After the tidal wave of new releases from the last few weeks I get to settle down and deep dive some of the amazing things that I didn’t get to. Powerhouse albums from around the globe that are making my heart pitter patter for the exciting future of modern Darkscene. As always comment on the page who you think I need to review next and share these reviews so others can find them.
Sounds Like Winter – Fight The Stairs – I have been a fan of the Australia based traditional goth band for a while now. With their third album they have struck an amazing new chord that is the most impressive to date. One of the flavors I have always loved in SLW was the rough edges and old school feel. I never needed crystal clear production work to feel the passion driven low fi power of the songs. In an unexpected turn they have somehow unearthed the unorthodox blending genius of Martin Hannett to create the lost progression of Joy Division and A Certain Ratio. The drums are a crisp sizzle, the guitars a stabbing fencer in constant assault. Sian Williams walks up the down staircase with synergists motion and lead guitar bass. Finally Ant Banister has captured the soulful baritone resonance of Ian Curtis that so many in the current scene have tried to grasp. The entire effect is lightning in a bottle which is holding place between two times. I’m on my third playthrough and still find myself searching for details in a seamless delivery.
I would be remiss to not address the lyrics. This album has a crystal clear delivery with poetic flare for dark themes that keep bringing me back to Unknown Pleasures and Still. The wonderful lighting/Thunder offset of Andi Lennon‘s vocals add just the right amount of spice to this complex stew. My arms sway with reckless abandon and my mind swirls with the bleak and heady themes. People often talk about how much this scene leans on the past, but not enough on the ground left to go. This feels new.
Favorite Track: Fight The Stairs – The title track is the perfect blend of both tempo and Andi/Ant’s vocal style. A guitar riff is everywhere at once like a live wire catch the dragon by the tail. It’s a story you can follow and a sound to get lost in.
Overall: This is the new standard for a band hitting on all cylinders
Dogtablet – Pearldrop Blue – A lot to unpack here. So many amazing elements in one place that connect all the tiny synapses in my mind and unleash a flood of dopamine right in the brainstem. Scene legends Martin King, Roberto Soave, and Jared Louche, have teamed up once again to bring out all the best in each other and we are reaping the sonic benefits. I’ve had a hole in my heart as Jared has been quiet lately. Hearing his mad prophet poet spinning spiderweb dreams again takes me on a fantastical journey. The album features a plethora of amazing guest vocals from S & S favorites Cat Hall, Coral Scene, Sapphiria Vee/MelodyWhore, and Groovie Mann. Another amazing addition was mastering by sonic wizard Pete Burn. How they take all these elements and make the chaotic fever dream sound so clean and cohesive is beyond me, but I suppose that is why they are legends. The entire album builds like a cinematic human drama touching gentle notes like taste buds on the tongue.
Favorite Track: Impossible to choose from this ensemble cast of talent. Every Little Lie – Featuring frequent collaborators Sapphiria and Melodywhore is crystal cocktail party of balance and trip hop fantasy. Star – Is a deep and introspective prayer to the connection of spirit. Silver strands winding through the universe while light bounces off at a million sparkling moments. Heavy Gravity has a more traditional Dogtablet feel, with Louche in full moonbeam madness and William Borough’s cosmic streams of conciseness.
Overall: Another smash hit with the complexity of craft you would expect from veteran masters, and the dangerous psychedelia artistic courage of people beyond the game. You will be changed by this.
Aesthetic Perfection – Gravity – Houston we have lift off. The newest single from Daniel Graves featuring Swedish death metal axe master Sebastian Svalland holds the speed and power to break the atmosphere. I almost had a dance related injury the first time I spun it. Graves touches on an emo punk lilt to the vocals that gives an original modern bite to the Pop-Industrial equation. Get strapped in, and peer out the window as the pinpricks of light race by at blazing speed. I know I was late to the game for Aesthetic Perfection, the more I hear, the more I love.
Sega Lugosi – Un-Undead EP – Wow, the ultimate goth diss album from the hidden part of The Gothsicles. If you ever wanted in on the inside joke of modern EDM, now is your chance. Epic in scope chocked full of nerd culture reference. Everything you love about Klack/Caustic/The Gothsicles put in a blender on frape and poured on a Genesis consul until it sparks and burns. Jumping Jesus on a pogo stick Taco Tuesday is a jam. It really isn’t the humor, because the songs are funny. It’s how good the songs are in spite of the humor. “Sunday ain’t my day to pray, It’s Tuesday that makes me sashay.”
