New Music Tuesday: John Frusciante • The Faint • SOHN • EMA

John Frusciante - Enclosure

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

John FruscianteEnclosure

3.5-BamsTop Tracks:

There’s no better way to put into words just how “out there” former Chili Peppers savior John Frusciante is other than to tell you the way in which he launched (quite literally) his latest album Enclosure.

Frusciante is known for his peculiarity, but took things to another level by sending his album into space on March 29 attached to a satellite called Sat-JF14. Fans could then download a tracking app that would tell them when the album was in their region, when it would then be unlocked.

Album Highlights: Lyrically, Frusciante is as out of control as ever. In the context of his music, it doesn’t manage to matter. His excellent guitar work and the production he tasks himself carries Enclosure along as one of Frusciante’s finest solo masterpieces. His strength as a vocalist is missed by the Chili Peppers, who Frusciante carried a lot of songs behind lead man Anthony Kiedis with his beautiful harmonies. Frusciante’s vocals aren’t as understated on his solo albums and he takes some chances, most of which pay off. Frusciante gives off a bit of an 80’s vibe on this album due to the heavy synth that is featured throughout. The way Frusciante builds up to his guitar solos is pretty brilliant and he does it as good as anyone out there. Check out the song “Stage” to get an idea.

Album Lowlight: A lot of the songs are rather heavy on guitar solos, so you have to be in the right frame of mind for it. Sometimes, they can feel like they drag on a bit too long, as well. As mentioned above, this album features a fair amount of synths. Most times, it sounds pretty good and gels with the rest of the arrangement, but at times it can sound like music that belongs in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the original Nintendo.

Takeaway: As with all of Frusciante’s solo work, if you came to it from being a Chili Peppers fan first before anything else, it might not suit your needs or expectations. If you are a big appreciator of Frusciante’s multi-faceted chops, Enclosure is something you can enjoy, especially if you recognize it for what it is. The release isn’t as far out there as some of these previous projects, nor is it as close to mainstream.

~Mark E. Ortega

The FaintDoom Abuse

2.5 BamsTop Tracks:
“Help in the Head”
“Dress Code”
“Lesson from the Darkness”

Album Highlights: Not that long ago, there was a point in time when fans of The Faint didn’t know if their beloved band would ever make another record. Yet, the Nebraska quartet reunited in late 2012 following a two-year hiatus not just to start touring again, but also to create new music. As frontman Todd Fink explained to me, The Faint needed to take a different approach for its sixth full-length album after overthinking the writing process when it came to 2008’s Fasciinatiion. But for an outfit that put Omaha’s growing indie scene on the map with electro-punk hits like “Agenda Suicide” in the early 2000s, Doom Abuse doesn’t even come close to touching 2001 paradigm Danse Macabre. Other than the album’s opening single “Help in the Head,” there aren’t many standout tracks for Fink and his bandmates to hang their hat on, unfortunately. While they make a concerted effort to strip things down from start to finish, that only works some of the time on Doom Abuse. The frenetic dance vibe that we get on instrumental cut “Dress Code,” for example, is one of just a few shining moments, even though The Faint save some of its best work — “Lesson from the Darkness” and the ensuing “Unseen Hand” — for last.

Album Lowlight: The Faint have never been known to write albums that extend past the 40-minute mark, so it should be no surprise to see Doom Abuse follow suit on that front. But at just over 39 minutes in length, the 12-track LP undeniably lacks depth — after all, half of its songs span less than three minutes. That’s only part of the problem with The Faint’s latest studio effort, however. Fink, keyboardist Jacob Thiele, guitarist Dapose and drummer Clark Baechle also don’t come off sounding all that imaginative on “Evil Voices,” “Animal Needs” and “Scapegoat,” failing to create distance between most of their songs.

Takeaway: It’s hard to tell what has changed for The Faint from its last release to this one. Longtime followers of the band may not take issue with what they hear on Doom Abuse, but it’s far from the four-piece’s best work. At the same time, it’s sad to see a band come out of hibernation to assemble an album that doesn’t strike the same chord as its previous offerings — because that’s ultimately the reality here. The Faint, though, still know how to put on one hell of a show, so it may just take a live setting for certain tracks on Doom Abuse to come to life.

