So, yours truly has relocated to South Florida which has turned everything upside down in my personal life but not in any sort of bad way. After all, South Florida during the end of (North American) winter is never that bad, comparatively speaking. Anyway, in all of that moving I had plenty of opportunity to listen to a lot of great new music. I just didn’t quite get all my thoughts written down before the end of February. At any rate, who cares about all that? There’s a boatload of great stuff out now or on the way. Here’s the list of what caught my ear the most over the last month plus.
But before we get there, a few quick hit thoughts about releases that are just missing the cut this time out: Tomorrow is the day to get your hands on new greatness from the Worriers and Hot Mulligan. Go and get it. This is my semi-professional recommendation based on the same singles you and I have heard. No promo needed. The new Bombpops, Death in Venice Beach, is out next Friday so add that to your weekend routine. But I’m still going to write about these in the late March edition of this thing.
“Do all those records turn you into a melancholy person?”
Glacier Veins – The World You Want to See
It would be heavily reductive to label this Portland band “emo” so I’ll try really hard not to slap that label onto them here. This album, though, has lots of nice elements of dream-pop throughout the production, especially on the guitars, and the delivery of the vocals by Malia Endres is pretty irresistible. “Everything Glows” merits particular mention here as a standout track with some fun guitar interplay and catchy hooks along with a superb, driving pulse at its core. “Set My Mind” and “Circles” standout in the way that they grab your attention right away with simple, yet effective, drumming patterns. “Perception” has the feel of a song that might have made a lot of headway on ‘90s college rock radio. Either way, Glacier Veins combination of power pop and midwestern (yes, here it comes) emo from different eras is quite impressive on this Equal Visions full-length. Think Belly meets Sensefield.
Ratboys – Printer’s Devil
Continuing on with that ‘90s college-rock revival thing, here we have Ratboys doing their best to be the greatest thing that Merge never put out. Julia Steiner’s vocals and penchant for writing irresistible hooks is as good as, if not better than, anything Juliana Hatfield or adjacent acts like the Lemonheads ever committed to record. That’s particularly evident on “Look To” which almost slips by after the monstrous opener to Printer’s Devil that is “Alien With A Sleep Mask On”. At times it feels like the band is struggling with who they’ve been and who they’re becoming. The record vacillates between power pop and the earnest acoustic approach that marks their back catalog, particularly on tracks like “My Hands Grow” and “A Vision”. “Listening” even veers into some Jenny Lewis-style twangy pop. Overall, though, Printer’s Devil delivers on a ton of promise and leaves us to ponder what direction the band is finally going to settle on… or if they even need to settle on just one.
Wasted Shirt – Fungus II
The propulsive (and downright Ministry-like) “Zeppelin 5” pulled me into this great sonic mistake that is the brainchild of Ty Segall and Lightning Bolt’s Brian Chippendale. Did you ever wonder what garage rock and psychedelia would sound like filtered through the madness that is Lightning Bolt? Well, wonder no more, friends. This is especially evident on “Harsho” but really the whole album serves as this sort of spiraling ever downward and sideways into the psychedelic realm these two have created. “The Purple One” almost manages to sound sane with its use of acoustic guitar but eventually that falls away as well. Meanwhile, “Eagle Slaughters Graduation” almost has a Santana vibe buried underneath the chaos. It’s fitting that the dirge-like “Four Strangers Enter the Cement at Dusk” closes this whole affair out with flails of the madness that surface over the album’s 31 minute runtime. It’s exhausting and insane in a way that, for the right kind of people, will leave you giggling madly at the end of it all.
Introvert – Mending Breaking
I swear I don’t just pick out triple j bands from Australia to tell you all about every month but it certainly seems to work out that way. This 6-song EP is chock full of the emo-tinged punk that I have, of late, developed a soft spot for. “Find A Way” and “Dreamers” particularly show just how ready these guys are for a much larger crowd and stage. There’s enough big chorus, bigger riff energy here to firmly assert this band among the current raft of artists taking the scene by storm. Where a lot of U.S. and European bands seem to be more interested in recycling the punk that has worked for decades now, the Aussies seem more than happy to re-invent the whole damn hard rock scene. Introvert are just one of the latest to do it. “Somewhere Else” and “All I Know” are sophisticated tracks that bands with much longer tenures would be proud to call their own. Think somewhere between Senses Fail and Frightened Rabbit.
