New Playlist: February 2022

Rosy Overdrive’s February 2022 review/overview/miscellaneous listening report is here! There is a lot of great music from this year out already, and my selections reflect this. In terms of older music, I’m well into a 1992 deep dive, so you’ll see a few songs from that year mixed in as well. Big Thief has two songs on the playlist this time around (Big Thief? Big Thief!).

Here are some streaming links for your convenience: Spotify, Tidal, BNDCMPR (with what’s missing on each format noted in the description). Be sure to check out previous playlist posts if you’ve enjoyed this one.

“Parallel Mind”, Patches
From Tales We Heard from the Fields (2022)

Now, here is a pop song. Tales We Heard from the Fields is a very good record, and “Parallel Mind” sticks out in particular among the Austin band’s offerings. There is no shortage of modern bands taking influence from the globe of classic guitar pop—Guided by Voices from the States, C86 and Sarah Records across the pond, Flying Nun in the southern hemisphere. Many of the resultant music is good, but “Parallel Mind” is one of the few songs that actually sounds like it actually could’ve come from those earlier waves. The mid-fi production, the plodding melodic bass, the frantically strummed acoustic guitar, the plain but confident lead vocal—this is the most Dunedin thing I’ve heard in quite a while. Read more about Tales We Heard from the Fields here.

“Mavis of Maybelline Towers”, The Loud Family & Anton Barbeau
From What If It Works? (2006, 125/Omnivore)

After reissuing the entire Game Theory catalog, Omnivore’s next Scott Miller-related release is a bit more off the beaten path, but I’m no less excited for it. I’m sure that I’ll have more to say about What If It Works?, Miller’s collaborative album with Anton Barbeau and the last record of his to be released in his lifetime, at some point, so I’ll just focus on “Mavis of Maybelline Towers”. It is, at least graded on the curve of Scott Miller-penned songs, a surprisingly straightforward garage pop/rock skeleton, but there’s plenty going on underneath—perhaps best illustrated by how the music stops at the end, illuminating just what the backing vocals had been doing the whole time. And some classic Miller lyrics, too (What rhymes with “Maybelline Towers”? Why, that’d be “make-believe hours”).

“Daughter”, Lady Pills
From What I Want (2022, Plastic Miracles)

“Daughter” opens up What I Want, Lady Pills’ latest album and a compelling record of pop rock from an emerging songwriter in Ella Boissonnault. “Daughter” is on the pop side of things, but it’s apparent early on from Boissonnault’s words that she’s got plenty to say, light, bouncy, rootsy backdrop or no. Boissonnault’s voice is as straightforward as the music, but I’m actually not totally sure about everything going on in the lyrics—the chorus and the opening lines evoke the “I have a daughter” trope some men use as a justification for treating women well, and a little bit about the societal expectation of pain and struggle in Boissonnault’s life (“There’s magic in loss and heartache in growth / I’m grateful for all the love, but I’m fed up with them both”). Great song!

“A Lot of Finding Out”, Big Nothing
From Dog Hours (2022, Lame-O)

Philly’s Big Nothing veer hard into weary, hooky “heartland punk” with their sophomore record Dog Hours, and lead single “A Lot of Finding Out” is a shining example of what they’ve got to offer. It’s a two minute song that’s basically all chorus, with guitarist/vocalist Matt Quinn deftly shifting between brief but memorable verse melodies and shouting out the titular line for all it’s worth. Read more about Dog Hours here.

“Just a Cue”, Julia Blair
From Better Out Than In (2022, Crutch of Memory)

I’ve known Julia Blair as a member of Appleton, Wisconsin’s country rock group Dusk, contributing piano, violin, and vocals on highlights like “Done Nothin’”. Her debut solo record, the amusingly-titled Better Out Than In, will appeal to Dusk fans, even as Blair takes strides in establishing her own sound on the album. Dusk have a classic retro pop-rock streak to them, and Blair explores this fully on Better Out Than In. A lot of the songs on the record excel at finding a groove and riding it out, with Blair repeating a few key lyrics and the music form-fitting to them. “Just a Cue” is a soul-influenced pop song, with an irresistible bass guitar popping out and Blair wringing everything she can out of “Love to you is just a cue / To break somebody’s heart again” (which is a lot).

