Reviews

KATIE GATELY
LOOM
(HOUNDSTOOTH)

Loom, the sophomore follow-up to 2016’s Colors by Katie Gately, welcomes back the experimental musician’s enthusiastic use of vocal effects, but now with a much more mature execution. Instead of regurgitating all the studio manipulations at her disposal, she chooses haunting and hollowing effects that create space, allowing her lyrics to viscerally punctuate the music beneath. The first half of the album alludes to a time that once was, an aging idea of normality, followed by a dismantling of that normality in order to usher in a new normal. Gately’s vocals range from spooky and darkly playful to high-pitched and cold, resonating throughout to keep the listener floating in the same dream state that she seems to be in. Tracks like “Waltz” illustrate the symbolic gesture of dancing a waltz with the opposition in order to gain footing in the past as you bring it down around you to make way for the future. “Bracer” follows and is an orchestral and harmonious palette cleanser prior to a resurgence of the embittered desperate to hold on to the last vestiges of their privileged lives as they knew them, ultimately leading to the destruction and liberation in “Tower.” Once the fires of Gately’s not-so-alternate-universe die out, we are brought back down to earth with a meditative chant to bookend her timely commentary on the state of our country. —Katie Sikora

NIGHT WATER
LEAVE NO TRACE
(SELF-RELEASE)

Travis Bird’s debut as Night Water is a charming outfit that fuses a contemporary indie-rock disposition with some tropicalia and folk flare. The songs are cool and laid back with no overbearing frills, as Bird’s confident voice blankets stirring guitar work. With the help of a talented musical crew as backup—including some brass players and the drumming vitality of Dillon Frazier—Leave No Trace offers a fresh flavor to the local scene. The juxtaposition of Bird’s dream-pop style against the full band creates a balanced composition, specifically in songs like “Pure Ecstasy” and “Day of Waiting,” which feature electronic drums and delicate, solemn chords. Full band tracks “All You Want” and “6:56” are fun and full of ‘60s rock‘n’roll energy, reflective of Johnny Rivers or The Animals. Another appealing factor of the record is the mixing balance, courtesy of Jay Wesley of Studio in the Country, who brings a warmth to the sound that keeps the listener comfortable and engaged. For debuts, this release certainly raises the bar in terms of quality and overall composition, and it’s refreshing—and maybe a little intimidating—to see that in our once very small scene. —Robert Landry

PEARS
S/T
(FAT WRECK CHORDS)

In just six years of existence, PEARS have carved out a name for themselves in both New Orleans and beyond. Their self-titled, third full-length album is the band at its best—high intensity hardcore that also seamlessly weaves in melodic elements. This collection of songs finds the band delving into reflection and nostalgia, expressing their collective soul both instrumentally and lyrically. On “Nervous,” vocalist Zach Quinn bares his fears and past with explosive screams, ending with more vulnerable and melodic vocals in the song’s final lines: “I don’t wanna be angry, I just wanna feel open again / I don’t wanna be angry, but I’ll never feel open again.” “Dial Up” also channels into the album’s nostalgic vibe: “I’m an AOL free trial CD, scratched up, can’t read / Messages are piling up, and the dial-up is down.” PEARS (the album and the band) is not afraid to expose its vulnerabilities, and for that the music is all the richer—and all the more punk. (PEARS will be releasing the album and kicking off their worldwide tour on Friday, March 27 at Banks Street Bar.) —Mary Beth Campbell

TAME IMPALA
THE SLOW RUSH
(INTERSCOPE)

