The Playlist Archives: January 2018

I’ve been meaning to go into my playlist archives again for a while, and early January seems like a good time to do it. So: we’re skipping back half a decade, looking at what music I was listening to in January of 2018. It appears that it’s mostly 2017 albums that I discovered through year-end lists or otherwise missed the first time around, a lot of which is from bands I still enjoy regularly today. There’s a couple 2018 songs in here, and some archival picks (mostly 1992, it seems).

Lost Boy ?, Lilly Hiatt, Racquet Club, Friendship, WV White, and Mary Lynn all have two songs on this playlist. Mo Troper has three. The more things change…

Here is where you can listen to the playlist on various streaming services: Spotify, Tidal, BNDCMPR (the latter two missing a couple songs). Be sure to check out previous playlist posts if you’ve enjoyed this one, or visit the site directory. If you’d like to support Rosy Overdrive, you can share this (or another) post, or donate here.

Rosy Overdrive’s 2023 will start soon.

“Paradise”, Alejandro Escovedo
From Gravity (1992, Watermelon)

We start things off with a heavy-feeling Alejandro Escovedo song–is there any other kind? Not from Gravity, at least (a record that has appeared in these playlists before). “Paradise” begins Escovedo’s 1992 debut solo album with a sparse acoustic guitar and “Did you get your invitation? / There’s gonna be a public hanging”. From there, the song rises and falls, a sweeping and worthy opening statement.

“The Underside of Power”, Algiers
From The Underside of Power (2017, Matador)

I came to The Underside of Power thanks to the acclaim it got at the end of the year, I’d imagine–and while in hindsight it doesn’t rank among my favorite records of 2017, the strongest tracks from the album (“Walk Like a Panther”, “Cry of the Martyrs”, and this one) are as good as anything else that came out that year. The title track especially is where Algiers’ post-punk and gospel congeal into something streamlined, sharp, and hard-hitting.

“Hollywood”, Lost Boy ?
From Canned (2015, PaperCup)

I stumbled onto Lost Boy ?’s Canned around this time, which I still think is a very fun pop rock album. Lost Boy ? is the project of New York’s Davey Jones, and it’s associated with Exploding in Sound band Baked somehow, though I don’t remember exactly how (Lost Boy ? themselves previously released an EP on EIS as well). Jones’ vocals are high and kind of cartoony, matching Canned’s album cover, and the music on “Hollywood” is fun, too–but in a more straight-up power pop way. 

“Dictator Out of Work”, Mo Troper
From Exposure & Response (2017)

Exposure & Response definitely stands up as one of my favorite records of 2017. It actually feels a little weird to listen to now, as Mo Troper’s current lo-fi, home-recorded fuzzy recent records are a world away from his clean, horn-laden era. Still, I think Exposure & Response is the best of the “buttoned-up and full of bile” Trooper period, and “Dictator Out of Work” goes down incredibly smoothly (impossible to not enjoy his delivery on “a hero on the campaign trai-AIL”).

“Trinity Lane”, Lilly Hiatt
From Trinity Lane (2017, New West)

Trinity Lane is just a solid country rock record through and through, and the title track still sounds really good to my ears. Lilly Hiatt’s tribute to the titular Nashville street is a hand-clap-heavy rock and roll tune that begins with Hiatt declaring “I get bored, so I wanna get drunk / I know how that goes, so I ain’t gonna touch it” and ends with her concluding “It’s workin’ all right for me”.

“dOn’t turn me Off”, Nnamdi Ogbonnaya feat. JD AKA ThrashKitten and Mal Devisa
From DROOL (2017, Sooper/Father/Daughter)

Like a lot of people, I think, DROOL was my first exposure to Chicago’s NNAMÏ, back when he was still going by his full name. Although he’s blown up a bit in recent years, Ogbonnaya already had his fingers in several genres by this point (see the math rock of 2013’s Despondent EP). Sure, compared to his more recent work, “dOn’t turn me Off” is a relatively barebones rap song, but that’s an asset here for NNAMDÏ and his guests (including an always-welcome Mal Devisa).