“I Wanna Put My Tears Back”, Ancient Shapes
From Ancient Shapes (2017, New West)

Here’s our Daniel Romano pick of the month. In some ways, the self-titled debut from Ancient Shapes is the most rewarding record under the Romano umbrella that I’ve heard yet. The ten-song, sixteen-minute…album? (physically, it’s a “double A-side 12” LP”, with the entire thing on either side of the record) is “Daniel Romano as punk rocker”, to a degree, but “I Wanna Put My Tears Back” is basically just a 90-second power pop song. The verses are sort of darkly melodic, the drumbeat feels like it should be either a little faster or a little slower and subsequently keeps you on your toes, and the chorus is lethally catchy.

“Stranger”, Sarah Shook & the Disarmers
From Nightroamer (2022, Abeyance/Thirty Tigers)

Nightroamer has been in the tank awhile, from my understanding—the follow-up to 2018’s excellent Years has been plagued by a weird and depressing label situation and, uh, an actual plague, but it picks up right where Sarah Shook & the Disarmers left off.  A lot of Nightroamer finds the North Carolina-based band allowing Shook’s songwriting to stretch out just a little more than in the past, but “Stranger” is one of the more “traditional” ones on the record. It’s a big country-rocker with a sing-song chorus and steel guitar floating around in the midst of Shook’s firm resolution to the addressee of the song. Shook’s vocals aren’t typically “cheery”, but they muster up enough to sell the contrast in “Please be a stranger”.

“Time Escaping”, Big Thief
From Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You (2022, 4AD)

So, this new Big Thief double album, no? I’ve been on the Big Fence about them for years now, rolling my eyes at some of the hyperbolic praise they’ve gotten even as the electric catharsis of Two Hands scraped my 2019 year-end list and I’ve been impressed by the business of the band’s members. But I’m fully on board with Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You—and I think “Time Escaping” was probably the moment I realized it was happening. After a good but understated folk opener, the rhythmic clanging of “Time Escaping” is the first sign that A) this album is going for it and B) it’s succeeding.

“He Loves Me”, This Is Lorelei
From Falls Like Water Falls (2022)

Nate Amos may not be churning out music as This Is Lorelei at the ridiculous pace he was setting in the middle of last year, but his first release under the moniker in 2022 doesn’t disappoint. Falls Like Water Falls (which Amos apparently found time to make in between full-lengths from the two bands he’s also in, Water from Your Eyes and My Idea) is a mix of weird airy minimalism (“Woof!”), Elliott Smith indie-folk (“He Was Leaving”), and sharp pop songs like “He Loves Me” that altogether feel like fully-realized in spite of the jumping around.  “He Loves Me” is all sunshine and eager pop rock chord progressions, brilliantly simple.

“Freeway in Heaven”, Emperor X
From The Lakes of Zones B and C (2022)

Emperor X (aka Chad Matheny) wears many hats. Two of the biggest ones are polar opposites—that of surging, modern folk anthems and of inward-facing, gentle electronic explorations. But there’s (at least) a third one: the grounded, mid-tempo, rolling Emperor X. Emperor X as adult contemporary. Some of Matheny’s best and most interesting work comes in this form, and “Freeway in Heaven”, the lead single from the upcoming The Lakes of Zones B and C, is no different. It’s a sunny drive to the beach that takes turns both atomic and cosmic; the lyrics read like something of a parable, especially with the repetition of a line that can’t help but feel mocking in light of some of the shock and awe in the second verse (“Their intentions were good / And I hope that matters”). The extremely-Matheny-catchy chorus is very much a “chorus” in the original sense—a choir informs the audience that the titular freeway is empty, and that “Inflation’s getting out of control / But the money’s fake so no one cares”. Not on streaming services—listen to/download it on Bandcamp while you still can.

