a new single, “The Gentleman,” which is an ode to Guy Ritchie and the film of the same name. It’s a film that Spoken Nerd considers “one of the most underrated films of the last 10 years.” The song he’s created is probably just as good, which elaborates on his own skill as a storyteller. Couple that over an unrelenting beat and yes, we’ll find something magical. That’s what this is here, magic.
DAVE ROWNTREE – RADIO SONGS
In most cases, it’s usually the frontman. The frontman is the one in the band that people notice, the one that’s the most recognizable. It isn’t something that’s purposeful, it’s just the way things happen to be. Of course, there are moments when the media may help manipulate it but it’s usually the fans that dictate it. As with Blur, everyone could probably name frontman Damon Albarn, who’s also made a name for himself with Gorillaz, solo releases, and collaborative efforts. But that’s beside the point, it’s the other members that take a backseat.
For decades now, Blur drummer Dave Rowntree has held down the band’s rhythm but today he steps out on his own with his full-length debut, Radio Songs (Cooking Vinyl), which, while the album is noted to be “an electronic-based album with orchestral fringes,” it seems to be much more than that. In all honesty, Rowndtree is an astute songwriter and the tracks that fill the album may have you wondering why we haven’t heard much of this earlier on. Yes, his songwriting seems to move beyond mere cleverness, as his compositions, whether created organically or by electronic means, are full with richness. Certainly, there’s an electronic feel throughout, much like on “Machines Like Me” but what does that matter when we all know Rowntree has the ability to create rhythm patterns like this without the use of additional equipment. He’s not a machine but he chooses to use them.
Rowntree is easily likable, and enjoyable, creating songs that are charming. With “1000 Miles” I’m not sure if it gets any better than this utilizing keyboards for piano and strings as he sings his sprawling love song that’s intriguing and inviting at the same time. He utilizes that same orchestral technique with the glitchy “HK” the sole instrumental piece here. Keys, random percussion at times, and strings all separate and merge together at varying moments in time. It’s done quite well. You’ll never know which way he’s going to end up though as “London Bridge” has much more fervor to it as it pops and thrusts. Of course it’s a single, why wouldn’t it be? The rhythm grabs ahold of you and never lets go as the melody sinks its teeth under one’s skin.
There are 10 tracks to round out Radio Songs and it doesn’t hold back. It seems the world should get ready for Dave Rowntree. This should make everyone a true believer.
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GLOSSER – DOWNER
As time rolls on and life shifts through adulthood, we find ourselves inundated with useless daily tasks while trying to find ways to either avoid them or find better ways at completing them. It’s the same with music as newer acts try to find their way through the muck of an overwhelming amount of underwhelming releases. Glosser, the Washington, D.C. made up of Riley Fanning and Corbin Sheehan delivers its full-length debut Downer, in an attempt to navigate through the increasing sludge that surrounds us all.
We don’t knowingly go into a release with thoughts of dissecting and dismembering its songs based on structures or lack of symmetry. Sometimes it just falls into place in just that way but make no mistake, Glosser doesn’t fall into that category as the songs the band has created drift gently at whatever pace it may take. For instance, its title track has Fanning sweet & lazy vocal melody over a sole keyboard that quickly dissipates in just over a minute. It blends into the bouncier “Disco Girls” as Fanning’s deceptively coos with an uninterested-like fancy but that’s not really the case here. It’s the manner in which she sings that’s quite intriguing. The head-nodding beat, and the guitar & keyboard notes all create a sultry and challenging composition. The song is perfection, a flavorful pop tune, and something we haven’t had the opportunity to encounter in some time.
There’s no doubt how Glosser is easy on the senses, as it encapsulates beauty within its songs from beginning to end. The gorgeously orchestrated “Pendulum” moves from sparse to overwhelming while the free-flowing “PBE” seems expansive, holding together an organic vibe within its electronic roots. Glosser seems to challenge itself with “Movies,” which seems to be as dramatic as can be, on the brink of explosion only to reel it back in. It leaves listeners panting for more. “Monsoon” takes things elsewhere, led by a rhythm that seems to build its momentum but clearly holds steady.
Throughout Downer we see there’s much more to Glosser than we may think. The group has the ability to make you dance, make you cry, and simply make you think. It doesn’t seem to get much easier or better than this.
