This Week’s Releases

Blue Sky Black Death, Glaciers (10/1, Fake Four Inc, twitter.com/BSBDmusic): On its Twitter feed, Blue Sky Black Death offers tips on how best to review an album. “Gotta hear it five times,” goes the feed, “your first spin impression reviews are worthless.” On that advice I listen to BSBD’s new album—the fourth solo release from production duo Kingston McGuire and Ian Taggart, aka Young God—the prescribed number of times. It comprises just that many tracks, each minimally labeled “I” through “V,” and features labelmates Child Actor (“I” and “II”) and JMSN (“IV”), as well as Seattle native Lotte Kestner (“III”). Four of the five tracks are over 10 minutes long; expansive as they are, after five spins, I would have appreciated more harmonic variety (the keyboard has black keys, too) to sustain interest over the long haul. Each track is composed of as many as 200 synth layers, yet the music never sounds cluttered. On my third pass, “III” stands out as the best track, and my fourth listen to the album had me walking through an ethereal soundscape full of wonderfully detailed sonic moments that I could almost touch. My final listen reaffirmed my belief—and the band’s—that trying to pigeonhole music like this (what they call “hip-hop through [a] kaleidoscopic perception”) does it a disservice. After all, good art rewards repeated encounters, which is why we still enjoy Shakespeare, Beethoven, and Van Gogh. While it sustains multiple listens, it’s unclear whether the layers of Glaciers will endure or recede, like its icy namesake, over the years.

Cumulus, I Never Meant It to Be Like This (10/1, Trans Records, cumulusband.com): Death Cab’s Chris Walla signs this Seattle twee-rock trio to his own Trans Records label; recording takes place at Phil Elverum’s (Old Time Relijun, the Microphones, Mount Eerie) Anacortes-based studio; and out comes this 10-song gem of crunchy, grunge-indebted pop currently being lauded by Spin as “a comforting rainy-day blanket.” While Alexandra Niedzialkowski’s eternally chirpy vocals have a tendency to grate with their inexhaustible pep, the songwriting here is high-quality. Great hooks, even harmonies, and crisp production tones make this an excellent first offering, hinting at solid releases to come. Niedzialkowski takes her cues from the likes of Kim Deal and Tanya Donnelly, post-punk grunge goddesses who have a bit more gravel in their pipes, but nonetheless add a feminine grace note to songs that rock hard. Tracks are more understated here, but stand on strong and balanced instrumentation (that’s Lance Umble on guitar and Leah Julius on bass). There are distorted, driving guitars aplenty and riffs on every early-’90s band from The Beautiful South (whose “36D” is unmistakably channeled in the intro to “Ocean Song”) to Smashing Pumpkins, but the saccharine lyrics to “Morning Coffee” are firmly rooted in the current age’s dreamy, earnest idealism: “Last night your lips touched mine/Like a strawberry/When it gets too heavy/And touches the ground.” When the pendulum swings to the other side with the chilling words of “Wanderlust”—“Can not trust a man/Who does not know how to be alone/He will wind up from bed to bed/Until he makes your head his home”—you realize this button-cute band has it all. If grunge has taught us anything, it’s that the three-chord, dirty-rocker thing lasts only so long. (Thurs., Oct. 3, Neumos)

 
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