Noise rock represents an area where rock music breathes freely.
Each of the bands here are loud, abrasive, off-kilter — and captivating, Check ’em out.
BEDTIMEMAGIC – Pillow Talk
On their 2019 LP Pillow Talk (which is available via Nefarious Industries), the Boston group BEDTIMEMAGIC sound surprisingly emotionally intimate, considering the high volume and overall intense chaos with which they perform. The album’s first track, “Long Kiss Goodnight,” exemplifies the band’s subtly gripping offering quite well. While the duo keeps their rhythmic noise rock attacks going strong, they also eventually introduce a strong, quite somber melody as the vocal work gets ever increasingly desperate sounding. Vocalist Nicholas Pentabona sounds like he’s about to break down in tears as the track draws to a close and he sings that he “never can forget” the memories that hang around like a noose. The stunningly effective song and album as a whole feel like a dive into intense emotional desperation amplified to a major degree.
Bent Knee – You Know What They Mean
The Boston band Bent Knee perform a sound that’s entirely their own on their 2019 InsideOutMusic release You Know What They Mean — truly, that’s not an exaggeration. Chaotic but gripping rhythms are one of the band’s main foundations, but they build their sound far beyond that point. Repeatedly, they include prominent riffing on an apparent violin, quick devolutions into pop melody-style bombast, and Bent Knee unite their whole mixture with the stunning vocal work from singer Courtney Swain. Her performances elevate a very dynamic, even everyday cadence into powerful art. She’s not just conveying the words or hitting the high notes. Through her stunning, passionate dynamics, which match the relentless, also passionate dynamics of her band mates, Swain communicates the raw emotional surges evidently driving this work. It’s captivating as both a feat of amplified, raw melodic power and a wild ride for listeners.
Coilguns – Watchwinders
The Swiss group Coilguns make dark heavy menace captivatingly thrilling on their 2019 LP Watchwinders, which is available via the expertly named Hummus Records. The group combines some of the straightforward, breakdown-driven, hardcore steamroller effect with the free-flowing chaos of the purest noise rock, and the result reverberates with absolutely gripping energy. They keep the heaviness going strong and punctuate that heaviness with chaotic blasts that amplify the sense of excitingly reckless abandon. To top off the maelstrom, Coilguns employ strikingly cohesive songwriting, which shines especially bright at moments like the closing portion of their song “Big Writer’s Block.” For what approaches a minute, the band dispense with lyrics and perform nothing but their relentless, noisy punk rock chugs — and it lands perfectly.
Watchwinders feels like an amplification of anxious, raw energy to a stunning degree. Even while employing plenty of intriguing dynamics, Coilguns never let up with the frenzied energy. Thanks to the band’s utterly relentless performance, Watchwinders can’t help but feel exhilarating.
Djunah – Ex Voto
On their enthralling 2019 album Ex Voto – which is available via Triple Eye Industries and Middle-Man Records – the Chicago group Djunah perform thrillingly raw, swaggering rock and roll that sounds hyped up on adrenaline-soaked passion.
Opening track “Animal Kingdom” exemplifies the band’s offering quite well. While maintaining all of its melodic vigor, the instrumentation feels rabid. While anchored in an unsettlingly intense low-end, the duo’s riffs feel like they’re crashing into a wall over and over again while the metaphorical bloodied knuckles just keep getting dirtier. The performance from vocalist Donna Diane – who handles guitar and bass, which she performs on a Moog bass synthesizer that she controls with her foot – is absolutely stunning. Standout moments (and there are many) include a viciously shrieked proclamation of revenge that she delivers on “Nurse and Nun.”
The anxious cadence and dynamics that her vocals (along with the rest of the music) pack feel like primal, animalistic tension scratching its way into the spotlight.
