Believe the Hype - No Ripcord Recommendations

  • Dry Cleaning New Long Leg

    New Long Leg was constructed in pieces on a wiped-down, passed-around tape deck—the new pandemic normal. It could easily have suffered for it, but the production is masterful. On Unsmart Lady, the tracks are layered so purposefully that when the guitar trickles away every few measures leaving a moment of bare bass, it’s like a curtain of water parting. It yields the floor for Shaw’s punchiest lyric (“If you like a girl, be nice/it’s not rocket science,”) before dissolving into a fiercely rugged but painfully short guitar riff that takes us breathlessly up and over the climax and into the denouement. This push and pull between instruments and vocals, cleverly punctuated with just the right amount of silence, is what gives New Long Leg its seductive tension.
  • The Weather Station Ignorance

    Probably the most self-evident thing about Ignorance is how full the arrangements of these songs are. There’s always a beat pushing these songs forward, clearly aided by the combination of Kieran Adams’ straightforward drum patterns and additional textures added by the auxiliary percussionists Philippe Melanson and Marcus Paquin. Grand pianos, Wurlitzer keyboards, and spiraling synthesizers swirl around together to create the song’s melodic foundations, while Christine Bougie’s guitar work often acts as a palm-muted counterpoint. On Seperated, a mid-album highlight, the electric guitar noodles all over the mix, adding quietly to the atmosphere. At the center of any song sits Lindeman’s silky voice, which contrasts nicely with her band’s danceable instrumentation.
  • The Avalanches We Will Always Love You

    Four years on from the divisive Wildflower, and now almost two decades on from Since I Left You, it feels like—by setting themselves the impossible task of a return—The Avalanches have now freed themselves from any pressure at all. Just as with a night spent looking at the stars, nothing is guiding you to these conclusions. There’s nothing that directly references the struggles with loss or addiction that helped produce it, but yet it still somehow feels implicit. It might not sound like an invitation to the party, but it does the sound of walking the long way home—from the ringing ears to the heartbreak. We Will Always Love You is an impressive mediation on everything that matters, and of letting go of what doesn’t. Nevermind a normal band being able to create this; a normal band wouldn’t even attempt it.
  • Adrianne Lenker songs / instrumentals

    Like Dylan and Townes Van Zandt before her, Lenker is emerging as a songwriter who takes an idea and toys with it. She takes ancient paths to new destinations or revisiting her own previously blazed trails. Here, she proffers the glimmering anything as the next step from Masterpiece’s Paul and Capacity’s Mary. A verbose portamento tumble of vocals and chords implants the image of deep woods clearing: “circle of pine and red oak, circle of moss and fire smoke.” The childlike pat-a-cake cadence of half return is a furthering of abysskiss’ blue and red horses. The wind chimes and bird song backing of zombie girl make for a lovely reconstruction of Dylan’s Mr. Tambourine Man that Lenker sings gently into her subject’s ear.
  • Owen Pallett Island

    Considering the avant-garde associations suggested by Island's sonics, it makes sense to weigh the lyrics according to the same, progressive metrics, allowing that the words exist not as prose narrative but as poetic abstractions standing in for more universal meanings, in which case the lyrics scan not as fanciful art-rock but something more akin to a Benjamin Britten libretto, equally storm-trodden and queer, extrapolating present moments through a flux of memory penduluming between adolescence and obsolescence, while asserting that those two points on a human's timeline somehow coexist, overlap, mirror each other, and, as a result, provide a reflection for the listener; a deep, cosmic insight into their own life, into my own life, like staring into a bottomless pit, seeing oneself in the charcoaled chasm, then retreating to the teat, evoking a feeling akin to Becket's assertion about life that humans are “[birthed] astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it's night once more.”
  • Bob Dylan Rough and Rowdy Ways

    Despite returning to likeminded songwriting sensibilities, it's surprising to hear how Dylan's rumbling croak has turned into a deeper whiskey baritone. There's a dusky sternness to his voice which accentuates the stark minimalism of songs like Black Rider, personifying the equivalent of Max von Sydow playing chess with the Grim Reaper as he sings over a tempo that sounds like a slowed-down Spanish bolero: "If there ever was a time, then let it be now/let me go through, open the door." And on My Own Version of You, he does that thing where he repeats an intoxicating, slightly off-kilter groove as while cranking out a plethora of stream-of-consciousness references—singing in a noir-ish tone as he examines what it is to be Bob Dylan. For someone who's voice earned him much ridicule for sounding gruff, yet sincere, as if he's never sung in an affected tone (actually, he has!), his chainsmoking has finally caught up with him and is doing him quite the favor.
  • Sports Team Deep Down Happy

    Sports Team are very adept at juxtaposing those feelings of ennui and undergraduate anxiety with urgent, driving songs. On Here's the Thing, Rice has had it up to here with hearing other people's advice over a crisp, Buzzcocks-like melody. Fishing is humorous and witty, where tries to make sense of his object of affection's mixed messages in his well-educated, young-angry-man ways: "I can't make sense of all the letters you write/ It's like your pen doesn't work/You're so much better in type." Rice is clearly bothered and can't catch a break, but Deep Down Happy moves along with such exuberant energy (thanks to lead songwriter Rob Knaggs) that we can't help but feel amused and entertained by his petty annoyances.
  • Laura Marling Song for Our Daughter

    While there are moments with more levity, Marling casts this world with a haunting backdrop of striking stories and superb instrumentation. It’s the rare album where a stripped-down approach entirely works, making these tales central and unmissable in their telling. Fortune is one of the great songs of the year, and it does only with fluttering acoustic guitars, steady strings, and subdued vocals. I don’t really like writing pieces or my reviews around myself, but this is the album I needed to hear in a time of great anxiety. It is peaceful and near-perfect in a way that I think many people could use right now. I think you should hear it.
  • Yves Tumor Heaven to a Tortured Mind

    Gospel For a New Century slams the door open here with skipping horns and textured drums, feeling like an intentional change of pace from anything you’ve known about Tumor’s messy but fascinating style in the past. Once their distinct but soulful voice drops in, something exciting seems afoot. With the huge electric guitars that blaze through the chorus, it’s easy to excuse a line like “come and light my fire, baby” because of how genuinely explosive it all is. As quickly as it had erupted, the song cuts off harshly in only three minutes and twenty seconds. This is only the first track on the album, but it seems like a perfect thesis, with its aching heartbreak and explosive psychedelic rock backing.
  • Soccer Mommy color theory

    The centerpiece of the album, yellow is the color of her eyes, explores her mother’s terminal illness through a papered-over sense of serenity. Echoing guitars sparkle like a setting sun over a beach, with little touches percolating throughout the song. But the calm that Allison creates is one of resignation, rather than peace or acceptance. “Loving you isn't enough/You'll still be deep in the ground when it's done,” she sings, a devastating line that will reverberate in the bones of anyone who’s lost somebody. As the song ends, the guitar devolves into distortion, the calm slipping into chaos.