So my first introduction to Glass Apple Bonzai was through this collaboration and I immediately fell in love. This song is beautiful, deep, and textured in a way that pays respect to the past. Yet was fresh and original. I had to apologize to Daniel. This album came out in 2019 and somehow just slipped through my fingers. So I started listening tonight and Holy shit, this is up there with the best Synthwave albums I heard in 2019. It’s passionate, it’s powerful, it’s crafted by a master of Synthesizer architecture. The idea of Synthwave music is such a carefully formulated construction of building blocks in perfect precision that even to a rookie it is so easy to hear when something is out of place. On this record nothing is ever out of place even for a moment. Daniel is an artist who uses every sound, every effect, every word to razor wire effect.
Sometimes in 2020 it is easy to get caught up in the fact that artists are creating music on the shoulders of artists 20-30 ect years gone. That we have this pressure to re-invent the wheel and say that we are doing something fresh that isn’t effected by the things we loved in the 80’s that came before us. I think one of the most entrancing aspects of this record is the unapologetic way it embraces it’s homage to the past while finding it’s own voice. The concepts, sounds, even vocal patterns pull heavily from 80’s pop music. Yet the concepts here are fresh. The vocals and lyrics are heartfelt. The technology allows for new possibilities. It’s like Daniel traveled to the past, had modern tech not available to musicians then, then wrote about life in 2019 within that framework. It’s not easy to pull this off and Daniel is a craft person who pulled together a difficult idea.
Radio: Gorgeous synth magnificence straight out of a John Hughes movie. It’s expansive, it’s beautiful, and it burrows into your head with lovely pop hooks. I can’t never get enough of this track.
Stormy Weather: I love the sensitive power of this track. It has a wonderful lyrical poetry. It builds and uses harmony like a synth itself. This was 80’s Duran Duran at it’s best and yet a song I never heard and wanted to.
The Fire (Of Giant Red Stars) – I love the change up here. The beats are off kilter and the background takes a dark tone in spite of the bright music. This song has wonderful layers. Reminds me of Pet Shop Boys in the hurtful intensity of the lyrics against the bright synths and dance beat.
Overall I can’t believe I never dived into this album in 2019. It should have been on my top 2019 list but I am making up for lost time. Find this record and play it often.
So I am locked in my bedroom on kitten nurse duty. Bottle of whiskey and cup of tea. Obviously 2020 has been a tough year to find time to write with the my kitties surgery. So lets fire through all the new stuff I am listening to right now and get a few thoughts 🙂
Band: Redwing Blackbird
Written by : Paul Baker
Lets start out with Colorado band Redwing Blackbird and their album “Too Klaus For Comfort”. So I’m not sure what is happening in Colorado but everything I hear from that state is blowing me away. Paul Baker has put together this self aware album full of camp, and spiraling darkness. Almost a batcave goth meets 90’s britpop. The guitars are thick and lofi in the best possible way. The vocals and lyrics are diverse in scope and never settle into a rut. It has a lot of progish complexity to the song writing with a lot of piss and vinegar to keep it real. I think the biggest compliment I can give this record is I can’t quite seem to put my finger on it no matter how many times i listen. Everytime I think the words to describe it are on my tongue it turns into a thousand spiders and slips through my fingers. It’s not clean or overproduced but in this case that works to advantage not defeat.
Favorite Tracks: The Spectacular Death of Margaret Fuller ; Too Klaus for Comfort; Devils Horns.
Band: Bring Her
Next up is an album I should have already written about by now but have been in love with a while Pittsburgh’s Bring Her. Self titled album is out on digital and LP. The record has a very dark-electro disco feel. Nadine J has this lovely waterfall chant voice. It cuts through the synth waves like a knife and strikes and parries like a fencer. Puts me in mind of Kim Gordan from Sonic Youth. They really succeed in finding the place between obscure pretension and ear catching dance beats. I think it is a record that adds to every party and takes nothing away. It knows just how to fit in it’s own pocket. I love this is another self release underground gem.
