Tracking New Music Releases with Zac Wittman: Animal Collective, Mogwai, Trippie Redd & Travis Barker, Tindersticks, Mainliner

Written By Zachary Wittman, Music Columnist

February 19 was quite the odd day. It seems like every band, both big and small, dropped either a soundtrack album or a deluxe version of their album. I tried my best to wade through this sea of releases to find the most notable ones and present them here, while also shedding some light on some more obscure picks. In my travels, I found some pleasant surprises and some absolute filth, in both the positive and negative way.


1. Animal Collective – Crestone

Released Feb. 19, 2021

2.5 Globes out of 5

Animal Collective has been one of those super exciting left-field kind of band for the better part of 20 years now, during which they released some of the most acclaimed indie and psychedelic pop albums of the last two decades. Well, maybe just the 2000s, as the last decade saw their output grow more inconsistent in terms of when it’s released and the actual quality of the music. They haven’t released a proper studio album since 2016, as 2018’s “Tangerine Reef” was a soundtrack to a film. Despite initial excitement at the announcement of their new album “Crestone,” many were exasperated that it was another film score.

I will admit that I was excited more than most because I saw that this project was fronted by Deakin and Geologist. While Avey Tare and Panda Bear are rightfully the two more acclaimed members, as they have fronted the majority of the band’s work, Deakin has always been my favorite member ever since I heard his solo album “Sleep Cycle.” I was even more excited when I heard that this was similar to the group’s 2003 album “Campfire Songs” in that it was recorded in part outside in nature, a gimmick I thoroughly enjoy.

Unfortunately, “Crestone” is a soundtrack that can’t be divorced from its parent film with any more enjoyment than just background music. I should mention that I haven’t seen the film it soundtracks, as I have no idea where to find it. Regardless, I feel that seeing the film would only add to my enjoyment of the album due to its context rather than how the album acts as a piece of standalonemusic. As a soundtrack, I’m sure it is fine, but as the first new AnCo music in almost three years, it is really disappointing.

The majority of the tracks feature looped piano and guitar with shimmers of bells and percussion interlaced throughout, as well as the occasional splicing of what I assume is dialogue from the film. Even by soundtrack standards, this feels weak. Every song plays out like merely an interlude rather than carrying a theme or motif of sorts. Thankfully, the whole project is only a little over half an hour long, so it never overstays its welcome. 

The textures throughout the record are pleasing to the ear, and some songs do land nicely. “Smoke & Broken Mirror” sounds like a song lifted from the Minecraft soundtrack, and “Benz’s Dream” is a nice bit of warm acoustic guitar noodling that could accompany a picnic. Actually, I could imagine this album working very well as background noise for Minecraft. Unlike the Minecraft soundtrack though, this doesn’t stand on its own and make me want to curl up in a ball and cry, but that’s besides the point. AnCo, you can do better. I know there is an actual album in the works, so maybe they can exit this year without a disappointment.


2. Mogwai – As The Love Continues

Released Feb. 19, 2021

4 Globes out of 5

Speaking of groups that have discographies marred with a whole bunch of soundtracks, post-rock band Mogwai have returned with their first proper album since 2017. Six out of nine albums they have released in the last 10 years have been soundtracks, and I had seen this one preemptively labeled as a soundtrack before release, but I can’t seem to find any connection between this release and a visual medium. As it stands, “As The Love Continues” is a return to form of sorts to Mogwai’s traditional output.

Instrumentally, the band serves up some of their best material in years. However, the production on this thing is very flat, and there is little to no low end. Producer Dave Fridmann has an extensive career, working on some of the best Mogwai records, as well as The Flaming Lips, Sparklehorse, Mercury Rev, and the most recent MGMT album. However, “As The Love Continues” joins the newest Baroness and Interpol albums as botched jobs from Fridmann. Thankfully, this one is way more listenable than those two. Normally bad production could slaughter a post-rock album, as the genre relies heavily on dynamics and subtly, but this Mogwai album doesn’t feel as post-rock as their prior works.

Songs like “Ceiling Granny” and “Pat Stains” bring forth a post-hardcore influence that makes me wonder what this album would sound like with vocals. “Ritchie Sacramento” is the only song with vocals and makes me wonder what this album would sound like with a different vocalist. This record relies less on the crescendos the genre has become synonymous with and more on building a fuzzy atmosphere. The fuzz feels part- intentional and part- result of the production, but the unintentional shoegaze doesn’t take away from my enjoyment. In fact, some tracks like “Here We, Here We, Here We Go Forever” sound rather interesting due to the scuzzy production. “Supposedly, We Were Nightmares” also highlights that the synthesizers on this album absolutely rule, and I hope the band utilizes them more in the future.

