Lê Almeida is a Brazilian band that plays some seriously infectious power pop in short bursts of fuzz-soaked melody. The tight chord progressions bring to mind Nirvana, but the vocals are less aggressive, sneering punk and more laid back, nineties indie rocker, resulting in songs that sound like the Latin offspring of the Breeders or Brazil’s answer to Guided By Voices. (Athens, Ga., Elephant 6 affiliates, Elf Power, also come to mind.) File Lê Almeida under “new favorite” and get ready to wear out your repeat button (and maybe learn a little Portuguese), ’cause this shit’s as catchy as the clap in Bangkok. And like a Thailand tryst with a silky-voiced sohpaynee, even if you don’t know what the hell’s bein’ said, you can still dig the way it sounds.
Lê Almeida’s latest single, “Transporpirações” (see picture above and song below), is out now on Rio de Janeiro-based label Transfusão Noise Records and can be downloaded there for free along with the band’s previous ep’s as well as the Pollard-authorized Brazilian tribute to Guided By Voices, Don’t Stop Now, which includes Lê Almeida’s version of “King Caroline”.
Let all of this tide you over until–and get you primed for picking up–Lê Almeida’s upcoming lp, Mono Maçã, out soon and currently available for pre-order from London-based label WeePOP!. Check out the details here.
Listening to William Tyler’s Behold The Spirit, it’s easy to understand why this relatively young guitarist has had such an impressively long career as a go-to picker for such Americana A-listers as Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Lambchop and Silver Jews, not to mention the legendary Charlie Louvin. I mean, this dude can fucking play. And though Tyler does no shortage of justice to the obvious (and cited) Fahey influence, he also brings to the songs enough unique playing techniques and production flourishes to make this an original album of personal vision. Masterful picking is enhanced throughout by a bit of brass here, some piano there and more experimental touches such as sampled noise, bits of hushed conversation and warm beds of drone. What all of it adds up to is an album that lives up to its name–Tyler, through impeccable craftsmanship, manages to create something that transcends the means of its creation, and as he strives to, through his music, behold the spirit, he creates an atmosphere in which his listeners just might get lost enough to find their own spirit.
By bringing personal vision and modern touches to age-old influences, Tyler has with this, his first album under his own name, stepped out from the role of skillful craftsman and reliable sideman to join the ranks of artists such as fellow Fahey acolytes James Blackshaw and the late, great Jack Rose.
I’m pretty sure that’s what ol’ Willie Shakespeare would’ve said if he’d had the good fortune to drop the needle on Changes, the 1971 album from Danish trio, Moses. Sadly, except for this thick slab of heavy psych/blues, Moses was not to be. But with the efforts of Germany’s Shadoks Music the band’s Blue Cheer-indebted, early metal sounds live on, rocking down and dirty like Black Sabbath fronted by Bon Scott.
Grab a copy of Changeshere. Enjoy it with a down and dirty drink, the Bloody Leroy–be sure to stir it with a rib bone!
Mayhap folks have already seen it, but as a long-time Neil Young fan, I’d be remiss if I didn’t post Jimmy Fallon’s spot-on impersonation of Neil Young on his Late Night show. Fallon nails Young so hard that it transcends impersonation and becomes personification. And as cool as it was to see The Boss duet with Fallon, now I’m just waiting for the day that it’s Neil himself who walks out on stage mid-song.
And ol’ Bruce, rocking out “Because the Night” from his recent album (The Promise) of previously unreleased, Darkness on the Edge of Town-era, material, wasn’t so bad himself.
Perusing the general critical response to Relentless Retribution, Death Angel‘s third album since getting the band back together (more or less) in 2001, makes it clear that die-hard Death Angel fans are thrash metal purists and have little patience for anything that doesn’t sound pretty much exactly like The Ultra-Violence, Death Angel’s (admittedly thrash-tastic) 1987 debut. Because of this general sentiment, Relentless Retribution has received a somewhat lukewarm reception from the very fans that should be most supportive of the band, and a common thread of criticism is that, by continuing to expand their sound, Death Angel’s revival hearkens back too much to their long, but temporary, bow from the scene, 1990’s Act III. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and, at risk of being thrown to the blood-thirsty beasts that grace the cover of Death Angel’s latest metal assault by thrash purists, make the bold proclamation that Act III is Death Angel’s masterpiece, and, therefore, the very criticism laid at the feet of Relentless Retribution–that it sounds too much like Act III–is the very reason why the album is so damn good.
In the interest of full disclosure, I suppose I should confess that I’m a big fan of a number of metal “crossover” albums, many of which dropped in a period from the late eighties to the early nineties when metal bands began to realize they could actually reach a larger audience and maybe sell enough records to buy a Flying V, a new Motorhead shirt and better weed. 1990 alone saw not only Death Angel’s Act III but also Megadeth’s Rust in Peace and Blessing in Disguise from Metal Church. These albums were preceded by Testament’s Practice What You Preach in 1989 and in 1988 by Queensryche’s Operation: Mindcrime and Metallica’s …And Justice for All, the one that paved the way to the mainstream for the rest to follow. What all of these albums have in common, apart from being released in relatively close proximity to each other, is the scope of their ambitions. Although not all of these albums match the full-on metal opera that is Operation: Mindcrime, all of these albums are conceptual in nature and feature songs that hang together thematically. The lyrical ambition in these works is matched by the musical ambition, and these albums showcase bands that are striving to reach beyond boundaries and incorporate a new arsenal of sounds into their metal attack. And yes, these albums were also meant to reach a larger, perhaps more mainstream, audience, and they succeeded.
But despite the relative mainstream success of these crossover albums, when I listen to them, I never think of the bands responsible for them as having “sold out,” the ultimate sin to a metalhead, akin to flushing perfectly good dope without first looking through the front door’s peephole to see who’s knocking, or putting hoes before bros. I only think, as much as I can think while banging my head like I never did before, that these albums are bad ass, groundbreaking and, ultimately, courageous due to the willingness of their creators to challenge their fans while challenging themselves in an effort to balance artistic ambition with the desire to be able to afford the ridiculously high cover charge at the local strip club.
All of this is by way of saying that, when thrash metal purists give Death Angel’s new album a hard time for being more Act III than The Ultra-Violence, they’re being too rigid in their definition of what it is to be a metal band. Though I’m sympathetic to the criticism that some of the album’s production flourishes are a bit too “new metal” and, therefore, not enough like an old-school Death Angel album, I find such complaints to miss the forest for the trees. (Not to mention that, in my opinion, some of the production sheen here leaves the album sounding not like, say, Shadows Fall, but like Metallica’s latest work.) By focusing too much on what Relentless Retribution isn’t, these critics lose sight of what the album is–an ambitious work that showcases an old-school thrash metal band still open to new ideas and always striving to expand its sound, not limit it. And that kind of open-minded willingness to experiment with new ideas is what makes the metal genre so cool. Well, that and the fact that it fucking rocks.