There’s also rock’n’roll in the summer, for those of us who like it a little heavier when the sun is shining.
Oh So Summery (and Loud)
1. “Right on Time” – The Addies. You might turn down the volume before you hit play: this chunky slab of guitar-rock takes off at full blast before dropping into a groove of sorts.
2. “Brix-tone” – Mangoseed. Reggae + Rage against the Machine = whoa bro.
3. “Forgiveness” – Turn to Crime. The song name and band name seem incongruous, but whatevs. This is a refreshing bit of laid-back rock’n’roll that makes me think of Velvet Underground.
4. “Human Imitation” – Rayne. We’re going to look back in 20 years and realize that, while there were more popular bands, Muse was the most important band of the generation. Those soaring piano lines! High drama! Mmm. Anyway, Rayne knows how to write a high-drama ballad, which is what you get here.
5. “i am laid back no pressure” – pjaro. Some of that late ’80s/early ’90s post-hardcore churn, some of that mid-’90s indie-rock malaise, some punk hollering/singing–pjaro is a clever, interesting rock band.
Stevens’ control of rhythm, melody and atmosphere make this album. Anyone can write a melody, but turning it into something unexpected melodically and rhythmically while supporting the piece with the right feel is a unique skill. Opener “Nightbus” is the perfect example of this, as it warps relatively common rhythms and melodies into a singular piece.
These instrumentals draw heavily on post-rock, trip-hop and acoustic rock for inspiration, but it’s all filtered through a keen sense of what an acoustic guitar can and can’t do. Stevens knows when it’s time to break out the electric guitar, and when to let the acoustic do it’s thing. This results in organic-feeling pieces like “Up” (check the handclaps!) and “Rusty,” as well as polished post-rockers like opener “Nightbus” and the uniquely digitized “20 GOTO 10.”
However, the not-problem problem of his former album continues in the latter album: Stevens is so good at all the aspects of post-everything indie rock that the album lacks flow in places. This is nowhere more prominent than in “Frost,” which starts off with a churning section of metal that would make some modern-day thrashers envious of its heaviness. It is a jarring contrast with the rest of the album, and especially its direct predecessor “Sand (Part 2),” a highly atmospheric piece that draws on trip-hop and jazz.
Still, it’s hard to knock Matt Stevens’ Relic. It’s obvious just from listening that a ton of thought has gone into this record, but the album doesn’t often sound intimidating. The tunes here are awe-inspiring in a majestic, soundtrack-to-my-own-life sort of way; they rarely devolve into towering, look-how-awesome-I-am pieces (Dragonforce, AWAY!). It’s that listener connection that makes all the genre-jumping palatable: it feels real and relatable. Highly recommended for fans of post-rock.
Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of instrumental music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.