The Drums – ‘Brutalism’
Even though Jonny Pierce kept the band name The Drums, he meanwhile is the only person behind. Nevertheless, he’s constantly reworking his music and his musical standards. For that reason, he decided to get some more help for his new album Brutalism: producer Chris Coady (Beach House, Future Islands), a guitar player and a live drummer (it’s actually the first Drums record with a live drummer). The album feels like the natural development of its predecessor Abysmal Thoughts which Pierce released 2017, the first one he made without his former band mates.
While Abysmal Thoughts dealt with a break up und the bad feelings accompanying it, Brutalism is about new beginnings, being who you are and showing it. Pierce wrote honest lyrics which sometimes need the parental advisory sticker but that’s like the daily life where we sometimes need one as well. He is standing up for what he wants, talking directly about sex, his feelings and his wishes. ‘I know some good luck/ and a good fuck/ a nice glass of wine/ and some quality time/ is gonna make you mine’ (Body Chemestry) or ‘I’m not embarrassed to admit/ that I need your physicality/ every human becomes weak’, are some examples for his straight texts.
Musically, the singer continued where he stopped two years ago: poppy melodies meet nostalgic synthies that strongly remind of bands like The Beach Boys. Although that combination sounds like being pretty happy and uplifting, there is some kind of dark nostalgia in every song on the record. ‘I think you can’t be intelligent and not be a little bit sad’ is what Pierce is saying to the constant gloomy shade in his music. He has a point in saying that – every musician, artists or human who thinks a little bit more about life can’t avoid the sadness which lies in it. And it’s good to be honest about that. (Miriam Wallbaum)
Weyes Blood – ‘Titanic Rising’
Floating around in an underwater setting with a shimmer of light cutting through the window – much of the scenario in the album artwork turns blurry while offering a bit of a mysterious, dramatic undertone. It’s a sentiment that Natalie Mering aka Weyes Blood fearlessly dives right into on her fourth album Titanic Rising that is packed with a whole lot of depth and modern complexities. It’s an even more ambitious step for the Californian songwriter who aims to sound both ‘ancient and futuristic at once’ – and very much succeeds in doing so over the course of an album that explores and reevaluates what it means to live, truly feel and also face difficulties. Most importantly, not merely by daydreaming, wondering and longing, but instead with a sense of reality and a contemplative nature.
The sonic soundscape of the new songs, meanwhile, pays homage to beautiful and grand 70s pop by embracing big arrangements, a certain dramatic touch and an overall sentimental notion. A sublime combination that gives the songs an eclectic as well as elegant character which elevates the musical path Weyes Blood is one even further. Titanic Rising already indicates that this is not an album about the miserable state we might find ourselves in, but it’s more a collection of stories that filter through the pain by aiming for faith and hope. Often by using beautiful imagery and harmonies that give everything an uplifting feeling, no matter how gloomy and dark it all seems at first glance. Mering’s ability to capture this in her songs and to look beyond the mess to find beauty and belief is intriguing. (Annett Bonkowski)
Christian Löffler – ‘Graal (Prologue)’
For the past near-decade, north-east German producer Christian Löffler has carved a beautiful little niche for himself, akin to the atmospheric techno of Jon Hopkins or fellow countryman Pantha Du Prince. His debut A Forest showed his mettle while 2014 record Young Alaska is one of the finest electronic records of this decade, while his follow-up Mare only sought to improve his clear talent and prowess as a producer.
His latest and fourth full-length Graal (Prologue) – named after the small town on the Baltic Sea in which he resides – Löffler has sketched out six more slabs of beauty from the seashore. As always with Löffler these are songs you can equally find yourself dancing to, losing yourself to, or in the case of Josephine Philip-assisted Running or the Mohna-fronted Like Water, even singing along to. The producer’s strengths rest in his ability to constantly push his music forward. A recent performance at London’s Southbank Centre with a string quartet ensemble in tow only proved to back this up, leading to a traditional seated amphitheatre venue becoming a blissful rave by the time of the show’s climax. Once again, Christian Löffler has shown why he is one of the best young producers around today. (Adam Turner-Heffer)
PUP – ‘Morbid Stuff’
Morbid Stuff, the third record of the Canadian punk-rock quartette PUP deals just with what the title hints: All the unhealthy stuff that surrounds singer Stefan Babcock, like death, mental issues or failed relationships. But the album is anything but a depressive, melancholic emo-record. Wrapped in feel-good punk-rock with hymnic sing along parts and a humoristic touch, the record doesn’t at all reveal the quite desperate topics at first sight.
‘I was bored as fuck / Sitting around and thinking all this morbid stuff / Like if anyone I’ve slept with is dead and I got stuck / On death and dying and obsessive thoughts that won’t let up’ are the opening lines to the record, sung in a casual way before the euphoric backing chorus joins in. Putting unpleasant, awkward and painful everyday situations in optimistic sounding tracks might be one way to deal with difficult personal emotions. But between all the backing choruses and somehow amusing lyrics, it’s not easy for the listener to develop an adequate understanding of the emotional situation laid out. But that is probably the point of the eleven songs on the record: Healing through overcompensation the destructive feeling with a portion of cynic self-mockery.
Soundwise the band sticks to their straight forward hymnic punk-rock throughout most of the record, making them sound like their genre relatives from Australia The Smith Street Band or their former label mates on Side One Dummy and hometown-buddies from Toronto Pkew Pkew Pkew. Only the two-and-a-half-minute Full Blown Meltdown sticks out as a hardcore track – being the only one actually matching the lyrics in an supposing appropriate and adequate sound. But don’t be mistaken, there is a twist: ‘You shouldn’t take it so seriously, it’s just music after all / And half the crap I say is just things I’ve stolen from the bathroom walls / Of shitty venues across America’. A confession, or just another way of compensation? The truth probably lies somewhere in between. Morbid Stuff – as unlikely it sounds – is a record to lift your spirit. One, displaying an unusual way to deal with your emotional junk drawer: Through straight forward, melodic punk rock. (Abhilash Arackal)
Jakuzi – ‘Hata Payı’
New wave Synth pop from Istanbul in Turkish..? Sounds a bit like the exotic dish your friend pushes you to try and after overcoming your initial skepticism you end up loving it! Jakuzi are exactly that. The group from Istanbul kick-started their career in 2017 with the debut album Fantezi Müzik, which was a surprise for the band more than anyone as they only intended to hand out cassette mix-tapes to their friends. Two years later they are releasing their sophomore album and playing sold out shows in their home country Turkey.
2019’s release Hati Pay (meaning a part of the mistake) is a matured take on the synth-heavy dream pop the outfit introduced on their debut. Today, the lyrics, exploring personal abysses and issues like mental health on the first album already, provide a deeper insight into the souls of Jakuzi. Slightly gothic-tinged lines sung in soft and gooey Turkish manner, form an opposing power to the 80s synth wave inspired glittery tunes. In a country, which has seen brighter days Jakuzi do not lose hope because even when ‘the future seems blurry we try to keep our hopes high’. Expressing their deepest fears and feelings in a country that doesn’t support their art is no easy process, still, the two musicians stick to their true and honest sound. It is exactly this rawness fused with their sonic instincts that makes them one of the most interesting Turkish bands on our radar. Also, while you’re here getting your fill of eastern grooves check out the mixtape Jakuzi created exclusively for NBHAP packed with Turkish gems! (Liv Toerkell)