Tracking New Music Releases with Zac Wittman: ABBA, Snail Mail, Limp Bizkit, SeeYouSpaceCowboy, Springtime

Written By Zachary Wittman, Music Columnist

This week sees artists return after long periods of silence as well as many young voices avoiding sophomore slumps. There is certainly something for everyone this week.

ABBA – Voyage
Released November 5, 2021

3 Globes out of 5

Reunion albums are almost always a scary thing. On one hand, a beloved band returns with a fresh batch of songs that can revitalize their career and feed their fanbase. On the other hand, it could disappoint and show that time apart has let the creative juices run dry. ABBA’s new album “Voyage” lands somewhere in the middle.

It has been almost 40 years since the last ABBA studio album. While the members have kept themselves busy with other projects throughout the years, rumors of a new album have been bubbling for a few years. After a while, two singles dropped that showed exactly how the album would be split. “I Still Have Faith In You” opens the album and sets the stage for the syrupy ballads that will take up over half of the record’s runtime. That is not to say that this song or any of the others are bad, but they aren’t exactly exciting. While many fondly remember the group’s more energetic songs, we cannot forget how much of their career has been made up of songs like this buried in albums. The only difference is that the deep cuts on “The Visitors” and “Arrival” sound passionate, even if a bit cheesy. The ballads on “Voyage” sound limp, with some of that blame falling on the processed string sections that permeate the songs.

The second single was “Don’t Shut Me Down” and is an absolute modern day classic. This song is all of the energy and pomp that people like ABBA for. In fact, “Just A Notion,” the track that immediately follows, is the single most classic track on here. There is good reason for that, as the song is a leftover from 1978 and features the original demo vocals with a new backing track. It can be jarring to hear the group’s youthful vocals alongside their voices now, but the track fits surprisingly well on this record. The other two upbeat songs are pretty good, with “No Doubt About It” being one of the more adventurous songs that remind us how good of arrangers the group are. However, “Keep An Eye On Dan” is an odd song. The music is great, with a foreboding and hungry instrumental, but the lyrics do not match. ABBA have always dealt with love and loss, so divorce should be no issue for them to tackle. Still, the lyrics come off as strange, as they tell of two parents making sure the other takes care of their kid while they have custody for the weekend. I honestly think this one would’ve worked better as a ballad as this one shows happy instrumentation and sad lyrics don’t always net you a classic like Tears For Fears’s “Mad World.”

Still, it is nice to see the group return with an album that fans will enjoy. You can’t exactly blame a band who has been away from each other for so long for not creating a classic. It is good enough for what it is. If we are being honest, the biggest thing dragging this down is that it doesn’t have the nostalgia that their other work has attached to it yet.

Snail Mail – Valentine
Indie Rock
Released November 5, 2021

4 Globes out of 5

Many female singer/songwriters have been able to rise to stardom in recent years due to streaming allowing these artists to reach a fanbase more directly. As the once male-dominated industry moves towards a more equal environment, artists like Snail Mail are able to gain popularity. The band, led by singer and guitarist Lindsay Jordan, released their first album in 2018 when Jordan was just 18. Now, three years later, the group released their follow-up “Valentine.”

Fans of the debut album “Lush” will not be alienated by this album and those who weren’t captivated by that album will find enough new and interesting ideas to rope them into the Snail Mail fan club. Jordan’s ethereal guitar playing is still present, but the added synthesizers to the album’s sonic palette make the record all the more dreamier. Jordan avoids resorting to 80s nostalgia like many of her contemporaries who start to add electronic elements to their sound, keeping her footing firmly in indie rock. The record has some softer moments, like the folk of “c. et al.” and “Light Blue.” The title track and “Forever (Sailing)” show how this clean and slick production style really works for the group’s evolving sound. The closer “Mia” even features a string section that heightens the emotional intensity of Jordan’s words.

“Valentine” is a bit ironic of a title, as much of this record deals with heartache and breakups. If you are looking to sulk a bit, then this is the record for you. If you find yourself still single in February, just know Snail Mail has just the soundtrack for you.

Limp Bizkit – Still Sucks
Nu Metal
Released October 31, 2021

3.5 Globes out of 5

This is a Halloween surprise nobody saw coming. Despite being dropped on this past spooky holiday, I had already completed my reviews for that week. So, the nu metal legends are up for review this issue.

There has been some revivalist discussion surrounding the legacy of Limp Bizkit. Guitarist Wes Borland has been praised as a widely influential guitarist in alternative metal circles in recent years. Frontman Fred Durst, once a powerful conduit of controversy in his heyday, has even mellowed out throughout the past few years. You can find him making surrealist comedy TikToks in his free time. After years of being removed from the public eye, Limp Bizkit have finally found some respect in the current college-age generation who view their music with the same irony of artists like 100 gecs. It is all an image. It’s fun. But to some, it still sucks.