Curse Mackey – Submerge Remix – How do you find new space in my favorite track of 2019 breakout album Instant Exorcism? Have sound engineer extraordinaire and close friend Chase Dobson do a remix, and give him a new guitar line from Ronny Moorings of Clan of Xymox. Where the original track was a slow and crushing descent. Here you are in open water, looking at the expanse of nothing but dark blue for miles. Gorgeous lapping waves of delayed guitar the only sensation tying you to life and you sing down in ice waters. I love feeling something I am already in love with deeper. Discover it again.
Exciting new single from Jack Alberson and his project Blindcopy. This is a follow up to the breakout single Blacklight which received critic acclaim. The Tennessee artist brought out his sonic welding torch to fuse upbeat electronic dance, southern soul, and punk grit. The song issues forth a challenge to rise to a loftier goal and hold ourselves accountable. The grooving drive heavy bassline sets the stage. Jack’s voice rings clear but has a snarl and grit that cuts the space in between. I love the skill of electronic execution with the soul of a blues singer. Just enough steel guitar ring to build the percussion and give a place for the guitar riff to slide between. I need a modern song that makes me feel something and this hits that button. It has that grab you by the lapels and shake you factor.
We wanted to try something new for this single. Doing a premier where Sounds and Shadows listeners get first crack at downloading the track for free. So if you share the link, you can go into the comments below and grab a download code. This is available only to you for the first few days.
A week from this last Friday was the second day Bandcamp waived their artist fees. Since then, there’s been a burst of new music posted that ranges from one-off projects bred from quarantine boredom to albums that have been in the works for the last year.Some artists have re-released old albums that were never released digitally while others have chosen archived songs that aren’t new but haven’t been released before.
I’m pretty much saying Bandcamp is rad right now.
There is so much great music out and more coming out every day. It was hard to pinpoint my top favorites, but I’ve spent the last day narrowing my latest playlist to my top six favorite new releases.
I’ve always been taken aback by Mogwai’s soundscapes. There’s a vastness in their music that can create such a sad, lonely feeling in my gut. It’s crazy how without words, they can say something so well that it brings tears to my eyes. ZEROZEROZERO is the score to the show on Amazon Prime with the same name exploring the inner workings of the cocaine trade. This album gives the story light as it creates action and tension with massive builds and soundscapes.
When X announced last January that they were going to be releasing a new album, the punk scene stirred. What would the first album release in 27 years by an iconic punk band be like? Great news, everyone! It’s awesome. X spent the last 18 months writing and recording 11 new tracks that are relevant and hype to hear. When the band hit the scene in 1977, they quickly become prolific for their unique sound. Duel vocals, an homage to multiple rock genres at once, ripping guitars, and attitude. That’s X. This album was released on April 22, 2020.
Vlimmer is a music-making machine! This album is dark and ambient with a drive behind it. Though it’s utterly haunting instrumentally and vocally, it’s breathtakingly beautiful simultaneously. Instrumentally, you’ll hear sounds that make the hairs on the back of your neck stand, but then there are these huge vocals and harmonies that hypnotize you. There’s chaos built into the structure of the songs that give you that feeling of tension without pushing you to discomfort.This album was released on May 1, 2020.
When I heard the song, “Dissolve” by Secret Shame, I felt refreshed and excited for more. I heard homage to bands I love like New Order. It literally felt like I was listening to a song by The Cure recorded for 33 1/3 rpm but played at 45 rpm. This is the perfect cross of post-punk and goth rock. You can feel how much fun the band had creating this EP. It’s because of this that the music that creates a deeper connection with the audience. I’m very excited to hear the other half of this EP when it’s released June 5, 2020.
In 2019, four 15-year-olds came together in Melbourne, Australia to form the rad indie-grunge band, Tabloid TV Darlings. The group is heavily inspired by ‘90s alternative rock, specifically grunge. The singer sounds almost exactly like Kurt Cobain, but the band has melodic feel with fuzzed-out guitars and cool vocal harmonies. This group of teenagers has me jealous of their songwriting ability and has me super excited for their future releases. This album was released on May 3, 2020.
Dummy from Los Angelas, CA is a dreamy shoegaze band that echos the sounds of legendary groups like Kraftwerk, Stereolab, and Cluster. Their marriage of rock genres ranging from krautrock to post-punk is enough to give it a unique sound. They take a minimalistic approach to their work but build huge soundscapes within the composition. Each song has it’s own range that builds the album into somewhat of a cinematic-feeling piece overall. This album was released on May 1, 2020.
