Rock

REVIEW

Corridor - Junior

By Phillipe Roberts

Thrilling down to its triumphant final fadeout, Junior is the brilliant finale of Corridor’s ascent from ragtag Montreal punks to SubPop’s first ever Francophone signing. Listening to their previous album–the shimmering, shape-shifting Supermercado–it’s hard to imagine Corridor taking their grounded, elemental rock and roll sound any further. An uncompromising stunner, Supermercado’s carefully-crafted eleven tracks formed a distinct, ornately-detailed sonic universe, dense with the kind of golden melodies that could make any one of them a hit. With Junior, Corridor have achieved a bold new evolution of their style and produced a cohesive, invigorating album that’s far too energizing to listen to sitting down. This is the one you dance to.

Junior’s laser-focused continuity could be boiled down to the duress under which it was created; a week was all the band had to produce the masters in time for a 2019 release. That urgency translates directly into the grooves on the record, as Corridor have never made an album that sounds so focused right out of the gate. Trading Supermercado’s winding elegance for suckerpunch immediacy, the band dives decisively into opener “Topographe,” laying down a lush thicket of guitars as vocalists Dominic Berthiaum (also bass) and Jonathan Robert (also guitar) spar in reverb-drenched call and response. Drummer Julien Bakvis blasts through the wall of sound with a melodic drum part–if Animal Collective ditched their samples for guitars once again for a louder Sung Tongs, this might be where they’d land. 

The next three tracks conjure up more familiar sounds for Corridor, as they dig down into the hook-laden, dreamy indie rock that they know best with a new vigor. It’s a breathless sprint: the mysterious riffing of “Junior,” the gritty krautrock pulse of “Domino,” and the rambunctious, seasick “Goldie” with its heavenly synthesizer jam and detuned, ambient outro. Guitars are everything in a Corridor song, and these three tracks are as much an exhibition for Robert and second guitarist Julian Perreault’s deft interplay as they are expertly crafted rock tunes. The pair have never sounded better, and they push each other to symphonic levels of bombast. “Agent double” is especially bombastic, the duo playing off Berthiaum’s bass for a climbing post-punk outro that suggests danger around every corner. 

True to the spirit of their rousing live shows, Corridor earns every second of these delirious jam-outs. “Domino” in particular feels like it could stretch out even further, invoking the measured lullaby of Deerhunter’s “Desire Lines,” while piling on the feedback at the pace of Parquet Courts’ Velvet Underground-worshipping best. You’re left with the sense that the band had to be reigned in just before disappearing completely over the event horizon.

Synthesizer additions and the gentle balladry of “Grand Cheval” aside, Corridor sticks to their guns throughout Junior, preferring to augment their guitar-driven sound with effects when necessary, rather than bow to the impulse to burn it all down. These experiments, like the race car crashing into the opening drum hits on “Milan,” or the arena rock drum fills and skronking sampler solo that kicks “Pow” into the great beyond, feel necessary. They never crowd the band out of existence, or suggest any hesitancy. On Junior, everything lands on sure-footed instinct, precisely on cue.

As the instrumental fireworks crest on appropriately-titled album closer “Bang,” sending the band off into the sunset with Spaghetti Western guitars and a positively tear-jerking synthesizer solo, I find myself reflecting on the first time I saw Corridor live. Packed beneath the hardly eight-foot high ceilings at L’Escogriffe in Corridor’s hometown of Montreal, the four-piece whipped our swirling mass of bodies into a frenzy, song after song. Now, as they soundtrack their own curtain call, fading steadily for over 30 seconds, it feels like the end credits to this chapter of a whirlwind underdog story. Here’s hoping that this release–and the next–launches them into an even brighter future, bringing new crowds to their feet and into the air for years to come.

