Bill Fay’s 1971 album, Time of the Last Persecution, is one of the best rock records ever made on a religious theme—a cold and anxious survey of an early ‘70s so degraded that Christ has to be coming back just about any day. Persecution resonates because it’s about fear and awe rather than proselytization. It’s a pitch-perfect portrait of one of the most paranoid periods in history, and yet it somehow sounds like ancient liturgical music that’s been floating around, waiting to be run through an amplifier.
Anyone who stopped following Lana Del Rey after her 2019 Norman Fucking Rockwell! should wise up. The two albums she released this year signal a brand-new phase in her career, and it is a doozy. Irked by NFR!’s attempts to embody America’s conscience? Check out Chemtrails Over the Country Club, a soft, understated album that sounds like an apocalyptic wind blowing over fields of grain. Love it when she name-drops Neil Young and Kanye West? Try Blue Banisters, which finds the sadness and loveliness in the digitized hell of the early 2020s.
Your favorite Portland band’s favorite Portland band is likely Alcopops. After recently welcoming bassist Simon Miller to the fold, the group’s new Devil EP, unpacks beautiful overdriven, crushing, sorta hard-rock, sorta shoegaze guitars. Fans of early Smashing Pumpkins or even earlier Foo Fighters will eat these four tracks up, but Devil is far from a revivalist statement, and they’re happy to spring a surprise like the brief metal breakdown in the latter half of “Seventy Two” or the plaintive voice-over on “Try Not to Laugh.”
Vintage-sounding, arpeggiator-centric synth music is easy to find and hard to get right, but Cooper Crain’s curiously named Bitchin Bajas side project brings color and life to its heady, hypnotic compositions. 2017′s Bajas Fresh is the group’s most vivid statement, unfurling seven rainbow-hued tracks over nearly an hour and a half. But if you’re looking for something to soundtrack your next stoner hang, their new Switched On Ra should do the trick: eight interpretations of Sun Ra compositions in the style of languid, vocoder-slathered synth pop.