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Alternative & Indie - Released May 3, 2019 | Domino Recording Co

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Protomartyr had been together for about a year when they booked four hours of time at a Detroit recording studio, hoping to record enough material for a 7" single. By the time those 240 minutes were up, they had managed to lay down basic tracks for a full album, and the local Urinal Cake label released No Passion All Technique in 2012. Compared to their subsequent work, No Passion is rough in both concept and execution, and it occasionally resembles a live rehearsal tape more than a studio album. But all the elements of what would make Protomartyr one of the best bands to emerge from the Midwest in the 2010s were in place, and there's a feeling of reckless discovery in these performances that's tremendously exciting. These recordings capture Protomartyr when their punk influences were at their strongest; there was already an adventurous chaos in Greg Ahee's guitar work as he twists his figures to his will (Kevin Boyer of Tyvek also contributed "surplus guitar"), and bassist Scott Davidson and drummer Alex Leonard were on their way to finding grooves that split the difference between lean rock & roll and subdued funk. But on most of these tracks, when in doubt, their collective instinct is to hit hard and step on the gas. Consequently, No Passion is rather short on nuance (and nuance is part of what made The Agent Intellect and Relatives in Descent honestly great), but the frantic energy goes a long way toward filling the gap, and the electricity of Protomartyr pushing themselves to the limit is riveting. And though the mix doesn't always give Joe Casey's vocals as much space as he needs, he emerged fully formed here, a brilliant ranter with a poetic sensibility that exists in the Venn Diagram where inspiration and madness overlap. Protomartyr would be better as a band and more sure-footed in the recording studio by the time they released Under Color of Official Right two years later, but No Passion All Technique was a striking first salvo that made it obvious this was a band with tremendous talent and a thoroughly unique vison. ~ Mark Deming
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Alternative & Indie - Released September 29, 2017 | Domino Recording Co

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Sometimes questions are more important than answers, and few people in indie rock are asking better questions than Joe Casey. As the lead singer and lyricist for Protomartyr, Casey's lyrics often feel like a barrage of non sequiturs, stacks of intriguing yet unrelated statements that don't cohere until you give them a moment to sink in -- and when they do, they hit like a hammer. Casey's songs are the musings of a man observing a burning world, delivered with an attitude that feels like a shrug and a fierce bellow at the same time, and if they don't literally pose questions, they offer challenges that demand answers, with an intelligence that's book smart while embracing the sweaty, muscular pleasures of loud, guitar-driven music. On Protomartyr's fourth album, 2017's Relatives in Descent, Casey's angular poetics are sharper than ever, a bitter but vivid litany of a dark era in American life, and the band's interaction with them is superb. Relatives in Descent was Protomartyr's first album for the successful U.K. indie label Domino, and with a bigger budget and a new producer (Sonny DiPerri) at their disposal, this music boasts a clarity and precision greater than their previous work. At the same time, Relatives in Descent is still dark and shadowy music, with Greg Ahee's roaring guitar sometimes sounding like it's being overheard from around the corner, a trick that's remarkably effective. (And Ahee's more direct attack still boasts a gift for dynamics that's impressive coming from a band this enamored with high volume.) This music hits hard, but with a keen focus and a clear sense of purpose, as the rhythm section of Scott Davidson (bass) and Alex Leonard (drums) strikes with an exacting strength that's as wise as anything Casey has to say, which is no small achievement. Relatives in Descent manages to sound more thoughtful and introspective than 2015's The Agent Intellect without sapping the strength of this great band; quite simply, as a bit of record-making, this is Protomartyr's most impressive accomplishment to date. ~ Mark Deming
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Alternative & Indie - Released June 15, 2018 | Domino Recording Co

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Protomartyr's fourth full-length album, Relatives in Descent, was one of the finest releases of 2017, a powerful and forbidding marriage of dynamic guitar-based rock and impassioned beat-inspired lyrics that painted a vivid portrait of a chaotic world. The album pointed to any number of directions Protomartyr could go in the future, and though 2018's Consolation is a stopgap four-song EP and not the group's next major statement, it still shows this band going from strength to strength and eager to experiment. The group recorded two of the songs with Kelley Deal guesting, and her vocals add to the dramatic force of the stunning "Wheel of Fortune," a litany of abuse of power that's full of articulate rage. "You Always Win" isn't quite as impressive, but the coda, with strings and reeds adding an edge of free jazz to the music, fits well. The other two tracks are simpler and more straightforward, but they both show that Protomartyr's mastery of their unique style is complete, and "Same Face in a Different Mirror" is that rare number from this band that expresses something approaching hope. Joe Casey's volleys of thought remain forceful, artful, and dauntingly intelligent, while Greg Ahee's guitar is gnarly and thoughtful at once, and bassist Scott Davidson and drummer Alex Leonard confirm that muscle and nuance are not mutually exclusive. There are not a lot of bands who do what Protomartyr does, and even if there were, the skill and fury of their music would still set them apart, and Consolation is a brief but potent reminder that they're a force to be reckoned with. ~ Mark Deming
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Alternative & Indie - Released October 24, 2018 | Domino Recording Co

