Music » Record Roundup

Reviews of Mick Jenkins's surprisingly friendly Wave[s] and nine more new records

Five Reader writers take in a range of sounds that includes Ola Belle Reed's rural roots music, Ahab's "nautik funeral doom," and Beach House's newly modest dream pop.



The Boats of the Glen Carrig

For their previous album, 2012's The Giant, Ahab took inspiration from Edgar Allan Poe's 1838 novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, which recounts a phantasmagorical voyage to Antarctic seas. For the new The Boats of the Glen Carrig, this self-­described "nautik funeral doom" band draw from William Hope Hodgson's 1907 horror novel of the same name, whose fans included H.P. Lovecraft. These Germans' seafaring sound swings between becalmed and stormy: Daniel Droste's vocals plunge from a clear, genteel tenor to a clotted, guttural roar, and the guitars shatter passages of crystalline lyricism with eruptions of churning, midnight-­black thunder. The melodies have yet to prove as insinuating as those on The Giant, but in "Like Red Foam (The Great Storm)" Droste sings a mournful descending line that echoes the chilling despair of Hodgson's narrator as he gazes on the approaching tempest: "The great wall of cloud had risen some further degrees, and there was something less of the redness," he writes. "It appeared to crest the black cloud like red foam, seeming, it might be, as though a mighty sea made ready to break over the world." Philip Montoro


Beach House
Depression Cherry
(Sub Pop)

Beach House have always followed an unassuming MO, no matter how expansive their dream-pop sound has gotten. Their breakout album, 2009's Teen Dream, is hardly a scorcher, but with its hazy, beautifully layered guitars and Victoria Legrand's haunting, piercing voice, it became a sleeper indie hit. The duo's next record, 2012's Bloom, sounded even more confidently Beach House-y, but the new Depression Cherry shakes things up a bit. They've described it as a "return to simplicity," explaining that their previous two albums brought them to a "more aggressive place" (this might've had to do with their growing audience). Depression Cherry's lead single, "Sparks," retains a spaciousness that befits a festival setting but lacks some of the grandiosity of Bloom and Teen Dream, when the band were swinging for the fences in their own modest way. Tanner Howard


Mario Diaz de Leon
The Soul Is the Arena

Mario Diaz de Leon is part of an expanding universe of instrumentalists and composers at home in multiple stylistic worlds: he merges contemporary classical and dark electronic music, and on his newest collection, The Soul Is the Arena, his grip on that hybrid sound is more confident than ever. He continues his relationship with the International Contemporary Ensemble, and two of his compositions here feature soloists from that group (flutist Claire Chase and clarinetist Joshua Rubin) in virtuosic conversation with rigorous, slashing electronics. On the ominous "Luciform" Chase tangles with synthetic parts that veer between doomy bass and piercing, kaleidoscopic splatters, sometimes playing ripping unison passages and at others explosive counterpoint, while the mood shifts in steady increments from serene to frenzied. On the chamber piece Portals Before Dawn, Diaz de Leon's synthesizer parts are more restrained and the music has a more acoustic focus, but it's no less unsettling for that: trilling figures for flute, clarinet, and piano strike like lightning within halting explosions of percussion and dark ambience.Peter Margasak


Golden Pelicans
Oldest Ride, Longest Line
(Total Punk)

The more Golden Pelicans chuck guitar riffs at your dome like full cans of Icehouse, the more you're duped into believing these Orlando miscreants play straight-up party punk—the kind of rowdy filth spewed out by guys who might make you bleed before the end of the show. But on the recent Oldest Ride, Longest Line—released on Total Punk, the tiny but oh-so-solid label run by drummer Rich Evans—Golden Pelicans are a tad sneaky about their assault. It's in the music, not in the vocals—the snarling rasp of front man Eric Grincewicz makes him sound like a tracheotomy patient with the dry heaves, but guitarist Scott Barnes ups the rock 'n' roll quotient with sharp, strutting riffs that are simultaneously glam-heavy and tough as nails. Kevin Warwick


Death Magic
(Loma Vista)

Los Angeles noise-rock group Health haven't released a proper full-length in six years, at least if you don't count their 2010 disco edits of their sophomore album (2009's Get Color) or their 2012 soundtrack to the video game Max Payne 3 (which some of their fans don't even know they've done). But no matter how many years you figure Health have been dormant, the new Death Magic is a tremendous return, an evolution toward accessible pop that keeps their ear-­shattering violence intact. Health still scour their songs with shock waves—their idiosyncratic noise splits the difference between "civil defense siren" and "sharpening a katana"—but now they lend a crackling aura to blunted house percussion and Top 40 hooks. Even when the lyrics get grim, Health's music gleams: on "Life" they make anxiety, aimlessness, and fatigue sound positively triumphant. Leor Galil


Mick Jenkins
(Cinematic Music Group)

