Valentine’s Day has passed, and it’s a sigh of relief for all of the single folks out there like me — even as the emo sounds of heartbreak pass the time. But Dashboard Confessional and Taking Back Sunday weren’t the only artists worth playing this past weekend, as new music gave us plenty to distract from the fear of dying alone (okay, I’m only 25). The long-awaited Tame Impala finally arrived, giving us more of a psych-pop direction than ever from Kevin Parker. Norwegian metal force Kvelerak didn’t take quite as long to release Splid, but member changes made the long wait understandable. On the punk front, Spanish Love Songs put out one of the genre’s top albums of the year over a week ago — a description that will still apply by 2020’s end. For some extra satisfaction as February 14 heightens the FOMO, it’s always nice to hear new music from The Wonder Years (another exceptional acoustic EP) and Silent Planet (a crushing new single).
Kvelertak – Splid
Kvelertak has always managed to keep things interesting with their seamless blend of black metal, hard rock, and classic rock, and Splid is no exception. There are a few noticeable differences, including a new vocalist and new drummer. While Ivar Nikolaisen brings more cleans to the table than his predecessor, he still shows a knack for rough-edged vocals — enough to keep from alienating longtime listeners. First single “Bratebrann” may have had fans a little taken aback by a much more rock-focused sound, but they put the pedal to the metal on the remaining cuts. “Necrosoft” brings the black metal vibes to massive heights, while “Crack of Doom” hinges on its groove — a sludge metal anthem, if you could ever describe a song as such a thing. “Uglas Hegemoni” even flaunts a bit of hardcore punk flair. Sure, the band is a little more melodic than they were back in the 2010s, but they haven’t lost one bit of the energy on Splid.
Spanish Love Songs – Brave Faces Everyone
Schmaltz fell under the radar for many punk listeners back in 2018, but the band behind the album, Spanish Love Songs, has slowly become a familiar presence. Touring with The Menzingers has sure helped — and what better act to best define their niche of the alternative music world? Consider them a tad more immediate of a listen than their Scranton tourmates, hinting back at the On the Impossible Past days while offering a fresh blend of rugged punk and weary emo. Brave Faces Everyone turns the fervor of Schmaltz up to 11 — it’s more epic, more intense, and more satisfying. The stadium punk opener “Routine Pain” is the perfect example of this, pressing on the gas until the pedal is broken. Spanish Love Songs relies on momentum to carry Brave Faces Everyone, and they keep it up for a good 40 minutes. It’s a top-tier punk album that will vie for best punk album of the year by 2020’s end.
Silent Planet – Trilogy (Single)
Silent Planet has stood atop the metalcore world with a fast-paced regimen — a new album every two years and tons of touring. Nothing seemed to be slowing them down, but outside forces have crept in lately: Last year, frontman Garrett Russell checked into a mental facility. Yet, instead of bringing the band’s career to a sudden halt, this experience only further inspired the vocalist to keep moving forward. As a result, he wrote, “Trilogy,” saying he’s “not sure if any song has ever meant this much to me.” The outfit’s passion and ferocity is at all all-time high, opting to focus on the sense of urgency to bring Russell’s struggles with anxiety to the forefront. It’s not a “research paper or whatever,” but it’s as sound as ever instrumentally, and whether it ends up being on a new album or simply bridges the gap, it’s more of the strand of tenacity we expect from Silent Planet.
Tame Impala – The Slow Rush
With a half-decade break between their last LP and The Slow Rush, the new decade has at last gifted us with fresh Tame Impala. And it was, indeed, a slow rush in terms of its production. Though frontman Kevin Parker was busy touring (and getting married?!) in the interim, he only started working on the new record toward the end of 2018, leaving a tight timeline for the notoriously indecisive artist. Themes of time and notes of nostalgia are more prominent than ever this time: The album is bookended with tracks titled “One More Year” and “One More Hour,” and “Lost In Yesterday” and “Tomorrow’s Dust” are odes to anything but the present. Lovers of Currents will be pleased to hear Tame’s signature psych-pop bops throughout, while those who might miss their psych-rock side can enjoy the stadium rock balladry of songs such as “On Track.” –Jessica Heim-Brouwer
The Wonder Years – Burst & Decay (Volume II) EP
The follow-up to 2018’s acoustic EP Burst & Decay, The Wonder Years has now put out Part II to this delectable collection of stripped-down renditions. This time, the difference is that the band had a whole new LP of material to choose from — and they chose a few new songs, “It Must Get Lonely” and “We Look Like Lightning,” to mix in with some classics from their catalogue. The standout is “Passing Through a Screen Door,” which is toned down from anxiety to acceptance as strings and acoustic guitar bring a new twist on “Soupy” Campbell’s mid-20s crises. “Washington Square Park” (The Upsides’ most durable offering that has maintained a spot on live setlists for years) is a great inclusion as well — and it’s recrafted with utmost gentleness. Deep cuts like “Cul-de-Sac” and “Hoodie Weather” round out Burst & Decay (Volume II), an earthy EP that will hopefully be another bridge-gapper between full-lengths.