Reviews, January 2016

Look, I get it. I’m being played. I’m being pandered to. I am fully aware of it. But I also don’t give a shit. I’m all in on this one: Adele is a magical unicorn. Her vocals are achingly smooth and bitingly bitter—the hot toddy I needed to make it through winter. I feel like she must sit down before each new album and make a checklist of points to hit. “Song about trying to reconnect with an ex” (check). “Song wishing your ex’s new woman good luck with that deadbeat” (check). “Song where you admit that you’re kind of a callous bitch but you’re leaving anyway” (check). “Song where you call out your current partner for being emotionally dead inside” (check). I could play bingo with this thing. It’s formulaic and in many ways there isn’t a single song that really comes as a surprise. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a killer record. From front to back, 25 is everything you could want in a pop album. The first single, “Hello,” has already taken the free world by storm, inspiring parodies and SNL skits and some of the most passionate car sing-a-longs of all time (admit it; you’ve indulged). It has broad, cresting vocals and simple but impactful lyrics. It’s inherently relatable and thusly, it’s gold. “I Miss You” is a smoky slow burn that taps into some of her earlier R&B influences. Its steady heartbeat drums build to a powerful epicenter. It should’ve been the second single, but that honor went instead to “When We Were Young,” a track that feels just a bit too on-the-nose for me. The live cuts I’ve heard trump the album version, so maybe the mixing was just too sterile. Admittedly though, what 30-something doesn’t feel a twinge hearing Adele sing that youth is “like a movie” and “like a song ” (or when hearing the line “I’m so mad I’m getting old / It makes me reckless”)? That same set of embittered guys and gals is likely to gravitate to “River Lea,” a track that finds an almost trance-like groove in its meditation. The gist? She’s broken and she will ruin this. So let her apologize in advance for mucking it all up. Raise your hand if you also have two dozen friends who approach all relationships with such fatality. I’m not immune to Adele’s powers, though. “Million Years Ago” was written directly at me. Its plaintive Spanish guitar provides a still and quiet background from which to emotionally unmoor you: “I know I’m not the only one / Who regrets the things they’ve done / Sometimes I just feel it’s only me / Who never became who they thought they’d be.” Tissues, please. While this record will inevitably make you want to light a piano on fire and throw a vase at the wall and look longingly out of a frosted window while wearing an oversized sweater with elbow patches, it ends on a pure and beautiful note. “Sweetest Devotion” is a song that—it’s clear within seconds— was written about a child. Adele has admitted to penning this closing track for her three year-old son, Angelo. For a woman known the world over for her passionate, fickle love affairs, it seems only fair that the tiniest heart should be her undoing. From “there is something in your loving that tears down all my walls” to “you will only be eternally the one that I belong to,” it’s clear that despite all the hand-wringing, garment-rending, tear-stained moments, Adele has finally found her match. —Erin Hall


antigravity_vol14_issue1_Page_28_Image_0005BANTAM FOXES
In the short, packed life of the trio known as Bantam Foxes, brothers Sam and Collin McCabe trade and blend vocals, guitars, and bass while Jared Marcell holds down the drums. They’ve been intent on spreading their indie-inspired rock, having been anything but idle since the 2013 release of their only full-length album to date, the heavy-hitting Triumph. The years since have seen a fairly steady run of recordings released via the Foxes’ Bandcamp site (hurrah for the internet); and while they aren’t large in quantity, EPs such as Give Us A Raise and the band’s latest, …Loser, serve as snapshots of a young band getting simultaneously tighter and looser in rhythm and in lyrics. The guitar riffs are repetitive and hypnotic, the drums get harder when needed, especially on in-your-face gems like “Secondhand Smoke,” and the virtuosity the brothers McCabe have developed in their vocal interplay only seems to expand with each track. And even though it’s after the holiday, the single release of “I’m Too Broke For Christmas” is definitely worth many listens, turning holiday blues upside- down and highlighting the band’s songwriting chops in a fun, bombastic way, reminiscent of New Orleans’ other indie rock brothers-in-arms The Breton Sound. —Leigh Checkman


