A snapshot RadioElif style year in new music


Muse “Simulation Theory” (2018) cover art

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Kimbra – Primal Heart

Kimbra’s Primal Heart is a construction on yearning to feel close with other hearts. She presents this idea not only through the album itself, but she does so fluidly in Songs From Primal Heart: Reimagined. It’s a stripped back version of four of the album’s songs, composing a new EP in the same year. I prefer the original Primal Heart because Kimbra’s expertise in recording and production are sharp in songs like “Human,” the bonus track, “Hi Def Distance Romance” and “Top of the World.” But what gives each of those sounds their substance is Kimbra’s poetry in describing exactly where she is when recording the album. She sings that she thinks she’s winning, just after lamenting of hardships in protest in “The Good War,” then moves on to divulge that she survived through someone’s unfortunate truth. Kimbra is a master of words and continues to evolve her production skills from her romantic beginnings on the guitar.

Muse – Simulation Theory

Muse appears to be making an effort at reverting back about 10 years prior to its beginnings as a band. The Simulation Theory album cover is an image that looks like the “Stranger Things” promotional cover, and some of the themes of this album resemble that of the popular Netflix series. Matt Bellamy cries for freedom in “The Dark Side” with words I could imagine Eleven saying. Then, introducing a beautiful Hawaiian guitar riff, the band soothes with “Something Human,” during which Bellamy simply states that he needs “something human,” from the perspective of what is likely a robot. The development of robots and conspiracy theories are themes Bellamy often likes to unpack in the band’s discography. Muse switches gears in “Dig Down,” a motivational speech for LGBTQ communities just now finding a sense of purpose, and people whose entire mental framework has been crushed by abuse. The guitar riff that opens that song even forms a rhythmic section that resembles the sound of fast digging. Humanness is an acceptable theme for 2018 – the lack of feeling and the perseverance to break through our external shells – our emotional distance – while maintaining inner strength.

Saint Sister – Shape of Silence

Saint Sister is a band of two who visited Chicago in September and serenaded a lucky [smart] group of people at Schubas Tavern. With a limited amount of instruments whose protagonist is the harp, Morgan MacIntyre and Gemma Doherty harmonize with sporadic chimes, drum beats and vocal loops programmed into a production box in “Twin Peaks.” Songs like that one just sweep their listener away, happily in the cold wind. “You Never Call” surprises with a chilling, lamenting strum of the harp that develops into a low piano progression and soon picks up into the song’s chorus. It’s the right representation of how our feelings progress from sadness to confused fury in love. The band even manages to input its Irish roots in its instrumental motifs. You can almost hear the cool water and the calls of wind at the Cliffs in some songs. It’s new music like this that really gives me new hope in this lost era so taken by bad politics.

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