Top8 - 01/21/2024

January 21, 2024 - 09:16 PM

This week's Top8 has new music from Sleater-Kinney, Teen Mortgage, Adrianne Lenker, Charleston's own Sierra Ferrell, and much more. What did I miss out on this week? Let us know what we are missing by hitting us up at --emily

Sierra Ferrell - Dollar Bill Bar

Let's start things out with brand new music from Sierra Ferrell. A lot of people reading this know Sierra personally, and most have seen her play shows. We know what she's capable of, we've seen her grow as an artist and musician. She's a better performer today than she's ever been, and her new single reflects this. Dollar Bill Bar joins Fox Hunt (the song she recently performed to a national audience on Jimmy Kimmel) as a strong advance track from the forthcoming album Trail of Flowers. Dollar Bill Bar is a bit of a departure for Ferrell, offering a more mainstream modern americana sound as opposed to the music on her previous album, 2021's Long Time Coming. Whereas that record had a more old time and traditional vibe, Dollar Bill Bar sounds more like Ferrell's contemporaries Nikki Lane or Kacey Musgraves. Based only on the two released singles, I think I have a slight preference for the previous album. That said, I have a lot of respect for mixing things up. Sierra's existing sound got her to more than 2 million monthly listeners on Spotify, but all artists risk growing stale if they only do what they've always done.

Kim Gordon - BYE BYE

Next up, BYE BYE, a new single from Kim Gordon. The upcoming album is titled The Collective and is scheduled for March 8th. There is a lot of common ground between 2019's No Home Record and her new single, BYE BYE. Both albums rely on a combination of often minimal production, Gordon's sometimes extremely random lyrics, and occasional explosions of noise. BYE BYE hits you squarely in the face right at the start with a hyper compressed wall of heavy guitar-ish sound over a thickly distorted trap beat. This does not sound like a single from a 70 year old rock veteran. There is a sneering irreverence in the track; Gordon can't be bothered to sing about anything other than a scattered group of consumer products and a to-do list and if you don't like it, you can go to hell.

Adrianne Lenker - Sadness is a Gift

If the only thing Adrianne Lenker did was release solo albums, she would have a fine career. Her sixth full length album as a solo artist is titled Bright Future and is scheduled to drop March 22nd. Lenker, of course, is much more than a solo artist, but is also the stunningly brilliant and dynamic heart of one of the most important bands of our time – Big Thief. Regardless of the hat she wears, Lenker is an extremely poetic songwriter, in turns profoundly delicate and poetic and hookier than folk music typically dares to be. On Sadness Is a Gift, Lenker combines these gifts into a fiddled-sweetened, country-tinged meditation on a lost love recontextualized as seasons of loss and growth.

Midi Memory - A Stitch in Time

Midi Memory is a Florida based synth/coldwave act whose debut album, Far Gone and Out was released January 11th. I picked A Stitch in Time from the album to focus on. Midi Memory finds a gauzey shoegaze sound to bury their vocals in, while staying true to their basic synth sound. Fans of Cocteau Twins, Cold Cave, and Chromatics will find a lot to love here. H/T to WTSQ legend Marijean Withers for turning me onto this. 

Creekbedsore - Until the Moss Thickens

Creekbedsore is a duo out of Beckley, WV featuring Trevor from the Choke A.D. (one of my favorite WV bands. Fans of that band will find a lot to love here. The entire demo EP is good, but I am going to highlight Until The Moss Thickens today. Though just a demo, the track has a surprisingly deep sound evoking bands like A Perfect Circle or Deftones. Like Choke A.D. Creekbedsore also leans more into the nugaze side of that Deftones sound, while still presenting something fresh and new. You can tell that Creekbedsore are not a 90's/2000s nostalgia act. I am really excited to see where they go from here. Big thanks going out to WTSQ newbie Bug for the heads up on this.

