01-22-2022
Grace Cummings
Storm Queen

When you hear there's a new young female folk singer who has a voice like Bob Dylan, you'd probably not immediately assume that they mean Time Out Of Mind era Dylan. But that's what we've got with Grace Cummings—a deep baritone throaty growl that is one of the last things you'd expect to hear coming out of the singer from the cover photo, but after the initial shock is actually a pleasant and refreshing listen. There's even the occasional bit of old-school Bright Eyes vocal tantrums to be found later in the album, which isn't altogether unpleasant. Nice little album! My first fave of 2022 I think.

01-20-2022
odd eyes
原題

This is a (frustratingly common) example of a band that plays loud, tight, aggressive and weird—totally locked-in punk rock with a hint of mathy progness to keep us guessing—but throws the baby out with the bathwater by layering absolute nonsensical screaming over the top as vocals.

However, odd eyes has one saving grace, which is that they are Japanese. So the unhinged anti-rhythmic vocal assault actually becomes just interesting enough when it's in a language you're not used to hearing with this sort of thing. If I could make out some guy yelling, like, "Priority death! Diffuse reflection!" in English, then yeah, I'm out. But something about hearing these vocals in Japanese works for me enough to strap in and enjoy the absolute bombardment of the rest of the band.

01-18-2022
Air
Premiers Symptômes

For 24 years, I've been saying "one of these days I'll listen to Premiers Symptomes." And I'd never actually done it. It's as if I've been saving it for some occasion; like I somehow knew it would be great, and as soon as Air released enough bad albums, I would have it in my back pocket to go and enjoy for one last thrill.

Air has released plenty of bad albums since 1998, but for whatever reason I've never bothered to do it. Well this week I did it.

It was mostly a fluke, I was going through some cheap used CDs at a record store, and this was there and I just figured it was time. And after 24 years of anticipation: it's kind of a bust.

I know it's not actually an 'album,' just a singles collection. But I was surprised that this whole thing sounds almost like a sketch, or a series of demos, for what would become Moon Safari. Some similar melodies, plenty of similar instrumentation. But that's really all it is. Really there's not much reason to listen to it in 2022 when Moon Safari is still right there, and still rules in every way. At least I tried.

01-17-2022
Chime School
Chime School

A one-man indie-rock-jangle-pop project that is deeply (did I italicize that enough?) indebted to R.E.M., The La's, The Feelies, and any other band who's ever played reverbed arpeggios on a Rickenbacker. I don't like it that much; and yet the sounds it emits are so satisfying that I can't stop listening to it.

01-15-2022
Guided By Voices
Bee Thousand

The most Guided By Voices thing about Guided By Voices is that "I Am a Scientist" is the 18th of 20 tracks on their 7th album, and it basically signaled the start of their career.

01-13-2022
Fuck
The Band

Holy shit, Fuck put a new album out 3 years ago and I had no idea! Fuck! The band!

I was weirdly into this band back in the late 90s and early 00s; despite their ridiculous name and occasionally goofball song titles and lyrics, they were always way more thoughtful and subtle than you would expect—something like the slowcore of Low warped with the indie fuckery of Pavement. Their run of albums from 1997 to 2001, Pardon My French, Conduct, and Cupid's Cactus are prime, formative albums for me. And I swear they still hold up. Seriously solid albums.

What I always forget though is they released one or two after that, which were not nearly as solid.

And the same goes with The Band. Surprisingly, it still absolutely sounds like Fuck. It's been like 15 years, but they sound like it could be 1998 still, for better or worse. I was just hoping, at best, they could bring some old-man weariness to the thing. But not really, it's just some okay indie rock tunes. Which, when you look at what Genghis Tron did last year, coming back from a decade long absence with a completely fresh, adult outlook on their work (which had previously been, I'd say, completely batshit), is a bit of a disappointment. Ultimately, the best thing about the Fuck reunion is making me go back for the first time in years and listen to their old stuff.

01-13-2022
Voidsphere
To Overtake | To Overcome

Voidsphere is pure by-the-numbers atmospheric black metal, that does everything right but nothing quite interesting enough to steal my attention. Weird to say, but stuff like this has become background work music for me at this point. Just chill (by means of being extremely loud and unrelenting), meditative music to put on while focusing on tasks. Is it better than 2 dozen other black metal albums floating around Bandcamp? Probably not. But it's never annoying, it never becomes too harsh for its own good, and the cover is cool as shit.

And that's where I want to discuss the genius of Voidsphere as a pure brand exercise. This album is called To Overtake | To Overcome. Their previous 2020 release is called To Sense | To Perceive, and before that was To Exist | To Breathe, To Await | To Expect, and To Call | To Speak, all of which feature black and gray abstract images of galactic chaos spirals, each rendered with slightly different techniques, but nonetheless feeling like they were made by the same artist. Digging into the music itself, each one of these albums contain just two 20+ minute tracks. On this album, they are "The Void Overtakes," and "The Void Overcomes." The one before that, "The Void Senses," The Void Perceives." I'll leave you to guess the others.

This is the kind of shit that I will forever be a sucker for. They set up rules for themselves, and goddammit they're going to follow those rules. It's beautiful. They even re-use the same album description for every Bandcamp entry: "Voidsphere is worship of the void. It is that, and only that."

12-28-2021
Steve's Favorite Music of 2021
A List

What an exciting year! There's not one but two albums that stylize their title in ALL CAPS topping the list! Maybe if every artist would feel that confidently about their work, we'd find ourselves amidst a modern cultural renaissance!