“Twisterella”, Ride             
From Going Blank Again (1992, Sire)

Ride were the best of the “big shoegaze” bands because they were just an incredibly killer guitar pop band with the reverb ramped up (my apologies to Kevin Shields stans and people who can tell Slowdive songs apart). Like with the Polvo entry later on in this post, I revisited Going Blank Again after a bigger record of theirs “hit” with me (Nowhere, obviously) and it sounds a lot better this time around. I could’ve chosen a few from Going Blank Again, but let’s not overthink this: “Twisterella” is note-perfect power pop excellence for its whole 3.5 minute run. The verse melodies have that 90s Britpop casual cool thing going on, but the surprisingly reserved chorus is appropriately bashful.

“Holiday World”, Mister Goblin
From Bunny (2022, Exploding in Sound)

“You’re stuck with me now, here in Holiday World / You’re right to be afraid,” announces Sam Goblin in the opening line of the first single from his upcoming third record, Bunny. I don’t know if the lyrics are an intentional nod to a certain older D.C. band that has more than a little in common with the music of Mister Goblin, but it’s either way it’s an exciting new motto for the Maryland-originating, Bloomington-based project. Goblin has talked about Bunny in a way that’s implied it’ll be heavier than 2021’s Four People in an Elevator and One of Them Is the Devil (one of my favorite albums of last year), but “Holiday World” could’ve fit easily on that record if it sounded a little more homespun and less polished. Not that I want it to be, mind you—as it is, it goes into the Mister Goblin muscular post-punk pop hall of fame easily. Read more about Bunny here.

“Soul Tied to a Stranger”, Jon the Movie
From A Glimpse That Made Sense (2022, New Morality Zine/Cauldron of Burgers)

Jon the Movie’s A Glimpse That Made Sense is a curiously compelling debut release from the project, a one-man-band helmed by Long Island musician and artist Jon M. Gusman. The album as a whole synthesizes Gusman’s love of 90s alt rock/indie rock/punk rock with the prog rock that was a formative influence on him. That sounds decidedly Bob Pollard-esque, and the lo-fi pop of “Soul Tied to a Stranger” is on Guided by Voices levels of basement catchiness. Read more about A Glimpse That Made Sense here.

“Snake”, Sadurn
From Radiator (2022, Run for Cover)

I became aware of Sadurn last year after their contribution to the most recent Under the First Floor compilation—their version of what ended up becoming the title track to Radiator was one of that comp’s clear highlights. I was eager to see where the band went from there, and thankfully Run for Cover has picked the Philadelphia band up and their debut full-length record is coming out in a couple months. Lead single and opening track “Snake” is sharp mid-tempo alt-country, not at all too busy but taking advantage of Sadurn founder Genevieve DeGroot’s expanding the band to a four-piece. DeGroot’s vocals are near-perfect for the song—“Snake” is strong enough that they didn’t have to be, but it certainly helps take it up a level. Read more about Radiator here.

“Ortolan Sung”, Zinskē
From Murder Mart (2022)

The first full-length from Philadelphia’s Zinskē has a number of calling cards, not the least of which is vocalist Chris Lipczynski’s ever-stoic presence throughout Murder Mart. “Ortolan Sung” is, musically speaking, the band’s biggest moment on the record, featuring a lightly dire lead guitar intro courtesy of Kevin O’Halloran and a lifting chorus. Lipczynski raises his voice just a little bit in the refrain to “Ortolan Sung”, which in context becomes the equivalent of breaking with emotion. Read more about Murder Mart here.

“Rosy”, Cashmere Washington
From Almost Country for Old Men, Electro Country for They/Them (2022)

Rosy” is Almost Country for Old Men, Electro Country for They/Them’s big-finish final track, the EP’s biggest jolt of unbridled catharsis, and a key moment in the Cashmere Washington journey thus far. Thomas Dunn was inspired by the romantic simplicity at the end of Adam Sandler’s The Wedding Singer and a resolution to pair grief with upbeat backing music to create this vibe-driven cypher of an anthem. Read more about “Rosy” here.

