Counterparts / Private Room
Metal is going through an interesting revival where industrial soundscapes and death metal from the 1990’s and the metalcore renaissance of the early to mid 2000’s are soldering into abrasive sonic murals that bands like Code Orange, Turnstiles, and Knocked Loose are simultaneously resurrecting and reanimating into (even mainstream) popularity. The latter of those styles are worn on Counterparts’ sleeve like a badge of honor that tips hats to the Trustkill and Ferret Records roster that includes Terror, Poison the Well, and Misery Signals. Cultivating turn of the millenia melodic hardcore roots, Private Room is another bullet in the chamber that Counterparts have locked and loaded as some of their best work to date.
It’s kind of funny to see the hyperbole in YouTube comments that read things like, “Lol, these throw away songs are other band’s best ones!” Lead singer, Brendan Murphy, foreshadowed this EP in a podcast with Tim Cayem, saying that at the time of You’re Not You Anymore’s release, they were negotiating a 7-inch release of these songs with Pure Noise Records (their current California based label) because he said these songs were good, but still warranted being benched from the final track listing on YNYA. This under seven minute affair packs enough punches that would hit as hard as an EP near double in length with melodically technical riffs, thickset bass tones, relentless percussion, and Brendan Murphy’s unforgiving vocal performance. Also, they wrote a song in a major key… that’s pretty neat.
Bon Iver / Blood Bank
If you’ve ever seen House M.D. you know that Hugh Laurie fits like a glove playing a narcissistic genius and that the show touts a high caliber soundtrack. On it, is re:stacks, one of Bon Iver’s most emotionally devastating and beautiful songs that ends his debut, For Emma Forever Ago in a melancholic lullaby about loss. Upon discovering this album, I was immediately hooked on its rainy day couch cushion vibes and organic production. To this day, I herald Bon Ever as one of my favorite folk acts for the way that Vernon’s deft song writing skills have an unparalleled ability to sing you to happiness in one breath and then tears in the next. One year later upon For Emma’s release came, Blood Bank. A step forward from its predecessor, Blood bank simultaneously finds Justin Vernon in rare form and sonically surveys new territory that would foreshadow his second record, Bon Iver, Bon Iver. Electronic and auto-tune flourishes on Woods, Vernon’s hushed falsetto and the dobro parts on Beach Baby, the multilayered vocal and instrumental catharsis on the title track, and lush piano parts on Babys all coalesce into a musical kaleidoscope that wraps around you like a warm blanket in the middle of winter.