Missing their February Mudlark appearance, yet seeing their shared bill with High Functioning Flesh (one of my favorite acts) later in the tour urged me to check out Yr Body Is Nothing. One of the best darkwave/EBM albums of 2016, Yr Body feels right to most fans of industrial, dark electronic dance, Italodisco, and synthwave. MA duo Boy Harsher appears to connect strongly to the work of Cosey Fanni Tutti (of Throbbing Gristle and Chris & Cosey) for tenebrous vocals empowering dark, distant, and explorative synth pop. The duo’s articulations bring to mind Brigitte Fontaine, Nitzer Ebb, Annie Anxiety, the Eurythmics, and Vincent Clark’s projects Depeche Mode, Yaz, and Erasure. As for contemporaries, they seem to form a center point between Marshsteppe , Body of Light, and Soft Metals. Yr Body is a great representation of the band’s consistency in crafting emotionally damaged, synthetic dance music. A most immediate attribute, which brings to mind synthwave, is a certain laconic sleekness in letting a feature ride and flow back and forth the listener’s attention, keeping attention on Jae Matthews’ ghostly vocals. Matthews’ voice and lyrics characterize the album—cold but not dispassionate, distant by necessity, too wounded to feign joy or take it for granted. Amid this very well-assembled album, “Save Me” is the only track that I could see being polarizing, as its lead synth line very conspicuously recalls “Touched” by My Bloody Valentine, which seems likely to be distracting if it isn’t innocuous. —Ben Miotke

This Pittsburgh band, known only by an acronym, has produced a 2017 Japanese-influenced hardcore thrash artifact that sounds like it time-travelled straight from Tokyo circa 1986. D.O.G. features members of both current and defunct Pennsylvania bands including Blood Pressure, Drug Lust, and Sickoids. Mid-to-late ‘80s characterized by three-chord bass and guitar riffs strummed on similar frets in unified arrangements that make for one big riff; vocals that almost yelp with phonetic emphasis placed on natural inflections found in the Japanese language; and cacophonous drumming reliant on a hyper-paced 1-2-1-2 beat. The opening track, “Head Nurse,” charges out with declaratory snare rolls, frenetic vocal bursts, and a memorable mid-tempo guitar/ bass sequence in the chorus. “Maniac (Kill For Powder)” showcases group chants and what is perhaps the most prominent bass riff of the entire EP, all alongside a circle pit-inducing guitar riff reminiscent of Japan’s thrash titans of the 1980s, Systematic Death. “Life is Empty” and “Hold the Dagger” display D.O.G.’s calculated nihilistic attack with fundamental drumming often punctuated by showering cymbal strikes. This is an exciting record by a new band that’s hopefully just warming up. —Dan McCoy

For their sophomore album on ATO, Hurray for the Riff Raff took a bold step; it’s really more fitting to say that lead singer Alynda Segarra did. Much to the chagrin of many fans, the band’s lineup has seen a full overhaul (including the departure of much-beloved fiddler Yosi Perlstein) and the focus has moved away from warm, rich Americana tones with splashes of country and blues, and landed squarely on Segarra’s exploration of her own history and—this time in particular—the dangers of cultural erasure. Segarra was raised by her aunt and uncle in a heavily Puerto Rican area of The Bronx and has spoken many times to how she felt alien within that space—never seeing herself reflected in the portrayal of Puerto Rican women— and sought out new and different experiences in an attempt to fit in. The Navigator centers around a semiautobiographical protagonist, Navita Milagros Negron, and her journey from self-denial to self-advocacy. The album is packaged and presented much like a Broadway show (down to a playbill split into “acts”). The front half of the album paints the picture of a world-weary girl struggling to find her way. “Living in the City” breathes sunny summer vibes, all tambourine and tinny snare drum, over a dark lyrical undercurrent. “Hungry Ghost” follows and is a different beast altogether, channeling an eerie electronic feel like nothing Hurray has done before, but standing out as one of the most profoundly enjoyable tracks on the entire album (it is also inherently danceable if you, like me, are really into whirling in your melancholy). If freedom fighter, take-no- shit political poet is your favorite version of Segarra, look no further than the fiery, punch-in-the-mouth duo of “Rican Beach” and “Pa’lante.” The latter, which clocks in just under six minutes and is the longest track on the record, is set up as a sweeping suite and its name—Spanish slang for “forward”—is a nod to the self-published newspaper of the Young Lords, a Puerto Rican nationalist party active in New York and Chicago in the 1970s. In the beginning, it speaks deeply to the “good immigrant” concept (“Colonized, hypnotized / Be something / Sterilized, dehumanized / Be something”) before morphing into a battle cry, molded around a sample of Pedro Pietri’s seminal 1969 poem, “Puerto Rican Obituary.” The final minute of this track is goosebump-inducing in its ferocity and Segarra’s normally tidy vocals take on a raw, charged edge. Perhaps our modern political climate has forced Segarra to face her heritage and her place within the immigrant narrative in a more real way. It’s no wonder, then, that this album plays heavily with the themes of identity and cultural ownership and comes across much more as a solo album than anything like what you might expect from a Hurray for the Riff Raff record. As an artist, Segarra seems compelled to not only reflect the world as she sees it, but also to act within her power to affect change. As she sneers on “Rican Beach” that “Now all the politicians they just squawk their mouths / They say we’ll build a wall to keep them out / And all the poets were dying of a silence disease / So it happened quickly and with much ease” it seems hard to believe that she’ll stand aside and let that happen. —Erin Hall