The Slow Rush, the fourth full-length album from Tame Impala, is a lush and immersive soundscape. Bandleader Kevin Parker (who creates all the music himself in the studio, recruiting other musicians for live performances) has deviated slightly from the band’s signature sound for this album. While still steeped in psychedelic rock, the songs on The Slow Rush also lean heavily toward disco, prog-rock, and pop. On “Borderline,” Parker muses, amidst heavy beats and synth grooves, about the desire to become fully immersed into a new world: “Gone a little far this time with something / We’re on theborderline / Dangerously fine and all forgiven.” The more laid-back “Tomorrow’s Dust,” with its softer percussion, focuses on the passage of time in our lives: “And though I try, I do the same, as though I must / And in the air of today is tomorrow’s dust.” It is easy and tempting, Parker suggests, to hold on to the past, but we must learn to let go of what haunts us and embrace what is to come (“Lost In Yesterday”: “The period you never had / There’s only one that matters / And if it calls you, embrace it / If it holds you, erase it.”) —Mary Beth Campbell

WASTED SHIRT
FUNGUS II
(FAMOUS CLASS)

Wasted Shirt is the collaborative brainchild of Ty Segall (the prolific multi-instrumentalist garage rocker) and Brian Chippendale (the powerhouse drummer of Lightning Bolt). Fungus II, their debut release as a duo, is fittingly chaotic. Uproarious songs with blown-out vocals, overdriven bass, whiny guitars, and a satisfying combination of repetitive percussion and frenzied sound fill the roughly 30-minute-long album. The track “Harsho” is a drawn out and sludgy stew, while “Double The Dream” is reminiscent of the euphoric moments of an intense sugar rush experienced just before crashing into a wall. “Eagle Slaughters Graduation” is the album’s best display of Chippendale’s virtuoistic drumming, his freak jazz influences being readily apparent. Those who’ve listened to and enjoyed other Chippendale side projects, namely Black Pus and Mindflayer, will be pleased with Fungus II. Segall’s musical output has been more diverse, with this particular project falling into the weirder, noisier part of his catalog. This album won’t provide much in the way of sonic surprises for fans of either musician, but it is fun. —Andru Okun

HAYLEY WILLIAMS
PETALS FOR ARMOR I
(ATLANTIC)

Hayley Williams is covering a lot of ground on her first solo EP, Petals For Armor I. This is only the first half of her upcoming album due in April, and it’s an ambitious debut. When discussing her decision to separate the album, Williams said, “I thought it best to separate some of these themes so that there can be time for everyone to digest some of the songs before we move along to others.” “Simmer” falls in line with her band Paramore’s more pop-leaning album, After Laughter, while songs like “Cinnamon” and “Creepin’” channel a more experimental sound. Discordant guitars warp and layer around her own voice in the background, creating the sensation of falling down a rabbit hole, chords stretching and distorting unexpectedly into unfamiliarity. The last song, “Sudden Desire,” showcases a more pop-punk era Williams, with stronger basslines and screaming desperation. It’s the strongest song on the album, and it feels like both a culmination of all songs previous and an introduction to whatever the next half is—an ending and beginning in one. Williams leaves the listener with an array of puzzle pieces eagerly waiting to be placed together by the second half of Petals For Armor. —Marisa Clogher

KIRK WINDSTEIN
DREAM IN MOTION
(ENTERTAINMENT ONE)

There can be no discussion of the New Orleans metal scene without mentioning the decades of contributions from guitarist/vocalist Kirk Windstein. Best known as the frontman of Crowbar, Windstein’s legacy goes back through the ‘80s with hardcore band Shell Shock, and includes supergroups Down and Kingdom of Sorrow. He had never released a solo album until now, and Dream in Motion makes the wait feel worthwhile. Windstein’s latest effort sounds like a dreamscape coming to life; at times more ethereal than doom-filled, yet simultaneously encapsulating elegant artistry and plodding sludge. The title track and first single is nostalgic and introspective, a symphonic autobiography. Despair-filled and melancholy, “Hollow Dying Man” summons Black Sabbath vibes à la “Planet Caravan.” Windstein masterfully explores the higher end of his vocal range on “Necropolis.” “Once Again” and “Toxic” are the more mid-tempo offerings on the record. There is an ominous-sounding instrumental piece, “The Healing,” which invokes dark feelings of awe. Windstein closes the album with a faithful, if not meatier, cover of Jethro Tull’s classic single, “Aqualung.” The album has a flow that allows the listener to get lost in the melodies, and lends itself well to anyone who loves the heavier side of beautiful music—not just the devout Crowbar fan. —Jenn Attaway

