Interview with a Komrad

Komrads: The one man industrial crusade led by Zachary Burnett hailing from Rochester,NY recently signed to Negative Gain Productions and is not wasting any time. August 20th will see the release of the album “The Wolf”, the follow-up to 2018`s self-released “Resistor”.

I`ve trudged through the debris of broken analog synthesizers, drum machines and ash to find front-man/leader of the revolution, Zachary Burnett and interrogate him about his latest collection of machine-driven hymns and the Komrads agenda.

Let`s start off with something fairly simple, what is the origin of the name Komrads

I picked the name for a couple reasons.  The main inspiration was Waynes World 2 when Wayne holds a fundraiser at a Soviet Union themed club called Comrades to raise money for Waynestock.  I changed the spelling because if Korn could do it then why can’t I?  Also it’s a gender neutral pronoun, an all inclusive term.  When you’re at a Komrads show, we’re all comrades.

You started out as a full band and eventually ended up as a solo project which seems to be the opposite of how things go in this scene with bands often started as a solo thing and evolving into a full band later on, how do you think you`ve benefited from this move?

The main reason I went solo was because of the relentless touring schedule I was working up toMy previous band members, Jesse Halstead and Joe Sexton, we’re great sports and I couldn’t have gotten this project rolling without them.  But life happens and spending months on the road with an unsteady income is less than appealing to most sane people understandably.  The biggest benefit of being solo is I have little to no overhead cost and if I wanna pull over and go to Starbucks for the third time that day there’s no one to argue with.

Your new album “The Wolf” shows great musical range, opening track “Crossfire” setting the tone with it`s doomsday sound design, “Exile” showcasing the rock/metal influence and “The Cure” seemingly living in between post punk and industrial. To what do you attribute this seamless slithering between the worlds?

It’s mostly to keep things interesting for myself.  I’m a fan of all genres within the “Goth” realm and I love to pick elements of each and mash them together.  Sometimes it turns out great, other times not so much.  I started this project without really picking a direction to point myself fully at.  It’s definitely been an experimental journey trying to figure out exactly what Komrads is to me.  With this album I’ve found a lot more confidence in what I want this project to sound like.

This is your first time operating within the industrial borders [or lack-thereof] what made you wanna go this route? What about the industrial concept so to speak was it that attracted you to it?

What really pushed me into this territory was the fun factor.  Maybe not a whole lot of people think of the word “fun” when they hear industrial.  I’ve been drifting back and forth between the post punk/darkwave and industrial realms for a few years.  After touring with Skold and opening for Pigface, Suicide Commando, and Psyclon Nine I found myself enjoying the energy output at those shows more and more.  It seems more fitting for me to pursue that route given I already instinctively have an angsty, aggressive approach when I produce electronic music.  So diving deeper into Industrial just seemed like the next logical step for me.

Komrads – The Wolf

The wolf as a symbol is found throughout time in nearly every culture, which interpretation, if any, influenced the album to the point of choosing it as its title?

I chose to name the album after the track I had titled The Wolf.  It was the last song I had written for the album and it’s deeply personal about my resentment and outright hatred for someone close to my immediate family.  I won’t go into details about this specific person but due to a series of events over the course of many years, this persons involvement within my family has left me sort of cast out, a lone wolf you might say.  

Who is responseable for the albums artwork and what was the idea behind it?

I was scrolling through my Instagram feed as I often do and I came across this outrageously badass drawing of my favorite Pokémon (Haunter). I immediately followed Keith West/HangxFang after checking out the rest of their work. I asked if they could draw up something for me with a Wolf as the focal point in a cemetery of sorts and barely a week later I’m looking at what would become my album cover. I’m planning on working with this artist again and I highly recommend them. Very friendly and fast turnaround for quality work.

The music of Komrads is largely built on hardware equipment and heavy use of sampling, was this a conscious decision? Why not simply open Fruity Loops and program up a beat or two?

