Black Country, New Road - For the First Time (2021), 7/10

My personal favorite over the band’s proceeding album Ants From Up There, mostly due to the raw, emotional performances from Isaac Wood showing maximum vulnerability and an exceptionally personal touch to vocal performance. "Instrumental" is a nice primer, though perhaps a little melodramatic towards the end in a way that feels mildly contrived in comparison to its following songs. "Athens, France" has a much more compelling and successful crescendo and play with dynamics, I appreciate the tonal choices and the way they interact with each other and the song’s narrative arc. "Science Fair" is the first BCNR track that really swallowed me up and spit me out with its intimate narrative and quivering rage. To my ear it is almost undoubtedly the thematic pinnacle of the album, both from its use of satisfying instrumental dissonance and individual lyrical tonality. The second half is arguably consistently stronger due to the fluidity in order from "Sunglasses", the beauty of "Track X" and the franticness of "Opus". For the First Time was my unchallenged favorite of the year and even one of my favorite rock albums for its palpable introspective qualities, heard both in Isaac’s vocals and the band’s gathered thematic ambulation. They flirt with many of the most important ideas and qualities of the genre from the last twenty or so years, in a way that sounds surprisingly fresh and interesting despite their aesthetic borrowings from groups like Slint or more broadly genres like post-rock. A wonderfully endearing experiment with several important ideas, priming a progressive movement that seems to be budding with its release. Still the best and most essential release from this new group of boundary-pushing outfits.