This compelling debut record, Fly or Die, is a proverbial onion with many layers of composition and improvisation. To say trumpeter Jaimie Branch enjoys Miles Davis would be an understatement, but to only focus on that parallel would be a mistake. Tracks like “Leaves Of Glass” capture the essence of what pianist/ composer Gil Evans and Davis achieved with Sketches Of Spain. However, Branch does not just revolve in jazz circles, but also lends her perspective to noise, rock, and hip-hop while playing with the likes of William Parker, Matana Roberts, TV on the Radio, and Spoon. She describes this personal set of tracks as “music that knows no genre, no gender, no limits.” On the corner of 31st & Morgan in Chicago stand Maria’s Bar and Bridgeport Coffeehouse. Both have hosted a wide variety of music and characters. On Sundays, there was a jazz ensemble that played and improvised at the coffee shop. Jason Ajemian and Tomeka Reid, who are featured on this album, have collaborations that go back to the shop 12 years ago. I am sure some of the other personnel featured on this record are also old friends. The Chicago music community fosters many tight scenes and the avant-garde jazz crew is no exception. For the love of goddess, do yourself a favor and also check out the groups and solo work of Jeff Parker, Rob Mazurek, and Michael Zerang for similar, free-spirited music. —Emily Elhaj

In the great mix of ‘60s garage, post-metal, old school emo, J-Pop, and more that Treadles curated on ANTIGRAVITY RADIO this past March, drummer Ian Paine-Jesam included Nnamdi Ogbannaya’s “Think That Way (feat. Julia Steiner)” from DROOL; I was captivated. This near-darkwave/ gospel hip-hop track, featuring Ratboys’ frontperson, enveloped my attention in synths throbbing and dripping and introduced me to Ogbannaya and his unique, passionate crooning/rapping style. The next day, I saw that he’s classified as a composer on Wikipedia and has years of prolificacy that I was totally and regretfully unaware of. Ogbannaya demonstrates on DROOL that he isn’t just a hip-hop guy or indie guy, and all of the praxis makes DROOL an even more inspired album. This is 2017’s underground hip-hop record for fans of Danny Brown, Chance the Rapper, WHY?, bands on Community Records, Run for Cover, Topshelf, and, hell, even Mindless Self Indulgence. All by a weirdo composer who hasn’t released anything this rap-heavy before. Ogbannaya’s synth compositions maintain an impactfully dark vibe that may recall Run the Jewels, but he and his guest performers’ lyrics more often stray towards the abstract and pleasurable rather than politics. A few days after my initial introduction, he played Poor Boys with his live band featuring members of hot Chicago DIY bands like Coaster. The same songs I was pouring over on DROOL were now expressed skillfully as technical, futurist post-hardcore. The closest comparison might be a collaborative Deltron 3000 and Polvo set, but Ogbannaya’s vocals flow and chirp away from any total Del comparison and I can’t wait to see him perform again at Gasa Gasa in June supporting PWR BTTM. —Ben Miotke