I guess you could say it was a conscious decision to use hardware instruments as opposed to software.  I played guitar in punk and metal bands for years, some drums too so having a hands on approach just made more sense to me.  I want to physically feel the instruments I’m playing, twist the knobs and push the pads myself.  Maybe my performance will be less precise and limited but that brings me back to the fun factor.  Physically hammering on MPC pads and dialing in the synths and drums as they’re looping brings me a lot of joy that I don’t feel when just sitting in front of a computer screen.  My DAW is largely just a means to record the outputs of my gear.

On the topic of equipment, which piece of gear would you say was essential to the creation of this album and why?

I couldn’t have made this record without my Akai MPC 2500.  That is the key to all of my operations for this project.  I’ve compiled tons of samples on it and I love the workflow.  Aside from that I heavily used a Roland SE-02 and Korg Minilogue and often ran them through an Industrialectric Incinerator silicon fuzz pedal.  I practically made those synths scream and chug like guitars.

You`ve played a fair amount of shows and tours, opened for several well known acts within the scene and have a tour of your own coming up in October. Being a solo act how do you go about translating the music for the stage? Do you have a live line-up with you and if so, who does it consist of currently?

As of right now I perform solo live as well.  I used to bring all of my gear with me and that became a massive headache.  Now I have a minimalist rig put together so I can get on and off of stage in less than five minutes to make way for the other acts.  I run backing tracks, several pedals I process my vocals through, and a synth or two for some extra flair and performance.  I also supply and operate my own lighting rig.  I’ve spent countless hours dialing in lights that bring a lot of movement and life to my stage performance.

Having a consistent flow of releases whether it be stand alone singles, EP`s or whatever else, what do you have planned after the album drops?

I have a couple things in the early stages of planning but nothing set in stone.  I am planning on releasing remixes off of this album in one form or another.  I also have plans to collaborate with a few other artists but I won’t be divulging any further information on that at this time.  I’m lending my vocals for a few features that will be out late this year or early next year as well.

Blind [Single from The Wolf]

As you know, Sounds & Shadows is all about supporting smaller artists/bands from around the globe. Who are some of the current underground acts you`re into these days that you`d want our readers to check out?

STCLVR (pronounced Street Cleaver) is easily one of my favorite underground acts in the scene right now.  They’re a solo industrial artist based out of Jamestown, NY.  They slam out releases quickly one after another lately and each one blows me away.  I highly recommend checking them out if you’re into harsh industrial.  Some other favorites I highly recommend are 6th Circle, Bustie‘, and The Russian White.  All three of those acts vastly differ from each other but they’re all among my favorites that I think deserve a little more credit

When industrial was but a foetus [pun intended ; ) ] there was various political as well as spiritual and occult ideologies tied in to the music whether that be in terms of the creators outlook or the methods and equipment used to record said music, while this seems to have taken the back-seat in the modern era in favour of the more club-friendly interpretations of the genre I`d wanna know if the ways of old has any influence on how you create, think about and execute your art?

I think a lot of the original and older acts in the Industrial genre had no intentions of receiving club play.  I don’t set out to write music with a political agenda but sometimes, and more so especially on this record, that’s exactly what happens.  When I’m not yelling about my personal feelings my anger/grief usually finds itself pointed at political issues.  I do appreciate when my music is played in clubs and I do strive to write hooks now and then but I’m writing this music to build a connection with an audience.  I’m of course influenced by the likes of Skinny Puppy, NIN and Ministry, but I want to take that influence and combine it with everything else that makes me who I am, and put it out there as something new and fresh.

Find Komrads on the following pages

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/komradsofficial

Bandcamp: https://komrads.bandcamp.com/

Negative Gain Productions: https://negativegain.com/

New album ” The Wolf ” out August 20th 2021

Because the World is Cruel, and Promises Get Broken

It was a long hard week for me. Time to lose myself in someone else’s head. Who are the songs transporting me to another place?

