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Darkthrone - A Blaze in the Northern Sky Music Album Reviews

Each Sunday, Pitchfork takes an in-depth look at a significant album from the past, and any record not in our archives is eligible. Today, we revisit a tense, beautiful, lo-fi landmark from the second wave of black metal.
In the fall of 1971, a child is born in a remote village in Norway. He will one day rechristen himself Fenriz, after the Earth-swallowing wolf, Fenrir, who appears in Norse mythology and the Satanic Bible. But for now, he is Gylve Nagell, being raised by his grandmother, spending inordinate amounts of time alone. The pivotal moments of his childhood occur while listening to records, music introduced to him by an eccentric uncle named Stein. Pink Floyd catches his ear; a few songs by the Doors hold his attention; but it’s the English progressive rock band Uriah Heep that blows his mind. He’s entranced by the heavy organ sound, the cryptic lyrics, and the mysterious men with long hair who appear on the album’s cover. He cherishes the triple-fold LP like an heirloom from…

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Black Belt Eagle Scout - At the Party With My Brown Friends Music Album Reviews

Encased in swirls of dream-pop production, Katherine Paul’s second album represents a softer, more subtle sort of resistance.

The backdrop of Black Belt Eagle Scout’s video for “Run It to Ya” is, crucially, a prom, and not a protest. Katherine Paul picks flowers, strums her guitar, and croons, her voice blurred and dreamy, while swaying against a wall of balloons. The visual is unmistakably queer, and unmistakably indigenous, but it represents a softer, more subtle sort of resistance. Rather than curl into a closed fist, her hand takes the hand of another pretty girl and leads her out to the dance floor.

Paul is among the many indigenous artists to garner hard-won and long-overdue recognition from white outlets and tastemakers in recent years. Indigenous artists have taken home Canada’s prestigious Polaris Music Prize four times in the past five years, and the Indigenous Music Countdown, founded by David McLeod in 1998 as a small-scale weekly broadcast, now airs worldwide on satellite radio. Upon signing to Saddle Creek, Paul was eager to use her new platform in service of her community: “Getting signed to a record label and getting a publicist and booking agent—those are privileges that I could take advantage of to try and do good indigenous work.” The work of her debut, Mother of My Children, written during the resistance at Standing Rock, was to steel her loved ones for struggle. At the Party With My Brown Friends, by contrast, concerns itself not with work, but with play and rest.

This is not to say that Paul has made an apolitical record. She is mindful, on opening track “At the Party,” of white audiences, the sort who might marvel at the mere existence of an indigenous woman holding an electric guitar. “How is it real, how is it real,” she sings, “when you don’t even notice it?” Later, on “I Said I Wouldn’t Write This Song,” she takes note of “eyes, staring right at you,” crying “tears filled with joy/And hindrance, too.” Paul is aware of the complex, and often contradictory, priorities that present themselves to her as an artist: to make herself visible, but resist tokenization; to educate the public, but weather the fragility and hostility of their responses.

Still, her first priority is to give indigenous listeners a space to love and care for themselves without white spectatorship. From the hazy, low-lit prom of “Run It to Ya,” to the sweet morning-after of “Half Colored Hair,” Paul floats through a small, safe world of her own creation. Her songs are encased in soft, vague swirls of dream-pop production—the influence, in particular, of Japanese Breakfast, is deeply felt—and she gives no thought to anyone outside this serene bubble, devoting herself instead to everything she sees and feels within it. There is a grey day at the beach, in the Pacific Northwest, with a close friend. There is a bed, and a girl, and sheets “gleaming from the two of us.” There are dreams, too many to count, which recur from song to song, until the listener loses track of what is and isn’t true in Paul’s portrait of her own reality.

Especially touching is the record’s gorgeous closer, “You’re Me and I’m You,” sung from Paul to her mother, like a lullaby in reverse. “I am the one, the one she loves,” she sings, “No matter what my heart becomes.” Paul is free, so long as she sings, to draw no lines around who she is and what she loves. She is the daughter of her mother. She is the girlfriend of her girlfriend. She is the heiress of Geneviève Castrée and Courtney Love and Carrie Brownstein, a worthy ascendant in a long tradition of Pacific Northwest rock which, for too long, has excluded indigenous women. She makes no apologies, feels no inadequacy. Over the course of the album, this near-hour spent in the presence of the people she loves, she is reminded that she is equal to any challenge which may befall her. “You like flowers?” she sings, to a brown-eyed girl, on “Run It to Ya.” “I pick flowers.”

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