I’ve been finding lots of albums in the good to very good range this year, but not many great ones. Here are three more strong, but not classic, albums. American indie rock artist Lucy Dacus, Canadian post-rockers Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and Danish producer Erika de Casier.
I’ve reviewed new albums by all three Boygenius members over the last year on this site. Out of Dacus, Phoebe Bridgers, and Julien Baker, it’s taken me the longest to get into the catalogue of Lucy Dacus. She’s the least distinctive of the three vocally, but Home Video provides a graceful broadening of her sound that suggests she might just be the most capable of the three.
From Richmond, Virginia, Dacus started as a lo-fi rocker on 2016’s No Burden. There’s still guitar muscle on Home Video but the tempos are slower and there’s more emphasis on Dacus’ lyrics. She’s an interesting lyricist, both offering futile advice to friends and revisiting her adolesence. On ‘Thumbs’ she sings to a friend;
You’ve been in his fist ever since you were a kid
But you don’t owe him shit even if he said you did
On ‘VBS’ she remembers the Vacation Bible School of her youth:
It’s mostly mellow and introspective, but there’s stylistic variety all the same. My favourite track is ‘Partner in Crime’, which blends some tough guitar with pop-style processed vocals, while closer ‘Triple Dog Dare’ is a lengthy rocker with a rawer sound. The quieter songs put Dacus’ voice and lyrics in the spotlight – ‘Brando’ delivers another great one-liner:
You called me “cerebral”
I didn’t know what you meant
But now I do, would it have killed you
To call me pretty instead?
Home Video is a very strong third album, setting Dacus up for a long and varied career.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor
G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END!
It’s been a surprising year for 1990s post-rock revivals – Glasgow’s Mogwai topped the UK charts with As The Love Continues. Meanwhile, Montreal post-rock collective Godspeed You! Black Emperor, are back with their seventh album. I haven’t caught up with most of their albums since they reunited in 2010, but new record G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END! recalls their beloved 2000 record Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven. It’s the same dense and intense sound, their cinematic instrumental tracks with layered guitars and the violin of Sophie Trudeau (not THAT Sophie Trudeau!).
The group’s other trademarks are in place too – the band accompany their music with projections, while the album contains this list of demands:
- empty the prisons
- take power from the police and give it to the neighbourhoods that they terrorise
- end the forever wars and all other forms of imperialism.
- tax the rich until they’re impoverished.
G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END! boasts four tracks – two shorter tracks that set the scene for the two epics. Closer ‘A Military Alphabet (Five Eyes All Blind) / Job’s Lament / First Of The Last Glaciers / Where We Break How We Shine (Rockets For Mary)’ is tougher sounding with its crunching riffs, while ‘Government Came” / Cliffs Gaze / Cliffs’ Gaze At Empty Waters’ Rise / Ashes To Sea Or Nearer To Thee’ is more textural.
It’s pleasantly reminiscent of their early triumphs, but there’s enough substance to make G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END! a worthy record in its own right.
Erika de Casier
Erika de Casier’s sophomore album was partly constructed for an assignment for her Master’s degree at Rhythm Music Conservatory in Copenhagen. It’s often similar to her successful debut album Essentials, but she’s more confident.
Erika de Casier is far from my usual listening sphere but it’s a perfect marriage of music to vocals. De Casier’s whispered style, which she developed so she could record in her room at night without disturbing her flatmates, fits in beautifully with her gentle music. What initially sounds impossibly light is more interesting than it appears on the surface. De Casier is often wryly funny, gently teasing clichés on ‘Busy’ (“Reach for the stars that’s what I did/I didn’t know I’d get so busy”) and regurgitating bad pick-up-lines on ‘Make My Day’. She’s not always frivolous – ‘Friendly’ is downright sexy.
Musically she sticks to her gentle late-1990s electronica – there are hints of G-Funk and 1990s R&B like Aaliyah and Janet Jackson. The approach works beautifully for de Casier, even though it feels like she’s lacking in stylistic range and will need to stake out some new territory at some point. The minor key ‘No Butterflies, No Nothing’ is a nice changeup, adding a hint of darkness to her usual breeziness.
Sensational is sometimes stylistically limited, but it’s hard to imagine de Casier making a better album in this vein.