Florida Man – Tropical Depression
The Charleston, South Carolina-based group Florida Man perform powerfully heavy noise rock on their 2019 album, Tropical Depression, which is available via Spartan Records. The memorability goes on from the title (and cover art — which is just an orange rind viewed close enough to fill the whole frame). The group sound like they’re using the framework of hardcore heaviness invigorated with the reckless abandon of noise rock to explore some really poignant stomping grounds for psychological unease. When, with his harsh, hardcore-esque yells, the vocalist shouts on the first track (called “Brain Cell”) about paranoia — you quite easily get a sense that he’s being entirely sincere. The album’s gravity gets even more poignant when the band perform super heavy groove while the lyrics incorporate shouted denunciations of corrupt religio-freaks on the song “Holy Roller.” The album packs a sometimes grim but grippingly real, dynamic portrait of anxiety.
Girl Band – The Talkies
The Dublin-area group Girl Band completely disembark into captivating sonic derangement on their 2019 album The Talkies, which is available via Rough Trade Records. In their version of “noise rock,” they pile on the quite literal noise as feedback, apparent reverb, dragged out, pulsating electronic beats and more intertwine with the marvelously immersive, mostly low-tuned guitar and bass-driven storm of sound on this album. Driving energy, which is delivered in large part by singer Dara Kiely’s completely deranged sounding vocal work, really does keep this record propelled forward, but there’s also plenty of time to linger in the increasingly (and perfectly) unsettling chaos that the band have strung together.
Standout track “Shoulderblades” seems to showcase their approach well — it’s bookended by heavy helpings of those effects, and after an introductory part, guitar performances delivered with about as much derangement as Kiely’s vocal work pop up one after the other. Overall, the album feels like a powerful call in favor of really letting loose.
Salvation – Year of the Fly
The 2019 album Year of the Fly from the Chicago group Salvation – whose latest music is available via Forge Again Records – twists noise rock into a fascinatingly blunt exploration of familiar psychological dirtiness. In line with the dynamics that have got to be inherent in any venture like that, Salvation pack pretty stunning musical variety into this album, which they tie together with ultimately quite relentless energy. After establishing their noisy punk rock chops in the first few tracks, they jump into a piano-driven song, a slow and somber ballad, and then some jams infused with a post-punk spirit. It’s an adapted cynicism slightly less noisy than elsewhere – here, some of the vocals start sounding like they’re coming from somewhere between frustration and despondency, and thus: the journey continues. It’s an actually quite engaging, “everyday” kind of noise rock. It’s a grimy everyday – one track shouts allegiance to drugs over love – but it’s captivating nonetheless.
Tunic – Complexion
The Manitoba, Canada-based group Tunic sound queasily caustic on their 2019 Self Sabotage Records release Complexion – and it’s awesome. Their intricate songs are short, and yet, they pack stunning energy – the tightly wound, furiously reverberating riffs sound like a bottle rocket about to blow, and that doesn’t stop. The builds happen over and over and over again, and strikingly, the band maintain really gripping musical intrigue throughout the whole work too. In other words, despite that description – it’s not just a wall of noise. It’s an immersive experience of powerfully expressed, pretty raw energy. This experiential wonder proves some powerful new paths that heavy low-end-driven frenzied riff cacophonies can take.
Ty Segall – First Taste
One of the latest offerings from the prolific California singer-songwriter Ty Segall, the 2019 album First Taste — available via Drag City Inc. — jumps out with immense replay value right away as the captivating ride through a kind of casual, everyday tension keeps rolling on. The album feels like a lowkey confrontation with that everyday tension. The sound never gets too overwhelmingly thick, and the lyrics never get excessively overwhelming either. Instead, Segall’s alluringly twisted, fuzz-soaked guitar melodies simply snake around the listener with the urgency — or lack thereof — of a friend inviting you in for a drink. Segall has expertly extracted a musical sense of the sometimes monotonous daily grind and transformed that experience into a captivating adventure where surprise — which here takes the form of Segall’s relentless experimentation — always hangs out.