Charolastra - God Help Us
“Spiraling Down”

With its menacing bass rumble and steely drum stomp, “Spiraling Down” finds Charolastra, a.k.a. electronic producer Peter Roglin, exploring the darker edges of ambient and trip hop. The track progresses subtly with each added layer of instrumentation serving as another stage in the song’s overall evolution. The focus throughout seems to lay in the deliberate crafting of tension with ominous synth blasts acting as exhaust valves for the composition’s grim march into darkness. But then the payoff starts to build, with the mood shifting gradually from one of foreboding to something more speculative and cosmic. When the piano finally dances its way into the mix, the transformation is complete. It’s a singular moment of sublime atmospheric splendor—but you’re going to have to wait for it. – GC

Chick Wallace EP
Chick Wallace

Blending jangly indie pop with driving, melodic guitar rock and punk grit, Chick Wallace don’t lend themselves to easy pigeonholing, but if you’re searching for a unifying factor it’s the haze of jet-black drama that engulf their songs like a storm cloud. Even Paulos’ most tender confessions are steeped in a fog of caution and dark humor, and the band’s versatile approach serves to spread that mist into every resplendent nook and cranny. On a debut EP full of highs, the defining track was a toss-up between “Ghost” and lead single “Sweetheart,” but I give the former the edge due to the raw splendor of its blustery guitars and Paulos’ gutsy, soul-stirring performance. Normally growth and maturity are topics reserved for sophomore releases and beyond after a group has had a chance to work out their kinks. But much like fellow ATLien Mattiel showed on her own debut earlier this year, Chick Wallace arrive fully formed and deserving of whatever acclaim comes their way. – GC

Cloak - To Venomous Depth
“Beyond the Veil”

To Venomous Depths, the long-awaited debut LP from Cloak, showcases a band who have perfected the balance of atmosphere and narrative. “Beyond the Veil,” in particular, demonstrates the band’s ability to blend mystery with heavy riffs. Even the most aggressive shredding retreats into the darkness before the point of attack is realized, leaving the listener floating in the abyss until Cloak strikes again. The group’s emotionally resonant mix of black and traditional metal is the perfect foil for what is often considered Southern metal, but the new record proves the band have more interest in crafting their own mythology than defying stereotypes. – RR

CLAVVS - Like Daggers
“Like Daggers”

While CLAVVS’ dark, spectral World Underwater pushed the duo’s alluring electronica in bold new directions, it was “Like Daggers,” a standalone single released in mid November, that set the bar for future releases. A chilling mix of atmospheric production, sparkling guitars, and Amber Renee’s ethereal vocals, the track lifts you high into the stratosphere you before revealing the valiant yet fearsome heart pulsing at its center. – GC

Danger Incorporated - Birds Fly By Night
Danger Incorporated
“Change Me”

Somewhere along the line Danger incorporated made the transition from dank preachers of ATL’s new school to the city’s foremost street romantics, and I honestly couldn’t be any happier. Whereas 2016’s World Wide Web formed the soundtrack to a hazy, late-night after party, this year’s Birds Fly By Night glides on a sunlit cloud of ambient R&B and expansive hip-hop. “Change Me” serves as the album’s emotional centerpiece, a stunning mélange of pastel-coated hooks and youthful yearning that goes right for the heart. – Avery Shepherd

Dead Selves - Western Body
Dead Selves

Zach Fowler is the kind of guy that ensnares you with the tales he weaves. While the whole of Western Body could burst a heart in two with all its aching narratives, “Ridgeview” is the climax where everyone holds their breath. Like most of Fowler’s writing, this one too contains a bitter memory from life, of a medical facility that Fowler couldn’t afford to stay in. Like the best Mountain Goats songs, it’s not a linear tale, but it’s one you can still belt out loud and reclaim the catharsis from: “Why’d you ever go sober if this is how feeling sober feels?” – LA

Dot.s - Rose Lens
“Rose Lens”

Recorded with Damon Moon at Standard Electric Recorders Co., “Rose Lens” unfurls in steady waves, each atmospheric pulse and burbling groove striding confidently into the next. Yet, despite its swaggering self-assurance, the track finds the band working in a darker mood than in the past, confronted by the dread of isolation, fallible memories, and the silent voices that keep us awake at night. Still, the vibe here is more meditative than dreary, more coming to terms than a statement of disillusion. Throughout it all, the methodical beat and throbbing ambience thrust inexorably forward, shrouding any thoughts of gloom in a shimmering haze of brooding electropop. Life is still full of wonder, after all, even if it isn’t always pretty. – GC

Eureka California - Wigwam
Eureka California

“Wigwam” kicks off with a surprising dose of bluesy swagger, but as it progresses Jake Ward’s earnest vocals and Marie Uhler’s punctual drumming propel the song into more comfortable (i.e. speedy) territory for the group. Eureka California is at their best when hurtling through hooks and leaving the listener hanging on each syllable, and “Wigwam” proves that though the band isn’t afraid to experiment, they also know how to focus their jams into fist-pumping anthems. – RR

Faye Webster - Is It Too Much To Ask
Faye Webster
“Is It Too Much to Ask”

Tell me you don’t feel like you’re being tossed into a time capsule. Breezy ‘70s country and soft rock with a hint of shimmering AM pop. If you happened to be listening to 97.1 the River and “Is It Too Much to Ask” came on in-between Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles, you probably wouldn’t bat an eye. Which is not to say that Faye Webster’s music sounds dated and faded. On the contrary, much like, say, Natalie Prass, she manages to imbue some new soul into classic sounds. Her backing band is top-notch, as is the modern production. She has a sharp ear for melody, a mind for smart arrangements, and a golden honey voice to tie them together. – AS

Fit of Body - Healthcare
Fit of Body

For the most part, the Fit of Body’s Healthcare EP finds Ryan Parks exploring funk through via the narrow lens of classic techno. It’s an interesting confluence of genre best represented by the album’s unexpected anchor, “770-997-2341.” The track’s incessant refrain of “Dial me, it’s been awhile” is initially nonchalant, but the insistent beat ratchets up the tension until all you can do is stare at your own phone and wonder at the abstraction of human relationships. In truth, “770-997-2341” shouldn’t work on Healthcare. I get it—juxtaposition, contrast, blah blah blah—but it still shouldn’t work. And yet what should disrupt the flow of the record instead grounds it in the realm of experimental expression and accents the smoothness of the rest of the EP. – RR

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