Jlin - The Precision of Infinity (ft. Philip Glass)

Jlin produces electronic music in the vein of Aphex Twin. According to her bio, the Gary, Indiana native started in the Chicago footwork scene and then evolved into other directions. You can still hear the choppy, hyper edited beats and samples in The Precision of Infinity though. On this new single, Jlin creates a frenetic blizzard of sound combining what sounds like physical percussion and furious breakbeats. All of this powerfully contrasts with the meditative sound of Glass' minimalist piano compositions. The track thus works as a study of the nature of minimalism. The genre employs musical phrases which repeat, sometimes at great length, before finally presenting a change. Even when that change is small, the effect can be profoundly affecting. When it's large, it can feel positively orgasmic. Some people call this type of thing IDM, or Intelligent Dance Music. While that might seem dangerously like a value judgment, it seems to fit here. A track like The Precision of Infinity is more about an internal mental or emotional dance than a physical one, though it may still get you moving. 

Radical Kitten - Uppercut

Radical Kitten are a band that have been on my radar for a while. Their first album, 2020's Silence is Violence struck me as a classic punk album reminiscent of early Bikini Kill, Slits or Wire. The new single, Uppercut, trades a bit of that lo-fi charm for something bouncier and more fun, while still retaining a punk vitality and defiance. Less Crass and more Amyl and the Sniffers. The Toulouse, France punk act are releasing their second album on January 26th, so if you like this, make sure you check that one out (I've already heard it, and it's great.)

Fat Dog - All The Same

London's Fat Dog made quite an impression on me with last year's Viagra Boys-esque single King of the Slugs. While they have been playing full shows in the UK for over a year now, their new single All the Same is still only their second song released. While comparisons to VBs are still valid, this track offers something slightly more midtempo and electronic. This also puts me slightly in mind of the UK jungle scene. Regardless, the surging, chugging vibe of the debut single is still present here. Videos of crowds at Fat Dog shows show absolute pandemonium in the pit as people completely freakout to this band. Listening to these two tracks, you can see why. They just might be the next big thing in the UK post-punk adjacent scene. Watch this space for more. 

Sleater-Kinney - Hell (single) & Little Rope (album)

Lastly, I want to feature a little longer look at a whole album. Sleater-Kinney is one of the truly great bands from the last 30 years. They are also a huge part of my personal story. I got turned onto S-K around the time that Dig Me Out came out. I remember it clearly – I was in the old AV department at the Main Library in Charleston. Kevin Kidd, a man who is a dear friend to this day, suggested it to me with the comment, "you'll like this, it's like the Runaways but angrier and on speed". He could not have known he had just changed my life forever. Sleater-Kinney opened the door for me on normalized queerness and feminist thought. This led me to Kill Rock Stars and other Riot Grrrl bands as well as Judith Butler. Kill Rock Stars got me into Bikini Kill and, eventually, Elliott Smith. Judith Butler made me think critically about gender, and that helped me come out as a transwoman. 

All of this is to say that I owe Sleater-Kinney my life. Which is one of the reasons why it bothers me so much that the previous two albums, 2019's The Center Won't Hold, and 2021's The Path of Wellness, have been disappointments. The last few years have seen the departure of drummer Janet Weiss and a tendency toward a more chill indie sound. I find this sound a lot weaker and less exciting. 

Hell, the lead single from Little Rope, promises a return to form. Starting with a simple guitar motif and half-spoken intro from Corin Tucker it quickly explodes into a blast of classic wail of her iconic vibrato, drums and what I have to assume is windmilling guitar from my personal hero Carrie Brownstein. For just a moment, you could almost believe that the last few years never happened, Janet never left the band, and they were still playing vital, urgent rock music. Most of the rest of the album is a sleepy midtempo affair though. 

It's not as if I can't get into the band's ballads. One More Hour is one of my all time favorite songs. But I just never really feel Little Rope in my bones. It feels like a band going through the motions of yet another album release. That said, the album is not really a bad one, it's just not as special as I needed it to be. Sleater-Kinney may have broken my heart over the last few years, but Little Rope tracks Hell, Six Mistakes, and Untidy Creature are a fine reminder of what the band is still capable of.

Extra Innings

Some other stuff I've been listening to.

S.G. Goodman - All My Love is Coming Back to Me

Local Honeys - The L&N Don't Stop Here Anymore

Teen Mortgage - No

SuperKnova - Ava Gardner

And here's a playlist of everything - Top8 - 01/21/24