Holiday Gift Guide 2017: Music You Might Have Missed

1280px-Music_presentIt’s less than one week until Christmas and you still haven’t finished shopping. Biff Bam Pop! is here to help. These under-the-radar releases might be the perfect solution to your problem. The best part is that most of them can be downloaded immediately so you don’t have to deal with shipping delays. Happy Listening!

Burning Image, Oleander Revisited (self-released)

Bakersfield, CA’s Burning Image is one of America’s earliest Deathrock bands, and they are still going strong after more than three decades. Oleander Revisited is a remastered version of the band’s 2011 concept album exploring the legendary “Lords of Bakersfield,” an underground network of Bakersfield gay men in positions of prominence who preyed upon (and were sometimes murdered by) young teen boys in the 1980s and ‘90s. It’s an incredibly dark and disturbing narrative, and Burning Image brings it to vivid, Gothic life through reverbed guitars, chorus pedal basslines, and singer/songwriter Moe Adame’s world-weary vocals.

Dead Heavens, Whatever Witch You Are (Dine Alone Records)

One doesn’t need to drop acid to enjoy Whatever Witch You Are, but it probably couldn’t hurt. The album offers sultry blues full of detuned guitars, lots of wah wah and flange pedals, along with Walter Schreifels’ deadpan yet luscious vocals. In fact, his voice is so pure and effortless that it helps verses, choruses and bridges melt into each other, even as subtle chord changes propel the songs into more pop-friendly territory. This is certainly an album that will appeal to the freaks, in the truest sense of the word. It’s less macho than stoner rock, but more elegant than garage punk. (Read my full review.)

Dion Lunadon, S/T (Agitated Records)

Dion Lunadon’s (of A Place to Bury Strangers) first solo effort is short, sharp and shockingly good. Each song positively reeks of the tension between the familiar signifiers of garage rock and the ear-splitting wall of noise for which APTBS is renowned. These are songs of desperation and rage, raucous yet undeniably hooky, with the kind of incendiary music that should always accompany such sentiments. The album thrashes with joyous abandon, even as it revels in its own nihilism. (Read my full review.)

Frankie Rose, Cage Tropical (Slumberland Records/Grey Market)

In the four years since Frankie Rose released Herein Wild, the singer/songwriter moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, experienced a crisis of musical faith, worked on a catering truck and ended up back in Brooklyn with a batch of new songs and a determination to turn her misery into something positive. The result is 10 thrilling tracks that teeter in that liminal place between ecstasy and heartbreak, usually within the same song. Yet beyond the syncopated drumming, Robert Smith-style guitar, bass chorus pedals and the interplay between piano and retro synth sounds, there is Frankie Rose’s astonishing voice. (Read my full review.)

King Woman, Created in the Image of Suffering (Relapse Records)

Created in the Image of Suffering is a mesmerizing mixture of shoegaze, doom metal, and post-punk. From both tactile and textual perspectives, this is not easy listening music; the album’s lyrics describe someone digging their way out of the smothering confines of religious repression. Much like horror film fans often escape into films to work through real-life trauma, the album seems like Esfandiari’s attempt at exorcising demons. It may not be easy listening, but this profoundly affecting album is essential listening, especially for those of us wrestling with our own religious backgrounds. (Read my full review.)

Missionary Work, Seven Sermons (DWZ International)

If you haven’t yet come across Missionary Work, get ready to be amazed. Seven Sermons is a remarkable piece of work. Listen to it once, put it away for a while, and then play it again. These seven tracks will have somehow infiltrated your brain and taken root inside of your neural pathways. If Missionary Work needs anyone to spread their particular brand of giallo gospel, count me in. I’m a believer. (Read my full review.)

The Raveonettes, 2016 Atomized (Beat Dies Records)

2016 Atomized is an apt title for an album full of songs that are obsessed with nuclear and romantic annihilation, each track a finely distilled blast of musical essence from The Raveonettes’ particularly heady bouquet. Yet there is no track on 2016 Atomized that better encapsulates the unorthodox nature of The Raveonettes’ songwriting than the addictive “A Good Fight,” which splits the chorus between two completely opposite sonic palettes. The song’s anticipatory guitar riff seems like it’s going to explode into a post-punk chorus, but instead drops off into a chasm of atmospheric heartbreak, complete with poignant piano and wistful synths. It’s haunting. (Read my full review.)

Severed Heads, Come Visit the Big Bigot (Dark Entries)

Pioneers of industrial dance music, Australia’s Severed Heads have been around since 1979, with Tom Ellard being the only consistent member throughout the group’s history. Come Visit the Big Bigot was originally released in 1986, boasting the excellent single “20 Deadly Diseases.” Spooky samples and Ellard’s spectral vocals make the album feel like it was birthed from a lucid dream, while lyrics about insane people, brain research, hungry computers, and John Boorman’s film career add a nervous, postmodern vibrancy. This reissue contains three extended remixes, three B-sides, and two additional tracks from the same recording sessions.

Sisters, Wait Don’t Wait (Tender Loving Empire)

With their second release, the duo of Emily Westman and Andrew Vait have created a bright, breezy album that combines pop, funk, and soulful harmonies. Utilizing unexpected jazz flourishes and Prince-influenced synths and guitars, these twelve tracks are infectiously catchy and sure to warm the hearts—and move the feet—of even the most jaded music fan. The fact that the album was recorded in ten days is impressive, especially when considering how polished and provocative each song sounds.

Spotlights, Seismic (Ipecac Recordings)

Merging shoegaze with sludge metal and adding grim, thought-provoking lyrics, Spotlights creates an unholy alliance that is breathtaking in its power. Flashes of My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus and Mary Chain flirt with early Smashing Pumpkins as well as Melvins-like dirges. It’s no wonder the latter band picked Spotlights to open for them throughout their 2017 North American tour. Spotlights is comprised of husband and wife Mario and Sarah Quintero; how two people manage to fill a room with such a heavy wall of sound must be heard to be believed.

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