Metal Hearts deserves an exclamation point; Cordero’s records should be kept in parenthesis; and The Liars are intense, period
Some leave those years an empty husk of a person, destined to spend the following decades working at Wal-Mart by day and trolling for easy sex on the Internet until dawn. Still others thrive, finding their own unique voices amidst the pressing vice grip of the school system.
Baltimore-based teenage band Metal Hearts is among the latter category. Made up of 18-year-old Anar Badalov and 19-year-old Flora Wolpert-Checknoff (alongside drummer and recording engineer Sam Leiber), Metal Hearts manages to harness the misery and pain of those years, turning it into something both raw and beautiful.
Originally from Azerbaijan and Greece, respectively, Badalov and Wolpert-Checknoff met through a mutual friend. Before long the two were collaborating on songs by e-mail from their respective university campuses. A self-released debut album, a couple of decisions to leave college, and a return to Baltimore later, Socialize was born.
Socialize fuses Badalov and Wolpert-Checknoff’s male and female voices over layers of moody guitar melodies, drifting cello and saxophones, and the ever-present pulsations of the drum machine, making music like a sweet whisper.
At times the duo sounds a bit distant, forgoing mellow for melancholy. But somehow that makes these frail and seductive tunes all the more compelling. If you didn’t know any better, you’d swear Metal Hearts had been making these quiet hymns of unhappiness for decades. This album is every high school kid’s dreary bedroom diary.
Cordero and its most recent release, En Este Momento , are cross-cultural. As the lyrics alternate from Spanish to English, the aesthetic of the sound as a whole slips back and forth between a straightforward pop-rock sentiment and the spicier tones of Latin troubadours. The band is at its best and most interesting when it devotes itself to rhythm, allowing the character of Ani’s voice to guide the song with quality input and melody from Omar Little’s trumpet.
Though cleanly produced, the album lacks the hot-blooded energy of Latin rhythms, the kind that mimics a quickening pulse. The most effective mood is manifest in a stripped-down waltz that arrives mid-album, in which a lingering vocal soars over the quietly strummed rhythm of the acoustic guitar and strong tones of a bowed double bass.
Cordero is an endlessly charming live band, and the record stands as a nice keepsake of their live show. And while the record falls short of their onstage energy, it hints at it so strongly that I’m encouraged to keep an eye out for the next time the band swings through town.
The title of the album says it all: drums dominate. The main instrumentation consists of frontman Angus Andrew playing oddly tuned guitars and layering lots of beautiful falsetto vocals, while Aaron Hemphill and Julian Gross provide the rhythm section. Though there is guitar present, it rarely does more than add ambience, as the drums carry the rhythm and even the melody a majority of the time. Throughout the album the musicians mike their drum kits, running them through various pedals that allow for unheard-of intensity (best demonstrated on “Drum and The Uncomfortable Can” and “Let’s Not Wrestle Mt. Heart Attack”).
In addition to the music, the CD also comes with a DVD featuring three different videos for each song. Created by Julian, Angus and German experimental filmmaker Markus Wambsganss, each offers a very different visual interpretation of the album—Julian’s being the most interesting as it gives a glimpse into the recording process and a look at the band’s live shows.
Though calling this album noise is a bit insulting, it’s difficult to untangle The Liars from that cacophonous scene. And though this album is far from noise, it works along the same aesthetic—following naturalistic impulses, but directing them with tribal rhythms rather than jarring guitars.