I’ve been utterly transfixed by the song “Dim Bulbs,” the last track on Detroit jangle-rockers Deadbeat Beat’s new album How Far. Starting off with a crisis phone call, it quickly shifts to deep out-of-body self-reflections on front lawns, busy roadhouse parking lots and lonely night walks. It’s a cinematic, melancholic gut-punch of an album coda and it’s one that makes everything that comes before it seem much darker around the edges. To be fair, it’s not like the trio of drummer/vocalist Maria Nuccilli and guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Alex Glendening and bassistZak Frieling are entirely subtle about glooming up their power pop. Launching one’s album with a song titled after the occult deity Baphomet isn’t exactly convention for the handclap-rock set. Neither are the bodies being torn apart and cement poured down throats in ghoulish number “The Curve.” To characterize How Far only as a “what if” where Sloan’s Jay Ferguson goes full Saruman is probably an overstatement, though. There are, after all, a number of exemplary pieces of genre-work on How Far. “You Lift Me Up” is an in-the-pocket bedroom dance starter, the do-do-do, do-do-dos feel like a classic anchor for “The Box” and the longing in “I’ll Wait” is a near-timeless sentiment. Taken as a whole it’s enough to make How Far feel something that’s both familiar and intriguingly distinct.
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There’s a vacancy for the Queen of Sad Songs Throne™ now that Lykki Li is all sexy and Sharon Van Etten has become a late-period Depeche Mode tribute act and few people are better positioned to ascend to this royal role than Australian singer Julia Jacklin. Wrapped it an efficient alt-pop/country package, the 10 songs on Jacklin’s second album Crushing mine an inconsolability so deep even the act of listening to it could leave one fetal on the floor. Yet to simply call Jacklin a peddler of “sad” songs is a gross disservice. Her obsessing and catastrophizing over heartbreaks and the minutiae of relationships gone awry is filled with observations so pointed and so gut-wrenching they reveal Jacklin as a master observer of the human condition. It all starts with standout slow-burning “Don’t Know How To Keep Loving You,” which circles around and around as Jacklin comes to terms with a love that has reached its end. Jacklin goes deeper from there. “Pressure To Party” may end up being an introvert call to arms with its tale of locking oneself in their room and a promise to “try to to love again soon.” Its companion piece “When The Family Flies In,” meanwhile, captures the rock-bottom of emotional hurt, cinematically evoking listless, shuffling parents hovering around bachelor apartments without a clue what to do. Crushing isn’t just relentlessly self-involved either. Jacklin also points her lens outward to great effect on songs like the character-assessing “Good Guy,” and “Comfort,” the album closer that hopefully makes peace with everything. Taken as a whole, Crushing hurts. It’s heavy, painful and raw stuff of the heart. Mostly though it’ll make you wish only that Jacklin will learn to love again soon.
Watch “Pressure To Party”