On his 2014 breakout mixtape, The Water[s], Chicago MC Mick Jenkins deftly sewed a fabric of lush, inviting soul to his thoughtful vignettes of kids stuck on the wrong side of the tracks. Jenkins has a strong grasp of how words flow together, and his rapping is so precise it can sound austere—in fact his fierceness can seem forbidding. But he's taking big steps toward dance-friendly pop with his new EP, Wave[s], and in the process showing off an alluring new range and stylistic breadth in his vocals. On "Your Love" he slides into R&B crooner mode, and his soft, mellow singing coasts atop the dry, snapping percussion provided by "it" producer Kaytranada—like much of Wave[s], it's "pop" in the sense that it encourages and rewards constant replay. Leor Galil


Jessy Lanza
You Never Show Your Love

On her full-length debut, 2013's Pull My Hair Back, Canadian singer-­producer Jessy Lanza tamed the bite of the acidic synth stabs and palpitating electronic bass in her tracks, weaving them into mystical, placid tapestries of R&B. For her new EP, You Never Show Your Love, she collaborated with Teklife producers DJ Spinn and Taso, creating four songs that find a middle ground between Lanza's relaxing atmospherics and Spinn and Taso's high-energy catharsis. The last two songs turn up the pace and the bass: one is a footwork-­flavored tune with a posthumous appearance from DJ Rashad, and the other courts the ghetto-­house heads in her audience. On the ace title track, Lanza weaves rattling percussion into her beguiling, sumptuous sound. Leor Galil


The Last Hurrah!!
(Rune Grammofon)

Over the past five years or so, veteran Norwegian producer and guitarist HP Gundersen has enlisted a shifting cast of Scandinavian help to craft a delirious, cosmic hybrid of country-­rock, folk, psychedelia, and blues under the name the Last Hurrah!! For the project's first two albums, he crafted extended suites that work almost like medleys, but on its third and best record, Mudflowers, he's broken up the music into ten irresistible songs. The new material gets a huge boost from a new singer, Los Angeles-based Maesa Pullman, who glides among glamorous Laurel Canyon folk-rock, Nashville countrypolitan, and Chicago soul (Tore Bereczky's harmonica on "Tried to Lose You" sounds like an homage to Syl Johnson or Sugar Blue). Gundersen uses the studio like a laboratory, concocting woozy tributes to many stripes of American roots music, and they're all so spot-on and hooky (and now, with Pullman, convincingly soulful) that the somewhat artificial and inorganic process of their creation doesn't matter a whit to me.Peter Margasak


Nordic Affect
(Sono Luminus)

In recent years an explosion of exciting new music has arisen in Iceland, much of it made by young women. Nordic Affect is an all-­female quartet that alternates between Baroque music and contemporary classical, adjusting starkly modern ideas for strings and harpsichord. Their new album, Clockworking, features commissioned works by five Icelandic women, including a few with indie-rock connections: Maria Huld Markan Sigfusdottir was in the string group Amiina, and Hildur Gudnadottir used to play in Mum. Gudnadottir wrote "2 Circles" for voice and violin, and those two instruments feel remote from each other even as they twine inextricably together. Hafdis Bjarnadottir's "From Beacon to Beacon" combines field recordings made in and around two different lighthouses with string passages that reflect the unpredictable violence of ocean weather, and Thuridur Jonsdottir's "INNI—Music da Camera" blends breathy violin harmonics with the cooing of an infant without sounding corny or cutesy. Anna Thorvaldsdottir's "Shades of Silence" is a rapturous, starkly beautiful concatenation of drones, muted thwacks, and simulated inhalations and exhalations. The pieces are connected by a thread of semi-structuralist presentation—the materials and the spaces in which they're brought to life share the spotlight—but this music couldn't sound less academic. Peter Margasak


Various artists
Ola Belle Reed and Southern Mountain Music on the Mason-Dixon Line

With its superlative track choices, obsessive attention to detail, impeccable research, and beautiful packaging, the Dust-to-Digital label has set the standard for reissues devoted to overlooked chapters of American roots music. This new two-disc collection looks at the work and influence of the great country and folk singer Ola Belle Reed, born in 1916 to a large musical family in Lansing, North Carolina; in 1934 she moved first to southeastern Pennsylvania and then to Rising Sun, Maryland, just south of the Mason-Dixon Line. The first disc contains dazzling recordings of Reed—who balanced the sounds and repertoire of hard-core old-time music with a brisk bluegrass feel—made in 1966 and '67 in Oxford, Pennsylvania, just north of the border. The second disc consists of contemporary recordings by her descendants, both literal and musical. The set comes with an exhaustive 256-page book that details Reed's history and influence and tells stories about the rural-music community that grew up around her in the 60s—and that carries on today thanks to the likes of bluegrass singer Danny Paisley. Peter Margasak  v

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