antigravity_vol14_issue1_Page_28_Image_0006CAGE THE ELEPHANT
Cage The Elephant’s 2011 song “Always Something ” appropriately captured Gang Of Four’s disco-punk, but only in essence, without having to imitate “I Love A Man in Uniform.” But producer Dan Auerbach takes what his group The Black Keys have learned after being produced by Danger Mouse for multiple albums (that all sound the same) and oppresses Cage The Elephant’s new record with the most shrill rip-off psych-blues since Jack White’s obnoxious Lazaretto. There’s no understanding of Captain Beefheart’s Safe As Milk, Them’s “Gloria,” or Fleetwood Mac’s “Jewel Eyed Judy.” The riffs on Tell Me I’m Pretty are admittedly catchy, but the lyrics are beyond vacuous: they’re stitched-together blues archetypes without any of the emotional insight (What’s worse: “Trouble on my left, trouble on my right” or “Sweetie Little Jean where did you go?/Everyone’s been searching high and low”). Track six, “Trouble,” comes the closest to arousing any type of emotional interest, but much like track three, “Sweetie Little Jean,” it ultimately surrenders to a poor attempt to replicate ho-dunk authenticity (which just comes off as trite and condescending). Cage The Elephant would be better off aiming to replicate “Zig Zag Wanderer” rather than “Lonely Boy.” —Joey Laura



Iron Lung Records’ mission statement is blunt and unapologetic: they know what they like, and perhaps more importantly, what they don’t like. With that said, L.A.’s howling d-beat, misanthropic powerhouse Condition is another weapon in the burgeoning label’s arsenal. Just when I thought that American blown-out, raw d-beat punk was in its last gasps of life, Condition proves with ugly virtue that the raw punk scene is still robustly festering in some dank corners, alongside other stalwart L.A. bands such as Blazing Eye (who shares members with Condition), Stupid Life, and Drapetomania. Actual Hell spirals in and out of Burning Spirits-style hardcore, distorted mid-tempo stompers, and disgusting Ildjarn-stylized hardcore. Matt, the singer fighting for his voice to be heard, genuinely sounds like he is singing for his life. I caught this band in Portland twice within the span of a few months in 2013, and they are without a doubt one of the loudest punk bands that I have ever seen. I hope they eventually make it down here to decimate scores of helpless eardrums. —Dan McCoy


antigravity_vol14_issue1_Page_28_Image_0007DASH RIP ROCK
It used to be that supercharged country-metal engines in rock‘n’roll were considered to be better off burning out in white-hot blazes of glory. Such thinking neglects the very unpredictability of such fires, and of those who stoke them. It’s for this reason alone that seasoned practitioners of this misunderstood art are sorely needed. It’s largely criminally unsung bands like Dash Rip Rock that are taking the music to new, and surprisingly subtler, places without losing the fuck it, let’s rock mentality that makes it so infectious in the first place. The latter tendency is always in evidence on Wrongheaded, be it in the swine-overrun New Orleans pocket epic “Swamp Pigs,” the short-but-sweet “Loser,” or the inner juvenile crying out in love in “Awesome.” What really stands out on this latest are songs like “Country Stories,” an ode to oral storytelling Southern-style, and “Songreader,” some musings on life as a musician so far. Far from being nostalgic bits surrounded by amped-up guitars and hard-hitting drums, they are looks at the unsteadiness of life choices and life’s lessons wrapped in the give-‘em-hell licks Bill Davis and company know so well. But hey, if all that’s needed is a great time, Dash still kicks ass. —Leigh Checkman


antigravity_vol14_issue1_Page_29_Image_0003DIGGS DUKE
When Steely Dan released their first record Can’t Buy A Thrill in 1972, there weren’t many who wanted to build on Donald Fagen and Walter Becker’s unique brand of jazz-rock. More than 40 years later, Diggs Duke tries an even more eclectic version, fusing funk and hip-hop elements into the style. Duke uses genre like a rubber band, stretching it in all different directions to see how far he can go without it breaking. “Ambition Addiction” features a wicked, anxious looped beat that clashes—pleasantly so—with a melody line that sounds like it came from Pretzel Logic. On “Stoplight Lessons,” he marries his musical dexterity with cleverly fashioned lyrics: “Old enough to crawl/But speech evades your grasp/ You rely on eyes to tell you so much” are lines that weep with human experience. And “Postcard” has a melody that flirts with Stevie Wonder’s “Too High,” more context for his formal experimentation. His tapestry of public street life is a remarkable mosaic of unique people and everyday experiences (depicted beautifully with Chris-Ware-by-way-of-Cubism artwork) that leads toward the social message of his final track, “We Don’t Need Love (But Understanding).” Civil Circus is an immensely well orchestrated and—most importantly—humane work. —Joey Laura


