OWhen Sasami (Ashworth) headlined Lulu’s Downstairs in July 2019, she was fresh off a stint on synthesizer with LA pop-punk band Cherry Glazerr. The soothing synth-pop of her self-titled debut album may have surprised some, but Sasami was still surprising fans.
During the lockdown, she reinforced concepts of cultural appropriation and decided to appropriate her own cis white male culture as represented in heavy metal. The concept is not new — Canadian Leslie Feist, for example, recorded with Mastodon. But, being Sasami, the second album Press (Domino) had to be more than headbutts and snarling vocals.
Admittedly, the opening track “Skin a Rat” is delightfully fuzzy and gritty at the same time, and other songs like “Say It” use loud guitars. But it’s not long before “Tried to Understand” or “Not a Love Song” switch to near-acoustic guitars behind achingly beautiful vocals. It was clear in Sasami’s debut album that a new solo artist was unleashed. It’s now apparent that she can roam multiple genres, fine-tuning her sound while refusing to be pigeonholed by sampled styles.
Also new and remarkable
Superchunk, wild loneliness (Merge) – Laura Ballance quit touring with the band after suffering from hyperacusis in 2015, but Superchunk’s live power still blows through the scene. This 12th studio album features the vocals of Merge Records’ Mac McCaughan, and while his chipmunk-style delivery may have been limited, tracks like “City of the Dead” and “Endless Summer” can send a shiver down the spine of the listener. Despite the speed bumps, the group remains in great shape.
Shovels And Rope, Manticore (Dualtone Music) – Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent have released five previous studio albums as Shovels and Rope (not including three cover volumes). Their dynamic, minimal styling feels like a tent-revival call and response, peaking in 2019. By the blood. The new album adds a haunting and disturbing undertow, based on organ and heavy bass. On the first of 10 tracks, such as “Domino” and “Collateral Damage”, the sound is refreshing. Through later songs such as “Divide and Conquer,” the South Carolina duo seem to lose some energy, but it’s always exciting to hear Shovels and Rope aiming for something new.