“The Best Ever Boom Box Cassette Tape from Durham”, Fishboy
(2022, XLFNT)

The conceit behind “The Best Ever Boom Box Cassette Tape from Durham” is that it’s a response to “The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton” by the Mountain Goats performed by somebody actually from Denton—that is, Eric Michener of Fishboy. It’s not really about that other song, though, or even Denton, Texas. It’s about the funniness of human interaction, the meaning ascribed to geography, and (a common theme for Fishboy) the long-lasting power of art. Michener cycles through a rotely-memorized spiel about how no, John Darnielle isn’t actually from Texas, no, Fishboy isn’t a directly Mountain Goats-inspired band even though they sound kind of similar—perhaps a hyper-specific “literate indie folk rock” version of how the only thing people know about West Virginia are the words of a man who didn’t even know what state he was singing about, or when people know more songs called “Africa” by Toto than they do anything about an entire continent (Besides, Fishboy’s biggest “not actually influenced by” soundalike band to me is Okkervil River, who are really from Texas).

Of course, a lot can be dulled in the repetition of a single conversation, like how it’s actually cool that total strangers can share things like recognizing the 27th-largest city in Texas due to a reference on their favorite album, or that this one Mountain Goats song recorded in Colo, Iowa in the early 2000s, released on CD through Emperor Jones Records in 2002, reissued on vinyl via Durham’s Merge Records in 2013, and finally issued on cassette for the first time ever early this year will in time both outpace and outlive all of us, including even the person who wrote it (and the person who wrote about the person who wrote about it).

I remember seeing the Mountain Goats live in, oh, well, it was quite some time ago now—when it was time for the encore, they brought out opening act The Baptist Generals, who, they triumphantly announced, are actually from Denton, Texas. The entire audience in the mid-sized Midwestern city I was in at the time—full of people who had likely never been to Denton, much less had any personal connection to the place—knew what that meant, and cheered loudly.

“Year of the Dog”, Giant Sand
From Center of the Universe (1992, Restless/Fire)

It feels like I’m revisiting a lot of bands that have shown up on these playlists before this month, and Giant Sand is no exception. I think Center of the Universe might be one of the most complete and consistent Giant Sand albums I’ve heard so far—not that it’s not bonkers in places, but it’s got the right mix of Howe Gelb going off the rails versus his dead-eyed, potent alt-country songwriting. “Year of the Dog” features so much of the latter than it’d be easy to miss that the song doesn’t have much of a structure of which to speak. It does have Gelb finding fertile ground in one of the greatest avatars of country music (the, uh, dog) and some nice organ accents.

“Cold Brew”, Shamir
From Heterosexuality (2022, AntiFragile)

Heterosexuality is not the Shamir album that hews closest to the styles of music I personally enjoy, but it might be my favorite album of his to date. I could’ve gone with the pop rock balladry of “Reproductive” or the industrial pop force that is “Cisgender”, but “it’s cold brew and ginger beer”, that’s what I keep coming back to. It’s an extraordinarily friendly synthpop song about trauma, nightmares, being an empty shell and the like. Shamir sounds like he’s singing from outside of himself, coldly observing the person using nice drinks to drown out something alarming (“The fog in my eyes, much to my surprise / Keeps me going in the midst of hate”).

“There But for the Grace of God Go I”, The Gories
From Outta Here (1992, Crypt)

“There But for the Grace of God Go I” was a minor disco hit in 1979 for the New York funk/R&B group Machine, a five-minute curiosity that touched on everything from racism, suburbanization, drug abuse, and inter-generational tension over a bouncy groove. In 1992, The Gories turned it into a worried, dirty garage rock report that upped the urgency. Mick Collins’ vocals were never going to match the technical perfection of the original, but he does an admirable job, bouncing between imparting the song’s story and howling when the words call for it. And the pounding drumbeat is just an effective backbone, if not more so.