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Alternative & Indie - Released February 14, 2015 | Hardly Art

Post-punk quartet Protomartyr's second album Under Color of Official Right follows their stellar 2012 debut No Passion, All Technique with an expanded sense of exploration as well as more nuanced production. The band was spawned from the same closely knit scene of Detroit noise punk bands that produced Roach Clip, the Intended, and Tyvek (Tyvek songwriter Kevin Boyer even played guitar on early Protomartyr albums), and their earliest output shared the same raw energy and sloppy, bristling approach as those bands. Without losing the push of their less refined early recordings, Protomartyr sharpen all the elements that make them stand out with Under Color of Official Right. The band's tightened performances leave plenty of negative space, filled tastefully by guitarist Greg Ahee's winding leads or explosive, reverb-saturated chords, as on the bombastic chorus of "Come & See" or the spindly, slightly gothic lines of melancholic opening track "Maidenhead." Pads of synthesizer and more experimental vocal treatments show up here, warping vocalist Joe Casey's deadpan delivery of a list of problematic characters at the end of "Tarpeian Rock" until the song sounds like the Fall dubbed out by King Tubby. Casey's obtuse, clever, and occasionally poetic lyrics are another winning characteristic of Protomartyr's equation, filling the moody backdrops set up by the band with rich images of desperation, banalities, and cryptic prophecies. The band hails from Detroit, but keeps far away from tired themes of urban blight, abandoned buildings, and other well-traversed ponderings about life in the shadows of the crumbling city. The most Detroit-centric the band leans is the lyric "And from the balcony, the sound of Greg Baise laughing" that ends "Pagans," referring by name to a notable Detroit show promoter. Though always approaching their sound with angular precision, the band is more direct here. The rhythm section of drummer Alex Leonard and bassist Scott Davidson set up strange skeletons for every song composed of unconventionally constructed drum patterns and fluid basslines, always with a mind for making lots of space. When the band rocks out with punk blasts like "Son of Dis" and the completely erupting "Want Remover," they maintain all of their exactitude, just at quicker speeds and in more furious waves of sound. The 14 songs of Under Color of Official Right see an already incredible band moving even further forward in their development, approaching the same instant classic standards of their best contemporaries and turning in their most intricate work so far. ~ Fred Thomas
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Alternative & Indie - Released October 9, 2015 | Hardly Art

Taking time off from her regular gig with Vivian Girls to put together a solo project worked out well for Katy Goodman. Not that La Sera is a solo project; in fact Goodman, wrote the songs and gave them to her friend Brady Hall (who had made videos for Vivian Girls). He recorded all the music, bringing her in at the end to sing the vocals. No matter how it was done, the end result is pretty great. Freed from the rudimentary noise pop of her day job, Goodman’s songs are slower, softer, and based on the simple pop of the late '50s/early '60s. Hall’s arrangements are uncluttered and direct, layering guitars both acoustic and electric over gently played percussion into a reverby bed of sound for Goodman’s vocals to soar above. She sings in a sweet and tender croon, harmonizing with herself throughout like a one-girl girl group. It’s a truly lovely sound and it’s backed by songs that equal the sound’s high level of quality. Swooning ballads (“Under the Trees,” “Beating Heart”) mix with heartbroken laments (“You’re Going to Cry”), jangling uptempo tracks (“I’m Talking to Myself”), and bouncy sunshine pop (“Left This World”) to create an enchanting listening experience from start to finish. Best of all is the single “Never Come Around,” which sounds instantly familiar the first time you spin it, like a classic radio hit on the best oldies station ever. Subsequent listens will drive its spiraling melody deep into your brain, lodging there next to your favorite Lesley Gore and Sandy Shaw tunes. A few spins of the album will have much the same effect, and after a while you’ll find yourself wishing that Goodman would ditch Vivian Girls and do La Sera full-time -- especially if she and Hall can keep making records this wonderful. ~ Tim Sendra

Alternative & Indie - Released July 14, 2015 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released May 4, 2018 | Domino Recording Co

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Alternative & Indie - Released March 5, 2019 | Domino Recording Co

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Alternative & Indie - Released August 15, 2017 | Domino Recording Co

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Alternative & Indie - Released June 14, 2018 | Domino Recording Co

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Alternative & Indie - Released August 25, 2015 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released September 26, 2017 | Domino Recording Co

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Alternative & Indie - Released July 10, 2017 | Domino Recording Co

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Alternative & Indie - Released April 14, 2015 | Hardly Art