The last wave of new records before the holiday season runs into full gear has been a diverse one, and this week is no exception. FKA Twigs makes her long-awaited return to the scene, with a new record that more than makes up for her missed time. To celebrate ten years since Nothing Personal carried All Time Low from follower to leader status in the pop punk scene, the band has dropped a live session version of the record that many know by heart (myself included). In the world of debuts, Oakland’s Pendant adds some emo spice to the thriving dream pop scene of the city. Lastly, Sacramento’s Royal Coda maintains the city’s hot streak in the post-hardcore scene, while the third record from Moor Mother (of Black Quantum Futurism fame) continues the hot streak from the experimental poet.
FKA twigs – Magdalene
After capturing the imagination and attention of the amalgamation that is “indie” for the better part of the decade, it’s hard to imagine that MAGDALENE is only the sophomore full-length of London’s Tahliah Barnett. Her sultry yet ethereal voice again takes main stage, but here she takes significant steps away from previous R&B labels (which she claimed were only said because of her race anyway), towards a glitchier, trip-hop soundscape. Minute details and intricate pieces of production (the staggered and lagging horns on the semi-titled “mary magdalene”) are evidence of Nicolas Jaar’s co-production on the record, steering the work even further from the grain. Like her acclaimed live shows, MAGDALENE is alien, but enticing. – Jeremy Abcug
All Time Low – It’s Still Nothing Personal: A Ten Year Tribute
Nothing Personal was the moment when All Time Low fully embraced their status as the leader of a pop punk scene that was in flux towards the end of the 2000s. The record’s tight grasp of melody and nostalgia defined a new era of the genre, and has endured for the past decade. It’s Still Nothing Personal: A Ten Year Tribute is a live, in-studio recording the record from Red Bull Studios, paired with a new documentary about the album. Those who have seen the band live will feel at home with the live key changes and song rearrangements that they bring to the tape on classics like “Weightless” and “Lost In Stereo”. The real substance of the re-record comes in how the band treats the deeper cuts, pulling the likes of “Hello, Brooklyn” and “Too Much” into the live arena for the first time in years. Those who love the record will feel right at home from start to finish, with its contemporary revision sitting well with the band’s evolution, both musically and as icons of this era of pop punk.
Pendant – Through a Coil
Through a Coil is the debut record from the solo project of Never Young singer/guitarist Christopher Adams. Pendant mixes indie shoegaze and 2010s emo sounds well, with a lush, guitar-driven sound that sticks hard from beginning to end. Adams does not hide his connections to the Oakland dream pop world, with the post-punk melodrama of “Plexiglass” sitting heavier than the likes of Day Wave or Hazel English, but wafting in the layered sounds of those scene darlings. The production work from Jay Som’s Melina Duterte sticks out on “Name Around My Neck”, which begins with a quiet, earthy guitar that wouldn’t feel out of place on Turn Into, before building into a denser palette that manages to return home to those quieter guitars from time to time. Charismatic melodies carry the record’s filtered sounds from start to finish, showcasing a sense of maturity and refinement that will lend itself towards higher heights in Pendant’s future.
Royal Coda – Compassion
After releasing a stellar debut full-length in 2018, nobody expected another Royal Coda album this year, but we’ve received an early Christmas gift in LP #2: Compassion. There are some notable differences this time around, too. Royal Coda’s 2000s post-hardcore rehashing was no mistake, built from the mindset of members from Dance Gavin Dance, A Lot Like Birds, and The Fall of Troy. Now, replace The Fall of Troy with more Dance Gavin Dance, as Thomas Erak left and Will Swan joined. The album is just as math rock-driven, with an even more thick and adventurous result due to the newcomer’s immediate fit (see “Numbing Agent” and “Arms Race for God’s Grace” for perfect examples of the band’s growing cohesion and creativity. It helps that Swan and his guitarist counterpart Sergio Medina have played together previously as well. Another difference is that Compassion is only eight songs long. But after putting out an under-the-radar post-hardcore tour de force last year, I don’t think anyone’s complaining about another frenetic set of tunes. – Tim Dodderidge
Moor Mother – Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes
Analog Fluids opens like the creaking of a basement door, disquieting strings or maybe a knife being sharpened, like the climax of a recurring nightmare. But for Camae Ayewa (Moor Mother) and the larger black community in America, this nightmare is all too real. As Ayewa greaves and screams over background police-radio chatter and static in “Don’t Die,” it’s clear the message is ugly and naked. Incredibly harsh and gristly noise is present throughout the record, mechanic Moloch devouring the prisoners of Capitalism, with once-harmless samples now distorted beyond recognition serving as choir. Ayewa’s raps and verses of spoken word are linked together by wild and minute-long transitions, making the whole record a seamless, yet hard-to-stomach, full listen. Albeit only her second full-length, Analog Fluids is without a doubt the most impressive and most important record of the year to-date. – Jeremy Abcug