||The Cold Expanse
||I basically believe that it is always a great time for music, because music is the thing humans are best at, and there are still humans. But this is a better time for music than ever because the tools for finding music are evolving at an unprecedented rate into previously impossible forms. To find new metal I used to read a bunch of magazines and carry long laser-printed itemizations of my curiosity with me to record stores to refer to while I slowly flipped through bins full of shrinkwrap-silenced plastic. If I found anything it was a good week. Now I have internal tools at Spotify that feed me new music at essentially any rate I can tolerate. And, more astoundingly, can even feed me highly-specific subsets of new music at effectively the same arbitrary rate. I would never have known about this Australian symphonic metal band in the pre-streaming era. I've been an obsessive metal fan on and off for more than 30 years and I'm not sure I knew of an Australian "metal" band other than AC/DC.|
||Wings of Destiny
||"Angels & Demons"
||Kings of Terror
||Wings of Destiny are a power-metal band from Costa Rica. I've been to Costa Rica, which is a thing I used to do in order to buy records. I don't think I learned anything about Costa Rican music from the trip, and certainly not this.|
||With Cunning Fire and Adversarial Resolve
||Athame are an Appalachian black metal band, not to be confused with the Colorado black metal band Athamé or the proto-epicore composer Atham'e. And when I say "not to be confused", I mean "conflated obliviously on Spotify until just now when I discovered that this is three bands, not one, and fixed them".|
||"The Outwitted Consecration"
||There were two or three artists called Induction conflated on Spotify until a minute ago, too. I think the two EDM ones are different from each other. This one, a new symphonic power-metal band started by Czech guitarist Martin Beck, is definitely different.|
||This is a cheerfully bludgeony Finnish death metal band. I've been to Finland once, for about 7 hours. What I discovered in person is that they have world-class trivets and the best strawberries in the world, and a beautiful chapel dedicated to silence, which is kind of the opposite of my personal concept of spirituality but at least I understand it.|
||And Then She Came
||"Public Enemy #1"
||And Then She Came
||There was a German gothic metal band called Krypteria. I don't think I had heard of them before streaming. The members made this new alt-electro-metal/hard-rock band and gave it a new name. In the old days, that would probably have been enough that I'd never have realized they were still making music.|
||"The 11th Skywalk Travelstream"
||In Reverence Of Forever
||Mephistopheles are a cryptic technical death metal band from Tasmania. Did I know any bands from Tasmania before? Maybe Sea Scouts? This year this is only my second-favorite Tasmanian album.|
||"Stranger to Violence"
||Stranger to Violence
||Psalm Zero are an NYC art-metal band. Art-metal has somehow come to mean drum-machines and sometimes-legible singing.|
||"Bloodletting on the Kiss"
||Bloody Hammers is a European metal name, but a gothic rock band from North Carolina. Despite the "North", North Carolina is far enough south for North Carolinan "gothic" to be Southern gothic, but there is actually a Transylvania in North Carolina. I've been there! It didn't seem especially gothic, and I discovered no music while driving through it, and certainly nothing gothic in the Central European mode like this song.|
||"Drop Your Sword"
||Joy Atlas are a north-of-England indietronica quartet. This spare, airy song is indietronic in the Gazelle Twin / Stina Nordenstam sense, but might as readily be extending the harmonic legacy of The Story or the atmospheric calm of Mandalay.|
||What if Rihanna decided to make Little Mix songs?|
||Remember when Radiohead was a rock band?|
||The Last Royals
||Drum machines do not remove the humanity from music any more than a rectangular frame removes the humanity from an oil painting.|
||Could Haley Bonar follow the lead of Tegan & Sara?|
||"The Order Of Things"
||Remember when "twee" was a method for punk?|
||Remember when New Wave was a costume aesthetic for punk?|
||"Lamentation of the Mortals"
||Temple of Phobos
||Phobos was the Greek god of fear. A different Phobos is a doomed and disintegrating moon of Mars. Vanhelgd are from Sweden. When they're not making hoarse black/death metal about fear and doom, Swedes seem outwardly pretty calm and unworried.|
||V: The Devil's Fire
