In this week’s notable new releases: Hive Mind is a step forward for The Internet, while Devouring Radiant Light glimpses a more refined Skeletonwitch, and Ty Segall & White Fence mostly go folk on Joy.
The Internet, Hive Mind
Syd, The Internet’s primary singer and songwriter, has said she didn’t set out to turn R&B tropes on their head. But even if reframing the genre’s testosterone-driven songs weren’t an immediate goal, her ability to so thoroughly do so remains one of the most striking aspects of The Internet’s songcraft. Not just because of her LGBTQ perspective—yearning is yearning, after all—but because of Syd’s sensitivity and relatability. Like Ego Death before it, Hive Mind sees her casually capturing the essence of every stage of romantic interaction, but even on the album’s most lustful tracks, she sings not with leering insistence but reassuring sweetness, and her confidence is tempered with realistic cracks, like promises to herself that she’ll “try not to fuck up the flow.” That’s a mantra the band seems to have internalized, too, almost to a fault. For all of Hive Mind’s merits, it still has a tendency to get lost in its own grooves and retread some of the same territory, particularly in its slower, more intimate cuts. But this is still a step forward for this young, talented crew, housing nothing but scintillating performances from Syd and, in the rare moments when the group cuts loose, some seriously intoxicating funk.
RIYL: Janelle Monáe. Groove Theory. Erykah Badu.
Start here: “La Di Da” is a highlight of the album’s more playful, funky side, but it also exemplifies The Internet’s approach to toying with R&B gender dynamics, casting guitarist Steve Lacy as a club creeper who gets pissy after Syd rebuffs his attempts to interrupt her good time. [Matt Gerardi]
Ty Segall & White Fence, Joy
The first collaboration between Ty Segall and Tim “White Fence” Presley, 2012’s Hair, came off like a thrilling collision of their competing sensibilities, bouncing between Segall’s garage rock and Presley’s restrained, lo-fi psychedelics. Outside the first five tracks, which often burst into the kind of fuzzy, looping riffs Segall is known for, their second album does away with Hair’s brawny, rock ’n’ roll edge almost entirely. Instead, it immerses the duo in drugged-out, disheveled folk. It’s barely over 30 minutes long but brims with musical ideas, including several sets of interconnected songs that push Segall and Presley to their weirdest and most tuneless—songs full of kitschy, almost-satirical vocals surrounded by wandering guitars and squawking woodwinds—before reeling back to simple, solid psych rock. Like a lot of the aggressively trippy ’60s folk Joy hearkens back to, the experimentation yields mixed results. But tracks like that rocking opening salvo, closer “My Friend,” and the ominous “She Is Gold” show the kind of hypnotic psychedelic knockouts these two can achieve when they keep their loonier side at bay.
RIYL: The Byrds. The Incredible String Band. Syd Barrett at his weirdest. Getting high as fuck and skipping through a field of daisies.
Start here: Part acoustic ballad and part guitar-mandolin jam session, “My Friend” caps the album off by bringing Joy’s many eccentricities and styles together into a slow-burning stunner. [Matt Gerardi]
Skeletonwitch, Devouring Radiant Light
Blackened thrashers Skeletonwitch’s first full-length since 2013’s Serpents Unleashed, Devouring Radiant Light is a clear restatement of purpose and their best record to date. Skeletonwitch is putting forward a more refined Skeletonimage overall—less beer-guzzling pit-starters and more mid-era Immortal. Gone is its gauche cover art, replaced with a beautifully moody Stefan Thanneur piece. The band’s logo, as abundant at any metal show as denim vests, is nowhere in sight. The music follows suit: This is the first Skeletonwitch record you could reasonably describe as “stately.” Eight tracks of energetic major-label black metal with a solid, if dry Kurt Ballou production. It’s unpretentious, meaty stuff built for headbanging and not much more. Skeletonwitch albums used to pack it all into a half hour of compact riff workouts. The 46-minute Devouring Radiant Light lets the band breathe. It sounds like they needed it—the record’s longest songs are its best.
RIYL: Sons Of Northern Darkness. Metal records with a recording budget.
Start here: “Fen Of Shadows” is the standout, with melodic guitar flourishes hanging above the blast-beat churn. [Astrid Budgor]