FIRESChangeling – New single from Aedrea. The title here really tells the story. Such a bold metamorphic shift in sound. In particular the vocals have this wispy Chelsea Wolfe quality full of fairy fire flickering promise. The music is a shifting fantasia, almost an entire film score journey in five minutes. Tender raindrop keys, crushing storm front guitars, and bisecting buzzsaw percussion. A cacophony of sound and beauty. As an added bonus it contains a Bside called “exit/Void” with a spoken word poem surrounded by sinister overtones. Another glorious example of the captivating burning mind.

https://firesae.bandcamp.com/album/changeling

hallowed heartsRuins – NYC’s Hallowed Heart have a new 5 track EP. I love the opening concept of ruins. The things we left behind. The memory of who we were for future strangers to find and wonder at. These are not songs for the dance club. An energetic medium tempo darkwave for walking the dark streets. Pulling the collar of your coat up to stave off a bracing wind. A grey and bleak musical tone offset by the courage of Alex Virlios vocals that cover a wide range and spew forth challenge to cast light on the sullen path.

https://hallowedhearts.bandcamp.com/album/ruins

Stand Out Tracks:

Supernova – A lovely beckoning open with locomotive punching guitar sounds. Virkios vocals start by painting a rich baritone at home in the post punk style, but then crackle with energy for the chorus. I loved the punch and diversity of sound here. Real feelings of introspection and self discovery.

Circle – Beautiful firefly rising ballad to break the pace of the EP. I love the way the guitar lines push forward and guide the voice here. It’s a beautiful and maudlin song of spiritual longing. Two minutes in the ballad takes on real power and teeth.

Overall: This is an album that takes you to very specific moments and paints a picture in the mind. It’s a journey worth taking and a moment worth looking for.

IAMTHESHADOWEverything in this Nothingness [Still] – I have waiting long for this release on Cold Transmission Music. A re-release of the Portuguese darkwave darlings debut 2016 album. Pedro and company have been tantalizing fans with rich passionate heart bursting serenades. Getting to return to the opening stanza of their journey and combining it with the years of experience and musical wisdom is an experience to waken the ears and minds of their fans. The music is a crystal pool of water on an autumn night. Beautiful, bracing, and teeming with life. I’m going to now repeat a sentence I have uttered in every Iamtheshadow review I have written. “Pedro Code has the best baritone voice in modern goth/darkwave.” It is a force of nature that moves the heart like a poem by one of the great masters.

https://iamtheshadow.bandcamp.com/album/everything-in-this-nothingness-still

Stand Out Tracks: Every Freaking Song

Wait, thats not all. In addition to the album, they released a companion remix album and it is such a brilliant homage by some of the top artists in the scene….and me 🙂 It Includes Kill Shelter, Thewalkingicon, Antipole, Crying Vessel, The Frozen Autumn, and yes Amaranth.

https://iamtheshadow.bandcamp.com/album/everything-in-this-nothingness-remixed

I think what was so impressive with this was the extreme level of talent, as well as a deep personal admiration everyone involved had for Iamtheshadow. There is nothing more engaging for a remix album than when you can really hear a reimagining full of love for the source material. I’ll be selfish for a moment and say getting to sing a duet with Pedro was a dream come true and a terrifying challenge. Collin did a masterful job remixing the song as well. Again hard to choose a standout track, because every song was a passionate love letter to an artist we deeply respect.

White CauldronNine Hells – Wicked release from last year that somehow fell through the cracks on me. The nearby Colombus Ohio band is really hard to place in a box. Sharp spinning blades of Industrial, clashing with jittering witchouse, textural keyboards, and a coven choir of misty swirling vocals. Throwing so many elements together could cause you to be lost in the miasma, but the mix is precise and razor blended to let every element find a voice. I’m not sure how many members the band has beyond Bess but the ultimate power of the release is that feeling of 20 clashing minds swirling around and finding focus like a spectral eruption in a cemetery.

https://whitecauldron.bandcamp.com/album/nine-hells

Stand Out tracks:

Empty Tomb: This song is the cacophony at it’s best. The overlapping harmonies ranging from Nu Metal spitting to banshee haunt wails are a powerful and unnerving effect I found myself captivated by.

Die This Death: This opening bassline has such a filthy stank on it. It rises and grooves like a buzzing swamp consuming a corpse. The rapped out vocals almost put me in mind of Cypress Hill. Just such a unique and conjured ritual of darkness and decay.