antigravity_vol14_issue1_Page_29_Image_0004EVIL ARMY
The long-awaited follow-up to Evil Army’s 2013 EP I, Commander has finally arrived, and Violence and War remains true to the old-school thrash style that Evil Army is revered for. The lyrics conjure images of war and tell tales of destruction. All the battle-tested themes of rage and death have been carried over to this five-song, 45 RPM 12”. Bassist Tyrant has been playing live with Evil Army for roughly two years now, but Violence and War is his first recording with the band. The Memphis-based three piece flies through the songs, breaking the sound barrier and taking no prisoners along the way. The record gets off to a galloping start with “Army of Doom” and transitions seamlessly into “The Assault,” a brutal ripper of a song. “My Rage Unleashed,” however, features more hardcore punk/crossover than the usual fare, and it is a welcome variance. “Deathbreath” plods along for the first few seconds, then brings the listener back to the ultra-fast tempo they crave. The album is wrapped up nicely by the title track, “Violence and War.” Fans will have to decide whether Violence and War is worth the arduous wait they endured, but for any fan of thrash or early metal, I highly recommend giving this EP a listen. —Jenn Attaway


antigravity_vol14_issue1_Page_29_Image_0005GRAVE RITUAL
Grave Ritual are taking the reins of death metal from the altars of the old school and creating their own kingdom to rule. Morbid Throne is like stepping into a timewarp of death metal glory. So much modern metal is compartmentalized into sub-sub genres, to the degree that it’s obnoxious. Morbid Throne keeps it simple: old school death metal. From the opening track, “Baleful Aversion,” there’s a swinging melody reminiscent of Incantation. What I find exciting about this album is how the vocal work by Ryan Evans almost acts like a percussion instrument and I think it gives the other instruments equal, if not more focus. Grave Ritual is riff worshipping with Morbid Throne. “Tyrant’s Hammer” has a simple groove, but it’s nasty and memorable. Jeremy Berry’s drum work is solid throughout the album. His style resonates heavily in how he accents the guitars: in “Lewd Perversities” Berry emphasizes guitarist Matt Bokor’s dissonant licks. This album may not be genre defying, but that doesn’t make it any less heavy or important. Grave Ritual’s style defines death metal unwaveringly, and Morbid Throne is a further proclamation of death metal’s rule in the underground. —Nathan Tucker


antigravity_vol14_issue1_Page_30_Image_0001ONE DIRECTION
This season’s Halloween episode of the consistently insightful cartoon Bob’s Burgers features a music video for fictional band Boyz 4 Now, and it’s a perfect send-up of the inanity behind the ‘90s boy-band movement. But with their new record Made in the A.M., One Direction shows that they’re above “Larger Than Life” facile compliments. They don’t just emulate the best boy bands of the ‘50s and ‘60s, but the girl groups too, which lends them a level of sensitivity that compliments the sexual tension in their lyrics. Like the Four Seasons and the Everly Brothers before them, the guys in One Direction know how to give a lyric poignant weight. The album opener conjures up an emotional powerhouse (“Hey Angel/ Oh, I wish I could be more like you/Do you wish you could be more like me?”), and the doo-wop harmonies behind “Never Enough” capture the same energy behind the wall-of-sound foot-stomping on The Supremes’ “Where Did Our Love Go.” Their sexual taunts are also more mature than anything the flaccid Backstreet Boys attempted (on “Perfect,” they suggest, “When I first saw you, from across the room/I could tell that you were curious”). This is the kind of verbal flirting that Justin Timberlake aced once he left ‘N Sync, and now it’s One Direction’s turn to bring sexy back. —Joey Laura


