We’re back with another review round-up! There were a lot of qualiy releases that came out last month that I thought were great like: Real Estate’s In Mind”, Spoon’s Hot Thoughts, Blanck Mass’s World Eater, and Sarah Davachi’s All My Circles Run. April proves to be even more fruitful, but let’s look back at March to see what albums you should check out if you haven’t.
Mount Eerie – A Crow Looked At Me
I really am unsure how to approach reviewing this album. How do I critically look an album about the death of a recent loved one? It’s not even something I can feign doing. This was the album that I had to stop listening to after a while because I was going down a dark place. To give this some context, Phil Elverum’s (formerly of The Microphones) wife Geneviève Castrée was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2015 shortly after the birth of their only child. The two opened up a GoFundMe to help assist with their finances. They had just reached the amount they needed to help pay for medical expenses, but Castrée ended up dying shortly after. If that doesn’t make your eyes swell up, I don’t know what will.
This record is 40+ minutes of pure, unrelenting sadness and grief. It has a lot in common with albums like Sufjan Stevens’ Carrie & Lowell and Sun Kil Moon’s Benji, but what distinguishes A Crow Looked at Me is how it unflinchingly looks at death. Benji, for example, is all about stories of death. Friends and family of Mark Kozelek die, famous figures die, etc. This record focuses on a singular death, Genevieve and Elverum doesn’t even know what to say. On the track “Real Death”, Elverum sings that death isn’t for singing about and how he doesn’t want to learn anything from this because that would mean he matured from this situation. There’s nothing to be gained at all and he doesn’t want anything to be gained, he just wants to be with her again.
If you have ever had a loved one or friend pass away unexpectedly, then this record will have you in tears all throughout because you can basically relate to what Elverum is going through. I had a very very close friend that died last summer while he was away in California for school. I was getting ready to call him up and see how he was doing when I got the news over Facebook of all things. I couldn’t even believe what I was seeing. I was utterly devastated by this and I was unable to even leave my apartment for about 2 days without breaking down. This record reaffirms how real death is. It happens to everyone eventually, but that doesn’t mean that we have to accept it.
There are several points on this album where I could feel my heart just being crunched up and tossed away like a paper wad. Frankly, this is the absolutely best album about the topic of death that I have ever heard. So many lyrics are just achingly dower. Take the song “Swims” where Elverum tells a story of how soon after his wife passed, the counselor he was seeing died soon after. The office that she worked in was empty. Cleared out, lights out, barren with nothing inside of it as if her work was done. Then he sings:
We are all always so close to not existing at all
Except in the confusion of our survived-bys grasping at the echoes
Today our daughter asked me if mama swims
I told her, “Yes, she does
And that’s probably all she does
What was you is now borne across waves
I don’t have anything else to say about this album other than it’s flawless. It’s something that I may not listen to ever again, but I will never forget this record. Just go in with a box of tissues at your side because trust me, you’ll be needing this.
Pharmakon – Contact
If there was one word I could use to describe this new Pharmakon record, it would be chaotic. Pure, unrelenting chaos in audio form. Pharmakon is the solo noise/ experimental industrial project of Margaret Chardiet and “Contact” is her third full length record. To be honest with you, this album took a long time for me to wrap my head around. It’s something that I probably would have disliked if I had not listened to early Swans and gotten used to this extremely noisy style of music. Albums like “Filth” and “Cop” really helped me to see the other side of this record that I might not have seen, that side seeing this as only noise.
This album is gross, the album cover alone should indicate that. Dozens of greasy fingers all smothering and reaching into Chardiet’s mouth and covering up her eyes. I love things like this because it immediately grabbed my attention. When I put the album on though, I was left unsure if I liked it or not though. I kept asking myself, “How can music sound like this??” Take the song Somatic, for instance. No lyrics, nothing even resembling a typical song structure. It just sounds like noise, yet I absolutely loved it (The video is great too, very disgusting though). The song is just four minutes of loud, noisy sonic drone shifts repeating over and over again. It even starts to harmonize at points.
One of my favorite songs on this album is the opener “Nakedness of Need”. Unlike any other song I’ve ever heard, this song literally had me trembling. From start to finish, the song features an instrumental I can’t even put into words to you. When I was describing this song for a friend, I said that sounds like a song that I could see featured on the 2001 horror film Session 9 (The track “No Natural Order” is like this as well). It feels so claustrophobic and haunting and that feeling gets bumped to 12 when Chardiet begins to scream. Her vocal work on this track is phenomenal. Her screams are guttural, haunting, and demonic sounding. If you can, I urge you to listen to this song at night, with no lights, and with headphones. That way you get the full experience.
The only track I was let down by was “Sentient”. It has an absolutely killer first few minutes, building up to something that is promising to be epic, then it just ends. Nothing happens. The track is only 2 and a half minutes long, which is way too short for an album like this. It actually kind of killed the record for me until Transmission brought it back up. Still, this is a record worth listening to if you like your music loud and experimental.
Remo Drive – Greatest Hits
Emo kids, rejoice! The full length debut from Minnesota emo and post hardcore band Remo Drive might be the best emo record of the past few years. For me personally, this album has brought feelings out of me that I haven’t felt since I listened to Weezer’s Pinkerton and Brand New’s The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me. While I was listening to this, it felt like I was back in 5th grade with the American Football, Through Being Cool, or Diary (Sunny Day Real Estate) playing in my old portable CD player. Remo Drive stuck to the emo handbook, if you will, and they pull it off exceptionally well. Catchy hooks? Check. Memorable, relatable, self-deprecating lyrics? Check. Great singing? Check. Obviously, there are more parts than that but you get my point.
My favorite track on the album by far is Yer Killing Me. An absolutely phenomenal track with some of the best lyrics I’ve heard from an emo song in YEARS. Like I said before, one of the core tenets of a great emo song is reliability and this song resonates with me on a personal level. The song is about that one person that you just can’t stand at all. I have so many people at my old job that I just could not stand with a passion. Hated them! We all have that person (or persons) and that is what makes it such a great track. Well, a killer chorus helps too.
You make me want to start smoking
Cigarettes so I die slowly
Anything that’s bad for me
You’re killing me
You’re killing me
Do yourself a favor and listen to this. It’s easily one of my favorite records of the year and easily the best emo record of the past 3 or so.
Yaeji – Yaeji EP
This is a little gem I found while searching through Apple Music. I wanted to give you guys a head’s up about this little EP because it’s very good and I want this artist to get some attention. Kathy Yaeji Lee is a Korean-American producer and visual artist hailing out of New York City who has started get some attention due to her “Guap”” and “New York ’93” singles. This little five track project is full of some of the best instrumentals from any electronic album I’ve heard this month. The track “Feel It Out” and the aforementioned “Guap” had me in a little mini-rave in my pajamas (No strobe lights unfortunately.)
Vocally is where the EP may be hit or miss for some. Yaeji’s singing is very subdued on this EP, which can work really well or very poorly depending on the artist. It works wonders on songs like “Guap”, “Feel It Out”, and “New York ’93”. Yaeji’s voice is very soft and innocent which really complements the instrumentals too. She also sings in Korean on this album, which is something that I absolutely loved, but might be weird for some. Still, check out this EP and show Yaeji some love because this project was a great find!