Magic Omnibus | June 2015

whitereaper 75The new White Reaper album is a half hour of frenetic punk leavened with power-pop and a weird-ass sense of humor.

soak 75SOAK | Before We Forgot How to Dream (Rough Trade)

Nineteen-year-old singer-songwriter Bridie Monds-Watson dreams vividly. Recording as SOAK, Monds-Watson evokes a less strident, but no less emotionally potent Sinead O’Connor. She has much to say, and she says it seriously and with conviction. The slowly-unfolding songs on this debut album are built around shuffling and probing acoustic (but occasionally electric) guitar. Coupled with her voice (a quivering, not-forceful-but-hugely-impactful Northern Irish accented thing of mesmeric beauty), each track feels like a pre-Internet stab at communication reaching through isolation; aural zines from an attic bedroom in a Soundcloud age. “Blud” is a Spector-folk navigation of the minefield of her parents’ divorce, fitfully weathering her dissolving family’s disquietingly untethered environment. “Oh Brother” feels like standing under a sodium street light in a grayscale town, and quietly pulses with a survivor’s heartbeat, almost recalling very early U2 in their most sparse and emotionally raw moments. “B a Nobody” inches along with spare piano and quiet guitar, occasionally punctuated with cymbals—a keen musical representation of shyness. It speaks of the tentative, anxious yet emboldened young adult experience with its arresting opening lyric: “the teenage heart is an unguarded dart.” “Sea Creatures” ups the tempo slightly, gliding along on a fleshed-out arrangement, flush with strings and tympani. “Garden” passes for an upbeat number, but it’s still aching and trembling, terrified of vulnerability. Yet it’s thrilled at the prospect of something so simple yet so human as laying down next to the person you fancy in the backyard, vibrating with the beautiful terror of inexperienced desire. SOAK excels at truly giving listeners a sense of sharing her discoveries (check out the ringing “Reckless Behaviour,” full of the allure but refusal to get sunk by youthful indiscretion); discoveries that are cycles of familial discord and still-new romantic pain.

whitereaper 75White Reaper | White Reaper Does It Again (Polyvinyl)

The new White Reaper album is a half hour of frenetic punk leavened with power-pop and a weird-ass sense of humor, all lit up like a pinball table on bonus and triple ball at the same time. Positively roaring wind-sheared guitars (check out the bonkers solo in album finale “B.T.K.”) are intermittently enhanced by interesting synthesizer embellishments, like in “Wolf Trap Hotel,” “Friday the 13th,” and “Make Me Wanna Die.” Distorted vocals carry shout-along choruses and hooks that lodge in your head at first listen. The melodies and song structures often hearken back to late 1950s and early 1960s pop / proto-rock (see “On Your Mind”). White Reaper sounds as if it’s careening around blind corners while wrapped in a several-feet-thick layer of foam. White Reaper Does It Again is gleefully impervious, whip-smart, catchy as hell, and explosive.

paulweller 75Paul Weller | Saturns Pattern (Solid Bond / Parlophone / Warner)

Can we talk about what a steaming hot slice of stomping future/soul Paul Weller’s Saturns Pattern is? The overall vibe is a bit more bluesy and less electronic-influenced than 2012’s excellent Sonik Kicks. Instead, beats and squelches slide in and out of gospel and folk-tinged R&B songs with sophisticated (but never aloof) Weller-ian style and subtle beauty. Saturns Pattern continues the string of inventive songs, as well as very soulful and human “fourth act” albums he’s put out since 2008’s 22 Dreams. Paul Weller’s last seven or so years are the sound of a man who’s simultaneously comfortable with himself, rarely complacent, and forever yearning.

theamazing 75The Amazing | Picture You (Partisan)

All year long, I’ve kept coming back to Picture You, the remarkable latest offering from Swedish group The Amazing. They mix gauzy, folky indie (a la The Clientele) with stretched-out, fuzzy-yet-centered voyages of Red House Painters, and subtle fragments of delay-driven guitar and create dynamic songs that shift from shuffling whispers to arresting crescendos and back again. The band’s triple guitar setup—coupled with organ and mellotron—allows the creation of intricate webs of sound, sometimes thunderstorm-rumble loud, but sometimes soft as a gentle spring rain. Each track is a progressive journey: atmospheric, melodic, and highly textural. This makes for a record that slowly and steadily unfolds and deepens like a burgeoning friendship.

jonah 75Jonah Parzen-Johnson | Remember When Things Were Better Tomorrow (self-released)

Jonah Parzen-Johnson’s baritone sax and analog synthesiser compositions are like the echolocations of a film noir dolphin. Dissonance and drones reign in songs like “Stay There, I’ll Come To You” where he makes his sax buzz like a shoegaze. But moments of sparse (yet melodic) clarity emerge, reminiscent of the eerily calm, solitary sensation you get from walking out of a closing-time bar onto a nearly empty, rain-slicked city street. The absence of any type of accompaniment whatsoever lends the album’s meticulous pace extra drama and amplifies Parzen-Johnson’s use of negative space. The notes he does play slowly build to crests that emerge from the more silent moments. | Mike Rengel

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