“The Bar Is Low”, Pissed Jeans
From Why Love Now (2017, Sub Pop)

Ooh, yes. This one’s on this playlist. “The Bar Is Low” is one of my favorite songs from 2017, and, in a bizarro world in which noise rock has Top 40 currency, a should’ve-been number one hit single. We don’t even necessarily need to get into the song’s subject matter to see why–it’s a two-parter, the first part getting by on a classic rock guitar riff and all the low end you can want, and then the cameras get really, uncomfortably up close to Pissed Jeans in the scorching second half. As for what the bar is, exactly….ah, just listen to it. It’s self-explanatory.

“Brickwall”, Fred Thomas
From Changer (2017, Polyvinyl)

Damn, some of my favorite songs ever are on this playlist. I don’t know if “Brickwall” is the best thing that Fred Thomas has ever written, but man, it’s gotta be up there. Using one of the most underrated setups in indie rock troubadour music (that’d be: electric guitar and vocals only), Thomas delivers some opening lines to remember before launching into a pop song that’s almost violent in its jaunty-music, dire-lyrics juxtaposition. The animals are right, Fred, there’s gotta be a better way.

“End of the World with You”, Calexico
From The Thread That Keeps Us (2018, Anti)

Alright, so now we get a couple of singles from then-upcoming 2018 records. I remember the full album disappointed me, but Calexico’s “End of the World with You” is still a nice, pleasant, big-sky folk rock tune that I don’t regret sticking on here. Does the song flirt with anonymity? Maybe, but some weird guitar work and the very excited-sounding James Turrell shout-out make this one stand out. 

“Turn Twice”, Trace Mountains
From A Partner to Lean On (2018, Figure 2)

The prevailing narrative (i.e., something I probably read in one album review ever) about Trace Mountains is that Dave Benton’s post-(and also during, yes) LVL UP project gained its footing with 2020’s Lost in the Country after the forgettable lo-fi A Partner to Lean On. Bullshit! This album is still the best one, and “Turn Twice” is still Benton’s best non-LVL UP song. And you know that I’m right, because “Turn Twice” isn’t even a song I’m pre-programmed to like. I definitely did not want anyone from LVL UP doing AutoTune-heavy synthpop, but this song is so well-done that it doesn’t even matter that it doesn’t sound like Return to Love.

“Funeral”, Mary Lynn
From My Animal (2016, Anyway)

I haven’t thought of this one in a while. Mary Lynn is(?) a Columbus band led by Mary Lynn Gloeckle (whose other band, This Is My Suitcase, apparently made an album last year, so she’s still making music), and their most recent record is 2016’s Anyway-released My Animal. “Funeral” is a piano-pop-rock tune that bounces along happily to the funeral in the chorus, which appears to be metaphorical and relationship-derived.

“Beating My Head Against a Wall”, Jeff Rosenstock
From POST- (2018, Polyvinyl/Quote Unquote)

Justice for POST-! Like a lot of people, I was initially underwhelmed by Jeff Rosenstock’s follow-up to WORRY.– and then I downloaded it and went somewhere with no reliable internet for three months, and came back loving it! At this point, I wasn’t there yet on the admittedly least-friendly of Rosenstock’s solo records, but I did like the effortless Rosenstockian pop punk charm of “Beating My Head Against a Wall” pretty much immediately.

“Skip to the Good Part”, Friendship
From Shock Out of Season (2017, Orindal)

Remember when I was talking earlier about how some of my favorite songs ever are in this playlist? Well, here we are. I must have discovered Friendship via this song during this month; they’re now quite solidly one of my favorite newer bands. And while last year’s Love the Stranger has plenty of contenders, I’d still have to choose “Skip to the Good Part” as my favorite Friendship song. It’s their “ambient country” era at its peak, with the drum machine and synths contrasting–no, not contrasting, fitting perfectly with Dan Wriggins’ vocals.

“Alt Shells”, Bethlehem Steel
From Party Naked Forever (2017, Exploding in Sound)

Yes, I still fuck with Party Naked Forever. I bought it on vinyl not too long ago (and no, not entirely due to Nicole Rifkin’s excellent artwork). Bethlehem Steel were still a three-piece band at this point, and opening track “Alt Shells” is a fairly straightforward and catchy 90s alt-rock/punk-influenced anthem that feels right at home on Exploding in Sound (who, if you haven’t noticed, figure pretty heavily into this playlist). I should revisit Bethlehem Steel’s 2019 sophomore album, which didn’t grab me at the time.

