Our residential Brisbane legend, Owen Morawtiz, and our editor n’ chief, Alex Sievers, recently put their heads together to offer a list of records that you should most certainly be checking out as soon as humanly possible as we head into the back half of 2017. Find out which albums made the cut below.
Oso Oso – ‘The Yunahon Mixtape’
Released: January 13th, 2017
Label: Seal Mountain Records
Words: Owen Morawitz
Calling any album a ‘mixtape’ in 2017 is a bolder statement than some might realise. The act of crafting and curating a bonafide mixtape is essentially a lost art at this point; confused and befuddled by a generation that judges artistic pedigree by hit singles, streaming numbers and ‘banger’ Spotify playlists. A mixtape should grab the listener by the hand and lead them on a musical journey, wandering effortlessly through hopes and dreams, highs and lows – and ultimately forge a lasting connection with its intended recipient.
Luckily, on his second full-length under the Oso Oso moniker, Long Island multi-instrumentalist Jade Lilitri understands this concept better than most, and he’s not afraid to push the format in new and exciting directions. ‘The Yunahon Mixtape’ runs the gamut of early 2000’s indie, emo and pop punk flavours, with infectious melodies and purposeful instrumentation (Lilitri performs everything on the record apart from drums, handled admirably by close friend Aaron Masih). Across 11 instantly memorable tracks, there are hints of Death Cab’s raw vulnerability (‘Get There’); the driving intensity of Jimmy Eat World (‘Shoes’); the pop-tastic power chords of The Get Up Kids (‘Reindeer Games’); American Football’s delicate instrumentals (‘The Plant Mouth’); and the catchy refrains of Brand New’s debut (‘The Cool’).
There’s also an insightful relatability to Lilitri’s lyricism the belies his age; at just 24-years old, his lyrics seem to indicate that he’s already been through two lifetimes worth of indecision and heartbreak. ‘The Yunahon Mixtape’ is destined to become a genre classic in the years to come, but for now, Lilitri seems content just to share the burden: “And I know that it’s nothing that you’ve never heard/But I fucked up the process when I said those words/Think it’s too late, then I hear your voice through the phone/Say ‘Ain’t it nice to fuck up, and not be in it alone?’”
Holy Holy – ‘PAINT’
Released: February 24th, 2017
Label: Wonderlick Recordings
Words: Owen Morawitz
The sophomore album is often considered the ‘make or break’ point for any successful group, and this is no exception for indie-pop duo Holy Holy. After the breakout success of their 2015 debut ‘When The Storms Would Come,’ the pressure was certainly on for its follow-up. Thankfully, their second full-length album ‘PAINT’ rises firmly to the challenge, delivering the Aussie group’s most compelling and sonically diverse collection of songs yet.
Highlights include the buttery smooth, opening synth-scape of the R&B-influenced ‘That Message’; the persuasive guitar-pop of ‘Elevator’ and ‘Darwinism’; or the euphoric, 80’s balladry of ‘True Lovers,’ which could easily moonlight as a Phil Collins B-side, thanks to Tim Carroll’s impressively sultry vocals. Mid-way point ‘Gilded Age’ finds Holy Holy embracing their inner psych, with crashing instrumental freak outs and racy vocals, almost like someone’s fucking with the RPM on a Pink Floyd LP.
Other jams like ‘Willow Tree,’ ‘Shadow’ and the folk-inspired ‘Amateurs’ recall the kaleidoscopic touch of the band’s debut, with synth squelches, brisk drum tempos and thrumming bass notes. On longer cuts like ‘December’ and epic closer ‘Send My Regards,’ Oscar Dawson’s ear for detail comes to the fore, with complex compositions and delicate guitar licks which accentuate the duo’s mural of soundscapes. With huge choruses, dense musical layers and heartfelt lyricism, ‘PAINT’ is Holy Holy’s most vivid and colourful album yet, one that’s set to push their profile ever higher.
INVSN – ‘The Beautiful Stories’
Released: June 10th, 2017
Label: Dine Alone Records/ Universal Music Australia
Words: Alex Sievers
Forever providing proof that whatever kind of band Dennis Lyxzén has a hand in will release albums that are, at the absolute very worst solid, we have INVSN’s latest album, ‘The Beautiful Stories’. The first time I heard INVSN (pronounced ‘Invasion’ as an FYI) was when I stumbled upon their song, ‘Himlen här uppe’ a couple years back, and their soothingly dark and melodic, post-punk-meets vibe hooked me in almost immediately. While this group isn’t anywhere as well known as Lyxzén’s first true love – Refused (nor even as popular as The (International) Noise Conspiracy were) – hopefully, that’ll begin to change with this record. For while this group do have some incredible tunes in their back catalogue – namely ‘Förlorad’, ‘#61’ and ‘Hjärtat’ – their new seven-track record significantly adds to that standout list. With a stronger emphasis on synths, electronics, darker timbres, and drum machines, these fine catalogue additions notably come in the form of the post-punk bangers that are the driving ‘Immer Zu‘ and the haunting, Death Cab For Cutie-ish ‘I Dreamt Music‘, as well as the moody counterculture cuts of ‘Deconstruct Hits‘ and the minimal ‘Bom Bom‘. And that’s not even to mention the more-personal, less-political finale that is ‘Love’s Like A Drug‘.
Throughout ‘The Beautiful Stories‘, INVSN’s uplifting, folk/power-pop sound does cut through at times (the brighter lead guitar melodies in ‘Immer Zu‘, the clean guitar licks and atmospherics in ‘The Distance‘, the poppy, catchy choruses of ‘I Dreamt Music‘). While far deeper and more nuanced at times than on past releases, the band’s combination of where they’ve been before musically and where they’re going now sonically is at the near-perfect meeting point; all making for an engrossing listen. Yes, one that’s perhaps a slower, more low-key affair for Lyxzén as a vocalist and as a frontman, but a solid one nonetheless.
Elder – ‘Reflections of a Floating World’
Released: June 2nd, 2017
Label: Armageddon Label/Stickman Records
Words: Owen Morawitz
It only takes one listen of the opening track ‘Sanctuary’ to realise exactly how far Massachusetts rockers Elder have come on their fourth full-length album, ‘Reflections of a Floating World’. While 2011’s ‘Dead Roots Stirring’ saw the group rise firmly out of the doom metal/stoner rock pack, it was the lavish experimentation and progressive flirtations on 2015’s ‘Lore’ with garnered the band both critical accolades and a rabid response from the heavy metal fandom. Taking this penchant for daring and innovation to its logical conclusion, ‘Reflections…’ features flowing, labyrinthian compositions, versatile riffs, warm vocal melodies and some of Elder’s strongest hooks to date – compacted to six mammoth tracks, enmeshed over the album’s hour-long runtime.
In this sense, ‘Sanctuary’ makes for the perfect introduction and encapsulation of Elder’s musical ethos here, featuring all of the aforementioned structural elements, rendered across three distinct movements. This 11-minute monster unfurls with a mid-tempo intro, interspersed by brief crunches of doom, as guitarist, keyboardist and vocalist Nick DiSalvo provides his hypnotic refrains over the top of fuzzed-out bliss. Around the three-minute mark, a pronounced change-up heralds the progressive stretches, while DiSalvo drops out entirely, letting the rhythms ebb and flow with every bend, slide and solo. Racing to the climax, DiSalvo’s refrain resurfaces to bring it all home, just as the track abruptly careens off into the abyss at the nine-minute mark, dropping into a haunting, cavernous outro that explodes like a sonic supernova.
With ‘Reflections…,’ Elder have crafted their definitive statement as a creative outfit. For perhaps not since Mastodon’s ‘Blood Mountain’ or Baroness’ ‘Blue Record’ has a heavy band so effortlessly spanned the rock, metal, sludge, psych and progressive genres, while steadfastly refusing to be categorised by any one of them.
People Like You – ‘Verse’
Released: July 21st, 2017
Label: Topshelf Records
Words: Alex Sievers
Take the trumpet and twinkle elements of American Football, overlay it with the general melancholia and emotive, melodic guitars of early 2000’s Modest Mouse, drop in the instrumental knack of Toe, then mix in some of the clean riffs and soothing emo sounds of The World Is A Beautiful Place and boom – you have People Like You. Since first discovering this Massachusetts group and their single, ‘Variations On An Aria’, I’ve been eagerly awaiting their most recent record, ‘Verse’. And boy oh boy, did it more than live up to my own projected hype!
Much like their debut LP, ‘“This Is What You Learned”’, the worlds of emotional, math-tinged indie-rock meet lush, well-structured moments of twinkle and jazz, which all collide under and around these dynamic dual vocals that produce delicious pop melodies and sweet harmonies. All with some sublime results no less. Add in the busy yet tight and interesting grooves and breakbeats of drummer Sander Bryce and you’ve got an amazing musical recipe.
Now, with ‘Verse‘, the band has no intention in be apart of passing trends nor was this record written with grand monetary value in mind – though, of course, money is always nice to have and receive. Rather, this band’s music screams for one to invest some real time, effort, and personal dedication to the music to achieve the full experience here. Which is why I do feel somewhat weird about putting my deep admiration for this record into a much smaller review piece than what I usually do. But fuck it, that’ll just have to do. So, please just take my word for it because ‘Verse‘ is one of the best records of 2017.
The Afghan Whigs – ‘In Spades’
Released: May 5th, 2017
Label: Sub Pop Records
Words: Owen Morawitz
As guitarist, vocalist and frontman for alt-rock/indie icons The Afghan Whigs, Greg Dulli is often overlooked as one of the defining voices of 90’s rock. With every roar, howl and croon, Dulli effortlessly paints mental pictures of seedy neon strips and hazy, smoke-fuelled dive bars, packed to the brim with overflowing ashtrays, empty shots and bad decisions. It’s what made releases like 1993’s ‘Gentlemen’ and 1996’s ‘Black Love’ genre-defining classics, and second perhaps to legends like Nick Cave or frequent collaborator Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees, QOTSA), no one tells honest tales of sin and redemption with the same menacing, evocative and transcendent grace that Dulli wields.