“Peng! 33”, Stereolab
From Peng (1992, Too Pure)

Yes, yes, I Know. Peng is the “sorta” Stereolab album, the unremarkable debut that preceded an adventurous, experimental, exciting run of records in the mid-to-late-90s, the one where they hadn’t yet shaken off their indie pop roots. Thing is I like indie pop, and I like Peng, probably a good deal more than most of the canonical records.  “Peng! 33” is perfect cascading noise pop, with shiny, invasive guitar chords blaring at the listener from the first moment. The lyrics are apparently from Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, a book I read once, too long ago to have any relevant insight about them but, between the two pieces of art, makes me want to read, and to read into. Some of the most rewarding music out there sounds like this, example A.

“Wringing Out My Brain”, Sonny Falls
From Stoned, Beethoven Blasting (2022, Forged Artifacts)

In the musical no-man’s-land of late December of 2020, I discovered Sonny Falls’ All That Has Come Apart / Once Did Not Exist, a massive double album of messy, alt-country-tinged “existentialist garage rock” that’s probably one of my favorite albums of that year in hindsight. While Sonny Falls (led by Chicago’s Ryan “Hoagie Wesley” Ensley) may have constrained themselves to “merely” a single record for the upcoming Stoned, Beethoven Blasting, there’s still a lot going on in it, and “Wringing Out My Brain” is the perfect example. It feels like a brief burst of garage punk—I was actually surprised when I noticed it’s nearly four minutes long—with Ensley’s alternatively tossed-off and assertive vocals fighting for space among the noise. Read more about Stoned, Beethoven Blasting here.

“Levels”, Howless
From To Repel Ghosts (2022, Static Blooms)

The debut album from Mexico City’s Howless is a sleek record that enthusiastically evokes shoegaze, 80s post-punk, and even synthpop in a few places. To Repel Ghosts naturally picks up on some of the “moodiness” of those genres, but lead single and album highlight “Levels” shows they can be bright when they want to be.  It’s a shiny indie pop song that has a bit of everything: shimmery, jangly, C86-esque guitar flourishes, new wave-y melodic bass, some handclap and drum machine action, and some alt-rock distortion than comes and goes. Dominique Sanchez’s vocals are understated but still fully selling you on the melody.

“Vanish (But That’s My Hometown, Marcus)”, Die! Die! Die!
From This Is Not an Island Anymore (2022)

Auckland, New Zealand’s Die! Die! Die! have been making music as a trio for most of this century, but This Is Not an Island Anymore is the first record of theirs I’ve heard in full. If you like classic noise rock, you’ll find plenty to enjoy here, although I think “Vanish (But That’s My Hometown, Marcus)” is the one that can cross the aisle. It’s something of the album’s “pop moment”—they don’t turn down the low-end pummeling, no sir, but it’s the song where Andrew Wilson’s vocals back off from their usual “screeching” and “barking” mode into something rather simple and, in the chorus, actually somewhat melodic.

“I Was a Kaleidoscope”, Death Cab for Cutie
From The Photo Album (2001, Barsuk)

Aside from a few random songs, non-Transatlanticism Death Cab for Cutie has always been a bit of a blind spot for me, but I’ve always been a Ben Gibbard defender, so I listened to The Photo Album in full for the first time last month. It didn’t blow me away, but it’s a solid, sturdy indie rock record, and “I Was a Kaleidoscope” is quickly becoming one of my favorite Gibbard-involved songs. Although they eventually morphed into something I like more, I also enjoy the band in “hooky 90s indie rock” mode, and even in with the alt-rock chug of the song, Ben Gibbard is already 100% 2000s indie celebrity Ben Gibbard.

“Little Prince”, Spring Silver
From I Could Get Used to This (2022)

“Little Prince” is the lead single from I Could Get Used to This, the latest record from Silver Spring’s Spring Silver, which is not out when I’m writing this but probably will be by the time this goes up. Spring Silver is the project of artist K Nkanza, whose recent singles mix D.C.-inspired post-hardcore and indie rock with electronic and melodic flourishes. “Little Prince” is a seething, catchy rock song that reminds me a little bit of Mister Goblin (who sings on this song as one of the record’s many guests musicians, a list that also includes Bartees Cox Jr., Dylan Baldi, Theo Hartlett, and Sadie Dupuis). Nightmare synths and blaring guitars duel around Nkanza’s blistering lyrics and vocal delivery.