VIDEO PREMIERE: André Costello and the Cool Minors - Kinda (Makes You Feel Good)

Will Shenton

Almost imperceptibly, an otherworldly shimmer hangs over the inviting roads and sprawling fields of André Costello and the Cool Minors' latest video, "Kinda (Makes You Feel Good)." Awash in Americana, from the classic car (with plenty of closeup shots of its well-loved gear stick and vintage rims) to the verdant, rural setting itself, it's an indulgently nostalgic road trip. But hovering at the margins are hints of psychedelia, promising that at any moment the scene might burst into kaleidoscopic hues and break free of the confines of memory.

Costello's songwriting on "Kinda" is characteristically smooth, channeling classic-rock grooves as his irresistible falsetto dances atop the instruments. The car meanders through the countryside, guitar solo tearing along, while the lyrics revel in the simple joys of escape and companionship. It's a relatively uncomplicated track, but a thoroughly enjoyable one that merges the comforts of the past with the promise of an unknown future.

Catch "Kinda (Makes You Feel Good)" on Costello's new LP, Resident Frequencies, out May 11 on Misra Records.

REVIEW: Lina Tullgren - Won

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Laura Kerry

Lina Tullgren lives in Maine, away from the usual music hubs of Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Oakland or Los Angeles. But the artist has managed to find a musical community that includes her parents (her mother is trained in flute and baroque theory and her father raised her on jazz), her collaborator Ty Ueda, and a shifting group of other talented musicians. She is certainly not alone up there in the north.

In her debut LP, however, Tullgren seems transfixed by solitude. Won features Ueda and three other collaborators playing more than a few different instruments, but Tullgren’s voice stands out, raw and evocative. More expressive than pretty in most songs, it leads the way through soul-bearing indie rock songs about growing up, losing and keeping relationships, and loneliness. Tullgren’s voice seems to emerge unmediated from her thoughts and feelings.

Many of those thoughts and feelings are tinged with sadness. Throughout Won, Tullgren sings about the risks of opening up and the challenges of some friendships. “My heart on a string / Doesn’t mean anything,” she sings in “Fitchburg State,” and “What does it mean to wear your heart on your sleeve?” in “Red Dawn.” She asks many questions in the album (a fact acknowledged in “Face Off” with the lines, “I have more questions now / Do you know what love looks like?”), and the phenomenon seems to relate to another theme in Won: the lost feeling that comes in leaving childhood behind. Tullgren sums it up nicely with the seamless coopting of the Bob Dylan lyric, “I was so much older then / I’m younger than that now” (“Slow”).

Not all of Won is so straightforwardly melancholy, though. Dissonant and off-kilter elements create intriguing tension in the album. In standouts such as “Asktell,” “Red Dawn,” and “Summer Sleeper,” Tullgren perfectly balances plainly beautiful songwriting with more unconventional touches. “Asktell” occasionally erupts in bright and discordant bursts over its foundational moody pulse; “Red Dawn,” slower and more reflective, is woozy with its wash of distortion and loose guitar; and “Summer Sleeper” sounds like sad, twisted Beach Boys (appropriate for its central message, “I’ll stay home where I am safe / Sleep all summer”). None of the tracks on Won are overly dense or complicated, but the band manages to tease out interesting dynamics through unexpected but simple interplay between parts.

Lina Tullgren’s debut is full of contradictions. For an artist who writes and sings so deftly about wanting to retreat from friendships, she works remarkably well with her collaborators. For an album that reflects on the woes of opening up, it is remarkably intimate and candid. And for a debut, it is notably elegant and wise.

REVIEW: Arrows of Love - PRODUCT

Will Shenton

It's probably an understatement to say that London five-piece Arrows of Love's latest record, PRODUCT, opens on an ominous note. Embracing its unvarnished title, "Theme Tune To A Japanese B-Movie Horror" features a single, heavily distorted guitar that winds its way through unresolved dissonance before fading slowly into a screeching echo. It's a simple but effective way to set the tone of the album, serving as a sort of airlock between our world and the cacophonous, anarchic one we're about to enter.