MIKO REVEREZA
NO DATA PLAN
(SENTIENT ART FILM)

If you’ve ever been on a long trip alone, perhaps you’ve been overtaken by the ghostly feeling of leaving yourself behind as you passed among strangers, between unknown places, stations, and sights, never to return. In his personal documentary, filmed en route from California to New York by train, Revereza inhabits this drifting, placeless personhood to speak on his experience of living undocumented in the U.S. The film tracks his journey mostly in serene still-life shots and ever-evolving out-the-window landscapes, and the soundtrack mixes overheard voices and the shuddering drone of the train cabin. Around these signifiers of safe passage, Revereza uses the margins of his film, in subtitles and occasional narration, to describe his mother’s regret and her crumbling marriage to his father, which she confesses in conversations held over a burner phone (hence the title). Though the bodily threat of apprehension and violence at the hands of authorities is never far out of frame, the divided awareness of the picture—the “movie”—and its aching narration trace the thumbprint of fugitivity on Revereza’s very existence: a constant leaving behind without an arrival. (Screens March 12 at Southern Rep Theatre, as part of Shotgun Cinema’s “Full Aperture” series.) —Jon Kieran

BENH ZEITLIN
WENDY
(SEARCHLIGHT)

Wendy is part reinterpretation and part origin story of the Peter Pan myth. Here the class element is inverted: rather than the well-to-do Darlings of London, these characters are poverty-stricken residents of rural Louisiana. Instead of taking to the air, their means of transport to Neverland is a mix of freight train and glorified pirogue. But comparisons to the famous tale end here. Wendy mythologizes mythology to the point that its umbilical cord to its source material gives way to its own entity: a chaotic Benh Zeitlin panorama of children running around uninhabited landscapes with the camera (operated by the inimitable Sturla Grovlen of Victoria fame) capturing it all, albeit turbulently, from “child’s POV” on 16mm. In this way, it would be more fitting to compare it to Beasts of the Southern Wild, Zeitlin’s feature debut, which bears similarity both in style and theme: where Beasts was about children and their fathers, Wendy is about mothers—an idea rendered powerfully with its own cinematic set piece (spoilers withheld). It’s worth asking, however, whether or not Wendy is a film for children. Let me explain. Few of us will ever run away to get lost on volcanic islands. Most of us will see our youthful selves slip away. Some of us may even try to stave off and hide this process. And it’s in this way that the film plays with its audience on an almost devious level: all of us fear our mortality, and in the interim, the signs of its arrival made manifest. The result is a kind of riddle: how do we grow old without our souls warping, without severing parts of ourselves, without succumbing to a sense of hopelessness in light of the harsh truth of experience? The answer is left ambiguous. And maybe that’s for the best. —Derek

CHANA PORTER
THE SEEP
(SOHO PRESS)

In her captivating debut novel, Chana Porter constructs a utopian future brought forth by an amiable alien invasion. Police and war are done away with, as is capitalism. Humans enjoy lives filled with joy and tranquility, free of worry. Psychic technology permeates everyday life and transcendental experiences are commonplace. Most of society’s constructs have been broken down; gender, race, and even mammalian identity have become fluid, and death has become something people mostly experience by opting into it. When Trina, a 50-year-old trans woman, is confronted with the reality of her 46-year-old partner wanting to transition into a newborn, The Seep turns into a story of grief, angst, and the difficult work of moving on. Trina questions if the advancement of human consciousness and freedom is worth the apathy which seems to accompany it. Porter builds a fascinating world of curious characters grappling with complex issues, although the story’s overly simplistic ending diverges from the rest of the book in a way that feels disappointing. Still, The Seep is by and large a highly readable and entertaining debut, and it will be exciting to see what the author has to offer next. —Andru Okun