Favorite Tracks : Curses Not Promises; Choose Me Move Me; Unholy Awake
Next up is The Quiet Machines from Maine. This one is personal, a dear friend Adrian Auchrome who I learned of as a Dj but was blown away by their original offerings. I love when a vocalist really finds their own path among the standard definition of what is suppose to be goth/industrial. Adrian has this wonderful over the top cabaret feel to the sinister dance vibe and old school goth. Their slushy meandering phrasing lines really carry you through ideas with a lot of emotion and grab hold of your heart strings like a horses reins. This was another 2018 release which I am just writing about now but I have had the chance to hear some of the new releases and they are a amazing progression from this already great concept. I love an artist that leaves everything on the floor and crawls towards you with reckless abandon and that is what Adrian has achieved.
Favorite Tracks: Chemistry (All I need); The Quiet Machines; The Formula
Cliff and Ivy from Alaska have been such an essential part of the Goth scene this decade. We have review two of their albums and come to appreciate the way they lift everyone in the scene around them. This latest offering is a compilation of their albums in one steam lined offering of horror punk, goth, poetic glory. I really can’t think of an example of anyone who keeps in as real. They are authentic, brash, fierce, and always 100% in sync. This album really touches on all of their diverse styles and emotional intensity. Ivy is a poet of abstract imagery with her lyrics. This is a great way to experience all of their many masks and hardcore glory.
Favorite tracks: Superclass; Fossil Fuel; In Your Hands
Well this is awkward. My friend Victor Montes from Arizona sent me the EP from JH-X9 called “Crime of Science” and they are from my home state MI. This is some first rate dark digital snake slither darkwave. I love the confident spoken word chant vocals and static progression keyboards. Lots of sinister trip hop flow here. Only two songs on the EP but this is full of potential and all over my radar now.
Favorite Track : Crime of Science
In 2020 the music game is changing. We are lucky to have many great labels embracing and supporting bands. Lots of bands choose to go their own way and often it is these that push the boundaries and find new ground. Give a spin to these records and discover some today.
So we had a bit of a hiatus from the podcast and will be starting out 2020 with lots of great guests in our standard format. However we missed it so much Collin and I got rum drunk and decided to do a podcast talking about some recently releases we couldn’t wait to talk about. As always I will put links to all the bands we talk about below. Enjoy the tracks and we look forward to getting more great interviews for you soon.
This is a really exciting new traditional goth release from Louisville KY band Scary Black. I love the return to early roots I am seeing in the scene as of late. Rich and flowing with that Sisters of Mercy fender jazz tube amp guitar sound. Filled in with delicate and impact heavy synth lines. The album is diverse and places a huge emphasis on lyrics and poetry. Singer Albie Mason has a powerful and deep bass voice that really holds in place all the high end moving parts. It has the quality of a large moving glacier full of ice and magnitude crawling towards you with cold beauty.
I found myself in love with the ability of the songs to be modern and direct. Then switch hard to a campy Anne Rice Vampiric romanticism. I’m a huge fan of bands that can go over the top without losing meaning and credibility and Scary Black really drives that stake through the heart. A lot of bands these days can create a beautiful sound that pays homage to the past. It seems the harder task is to have poetic lyrics that capture that same level of meaning as The Cure and Sisters. That to me was the true magic of this record.
This is a complete album (One that made me upset I had already completed albums of the year when it released). Here were some stand out tracks.
Stay in Your Lane – Those beautiful muted guitar lines with sinister delay. Albie’s voice sinks to the lowest register and bellows out a powerful whisper full of menace and beauty at the same time. The synth lines are gorgeous with a very New Order feel to add a New Wave feel.
A Few Things I Hate – Holy creeping through the cemetery drinking a bottle of Merlot and smoking clove cigarettes. This song really transported me back in time. A horror movie soundtrack feel full of foreboding atmosphere. The vocals whisper a secret you have to reach for and it creates a powerful effect.
Are you Afraid of The Dark – The title track is such a beautiful break from form. Those creeping pan pipes sound build a lead in with a melody that sticks with you. Then the trademark delay sliding guitars. This one has so much of that overt vampire novel feel. It tells a story and one I am here for.
