When you’re not sure if exhaustion has gotten the better part of you or if a release is lulling you to sleep, yeah, it’s time to reassess. New York’s June McDoom has released her new self-titled (Temporary Residence LTD) release which features 5 tracks of subdued performances of compositions filled with haunting beauty. No seriously, McDoom’s voice wavers throughout but you probably never heard anything like it before. Sure there are others that have attempted to utilize their voices in a unique manner, and Julee Cruise comes to mind, but McDoom has such a wider range. Without it, her songs would be a soft and subtle release of bass, piano, guitar, drums, etc. “Baby, You Light Me Up,” doesn’t need much. While it’s filled with an array of percussion, with just an acoustic guitar and her voice, the song would still be as magical as it turned out. Her cooing is unique and she sings as if she’s cooing. Just listen to “Piano Song” and tell me if I’m wrong. I’m not. This release is a great introduction that allows listeners to hear what June McDoom is capable of.
PALM GHOSTS – POST PRESERVATION
One distinct factor throughout 80s music was a flair for the melodramatic. You could always find that within the music and then eventually in the music video. There could have been a horse walking across a room for no apparent reason as well. It’s no secret that Palm Ghosts are firmly footed in within that culture and with previously released material, the band has shined brightly to make its forebearers proud. The group has no qualms about it, the members do what they do best. While the band’s previous Lost Frequency blasted through with an unrelenting poignancy, the group’s new Post Preservation seems a little, different. But we’ll get to that in a bit.
What one may find interesting about Lost Frequency is how the pop sensibilities are prevalent but there seems to have been an underlying darkness that’s permeating below. For lack of a better word or phrase, yeah, there was some doom and gloom lurking around it. The band out of Nashville just released Post Preservation, which strikes a bit differently. What does that mean? Well, this time around it looks as if the group sees the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. If they’re ok with it, we should all be. But that doesn’t mean the group has relinquished its cynicism; as the band moves through “No Joy,” it’s completely relatable. Propelled by Vince Clarke-like electronics, as vocalist Joseph Lekkas doesn’t allude with subliminal metaphors, instead speaking his mind when he sings, “I get no joy from people these days.” The audacity! Although many, I’m sure, can say the same. Aside from the pleasantries here, one might notice that Palm Ghosts has upped its game a bit with rhythms that are a bit more distinct and punch. The opening “Signal” is literally a banger of a track, with scraping, distorted guitars riding a keyboard wash way below the surface. Or you might want to take in “Fractured,” which quickly builds around its rhythm section with stunning guitar work, never overpowering the song itself. If this one doesn’t convince you, then nothing will.
The band alludes to Ian McCulloch-like harmonies on “Prefix Patriots” and while I’ll make no attempt to interpret the song’s lyrics, one may just want to decipher it for themselves. The bounce and infectiousness throughout it though are well worth the attempts over and over again though. Then there’s the sprawling “Cross Your Heart,” with its Simon Gallup-esque bottom end, with a smattering of atmospheric guitars and thumping percussion.
Feelings were mixed entering Post Preservation, as thoughts began to wander, believing, “Oh, now they’re singing about love and all? Did they lose their mojo?” But those thoughts are kicked to the wayside as the collection of tracks here has a lot to offer. Palm Ghosts still walks a road covered in nostalgia but the sunny sheen over the band’s music will make everyone a believer.
SECRET SHAME – AUTONOMY
If this is your first foray into what may shame you, it’s ok. We should share our innermost anxieties and insecurities. One should never hold things back. We all tend to hide within ourselves instead of just allowing others to help us work through our guilt or unmitigated disasters in our lives. That’s possibly the first step, but I digress. After a couple of releases, and a number of remixed singles, the Asheville, NC outfit Secret Shame releases its sophomore LP Autonomy.
If there’s any confusion as to where to start, the beginning is always the best place to enter. From the get-go, “Hide” reeks of familiarity with its compelling rhythm and enticing guitar notes offering nostalgia to possibly early Berlin. Yes, comparisons are cheap but here it seems to be warranted. The song’s introduction seems to pull from the book of “The Metro” but thankfully it ends there as the song morphs into something completely different ushering across blurred lines, on a tightrope, between pop and post-punk. It’s one way to start things off but in a way, it is inviting as vocalist Lena sings across the picturesque landscape the rest of the band, bassist Matthew, drummer Nathan, and guitarist Aster paint with their instruments. It sets the tone for the rest of the album, with Lena’s lyrics offering an insight that allows listeners a more intimate view of the band. Taking a look at “Persephone,” the band’s strong suit is in the way it’s able to capture the drama within its music, all the while as Lena bares her emotive lyrics for all to hear. The strength of the group is in its unity, as every individual member has the same goal and mindset which allows the song to glisten at just about every turn.
But it’s the band’s melancholic “Zero,” a fan favorite and the closer on the album, that is relentless in its appeal, softly enticing listeners as it passionately grows in strength and finally grips on, with a hope of never letting go. The song’s melody is obviously captivating as Lena’s powerful voice leads the way. The power in both lyrics and musical delivery combined makes this a beast of a track.
It isn’t easy to walk away from Secret Shame and Lena’s words that will leave everyone wondering and questioning the pain within them but one thing is for sure, Autonomy forces the listener to pay attention, there’s no doubt about that.