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Bryce Vine - Carnival Music Album Reviews

The debut full-length from the “Drew Barrymore” singer isn’t designed for conscious, focused listening. This is music for poolsides and basements.
Bryce Vine describes himself as “OutKast and Blink-182 got drunk with the Gorillaz.” Perhaps a more apt comparison is KYLE taking bong hits with Dave Matthews Band, or Jason Mraz sniffing poppers with Doja Cat. At 31, Vine is at an unconventional age for frat-rap prominence. He established a fanbase nearly a decade ago, as a contestant on “The Glee Project,” a reality television show based off the Ryan Murphy high school drama. His real rise came with 2017’s “Drew Barrymore,” a swirl of neon synths that went platinum, possibly by being added to every “Chill Vibes” playlist in existence.

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Torche - Admission Music Album Reviews

The metal band’s latest album retains the sludgy ferocity of its best work while opening up to include elements of shoegaze and dream pop, to mixed success.

Torche’s business is heaviness. The Miami metal band specializes in the kind of formidable, down-tuned riffs you’d expect to hear from the most menacing-looking customer at your local Guitar Center. The twist is that guitarist/singer Steve Brooks grew up obsessing over the Melvins instead of Metallica (he once said that the former band’s 1991 album Bullhead “ruined metal for me”), which helps explain the band’s sludgy sensibility. A great Torche track, like 2015’s “Minions,” doesn’t wow you with speed or exhaust you with unchecked aggression. It bludgeons you slowly and patiently, giving you time to marvel at its punishing repetition before you succumb.


This basic strategy has served Torche across 15 years, numerous line-up changes, five labels, and at least one intraband fistfight. The group perfected the approach on 2008’s subversively melodic Meanderthal, while refining it and enlarging its following on 2012’s Harmonicraft and 2015’s Restarter. Admission, Torche’s new album and first in more than four years, retains the sludgy ferocity of their best work while broadening their sound to include elements of shoegaze and dream pop, to mixed success.

The most striking departure here is the title track, an uncharacteristically dreamy meditation on self-induced isolation. If you’re a shoegaze nut, the song’s introductory siren of guitar might strike you as familiar—it is startlingly similar to the main riff in Ride’s 1990 gem “Dreams Burn Down.” That’s not a reference point that would have applied to Torche’s previous albums, but it does indicate the band’s growing interest in using lead guitar as an engine of atmospheric grandeur. (Admission is the first Torche album that finds longtime bassist Jonathan Nuñez switching over to guitar duties.) On “Slide,” this results in a slippery, reverb-tinted solo that lacks the agility and laser precision of the Meanderthal solos.

Torche aren’t growing soft. From the sputtering machine-gun power chords that open the record (“From Here”) to the chugging doom of “On the Wire,” Admission doesn’t skimp on the band’s well-established propensity for brutalizing riffs. The latter is a highlight of teeth-gnashing sludge, as is “Infierno,” which uses discordant rumbles of low-end guitar noise to illustrate its vision of fiery devastation: As Brooks repeats the words “on fire,” the amp sounds as though it’s literally overheating. That song locks into a thunderous groove before Torche close out the album by dialing up their melodic sensibilities on “Changes Come,” which boasts faint echoes of a synth line and the album’s only trace of an optimistic lyric (“I’m alright/The kid isn’t gone”). Brooks is the rare metal vocalist who sings more than he shouts, here especially so.

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Those moments are impressive. But for the most part, Admission doesn’t amount to Torche’s most compelling songwriting, especially when you consider the four-and-a-half-year wait between albums. “Times Missing” is another dalliance with shoegaze wall-of-sound density, but the song plods around for five minutes in search of a central idea. “Reminder,” with its staccato jolts of electricity, makes an admirable racket but never quite locks into a groove. And the record’s two punkish interludes, “From Here” and “What Was,” feel as truncated and perfunctory as their titles. Neither pass the 90-second mark. That should still be enough time to produce a hook.

Pop-metal, stoner rock, doom metal—whatever amalgam of buzzwords you favor, on Admission, Torche remain a reliable supplier of grizzled riffs to test the low end on your stereo. The stylistic guises don’t always fit, but that’s a function of the group’s creative restlessness.


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