Destroyer – ‘Ken’
Dan Bejar circles back to his musical roots as he continues to document society’s absurdities.
The only consistency within Den Bejar’s back catalogue remains his inconsistency. Every Destroyer album sounds unlike its predecessor and his already 12th full-length makes no difference. While the furious Poison Season (2015) and his band-sounding rock character clearly broke with Bejar’s 80s-infected 2011 breakthrough LP Kaputt, the new one somehow circles back to album number ten. Inspired by Bejar’s love for Suede and especially their tune Wild Ones, the Canadian songwriter reflects on the times music infected him ‘like a sickness’, so we’re heading straight to the late 80s with this one. Although Ken appears to be a bit more Kaputt-related from a musical point of view, Bejar is keen to not simply repeat old patterns.
Ken is definitely more pop than Poison Season and tracks like the powerful New Order-infected In The Morning or the catchy Cover From The Sun show Destroyer from their most accessible side yet. A certain edgy appeal is still there as Bejar remains the notorious grumpy storyteller whose vocal performance isn’t exactly what you might call a ‘typical pop voice’. The songwriter enjoys the celebration of the contradiction which allows him to write an instant 80s pop hit like the closing track La Regle Du Jeu (including a really cheesy guitar solo) and simply not using it as the album’s lead single. Ken presents the more uplifting side of Destroyer but be sure to spot enough a few lyrical abysses in it as well. Because that is another consistent element in Dan Bejar’s restless artistic journey.(Norman Fleischer)
Wy – ‘Okay’
The Malmö-duo describes their music as ‘cry-pop’, but there’s more to Michel Gustafsson and Ebba Ågren than just misery.
Listen to one Wy song, and you’ll have a pretty solid idea of the stylistic area the band operates in. Their music is soft, slow and grand, built around big, echoing guitar lines and Ågren’s raw vocal, loaded with emotional weight. That forms the template for pretty much every song on the record, used to show-stopping effect on standout singles Hate To Fall Asleep and Bathrooms, songs that catch the breath in your throat and hit you right in the angst.
But we already knew Wy could write great individual songs. Importantly on Okay they show they can stretch their songwriting into new shapes. What Would I Ever Do has captivating, swaying groove, and Gone Wild strips their sound down to a whispered, stream-of-consciousness rush. Sharply-written, shimmering alt-rock: Okay is the statement that lifts Wy from a buzz-band to something much, much more. This is one of 2017’s most promising debut releases. (Austin Maloney)
Bully – ‘Losing’
Alicia Bognanno continues to establish herself as one of alternative rock’s most precious female leading figures. Just don’t fall for her charming looks as she’s about to spit in your face.
Those who constantly complain about rock music’s decline and the genre’s inability to channel the frustration of 21st century youth should take a moment and listen to this one. Well, you can go on and discuss the lack of ideas just because garage rock bands aren’t that much interested in autotune and Ableton Live presets – or you could just look beyond what the Foo Fighters have to offer and discover that the underground has still a lot to give. Nashville’s Bully are the best example of how this could look and sound like. Their second LP Losing sounds even rawer than their critically acclaimed 2015 debut Feels Like.
What you get with this one is a pure and unfiltered call to arms as Alicia Bognanno channels her generation’s frustration and anger within twelve furious anthems. Right from the start and Feel The Same the three-piece is determined to keep the pace up. Whether it’s songs like Running or Seeing It – the production remains on unfiltered 90s DIY level while Bognanno angrily screams into the microphone, leaving no doubt that there’s a lot of attitude behind the charming smile. The sound of Bully feels like a steamroller who’s raw spirit is definitely more important than delivering the world’s most profound songwriting. But sometimes that’s just not as important as a musical kick in your butt, right? In the case of Bully the retro-aspect comes with quite a refreshing side effect. (Norman Fleischer)
Grandbrothers – ‘Open’
With their second album, Bochum duo lands at the spot where underground and philharmonic halls intersect.
In a recent article on neo-classical music, German weekly newspaper Die Zeit interpreted the reductionist and minimalist music of artists like Nils Frahm, Ólafur Arnalds and Grandbrothers as a late child of the convention-breaking punk movement. Lukas Vogel, Erol Sarp and their prepared piano, however, are not creating ‘neo-classical music’. The music on Open, their first record for City Slang, hardly takes up musical or structural motifs from classical music. Neither does the limited sonic scope of their setup – as on their debut album Dilation, all sounds are created by hammers applied to different parts of the piano and digitally manipulated with a computer – adhere to the electronic production paradigma of unique synthetic sounds and hypnotic grooves.
Instead, Grandbrothers are essentially composing instrumental piano music, borrowing from pop’s accessible melodies and harmonies while eschewing its rigid song structures. Their cinematic qualities shine through best on tracks like Sonic Riots and the meditative closer London Bridges with its carefully planted melodies and laid-back beats. Open might not contain the same level of detail and novelty as its predecessor – but it will mark the moment when their craft is assessed and appreciated on a global scale. (Igor Franjic)
Song to get you started: London Bridges
Stream it now: ► Spotify / ► Apple Music / ► TIDAL
Hope – ‘Hope’
‘The struggle of every human being’ – The German newcomers manage to combine opposites on their debut full of monumental songs.
Four music students meet in the Bavarian provinces, found a jazz band named Mamsell Zazou, record and release an album and then scrap almost every song written for the second album. So far, so usual. But then, in 2014, the quartet decides to erase their musical past and start over again as Hope. The four musicians settle in Berlin and, by playing many live shows and releasing impressive songs and videos from time to time, develop their own sound.
And this sound appears to be mostly dark. Compulsions, violence and suppressed feelings are some of the topics on Hope’s self-titled debut (e. g. Kingdom, Glass). But there’s also a lasting energy to the songs which surely comes from the fusion of opposites. Noisy guitar and synth sounds alternate with a minimalist use of instruments (Raw, Skin), refusal and anger encounter desire and love (Cell, Drop Your Knives) and even the band’s visuals gain from the interaction between darkness and light. It’s an elaborate, accessible and relevant album that leaves you wondering about the opposing forces inside yourself. (Jessi Schmitte)