Mount Eerie – various albums
I feel like I’ve only just discovered the true genius of Phil Elverum. Known best for his role in the seminal lo-fi indie act The Microphones, now going by the title of Mount Eerie, Phil’s music under this moniker is more intimate and atmospheric than what I’ve heard of The Microphones. Particularly on Lost Wisdom (2008) and Dawn (2008), Phil toys with minimalistic guitar/voice arrangements, especially on Dawn, while No Flashlight: Songs of the Unfulfilled Night (2005) and Wind’s Poem (2009) feature much fuller instrumentation. While obviously sitting rather comfortably in the realm of lo-fi indie folk music, I appreciate the occasional instance where Phil will employ a heavier sound, the best example being the title track from Wind’s Poem, featuring a rough wall of black metal-esque guitar distortion while Phil’s voice peeks over the cascade as if struggling to be heard.
For those seeking a more intimate and intense listen, however, this year’s A Crow Looked at Me (right) is a touching tribute to Phil’s late wife, while also deconstructing the relevance and necessity for morbid art born from such tragedies; without a doubt, one of the most emotionally taxing listening experiences I’ve had in a while, but one that will most likely find itself onto my end-of-year list.
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Murder of the Universe (2017)
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard really are making this their year. The second of the prolific Australian psych rock septet’s projected 5 releases this year, Murder of the Universe comprises a surreal 3-part psychedelic sci-fi story, with the same energy and flow of last year’s Nonagon Infinity while also delivering some of the band’s darkest material to date, incorporating spoken word passages to further flesh out their strange fantasy world. Each part of the record forms its own 15-minute narrative, the band using their formula of interwoven, mutli-faceted songs with recurring melodies as a vessel for stories of an ‘altered beast’, the battle between two mythical figures in ‘The Lord of Lightning vs the Balrog’, and a bizarre story of an android vomiting the universe into annihilation. As you can imagine, there’s some peculiar lyrical content to unpack, as well as some subtle musical throwbacks for longtime fans (e.g. listen out for the usage of ‘Trapdoor’ during a short interlude in ‘The Balrog’), and while I personally loved every second of this record, I do hope that this is the last record King Gizzard put out that uses this distinct Nonagon Infinity-like formula. I can’t wait for whatever this band puts out next, be it the rumoured Sketches of Brunswick East or something else entirely.
Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition (2016)
There’s a recurring theme in these ‘Now Playing’ segments where I listen to albums I’ve been meaning to for a long time, then feel ashamed for not having heard them sooner; if I had actually heard Atrocity Exhibition in 2016, for instance, it would have easily made the top 5 of my Albums of the Year list. While only being familiar with a few tracks from his 2011 album XXX, as per the recommendation from some friends of mine, I thought it was high time to give Danny Brown a proper listen. It’s really Atrocity Exhibition‘s eclectic sampling (which a friend of mine wrote about in great detail here), dark aesthetic and honest lyrics that sells it for me. The sometimes disturbing, sometimes noisy instrumentals, grim subject matters and Danny’s distinctly quirky rapping style ultimately make Atrocity Exhibition an album that perfectly embodies its title.
King Woman – Created in the Image of Suffering (2017)
A collection of tight, dynamic sludge metal carried by the emotionality of Kristina Esfandiari’s (also of Miserable) wistful vocals. Tracks like the opener ‘Utopia’ and the haunting ‘Hierophant’ being the best showcase the band’s ability to be both moody and emotional while also delivering some traditionally heavy sludge riffs, though the sound of Created in the Image of Suffering could almost be described as shoegaze-adjacent. An album that’s likely to please both metal elitists or even newcomers.