Like all great post-punk, grunge, and metal (the three genres from which Arrows of Love most heavily draw), PRODUCT is loud. With the exception of a few tracks that quiet things down for the sake of pacing or building atmosphere, shrieking distortion and propulsive drums comprise the album's backbone. The result is an aesthetic that casts our world in a foreboding pallor, as if malicious forces conspire and lurk around every corner—perhaps most literally on "Signal," as the lyrics describe fighting off a monster with a dwindling supply of bullets.

At times dark and sludgy ("Beast," "Come With Me"), and at others melancholy and introspective ("Desire," "Parts That Make the (W)hole"), PRODUCT maintains an unrepentant catharsis throughout. Even the most downtempo tracks (a decidedly relative classification) build to explosive climaxes, seemingly framing the album's subtitle, Your Soundtrack To The Impending Societal Collapse, as something to be resisted with indignant rage.

It's that refusal to sit back and accept the hand you're dealt that really defines Arrows of Love's attitude. Their blunt, often spoken-word lyrical delivery is approachable and candid, eschewing frills and melodies in favor of visceral urgency. It's easy to imagine the band standing on their table in a pub, delivering half-shouted polemics against the status quo to a room full of fed-up regulars.

One of the standout tracks on PRODUCT, "Beast," embodies this more directly than the rest of the album. Something of a thesis in its own right, the breakdown before the final, frenzied chorus indicts us for our passivity in the face of injustice:

"We've seen the shit that's going on out there / It's fucked! / So be depressed, you've every right to be / It would not be normal if you weren't / But the question is / If it's gonna knock you down / Are you just gonna lie there / Or are you gonna get up and throw some stones?"

After spending the better part of an hour with Arrows of Love, that should be an easy one.

REVIEW: Railings - ) (

Kelly Kirwan

Your first impression of Railings could be fleeting. Rich, jazzy notes will roll languidly from the speakers, and you’ll think you have them pegged; they’re a throwback genre, a bit of brass and a dash of rock n’ roll equals a group of hipsters guided by the mantra, what’s old is new again. But you would be wrong. For a band that’s named themselves Railings they’re not much interested in the guiding lines of genre, and because of this they’ve sidestepped the pitfalls of consistency (feeling contrived, and ipso facto boring). They’ve taken older influences and funneled them through a medium that’s perhaps best described as avant-garde. It’s as if Railings held up mirrors to idiosyncratic moments in music history and then beamed a composite of those reflections lightyears into the future as a base for the new human-robot race to play with. But luckily, for all their experimental sway, this Queens-based band actually exists in the here-and-now, with the recently released album for us to dive into: ) (. 

Alex Ian Smith tackles bass and guitar while also lending his vocals to the album’s ten tracks. In his softer moments, his pitch ever-so-slightly resembles the nasally intonations of Mick Jagger (think his reflective whispers in Angie). But Smith is his own man, and quickly takes this pitch and brings it to a punk-inspired precipice. His notes take on a serrated edge with his far-flung stretches, particularly in the song, Hell is Real, which is garnished with a spacey synth that feels inspired by a misty sci-fi film scene (courtesy of Ari Zeiguer) “Because when you feel it/You know you need it” Smith sings, emphasizing his words with a ragged earnestness, that just as quickly boomerangs back into a delicate croon. 

Then there’s the slyly titled, Blinded by the Blight, which opens with a skittering lower layer; like the garble of a radio wave gone haywire, or the near loom of a helicopter. The song shows off the prowess of drummer Julian Fader (of Ava Luna), in what feels like an uninhibited percussive streak. He takes the song–if only in spurts–into sweaty, closing in on mosh-pit territory.  Other highlights include, Raeliens, which absolutely drips with 80s synth. A touch of grit is of course served by Smith’s sandpaper shriek, but still, this song has the kind of bop that will spontaneously curl your hair into a flock of seagulls’ style by the end of it’s (roughly) three-minute span. And these three songs are just a slice of what ) ( has in store. 

But, if there is a single message that can be taken from this review, it’s this: Railings are unique. Genre-shredding, inverted parenthesis unique. They’re the sonic equivalent to Being John Malkovich, starkly different personalities letting loose in a single vessel. And hat’s off to them for that.