Author: Allison Shephard

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
Gone Girl: Music from the Motion Picture
Columbia 
Street: 09.30.14
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross = Hans Zimmer + Nine Inch Nails x 
The Dust Brothers

Haunting and ominous while simultaneously tranquil, Reznor and Ross have created an air of ambiance amid complex and intricate layers of sound that complement the intensity of David Fincher’s film. Rotating between fragile piano and heavy bass, the duo creates a backdrop of mechanical mind games, electronic distortion and labyrinthine layers. Intensities reach anxiety-inducing levels on “Something Disposable,” “Technically, Missing” and “Consummation,” while “Empty Places” and “Sugar Storm” offer the listener room to take a breath. My only critique is that this soundtrack is too beautiful and intricate to be presented as background underneath the dialogue of the film. While the soundtrack complements the film perfectly, I wish that it would’ve been released on its own and not as a secondary element of a movie. –Allison Shephard 

Photos:

Zola Jesus
Taiga

Mute Records
Street: 10.07
Zola Jesus = Sia x Chelsea Wolfe + Austra / Rihanna

Combining powerful cinematic instrumentation and shockingly upbeat melodies with Nika Roza Danilova’s new, finely polished vocals adds a pop element to the singer/songwriter’s formerly ultra spooky, pseudo-goth sound. While not fully ditching the dark synth and gloomy vibes, Danilova explores new territory in the realm of ‘90s pop revival. Songs like “Dangerous Days” and “Hunger” offer us a much more mainstream, radio-friendly perspective, while “Long Way Down” and “Nail” give us the taste of Danilova’s creepier side that we became addicted to in 2011’s Conatus. Normally, I would be upset at such a drastic, unprecedented change in style, but this offers catchy goth-pop that is more authentic than anything actually on the radio, and with much stronger vocals. –Allison Shephard

Kepler
Attic Salt 12”
Oscarson
Street: 05.06
Kepler = The Wallflowers + Dawes

This is probably one of the most generic albums I’ve ever heard. I tried to like it. I tried desperately to search for something unique and interesting about it, but I couldn’t. It sounds like every mellow-rock and indie band in the last 25 years congealed into one unimaginative band. Maybe part of it was because I had to fuck around with a record player for 30 minutes to be able to play it. Maybe it was the fact that I can reference their “inspiration” (i.e. replication) for each song with its original artist. Literally, the only good thing about this album was the art and presentation— too bad the music didn’t match. –Allison Shephard

Photos:
Twin Lamb – Anything is Possible...

Twin Lamb – Anything is Possible And Nothing Makes Sense

Twin Limb
Anything is Possible And Nothing Makes Sense

Suretone
Street: 11.13
Twin Limb = Florence + the Machine x Agnes Obel + Chelsea Wolfe

Slow, dense and strangely optimistic, Anything is Possible And Nothing Makes Sense shows us that the darkness isn’t such a terrible place to be in after all. Managing to capture raw elements of the human condition, each song shines—carefully and expertly representing the emotions they portray. From dreamy, shoegazey hymns on “St. Agnes” to the thick, dark synths on “Gold From Teeth (Parallel), this album doesn’t let you come up for air. –Allison Shephard

Via Tania 
Via Tania and the Tomorrow Music Orchestra
Narooma
Street: 02.24
Via Tania = Mazzy Star x Frou Frou

Theoretically, if you combine female vocal powerhouses with an orchestral backing, you’ll usually get something beautiful and robust. This is not the case with Via Tania and the Tomorrow Music Orchestra. Infantile and simplistic orchestral composition is paired with weak, smoky female vocals. I felt like this was a middle school band practice with a Lana Del Ray meets Amy Winehouse vocalist, except she can’t hit her notes, then tries to cover it with thinly veiled effects and soprano instrumentation. While some might call this subdued, I call it boring. Pass. –Allison Shephard  

Photos:
Dive Index
Lost in the Pressure
Neutral Music
Street: 09.30
Dive Index = Sumie + Park Avenue Music