Overall: This is a complex listen for all it’s parts. It often rides the line between background chill and chaos dance mix. With everything going on I found myself constantly surprised how easy it was to get lost in the flow of it. I want to take this ride again.

Astari NitePocket Full of Posies – Look if Astari Nite has a new single, I am here for it. That said, holy crap this is a jam. An enchanting garden of mythic colors and romantic poetry. It bounces between complex layers and stripped down emotional delivery. The vocals are that beautiful teardrop smooth Robert Smith croon which makes my heart well. This band continues to impress with every release.

https://astarinitengp.bandcamp.com/album/pocket-full-of-posies

Sounds and Shadows Podcast

Our podcasts have been really improving. Having interviews that are a real conversation with some of the artists I love and give all their fans a feeling of knowing them on a personal level. I wanted to compile them all in one place that give you the opportunity to find and enjoy them.

2/25/21 Grabyourface – Talented French artists Marie Dragontown on Negative Gain. Talking about their breakthrough album Sea, France, and their favorite pizza.

https://grabyourfacengp.bandcamp.com/

2/19/21 Tear Down The Wall discussion with Russ Robinson (Infectious Groves Podcast) and Dan Milligan (The Joy Thieves). Here we discuss the charity compilation of Industrial artists put out by Riveting Records in Colorado that has a cover version of every song on Pink Floyd‘s iconic album “The Wall

https://rivetingmusic4u.bandcamp.com/album/tear-down-the-walls

2/5/21 Programable Animal – Here we talk with Dropsea of the Chicago based industrial band. We talk about their vision and experience creating One Step to Hell on Negative Gain.

https://programmableanimalngp.bandcamp.com/album/one-step-to-hell

1/29/21 The Blue Hour – Video Premier of their song “Cold Bare” Also how they met and found love in the most amazing meet cute story of Sounds and Shadows history.

https://thebluehour.bandcamp.com/album/cold-bare

1/27/21 Matt Fanale of Caustic/ Klack – Talking about his projects, history, and balancing home life, Industrial Gossip, and rock stardom.

https://klack.bandcamp.com/album/deklacked-vol-1

12/22/2020 Rodney Orpheus from The Cassandra Complex – Amazing interview with one of the godfathers of goth. Telling stories of meeting Andrew Eldrich, their new album, predicting the attack on our Capital, and the past and present of Goth.

https://thecassandracomplex.bandcamp.com/track/the-crown-lies-heavy-on-the-king

12/14/20 Interview with Der Prosector – Talking about punk rock, Armilyte Records, British Premier League, and the power of curry.

https://derprosector.bandcamp.com/

12/7/20 Reaction to “Love U More” video by Actors

https://actors.bandcamp.com/track/love-u-more

12/2/20 Reaction Video to My Chemical Romance – We tried catching up on the emo classic and give thoughts as elder goths hearing MCR for the first time.

11/18/20 Raymond Watts <PIG> – Talks about his newest album Pain is God, his history, addition, and production techniques.

https://pigindustries.bandcamp.com/

10/17/20 Interview with Vazum – Talk about the Detroit scene, their Halloween album, influences, and collecting dead things.

https://vazum.bandcamp.com/

9/28/20 Interview with Caroline Blind of Sunshine Blind – Amazing interview discussing goth history, family, her new album, and breaking ground in the goth scene.

https://carolineblind.bandcamp.com/album/the-spell-between

8/14/20 Interview with Bootblacks – Talking about their new album, where Panthers name came from, touring, and working with Jason Corbet.

https://bootblacks.bandcamp.com/album/thin-skies

7/23/20 Interview with Crying Vessel – Talk about the new album, video production, horror movies, and working with Dean Garcia of Curve.

https://cryingvessel.bandcamp.com/album/pleasures-for-the-wicked

6/25/20 Interview with Dogtablet Martin King (Test Dept) and Jared Louche (Chemlab) – Where they discuss history on the road, their song writing, snowball fights with Trent Reznor, Jared’s Shoes, and rescuing dogs.

https://dogtablet.bandcamp.com/album/feathers-skin

5/25/20 Interview with Empathy Test feat. Isaac Howlett, Chrisy Lopez, and Oliver Marson – We discuss films, their groundbreaking album Monsters, futbal, how Ollie is a stalker and potential murderer.

https://empathy-test.bandcamp.com/album/monsters-expanded

5/20/20 Interview with Suzy and Andy of Cold Transmission records – About building the label and being a family in the modern music scene.