Overall I was immediately drawn in and in love with this record. It’s lovely, layered, and will require many more listens in the coming months to unpack. I questioned bringing this up but I think it is important to acknowledge. The Goth rock genre can feel fairly underrepresented by people of color and I love when an album of this quality also brings a perspective to this scene which hasn’t been heard enough. I really look forward to hearing many future releases from Scary Black.
2019 has been quite a year for my dream. It has found it’s tar dark wings and started flapping them to places I never imagined it would go. I have new writers like Collin, Katy, and Adrian. I have 4 times as many followers. Made new friends which I have come to love and value. Traveled to distant lands. Started a podcast. In general it gets me excited for the future that so many people all over the world have shared with me this love of what is happening in modern music.
Unlike last year when I did a top albums review all alone I know had a wine drenched democracy of shouting voices sitting in a room and debating what had moved them in this years music. It was an amazing feeling I had forgotten. I wanted to make this list hold weight. So we made hard cuts and decisions to get our list down to 4 genres and 10 albums per genre. Everyone had input and voice and no one 100% agreed. I love that. This was never suppose to be about me but about the celebration of art. I hope you find something new here. I know I did and it fills me with hope for places a song or album can still move me. We split it into 4 parts 1) Post Punk/Goth 2) Industrial/EDM 3) Synthwave/Darkwave/Coldwave 4) Wildcards
First up is Post Punk/Goth. This one is my primary wheelhouse so I took point here. There has been a true resurgence in this genre and this was a hard list to choose. The albums listed here are all amazing but we fought long and hard to try and pick some form of order. Here is what we found.
10) October Burns Black (Reflections) – London superband and Traditional goth act from London put out this amazing record this year. James Tramel (The Wake) has composed this album with Rod Hanna (Vox), Lars Kappeler (Guitars) and Tommy Olsson (Guitars) Simon Rippin. It is so full of flowing sinister goth sounds. It really holds true to the sounds of yesterday while forging new ground. Every song is an emotive blast.
9.5) Ritual Howls (Rendered Armor) – I know, i cheated. I just can’t leave this record off. We debated and argued so hard to get this list to 10. This album is just such a world beater. It’s Nick Cave putting on the armor of Echo and the Bunnyman. They are even Detroit fam. They are keeping a flame burning for a sound that cannot be forgotten.
9) Frozen Charlottes (Wax Venues) – Santa Ana post punk doom weavers Frozen Charlotte released this beautiful album in November of this year. I have been in love with Chandler Grace, Janell, and Sky’s savagely dark spit and vinegar punk goth style since their previous incarnation. With Wax Venus they really found a way to refine that edge to a razor point of intensity, Waxing and waning like the moon in a flowing dance around the fire witchcraft ritual.
8) La Me’canique (Dernier Voyage) – This is such a lovely record from Cold Transmission that really embraces the post punk ideals. It’s wide, flowing, and full of landscapes. It feels large and comes through the lens of a distant camera. I think of 80’s Duran Duran and the way they transported you to another place while listening to the songs. A vacation in musical form.
7) Mark E Moon (Refer) – Another exceptional album with a lot of traditional goth elements. Another Cold Transmission band on this list who has a wonderful vibe of old Peter Murphy but with a modern edge full of poetic lyrics and Mark’s deep resonant vocals. Lots of balance and pop hook in this record. I want to peel the layers of this onion and find the core of it’s art.
6) Crying Vessel (Illusions) Slade Templeton is bringing the glam razzle dazzle back into dark music. His dark rich voice climbs and slide around an impressive range. I found it in my heart, and building a place in my head. I had the wonderful opportunity to see them live in Germany this year and it really gave this record another plateau of range. A perfect mixture of previous styles and modern technology this record is a must have.
5) Golden Apes (Kasbek) – Berlin based post punk Golden Apes have been making music for a long time. To find an album of this power and depth of idea deep in a storied career is a noteworthy achievement. Peer Lebrecht has a voice so full of soul and power that it wraps you in it’s world. The music is a masterclass in what post punk can achieve in movement and embrace. I will finally get to see this played live in Boston this year for their first US tour. If you don’t know about this record plunge head first into one of the genres most exciting artists.
