|Wantok Intoroduction||Takashi Utsunomiya|
|Walk with You Wantok Version||Takashi Utsunomiya|
|(It's)time to Go||Takashi Utsunomiya|
|Rolling Around||Takashi Utsunomiya|
|Sitting in the Sunset||Takashi Utsunomiya|
On the first Cotillon album, singer/songwriter Jordan Corso worked with JR White of Girls fame to craft a fairly lush version of what Jad Fair might sound like if backed by a super-competent band of indie rockers. Corso's plaintive, homespun vocals contrasted well with the expansive music, but at times it felt like an ill fit. The second Cotillon album, 2017's The Afternoons, presents a course correction that sees Corso working with producer Shane Butler and a smaller group of musicians. Gone are horns, layers of guitars, and any traces of slickness. Instead, Corso's winning vocals and tales of life are delivered in much scrappier fashion. The guitars are wiry and tough, the rhythm section is recorded live and lively, and the occasional synths drop in to make some noise. Like the first album, the songs are stories and Corso comes across as a lovable guy, with a little more romantic success this time. While most of the tracks lope along calmly in fine post-Pavement slacker style -- both fast like on "Secret" and slow and shambly as on "10 Dish Set" -- Corso mixes in a few changeups to keep it interesting. The vocoder-sung ballad "Promises 2" is a real curveball; the motorik groove of "SFO" is another one that gives the album an energy boost right when it needs it.
The snappy pop tune "Fang" is a tiny pop gem that's likely to be the mixtape pick of Beat Happening fans who are lucky enough to discover the record. It comes together really nicely in the end, with Corso sounding more at home in the stripped-down arrangements, and the album is a definite improvement over the band's debut.
There are film directors -- Woody Allen comes to mind -- who score their movies simply by rooting around in their record collections for some of their favorite tunes. It's what one might suspect of director Tim Hamilton upon listening to the soundtrack album for his movie Mama's Boy. The tracks here tend to either actually be British punk rock and new wave tracks of the late '70s and early '80s or songs in the same styles. The Jam get three selections to add to familiar tracks by Generation X and the English Beat, while Scanners' 2006 copyright "Low Life" has a distinct Cure/Waterboys feel. Billy Bragg's two songs sound exactly like Billy Bragg songs of the '80s, as he sings savagely critical politically charged lyrics in his cockney accent over his furiously strummed electric guitar accompaniment, but it turns out both are new songs written by Mark Mothersbaugh and the screenwriter, Hank Nelken. Mothersbaugh, the former Devo leader, is the actual film composer here, the album ending with nine minutes' worth of his eclectic, understated background music. That's one more tie to the sound that dominates the album.
Come's Near Life Experience covers both old territory for the band as well as heading in new, exciting directions. Singers/guitarists Thalia Zedek and Chris Brokaw weathered the departure of the band's original rhythm section a year ago, to be replaced by 11 different musicians for the recording of this album, including bassists and drummers from groups like the Jesus Lizard, Retsin, Tortoise, and Rachel's. Whoever's playing on the tracks, it's clear from the opening of "Hurricane" that Come is a re-energized, even more powerful band than they used to be, and that Near Life Experience is their most concise and affecting release yet. Come's trademark bluesy-punk sound is still apparent on songs like "Hurricane" and "Bitten," but the group stretches in different directions with gentle ballads like "Weak As the Moon" and "Slow Eyed." Zedek's voice is as gravelly and emotive as ever, and with the different song styles on Near Life Experience, has even more room to express itself. Brokaw also sings lead (a first) on two of the album's more accessible tracks, the single "Secret Number" and "Shoot Me First." Though it's only eight tracks long, Come packs more musical experiences into Near Life Experience than most groups do in an entire discography.
America's most profound European-inspired doom metal act has returned with one of the most beautiful, refreshing listens of 2001. Owing much to the famous U.K. scene of the '90s, this act melds Cathedral, My Dying Bride, Anathema, and Paradise Lost together with a touch of Mental Home and a sprinkle of their own unique brand of cunning, lethargic doom. The vocals are both clean and gruff, but always painful, aching with the same, painful emotions one would have upon a spouse or loved one's death. In fact, both versions of "Silent Tomorrow" found on the album are perfect examples of what Novembers Doom invoke throughout the thrust of The Knowing. "Everything is beauty, and I have no love to share" and "each time I close my eyes I only wish for my end to come -- no angels sent for me," vocalist Paul Kuhr croons, as methodically heavy riffs crash painfully into quiet, oppressive melodies.
Opener "Awaken"'s glimmering guitars yearn for hope, before the gorgeous melancholic leads sink into the churning "Harmony Divine," which crescendos into walls of disharmonic guitars and feedback, before violently cutting out. Each track follows this brilliant formula, some playing around with slower and faster tempos, others simply walking the path between quiet solitude and chugging unforgiving. "In Faith" sounds fresh and original, yet it could have been easily culled from Paradise Lost's Shades of God or Icon, with its urgent, grim outlook and Gregor MacKintosh-inspired guitar mastery. Ten-minute epic "Last God" is filled with Turn Loose the Swans-era My Dying Bride goodness, almost like a sequel to that album's title track, but with more of a modern American doom twist. Heavy as all hell, the band mixes atmospheric keyboards, female vocals, and repetitive, opulent guitar riffery like masters, effortlessly showing just how talented this Chicago act have truly become. The Knowing sticks to a malleable formula, sounding fresh and consistent on every track, minus the funky mind-trip of "In Memories Past," which is wholly unique to Novembers Doom's sound. After the creepy record-skip that introduces the song (Gehenna's "Devil's Work" outro anyone?), Mary Bielich's funk-driven bass takes charge, calling forth mesmerizing, catchy guitar and vocal lines. Propelling along in a strange-'70s groove fashion that recalls a meeting of Cathedral's Garry Jennings, Saint Vitus, and Anathema (vocally), the song is held together by the relaxed, flawless rhythm section. A pleasant surprise indeed, as is the whole album with its bold arrangements, its technical virtuosity, and its command of the doom genre. Novembers Doom appear to have a rare gift for crystallizing the finest elements of doom oh-so-precisely, while simultaneously giving those European masters a serious run for their superiority.