5/17/20 Interview with Pedro Code of IAMTHESHADOW – Our first video interview to discuss Pitchblack, song writing, Love, passion, and life in Portugal.

https://iamtheshadow.bandcamp.com/album/pitchblack-2

The First Reviews of 2021

We are really excited by the success of our new Sounds and Shadows Facebook group. It has sent a ton of amazing new January releases for me to go through. This last year has given us a lot of great music but also a lot of anxiety. Lets hope 2021 is more focused on the first.

Push Button Press – Black Swan – This is a long awaited album from our friend Jim Walker and Cold Transmission record. The title really sets the tone for an amazing artist which has been a bit misunderstood and on the fringe. Writing music that was visionary and a bit progressive for some audiences. Right from track one The End of Time we are pressing our foot steady on the gas and gaining speed with clarity and purpose. I am feeling a lot of smooth spreading bassline and Jim has a stabbing staccato.That blend calls to mind early Psychedelic Furs. I think the thing that strikes me most in track 2 Trace are the crisp and driving drum beats. It really adds a powerful element of rock to the post punk concept. Title track 6 Black Swan lays open the the heart of the band. For every truth there is a black swan. The transitions here are so abrupt but maintain a silky smoothness that create constant motion. The guitar work here has a lot of early punk elements with heavy rhythm guitars. It feels like jumping across fast moving water from stone to stone. Always a sense of danger and concentration.

Jim’s voice is always just barely above the water of the mix and it lends a clarity to his words and allow the well written lyrics shine. Darkwave/Postpunk music is desperately in need of meaningful lyrics and Black Swan delivers. Although it is early in the year I expect this album will remain in my thoughts when it comes time to write best albums of 2021.

https://pushbuttonpress1.bandcamp.com/

Jay Draper & The SubterraneansBehind The Night – This album was sent to me courtesy of my friend Ryan Clark in Toronto. It features a slew of talented collaborators like Ian Revell (Double Eyelid), Paul Mercer (The Changelings) and Faith and the Muse. With all that talent what really makes this record jump out is the piercing glam rich voice of Jay Draper. The level of razzmatazz pizzazz is glorious to behold. Jay truly understands the emotional bandwidth of Dave Vanian and Brian Eno with laser lightshow blazing colors issuing forth in a rainbow. Belly of the Beast opens the album with a powerful build of a crooning pied piper leading you through the streets of a broken city. Such an immersive tapestry of expression with both voice and verse. Track 4 Land of Anxiety has this wonderful bouncing bassline and swelling keys while Drapers cadence is breathy and and happens in great leaps until the chorus explodes in a choir of ecstatic beauty. The album closes with You Must Be Mad, the operettic conclusion with a lovely synthwave power of Yaz Upstairs at Eric’s. I fell in love with the expansive growing journey of this album as I felt it sink through my skin into my bones. I think it would be easy for this record to go over the top, but for me, I found myself wanting to leap over that line and trust in Jay to take me to a fantastical place. I highly recommend you do the same. Releases on February 5th but one track is available on bandcamp now for preview.

https://jaydraperandthesubterraneans.bandcamp.com/album/behind-the-night

Antipole – MarbleNew EP just dropped from the post punk King of Norway Karl Morton Dahl. Antipole still holds the distinction of being our most reviewed band and it just keeps finding a new space. This album opens with the title track and frequent collaborator Paris Alexander of (Blue Door Productions) Marble and it is an absolute journey of a song. I really feel like I am in a giant glass bubble rolling down a mountain, across a snowy field, along a craggy beach. Karl is a wizard with overlaid texture guitars and does so much imagery with them alone. Paris has a deep resonant voice that leads you through your travels. The song also includes a remix by Molchat Doma that turns this post punk standard into a dance club jam. Song 3 Narcissus is a darker reflection with warm bass tones and Paris singing from deeper in the mix in a wispy haunting plea. I think Rachel told me that it all just sounds pleasant. In a good way, I just feel like these songs would improve almost any experience. Karl is a true master of putting everything in it’s proper place. I do think this is the furthest he has strayed from the older post punk sound and I love the bracing new direction. Another Antipole, another hit.

