Weekly Roundup: The Catch-Up Edition Part I
I've been gone for a bit, traipsing all over Southeast Asia for a couple weeks. In that time there has been an incredible slew of great music that deserves some attention and I'm going to do my best to go through the most noteworthy as quickly as possible!
Hop Along - Bark Your Head Off, Dog
RIYL: Screaming Females, Laura Stevenson and the Cans, Lemuria
Hop Along have been one of the most critically lauded bands in the independent/punk sphere for some time now. Their sophomore effort, Painted Shut, was a legitimately great record that cemented them as punk/indie darlings. Their mixture of a powerful vocals in a breathy tremor with straightforward, nonthreatening indie-punk is a powerful concoction that is sure to garner them a wide swath of both audiences. Bark Your Head Off, Dog continues the trend, leaning further away from the bands punk-by-association roots. Its a solid effort with a great vocal performance, that characteristic breathy tremor weaving in and out of a surprisingly diverse song set. Don't be surprised to encounter this on multiple outlet's end of year lists.
Sandmoon - Beirut/Berlin Session
RIYL: Devotchka, Yasmine Hamdan, Denali
Lebanon's Sandmoon have created something really interesting in this -song ep. An intoxicating intermingling of traditional and modern sounds with a laid-back, sultry lounge-like vibe; its so thick with atmosphere and timelessness you can almost smell the smokey, Casablanca-esque gin joint that the band would be captivating while playing. A largely acoustic affair, the release is so steeped in a delicate but confident assurance that they manage to convey an incredible amount despite the reservedness of their sound. Keep an eye out.
Harley Flanagan - Dr. Know EP
RIYL: Cro Mags, Leeway, Terror
There is something so incredibly endearing about Harley Flanagan's new project's determined straightforwardness. The project is under his name, his band is called HARD-CORE, his album Cro-Mags is named after the band that made him a legend, and this new EP is named for the man whom it is intended to benefit, the legendary Dr. Know. Dr. Know, for those not in the know (ahaaaa), could easily be credited as the godfather, if not progenitor, of hardcore. As guitarist for the FIRST real (and maybe still the best) hardcore band, Bad Brains, he ushered in a new era of music history and helped create a genre, community, and culture that continues and evolves to this day. Back in 2015, he had a severe heart attack, from which he is still recovering. This ep is intended to help drum up some much-needed support. Says Flanagan,
"When Gary Miller A/K/A Dr Know the guitarist for the Bad Brains got sick I wanted to do something to help him, so I reached out to my old band members to see if we could do a benefit or a reunion show, but that didn’t work out. Dr. Know and the Bad Brains were a huge influence on my music, on the Cro-Mags and close personal friends of mine and my family. I am releasing the first song from my new LP coming out this year to support Dr Know and his family."
Luckily the ep itself is full of the throwback-era hardcore goodness that one could expect from Flanagan, a living legend himself. Its fast, thrashy, brutal, and deeply satisfying and for a good cause so be sure to give it plenty of spins.
Vatican - Spawn of All Pain Taken
RIYL: Sanction, Unearth, Martyr AD
Bands like Vatican and Sanction, with their burgeoning fanbases and fame, make me wonder if a revival of early 00's metalcore is on the rise. What both bands do with ease is manage to take everything that was good about that sound and streamline it, cutting the chaff and leaning hard into the "core" side of the metalcore moniker, as undeniably these bands fall under the hardcore umbrella moreso than they do metal. But the line is blurring, and they provide a great counterpoint to the heavy metal-influenced hardcore that has taken such prominence of late in the vein of Vamachara, Harm's Way, and Code Orange. This is a more traditionalist approach, mixing a lot of Heaven Shall Burn death metal with traditional metalcore influences, but as a teaser or bridge for their upcoming full length, Spawn of All Pain Taken leaves you jonesing for more.