“Controlling the Sea”, Flotation Toy Warning
From The Machine That Made Us (2017, Talitres)

Oh, here’s a fun one. The Machine That Made Us was Flotation Toy Warning’s long-awaited sophomore record, coming over a decade after 2004’s Bluffer’s Guide to the Flight Deck. Long-awaited by other people, I mean–I only just discovered them through the newer album. Since I wasn’t really part of their cult following, I have no qualms about saying I like The Machine That Made Us a little better–their mobius-strip chamber pop that frequently stretches to seven-minute range is a really compelling sound, but “Controlling the Sea” gives the best of Flotation Toy Warning in a bite-size form.

“Drag Down”, WV White
From House of Spiritual Athletes (2017, Anyway)

Here’s another one I haven’t thought of in quite a while. WV White (they’re named after a butterfly, apparently) is a Columbus slacker rock/90s indie rock/lo-fi rock group that hasn’t released anything since 2017’s House of Spiritual Athletes, but this record holds up, especially “Drag Down”. It’s simple enough, based around one shambolic but catchy guitar riff and some mumbled but melodic vocals. Come back, WV White!

“The Poet Laureate of Neverland”, Mo Troper
From Exposure & Response (2017)

I had to double-check which Exposure & Response songs are on here, because I really could’ve chosen any of them (No “Your Brand”? Seriously, me?). “The Poet Laureate of Neverland” is a pretty inarguable pick. Not that this era of Mo Troper dealt much with “subtlety”, but this one’s a little less in-your-face than “Dictator Out of Work” (even as it falls squarely into the “withering character study” camp). At the very least, it’s restrained enough that the final “You’ve got the head of a politician / And a sloth’s ambition” chorus feels built-up-to.

“Last to Sleep”, Fazerdaze
From Morningside (2017, Flying Nun)

This is a good song off of a good record, simply put. Morningside is typically described as dream pop– “Last to Sleep” is certainly pop music, for sure, and it marries mid-tempo, lifting guitar chords with synths and a drum machine to kind of feel like what a modern Flying Nun release should be. Fazerdaze would go on to not release anything for five years, and I never even listened to last year’s Break! EP in full. Maybe I’ll do that.

“New Granada”, Racquet Club
From Racquet Club (2017, Rise)

Racquet Club is a band that features members of Knapsack, Samiam, and The Jealous sound, and their 2017 self-titled debut (and, to this date, only) record sounds approximately like what an “elder statesman” version of those bands’ sound would be. “New Granada” is a pretty good example of Racquet Club’s “restrained punk rock”, all tension-building power chords and prominent bass in the verses that eventually explode into a huge chorus.

“Marigold”, Lemuria
From Recreational Hate (2017, Asian Man/Turbo Worldwide/Big Scary Monsters)

I know Lemuria has some hardcore fans; I dunno too much about the Buffalo band, but I do like this song. I think Lemuria was one of those bands that were doing scrappy, lo-fi/90s indie rock-inspired music before it became the dominant strain of guitar music again the second half of the 2010s, so 2017’s Recreational Hate (to date, still their newest record) is, probably unintentionally, a victory lap album. “Marigold” is a fun multi-part hooky alt-rock track, jumping from mid-tempo banger into a faster, bigger finish.

“Nashville”, Indigo Girls
From Rites of Passage (1992, Sony)

The most recent Rosy Overdrive playlist has an Indigo Girls song on it, this one from five years ago has one–it’s comforting to see that one thing hasn’t changed in a half-decade. And why should it? “Nashville” is an excellent song in which Amy Ray goes in on the titular city both culturally and musically. It’s a gorgeous, full-sounding folk rock tune (harmonica, accordion, cello, and violin all make an appearance), and also, I like how she pronounces “human” weirdly (“Hu-mon”?) in “Nashville, you forgot the human race”. 

