New at Southwest Sound, May 4

by Cooper Stapleton

May 4Ihsahn, “Amr”Ihsahn has been at the forefront of developing one of my favorite styles of music. As one of the two founding members of the Norwegian black metal band Emperor, Ihsahn’s solo efforts – though not entirely steeped in the black metal genre he helped define – have continued to be instrumental in the building of progressive extreme music. On “Amr,” Ihsahn is not afraid to experiment with counterpoints in his music, punctuating heavy instrumental moments with light vocals, which at times remind me of the quieter moments from Mikael Akerfeldt’s later Opeth records. The most mesmerizing part of this record is how unafraid of change it is. Just when you think you have a song figured out, something else comes out of left field and changes its scope entirely. Being able to do that without the record dissolving into maddening cacophony only showcases Ihsahn’s innate talents.

Leon Bridges, “Good Thing”Leon Bridges came out of nowhere for me a few years ago with his debut “Coming Home,” an album that rode the neo-soul Daptone soundwave pretty hard. He even garnered positive comparisons to the likes of artists such as Sam Cooke. The new record doesn’t entirely follow in the same footsteps, with one shoe in the ’60s soul past, and the other in the Frank Ocean club-style tracks that get the dance floor going. Bridges’ voice has grown much stronger, and it’s evident on this album, especially when he’s hitting the falsetto octaves that cut right to the emotional gut. “Bet Ain’t Worth The Hand,” one of the later released singles, is a perfect example of that sound, with quiet, plucked piano strings and falsetto vocals lamenting loss. A few of the more upbeat tracks didn’t resonate with me as much, but I am a sucker for the neo-soul sound, and this record has it in spades.

Shakey Graves, “Can’t Wake Up”A warning from Twitter had Alejandro Rose-Garcia, who performs folk music as Shakey Graves, telling his followers to “sell (their) suspenders,” and while the shake-up of his sound isn’t the suspender-shattering change that tweet led many to believe was coming, Shakey Graves has still grown over the course of a bunch of free releases and mixtapes and has become an artist doing much more than just quiet folk music. These recordings are dense, with layers and layers of instrumentation that has more in common with War On Drugs’ latest album than anything Bob Dylan ever put out. There is a simultaneous joviality and melancholy to a lot of these songs, which is a testament to Rose-Garcia’s writing abilities. Being able to flip to both sides of the nostalgia coin so unabashedly makes for a wonderful record that will ultimately reward more and more familiarity with the material.

Other new releases include: Glitch Mob, Trampled By Turtles, Lacs, Parkway Drive, Iceage, Horse Feathers, Black Moth Super Rainbow, Belly, Frank Turner, Thy Catafalque, Dimmu Borgir, Lake Street Dive, Shinedown, Matt and Kim, Brian Eno, and Mat Kearney.

Cooper Stapleton


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