Overall, this is a welcome addition to Mogwai’s catalogue. It isn’t the most impressive album ever, but it certainly is enjoyable. Hopefully, the band continues to focus more on their studio output as opposed to film and television soundtracks, as this is a promising look back towards their roots.


3. Trippie Redd & Travis Barker – NEON SHARK vs. Pegasus (Deluxe: Presented by Travis Barker)

Released Feb. 19, 2021

0.5 Globes out of 5

I don’t think you can imagine my inner turmoil when I saw this was a thing. I know I don’t have to review this, but this is undoubtedly a high-profile release, and I feel somewhat obligated to check it out. And oh boy, do I have words.

To start, I just want to touch on the nature of this release. Rather than act as a follow-up to Trippie Redd’s 2020 release “Pegasus,” this album is a brand new album with “Pegasus” tacked on at the end in order to boost streams. Trippie is not the first to do this. In fact, it has become somewhat the norm to cheat the streaming algorithm like this. I wish I could blame the artists entirely, but I understand they have to do things like this to profit from streaming. However, it just sucks out all of the integrity of a passion project.

I don’t think I can exactly call “NEON SHARK” a passion project, though. I don’t mean any disrespect to Trippie, but he stands as easily one of the most obnoxious voices in trap and emo rap. His attempts at singing both past and present are absolutely grotesque misuses of the human voice. He tries to bend and stretch his voice, but even the layers and layers and layers of autotune cannot make his voice any less grating than it already is. Hearing him attempt to croon and squeeze out any passion from the derivative lyrics that make up the entirety of this album makes for quite the spectacle. I’ve never understood how so many of these younger rappers can promote drug habits that border deadly, especially when they have the audacity to guest rappers who have recently cleaned themselves up from addiction. That last part happens often throughout this album, and I can’t help but wonder how Machine Gun Kelly feels having to sing about things that have taken a destructive hold on his life and portray them in a positive light.

Anyway, back to the stars of our show. Travis Barker of Blink-182 fame provides help with the instrumentals on this album. Did I mention that this is a pop-punk album? (if you can even call it that). The guitars are so low in the mix they may as well not be there, and forget about any bass. Travis is constantly named as one of the great pop-punk drummers, but he does absolutely nothing of note on this album. Trippie, as I mentioned, is a terrible lyricist and an even worse singer. The melodies on this record are barely there, and the ones that peek from under the muck deserve a better vocalist.

This album does succeed in one thing. It is mind-bogglingly hilarious. From the misspelled title for “MEGLADON” to Trippie literally burping and flatulating on the mic like a toddler, you will certainly have a hard time keeping a straight face while listening to this. “DREAMER” even samples the “did you ever have a dream” meme from many moons ago, and I think whoever it was on Trippie’s team who authorized that should be barred from ever making a decision on sampling again.

I have a lot more I want to say about this trainwreck of an album, but for the sake of length and me not wanting to be too mean, I will just leave with some thoughts. Dear artists of the world, please stop releasing albums like this. Dear trap artists, please, and I can’t stress this enough, please stop trying to make pop-punk albums. They are never, ever good. Kid Cudi couldn’t do it. MGK couldn’t do it. Why did Trippie think he could? I’m not saying don’t bend genres, just don’t do whatever “NEON SHARK” is supposed to be. The only reason this doesn’t get a big fat zero is that it genuinely entertained me, even if for every conceivable wrong reason. Also, Trippie got Chino Moreno on this? When are we getting that Deftones trap album? Actually, maybe it’s better if nu-metal stays dead. Hopefully, this punk and emo rap crossover trend dies off as quickly as nu-metal did due to Limp Bizkit. I’m not saying Trippie Redd is Fred Durst, but have you ever seen the two in the same room?


4. Tindersticks – Distractions

Released Feb. 19, 2021

4 Globes out of 5

At almost 30 years in the game, Tindersticks have the rare privilege of being a group that has yet to release a bad album. While they certainly have had some middling and lesser works, they were never outright horrible. Sure, none of their material from after the 90s has reached the heights of their first few, but they always remain interesting and solid.

