Artist: Bob Dylan
Writer: Spencer Nestico-Semianiw
Bob Dylan’s 1997 album Time Out of Mind marked his return to the musical innovation that hasn’t been heard since the late 1970s. With the creation of his 2000s masterpieces Love and Theft and Modern Times, Bob Dylan sought to invigorate his career by reinventing himself as an artist. In this gathering momentum Dylan has released the appropriately named Tempest.
Bob Dylan has always felt the need to write about the social barriers within his time, but here he’s looking more to the past. Instead of rambling about the present, songs like “Roll on John” reminisce. Perhaps Dylan is just living the life of his contemporaries, who see the past as an escape from today. He doesn’t adapt to the times because he knows they’ll adapt to him. But these sentiments may not mean much to young people who want music grounded in the present, just as the youth of yesterday did.
The title Tempest sparked anxious rumors that this would be Dylan’s last album. Although Dylan has refuted the claims, if this is indeed his last effort it would do an appropriate justice to his career. That’s saying quite a lot.
Album: Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
Artist: Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Writer: Alexander Sallas
A few weeks ago, the music world collectively orgasmed as famed
Canadian post-rock band Godspeed You! Black Emperor announced out of nowhere that they would be releasing their fourth album after a ten-year hiatus. Now, one might be inclined to believe that such a long break would have affected the band in some way. One would be wrong. GY!BE are just as good as they ever were.
On Allejuah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! the songs are still paced perfectly, the crescendos are still just as mighty, and the instrumentation still comes together to form one living, breathing organism in a way that only GY!BE can do.
The record consists of two longer, more “traditional” songs and two ambient drones. In typical GY!BE fashion, the songs are about twenty minutes apiece, and the drone tracks clock in around six and eight minutes, respectively. Each second of the album is carefully constructed; every sound, every cerebral sample and every bit of feedback has its place.
The album doesn’t quite get a perfect score mainly because the final drone track is a little underwhelming. But this is an excellent album nonetheless, and firmly cements GY!BE’s place as one of, if not the, greatest post-rock band of all time.
Album: Dead End Kings
Writer: Alexander Sallas
Katatonia’s latest release doesn’t really change the band’s formula of depressive, proggy metal. Instead of change, the band expands their sound. Keyboards and violins are more prominent than ever on “The Racing Heart” and closer “Dead Letters” and female vocals are utilized to great effect on “The One You Are Looking For Is Not Here.”
The record has a strong sense of flow, and instrumentally the band puts on a solid performance. The drumming is particularly great, with lots of tasty, creative cymbal hits. David Castillo’s production is also fantastic; every instrument is clear and the levels are perfectly balanced.
The previously mentioned lack of change is slightly disappointing, but nonetheless, Katatonia have crafted a great album with Dead End Kings. It may not reinvent the wheel, but when the wheel is this well-oiled, why bother changing it?
Artist:Matt & Kim
Writer: Brody Weld
Heavy kick drums, over-the-top synth layering, shout-y vocals, catchy melodies…sound familiar? If you’re already a Matt & Kim fan, you’ll recognize this formula. It hasn’t changed, and they intend to keep it that way.
To be fair, Matt & Kim’s consistency could be seen as either a talent or a crutch. Most bands have a difficult time getting to their fourth album without trying a new direction. Not Matt & Kim. They still pepper their upbeat songs with simple piano lines, the keyboards still sound like early ‘90s Casios, and Matt is still belting the same vocal lines (seriously, some tracks have nearly identical vocal melodies to previous recordings; compare “Let’s Go” and “Good For Great” from the previous album).
The strengths: they’re still great at what they do. “I Said” and “I Wonder” are masterfully produced. “Let’s Go” is an echo of their first big hit, “Daylight,” and “It’s Alright” features one of the catchiest brass lines ever. The flaws: it’s a disappointingly small album, and if you played it back-to-back with their self-titled debut, most people couldn’t say which came first.