Metal Mother – Ionika
Taara Tati, the creative visionary behind Metal Mother, released her sophomore album, Ionika, on her own record label, Post Primal, in mid-April. Her moniker ‘Metal Mother’ is misleading on the surface because the word ‘metal’ doesn’t refer to a music genre, but instead refers to the strength it takes to be a maternal life force. Like Kate Bush and Bjork before her, Taara creates moodscapes that are rich in layered vocal harmonies, thought-provoking lyrics, and high production values. Taara has commented that her album is inspired by Druid history and folklore, as well as her Celtic ancestry, but no knowledge of these subjects is needed to become immersed in the enveloping atmosphere that Taara has created.
Ionika is anchored by electronics and synths and takes flight with Taara’s breathy, softly echoed to sharply expressed vocals. The first half of the album is a mainly enthralling listen, but on the second half, Taara loses some pep in her step with slower, murkier numbers that exude a similar vibe. Taara is at her best when she’s shining brightly amid the peppering electronic notes and sweeping synths. The rhythmic electro-pop of “Mind Off” with sporadic, heavily beaten tribal drums and operatic vocal flourishes is an exhilarating listen. First single “Prism” is dreamy, bittersweet, and propelled by weaving synth lines, electro notes, and the beguiling lure of a multitude of cooing, oohing background vocals.
Rykarda Parasol – Against The Sun
Rykarda has self-released another accomplished rock-noir album, this time in an acoustic format that showcases her striking vocals and perceptive lyrics even more than before. Rykarda’s albums have always been a reflection of her personal journey through life and Against The Sun is no exception. Travel – of body, mind, and soul – is a prevalent theme that runs through the album. Rykarda focuses specifically on departure – from a place, a person, and even from life itself – as well as the inevitable destination. While these themes and her lyrics may sound bleak, there’s a spirit of vitality and hope, and a survival instinct, which informs Rykarda’s emotions and vocal delivery.
Light, spare beds of acoustic guitar lines, drums, rich layers of Rykarda’s vocals, and sometimes piano notes support her stark lyrics. She gravely stalks through “Atheists Have Songs Too”, dolefully sing-talking “Suffering is life’s common thread.” The song title “Island of the Dead (O mi, O my)” speaks for itself, although a sly, albeit macabre, humor does run through the lyrics. A few songs, like “The Cloak of Comedy” and “Your Arrondissement or Mine?”, leaven the gravitas with a dreamier mode that harks back to a 1960s singer-songwriter style.
“The Cloak of Comedy” audio: http://vimeo.com/62870937
The Ropes – Post-entertainment
American, indie, DIY, pop-rock band The Ropes is back with a second full-length album of lyrically pointed commentary on a range of topical issues that includes perception versus reality, national and individual identity, societal ignorance and inequality, and the imminence of death. It might take several spins, however, for it all to sink in because of the sometimes oblique lyrics and an overarching sameness in mood. Alienation, apathy, and anomie are the calling cards of The Ropes, but in the past Sharon Shy and Toppy lifted it up with at times palpably defiant vocals, up-tempo pacing, and a more melodic and varied pop-rock format.
The Ropes has always has something to say and, despite her name, Sharon Shy is not shy about expressing it in her distinctively androgynous, deadpan way. She delivers the killer line “There’s no reason to live / That’s what’s keeping me alive.” from the Ladytron-like song “Ice Cube in an Ocean” with (anti)nihilistic finesse. The disconnected, downbeat atmosphere that pervades all the songs, however, blands out any instrumental and structural differences so that each song doesn’t stand out sharply from the rest. Maybe the insidious, downer vibe of the album is a reflection of current times… In that case, it succeeds!