“Brick Body Complex”, Open Mike Eagle
From Brick Body Kids Still Daydream (2017, Mello Music Group)

It’s been a while since I’ve listened to Brick Body Kids Still Daydream in full–I remembering enjoying in a consistent way that 2020’s Anime, Trauma, and Divorce didn’t quite hit–but “Brick Body Complex” still sounds great. Like most of the record, it’s based around Chicago’s Robert Taylor Homes, in which Mike grew up. In classic Mike fashion, he announces “I’ve got something to bring to your attention” in the midst of a chorus placing himself among similarly-originating “ghetto superheroes”.

“Different, I Guess”, Lilly Hiatt
From Trinity Lane (2017, New West)

Coming after the roots rockers at the beginning of Trinity Lane, “Different, I Guess” is a second-half country ballad about a messy sort-of-relationship with a ton of hard-hitting lines. From the failed attempt at keeping distance and trying to “look tough” in the opening lyrics, to the gut-spilling in the chorus, to one blunt object after another (“I don’t think you’ll ever know how deep that I went”), it’s…a lot. In a good way.

“What a Time to Be Alive”, Superchunk
From What a Time to Be Alive (2018, Merge)

“What a Time to Be Alive” is the title track and lead single to the Superchunk Trump album. Okay, maybe it’s a little more than that, but there are plenty of lines that timestamp this song (albeit in a not too over-the-top way). It’s Superchunk, though, so it’s a very good pop punk song regardless of subject, featuring both a pogo-ing chorus and a secretly-just-as-good pre-chorus (“There’s a crooked line that runs….”). It’d be interesting to revisit What a Time to Be Alive as a whole once it stops being directly relevant, but it does not seem as if we’re there yet.

“If You See My Beloved”, Friendship
From Shock Out of Season (2017, Orindal)

Another one from Shock Out of Season, of course. I think songs from this album kept showing up on my playlists over the next few months (“Fuzzy” definitely did, and I think “Workhorse” too); I don’t know if “If You See My Beloved” is my second-favorite song after “Skip to the Good Part” or not, but it’s an excellent opening track and a solid choice. It’s even more electronics-based than “Skip to the Good Part”, built almost entirely off of its quite noticeable drum machine beat. And Wriggins is on point throughout, from communicating a conversation about Auguste Rodin to “Clouds come on, do their drifty thing”.

“Oh, What a Bummer”, Micah Schnabel
From Your New Norman Rockwell (2017, Last Chance)

Micah Schnabel is a one-of-a-kind figure in underground Ohio indie rock-cowpunk-alt-country-rock-folk-whatever. I was, geographically and demographically, primed for a Two Cow Garage phase, and I still have a lot of fondness for that band, as well as Your New Norman Rockwell, Schnabel’s 2017 solo album in which he, somehow, lays it all out there even more than he does with Two Cow. “Oh, What a Bummer” is a trip–it’s a very catchy folk rock song about, well, everything, containing both some very triumphant lines and some genuinely uncomfortable moments. 

“UFO”, Upper Wilds
From Guitar Module 2017 (2017, Thrill Jockey)

“Roy Sullivan” is my favorite Upper Wilds song (at the time, and probably still now); it must be on an earlier one of these playlists. “UFO”, though–this is a very good song, too. Probably tied with “Vampire Crane” for my second-favorite track on Guitar Module 2017, the debut record from Dan Friel’s post-Parts & Labor guitar band. Like Friel’s best songs, the instrumental squall of “UFO” is very tuneful, and Friel’s vocals in between the in-the-red fuzz-rock peaks are just as catchy.

“High Beams”, Trevor Sensor
From Andy Warhol’s Dream (2017, Jagjaguwar)

Haven’t thought about this one for about five years, either. Trevor Sensor is a Chicago-based singer-songwriter who was releasing folk rock on Jagjaguwar barely after turning twenty-one, and Andy Warhol’s Dream is aided by names and bands like Richard Swift, Whitney, and Foxygen. “High Beams” makes a good argument for Sensor sticking out among the retro 70s-folk-rock revivalist crowd: his voice is remarkable, as many have pointed out–and just as importantly, it’s not hidden beneath instrumentals and reverb like too many of his peers seem inclined to do.