Every so often, an album comes around that’s so good it makes you realize how piss-poor, God-awful almost every other album in the world is. Mike Hadreas, the voice behind this release, No Shape, and the three that preceded it, is this generation’s Sade (if Sade also had the capability to unzip her flesh suit at the end of the night and reveal herself to actually be Kate Bush). You have to be ready to listen to this. You have to be wearing something that you feel comfortable being moody in, and you also have to be willing to smoke a clove cigarette, or at least think about doing so. There are 13 songs on this album and every single one of them made me wish I was riding a horse through a misty forest at dusk while having hair that is 100% better than the hair I currently have. When an album is this good, you don’t just hear the songs—you try to squeeze a fantasy life for yourself out of them. Opening track “Outside” builds to a similar drama orgasm as The Cure’s “Plainsong,” and opens the doors to the rest of the journey. While there are definitely instruments on this album (I’m not going to list them. There’s like guitars and pianos or whatever…) Hadreas’ voice and lyrical delivery are all anyone needs. If you listen to this, or any other Perfume Genius album, and don’t feel filled with a wide range of complicated emotions ranging from 1) Emailing an MP3 attachment of Echo and the Bunnymen’s “Killing Moon” to an ex lover 2) The confidence to at least *try* to fall straight back without breaking your own fall—then you shouldn’t be allowed to talk about music ever again. —Kelly McClure

One of The Flenser’s brightest achievements is their role as an enclave for diverse acts that respectively articulate progressive visions of heavy music without genre exclusivity—like an auteur-driven Hydra Head. Have A Nice Life, King Woman, Wreck & Reference, Street Sects, Botanist, and Planning for Burial have cemented this in the past few years, and the latter carries his own signature gloom (and The Flenser torch) into 2017 with Below The House. It’s accordingly oxymoronic to associate Below with any light. It’s as dark, heavy, and engulfing as its title and Planning’s past experiments in somberly catastrophic doom, goth, shoegaze, drone, and slowcore would suggest. Planning for Burial, a.k.a. Thom Wasluck, is still making the kind of intimate bedroom music he was on previous albums, but this time around, it seems he’s working from an even more isolating setting. Musically, a lot of the more alienated abrasion seems to have washed away in the ensuing ennui. This makes for his best statement yet of “gloom”— as both a feeling and a genre, as the harshness of industrial and black metal wane and the listener is enveloped by more organic tones such as chimes, piano, and warmer, fuller guitar more in line with Chelsea Wolfe. Honed for years now, Planning for Burial’s tragic, near-folk thrum blooms over Below The House to express Wasluck’s melancholic discontent better than ever. —Ben Miotke

In times of unrest, some say music becomes more poignant and visceral. Nightmare Logic is a strong representation of the frustrated, angsty emotions of our current political climate. No doubt recorded before the election, the lead up to what is now a Trump presidency was almost worse. The blind faith, the anticipation and, ultimately, the let down. One of the original releases on the metal behemoth, Southern Lord Records, Power Trip’s sophomore release is a thrash masterpiece. This record has all the signs and sounds of a brilliant technical and aggressive metal record which, I humbly implore, is better than yet another black metal-hybrid-progressive whatever long-player any day. Not unlike their Texas kin, Iron Age, this is fast, ‘90s crossover punk-metal with riffs (on riffs), Hanneman-style dive-bombs and intense, clever vocals. Produced by Arthur Rizk (who has worked with Prurient and Inquisition), there are also synth touches included, as in the beginning of “Waiting Around To Die” and the album opener, “Soul Sacrifice.” Those moments offer a reprieve from the other songs featured. Most of the record keeps a tight grip on you and ferociously blasts forward in an unrelenting exercise of the band’s musical prowess. Currently on tour with Iron Reagan, put down your Exodus and Cro-Mags records and grab tickets—this show is not to be missed. —Emily Elhaj

