Adore Life // Matador Records
Release Date: January 22
"The Answer" opens post-punk outfit Savages' Adore Life with the bumble-generator hum of a regurgitative, brute riff. Followed by what amounts to the axiom of the entire 10-song LP, "If you don't love me, don't love anybody." This is the sarcastic theme of the second release from London's we-forgot-about-post-punk-until-this-band-came-along pageant winners; modern love is just as inundated with problems, hang-ups and insecurities as it has ever been, despite our species' slouching toward sexual autonomy.
Adore Life ponders these post-modern wonders; how do we navigate our relationships knowing that monogamy is irreconcilable with our desires? Knowing that the brain reacts to feeling love the same way it reacts to a hit of cocaine? Knowing that the well of romance, after time, runneth dry?
There is sex in this record, it's probably the second most prevalent topic, entwined with the broader theme of barbed love – sex and razor-wired guitars, air raid sirens, a spoiled affair in a time-locked bunker.
Savages maneuver these two states — love and lust — over Anglo-disco, rainy music from the Isles — dark, shadowy, brooding — a stray dog in a London fog. Adore Life probably contains the word "love" 500 more times than the next most-used utterance. Single "Adore" is, to me, the greatest reach for the group, with the greatest rewards. A sauntering trip down the steamy, damp alley once trod by vampirical lovers The Birthday Party and Lydia Lunch. It's a brilliant mid-tempo hymn where the happiest words come at the saddest times.
Savages particularly feel British in the harnessing of their cynical romanticism, from the exalted longing of Mancunian Morrissey or trad-trash balladry of Shane MacGowan, to the disgusted irreverence of Public Image Ltd's John Lydon or Crass' Joy De Vivre, but always sung over cauterizing-hot guitar. Comparisons to Joy Division or Siouxsie and the Banshees are obvious, but the bulk of the band's admirers may not know who those groups are until Savages turn them on, via influence-Internet queries. Such is the post-modern way of learning to love. –Travis Buffkin
Levees EP // Self-released
Release Date: January 23
Diabolically saccharine duo Donny and Marie Osmond unleashed a little bit more than a shitty-ditty when they oomphed out "I'm a Little Bit Country, I'm a Little Bit Rock 'N' Roll," they established a philosophy. In fact, what's considered country and rock 'n' roll has grown and diversified since the single from the Mormon moptops.
This is the general malleability that Levees utilize on the four-song EP; this aught-spawned vocal indulgence and tunes clipped at 80 beats per minute. The meeting ground of cracker blues, emo-opera and arena rock maintained by the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach and Dave Grohl before him, is where Levees set up camp.
Levees is certainly a well-executed, professional-sounding record. It's also an exceptional live band. Tight and dramatic. The good news for the San Antonio quintet: If it keeps on raining introspective, bluesy emo-rock, Levees are going to break.
Side note: Isn't it just wild that we live in a time where I can write "introspective, bluesy emo-rock?" –TB
Sundown Shadows // Self-released
Release Date: January 21
On their first full-length 11-track album, Sundown Shadows, San Antonio's Tera Ferna make a name for themselves with an uncompromisingly emotional record that's backed up by strong virtuoso musicianship.
Conceived by singer/songwriter/rhythm guitarist Matthew Charles as a solo project at the start of the decade, Tera Ferna became their final incarnation after bassist Brandon Kent, lead guitarist James "Jolly" Perez and drummer Anthony "Junie" Washington gradually joined the band.
Powered by his sultry, breathy vocals, Charles' lyrics describe human suffering to its emotional core — bad breakups, unrequited love, metaphorical devils and literal darkness make up the considerable weight of Sundown Shadows' content.
The album's money shot "Sundown Shadows" is a thoughtful, lugubrious odyssey through a man's "mind lost at sea," but the salsa-inducing breakdowns keep the song cruising the coastline of fun. The lead single's video, a dizzying masquerade ball complete with a melodramatic storyline and fire breathers, received a red carpet welcome at an Alamo Drafthouse showing last summer. Highlight "Oh Tomorrow," a simmering Bond-worthy ballad, will be the theme song for Eye for an Eye, an upcoming psychological thriller television series. On "Today Is the Day," a subtle undercurrent of delicate guitar accompanies Charles as he sings about the woes of the weight on his back in a powerful, never phony, bare-bones number. Tera Ferna is the kind of music to LiveJournal to, and considering the depth of the heavy lyrics put into motion with occasionally energetic, catchy music, dismissing them is not an option. –Shannon Sweet