Surf, Sludge, and More: Six Albums You Need To Check Out

Surf, Sludge, and More: Six Albums You Need To Check Out

There simply isn’t enough time to listen to all the awesome music out there. It’s hard to keep up sometimes, and certain musicians and their work can occasionally fall through the cracks. I picked out a few albums I’ve really been enjoying lately, and most of them are recent finds for me. If you’ve heard them already, excellent! If you haven’t, I hope there is something in here for you to sink your teeth into.

1. A Place To Bury Strangers – Pinned (2018)
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One of the loudest bands around right now, A Place To Bury Strangers has unleashed another heaping helping of their colossal mixture of wall-of-sound-style psychedelia dipped in goth shoegaze. The overall sound of Pinned is trademark APTBS: heavy, ominous drums (expertly provided by new drummer Lia Simon Braswell) underneath roiling bass and explosive, screeching guitar and Oliver Ackermann’s bleak, effects-laden vocals. Moments of soft texture give way to cacophonous overtures of wailing noise before they slowly crumble back into an amorphous, dissonant mixture of industrial noise rock and cleaner, more fragile ambience. It can be a bit of a slog at first listen, but repeat listens unveil the depth of mood and composition.

2. Demon Queen – Exorcise Tape (2013)
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The brainchild of Tobacco (the mysterious mastermind behind Black Moth Super Rainbow) and a slew of guest vocalists, Demon Queen’s sole album Exorcise Tape is an amalgamation of angular goth, floating synths, delicate melody, and hard-hitting drums and bass. In typical Tobacco form, the music is oddly sinister yet instantly catchy, channeling videogame soundtracks into sludgy analog pop. At just under 30 minutes, it’s the perfect album for the morning commute work, but honestly it’s better for nighttime shenanigans. Prepare to get lost in the neon forest.

3. Connan Mockasin – Caramel (2013)
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Where to even start with this one? Connan Mockasin hails from Te Awanga, New Zealand, and he plays some of the weirdest, most original acid-pop out there right now. His laid-back, out-of-focus style, combined with the watery guitar and voice effects he is so fond of, produce a disorienting yet thoroughly enjoyable listening experience. His unconventional songwriting and performance style immediately draw the ear in, and it’s easy to get lost in his hazy, underwater-lounge vibe. The music doesn’t go where music typically does, it is strictly unusual in that sense. His high-pitched voice warbles in and out of the thick, sticky groove almost halfheartedly, as though he doesn’t particularly care where the song ends up. It’s a bizarre listen, but one that keeps you coming back.

4. Mercury Rev – Deserter’s Songs (1998)
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With a tumultuous history and an ever-changing sound, Mercury Rev have endured trials that would put anyone’s limits to the test. Reinventing themselves after a dark period of uncertainty, in 1998 they released Deserter’s Songs, a departure from their exploratory psychedelic earlier material. Featuring more concise songwriting and a more ornate structure to the music, the album smacks of second chances, darkness and redemption, and hope for the future. It’s a very melodic, almost classical-style album, with sweeping orchestral strings, dramatic percussion and keys, floating vocals, and a slew of instruments such as saxophone, flute, vibraphone, guitar, and organ; this instrumentation lends itself to the grandiose and soothing nature of the record. Often compared to The Flaming Lips, Deserter’s Songs lends itself more to a more introspective nature, and is a focused effort from a band eager to get back on their feet.

5. Shannon and the Clams – Dreams in the Rat House (2013)
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A real conglomerate of sounds from different eras in musical history (60s psychedelic surf, 50s doo-wop, and 80s garage rock, to name a few), the music is raw and visceral, emotional and vulnerable. Overflowing with flower power sensibilities and a strong direction to the songwriting, Dreams in the Rat House really nails that vintage sound, melding it with Buddy Holly-esque melodic phrasing and reverb-drenched vocals to create a snapshot of musical history, keeping the sounds of the past alive with a refreshing modern twist.

6. Chelsea Wolfe – Hiss Spun (2017)
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Mixing intense, fuzzed-out doom metal with sensitive folk, Chelsea Wolfe’s Hiss Spun is a striking work of ominous, droning, distorted guitars over looming bass and drums, all underneath her ethereal and harrowing vocals. Searing melodic leads wail through the quagmire, haunting and beautiful. Juxtaposed against throat-scarring screams and experimental and brutal sludge, Wolfe’s elegant lyricism and sense of melodic direction bring the whole thing together to make an unforgettable record.

Happy listening, everyone.

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