OSHUN - bittersweet vol. 1
RIYL: Jamila Woods, Joyce Wrice, Jesse Boykins III
Admittedly, I am somewhat out of my depth when in the world of hip hop and r and b. I have my mainstays and my specific areas of knowedlge, but a lot goes by me without my ever knowing. Oshun attracted me simply because of their striking album cover and boy howdy am I glad i took the time to give bittersweet vol. 1 a listen--a powerful mix of 90's hip hop stylings and r and b with neo-soul leanings. "Blessings on Blessings" and "We're Yung" are particular highlights. Would that the popular music world listened to more stuff like this; afrocentric, afrofuturist aesthetics backed by positive, self-love lyrics.
Palm Reader - Braile
RIYL: Architects, Dayseeker, Underoath
There is something so naggingly familiar about Palm Reader's Braile that it sounds like it's been around forever. While in some senses that makes it seem like the incredibly talented UK band have tapped into something deep and eternal in the sound of their third album, it can at times also be somewhat distracting. Braile itself is a somewhat math-y interpretation of a classic Underoath-y sound, as if they blended in a heavy dose of Architects with their classic screamo melodies. With lyrics tackling everything from the corruption of good people, the disillusion with political and financial institutions, toxic relationships, stagnancy...this is modern hardcore for the modern world and the modern listener. Its great stuff, even despite being somewhat deja-vu inducing.
Kali Uchis - Isolation
RIYL: SZA, Kelala, Tyler the Creator
There's been a lot of hype built around Kali Uchis' full length debut. She inhabits an interesting space--am American born, Colombian educated and influenced, east-coast raised r and b singer with classic influences and a west coast sound. Her early interactions with Snoop either clearly had an influence or make so much sense because of her effortless stylethat same effortlessness being Snoop's calling card. There is no one who can do literally anything and make it look cool with such ease as Snoop does and Uchis manages to convey that same sense of projected ease as the Doggfather. Her Latin roots, too, play an important part, her spanish language songs making some of the best listens on the record. The best songs of the record, by far, turn out to be when she turns up her songbird skills--the Billie Holiday, Amy Winehouse syren vibes--in songs like "Flight 22," and "Killer;" those songs leave the sun-soaked Lana Del Rey-type songs in the dust. (Though her single, "After the Storm" featuring Tyler the Creator and the immortal Bootsy Collins may be an exception, though the song is made more by it's collaborators).
Gost - Possessor
RIYL: Carpenter Brut, Magic Sword, Perturbator
From the jump, Possessor is an unfettered aural assault. So much of synthwave sounds like the Drive soundtrack took steroids and raged weights, but Gost's particular brand also means the Drive soundtrack popped a couple mushrooms and joined a cult. A guttural drone is a persistent presence while harmonics dance overtop. Overall, Possessor is variations on a theme. "Sigil" includes some Cold Cave-esque vocals, "Legion" goes full blown synth-backed black metal, but ultimately doesnt offer anything particularly new, just a harder strain of synthwave backed by blast beats. It's fun as hell (emphasis on the hell) for a bit, but someone would need to be really into the genre to last the full duration of the record. On the other hand, the fact that every rave i have even been to uses typical popular music and not dangerous music like this is a complete and utter disappointment.
Free Throw - Missing Pieces
RIYL: Have Mercy, Seahaven, Boston Manor
If "minor pop punk" were a thing, Free Throw would be nested well within it. Have Mercy, Seahaven, Boston Manor--these bands have built followings and careers on low-key emo-tinged pop punk that airs more on the quieter side of things, even when they arent unplugged. Missing Pieces is their acoustic ep and it offers a lot of what there is to like about the bands themselves--confessional lyrics, strong sense of melody and balance, and your typical sweet pop/emo vocals. But at the same time, stripping back the bombast of electronic instruments and overblown vocals leaves them in an echo chamber; magnifying their faults at the same time.
A Loss for Words - Odds and Ends pt. 2
RIYL: Therefore I Am, Transit, Fireworks
As far as I'm concerned, A Loss for Words will go down in history as not only one of the best bands to come out of the Boston pop punk scene, but one of the best pop punk bands ever. This is the second collection of rarities, demos, and b-sides to have been released by the band since their break up. While one can see why some of these were kept in their back pocket or scratched when it came to full length releases, to listen back on these songs is not only transportative, but reminds you just how good this sound was and how well these south Mass guys perfected it. Go back and listen to their whole discography and lament that we won't get to see them again.