Any time a beloved band emerges from the past to release a new album it’s kind of a terrifying thing. If a group like The Smiths were to actually reunite to play a few festival shows and then release a new record, the weight of expectations would be so great it would, probably, stifle the end result—no matter how amazing the reality of it actually was. Bands that were your favorites in your formative years—or during years of your life when you needed them the most—should probably stay gone for good once they go, because to come back is to risk bursting that bubble that would have otherwise lived forever preserved in your well-polished memory. Thankfully, in this case, the break in Slowdive’s career has come full circle and seamlessly joined with new material. After the first few minutes of listening, all fear of them not being as good as I remembered just completely washes away. The last album the band made was 1995’s Pygmalion, which was amazing. Prior to that was 1993’s Souvlaki which was so good it was recently re-released on vinyl and also, almost yearly, ends up on people’s “I’m so cool, these are the cool albums that made me cool before I was cool” lists. This new self-titled album is coming out to an audience of brand new record enthusiasts who (primarily) weren’t even close to being born when their last album came out. It could have very well been terrible, but it’s not. A standout track from the new release, “Sugar For the Pill,” rivals Souvlaki’s “Dagger” for the title of “song most likely to seal itself in timelessness,” and “Star Roving” is an actual time machine, transporting you back to the glory days of college radio in the ‘80s and early ‘90s. Present day Slowdive has every bit the warmly cerebral class and thoughtfulness of when they last came around. Thank God. —Kelly McClure

During the polar vortex a few winters ago, I was recklessly delivering shawarma across Detroit’s old city limits, and that’s the first thing that came to my mind when I started listening to Weed’s latest. Out 4/28, Born Wrong Love’s torrid, emotionally guarded grunge/shoegaze is the only positive musical analogue I’ve found for the feelings and sights of a city abbreviated to a terse minimum while consumed in an otherworldly frigidity. Weed accomplishes this in blasting tones, cold, reserved vocals, and a driving rhythm. While I am quick to recommend any Weed release, I personally feel that they get better with each one and Born balances a lot of the thrills of Running Back with a greater accessibility. That said, Weed is still LOUD and agitated, so this finer balance might still just be for the noise rock, punk, shoegaze, alt rock, and post-punk circles. If you’ve been into Nothing, My Bloody Valentine, or Dinosaur Jr., this might just be your underground record of the year, although unfortunately it seems that it will be the band’s last. —Ben Miotke


The documentary (which opens May 5th at Zeitgeist) begins with a harrowing setup—during the thaw after a terrible winter, a woman’s body is found in an empty farmhouse near a New Hampshire town. Gradually, the filmmakers reconstruct the life of the woman, Linda Bishop, which had been shaped by defiance, mental illness, and stunningly inadequate mental health care that directly led to her death. Interwoven with Linda’s life story is the saga of her final months in the farmhouse, which she chronicled in a journal while subsisting on a diet of rainwater and scavenged apples, unable to leave the house to seek help as she slowly starved. The Wider brothers pay close attention to texture, shooting beatific footage of the house on several film formats, and building a subtly kaleidoscopic visual canvas on which to contemplate Linda’s pleasures, pain, and final months. One goal of God Knows is to dramatize the devastating reality of severe mental illness, and against a backdrop of swelling music, they devote ample time to the grinding-to- a-halt of Linda’s final winter. In conveying the staggering pain of her final days, they slow the film to a near-crawl; its ending comes as something of a relief. —Travis Bird

In this tense and riveting drama (opening May 5th at Chalmette Movies), after his daughter is assaulted on her way to take an important graduation exam, a bourgeois doctor attempts to use his connections to procure her a second chance. He is conflicted, knowing that his daughter’s place at a prestigious college in the U.K. is at stake, but also that to help her is to embrace the methods he wants her to leave behind: using the cutthroat systems that everyone around him is both resigned to and massaging for their own ends. Romanian writerdirector Cristian Mungiu is a master at exposing complex ethical difficulties, and just as in his excellent previous films (Beyond the Hills; 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days), his sparse style is well suited to this story. Cynical exchanges occur in grey neighborhoods where new luxury cars only highlight the drabness of everything else. The weariness of the doctor, who has compromised himself by doing what he feels any good parent would do, speaks volumes about the brittle society around him. —Travis Bird

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