NIN’s pretty hate machine is still running smoothly. John Crawford
Nine Inch Nails, “LESS THAN” (Universal). One feels that Nine Inch Nails should have declined precipitously by now. But no. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross have maintained fairly high quality control, even in the 21st century, their embracing cerebral IDM and ambient music reflecting a maturation without blandness. Plus, Reznor’s soundtrack work has been solid. As for this new single from the Add Violence EP, it harks back to the hooky, angsty electro rock of NIN’s Pretty Hate Machine, but with higher production values and more Teutonic stoicness. Sounds like it’s destined for one chart or another.
Zola Jesus, “Soak” (Sacred Bones). Once a resident of these here parts, Zola Jesus (aka Nika Roza Danilova) has moved out, but she’s still plying her patented goth-inflected, orchestral-electronic torch songs with a dramatic, white-gossamer-caped flourish. “Soak” taps into a bombastic, melancholy vein that Zola Jesus has owned with a domineering, Siouxsie-Sioux-like grace over the last seven years. The rhythm’s an unfashionably chunky triphop lope, the lyrics heroically romantic (“You should know I would never let you down”), and the melody a soaring shroud of overcast poignancy. (“Soak” appears on Okovi, which drops September 8.)
Stag, “Runner” (self-released). Midtown Sizzler, the new album by Seattle supergroup Stag, is loaded with instant hits, and I encourage you to revel in its power-pop ebullience throughout the summer and onward (it hits streets August 4). But for now, let’s focus on “Runner,” because, as a runner, I’m biased. The song busts out of the gate like a 400-meter Olympic champ, with vocalist Steve Mack (That Petrol Emotion) emoting with boisterous tenderness while guitarist Ben London (who wrote every song here), guitarist John Randolph, bassist Pete Everett, and drummer Rob Dent flood your pleasure centers with chugging riffs and tumbling grooves. The result sounds like Exile on Main…