After almost a decade of what the industry calls being stuck in “development hell,” “Still Sucks” finally has seen the light of day. As you can tell by the title, the album is full of ironic jabs at haters of the band. The lyrics throughout the album touch on how Durst and Co. don’t care about how others view their music, as they are just having fun with it. This album certainly sounds like they had fun making it. “Out Of Style” opens the record with what is one of the heaviest instrumentals the band has had, showing they don’t soften with age. Durst shows his humor with songs like “Love The Hate” and “Snacky Poo,” the latter featuring a humorous skit with Borland mocking the banality of interviews. There are a lot of weird left turns throughout the album, from straight up boom bap tracks to acoustic rock songs, including a cover of the INXS classic “Don’t Change.” The original is as perfect as you can get, so it is a hard song to ruin. The cover isn’t bad, but Durst’s voice is noticeably touched up at points that make it a bit of a slog to listen to. He sounds much better on the other acoustic cut “Empty Hole.”

The nu metal tracks sound like classic Limp Bizkit songs in a good way. Lyrical content aside, any of these tracks could’ve come out twenty years ago and no one would bat an eye. There are some more mature songs, such as rap rock of “Dad Vibes” detailing how there is no room for worrying about how others view you when you are an aging father with the aforementioned “dad vibes.” The closing track “Goodbye” would read as a parody of boy bands in the group’s formative years, but now its R&B tinged soul reads as something more genuine while still maintaining some playfulness. If you haven’t come around to Limp Bizkit, you might say they “still suck,” but if you can let the image go then “Still Sucks” is a lot of fun.

SeeYouSpaceCowboy – The Romance Of Affliction
Released November 5, 2021

4 Globes out of 5

There is a wellspring of young talent in the metal community. Despite some preconceived notions some might have, it is a very accepting community. There is a burgeoning LGBTQIA+ community, especially in regards to trans artists. The cathartic stylings of metalcore and other associated genres make it a great vessel for artists like Connie Sgarbossa of SeeYouSpaceCowboy to share their experiences.

“The Romance Of Affliction” is the band’s second studio album and is very cohesive for all the styles it pulls from. There are touches of emo-pop, sasscore and mathcore littered all throughout without venturing too far off from the album’s metalcore roots. Vocalist Connie Sgarbossa switches between beautiful melodic clean vocals and blistering harsh vocals with ease, putting her all into each vocal performance. She does deflect from writing about her experience as a trans woman on this album, unlike the band’s debut. Instead, she focuses heavily on her own personal relationships with both her girlfriend and substance abuse. She handles these topics with incredible honesty, creating a truly emotional listen.

The band has some great chemistry, just listen to the way the guitars and drums lock in with each other on “Misinterpreting Constellations.” The album can get a little tiring due to the majority of the songs being in the same tuning and being based around the same chords and scales. However, the energy the group exerts makes up for it. There is also room for dreamier moments, such as the closing two minutes of the album’s title track and finale.

This is a step up from the band’s previous work. If their next project is anything like this, then they are certainly one of the metal band’s to watch.

Springtime – Springtime
Experimental Rock
Released November 5, 2021

4 Globes out of 5

Supergroups are something that doesn’t happen very often anymore. As music culture revolves more and more around singles, we see one-off collaborations being more and more common. Very rarely do artists sit down and craft an entire album together, excluding artists like Jack Antonoff working with Taylor Swift for production. Seeing musicians play on the same album for the entire duration is a rare sight. Springtime is a band newly born earlier this year that comes into this world as one of the most recent supergroups.

Springtime consists of drummer Jim White, who has worked with anyone from PJ Harvey to Courtney Barnett, pianist Chris Abrahams of the legendary avant-garde jazz group The Necks and guitarist/vocalist Gareth Liddiard of punk blues band The Drones. These three make up some of the biggest talents from Australia and one absolutely stacked lineup. The trio work together well across this album, with each member giving each other room to breathe. The opening track “Will To Power” is a stomping, hulking beast that powers on as Liddiard rambles atop the pounding drums and banging piano. His vocals across the album are mixed a little low, but they are otherwise top notch, whether it’s the shouting of the aforementioned track or the delicate crooning of “She Moved Through The Fair.” There is a sense of incredible intimacy throughout these tracks, as you can hear the clacking of White setting down his drumsticks during mellow passages and the pressure being released off of the piano keys when Abrahams lifts his fingers.

The songwriting takes a backseat to the atmosphere here, as there are less hooks or cohesive stories told throughout these songs. Instead, the lyrics arrive as snippets that float in over the spacious music. There is a great sense of depth to the sound on this album, as it really feels like it was recorded in one go. In fact, “West Palm Beach” appears to be a live performance in which you can hear the audience cough and rustle as the trio perform. “Springtime” is very pretty, but it can be aggressive at times. The album closes with the highlight “The Killing Of The Village Idiot” that sees the band reach their intense and emotional height. I do wish that they would allow the three of them to express their instrumental talents more, but that doesn’t seem to be the point of this project. Instead, it is just three of the most talented musicians from down under creating beautiful music together.