~Josh Herwitt


4-BamsTop Tracks:

Album Highlights: SOHN is a London-born songwriter, producer and musician. He has made some noise in the electronic scene by remixing Disclosure and Lana Del Rey, as well as producing Banks’ “Waiting Game.” His debut album, Tremors, was recorded at night in Vienna. As SOHN states, “Every night I worked finished with a cold sunrise and a walk home … and to me that’s what Tremors sounds like.” And that late-night vibe is definitely captured on this album. The minimalist and intricate production make this a great album for a night drive; this album is a beautifully depressing soundscape. While single “Artifice” is the most radio friendly track, SOHN has created some very interesting and moody songs with “Paralysed” and “Lessons” and “Lights,” which all build slowly and ever so gently from a mellow track to a track with some edge, before coming to an alluring close. In fact, that somewhat describes the way the album itself progresses. The second half contains much of the moodiness and depth, it is almost flawless.

Album Lowlight: This album is a bit much to listen to in one sitting from start to finish. And maybe not many people listen to a record in that way anymore. While there are some surprises along the way, much of the first half blends together. The opener, “Tempest,” takes awhile to build and then is over too quickly. “The Wheel” is too repetitive and jerky for me, but the production is still good. I prefer the depth of SOHN on his subtler songs.

Takeaway: If you listen to this album from start to finish, there is a chance you will begin to wallow in your own misery and forget where you are going or what you were doing before you played the album. But hey, sometimes that’s necessary. And if walking home alone at 4 a.m., Tremors is a great soundtrack to have for that walk. The production of Tremors is so beautifully done. After the opening tracks, it’s easy to find yourself getting lost in some of these songs. This is a promising debut, and it will be interesting to see where SOHN will go from here.

~Krystal Beasley

EMAThe Future’s Void

3.5-BamsTop Tracks:

Album Highlights: Future’s Void is the third full-length album from South Dakota native Erika M. Anderson, more commonly known as EMA. This release brings to the table a risky mixture of genre crossing sounds that combine with a spellbinding voice to create a vast, audio experience. This is one of those recordings best heard through a pair of good brain clamps.

“Satellites” begins this journey with radio static and a bass rattle that becomes a recurring theme in some of the thicker sounding tracks featured later in the album. Released as a single, “Satellites” has a very enticing opening beat and a vocal melody that is built to last. Heavy use of distorted synths creates the feeling of a dark, industrial soundscape full of digital noises and electrical sounds that almost suck the listener down the digital rabbit hole. Tracks like “Smoulder” and “Neuromancer” use loads of vocal effects and fuzzed-out screams to further Anderson’s already haunting qualities, serving to pull us further and further into this album. She has one of those voices that is equally comforting as it is frightening which she uses brilliantly in “100 Years.”

Album Lowlight: Future’s Void album is an enjoyable listen but it lacks a consistent amount of energy and overall feel from the beginning to the end. Immediately after a great opening song (“Satellites”), “So Blonde” and “3Jane” shift gears to a more traditional guitar and drums-type track. The same thing happens in the middle of Future’s Void when the best string of tracks is halted by the slow tempoed, and folky “When She Comes.” The rest of the album kind of fizzles out after “Neuromancer,” much like when the air gets sucked out of a balloon and all that is left is a wrinkled piece of rubber. There was a lot of promise to this album, and there are many redeeming qualities that if were focused on, could really make for a more appealing sounding project.

Takeaway: I feel like I might hear this album while catching an Uber ride in cyberspace. During some songs I wanted to smash an acoustic guitar against the wall like Bluto from Animal House. But during others I couldn’t help but hear Nine Inch Nails-influenced space-beats with a wormhole-like rip of industrial fuzz that took hold of me and didn’t let go until it spit me out on the other end of the galaxy. Anderson’s guttural screams and growls are continually distorted and twisted into glitchy echos that had me wanting for more. EMA has a surprisingly fresh sound in a musical world of shifting talents, where music can be more about pushing buttons than plucking strings. If only they could decide between being a folk-based band or a synth-rock band.

~Scotland Miller

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