New at Southwest Sound

by Cooper Stapleton

Jan. 71. Flaming Lips, “Oczy Mlody”It has already been four years since the release of “The Terror” and now the weirdos are back with a melodically-charged burst of harmonies that call to mind some of the quiet wonder of “Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots” and “Soft Bulletin.” The production is so lush I feared it may stick to my ears after listening, thick and warm with Wayne’s voice floating over the top. His vocal presence acts as your acid daddy, leading you along a strange path that you know will end somewhere pleasant.

2. The xx, “I See You”Fully informed by producer/band member Jamie xx’s last solo album, The XX returns after a five-year absence. “I See You” not only features a much more dance-focused production style, but also meanders along with a bit more open production, with the decay and release knobs turned all the way up on some of the lead synths. But don’t be afraid; just because Jamie xx has turned up the danceability doesn’t mean the album suffers from predictability. Expect expansion, expect openness, but don’t expect anything else.

3. Black Anvil, “As Was”If you know hardcore, you should already be aware of Black Anvil. Formed out of the ashes of the legendary NYHC act Kill Your Idols, Black Anvil plays that perfect blend of thrash and black metal. Driving drums, shrieked vocals that ooze with venom, and biting buzzsaw guitars await on their fourth full-length album. Their last album, “Hail Death,” was met with lukewarm reviews, mostly based on the superbly clean production, which doesn’t really fit the music. Detractors be damned; this new one has just the right amount of murkiness to appease even the most devout dissonant death metal fans. Sprinkle in some tasteful clean vocals and you have something special to experience.

4. Band of Heathens, “Duende”A rare studio album from these Austin fuzzy rock ’n’ roll/Americana giants. Hot off the heels of one of the best Americana albums in recent memory (that being Drive-By Truckers’ “American Band”), will the Band of Heathens find success? I mean, probably. People love these guys. The new album sounds great, with some wonderful overlaid vocals and backing vocal harmonies, subdued but well-intended percussion, and a familiar blend of guitar and piano that immediately puts the listener in a happy place. Only thing missing is one of those beers you garnish with citrus, ready for an early spring.

5. Auri, “The Crown of Doubt”Collusion Alert: I played on this album and am biased in saying how good it is. But. It is. Really. Good. After working on it for almost two years in bedroom studios, my dear friend Sol Sinclair of Brighton, United Kingdom, unleashed a torrent of dissonant black metal that comes from a place deeply rooted in identity, in rejection of assumptions, in grief and elation, in searching for a higher power that doesn’t disappoint you, and innumerable other things. If you like heavy metal music, please check it out, you will not be disappointed. Oh and the goofy electronic parts are cool but they were probably performed by someone with little-to-no-skill (me).

Cooper Stapleton

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