4) Antipole (Radial Glare) – Karl Morton Dahl of Norway holds the distinction of being the most reviewed artist on Sounds and Shadows. I feel moved by every album he has made. This one found a way to hit a special new level for me. Antipole is everything you love about post punk music like Joy Division and New Order. Karl is a true historian of the genre, but finds exciting new ideas about how to use modern technology to make the concept sharper and more intense. This record was such a wonderful tribute to his homeland. A record that transports you to that reflected, glittering place of dark ice. Paris Alexander and Eirene of Young and Cold records have added perfect vocal compliments to create one of this years stand out records.
3) The Dream Collision (The Certainty of Forever) – This album from Pedro Code of IAMTHESHADOW was a piece of art that left me changed and moved. Pedro has possibly the most beautiful and sensual voice in modern dark music. This record was so stripped down and exposed I found myself unforgettably moved. It is powerful and tender like Nick Cave but with the beauty and elegance of Ian McCullah. A truly moving offering.
2) Twin Tribes (Ceremony) – With their recent transition to Negative Gain Joel and Luis of Twin Tribes hold a special place here at Sounds and Shadows. Their Debut album “Shadows” was the inspiration for this webpage. They are bringing the concepts of spiritual post punk into the modern era. This sophomore offering was not a lull but a leap forward in concept, depth, and power. Rich and full of energy each song is a ritual to summon forth an intimate experience in the listener. You probably need this one on vinyl. Also they do a must see live show, find them in your town and bare witness.
Sonsombre (Veil of the Ending) – So goth music has always been so obsessed with the past. If it wasn’t Sisters of Mercy it seems people just couldn’t find a way to embrace another wave. Sonsombre newly signed to Cleopatra has found a way to capture that original Traditional concept and rebuild it with fresh sounds and modern ideals. This record was a game changer that opened a new door to a darker dimension. Poetic lyrics, powerful delivery, slithering snakes of oil and shadow woven into guitar riffs of power and delicate dexterity. If this isn’t in your collection you are living in history. The Future is Black.
Part II is the best Industrial/EDM – I grew up on industrial. It was my punk rock. My scream at the world release. Somewhere along the way i just drifted to other avenues. This year was a huge one for me to rediscover Industrial. Adding in Adrian and Collin to the family who are both stronger on Industrial than me have really helped me find this world again. The albums that have come out this year and bringing it back front and center for a lot of people. These were our top picks.
10) Klack (Introducing the 1984 Renault Le Car) – Matt and Eric are workhorses. They had a Daddybear album, Null Device, and another Klack album all this year which could have easily made this list. This album rose to the top for me. It’s perfect blend of retro and fresh feel with dance beats and unique concepts has become a go to for my listening parties. New ideas for the new industrial.
9) Lingua Ignota (Caligula) – I just found this through Adrian. Wow. It was like nothing I have heard. This is a sound so frightening and intense it gives The Goblins nightmares. It is the sound of a priestess ripping out her own eyes and bleeding from the sockets. Do not listen right before bed unless you want to be haunted by disturbing dreams. I speak from experience.
8) Kid Saint Nothing (Above_Below) – What a treat that I get to add a dear friend from Kalamazoo MI to this list. They belong here. This album is a raw heartfelt therapy session scream set to catchy dance beats. It’s wide and intense and needs to be played constantly on your listening device.
7) Dogtablet (Feathers and Skin) – Industrial music lords Jared Louche (Chemlab) and Martin King have worked with others to create this massively powerful record of animalistic spirit totem sounds. It feels like a creature speeding free under a moonlit sky. This album came late in the year but has been my constant companion ever sense.
6) FIRES (All My Dreams Are of This Place) – Aedra is a force of nature. Her intensity and vocals have really pushed the edges of the Industrial genre. This album has a tight mixture of early 2000 emo and electroclash force. Whenever I need to find my inner tiger to face the day this album is where I reach first.
5) Moris Blak (The Irregularity of Being ) – This album is a force of creative expression and cyber blending technology. Lots of amazing guest vocalists like Pete Crane, Amelia Arsenic, and Angel Metro. A true tapestry of electronic sound woven and blended with dance hall beats and shattering brash power. This needs to be in heavy rotation of every club you shake your ass at.
