Album Roundup

Music by Shannon Cleary
Issue 69 • November 2018

Featured in this roundup:
Unmaker • Firmament
Monopolyopolis • Pine
Elizabeth Owens • Coming Of Age
Piranha Rama • Piranha Rama
Kevin Knight • With Hat

Unmaker
Firmament

Richmond • October 19, 2018

While punk rock and spooky themes might seem like a match made in hell, the two have found themselves together in the trenches of defeat more than once. In the case of Unmaker’s solid debut, they harken back to the nights and spirits of Samhain, Cocteau Twins and Suicide with stellar results. Featuring members of Occultist, Large Margin, and Brief Lives, this new group has crafted the perfect soundtrack for keeping the Halloween spirit alive all fall.

Firmament is a testament to Unmaker’s undying devotion to gothic post-punk as well as understanding aesthetic balance. The ambient, stretched chords and anthemic choruses fill each track with something worthwhile and memorable. “Children of The Clouds” is understandably the lead single, and the catchiest elements of the band’s songwriting are on full display. “Through The Firmament” is the band at its most dynamic with cascading layers of contemplative gloom and restrained destruction. The whole album throws a few familiar cues towards listeners to hook them, then demolishes expectations with effervescent flares of rock grandeur that might feel right at home on early Birthday Party releases. Unmaker’s careful, yet effortless, construction of this sonic realm is a true feat. Available on cassette.

Monopolyopolis
Pine

Harrisonburg • September 27, 2018

The magic of Monopolyopolis is how much Ben Rellick is able to achieve with minimal means and an Appalachian folk mindset. To get a sense of the three-song EP Pine, imagine an acoustic John Carpenter with the ambition of Mogwai or Explosions in the Sky. It boasts sardonic song titles like “a quick thought on the way over the handlebars” and a careful instrumental arrangement: in one moment, an atmospheric vocal hum, the next, a guiding saxophone, all tied together with subdued guitar. It ends as abruptly as it begins, but Pine is a great example of musical experimentation at its most satisfying.

Elizabeth Owens
Coming Of Age

Richmond • September 8, 2018

The impetus behind the debut from songwriter Elizabeth Owens is growth that comes from transformation and improvement. Coming Of Age explores these themes on this eleven-song indie jazz rock offering. “I Long” features a musical soliloquy of Owens’s thoughts of desires and concludes with an eruption of howling guitar fuzz. “Be Better” is an honest passage that could unequivocally capture the theme of the entire record: an attempt at identifying what frightens us the most and where we grow to become better versions of ourselves afterwards. For fans of Big Thief and Angel Olsen. Available on CD and limited edition USB flash drive.

Piranha Rama
Piranha Rama

Richmond • August 4, 2018

The success of Piranha Rama’s self-titled debut is based on their deep understanding of its kaleidoscope of genres: a carousel of soul, garage, funk, punk, indie, pop, and psych. It’s an exercise in musical balance that the outfit excels at, executed by a mixing bowl of musicians from The Milkstains, Lady God, Warren Hixson and many others. “Shot In The Arm” and “Bunny Man” are quick favorites, but the closing three tracks are sublime in the way of Montreal could only be. Available on CD and cassette from Trrrash Records.

Kevin Knight
With Hat

Blacksburg • October 12, 2018

Kevin Knight’s newest, With Hat, is a sly confessional that aims to comfort listeners with its avante-folk attributes and beautifully whimsical arrangements. The rhythms of each song leave heartwarming impressions that feel resonant of Cass McCombs or M Ward. These songs are like flashlights guiding the listener through unfamiliar territory and promising that everything will be alright—as soon as you find the home you’re looking for. A precious release that never falters as it finds its way into your subconscious like an old friend you haven’t spoken to in years. Available on cassette.

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