Murder By Death will release a new album Big Dark Love on February 3rd, 2015 on Bloodshot Records (pre-order available here). This is the band’s seventh full-length album and first since their 2012 Bloodshot debut Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon.

For a band that has built its formidable, nearly 15-year career around a meticulous consideration for the effects of pressure, release, bombast, ecstasy, and highest-highs vs. lowest-lows, it is something to say that this is Murder By Death’s most dynamic release to date. On their seventh full-length album and first since their 2012 Bloodshot debut Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon, the band’s signature sound (rootsy indie rock, cinematic gothic ballads, and rousing pub rock shout-alongs) mixes with enlivening new stylistic elements (touches of pop, synth-y electronics, and psych rock) only hinted at on previous albums. 

Big Dark Love reflects a different, bigger, more complex side of Murder By Death. As hinted in the title, the 10 songs circle a central theme of love, only in this case, the oft-traveled topic is examined through non-traditional kaleidoscopes: the love of a parent for their child, the struggle between unconditional love and morality, loving to excess. Throughout life, as in song, there can sometimes be a dusky patina of despair overlaying glints of hope.

What characterizes the album is the tension inherent in a balancing act between the melancholic and the inspirational - much like signature Spiritualized or Morphine - and textures both synthetic and authentic in a way that late ‘90s-era Flaming Lips hadn’t figured out yet. The opener “I Shot an Arrow” leads with a romantically sullen warmth of shapely electric bass and swaying synth chords, backed by a boomy groove laid down by drummer Dagan Thogerson. Lead singer/guitarist Adam Turla pounces between notes and commands with his gravelly timbre, “I had a dream too big for the world/ Get me out of here/ Take me to the edge of town/ To the underground/ It can’t be that far.”

Elsewhere, there are currents of lustrous simplicity: take the pop-affected magnetism as heard in the fanfare of punchy horn lines supplied by keys/horns/auxiliary player and new addition David Fountain in “Solitary One” and Turla’s heat-seeking vocal harmonies and show-stopping high notes of “Send Me Home.” “The Last Thing” is ruminative, driving folk, propelled by banjo, jangly acoustic guitar, tambourine, and Matt Armstrong’s charging bass. And later, “Natural Pearl” scuffles along like a punk rock Flying Burrito Brothers, replete with weepy pedal steel and dancing snare pattern.

Through all sounds and textures, sometimes it is the space between the notes that makes Big Dark Love so deep. The vast dynamics take on new meaning through layered, far-ranging and deftly orchestrated songwriting of the album title-track and “It Will Never Die.” The sonic panorama features a minimalist backdrop of warbly synth, Sarah Balliet’s melodic intertwining cello lines, and seismic shifts from a cavernous hush to a climatic, soaring summit, full of Explosions In The Skyreverb and a chest-thumping low end. 

Big Dark Love was recorded at La La Land in Louisville, KY in the summer of 2014. It was produced by Murder By Death and Kevin Ratterman, and mixed by John Congleton.

The words “We will destroy the Earth and all we’ve made” taken in their most literal form appear to be strikingly brutal. Approach it via its position in the opening track on Thunder Dreamer’s new LP, however, and the tone feels altogether more enigmatic and alluring. With its crushingly somber delivery, the words immediately create a palpable and dark romantic mood that sets the tone for the album to come. Indicative of a record that never once settles, even when it opens up into far more embracing moments of splendor, “Why Bother” immediately plunges the listener in to the heart of Thunder Dreamer’s work: ‘Capture,’ the band’s most fully realized and affecting work to-date.

Released in May via 6131 Records (Julien Baker, Touché Amoré), ‘Capture’ takes the stifling small-town isolation that has peppered the bands work thus far — through their 2013 eponymous EP and 2015’s debut LP — and imbues it with the things that have always led to the most endearing of rock and roll records: hardships and heartaches, lethargy and crushing indifference in the face of it all. Absorbing such things from the Midwestern heartland they call home, that tough, resilient authenticity runs through the band’s new record like hot blood through cold, hard-working limbs.

Sprawling out across eight monumental tracks, ‘Capture’ finds frontman Steven Hamilton in torch-bearing form. Once his solo project but now expanded to a four-piece, Thunder Dreamer specialize in writing songs that feel remarkably human. The emotional connections to the people and places that fade in and out of the record are not just a pertinent inclusion, but a vital one. Even when the band are crafting a gleaming slice of Americana — think Whiskeytown at their most opulent, or Songs: Ohia’s rollicking pomp — the whole thing is underpinned by an overwhelming poignancy.

Some five years on from their initial outing, Thunder Dreamer offer an about-turn on ‘Capture,’ shaping the rawness of their previous work in to something altogether more complete and substantial; a gritty take on the great American songbook, with its arms and heart left open to all.

Thunder Dreamer is: Steven Hamilton (vocals, guitar), Corey Greenfield (drums), Alex Wallwork (bass), and Zach Zint (piano).

$20.00 - $21.00


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