Sept. 15Foo Fighters, “Concrete and Gold”Oh, old, dependable Foo Fighters. When there just needs to be some rock ’n’ roll music, we will always have the Foo Fighters. For a band so long-standing, they have never particularly grabbed me. Maybe it was the glee that always seemed to permeate Dave Grohl that was off-putting, or maybe I’m just a curmudgeon. But, regardless of their back catalog, the Foo Fighters have managed to surprise and delight me. There are psychedelic undertones to almost all the presented material, calling to mind some of the studio wizardry of records like “Sgt. Pepper” and the like. Harmonies that move within and without each other, winding unexpectedly around the listener from a band I wrote off as just generic rock music. And that’s not even mentioning the weird, warbley, acoustic wonder that is the best track on the album, “Happy Ever After (Zero Hour).” The album is worth checking for that track alone.
Myrkur, “Mareridt”Black metal is simultaneously about meticulous attention to genre conventions, and defying those conventions wherever an artist can. Such is the essence of rebellion. Myrkur, the nom de plume of Danish musician Amalie Bruun, primarily eschews genre barriers by embracing her own melodic voice over the typical shrill raspy shrieks of black metal. Her instrumental choices reflect similar ideals. While fast-picked tremolo guitars are still in favor, Bruun also elects to use traditional folk instruments, most notably the nyckelharpa, a Swedish instrument that is a combination of the weird mechanics of a hurdy gurdy and the bowed grace of a violin, emitting strange drones that underscore a lot of the songs on “Mareridt.” Fans of black metal and the darker pastoral folk of early Chelsea Wolfe and Wovenhand will find plenty to love, but genre purists might scoff at some of the more folksy elements.
Gary Numan, “Savage (Songs from a Broken World)”Though synthesizer music seems to be going through a bit of a renaissance right now, synth pop and new wave mastermind Gary Numan has never stopped. Originally started as a crowdsourcing project before being picked up by BMG for a full release, “Savage” is based on an unfinished dystopian science fiction novel Numan has been working on, telling the story of the people who survive a climate cataclysm, and the culture that emerges from survivors banding together. The album has a much heavier tone than most of Numan’s work. It brings to mind some of the less experimental work of artists like Skinny Puppy, toeing the line between electronic and industrial with seasoned aplomb.
Contortionist, “Clairvoyant”Long gone are the days of The Contortionist’s debut, a seminal cornerstone in the progressive death metal scene, and here are the days of their complete metamorphosis to soft prog rock band. They are to be commended for their songwriting to be sure; there is some wonderful stuff on tracks like “Return To Earth,” and closer “Monochrome(Pensive)” really gives vocalist Mike Lessard a chance to stretch his wings, showing he can hold our attention without howling like a pterodactyl. Throughout the record, his performance is subdued, often overshadowed by the attention-demanding playing of the rest of the band. Overall, once old listeners are able to consolidate their love of the old records with their love of the general songwriting, they will learn to really like this record.
Other releases: Belphegor, Antibalas, Lil Smokies, Musiq Soulchild, Hot Water Music, Big Brave, Deer Tick, and Ensiferum