January Music Picks

The new year started off slow, but by the end of them month I already found myself behind on a ton a new great music to listen to. Here are some of my favorites:

Alcest – Shelter (Shoegaze; Black Metal derivative)

Alcest have veered away from their trademark blackgaze style, and moved 100 percent into the realm of pure shoegazing music. While the music is atmospheric and dreamy, and there is a greater diversity of soothing shimmery sounds than ever, I would be lying if I said that I didn’t miss the light/dark dichotomy of previous records. However, Shelter still reaches melodic and emotional heights that are as heart wrenching as can be, and while the black metal elements are missed, I can’t fault the artist for moving in a new direction.

Cities Aviv – Come to Life (Hip Hop; Cloud Rap)

Gavin May’s unique beats and production defy genre. Voices are old school, atonal, gritty, but most of all, exuding confidence. Rhymes rely more on philosophical content than pure word play, but really percussive instrumentals are what drives that songs home. “Come to Life” sounds raw and harsh at times, and isn’t for everyone, but to its credit it is never, ever boring.

Sithu Aye – Invent the Universe (Progressive Metal)

Sithu’s sense of melody continues to be astounding – but over time, he’s made solid improvements to his tone, production sense, and chops as a songwriter. Pristine guitar tones, tasteful solos, intriguing rhythms, and glorious melodies scatter through “Pulse”, making the short EP his strongest and most concise work to date.

Transatlantic – Kaleidoscope (Retroprog)

Crisp instrumentation and a punchy, one-of-a-kind rhythm section make Transatlantic one of my favorite bands to listen to. This time around, songs feel more like genuine collaborations rather than simple Neal Morse epics which some additional arrangements. Ultimately, “Kaleidoscope” is a ton of fun, and it’s not all that often you see such a talented group of people come together to make music so pristine and glittering that it can take weeks to wash off.

Warpaint – Warpaint (Indie; Dream Pop)

If Dream Pop, as a genre, offers swooning soundscapes, Warpaint offer an echo of a trance murmur heard from the opposite end of a dark tunnel. I think I like it. The vocals are lethargic but ghastly, with lyrics too loaded to be considered mundane. Instrumentals emote, giving plenty of reverb-washed sonic space to the trio’s endeavor. There are times, though, where the production clips. A softer mix would have helped keep the brooding magic of the album in the bottle, and it’s a shame the record was mixed so loud.

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