But I'd like to take a moment of silence for the Pillow Queens' In Waiting. The album came out in 2020, but I only heard it in January of this year, so it never made last year's list, and the Music & Food Rules and Administration Committee won't allow me to put it on this year's. But wow, that thing mesmerized me for the first half of 2021. It's an amazing record. If it'd been released on January 1st, it would very easily be my #2, and might probably make me think real hard about making it #1.

Um, what else? Oh #4 I'm combining an album and an EP but I don't care and I am not accepting complaints at this time.

This is stupid, why am I writing all this? Here's the list(s):

Albums

  1. Turnstile - GLOW ON
  2. Low - HEY WHAT
  3. Katy Kirby - Cool Dry Place
  4. The Bug Club - Pure Particles / Launching Moondream One
  5. Cumbie - EP
  6. Black Nash - Black Nash
  7. Floating Points / Pharoah Sanders - Promises
  8. Bruiser Wolf - Dope Game Stupid
  9. Geese - Projector
  10. War on Drugs - I Don’t Live Here Anymore
  11. Shannon Lay - Geist
  12. Genghis Tron - Dream Weapon
  13. The Vernon Spring - A Plane Over Woods
  14. Poison Ruin - Poison Ruin
  15. Peter Talisman - Lord of the Harvest
  16. Arooj Aftab - Vulture Prince
  17. Brother Guy - The Wavey Session 3: In Our Jammies
  18. serpentwithfeet - DEACON
  19. Cassandra Jenkins - Overview on Phenomenal Nature
  20. NEW GRASS - Scordatura_Perforations
  21. Mare Cognitum - Solar Paroxysm
  22. The Weather Station - Ignorance
  23. Tems - If Orange Was A Place EP
  24. Riley Walker - Course and Fable
  25. Tarta Relena - Fiat Lux

Songs

  1. Katy Kirby - "Juniper"
  2. Japanese Breakfast - "Be Sweet"
  3. Katy Kirby - "Traffic!"
  4. Turnstile - "Holiday"
  5. Turnstile - "T.L.C."
  6. The Bug Club - "The Fixer"
  7. Bruiser Wolf - "Dope Game $tupid"
  8. Low - "Days Like These"
  9. Cassandra Jenkins - "Hard Drive"
  10. Mastodon - "The Beast"
  11. Johnny Football Hero - "Cap’n Oblivious (Deficit)"
  12. The Bug Club - "Launching Moondream One"
  13. serpentwithfeet - "Same Size Shoe"
  14. Obongjayar and Sarz - "Sweetness"
  15. Black Nash - "It's You"
  16. CUMBIE - "Inside"
  17. The Weather Station - "Tried to Tell You"
  18. snarls - "Fixed Gear"
  19. Tems - "Crazy Tings"
  20. WILD POWWERS - "Bone Throw"
12-25-2021
Cassandra Jenkins
An Overview on Phenomenal Nature

Everyone kept saying "Hard Drive" was one of the best songs of this year, but whenever I heard it I couldn't stop thinking of this.

I was wrong. It's a wonderful song and this is a sneaky entry into my faves of the year.

12-20-2021
Aimee Mann
Queens of the Summer Hotel

Sometimes I start a post by saying "Here's a weird one!"

Well this one's a weird one(!) on two fronts. First, despite being an Aimee Mann album, this isn't exactly an "Aimee Mann album." But it is. But not. What it is is for the last few years, she's been writing songs for a stage musical based off of Girl, Interrupted. Over time it was becoming less of a musical and more of a standard stage play, so she just decided to record the songs on her own and release it as an album. And it's good! It works! And it's an interesting listen, because these songs really do read as being constructed for Broadway (or, rather, off-Broadway) versus your traditional Aimee Mann collection. In fact it even injects some interesting tweaks to what has become a somewhat formulaic body of work over the years. There's full string orchestration, interesting structural twists and turns, some dimensional rhyme schemes. It's a nice sit!

Which brings me to the second weird point here. I bought this album on Bandcamp, paid for it but couldn't download it immediately. The next day, it was gone. No longer on Bandcamp! A week later, it was back, and then gone again. At this point, it's somehow on my phone's Bandcamp app, but not on my desktop, and it's not available to actually download. I emailed Bandcamp about it and they claim the artist "violated our terms of use." No idea what that could've been. But I guess they didn't actually charge me. And I can still listen to the album on my phone, I guess?

Love this new digital streaming economy of ours.

12-14-2021
New Grass
Scordatura_Performations

Every year there's one of these, a late-arriving molotov cocktail thrown into the album-of-the-year scrum, showing up rude as shit after a lot of people have already published their top-however-manys and moved on. And this one seems to have come out of absolutely nowhere.

From what I can figure, this is a one-man project that this guy has been working on since 2012. At its core it's something that you could call post-hardcore, but underneath the howling vocals and helicopter drums, you can hear layers and layers of guitars and bass that absolutely sound like they've been fussed over for 9 years. It somehow jangles and crunches at the same time, slashes and arpeggis, transitions and breakdowns as knotty as a prog band. I'm not sure if there's a single melody to be found, and it certainly isn't going to turn the pit into a dance floor, Turnstile-style. But it's a deep, colorful listen that has a whole hell of a lot of energy, and thankfully I haven't published my list yet.

(Although it'll probably be something like, 8 or 9.)

12-03-2021
Leo's LatticiniQueens
Italian hoagie

If I posted about Leo's Latticini before, I was probably wrong about whatever I said. Last time around, whatever sandwich I had struck me as generally average, not necessarily representative of what was supposed to be one of the best Italian delis around.

This time it was absolutely representative of just that. Absolute top shelf sandwich.