Favorite Track: Slacker Mask
I know I was a little late to the game by writing these days after Bandcamp waived it’s artist fees, but there’s still amazing music being released every day! There is so much to still be excited about on Bandcamp. Whatever support you can offer to your favorite new artists is always appreciated even if it’s only $5.
I’ve been hearing so much great music these last few weeks and look forward to the time when we’ll all be able to go to shows again and experience music together. Until then, I hope that you’ve enjoyed this segment of “Katy’s ‘End of Days’ Playlist”.
Karl Kave’s latest album is the perfect blend of lo-fi, garage, electronic beats, and post-punk. It’s vibes range from outlaw country to pogo punk, but it rocks the entire time. When I listened through, I was reminded of bands like The Exploited, The Cramps, Gap Dream, and Orville Peck.I was also reminded of the original soundtrack of the show “Twin Peaks”. These albums are of my favorites.
The instrumentation ranges throughout from clean and almost sappily romantic-sounding to dark and bruiting. Vocally, all the songs have hints of darkness. It’s the way the vocals and instruments are mixed together and the effects added that drive the impact of the album to the next level. There are twists and turns throughout that make the album more fun the more you listen to it.
Some favorite tracks
Dreaming– This song starts out and sounds like it will be a super sappy love song.Once the lyrics come in, the story and it’s setting suddenly change. I’m a huge fan of relatable lyrics and this song has some that really resonate with me.
We Are Sun- I really enjoyed this song because it was so different and bluntly sad sounding in comparison to many of the others. The beat is really cool, like its made mostly from patting lets and clapping hands. This song is really minimalistic in comparison to the others with only vocals, a drum machine, light effects, and an acoustic guitar.
You Left My Heart in New York City- This song is a really great mash-up of indie and country. The lyrics are sad, they tell a story about heartbreak and the big let downs. The lyrics tell a vivid story, but the instrumentation pushes it along. The slow pace adds to the longing feeling the lyrics spell out and adds a heaviness to your heart that words can’t achieve.
Listening through this album made me really miss going to shows.All I could think about while I listened through was how fun this show would be to see live. I could imagine it. Everyone dancing to songs like “Dreaming” and “Yesterday We’ll Be Dead” and then the crowd falls silent during the slower songs as to not miss a single word. I would love to be at that show.
I really enjoyed listening to this album. The ups and downs were paced perfectly. It was lo-fi, moody, romantic-sounding, and generally amazing. If you’re looking for something new and different that pays heavy homage to the post-punk, indie, goth, and outlaw country genres, then this is the album for you.
Newest release from British electronic indie soul Empathy Test has once again hit the mark and rocketed beyond it. Isaac Howlett, Adam Relf, Christina ‘Chrisy’ Lopez, and Oliver Marson have tapped into a world brimming with tension and isolation to strike a chord with beauty. This follow up to the 2019 EP Empty Handed is a creative stride forward as well as a more complete offering. Also this record was crowd funded and done totally DIY. For this highly anticipated album I thought it might be fun to pull in a few or our writers and get some different perspectives on howMonsters effected us.
Ken – This album has crisp body moving drums. Smoke slithering synth lines that build castles which sparkle. What really strikes me is how easily I forget all the layers and textures. Just to zero in on the singer/songwriter core of these tracks. The power and familiarity of the lyrics. The way the songs would be great songs on an acoustic guitar, or with a full band . It’s hard enough to achieve one or the other, when both happen at the same time in isolation it’s a powerful magic.
Damien – I was hooked on this record within seconds. The vocals are absolutely beautiful and I don’t know if I have ever loved the way drums sound on a record more than I have on this one. It felt like the ether reached out to me with this record, shook me around and said you need to have this record in your life.
Katy – This album is a synthwave banger from the first smash on the drums. The amount of energy behind each note is enough to power a city. This album is cinematic without being a score. I love it when an album creates vivid imagery with sound. When I listened through this album, I kept imagining myself in a world lit up like “Tron” but inhabited by the beings of “Labyrinth”.
Ken – Dare I say masterful mastering? The vocals on every song just ring in such perfect clarity. They sit on the front of the mix perfectly without seeing where they end and the music begins. The percussion really changes the tone on each song. Those snares are crisp. Really effective use of marching cadence and rarely used beat patterns. They synths are vibrant like watercolors behind a character. 1st rate execution.
