If there ever was a month in which we needed a band to give us a Network-esque “I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore” to call our own, it was April. We needed this month's best album like a guard at the gate. We desperately needed a band able to collect all our paranoias and anxieties, our angers and our cynicisms. Our mayors smoke crack and threaten liquidate our city's fine art to pay for simple public services (functioning street lights, ambulances). Our politicians get away with the same scandals that keep us glued to reality TV shows, while a celebrity tabloid scandal magazine rests in our laps. It's a goddamned carnival freak show out there and it's making decisions that affect us now, affect us for generations to come. When it feels like the very idea of innoncence is as real as a unicorn, that's when we need bands like Protomartyr most. As smart as they are brutal, Protomartyr spoon fed those leaders of men their own shit jargon back into their baby mouths by reappropriating “under the color of official right” to suit a public need rather than a slippery weasel's safety net. They wrapped it into a post punk dirge without being too idealistic, still responsible enough to remind us this never was supposed to be a fairy tale. And then they ate brunch like the rest of us.
The Best Album of April 2014:
In this spirit of enduring futility comes Protomartyr’s Under Color of Official Right, a desperate, invigorating paen to resistance against our everyday demons: “Greedy bastards, rank amateur professionals, gluten fascists… recent memories,” and “terrible bartenders.” These are all on singer Joe Casey’s list for extermination in “Tarpeian Rock,” a dissonant jag named after a cliff in ancient Rome used to execute criminals and liars. Casey’s voice is a unique brand of everyman bark, the unmistakable shout of your neighbor cutting through the picket fence. It’s also remarkably versatile. The band can squint at The Spits or echo The Fall, and they also share style with their peers Tyvek. Protomartyr is exceptionally skilled at draping the starker edges of punk over pop hooks, and guitarist Greg Ahee can linger on a shimmering, solitary minor chord just enough to make Paul Banks choke.
Still, the band’s true enemy feels like cynicism. Protomartyr shouts “Stay, illusion!” not because they want it banished, but because the illusion is all we have. Live it while you can. After all, as Casey reminds us in the album's closer “I’ll Take That Applause,” there’s “nothing ever after.”
For more Protomartyr coverage read our interview here.
The Best Music of April (in no particular order):
Pure X embodies the very euphoria of the substance their name evokes through their work, which often oscillates between gentle swathes of noise and woozy vocals. The band has mentioned that the appeal is the blankness, yet through their work the quartet animates a vivacious spirit of love. The Austin-based band conceptually explores opening up one's heart in their latest record, Angel, a documentation of falling madly and deeply for someone, and what that process might entail
There’s a ferocity that runs through Histrionic that lays defiant claim to the titular adjective, a term disproportionately aimed at women, and often at female vocal performances. Along with the increasingly dance-oriented music, this implicit idea strengthens a symbolic lineage between Juur and other lo-fi disco chanteuses like Cristina, who presented a vaguely satirical, intellectualized version of the pop diva image.
The whole this-band-sounds-a-lot-like-Pavement thing seems to be way too prevalent in music writing today (especially in regard to any band that sounds remotely influenced by 90s music), but that familiar sense of wry, unenthusiastic irony droops its lazy head all over Doubting Thomas Cruise Control’s new cassette.
Punishing drums blanketed by white hot noise, drum machines and unlikely breakdowns, blood-curdling screams are all seamlessly orchestrated to create something that is beyond genre, which is just what The Body were going for.
For more on The Body read our interview with Lee Buford here.
The Thirteen Kisses Cassetta sees Hanes coming into his own as a composer; it’s a beautiful collection of pieces inspired by 60s and 70s Italian film scores. Think the aural aesthetic of Spaghetti Westerns, Commedia all’italiana and Giallo Slasher flicks, but reimagined through the lens of retrospect. The track featured here, “Carina Botto”, features an expressive use of strings, solo vocals à la Ennio Morricone, and jazz improvisation by way of trumpet. Hanes’ beautifully orchestrated layers evoke images of cities by night, vast desert landscapes, and the big reveal of the lead woman of the film.
As the Chipped EP progresses Herring's production gains comfort in causing a commotion in the early a.m. She's in heavy meditation throughout the EP, this is also her production at its loosest. The Chipped EP feels born of the night, darkness is a material within the composition, but Herring also must have worked until daylight crept through the blinds to cause her to allow a little light into her production.
The framework is contextualized with the easily translatable "Modern Art", envisioning The Bungles as a rap group, while the parameters in which TNC's pop punk aesthetic holds up is at the mercy of their unbridled experimentalism. On "New Shit" (co-produced by Boo Hiss), all semblence of sampled punk instrumentation is deconstructed into a rapid-firing synth beat with attention deficit disorder. The challenge of defining genre is TNC's modus operandi. The dystopian destruction of "More A Kid" featuring the doomed production of Robedoor extends the context further, proving TNC has no regard for our comfort zones and preconcieved notions. By closer "Can't Stop Loving You" idealism is dead, replaced with the Portugeuse crooning of Algodón Egipcio over a wailing post punk beat.
Pieces of Intuition & Equalibrum have trickled onto the internet in the interim via Bandcamp singles and hi-definition Youtube clips, preparing followers for a record that would show tremendous growth in both the rapper and producer. Despite the slow lead up, I&E remains a jolting record. Intuition puts up zero fronts or personas across a deeply personal record with a narrative worthy of resonating with the every-man 30 somethings, not just those who unwisely chose to enter the music industry.
Oakland's Never Young are a two-headed outfit that specialize in deflating the bubble of pop punk with artful noise, or perhaps sweeten the rampage of art punk with their bleeding hearts. Whichever suites your needs, Never Young attack their recordings as though noise and pop aesthetic are not mutually exclusive, but rather passionately involved.