I want to talk about my rating system first, just to get it out of the way. Those of you who visit this blog often may have noticed that my ratings are usually pretty high and almost never go below 3 out of 5. There are many different reasons for my generosity, the main two being my honest desire to support and promote good independent music and the simple fact that if I didn’t find the release interesting enough to give it at least 3 “moons”, I don’t want to waste my time and yours and don’t want to hurt the sensitive artist with a bad review (and sometimes it’s just a matter of personal preferences anyway). What some you may not have noticed, however, is that I almost never give a 5-“moon” rating to anything. Yes, there’s plenty of “fours”, meaning “pretty damn great”, there are quite a few “four and a half”‘s, meaning “pretty damn amazing”, but there’s hardly any “fives”. This is because giving an album a “five” is like putting your personal ultimate stamp of approval, signing this important document with your own hand that says “I, tipkin, hereby confirm the absolute fucking greatness of this here album”. There’s no turning back from a “five”, no saying “well, I did mention there were flaws”, nope, you gave this warranty to the readers and any disappointed fan of trip-hop, downtempo and related genres has all the rights to find you and kick you in the nuts virtually and physically.
THE NEW LAW – The Fifty Year Storm gets a “five”. I do have to admit that this “five” is in part a cumulative grade covering all three of THE NEW LAW full-length releases to date. This is part acknowledging this important name in music that matters to me, part a wake-up call for those of you who hadn’t listened to any of their stuff yet. I will give them a “five”, I will strap you to a chair and force you to listen to all three of their albums if I have to because that’s how great they are. They created more than a new fresh unique sound (as if that wasn’t enough), they managed to create a whole new unique world, a concept that goes beyond the music but only comes alive within it. It is “DJ Shadow meets Ennio Morricone” (and if that combination doesn’t make you want to listen to them, we have to reconsider our relationship), but it’s “DJ Shadow meets Ennio Morricone in a post-apocalyptic wasteland and they kick some ass together and we get to watch”.
This doesn’t mean, however, that the new album on its own isn’t great. It didn’t make as much of an impact as the previous two (which I discovered at the same time and listened back to back) – but I’m not sure it was meant to in the first place. The Fifty Year Storm takes the unnamed hero of THE NEW LAW‘s trilogy to new places, which may seem more peaceful and friendly at first but turn out to be just as dangerous and sinister. This is a cruel album in a way – if you get into the world of THE NEW LAW as deep as I did, you might see the sprouts of new hope making their way through the ruins of civilization, just to be stomped by the same combat boots, just on different feet. While the dark ambiance of “I’ve Seen Some Mean Faces” feels like a long trip without destination (wonderful drums on that one), “Dead Men Tell No Tales” shows sadness and regret, beat disappears for a few seconds, like a hand hesitating to pull a trigger for the hundredth time. And then comes “Get Your Gun”, a fast, focused, almost emotionless track where there’s a sudden feeling of purpose, even if that purpose is to get away as far as possible. Vibrant guitar strings carry the track right into the foreign land of exotic wind instruments, foreign meaning mysterious but not necessarily dangerous. “Voyage” starts out very Jean Michel Jarre-sqe, but you don’t know THE NEW LAW if you thought for a second that it was going to be this smooth ambient composition. Dubstep breaks kick in and 3 minutes into the track we realize that this new territory sure is beautiful, but also weird as fuck, which means – await surprises. And in post-apocalyptic wasteland surprises are very seldom pleasant. Yet we do get some time to enjoy the view of “Constellations”, and even “Bandits & Smugglers” don’t bother our hero that much, just passing by going about their dirty business (sick vocal samples here). I will stop with my story at this point, because that’s what the real beauty of The Fifty Year Storm is – while track titles are suggestive, the music itself is rarely literal, letting you come up with your own stories. It’s almost entirely instrumental (which makes the rare vocal samples much more impactful) and the variety of instruments used is insane, but drum machines are THE NEW LAW‘s main weapon and they fire it with the skill of a true gunslinger. The album is filled with details, and depending on which of them you’re going to pick up on will determine the way your story will develop. Mine didn’t end well. “Descent Into Fire” brings my hero right back onto his journey against the evils of the world, and the drum-machine-gun fire of the title track tore all hopes for the new beginning into tiny shreds that are washed away by The Fifty Year Storm.
THE NEW LAW – The Fifty Year Storm comes out January 1, 2012. You can listen to select tracks and pre-order the album on Bandcamp. And check back in a few days for an exclusive Q&A with THE NEW LAW.
R.I.Y.L. DJ Shadow, Dirty Elegance, roads
personal favs: “Descent Into Fire”, “Bandits & Smugglers”, “Get Your Gun”