Slowly Slowly – Race Car Blues
Surprise, surprise. Another Aussie band checks in with a moving piece of alt-rock underpinned by the legacy of Brand New, Say Anything (see the track “Jellyfish”), and the bands that made emo a thing in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s. The fact of the matter is, though, that this album sees Slowly Slowly growing up and grappling with existential questions. “19” was the track that got its hooks in me with backing vocals that I swore belonged to A Day to Remember’s Jeremy McKinnon. “Safety Switch” ups the ante with Adelaide’s Bec Stevens chipping in backing vocals on what turns out to be just a solidly charming song in this genre. In a way, Race Car Blues feels like the kind of journey that prime Jimmy Eat World would take listeners on. It’s astoundingly consistent from track to track and the band wisely light things up on the energetic “Creature of Habits pt. 2” as the album nears its end. Overall, this feels like a band on the brink of pushing their boundaries in a way that could be quite remarkable but where they arrive here is perfectly fine… for now.
“I hope the people who wrote those songs are happy. I hope they feel it’s enough. I really do because they’ve made me happy. And I’m only one person.”
Free Throw – “Motorcycle, No Motor?”
This band keeps growing by leaps and bounds and this track is no different. It’s got a sense of melody layered under all the yelling that will keep fans of the poppier stuff coming back for more and enough gristle to keep more hardcore types from writing them off.
Arre! Arre! – “Me and My Fatass Friends”
Just an all around super fun, super supportive song that will get stuck in your brain. Don’t we all need those sometimes?
PAPER MILL – “Bruce”
Easily my favorite single from this batch. Scruffy vocals over melodic guitars and a driving rhythm section that harkens back to Leatherface crossed with modern pop-punk.
Hopesfall – “Hall of the Sky”
This is a wonderful slab of post-hardcore from these re-united vets of the hardcore scene. It gives me a lot of hope for what a potential new full-length will sound like and could jump to the top of my AOTY standings.
Cold Years – “Night Like This”
This Scottish band is pulling some of the big, jaded rock noise we’re used to hearing from the likes of Dave Hause and Gaslight Anthem. Big shoes to fill for sure, but if this track is any indication, their May release may just be up to the task.
The Suicide Machines – “Anarchist Wedding”
The boys are back with their first full-length in 15 years set to be released in April. This song is the band doing what they do best: polished pop-punk with just enough lefty energy to feel semi-threatening.
The Buttertones – “Jazzhound”
Somewhere, someone decided to mash up Devo, the B-52s, and Joy Division. This is what came out. The full-length of the same name is due out April 10th.
Blood Command – “Saturday City”
Remember when Swedish singer, Robyn, hit a massive wave of recognition in her mid-career phase because a bunch of hipsters glommed on to her particular take on dance pop? That’s how I feel whilst falling in love with Blood Command, a self-described “Death pop” band that seamlessly straddles several genre lines.
Stand Atlantic – “Shh!”
My appreciation for much of the Australian punk/alternative/hard rock scene continues as I stan for Stand Atlantic yet again. There’s just something about the epic chorus section on this track that stuck to me like glue. FFO: you know but, like, Paramore and stuff.
Born Ruffians – “Dedication”
This track has a Kinks meets lo-fi Arctic Monkeys feel to it with the sensibility of the Monkees and that’s certainly not meant as an insult.
Hot Snakes – “I Shall Be Free”
It’s Hot Snakes back doing Hot Snakes things which equates to what might happen if the Jesus Lizard got into a fight with the Black Keys.
Gouge Away – “Consider”
Did you like Rites of Spring but wish they were just a little bit angrier? Do you miss the days when Dischord was *the* record label releasing all of your favorite music? You’re probably already listening to Gouge Away, then, and this song is no exception.
The Literal WUP Punkrockjukebox