New Music Tuesday: Crosses (†††) • Temples • Tinariwen • Sun Kil Moon

Crosses - Crosses

Every Tuesday, we focus on new music releases by naming our top tracks, album highlights, lowlights and important takeaways for select albums.

Crosses (†††)Crosses (†††)

2-BamsTop Tracks:
“This is a Trick”
“Bitches Brew”

Album Highlights: The side project of Chino Moreno of The Deftones, Shaun Lopez of Far, and producer Chuck Doom form the industrial, electronic-rock band Crosses or (+++). With first releasing their work in the form of two EP’s back in 2011 and 2012, respectively. The band used those songs with the addition of five new ones to put together a long playing album. The self-titled debut starts strong with “This is a Trick”, previously featured on EP1, has a hip-hop feel before transforming into a dirty industrial beat that is very well done, but unfortunately the album doesn’t really become more fulfilling than that. One other song grabbed my attention and that was “Frontiers”. I really liked the overall mood and flow of this song, which has an interesting middle section that sounds like a voicemail that connects the two parts of the song. I’m usually not a fan of random people talking in songs, but this seems to be fine.

Album Lowlights: Surprisingly, the song they chose as their single is my lowlight of the entire album. “The Epilogue” actually starts out great for the first minute with a neat little hip-hop beat, but then the chorus comes in the form of a really bad electro drum fill that is matched with extremely cheesy lyrics that remind me of top Billboard pop song. The album also has terrible flow which probably stems from the fact that this is really just three EP’s put into one LP. I feel they would have been better off if they either released another EP or wait until you have enough new material to make a more cohesive album.

Takeaway: If your’e a diehard Chino Moreno fan or you must have all things industrial then this album is for you, but I just cannot get past the blend of pop-rock with industrial, it just does not work except for the few songs I mentioned. I also feel like they might be trying a bit too hard in wanting to be mysterious of some sort. Every song purposely has a “T” in the shape of a cross, which feels like a gimmick and of course their name is a symbol. This is trend I’m not a fan of. With all this being said, I bet they put on one hell of a live show. All three of these musicians are very talented, but I think they should go back to their main projects. Do yourself a favor and go see them live.

~Pete Mauch

TemplesSun Structures

4-BamsTop Tracks:
“Sun Structures”
“Move With the Season”

Album Highlights: Temples’ debut has been one of the more buzzed about releases to drop in 2014, and the hype has seemed to have connected on this strong slice of English psychedelia. Sun Structures is a sonic romp through mystical lands that beckons back to decades past while breathing a breath of fresh air into a popular genre for the moment at hand. Some fear it could be written off as overtly derivative, but there is a depth to this release that even this writer still anxiously awaits to see how it all unfolds in the coming months.

This project, originally a duo helmed by singer/guitarist James Bagshaw and bassist Thomas Warmsley in 2012, steadily evolved from a bedroom studio effort into a full blown band within just a year. From there, Temples and Sun Structures has blossomed into a wicked ride, opening with harp-laden, psych-pop track, “Shelter Song”, which sets the stage nicely for what lies ahead. “Sun Structures” flexes multiple muscles in regards to both catchy songwriting coupled with instrumental explorations; succeeding as an ambitious second track. Pacing and length(55 minutes) are two other strong suits, as the peppering of extremely strong tracks aids to the likelihood of not only casual replay, but full-album revisits.

A bulk of the punch comes in the middle of the album where a variety of psychedelic styles are confidently presented. “Mesmerise” is straight blistering in all its swirly glory and soaring vocals which are hard to ignore as a power-single, destined to be blaring over college radios across the hemisphere. “Move with the Season” is the perfect cut to allow you to catch your breath from the maelstrom that hath just ensued. This more subdued entry combines tidbits of British rock history with the harmonious sentiment of acts like Fleet Foxes. I could go on in describing each songs strong qualities, but I’ll leave some of that to you.

Album Lowlights: Comparisons to a certain Australian psych-rock band are gonna be made, but I beg you to listen to Temples without such bias.

The production is solid overall, but one can’t help wonder if they went a little overboard with all the effects, massive organ flourishes, harp sweeps and pretty little nuisances.

Lastly, some of Bagshaw’s lyrical subjects comes off as cliché in all it’s dark mysticism and fantasmical elements. I mean, I’m down for this journey, just not sure I need the lyrics to paint TOO much of the picture for me.

Takeaway: Sun Structures is one helluva debut effort, simply put. Nods to retro-pop are evident early on, yet fade off quickly, leaving the listener with the adequate tools to join these lads on a mysterious exploration. In this voyage their are many musical elements present, and the vast majority fit neatly in their respective place as a young English band takes on a formidable genre.