JORDAN KISNER 
THIN PLACES: ESSAYS FROM IN BETWEEN 
(FARRAR, STRAUS AND GIROUX)

The 13 essays comprising Jordan Kisner’s debut book dwell mostly on the interstices of American life. In the aptly titled Thin Places: Essays From In Between, Kisner proves herself to be a highly capable observer, covering a range of topics including religion, neurosurgery, forensic pathology, and nationalist pageantry. The latter subject, explored in her essay “Habitus,” is an absorbing portrait of racial identity and class-dependent ritual in a Texas border town. At over 40 pages, this essay is also one of the book’s longest, a point worth mentioning as Kisner is at her best when writing at length. Kisner’s longer pieces evince her special ability to pick apart the subtleties of her subject matter, while some of her shorter essays feel expendable in comparison. The author favors a pensive tone, one well suited to her combination of reporting and memoir. Perhaps most adept at her handling of ambiguity, an area in which the author purposefully lingers, Kisner’s eloquent prose oscillates between internal, subjective experience and the external realities they are tied to. Some of the strongest pieces in this book already appear elsewhere, but reading Kisner’s work as a collection and taking note of the finely-drawn threads that connect her work will prove rewarding for fans of well-researched personal essays. —Andru Okun

MICHAEL ZAPATA
THE LOST BOOK OF ADANA MOREAU
(HANOVER SQUARE PRESS)

Michael Zapata’s debut novel The Lost Book of Adana Moreau is a sweeping, multigenerational story of pirates, expatriates, metaphysics, and parallel universes. In a book that ostensibly revolves around an unpublished sequel to an obscure 76-year-old science fiction novel, Zapata writes of memory as a “gravitational force,” his narrative coursing back and forth between historical events to create an impressive tapestry of interconnected characters with richly detailed personal lives. Accordingly, Lost Book draws from a patchwork of disparate times and places, ranging from Santo Domingo in the early 20th century, to Chicago in the 1930s, and New Orleans in the bewildering months following Katrina in 2005. A less than conventional approach to historical fiction, imbued by sci-fi plots and theories of the multiverse, the scope of this book is vast and complex. Political and environmental upheaval shapes the trajectory of many of the characters—mostly people of color and the dispossessed—interlinked by individual experiences of loss and longing. Zapata’s care in writing about war, violence, and disaster display his discernible skills as a storyteller, although the literary motif of an aimless young man finding a sense of purpose by transplanting himself into the disarray of post-Katrina New Orleans deserves scrutiny. —Andru Okun

CLAIRE RUDY FOSTER
SHINE OF THE EVER
(INTERLUDE PRESS)

Claire Rudy Foster’s Shine of The Ever is a banged-up, cigarette-burned patchwork of heartbreaking and romantic stories about living in skin you don’t understand. It peels back the layers of what it’s like to be born a beautiful woman who simply loathes the cage she’s been born in. No amount of sex, drugs, late nights or bottles can act as a salve to ease the pain of identity. The stories in the book are like shards of a mirror, from misunderstood love to broken relationships based on nothing but lust and whiskey. This collection shines a light on the trans community and what it’s like just trying to live. The stories within it act like a mixtape, uncovering who someone is via a reckoning of their mistakes and owning of their scars. There are sweet moments of understanding throughout the narrative and an earnest sensibility that doesn’t scream pretentious but, at times, feels like a spiritual cousin to Bukowski—except, you know, queer. Shine of The Ever is making out in goth clubs, bike rides in the rain, mixed-signal text messages, and long conversations sitting on the back of a rusted-out Dodge—things that no matter what you’re into, you can relate to, which is precisely why the book is compelling. There’s a translation through the work that screams, “we’re not so different,” even if the person staring back in the mirror feels absolutely alone. If you know someone struggling with identity or a kid who’s figuring out if they like to kiss boys or girls, or both, buy them this book. It’s raw, but has a heart. It’s got guts, and it never stops kicking and punching and screaming in ways people of every walk of life need to hear. —Robert Dean