July 28, 2013

The Black Angels, "Indigo Meadow"

Psych rock is in the middle of a moment, and -- at least in the Texas part of this country, where they organize and headline a giant psych festival -- the Black Angels are the eye at the top of the pyramid. The group has been laying out their flavor of acid-fried, droned-out fuzz rock for around a decade, though the music has more often been big on texture and light on hooks. But with this album, The Black Angels give up the whole package. First of all, the sounds are meticulous. There are about 15 or 20 different guitar tones going on throughout the record, both rhythm guitars and leads. The double (triple?) tracked harmony vocals are expertly layered. The bass is pretty much a metronomic throb of fuzz on all the songs, but the grooves manage to stay super-simple without skimping on creativity. And the snare sound is (to my ears) absolutely perfect, with a hefty dose of tight slapback all over it. My friend Keith pointed out the awesomeness of the snare sound when he listened to the album, and now my brain can't let it go. But above all, it's the songwriting that's dug in its claws. These are supremely catchy songs that go unexpected places. They modulate, they stretch out. They get into the blood like a disease. I'm constantly catching myself singing one tune or another off this record while I ride my bike or stroll around. The weird thing is, I've been reading some negative press about this record, and I really don't understand or agree with any of it. The complaints? It's very different than the previous Black Angels output. It's poppier and more accessible. The songs are shorter and toothier, with more variance in style from song to song. And these are bad things, why?