Damien– The drums on this whole record sound huge. From start to finish the percussion drives this whole record. The vocals sound perfect. Layers are added and subtracted with precision. I particularly love the way instrumentation swells in this record to slowly build transitions so the feel as huge as they sound.
Katy– The mixing and mastering of this album is incredible. The amount of dryness and saturation creates such an emotionally evocative feeling for each song. The amount of reverb on the vocals and instruments creates a constant hugeness that they’ve perfected. The beats used are addictive. You won’t be able to sit still. The synths used throughout have such a classic synth-pop sound that is much appreciated. It’s utilized so perfectly to create the feel and carry the song with seamless flare added throughout. I love it when a band uses electronic drums and live drums. This is top-tier and perfectly synced up.
What did it make you feel:
Ken – This one really took me on an adventure. I had highs, lows, moments of doubt, moments of elation. It had hooks, and had that shake that ass factor. I think more than anything this record made me feel in on a secret. It’s very personal yet easy to access emotionally. That true inspiration of an indie album. Something to share that you know everyone would be into, but they aren’t in on it yet, and you are.
Damien– I felt motivated when I heard this record. I’ve been wrapped in my own material for the last week nonstop and as soon as I heard this I felt like someone set the bar. The lyrical content is exceptionally potent and the way the drums, bass and synth all come together sent me back to the drawing board eager to step my game up. This is a masterwork, if you’re an aspiring artist or a casual listener this record is absolutely compelling.
Katy– This album is relatable in content and driving instrumentally. It made me feel like I wanted to dance and move while contemplating my relationship, my friendships, society, and more. There were things that are so hard to say that this album dictated so perfectly. It’s got tracks you can blare from your boombox on someone’s lawn if you want to make a statement about love. It’s got tracks that make you want to get all sweaty at a rave during. There are some songs you may want to listen to alone in your room with the lights off. There are even some songs great for road-trip playlists when you want to get hit with waves of beautiful sounds.
Ken – Opening the album with the title track and those powerful snapping snare hits. I’ve felt the daylight creeping in, and thought maybe it’s time to go. The vocals are elegant and cutting. When the chorus drops it’s a smashing wall of sound done with driving weight instead of distortion. What a strong way to open a record.
Damien – THIS IS HOW YOU START AN ALBUM! This track absolutely slaps. It reached through the cosmos and grabbed me. I knew I was in for the full ride this record had to offer within seconds of hearing those drums. This track absolutely slaps. It is quite possibly one of the best side one track one’s you’ll ever hear and I’m willing to be the test of time will side with me on this one. This track absolutely slaps! I honestly felt floored it hit me so hard.
Katy– First track and I was sold. I needed to hear more. I needed to know what this band was all about. The tempo of the track is a fast-paced stroll and the initial feel is like it’s the perfect track to walk around on a sunny day and feel awesome while listening to. When the vocals start, my heart absolutely melted. The story is about having the “monsters” creeping back in and sensing that it’s having an effect on whatever is happening in the story pushing the storyteller to feel compelled to leave. It’s something that is so relatable and so real. I agree with Ken. This was a strong start to the album that kept me thinking well after the track ended.
Ken- This song transports me to a place. The image where this conversation takes place Then those drums take a marching cadence and build “There is no substitute for love, no feeling tell me when you’ve had enough” This is a great song for showing the synthesis Empathy Test achieves. Pulling from familiar sounds that are far from each other and blending them in ration to create a fresh idea.
Damien– The beginning of this song is downright ominous. The ebb and flow of the synths and drums take me to a dark place emotionally when it comes to love. This track reminds me of times when I’ve been upset with a lover and felt confrontational about it. Somehow still lusting for them despite the agony they were putting me through. Desperate to resolve conflict find a passionate embrace but not being satiated or satisfied.
Katy – I love this track. Ken said it best. When you listen to it, you’ll be transplanted to a place and tells a story with its instrumentation alone. The drums start as a march guiding you to a lonely sounding chorus. When the drums come back in during the second verse, they have a tribal feel that made me feel like I wanted to dance with my entire body at a rave. I kept having this mental music video playing those drums would kick of sweat and fire and strobes. I love it.
Ken– I love when a song tells me a story. This track feels so full of narrative. The vocal lines stack on top of each other expertly. The continuous synths ringing like bells to create movement. This track is a gentler one pulling back the tension.
Damien – I love the slow build of this song. I can honestly feel the animosity build slowly through vocal delivery and the urgency of the drums. As The Duchess already commented on, this song very clearly tells a story. It’s a story of scorn, lament, and anguish. Lyrically it feels like narrator was used and through the course of this song is slowly beginning to realize it but they’re not the type to just let it go.