I’m going to start adding in my thoughts about album covers. I think this one really matches the sound. It’s a variance of dark color with sharp technique and open space.

https://antipole.bandcamp.com/album/marble

Wandering StarsSomnambule – This is a band close to home in Ohio. It includes Joy Thieves member Derek Christopher. I immediately fell in love with with the jazzy trip hop flowing style. This isn’t a club thumping album, it’s a subtler more exclusive bar where you had to go down the back stairs and through a steel door to reach rich wood and velvet curtains. The duet vocals calling back and forth between Christopher and Lydia Brownfield are a perfect blend. He is smooth and resonant. She is sultry and glamourous. It has an amazing range of styles and elements. The album title means sleepwalker and that’s the journey it takes you on. Skipping from dream to dream. Opening with Anamnesis a flow down the 99 steps of deeper dreaming with the duet on full display and a lovely organic piano line. Track 4 Nina Bobok is this beautifully delivered ballad where Derek opens on this exposed and gently delivered plea. The subtle touch of violin really adds texture. Lydia comes in warm and shining. So many twists and turns they create with the always changing cadence. It’s one of those rare examples that you hear the genuine caring between the members. I’m definitely going to continue enjoying this and dig through the back catalog.

Love the cool steampunk metal work burned into parchment. A message just barely visible underneath. I think that speaks well to the layers present here.

https://wanderingstars.bandcamp.com/album/somnambule

Programmable AnimalOne Step to Hell – Unmistakable quality and execution from Chicago glam industrial Anthony Wonaitis now on Negative Gain. Sean Beavan (Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, Slayer, 3TEETH, & No Doubt) has done an expert job mixing these large crashing emotions into a pristine balance. One Step To Hell explodes out of the gate with crashing drums and buzzing electrical texture. Wonaitis has a sensual vocal charisma which croons you towards him and then blasts you with a growling scream. This is the part in the movie where the hero stares out at a dark city from a vacant rooftop. Track 4 Sunset has a furious guitar lead that impacts your chest. Grungy Stabbing Westward/ Machines of Loving Grace vibe. I was really drawn in by the fresh glamourgrunge take on Industrial rock and the piercing clarity of message. The next time I need to drive through a city on my way to make an entrance this is my soundtrack.

Wow this is wicked AF. The sharp edges and dragon chasing it’s tale. A striking and terrifying future view.

https://programmableanimalngp.bandcamp.com/album/one-step-to-hell

Please follow our page and leave comments of who you would like to see us review in the future.

Sounds and Shadows Top Postpunk/Synthwave/Darkpop albums of 2020

Part 3 of this series might have been the toughest to write. There was such a wealth of great new albums in this genre I found myself at a loss to pick and choose my favorites. However tough choices need to get made. These are all records released in 2020 and not singles. I feel like everyone on this list did something very profound.

Black Rose Burning – Open the Gates – George Grant is doing amazing things using stripped down elements of dark post punk concepts. His voice has this scintillating David Bryne expressive lilt. It harnesses such energy with an acoustic guitar and a percussive gate. It’s romantic, not like a relationship, but the way Star Trek is romantic about the love of stars and exploration. I find myself constantly lost in the beauty of it.

https://blackroseburning.bandcamp.com/album/open-the-gate

SceniusEnough Fears – I found this album at the very end of the year but I have a feeling this will be on my heavy rotation the next few months. The Leeds band is a bending maze of emotion and turns that I found myself deeply immersed in. The vocals from Fab Nau were so original and cutting. Perfect dark trance resonance and endless builds. This is a band I will be paying close attention to in 2021. I feel the beginning of something beautiful starting.