It’s no surprise then that ‘In Spades’ – the band’s eighth studio album, and second after returning from the hiatal abyss in 2011 – finds the group mid-revelation, seemingly re-energised by their resurgence, eager to tackle a whole new decade’s worth of torment, debauchery and middle-aged introspection.
Dulli’s dark genius lies in his ability to make rock music feel cinematic in scope, best exemplified by the dazzling brilliance of ‘Arabian Heights’. Building off an infectious, bop-ready backbeat, soaring guitar leads crisscross with duelling harmonies, as Dulli oozes sleaze and seduction with every line (“Don’t you cum when they call for me/Get around it, love/Don’t let ‘em know what you know”). As the track reaches its climax, Dulli kicks the doors down in hypnotic synthesis, dragging the listener kicking and screaming out to the gutter, only to stomp on a cigarette and sink his boot in with one final, devastating declaration: “Love is a lie/Like a hole in the sky/Then you die.”
The Gloom In The Corner – ‘Homecoming’ EP
Released: June 13th, 2017
Label: Independent (Bandcamp)
Words: Alex Sievers
Hitting the sweet spot between creating a strong conceptual backdrop and writing actually solid songs that are still good when removed from their wider narrative context can be tricky business. Yet with their ‘Homecoming‘ EP (yes, I know it’s not an “album”), Melbourne mosh-crew The Gloom In The Corner nail this balance, creating five mighty solid songs that also further deepen and add to their Section 13 story. Yet when you undress these songs of their conceptual driven-nature, you’ll still find five songs that are more lyrically relatable and more thematically human than their 2016 debut album ‘Fear Me‘ ever was. Whether it’s a call out against someone home wrecking (‘Witch Hunt‘), the nature of brotherhood (‘Brother‘), the crippling PTSD that plagues the minds of war veterans (‘War)’, or horrific domestic abuse (‘Thirteen Six (Paramour)‘), you’ll find something to take away from The Gloom In The Corner’s music; conceptual or otherwise.
Not only that, but there’s also the fact that Gloom has created not only their best work yet but also some of the best mosh tracks you’ll hear in 2017 this side of Alpha Wolf and Emmure, of course. Whether it’s the absolute banger that is the EP’s opening track ‘Rodent‘ to the pure and utter vitriolic and violent finale that is ‘Witch Hunt‘ (capped off by a wicked guest spot from Gift Giver’s Justin Johnson), the Gloom boys have upped their game significantly in all departments with this new EP. The mix is tighter, the EP’s short length keeps things succinct, the songs flow better and land with more impact overall, and the songwriting is just tighter all-around. For even when the quintet deviate from the breakdowns, pit-calls, beatdown moments, and panic chords (like on ‘War‘ with its clean vocal bridge and the rapping/electronics on ‘Thirteen Six (Paramour)‘), it still works.
If you aren’t around ‘Homecoming‘ by now, get your shit together. Now.
Culture Killer – S/T EP
Released: July 4th, 2017
Label: Independent (Bandcamp)
Words: Owen Morawitz
On their debut album for Metal Blade Records, 2015’s ‘Throes of Mankind’, Florida-based outfit Culture Killer set themselves up as promising – if not overly exciting – torchbearers for the ‘blackened-hardcore-meets-traditional-death-metal’ sound. Nevertheless, when Culture Killer regrettably decided to snuff themselves out for good back in May this year, it was news which felt mildly disappointing at the time, yet seemed to lack any lasting sting. That was until the Daytona Beach group dropped their swan song, in the form of an eponymous EP, because… HO-LY SHIT. This thing fucking rips, and is an easy contender for the most brutal, overly-aggressive, sledgehammer-to-the-ear release of 2017.
If you’ve ever sat down and thought, “You know what, Nails and Code Orange are sick and all, but what I really need is something that’s nothing but ridiculous beatdowns, badass pit-calls and guttural, mind-fuck vocals that sound like they spawned from Satan’s bowel, topped off with some sweet, sweet divebombs,’ then Culture Killer are guaranteed to have you beyond stoked with this EP. It’s undeniably violent, but more importantly, it’s also diabolically fun. It’s a fitting record for exterminating filth, and acts as the perfect ‘fuck you forever’ end note for Culture Killer.
If you listen to any type of music that could be considered even remotely heavy, then do not sleep on this shit. Seek this record out; buy it, stream it, steal it—use whatever means necessary. Listen to it on repeat, destroy some shit, laugh maniacally whilst doing so, write down all the lyrics, hand deliver them to every single person you’ve ever truly loathed, and “May the bridges we burn light the way to hell.”
Here’s to the rest of 2017 and all the good and bad that it may bring…