||Baptism are a Satanic Finnish black metal band. I once baffled a Swedish metal-loving co-worker by suggesting that a Finnish band was similar to a Swedish one. "Oh!", he explained. "They're Finnish!" To me, black metal is nihilistic to the point of universality. All unintelligible languages are equivalent. But apparently this universalist interpretation is not universal. No doubt I would say "Oh! They're from Phobos!", baffled in turn.|
||"The Secret Pt. 1"
||DGM are an old-school progressive metal band from Italy, named as an acronym of the names of people who aren't in the band any more. There are all kinds of "progress". This kind is somewhere between Fates Warning and Night Ranger.|
||IYES are a synth-pop band from Brighton, UK. I've been to Brighton! They have a "beach" that will probably be made of sand in a couple million years or so, but currently has a few hundred thousand years to go before it makes it from "rocks" to "pebbles". Apparently, although I didn't see any myself, there are robots there, and old synths.|
||A. G. Cook
||It has been suggested that this is a dour period in pop music. A.G. Cook is trying as hard as anybody to fix this.|
||"Love You Better"
||If the frenetic "QT" was marketing reverse-collateral for a notional energy drink, "Love You Better" is the version inferred from slowly-swirling cold-brew coffee.|
||"High on You (feat. Lindsay Lowend)"
||Electro-compositional auteurism with airy falsetto vocals is well on its way to being a whole new subthing on its own, instead of just the inflection of "indie" in indie R&B.|
||"Come With Us"
||Come With Us +3
||Once upon a time I loved a short-lived band called Theaudience. Sophie Ellis-Bextor's subsequent Kylie-esque major-label dance-pop career has had basically nothing I liked about her old band, but I still hope and try to like her songs, and occasionally I succeed.|
||It's a particularly great time for music if you like sound-design, and pop songs nestled in layers of low murmuring and high chirps.|
||"We All Died for Honor"
||We All Died for Honor +2
||Or gothic symphonic epicore soundtrack metal.|
||Or muted, moody indie pop.|
||I don't mind muted moderation in moderation. Because Hong Kong is sparkling sweetly and spectacularly in the night whenever you need it.|
||Jesus Fashion 2.0
||I think this is an earnest compilation of Chinese CCM/rock.|
||Jesus Fashion 2.0
||But East Asian devotional pop seems no more or less inscrutable to me than Northern European Satanism or, I guess, anything else.|
||The single artist who most changed my understanding of the power of minimalism in compositional method and maximalism in sonic depth was Akifumi Nakajima, the Japanese noise-artist who recorded as Aube. He died in 2013. It seems profoundly tragic to me that he thus basically missed the streaming age, which I think could have been uniquely suited for him. But pieces of his vast and vastly obscure catalog are gradually making their way onto Spotify. The Aube thing was usually to take some singular source of sound, and then fold, spindle, mutilate and process it into a distended storm of cosmic-gestational scope. The 1995 album Magnetostriction, which was one of the first few Aube records I ever heard, begins with a magnetic resonance spectroscope, somehow, and turns it into about an hour of ambient exegesis. Listening to this is a form of anti-meditative meditation.|
||Daniel Thomas Freeman
||"The Infinite and the Unknowable"
||The Infinite and the Unknowable
||What Aube did with electric wires, Daniel Thomas Freeman does with acoustic ones.|
||The Tarot of the Bohemians - Part 1
||And although ascetic drone and sentimental love-metal seem like potential opposites on some technical-emotional spectrum, the transition feels completely rational to me, like coming upon your true love at the center of a labyrinth, or the exit of an airport.|
||"Love As A Ghost"
||"Love as a Ghost" is a belated nominal single from Belfast drone-pop band Documenta's 2015 album Drone Pop #1. If everybody would give their music clear, explanatory labels like this, many things would be easier.|
||Wreck and Reference
||"Flight But Not Metaphor"
||Indifferent Rivers Romance End
||But then, if it were me, I would be 138x more likely to make a record called Indifferent Rivers Romance End than Drone Pop #1, so I can't really complain. This is post-post-metal. One of the great and terrible things about time is that the amount of post- you can do is limited by the combination of patience and longevity.|
||"Return to Sender"
||Interlude: Anthemic Orlando screamish emo-pop.|