4) Curse Mackey (Instant Exorcism) – Curse has been a huge part of the industrial scene for a long time as Evil Mothers, Pig, Pigface, ect. This album represents his first solo offering and it is nothing short of breathtaking. This album has such a focus on lyrics with a true William Burroughs literary quality. Full of slashing beats and laser focused vocals. I own it on LP. You need it on LP.
3) Bones UK (Bones UK) – More of a big label offering but a straight burner. This album is on the top of Collin’s list this year. I love the ladies getting representation in this genre and this album cooks from front to back. Lovely pop hooks to really add some mainstream club vibe, and we unapologetically love that.
2) Stoneburner (Technology Implies Belligerence) – This record changed the game for me. It made me fall back in love with Industrial music. It has that same old school flavor, but takes such incredible chances. A thinking persons industrial with a concept and follow through. Steven Archer of Ego Likeness has unleashed something transcendent and powerful and managed to save enough in the tank to follow the record with another this year “Massdriver”. Both are incredible pieces of art you need to explore but you never forget your first love. This record was that for me.
Go Fight (Anthem) – Jim Marcus and Die Warsaw were a part of my first obsession with Industrial music. A titan in the genre and one of the great humans who holds this scene together. This record is all covers of the 80’s songs that helped build his musical life. It’s perfectly crafted. It’s full of soul. It finds a way to make something of the past connect with my present. I mean any time i can hear two of my favorite things in this life Go Fight and Shriekback happen simultaneously consider me hooked. Nothing on this record doesn’t immediately send my body into motion. This is the work of a master crafting a love letter to the things that built him.
Next up is Synthwave/Darkwave/Coldwave: Another brutal list to try and widdle down to 10 albums with everything wonderful released this year. As genres have expanded and new ground was broken the resulting art which is dreamy and beautiful has grown with it. This is a list of our favorites.
10) Lilith My Mother (Her Fall) – Beautiful dance magic with clear pop beauty infused with midnight dark lyrics and fallen angel vocals. Every song fills me up and has me asking questions. Do not sleep on this amazing artist.
9) Corlyx (In 2 the Skin) – Sexy LA sludge grunge is my weakness and this album is the cure. It’s sensual, powerful, and forces your body into motion. Caitlin has a voice that wraps around you and stirs that hairs on the back of your neck. Doesn’t your party deserve to be this hot?
8) Standalone (Standalone) – Steven Seibold of Hate Dept has unleashed this solo project so delicious and stripped down with beautiful synth sounds crafted with a wizards touch. It’s so personal and easy to relate to at once. The vocals are smooth and elegant and hold your heart with tender timing. So underrated.
7) Boy Harsher (Country Girl Uncut) – The feels of this record. It’s a smokey dimly let exclusive club that would turn me away at the door in music form. It’s efficient in the use of layers and sounds and has gorgeous imagery in the lyrics. I love everything about the crafting done on this record.
6) Agent Side Grinder (A/X) – Oh the delicious post punk infused stabbing drum beats. The dynamic vocals have a dark tone and emotional delivery. It’s full of songs that always feel like they are moving faster than they are. It’s that energy and crackling synth pad sound that makes ASG have such a unique sound. This album builds on everything that makes them one of the biggest names in the genre.
5) Sweat Boys (Nervous Prayers) – This record off of Give/Take strikes a special chord with me. Sitting in my room listening to Yaz “Upstairs at Erics” was such an impact on me. Waiting to hear a synth driven album that captured that same purity and exposed feeling has been something i have searched for a long time. With this record my search finally ended. It’s beautiful, electric, and makes me jump up and down like only a 260lbs man on a pogo stick can. If yuo care at all about synth pop you need this in your ears.
4) Drab Majesty (Modern Mirror) – Drab Majesty off Dais records isn’t just an album, it’s an experience. Knowing the exact amount of every sound to use to get a perfect blend is such a difficult art form. The harmonies, and flowing lush beauty. They are like aliens operating at another level from us common music plebs. This album is staggering and unique in it’s beauty and darkness.