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R. RING – WAR POEMS, WE RESTED
Pop songs seem to have been around since the beginning of time. Surely. they’ve been classified differently in the past but we all know a pop song when we hear it as it fills the air with catchy melodies and the occasional harmony. This seems to be where R. Ring begins on its sophomore release War Poems, We Rested (Don Giovanni Records) which they have in fact done considering the debut album was released back in 2017.
The group, comprised of Kelley Deal (The Breeders) and Mike Montgomery (Ampline) along with the assist of Laura King (Bat Fangs), delivers exactly what was mentioned earlier; catchy melodies along with the occasional harmony. While Deal’s cooing, as we all know and remember, takes the lead here mostly, Montgomery’s voice is a bit stormier, and we find perfection within the imperfections. This is how the first half of the album makes it out, with strong pop songs under an unrelenting pop aesthetic, and it works. “Hug” is Deal moving around haphazard dueling guitar notes on the verge of dissonance as the rhythm chips away with pop indulgence within its repeated catchiness. The endearing “Stole Eye” is solid with aggressive dynamics and the catchiest of melodies. You’ll find yourself engrossed with the song from start to finish, up until its abrupt end.
One thing to consider here though is the way the group moves in varying degrees from one side of the musical spectrum to the other. While the members may throw pop rocks at listeners like the frantic “Cartoon heart Build Me A Question,” the band indulges in chance and risk. The quiet “Embers On A Sleepwalk” is wrapped in a dreamy musical landscape with Montgomery’s quivering voice above it all as Deal coos in the background. The folk driven “Lighter Than A Berry” allows its melody to move seamlessly without need of cacophony, instead allowing the drifting guitars and strings to move without boundaries around them. It’s cleverly done.
While a good amount of time has passed in between albums, R. Ring picks up where it left off and War Poems, We Rested is testament to that. The album is creatively boundless and the songs do speak for themselves. This would pique anyone’s interest.
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FUCKED UP – ONE DAY
“Sometimes there’s nothing better than angry, dissonant hardcore to get you through the day and make you feel good.” That’s what I wrote on the Twitter recently, and that sentiment still stands true today. But make no mistake, Fucked Up is something of a different beast altogether, and it has to be, considering for over 23 years the Canadian band has inspired others with unrelenting performances and countless albums, live recordings, singles, mixtapes, and more. The band has just released its latest offering One Day (Merge Records), Fucked Up’s latest full-length release, possibly its most realized work to date. That might be a bit of hyperbole but then again, it may not be.
While the band has gone through slight line-up shifts throughout the years, its core membership has remained steadfast. Still present is the band’s aggressive delivery throughout One Day, which was recorded in one day according to the band, and yeah, the recording is stellar. Still present is Damian Abraham’s gruff vocal delivery which is never self-indulgent and always offers a splattering of guttural lyricism. Think what you may, this is a necessity within Fucked Up’s couture signature sound. But that doesn’t dismiss the rest of the group, all of whom do play an integral part of the band itself. Mike Haliechuk and Josh Zucker are constant and consistent are the walls of guitar that colorfully spray paint the musical canvases with their notes as the rhythm section of Sandy Miranda and Jonah Falco is the backbone here.
The powerful opener “Found” leaves no room to fucking catch your breath, and that’s fine because you should have worked on your cardio beforehand. It’s unrelenting and monstrous in size and might make you question if this album was really recorded in a day. But regardless, as soon as the first notes hit, you’ll be right in with the band. Fuck yes! But we find beauty within this beast of an album on “Broken Little Boys,” a sonically devastating track with a story to tell and Abraham harmonizing with other members of the band. And then there’s “Nothing’s Immortal” where you might be thrown off by the organ play opening it but the band uses it and the piano clinking throughout to its benefit. The song is compellingly immersive with cooing backing vocals and Abraham pulling melodic notes from his own delivery. One thing you may not expect is the scorching flame that is “Cicada.” Haliechuk takes lead here and it’s beautiful. Harmonies abound, haunting background vocals, all with the power of the band behind it. A different look, but still recognizable.
With One Day, there’s no doubt in my mind that Fucked Up is probably one of the greatest bands to walk the earth as we live in it today. We get to see, we get to hear, everything the band has to offer in real-time. After so many years performing together, it seems the band has only scratched the surface of what it’s capable of. Are you in?