~Kevin Quandt


3.5-BamsTop Tracks:
“Arhegh Danagh”
“Koud Edhaz Emin”
“Timadrit in Sahara”

Album Highlights: Tinariwen, a critically acclaimed Tuareg band from the Sahara Desert of northern Mali, return for a followup to their Grammy Award winning 2011 album Tassili. Formed in 1979, Tinariwen is more than a band of musicians, they have lived through war and political unrest in northern Africa, reflecting the pulse of the people in Mali, Algeria and Libya. Their latest release Emmaar, is the 7th studio output from this band of Tuareg musicians best known for their unique blend of politically driven Tichumaren, rock and blues music stryle. Emmaar is driven by the signature guitar sound common in West African music, and the rhythmic percussion of the findé, which can oftentimes sound like a bongo drum. This album might not live up to it’s predecessor but it is still an immensely enjoyable sound from this band from the desert.

Album Lowlight: Unlike Tassili, there are no guest appearances from western musicians on Emmaar. Nels Cline and The Dirty Dozen Brass Band both make an appearances on the Tassili, winner of a Grammy for “Best World Music” in 2011. Emmaar does not not have any guest appearances, and does not stray far from their roots as Tuareg musicians. However, that is not to say this is a bad thing, I just love collaborations between masters of different genres.

Takeaway: Tinariwen have a fascinating and complex past. Their music is more than music, it is the voice of an entire group of people known as The Tuareg, a nomadic people from the Saharan Desert in North Africa. Formed in a military training camp organized by former Libyan ruler Muammar al-Gaddafi, Tinariwen was formed to voice the consciousness of the Tuareg people. Emmaar is another in a long line of music that represents the voice of their people. And for that it is beautiful. You might not be able to understand the words they are saying, but you can feel the emotion in their voices and instruments. Do yourself a favor and familiarize yourself with this inspirational story.

~Kevin Raos

Sun Kil MoonBenji

4.5-BamsTop Tracks:
“Pray For Newtown”
“I Watched the Film The Song Remains the Same”

Album Highlights: Mark Kozelek’s work is prolific, especially of late — the singer/songwriter has released over 40 records fronting Red House Painters throughout the 90’s, solo under his own name and with his current band Sun Kil Moon. Since the group’s superb 2012 record Among the Leaves, Kozelek released a record of covers called Like Rats along with collaborations with Jimmy LaValle & Desertshore. But in this brief period of time, something significant has changed in Kozelek’s songwriting process. 

Benji must be interpreted as a concept album about death. Every track touches on human demise, mostly in wretched, vivid ways but also poetically and therapeutically. There are the victims of accidental explosions & gun violence, friends & acquaintances passing on and most harrowingly, the fear of close family members not being alive in the near future. What’s new is Kozelek’s consistent approach to direct storytelling.

“I Watched the Film The Song Remains the Same”, the 10-minute album thesis, really digs into the emotions of coping with death through poignant lyrics and layered acoustic guitar that sets a cascading tone. Kozelek admits, “…from my earliest memories I was a very melancholy kid. When anything close to me at all in the world died, to my heart forever it would be tied.” “Micheline”, perhaps Benji’s most touching track, soars as it picks up steam. Kozelek looks back at at a childhood acquaintance, a close friend he used to perform with and his grandmother in such sad, descriptive detail. The song also includes the album’s title in passing — when visiting his dying grandma, he also remembers seeing the ocean for the first time and watching the movie Benji in the theater — offering an iota of contrast against the records’ heavy content. 

Kozelek’s lyrics are the centerpiece of the listening experience  — they are so deep and resonant that the instrumentals and production are absorbed secondarily, although the stripped down approach is intentional and noteworthy. “Dogs” and “Ben’s My Friend” utilize a delayed echo effect on vocals to make critical segments more jarring. Standard balladry along with symbolism and metaphors take the back seat in favor of straightforward expressions throughout. 

Album Lowlight: The replay value will likely not be strong for many, unless depression or morbidity takes center stage one’s life. It’s a contemplative record that is more fit for rainy days than celebratory moments. That said, Benji is an essential 2014 album. 

Takeaway: Benji is an album that makes you feel. The death topic makes for a sincere Kozelek album, this from a man whose lyrics usually drip in sarcasm and wit — of course the wit is alive and well here. It’s powerful, visceral storytelling that is self-reflexive and biographical, yet so relatable that it compels personal introspection from the listener’s own experiences. Built around obsessing about the state of human demise, and the randomness of it, it’s easy to join Kozelek’s dire state of mind hours or days after listening. 

~Mike Frash


  1. […] banter lent a bit of levity against the dead-serious storytelling from his incredible new Sun Kil Moon record Benji, which was almost played in its entirety to start the show (final track “Ben’s My […]

  2. […] Mark Kozelek’s music comes in the form of many groups and collaborations, his new record Benji with Sun Kil Moon will likely solidify this group as his legacy. The lyrics are heartbreaking, the […]

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