||"The Glimmering Light"
||Music Inspired by Philippe Garrel’s Le Révélateur
||Ambient waves and Mary Lattimore's glittering harp.|
||Clattering post-rock introspection for an infinite video game.|
||Miracle Of Sound
||"Mother of Flame"
||In an oblique way, Enya was the primordial epicore artist.|
||Periphery III: Select Difficulty
||In a non-oblique, totally literal way, Periphery was and remain a primordial djent band.|
||"See The Sky"
||Much of the time, progressive uplifting trance is kind of a pleasant but undifferentiated continuum to me, like air conditioning or sunshine. But then there are moments when the quality of air or light is suddenly vivid.|
||The Birthday Massacre
||The amazing Ontario goth-wave band The Birthday Massacre started out as Imagica. This is a reissue of the marvelously clunky early demos before they changed their name, including the song "The Birthday Massacre" itself.|
||Hick Hack Hackebeil
||Electro-industrial neo-Medievalism doesn't make any literal sense at all, but like meticulous hand-inked pornographic illuminations in the margins of ancient monastic astrology texts, that doesn't keep it from being a thing.|
||Part of the way a thing gets to be a thing is some people inventing a way it's supposed to be done by doing it that way. This is what German pagan metal sounds like when that happens.|
||"Bergtagen av sorg"
||Similarly, Swedish viking metal.|
||"Theatre of Horror"
||Great Is Our Sin
||If you go to Sweden and walk around expecting the city air to drip with viking intensity, you'll be disappointed. It kind of more drips with public-transportation efficiency and more 7-11s but somehow less processed food. But the technical death-metal band Revocation are from here in Boston, and what do we have? Pretzels?|
||"Into The Soil"
||Disposal Of The Dead // Dharmata
||Defeated Sanity are from a very specific subcult of inverted technical death metal where the vocal noises and guitars are almost completely textural and occulted, but the drums sound like toys. Except toys that are being hit at absurd rates of speed and yet aren't breaking. Or maybe they are, and there's a guy standing there frantically swapping in new toy snare drums from a giant stack of them behind him.|
||The Gospel Youth
||Pop-punk as friendly as Defeated Sanity are alienating. I feel pretty confident that if you invited Gospel Youth over, they would not smash your toddler's toy drums.|
||A Tribe Called Red
||Canadian First-Nation agit-dub-hop trio A Tribe Called Red, on the other hand, would probably politely point out that those toy drums are racist in the first place.|
||"Out of Love"
||Where s the truth
||South Korean emo! Totally not K-pop! Well, not totally totally. Sparkly and finely machined. But at least they sound like a band, rather than a modeling collective.|
||Irish power-pixie indie-gaze!|
||"Told Em Before"
||Anxious, glassine grime, half paranoid half serene.|
||Vaporwave vapor wafted back into vaguely power-pop outlines?|
||"Chaotic - Original Mix"
||Fluxworked hammered into beats?|
||Glossy indie-style poster-ready synth-rock.|
||Swooping Ukrainian arena-pop.|
||"Ik Verlies Het Van Jou"
||Dutch faintly-folk-rooted arena-anthem-pop.|
||Bouyant Nigerian dance-chant afrobeats.|
||Maybe Nigeria sounds far away to you, but it's not that far from Rihanna and reggaeton.|
||"Make Am (feat. Ebonyi State Band)"
||Secret tunnels of joy run below the oceans, and now the robots that know I like this.|
||"Pistol & Cutlass"
||I like to imagine that when they find a new thing they can start bringing me, they do a little private native robot dance.|
||"I'm Not Ready for You to Leave Me Yet"
||Maybe they have the same fantasy about us.|
||"Would It Feel Safe?"
||Would It Feel Safe? +1
||Sometimes we are cautiously human in basements.|
||And sometimes our unruly contraptions accidentally crash through the walls.|
||"01 - Unleash the Butterflies"
||Unleash the Butterflies
||And sometimes we retreat to our comfort zones, although in my case my comfort zone encompasses polychromatic Czech gothic metal.|
||And heartland rock for hidden hearts emerging.|
||"How Differ the Instructions of the Left from the Instructions of the Right... Pt. I"
||An Untroublesome Defencelessness
||And Japanese/Hungarian noise-jazz.|
||And, heart-breaking-and-restoring-ly, even an Aube record I hadn't heard, a 49-minute 1999 collaboration with Polish sound-artist Zbigniew Karkowski. The robots don't know what these slow noises mean to me.|
||But they don't have to for the thing to work. They don't have to feel joy to be able to transport it.|