antigravity_vol14_issue1_Page_30_Image_0002SHOVELS AND ROPE
Longtime readers know that Shovels and Rope make me and a good part of the AG staff pretty googly-eyed, so this album of covers and collaborations came as a great surprise at the end of 2015. For the uninitiated, Shovels and Rope are comprised of husband-and-wife team Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent—soulmates on every plane— who musically fuck and fight their way through stripped down country-spiced ballads and rock burners alike. This collection of covers opens up the fences of S&R Manor to a host of fellow Americana-classified artists, such as Shakey Graves, J. Roddy Walston and the Business, Caroline Rose, and even New Orleans’ own Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Covers include everything from Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” to Guns N’ Roses’ “Patience.” An ambitious project no doubt, and one with the immaculate production we’ve come to expect from Michael Trent, but I’m not sure this album goes beyond grand novelty or one-off. A healthy chunk of the S&R charm is the energy created between these two people, who share just a guitar, a simple drum set, and a small synth to create a mountain of sound and emotion between them. Everyone sounds good for sure, and Busted Jukebox is also a document of some of the relationships S&R have fostered from their brutal tour regiment: in dissecting the album, Cary Ann tells NPR, “The road is long, but it is narrow, so if you’re out there working, you’re gonna bump into the same people quite a bit.” Still, the extra layers only dispel the hypnotic hold of a “solo” S&R tune, save for the “Patience” track, performed with the Milk Carton Kids. S&R and the Kids really do a magical job of rescuing this song from macho ‘80s rock purgatory and turn it into something precious and timeless. It’s also fun to think Cary Ann is revealing the touch of Axle Rose already embedded in her persona. The last track, “Leaving Louisiana in The Broad Daylight,” is the real gem of this album and a return to true Shovels and Rope form. It’s just Cary Ann and Michael covering Emmylou Harris, the song busting at the seams in all directions. If you’re a fellow devotee, of course this album goes with the collection. But if you need an introduction, start with just Cary Ann and Michael, and meet their friends later. —Dan Fox


antigravity_vol14_issue1_Page_30_Image_0003YOUR FRIEND
Taryn Miller, the voice of Your Friend, couldn’t have chosen a better name for her debut album. The word “Gumption” is defined as: “shrewd or spirited initiative and resourcefulness,” and this is surely it, seeing as how she packs a box set’s worth of thoughts and feelings into just eight songs. To approach this album with the preconceived notions of what a debut should sound like would do both it, and yourself, a huge disservice. What Miller has made here is a flawless collection of songs, right out of the gate, all of which put you in the same headspace as a late night swim in a natural body of water. There’s a peculiar pressure in your inner ear, and the majority of your senses are dulled (aside from sound) which seems amplified in a way both disorienting and beautiful. “Heathering,” the first single off the album, rushes into an upbeat tone and then lets you drown in emotion. “I Turned In” makes you want to cry before she even starts singing. And closer “Who Will I Be In The Morning ” could be an anthem for the independent recluse who, for whatever reason, wakes up one morning the sole occupant of a secluded island and thinks “good.” —Kelly McClure


antigravity_vol14_issue1_Page_30_Image_0004ZALHIETZLI & PROUD/FATHER
In the art of noise, the canvas is wide open. Whether chaotic or controlled, it is a necessary, free- rang e study in sound expression. On this self-released cassette split, noise aficionados Zalhietzli (Angers, France) and Proud/Father (New Orleans, LA) have struck a healthy balance between sound and structure (or lack thereof ). Where Zalhietzli is at times creepy and claustrophobic, Proud/Father counters with serene breathability. Clever layers of tape loops, static noise, whole tones, samples, and distant conversations are woven into subtle worlds. In their own unique approaches, both artists are able to achieve a nearly cinematic-sized space and depth. Proud/Father even introduces a driving percussion near the very end, just before ripping it out from under us. It’s those nuanced details that suggest a more controlled universe than what could easily be perceived as random noise in early listenings. While there are plenty of brilliant abstractions here to outweigh the structure, I still like knowing that someone is pulling the strings. —Kevin Comarda


antigravity_vol14_issue1_Page_30_Image_0006THE HATEFUL EIGHT
Tarantino’s eighth film is being projected on 70mm film in a Special Roadshow engagement. The director hosts a celebration of violence, featuring many of his favorite faces, stuck in a wild, Western-style, Wyoming cabin during a blizzard. The screenplay was first performed as a staged reading in Los Angeles, intended as a standalone event. The overwhelming response inspired Tarantino to film his play in the cold Colorado mountains using antique lenses, further enriching the tale with a score by Ennio Morricone. The play-like nature of the story, a set-up that harkens all the way back to Reservoir Dogs, seems an odd choice for a super widescreen form, but the close-ups are as beautiful as the snowy vistas, and it’s hard to find fault in the man for being an overachiever. Tarantino is having fun doing what he loves, and if you love what it is that he does, I reckon you’ll have some fun with it too. —Alex Taylor

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