“Two & Two”, Mary Lynn
From My Animal (2016, Anyway)

A second Mary Lynn song? Sure, why not. Like “Funeral”, here we have another piano-heavy pop-rock song, although in this one, the bouncing piano duets with some melodic lead guitar for pretty much the whole song. It doesn’t rock as much as “Space” (probably my favorite track from My Animal), but “Two & Two” is a very catchy mid-tempo tune that sticks out thanks to another ace vocal performance from Mary Lynn Gloeckle.

“Suck You Dry”, Mudhoney
From Piece of Cake (1992, Reprise)

“Pull yourself together, take a stab at forever,” indeed. Is this my favorite Mudhoney song? Piece of Cake surely doesn’t stand up against their earlier records as a whole, but “Suck You Dry” is such an excellent distillation of Mudhoney’s garage-punk into a two-and-a-half-minute single. And, considering how far it sounds from Nirvana (let alone from the other Seattle “big three”), it’s a good an example as any as to why “grunge” was never a purely musical signifier. This wasn’t gonna be a breakout hit in 1992. Imagine, though….

“Old Man”, Mo Troper
From Exposure & Response (2017)

We’ve reached the third and final Exposure & Response song on this playlist, and what a song it is. “Old Man” is tucked away near the end of a fifteen-song album, and this is where Mo Troper lets the record’s overall pristine, refined attitude slip a little bit. It’s still more polished than, say, anything off of MTV, but, reflectant of some pretty brutal lyrics, “Old Man” turns in a little bit darker, louder version of clean Mo Troper pop.

“Bank”, Lost Boy ?
From Canned (2015 PaperCup)

Oh, nice. This is a fun little song. Davey Jones starts “Bank” with some chugging acoustic guitar and his high vocals, and then it explodes into sunny power pop about a minute into the track. A sunny power pop song about robbing a bank, of course. I like the pop-punk bass that leads the music in the second verse here, that’s a nice touch. It’s such a cool-sounding song; it really does make me want to put on a ski mask and hang out in the Cadillac-ac-ac-ac.

“Broken Arm”, WV White
From House of Spiritual Athletes (2017, Anyway)

Here’s another WV White song; the fuzzy alt-rock of “Drag Down” is gone here, replaced by a sparse, echo-y, acoustic-plucked ballad in “Broken Arm”. It’s not as immediate as the other House of Spiritual Athletes track on the playlist, but it’s delicate and intimate and all the other things you get from the best of this kind of music, and it’ll grow on you. Also, this is a pretty Anyway Records-heavy playlist, isn’t it? 

“White Punks in Angst”, Milked
From Death on Mars (2017, Exploding in Sound)

I’ve always liked this Milked cassette from five years ago. Milked–that’s the project of Kelly Johnson, used to be in Geronimo! with Ben Grigg and Matt Schwerin, and is now in Big Big Bison with them. There was a second Milked record in 2018 that was also good, but Death on Mars is just a nonstop parade of hooky alt/punk-rock, and opening track “White Punks in Angst” is particularly massive-sounding.

“White Knuckles”, Racquet Club
From Racquet Club (2017, Rise)

Speaking of catchy alt/punk songs with “white” in the title–here’s another song from the Racquet Club album. Apparently “White Knuckles” is the closing track on Racquet Club, which I did not remember–these songs are all icebergs, big and chilly, and most of them work as a closing statement. “White Knuckles” in particular wields the choppy power chords, stoic vocals, and giant chorus well. 

“Ho Bitch”, Jenny Mae
From Don’t Wait Up for Me (1998, Anyway)

And we close the playlist off with a Jenny Mae piano ballad called “Ho Bitch”. Perfect. Jenny Mae Leffel had passed away a few months earlier–maybe this was the reason I was listening to more Anyway music than normal, I’m not sure. Leffel’s story is a bit too much to go into here (Anyway’s Bela Koe-Krompecher’s memoir, Love, Death & Photosynthesis, would be a place to start), but–I’ve heard both of her albums, and while there are other good songs in there, “Ho Bitch” is her best song. One of the most gentle-sounding songs with “bitch” in the title, to be sure.

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