Katy – This song is incredibly visual with the lyrics and the story is haunting. Instrumentally, the song is perfectly orchestrated to carry the story along. It’s mostly minor with arpeggiators adding to the rhythm that conveys loss and obsession. The drums and rhythmic synths gave me nervous energy. I felt tense, but not uncomfortable.
Ken – Sweeping gentle builder that resonates waves until the vocals fill the space breathing and warm. Asking to be obliterated and made new like a phoenix. I like how it never stops growing, just expanding and becoming larger.
Damien – This song has a more sunny disposition. It is very aptly titled as the song begins slowly and blossoms. The way the vocals are delivered, particularly when she sings “consume me” leave me longing to be devoured with affection. The hook is downright intoxicating. I love how the last chorus builds into an absolutely mega instrumental section and then slowly lets you go at the end. It’s done in a way that makes you want to listen to the track all over again.
Katy – This song makes me swoon. This track is uplifting from beginning to end. It keeps building into this huge, beautiful, orchestral piece until it ends. I loved this track because it’s chorus is such a great hook with such a positive feeling behind it. The way it’s sung is enough to keep it stuck in your head for days, but the words won’t be escaping my mind anytime soon.
Ken – I try not to do too much comparison to past bands. However this track in particular has such a vibe of Radiohead “The Bends” which I consider one of the most important of the 90’s. Not so much the sound, although there is a bit of that. It’s the soul, the isolation, and the introspection. Capturing that very human aspect of being more than one thing at a time. It lends an honestly to the song. The insecurity, blended with a courage. This was the track for me I just couldn’t let go of. Maybe it speaks to my current isolation.
Damien – The open progression to this song is absolutely gorgeous. The drums are a constant thumping rhythm that cascade beautifully with the lyrics until that subtle rest when the song transitions. The way the instrumentation drops out in this song in sections really make it feel absolutely epic. It builds slowly until a climax at the end and fades out beautifully.
Katy – This song makes me think of a dreamy place with 60’s go-go dancers. The synths are light and airy, but the drums make you want to dance. It made me feel like I was at a party in a cloud. The vocals have a kind of romance behind them, but convey a relatable story about having a hard time in your own skin. I love it when songs have a feeling that leans one way, but vocals that tell a story that makes you feel the opposite when you really hear them.
Ken – Not sure if everyone feels this way, to me, writing a genuine love song is the hardest thing to do. To not sound cheesy, or forced. The beauty of this track is striking. It really seems to dance on the edge of the razor to pull it off. Plus it’s such a pretty song.
Damien – The first word I can think of with the starting feel to this track is sultry. It elicits low-light imagery of two slightly sweaty bodies eager to get lost in each other. Lyrically, this one seriously hit me in the feels. I’m always a zero to ninety when it comes to matters of the heart. Without question this song absolutely nails the feeling you get when your soul cosmically binds with another. There’s a twinge of melancholy in the track that leads me to feel that this is just as much about losing that love as it is experiencing it. Sheer perfection.
Katy – This song starts and has a sexy vibe to it. This dream-pop song is a banger with a slower tempo and an overall blissful atmosphere. The synths and drums provide an optimistic feeling behind a heavier underlying theme. Though the song isn’t meant to be sad, it feels very much like a direct message to someone saying that love moves. It chooses a pace and moves forward, it changes locations, and sometimes… it changes its intent.
Ken – I’m pretty staggered by this record. I listen to so much dark music now a days and this whole record felt fresh. It’s expertly done from a production stand point. That’s not what really sold it for me. It’s the song writing. I really feel like you could play these songs in any style imaginable and they would stand up. In a world broken down into tiny boxes and genres, these are just good songs. So i feel pretty confident saying no matter what your preferred sound, you need this record.
Damien – I’m absolutely shook. Every so often I get hit with a record that just feels important. The last time I felt this with a record was with the Japandroids “Celebration Rock” in 2012. That is of course, not counting every Noel Gallagher release that makes me feel that way. This is going to be my top contender for album of the year. You can feel every track. Everything sounds amazing throughout the whole record and you can tell that this is an artist’s labor of love.
Katy – It’s hard not to get hypnotized by this album. I can’t tell you which track is my favorite because I can’t choose. There were so many aspects of this album that I really enjoyed. I’m a sucker for a good synth-based dream-pop album, but this album is like the gold standard for the genre.