Bandwagon Selects: Recent Record Reviews Edition #14

Ah the late summer droll. Days are hotter, the next public holiday is 60 days away, hungry ghosts are a-walking the earth, sometimes the days can be a bit of a bummer. Fret not because on the music end, it is never dull. We found some fresh and exciting new releases to keep the dullness at bay. In this edition: psychedelic nostalgia, an un-labeled genre, electronic, post-punk and Midwestern emo, you have your choices. 

Two Seas | I Will See You In Empty Spaces 

Two Seas may be new around these parts, but their debut EP might just get some people to shut up and listen. The quintet's I Will See You In Empty Spaces is a collection of six furious yet restrained tracks. They may not be thoroughly inventive but they possess an interesting amount of technical instrumentation, coupled with passionate vocals; something not found in abundance these days.

Vocalist Jerald’s range, while not diverse, is compelling enough to bring forth their emotional lyrics with invigorating subtlety. He doesn’t scream much but his tones are fairly raw which keeps the instrumentation on edge. The band carries themselves well with precise drums and angular guitar riffs. Although the mix is still really well done especially for an independent release, the guitars lose a bit of their raw power in certain tracks.

‘Glassmouth’ is a definite highlight from the EP; a tightly-wounded track with explosive guitars accentuated by gritty, melodic vocals that never hold up until the last second. The two-part epic 'Earl Grey' meanders on after a while, sounding relatively tired despite experimenting with lighter, airier sounds. Fortunately, 'You Are Disappearing' along with the closer 'White Yolk' picks up with immediate urgency that ends the EP well.

While the band has shown an aversion towards being labeled ‘post-hardcore’, they still share many characteristics of what made the genre so refreshing and forward-thinking back in the 90s, not the sad sack of a number of modern bands that produce a distilled, formulaic version of that. There are many nods to their contemporaries in the entire record but it’s evident that their main focus lies at the foundation of all great songwriting: heart. 

Standout Tracks:
Glassmouth, You Are Disappearing, White Yolk

Crash Of Rhinos | Knots

There's a lot of talk these days about the revival of Midwestern emo, with bands such as Joie de Vivre, Into It. Over It. and label Topshelf Records leading the path to bring back the introspective, cyclic guitar-laden style of punk rock reminiscent of Appleseed Cast, Mineral, etc. Can't complain really; how many of us wished we caught American Football live? One major player in the revival doesn't even occupy the vicinity of Chicago or even live in the USA - Crash Of Rhinos are Derby lads. 

Their 2011 debut Distal was (and still is) a triumph in bringing back that whole sound; a gorgeous, dynamic, heartfelt party record and an exhilarating jam session from start to finish. But if Distal was a party, their recent release Knots feels more like the morning after. The hallmarks of the band are still there: gruff vocal interjections from all five members, gang vocals, whirling guitar instrumentations, pounding bass riffs from both bassists and drummer Oli as intricate in his drum work as ever. What's different here is that the tracks are longer, and the members find themselves jamming more into prolonged instrumental interludes, regularly evolving in melodies just like any good 90's emo music would. Rousing, anthemic songs are not really the focus here, though present. The emphasis is now on looking inwards, and that is where the resounding success of Knots lie in: the collective voices of Crash of Rhinos are as doleful and as sincere as ever. 

Standout Tracks: 
Opener, Impasses, Standards & Practices

Weekend | Jinx

No, this is not The Weeknd. The post-punk outfit from San Franciso offer a great tribute to their post-punk influences with their second album Jinx. But where their contemporaries end up imitating their genre forefathers, Weekend simultaneously keeps their influences close without sounding like anyone else. 

It's satisfyingly gloomy, full of textured guitars encasing everything, supplementing the hazy, circling vocals and just being as melancholically noisy as possible. It's a grower too, for the hooks only sink deep after a few listens. Jinx moves urgently, consistently pushing you to the next melody, rarely lingering on any one hook or emotion. The beat drives you along as Shaun Durkan (bass & vocals) hauntingly call out for desperate longing - a sound that satisfies any fans of Deerhunter or My Bloody Valentine.

Standout Tracks:
Oubliette, Adelaide, Just Drive

Jon Hopkins | Immunity

Pre-Immunity, you may find him collaborating, composing, and also on keyboards with the likes of Brian Eno, Imogen Heap, King Creosote and Coldplay - a solid resume but Jon Hopkins' fourth solo effort may be a genuine breakthrough and his best work ever (yet). 

Well crafted and curated, and almost spacious. Listening to it in its entirety is a journey itself; the first half is menacingly industrial, hypnotic yet propulsive and then it slowly proceeds to take a breather with lush synth soundscapes and meditative pianos in the second half. 

Slamming doors, glitchy beats and a symphony of bleeps and bloops, Immunity begins with 'We Disappear', a tense but inviting opener which leads to the more aggressive 'Open Eye Signal'. Barely 15 minutes into the album and it is already intriguing and hard-hitting. The 9-minute centrepiece 'Collider' is relentless and all pounding bass and muscular beats before it segues into the piano-led melodies of 'Abandon Window'. The ambient and calming soundscape of the second half then culminates into closer 'Immunity', an impeccable end to a brilliant album. Immunity is a stunning album and an absolute trip, definitely one of the year's best electronic releases. 

Standout Tracks:
Sun Harmonics, Open Eye Signal, Immunity

Washed Out | Paracosm

This albums sounds like how it looks. The tropical flowers in tropical colours on the cover, opening the album with birds chirping, wildlife samples, breezy chimes and airy voices stay true to the chillwave school of thought. Ernest Greene of Washed Out has been known to create reverb-drenched soundscapes and recreate a sense of nostalgia with his music. 

Although not much a departure from his previous stuff, Washed Out utilise their usual summery synths, digital beats and mellow melodies but with Paracosm, he has added a repertoire of instruments. You hear guitars, bass, live drums more prominently on tracks like 'All We Know', 'Falling Back' and 'It All Feels Right'. Inklings of 60s pop and psychedelia is also present in this one, making Paracosm a somewhat warmer, more organic and also more grown up offering.

Apropos to its release, Paracosm very much feels like late summer and a departure from the usual trappings of chillwave and ambient music. 

Standout Tracks:
It All Feels Right, Great Escape, All Over Now, (actually everything)

Words: Daniel Peters, Ilyas Sholihyn & Delfina Utomo