https://scenius.bandcamp.com/album/enough-fears

Vlimmer – XIIIIIIII – This series of albums reaches it’s conclusion in glorious and staggering fashion. Alexander Donat has an amazing gift to take emotion and transfer it into sound seamlessly. Taking a tiny burning ember of idea and gentle blowing on that fire until it swells into a blaze. Truly a criminally underrated talent in modern artistic expression through sound.

https://blackjackilluministrecords.bandcamp.com/album/xiiiiiiii-18

White Mansion – Human – Arkansas brings us this strong front to back traditional post punk. I love the bold transitions here and open air vocals. I think the name Human was perfect for this record because it is all about relationships. You can really follow the story. It’s organic, full of heart, and makes a connection.

https://whitemansion.bandcamp.com/album/human

The Secret French Post Cards – Colors – More glorious post punk darkness this time mixed and mastered by Pedro Code (Iamtheshadow). This record is so understated and comes at you in subtle ways. Olli Ohlander has a ringing and smoky delivery that chews up scenery like a master actor. Blended reverb and echo makes the guitar build tension that pulls you into the moment. Paint a picture in your mind with this record. Another Cold Transmission band.

https://thesecretfrenchpostcards.bandcamp.com/album/colours-2

Danny Blu – The Pale Horse – Crackling energy and neck grabbing hooks from NYC. Personal soul threaded into club kid sleek trance. This record is everything cool I want to give off. The smoky saxophone trills add a beautiful contrast note. The cadence they lyrics are delivered with are an extra percussion and rhythm. It leaves me longing for more.

https://dannyblu.bandcamp.com/album/the-pale-horse

Elz and the Cult – Bloodlines – Elz is one of those beautiful and unique humans that takes their internal light and bleeds it into every track they make. It has such a genuine and soulful flavor which modern darkpop is so hungry for. It is a record of personal intensity that stands out in the landscape. A true gamechanger record that everyone should experience. On Cold Transmission Music.

https://elzandthecult.bandcamp.com/album/bloodline

Korine – The Night We Raise – Philly based band that is taking the scene by storm for good reason. They have such a glamourous beauty. While the lyrics are full of edge and venom. They truly have mastered the idea of taking two things you wouldn’t think would make sense together and then synthesizing it perfectly. It’s elegant, profound, and makes you feel like you are on the inside of secret. Also it has that glorious shake that ass factor. You will dance to this record all night long. On Born Loser Records now.

https://korine.bandcamp.com/album/the-night-we-raise

Panic Priest – Second Seduction – Chicago based Jack Armondo finds himself once again on my albums of the year. This sophomore album uses his rich and powerful baritone to great effect but softens the edges of the guitars in the first album. Putting the synths forward really captures the neon industrial aspects of his city. I love the way he captured the concept of isolation in the middle of a populated concrete jungle that became so relevant to us all in 2020. An impressive offering both in connection and execution on Negative Gain Records.

https://panicpriestngp.bandcamp.com/album/second-seduction

Soft Kill – Dead Kids R.I.P. City – Portland postwave glory with gorgeous and rich vocals and rainy flowing waves of synth sound. This record is so efficient and full of intention. This is one of those records it’s never a bad time for. It has that voice of a generation The Smiths sound but with a speed and energy of the modern era.

https://anopendoor.bandcamp.com/album/dead-kids-r-i-p-city

Idles – Ultra Mono – I love this album for the punk side of post punk. It’s intelligent, political, smash your fucking teeth in complex blasting rock. It has the true core of Fugazi. I wasn’t quite sure where to put this under but it belongs on some list.

https://idlesband.bandcamp.com/album/ultra-mono

Kiss of the Whip – We’re Not Here – Baltimore is doing some amazing things in the current scene and KOTW are near the top of that list. There is an amazing feeling when someone has such a wizardry of an instrument that it transcends and lefts everything in the song around it. That’s how I feel when Tristan Victor plays keyboards. The wide open textures and landscapes that flow through your mind at razor speed. His melodic whisper growl vocals really draw you in and let those complex synth changes do their work. I continue to be impressed with every new growth.

