Out of nowhere a couple weeks ago, I stumbled upon Loma Prieta’s song “Love.” It starts with a few strummed chords that quickly give way to a snarling voice, guitars so fuzzed-out they bleed together into a pulse of noise, and heavy, urgent percussion. But in the midst of this, a thread of melody held strong, small and wiry, underneath the din. It struck me in a way a lot of heavy music does, and some cursory research revealed that Jack Shirley — a producer who is infamous in some circles for producing Deafheaven’s, similarly heavy and melodic Sunbather — was also behind the boards here. Even though I just discovered them, Loma Prieta are well-known in the Bay Area, and “Love” is the lead single off the group’s fifth full-length album, Self Portrait. The balance established on that song is present on every track here, a precarious, committed equilibrium of melody and out-of-control guitar ferocity. These riffs are so sticky they get lodged in your head like pop songs — the fluttering, optimistic urgency of the chorus on “Roadside Cross,” for instance — but they are backed with anger, rage, and power that is mostly considered too dangerous for pop’s narrow palette. Loma Prieta paint these melodies in darker colors, at once inviting you in and pushing you back out. That tension makes Self Portrait one of the harshest yet most enjoyable records I’ve listened to this year. Fall in for yourself.
Self Portrait is out 10/2 via Deathwish. Pre-order it here.