In This Year: Ten of Swords

BY Paul BlinovPublished Dec 6, 2018

In tarot, the ten of swords represents a bottoming out: a low point to pull yourself out of or succumb to, depending. As a title, it sits perfectly atop the chiaroscuro tones of Praises' impressive debut LP. A solo outlet for Beliefs' Jesse Crowe, Praises finds her working through some heavy sentiments across nine songs of ceremonial post-punk and introspective industrial.
The album was written and performed by Crowe alone. Her Beliefs bandmate Josh Korody gets a co-producer credit, and there are echoes of that band, but Beliefs' ominous rock gives way to more contemplative, deeply personal output from Crowe here. "Love Unkind" sets the palette of piano, programmed drums and echoing guitars that all wrap around her capable voice. "I've been pacing 'round this puzzle," she begins. "I can't stomach seeing the centre."
"Prey" lets percussion echo like unseen footsteps around sinister observations ("foaming at the mouth / calling me a whore") and waves of warped sound. Minimal layers of reverb guitar and vocals build "Run" up around its heartfelt realizations, while there's an almost upbeat rhythm to "Anyone's Anyone" that feels sardonic in context.
Still, as world-weary as it seems, the album lands with powerful, lucid impact: Crowe makes her dark nights of the soul feel hypnotic, carving out territory between Bat for Lashes and Nick Cave's Skeleton Tree. Bleak but vivid, there's a power to its precision.
(Hand Drawn Dracula)

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