“Sweeping”, Joe Kenkel
From Naturale (2022, Earth Libraries)

Another month, another Styrofoam Wino. I highlighted the sophomore album of the Nashville supergroup early on in Rosy Overdrive’s history, and one member’s solo album late last year, and early 2022 has brought us Naturale, the latest album from noted Wino Joe Kenkel. Kenkel’s songs were some of the lighter and spacier moments on Styrofoam Winos, and “Sweeping” inhabits the same territory. Kenkel’s acoustic guitar and humble vocals are in a familiar dreamy country/folk style, but like a lot of Naturale, there’s a drum machine and synths hanging out in the background that’s reminiscent of another side of Kenkel, that of 80s sophisti-pop. It’s all very neat and evocative, and when Kenkel raises his voice toward the end, it subsequently hits harder.

“Live Again”, Mal Devisa
From Kiid (2016, Self-released/Topshelf)

On the day that I’m writing this, everybody’s talking about a big “team up” in the music industry about which I’m a bit leery, albeit not yet doomy. One partnership I’m fully on board with, though, is Topshelf Records’ signing of Mal Devisa (aka Deja Carr) and managing her back catalog (including Wisdom Teeth, which I wrote about last year). Topshelf is also physically releasing one of Carr’s most beloved records, 2016’s Kiid, so it seems like a good time to revisit it. Album highlight “Live Again” is a quiet showcase of everything great about Mal Devisa—even with just Carr’s voice and minimal guitar playing, it’s an attention grabber.

“Simulation Swarm”, Big Thief
From Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You (2022, 4AD)

I decided to go with one of the more “normal” tracks for my second Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You pull (believe me, I was this close to doing “Little Things” instead)—“Simulation Swarm” is such a calming blue hole track in the final stretch of the record. I tap in and out of Adrianne Lenker’s manifestos (they’d be called this more widely if she had any other singing voice), but the half-awake meanderings are just the right level of soothing in this song—and there’s clearly a lot of depth held in these lines of you’d care to look.

“This Night”, Superchunk
From Wild Loneliness (2022, Merge)

Wild Loneliness is, unsurprisingly, a good Superchunk album (I don’t think they make any other kind). Its mid-tempo, Portastatic-y surface make it a bit less immediate than 2018’s What a Time to Be Alive, but I think this one will have even more long-term staying power. Its ten tracks take me back to Here’s to Shutting Up and (especially) Come Pick Me Up, and single “This Night” is an appropriately wistful pop-rocker. It’s in the “hold on to that killer chorus for all it’s worth” genre of Superchunk song (See also: “White Noise”, “FOH”), and the way it holds up the seemingly mundane with ecstasy is an essential wrinkle in the record’s weary sociopolitical fabric.

“Jenny”, The High Water Marks
From Proclaimer of Things (2022, Minty Fresh)

Just another fun pop song from some original Elephant Six folks that are still at it–off of a record that’s full of them, to boot. It’s only been a year and a half since late 2020’s Ecstasy Rhymes, but if The High Water Marks are trying to make up the 13 year gap between that record and the one before it, that’s fine with me. Proclaimer of Things is a spirited noise pop album, burying melodies in the lightly psychedelic fuzz of songs like “We Are Going to Kentucky” and the title track, and the catchiest one of them would have to be “Jenny”. Hilarie Sidney, one of the two bandleaders along with her husband Per Ole Bratset, gives the track a simple, sing-song melody that doesn’t waver among the band’s noise.

“Channel Changer”, Polvo
From Cor-Crane Secret (1992, Merge)

Once again I am Polvo-pilling you all via these monthly playlists. I was effusive about Exploded Drawing last time; Cor-Crane Secret isn’t quite as good, but it’s a lot better than I remembered it being—maybe I needed to figure out their other records first. Cor-Crane Secret is, in hindsight, Polvo more or less fully formed—maybe it’s a little more “punk”, but all the ingredients are here in “Channel Changer” alone: the oddly discordant guitars that hinted at where they’d go in the future, the distorted sonic assault (the good, cheap American kind, not the overblown British variety), and the mathy/post-punk building blocks that add rather than distract.

