New at Southwest Sound: March 3

by Cooper Stapleton

March 3Ed Sheeran, “Divide”Eclectic is usually a word with positive connotations. This album, upon first listen, struck me as trying to do too much in too little time, like an open mic performer who won’t stop playing. It struck a false chord, but this is one of those times when I am very clearly not the target audience. But if you like some crooning, some rapping, and sickly-sweet songs about love and growing up and nostalgia, you will probably already be all over this.

Noam Pikelny, “Universal Favorite”Noam Pikelny, of Leftover Salmon and Punch Brothers fame, should, at this point, practically be a local hero. Dude helped revitalize the banjo and make it cool again with his friend Steve Martin. His last album “Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe” won him accolades the world over, including a Grammy nominee and a Banjo Player of the Year award from the International Bluegrass Music Association. The opener to the new album, “Waveland,” is true to its name, starting off with a cascading ripple of banjo shreddery that is downright beautiful and is one of the best arguments for the man’s skill that I can point at. Legitimately a masterclass musician that almost any music fan in this little town should be able to appreciate.

Bela Fleck, “Juno Concerto”If there is one banjo player who can step to the man mentioned prior, it is Bela Fleck. Written for his and fellow musician Abigail Washburn’s newborn child Juno, the “Juno Concerto” is a live recording of Fleck playing with the Colorado Symphony and it is one of the strangest things I have heard in a long while. Banjo is not often associated with classical music, at least not until Fleck came onto the scene. What results from this strange mish mash is banjo music having a strange sense of gravitas, and showing that it can stand alongside traditional chamber instruments. There are epic moments that would fit with any big budget fantasy action movie, and quiet touching moments that evoke memories of Tchaikovsky’s 6th or Gorecki’s “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs.” All told, I was blown away by this. I went in expecting not to get it at all, and I was wrong.

Junius, “Eternal Rituals for the Accretion of Light”Boston’s post-metal shamans have returned with a new collection of rituals to see us through the tough times. Junius has a very unique sound in the metal realm, melding clean singing and epic instrumentals to build soundscapes that feel timeless, monumental, and crucial. They lament the state of the world while giving a cathartic means of change. Junius has always been about light overcoming dark, and with these new rituals hopefully that may finally happen.

Blanck Mass, “World Eater”Blanck Mass sure does a good job of escaping genre conventions. An offshoot of drone/noise scene heavyweights Fuck Buttons, Blanck Mass is one man trying to make noise emotional. There is an aspect of terror to these recordings that transcends what most consider “scary music.” It’s unsettling in how well it sits with the listener, making them find terror within themselves. It also dangles something more in front of the listener, the aural carrot of something more true and deeply emotional. Not in a horrific way, but an almost happy melancholy. The record is infinitely hard to describe, but if you want an electronic music listening experience unlike most you have heard before, check out “World Eater.”

Cooper Stapleton

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