After listening to this album for about two minutes, I figured that it would be a good nighttime album, something to prepare me for sweet dreams. However, after listening to it, I found myself even more awake than before, trying to unwind layers of composition, decipher between soundscapes, swarmed by something part lo-fi, part REM cycle and part swanky lounge. The acoustic guitar and the electronic percussion mixed with the rotating cast of vocalists provide a swirl of dreamy diversity. I loved that I never knew who was going to be singing on the track or the direction the song was going to take. Standout tracks include “Scars,” “Counting Umbrellas” and “Constant Chatter.” Check this out if you want to get lost and start questioning everything. –Allison Shephard

Photos:
Porcelain Raft
Permanent Signal
Secret Canadian
Street: 08.20
Porcelain Raft = Washed Out + Explosions in the Sky + The Umbrellas
On the surface, Porcelain Raft may not seem like much, but this one-man act manages to combine solemn ambiance with high-pitched vocals in a manner that is anything but generic. The opener “Think of the Ocean” combines sultry beats with mournful violins to make a track that is eerily dark, yet still sweet. While “Think of the Ocean” revels in its haunting darkness, the rest of the album has a slightly more upbeat nature, combining more post-rock instrumentals with poppier, effects-laden vocals. I was pleased to find the instrumental tracks “Open Letter” and “Warehouse” to be surprisingly soothing despite their simplicity. If you happen to be stuck inside on a rainy day, listen to this album and let Mauro Remiddi’s woeful voice calm you. (Kilby Court: 09.17.) –Allison Shephard
Photos:

Gwenno – Y Dydd Olaf

Gwenno
Y Dydd Olaf

Heavenly
Street: 7.24
Gwenno = Washed out x Wet

There’s something mildly refreshing a bout listening to music performed in a foreign language. What’s even better is getting to listen to a language you may have never heard spoken out loud, let along sung. Enter Gwenno, overlapping quirky, upbeat, synthpop tempos atop softly orchestrated Welsh vocals. Although the music can stand alone on its own merit, lyrically, it addresses issues such as gender stereotypes, coming of age and (obviously) makes a statement on minority languages and culture—which I have to assume jabs at England’s overwhelming cultural dominance over the rest of the U.K. The dream-pop element serves to add playfulness and youth. Don’t let the foreignness of this album deter you from what is possibly one of the best releases of the year. –Allison Shephard

Boduf 
Stench of Exist 
The Flenser
Street: 02.03
Boduf = Jessica Bailiff x Benoît Piolard + Orcas 
 
Despite its repugnant metal name, Stench of Exist is surprisingly mellow, intimate and, dare I say, listenable? Released on experimental label The Flenser, and with song titles such as “The Rotted Names” and “The Witch Cradle,” I expected something loud, rambunctious and the exact opposite of my normal musical tastes. However, I’m OK with pointing out my closed-mindedness in assuming this was something I was given by mistake. This album is dark and mysterious, but unpretentious; simple, but generously layered with densely drugged electronics, whispered vocals and sounds from the cityscape. The resulting product is a hazy, exploratory record that is as enigmatic as it is honest. Needless to say, kids, don’t judge a book by its cover, or in this case by its track list—you may miss out on something truly beautiful. –Allison Shephard 
Photos:

Yelle
Complètement Fou
Kemosabe
Street: 09.29
Yelle = Uffie x La Roux + Little Boots

Let’s just get the obvious out of the way now: Julie Budet is a boss bitch. She and GrandMarnier create booty-bumpin’ Euro dance-pop with absolutely no regard for language barriers. On their third album, we see how much they’ve grown up and into their signature ’80s synth-pop sound. Produced by Dr. Luke, Completèment Fou showcases more polished beats and ridiculously catchy lyrics. The title track features funky electronic beats combined with GrandMarnier’s own brand of trance-pop and Budet’s euphoric vocals. “Ba$$in,” by far the most danceable and experimental track, combines repetitive lyrics, but keeps us interested with a myriad of different beats and sounds underneath bouncy (and fairly explicit) lyrics. “Nuit de Baise Parts I &II” (translation: “Night of Fucking”) slows things down and offers a rare male vocal track to get your freak on with. However, if anything, Yelle proves once again that it’s not about what you say—it’s about how you say it. –Allison Shephard

Photos: