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Album Reviews: Besserbitch, Hopeful Machines, Meg Myers, Black Map



Moments Of Grey

Sweden has always pumped out some great music for decades. Past Swedish acts like ABBA and Europe garnered international fame while current acts like The Hives and Avicii have found their way to major success. While it may seem undoubtedly minimal standing next to its booming metal scene, the Swedish punk scene, filled with past and present bands such as Refused, Millencolin and 59 Times The Pain, isn't something to be overlooked. Besserbitch, a four piece female punk act hailing from Stockholm featuring singer/guitarist Elin Andrée, guitarist Sanna Fuchs, bass player Klara Persson and drummer Elsa Fogelström, have been tearing away at the scene while self-releasing two EPs (2010's Who Cut The Wire and 2011's Error Code 31). Bolero Recordings, run by ZZAJ member Billy Bolero, took interest in the band and released their three song Welcome To Shitholm EP last fall.
Besserbitch's debut full length release Moments of Grey is a great introduction to one of Sweden's must see bands. The 10 song album reads like a compilation of tracks from the band's past three EPs with a handful of new material.  The bluntly titled "Welcome to Shitholm" tears into the unglamorous aspects of living in the capital of Sweden ("Welcome to shitholm/ the cold ones/ the drunk ones/ the broken and the lonely and sad and ignored and abused/ fucking lunatics") with Elin proclaiming that she's simply not impressed. The folk-punk tune "Resignation" is the kind of track that ever person can relate to in some way, shape or form: that moment where you want to leave whatever miserable job that's weighing you down and better yourself as a person. While Elin's singing voice blends very well with her band's chaotic offering, it doesn't stop her from unleashing bloodcurdling screams in tracks like "Skin" and "Saving Up Time". Moments Of Grey sees a worldwide release, so there's hope for these punkers to finally leave "Shitholm" and rise as the rockstars they were destined to become.



Hopeful Machines

The Spring Of The Drowned Girl

When he's not performing in Baltimore industrial act Ego Likeness with his wife Donna Lynch or writing children's books, Steven Archer devotes his spare time with his electronic solo project Hopeful Machines. His new release The Spring Of The Drowned Girl, with its title taken from the popular Japanese manga Ranma 1/2, is an 81-minute mindwarping metamorphosis. One glance at the Hopeful Machines website leads to a banner describing the music as "electronica for sociopaths". That statement might seem jocular to some, but once you dive headfirst into a track like the 13 minute powerhouse "The White Lands of Empathica", you'll suddenly get the gist of Steven's madness. Be warned; if you're looking to get into this record with the hope of some typical 3 minute dance tunes, you'll be extremely disappointed. "Behind Cloth and Curtain", the shortest track on the album, clocks in at a mere six minutes and 18 seconds. Steven clearly has no time to waste on making accessible music. The Spring Of The Drowned Girl might be a tough pill to swallow for casual fans of electronic music, and those that dare to check it out might not comprehend everything the first time around. If you do manage to let its ambrosial twists and turns seep into your eardrums, you'll discover a momentous piece of art.



Meg Myers

Make A Shadow EP

"Boy, I wanna taste you/ I wanna skin you with my tongue/ I'm gonna kill you/ I'm gonna lay you in the ground", unbashfully croons California singer songwriter Meg Myers on the no holds barred track "Desire". No need to worry; Meg Myers didn't wake up and decide to go death metal on us or anything. It's that kind of bluntness that has made the young vocalist one of the most talked about singers over the past year. Just like last year's Daughter In the Choir EP, the new five song Make A Shadow EP displays Meg's ceaseless musical growth. "Heart Heart Head" builds upon a desire for an old love with a lush violin section and Meg consistently claiming, "You're in my heart/ In my heart/ In my head". The intensity builds to a fever pitch as Meg delivers ferocious metal-esque screams that would make any grown man within earshot retreat immediately. EP closer "The Morning After" is a somber tune full of regret, which is only made more evident by its soft acoustic guitar and xylophones. When Ms. Myers asks the simple question, "How do you want me?" during "Desire", the only logical response would be, "On stage performing in front of massive crowds."



Black Map


Usually, supergroups have this great tendency of either being really good or simply deplorable. It wouldn't be fair to label Bay Area trio Black Map a supergroup, though. It's not to say that their previous/current bands weren't noteworthy or anything; vocalist/bassist Ben Flanagan currently plays in The Trophy Fire, drummer Chris Robyn played in Far/Crosses and Mark Engles has been strumming the guitar in Dredg since the band's inception. Black Map feels more like three friends that got together one day and decided to make something happen. That particular something is their debut four track EP entitled Driver. The term "radio rock" is mainly reserved for acts chugging away at tedious tunes filled with bloated melodies and borable vocals. Driver isn't full of "radio rock" tunes; its full of tunes that would make rock radio a better place again. Opening track "I'm Just The Driver", which is seen through the eyes of a funeral driver, features one of the strongest choruses heard in recent years as Flanagan simply howls, "It's enough to shatter anyone" behind uncoincidental driving guitars. "Gold" is a much more faster paced tune based around the actions of an unforgiving tyrant. "Head For The Hills" switches between meaty guitar hooks and soft melodic soundscapes while the final track "Ropes" ends things with an indisputably catchy chorus. With such an impressive delivery with Driver, it's almost scary to think about how Black Map will undoubtedly top themselves with their next release. One thing is certain: there will be a lot more eyes and ears set towards this trio in the future.