https://kissofthewhip.bandcamp.com/album/were-not-here

Spectres – Nostalgia – Sometimes I want a record that really pushes the edges of a genre. Sometimes I take comfort in bands that do a familiar sound with perfect execution. This album is so full of feelings that transport me back. Each song is original and new but the pallet of colors is brilliant with New Order, The Smiths, Echo and the Bunnymen. The heartfelt homage to the music I grew up on cleaned and washed and sent straight to my heartstrings.

https://spectresvancouver.bandcamp.com/album/nostalgia

Loveblind – Sleeping Visions – What happens when a traditionally shoegaze label like Saint Marie Records puts together a superband of Shoegaze talent to make a darkpop album. In this case what happens is one of the most textural beautiful records of the year. Dorian Electique has a stunning and haunting vocal quality that floats on the waves of slushy wave crash guitars and striking drum beats. Every time I play this record I picture silk scarves flowing in my wake. it just makes life a little more beautiful.

https://saintmarierecords.bandcamp.com/album/sleeping-visions

Black Nail Caberet – God’s Verging On Sanity – This band from Hungary has been on my constant playlist. They had an album in my top list of 2019 as well. I love that they don’t sit idle and instead explore a new aspect of darkpop. Emese has a remarkable strength and depth to her voice that reminds me of Annie Lennox. The dance beats are a force to be reckoned with and are like a shot of energy in the arm. When I need to find a little something extra within myself this is the record I reach for.

https://blacknailcabaret.bandcamp.com/album/gods-verging-on-sanity

Algiers – There is No Year – If you have never witnessed Algiers live, once the world reopens that should be the top of your to do list. They are the best live show I have seen in the past 20 years. It’s breathtaking to behold. They are another band hard to put in a box in the most amazing away. Notes of Motown/Gospel/Post Punk/Electronica. It’s all thrown in the blender and spun to a smooth creamy glory. The lyrics are poignant, fresh, and delivered with a voice sorely lacking in this scene. This record is such an up and down journey through culture, injustice, and personal revelation. I really can’t stress the importance of this band enough.

https://algierstheband.bandcamp.com/album/there-is-no-year

Then Comes Silence – Machine – Swedish based dark rockers put out this album in March and I listened to it many times in it’s entirety. The single We Lose the Night is such a perfect jam it has to be my most earworm song of the year. Just walking through the world I found it constantly popping into my head. This record has what I think of as true Post Punk vibes. The bass is thunderous and driving. Vocals are enchanting and full of warm and captivating feeling. Also the track Ritual feat: Karolina Engdahl is a perfect duet to blend beauty and razor cuts. I was an instant fan for life.

https://thencomessilence.bandcamp.com/album/machine

Bootblacks – Thin Skies – NYC post punk stars took a giant leap forward in their evolution for this album. It truly takes it’s own life and direction. Adding on Jason Corbett (Actors) to chisel and magnify a sound that already had such a unique and dangerous flavor. It is sleek, mysterious, and is my number one soundtrack if I ever pull an elaborate jewel heist and car chase in the heart of New York City. I think the most magnificent part of this album is that it really took “Post Punk” someplace new. It’s easy to get hung up on nostalgia, and there is some of that here. There is also a sound so sensual and fresh. I can just smell the musk of this album. You need to feel it on your skin.

https://bootblacks.bandcamp.com/album/thin-skies

Our interview with Bootblacks

Empathy Test – Monsters – This album was my most played on bandcamp this year. I just couldn’t stop coming back to it. It holds a beauty and quality that touches on so many genres. It’s personal and full of imagery that transports you into a movie. Isaac has one of those once in a generation voices that speaks right to your heart. This record just struck a chord inside me like the first time I heard Radiohead The Bends. That feeling of dramatic intensity that makes me think of youth while the refined craftsmanship spoke to my changed perspective. This is a young band, and their potential to grow and make art on another level seems limitless.

https://empathy-test.bandcamp.com/album/monsters

Our Interview with Empathy Test