“Save the Circus”, No Monster Club
From Deadbeat Effervescent (2022, Emotional Response/Popical Island)

Deadbeat Effervescent is the latest from Ireland’s No Monster Club, the big, colorful pop-rock group led by somebody who calls himself Sir Bobby Jukebox. It’s highly recommended for any fans of unsung indie pop hero Nick Thorburn (The Unicorns, Islands), or for maximalist, whimsical music in general. Lead single “Save the Circus” is a horn-featuring, dancefloor-friendly tune that more than lives up to its name: it’s a dagger of a pop song from every angle. Read more about Deadbeat Effervescent here.

“Teeths”, Modern Nun
From Name (2022)

Chicago’s Modern Nun only have a standalone single and one four-song EP to their name so far, but the trio have firm and substantial goals already, speaking about exploring spirituality and queerness in their music. The band takes on a casual folk/country vibe on their latest release, exemplified no better in my personal favorite track from it, the lonesome, sweet “Teeths”. Singer Edie McKenna’s vocals are memorable on every song, but they’re particularly strong on this song; she seems to relish the opportunity to bridge sadness and saccharine. 

“Vice Versa”, En Garde
From Debts (2022, Count Your Lucky Stars/Storm Chasers LTD)

Less than a year after their debut release, 2021’s long-in-development Debtors EP, the Akron, Ohio duo En Garde now have a full-length record to their name as well. If you liked the EP’s blend of terrified, mewithoutYou-esque barebones post-hardcore with plenty of math-y guitar parts strewn about, Debts delivers this in spades as well. Single “Vice Versa” in particular excels at this; Ross Horvath’s vocals sound as clear and forceful as ever, and the song also finds time for some Dischord-esque muted, chunky guitar riffs as well.

“Kevin’s Coming Over”, Massage
From Oh Boy (2018, Tear Jerk/Mt.St.Mtn.)

Towards the end of last year, I highlighted Massage’s Lane Lines EP, which, along with last June’s Still Life LP, was part of something of a breakout year for the Los Angeles band. Their debut record, 2018’s Oh Boy, is being reissued by Mt.St.Mtn. this March, and I’ll have more to say about that soon, but for now here is “Kevin’s Coming Over”, one of the record’s highlights. It’s sunny indie pop, shining a little brighter than some of their more melancholic recent releases, but it still has the wistfulness and the slightly-obscured quality that marks the best of this genre of music. Read more about Oh Boy here.

“Young”, The Best Around

I would probably be sharing this no matter what it sounded like, out of general principle: I care deeply about the band Silkworm, more people should know about them, and I support any band deciding to cover them. Even so, Austin’s The Best Around do an admirable job of taking on “Young” from 2002’s Italian Platinum, adding to the original without losing the plot. The Silkworm version is a smoky, slow-building piano ballad guest-sung by Kelly Hogan; Camron Rushin is no Hogan (nobody is, short of maybe Neko Case), but the plainly-stated lyrics lose no potency in Rushin’s hands, and the mix of electronic instrumentation (a drum machine beat and synths) with the traditional gives it an interesting hazy vibe, a new spin on the original’s blunt force. I think we’ve had enough covers of “This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody)”, “These Days”, and “Hallelujah” in my lifetime—it’s time to make “Young” the next indie rock standard.

“Do You Still Have Some Fight in You”, Kyle Morgan
From Younger at Most Everything (2022, Team Love)

“I know you know this isn’t gonna be easy,” sings Kyle Morgan in “Do You Still Have Some Fight in You”, the lead single of Younger at Most Everything. Morgan’s latest record floats through a haze of delicate folk soundtracking personal and religious examinations, but in this song, the music and Morgan’s lyrics both find a laser focus. Morgan addresses himself in “Do You Still Have Some Fight in You”, a future version of the singer reaching out the 2020 version, weighed down by the death of a parent, mental illness, and a global pandemic. The song builds until Morgan begins asking himself the titular question, the force with which it is posed making it clear what the answer is.

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