The tail end of the summer has seen a number of highly-anticipated album releases, such as Kanye West and Drake, but none have seemed to capture the essence of the season as succinctly as the Baltimore-based hardcore quintet Turnstile. While the current landscape of popular music moves fluidly between genres, hardcore music seems like the last to stick to what defines the genre. Turnstile’s third album, “Glow On,” does not cast out these characteristics, but rather, reimagines them incorporating everything from R&B to samba. The result of these experimentations elicits feelings rarely associated with hardcore music: playfulness and celebration.
In a Kerrang interview, lead singer Brendan Yates described Turnstile’s approach as having “never necessarily been about climbing upwards. It’s about moving onwards, expanding outwards.” This philosophy of evolution was first hinted at on the band’s previous album, “Time & Space,” but where that album tentatively dipped into other genres, “Glow On” embraces them. Most apparent is the multiple features of London-based R&B artist Devonté Hynes, known as Blood Orange. Hynes’ contributions are not simply peripheral, as the album’s shambling and dreamy single “Alien Love Call” would fit more comfortably into Blood Orange’s catalog than Turnstile’s. Other genres are explored, such as shimmering synthpop on “No Surprises” or the reggae-esque “New Heart Design.” The former track showcases bass player Franz Lyons on lead vocals, asking, “Is it windows or a mirror that you’re looking out?” before suddenly cutting out in a brisk 45-second runtime, leaving the listener little time to ponder before launching into another distorted wall of guitars.
These deviations sit sandwiched between tracks that follow the more traditional hardcore trappings with fast paced, chugging guitars, and Yates’ yelping vocals, which are reminiscent of Rage Against the Machine and the Beastie Boys’ early punk roots. But these tracks maintain an air of lightheartedness, where even the frantic track “T.L.C. (Turnstile Love Connection)” manages to slip in a Sly and the Family Stone homage when Yates chants in the outro, “I want to thank you for letting me see myself / I want to thank you for letting me be myself,” before fizzling into a gently rumbling 808 drum beat. Where Turnstile could have easily veered into pastiche and self parody, they avoid this through infectious sincerity that both pays reverence to the pure hardcore of their beginnings and the willingness to push the genre forward.
In today’s music landscape, it is difficult to find a true crossover album that has the ability to catapult an artist into a sphere of listeners that otherwise would not have explored them, but “Glow On” does just that. The hardcore music scene has a reputation for being populated by purists and gatekeepers, and Turnstile’s new direction has received its fare share of accusations of betraying the genre. Conversely, there has also been an influx of praise
both in and out of the hardcore scene for the band seeking to the expand and grow the genre, or perhaps to be unbound by genre altogether. Ultimately, “Glow On” provides an excitement and unpredictability factor that hardcore music hardly knew it needed. As the current state of the world seems to keep everyone in a perpetual state of anxiety, we all need an album we can dance to, nod our heads to and of course, cathartically scream along to. Yates himself conveys this thought well on “Blackout” when he bellows, “And if it makes you feel alive / Well, then I’m happy I provide.” And Turnstile may be providing those feelings to more fans soon enough.
Dan Debuque is a fifth-year English Writings Major and Film Criticism Minor.