3) Mr.Kitty (Ephemeral) – 31 tracks, all of them good. Take that in for a moment. This album was such a memorizing accomplishment. It’s an artist exposing themselves and making it sound lovely and pure. I played this record so many times this year I feel like I have a personal relationship with the artist and I have never spoken to them. If you don’t have this you need to make that a priority.
2) Hante (Fierce) – The soundtrack to a film of a better life lived than mine. Just listening to the gorgeous vocals and visual sounds on this record fill me with hope. The creative force unleashed here is an epic achievement. It makes you think, it makes you believe.
Wingtips (Exposure Therapy) – Look I can tell you what I love about this music. To me the real power of this album is that so many great musicians I know all talk about how much this record meant to them. It has been mentioned and picked on our podcast by almost everyone we have interviewed. It’s perfect, nostalgic, fresh, and full of texture and intensity. Every track is a banger. Every line is a poem. This was our combined number one pick out of one of the hardest categories to judge.
Final Catagory Wildcards: This was all the things too far out of the box to fit anywhere else. In a way I feel like it made it really exciting and definitely some of my top overall picks.
10) Scary Black (Shadow Dwellers) – Kentucky sinister darkness Scary black released this shadow storm full of familiar elements and fantasy sparkles. It’s full of dangerous dreams and lovely rich vocal melodies. I really look forward to their future.
9.5) Vlimmer (XIIIII) – German sound wizard Alexander continues to spew forth the most gloriously textured collections of sounds with pull heart strings like a horses reins. It baffles me how good every single release is.
9) The Purge (Rain) – Strange winding electronic storms. This album feels like weather shifting and changing. It has a flavor of trauma and young love lost. Thomas does a beautiful job using his vocal range to tell stories and build tension. It’s my sad rainy day music.
8) Girl Band (The Talkies) – Strange twisting and powerful. I really liked the chant of this band and the abrupt changes. This one came courtesy of Katy. Really intense sound.
8.5) The Joy Thieves (This Will Kill That) – Again a little bit of cheating here but this EP needs to be on the list. Such a perfect blend of hard rock and industrial with some of the biggest vocal talent in modern industrial. It’s smash everything in this room music because you are happy. I first described it as Clutch beating the shit out of Stabbing Westward with a baseball bat and I stand by that.
7) SYZYGYX (Fading Bodies) – One of the fastest up and coming bands in the scene. On both Negative Gain and Cold Transmission Luna and Josh are a sonic experience full of sexy dark disco grooves you would find in David Lynch’s private club at 3am. It breaks every mold and is always in my rotation.
6) The Ghost of Bela Lugosi – Ok technically not an album, but my house my rules. Australian based Vin Price has released about 12 singles this year and everyone of them is straight fire. It’s so punk rock, so raw, but so melodic and beautiful. It touches every part of every genre and I am here for all of it. It won’t play by the rules and that is part of it’s power.
4) Hide (Hell is Here) – Sheer unbridled power with a meaningful message. This is like nothing you have heard. Raw, intense, full of power tools. The vocals have more spit and acid than most metal. This album changed my world view
3) ELZ and The Cult (Psychodrama) – Visually, sonically, sassily, there is nothing about this album that does not completely enthrall me. It’s filthy, beautiful, it’s a horrible dream of a broken world that i can’t escape or look away from. I find a new layer to it every time i listen. You must have this.
2) Palais Ideal (Pressure Points) – I have been waiting to make this one of my top albums of the year all year long. This record broke all the boundaries of post punk. It’s thoughtful, precise, unique, and tells a story of some of the best science fiction I read in any novel. A thought provoking example of the power of music. Have this on LP and feel it’s warmth and glory as it was meant to be spun
Mesa Luna (Feel Nothing) – This one came to our attention courtesy of Jason Corbett (Actors). We didn’t have enough shoegaze representation here and this album was a stunner. #1 pick from Katy. It’s haunting, diverse and full of life. Take a journey with this record.
I had about 40 more albums this year that could have made this list. Maybe I will do an honorable mentions. I’m shredded though. There is currently a glorious revolution happening in music. Be a part of it. This list is a great place to start. Happy Holidays from us at Sounds and Shadows.