New at Southwest Sound

by Cooper Stapleton

The Shins, “Heartworms”The Shins return with another heady dose of pop folk, and it is as successful as any other record they’ve done. The Shins aren’t my usual cup of tea, but in the time I’ve spent with “Heartworms,” I’ve found myself bopping along to falsetto pop tunes like “Name for You” and “Painting a Hole” outside of my own control. The Shins fit into the strange not-winter we have been having lately as well, bringing in the warmth of their sound with some moments of cool choruses, electric drums out of nowhere, or even bits literally written for you to clap along to.

Darkest Hour, “Godless Prophets and The Migrant Flora”Darkest Hour is a great band that I have seen almost 10 times, but never on purpose. They always open for bands I really like or are mid-billed at festivals I go to. Not to say I don’t like them; it’s just a weird coincidence. Their new album is one of those Kickstarter darlings that got way more press than I think the band even expected. Sound-wise, Darkest Hour has always sat neatly in the middle of the venn diagram for Post-Hardcore and Melodic Death Metal, blending the staccato riffing that made bands like Converge famous, while still giving some breathing room. These guys have slowly creeped their way into my taste over the years, and I found myself really loving “Godless Prophets.”

Demdike Stare, “Wonderland”Demdike Stare is one of the groups that finally got me off my ass and making weird music of my own. When I first heard “Voices of Dust” years back, it awoke something in me, and showed me that electronic music wasn’t solely suspiciously-happy teenagers eating pills and pushing buttons. Sometimes it was really bummed-out teenagers who stayed at home reading H.P. Lovecraft making the soundtrack to a stay in the dungeon. Though they have since voyaged past the dungeon-synth sound, the new album “Wonderland” is a wonderful blend of their old style and the new take on dub the band has been experimenting with for a few years now. Rest assured, while there are still some tracks that will freak your weasel, “Hardnoise” being a huge highlight, the record is grounded enough to not scare away whoever you may be listening with.

Valerie June, “Order of Time”Sometimes what the world needs is some twangy guitar with production that reeks of the smoke and old beer of your favorite dive bar. “Order of Time” is that answer. If the style came from the American South, then chances are June incorporates it into her sound. Elements of bluegrass, Appalachia folk, straight-up country music and more are all over the record, topped with her trademark light and smoky voice. I enjoyed the hell out of “Order of Time,” and was not disappointed after how much I enjoyed her previous effort, “Pushin’ Against a Stone.”

Galactic Empire, “Galactic Empire”Take notes, everyone. This is how you pander to Cooper: Make “Star Wars”-themed death metal. It doesn’t matter if it’s good, I will love it. Lucky for me, my worries concerning lackluster musicianship or gimmickry were unfounded. Galactic Empire has chops. And they play John Williams’ untouchable score with just enough of their own flavor to make it a genuine joy. If you, like me, like both “Star Wars” and metal music, listen to this. You will not be disappointed.

Cooper Stapleton


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