That being said, “Distractions” is another engaging album from the group. This album sees the group keeping their chamber pop roots while inducting hints of indietronica to build a more art-pop album than anything. Opener “Man Alone (Can’t Stop The Fadin’)” lumbers along throughout its 11 minute runtime, switching up ever so slightly along the way to avoid being monotonous. The parenthetical title is chanted throughout almost the entire song and becomes a mantra of sorts. According to the band, the album is heavily inspired by the lockdown over the last year but is in no way a reaction to it. Despite this, the opener is a great way to encapsulate the nausea of the last year of our lives.

The track “I Imagine You” is a hauntingly beautiful spoken word tale about imagining someone who was recently deceased you are close to in their most mundane moments. Those beautiful passages exist in between our most precious memories. “Tue-Moi” is a lowkey piano ballad sung in French, while the closer “The Bough Bends” is a pseudo-spoken word piece that swells into an understated guitar solo paired with rain sounds.

Interestingly, the middle three tracks are all covers. First is a beautiful take on Neil Young’s oft-misunderstood classic “A Man Needs A Maid.” Second is Dory Previn’s “Lady With The Braid.” Finally, the band delivers a rather groovy rendition of Television Personalities’ “You’ll Have To Scream Louder.” All of the covers are different enough from their source material that they stand on their own, but the rendition of “You’ll Have To Scream Louder” might be my favorite track on the album.

This is a fine album from the band, and I am glad to see they are consistently releasing great material every few years. This is the most minimalistic I think the band has ever sounded, and I wonder what they will do with this sound next.


5. Mainliner – Dual Myths

Released Feb. 19, 2021

4.5 Globes out of 5

The greatest part about being in my early twenties is that I am in this sweet spot for having discovered the internet. People older than me had things passed around through word of mouth, and those younger than me have been somewhat born already tuned in to most things. For me, I remember the internet being similar to the wild west. It felt like anything could happen at any point. YouTube recommended a few people forgotten albums out of the blue, and soon, a cult classic was born. People on forums constantly spoke about a lost foreign album that exists in the form of five handmade CDs that are lost to time.

Mainliner are one of those legendary foreign bands that have had extreme success years later among small circles online, but I can’t say I was there when they blew up. Their debut album “Mellow Out” from 1996 was just one of those records I had heard about time and time again when I started scouring the internet. Guitarist Kawabata Makoto is more famous for fronting Acid Mothers Temple, but they too are a cult band. Their insanely large discography under endless pseudonyms has scared me off from diving too deep into their work, but Mainliner seemed a bit more streamlined. Despite the fact that “Mellow Out” is one of those rare and expensive CDs from the Japanese underground, I still hope to snag a copy someday.

Now that the legend has been established, it is time to touch on “Dual Myths.” This is, I believe, the sixth full-length album from the group, and is a continuation of their mission statement to create a new form of psychedelic music. And boy, this thing is psychedelic and heavy. Opener “Blasphemy Hunter” steamrolls along in a hypnotic rush until Makoto breaks out into a feedback-driven guitar solo at the song’s finale. “Hibernator’s Dream” is even more feedback-driven, as the majority of the track feels like an improvised freakout, rather than a structured jam. Still, the feedback sets off a primal feeling that it seems only the Japanese underground know how to achieve. Seriously, if your impression of Japan is J-pop and anime, you are in for a big surprise. Japan’s music scene is absolutely insane. Their punk is chaotic, their metal is extremely heavy, their jazz is oddly dissonant, and even their pop music incorporates elements of noise. “Silver Guck” shows just how noisy Japan can be, with the guitar and vocals on this track basically becoming one primordial soup that sounds like both the beginning and end of the world. “Dunamist Zero” closes the album at a somewhat slower pace, while maintaining the noise of the prior tracks.

While it contains four songs that stretch to roughly 20 minutes each, “Dual Myths” is a wonderful psychedelic noise rock album that rarely drags. I know I have criticized the production on some of the albums in this week’s review for their crummy production, but this one works because of how disgustingly noisy and lo-fi it is. I feel like my ears are melting after sitting through this bad boy. It is a shame this is not on streaming services, but go check it out on Mainliner’s Bandcamp page. I bought the CD for this right before it went out of print. Also, in the time it took me to write this review, I ended up finding a copy of “Mellow Out” for $30 on Discogs, so I guess today is just my lucky day. Japan has such an incredibly cool music scene, and I can’t wait to see what else they unleash on my unsuspecting ears as the year progresses. In the meantime, I’m going to go make sure this album didn’t give me tinnitus.