Top8 - 02/12/24

February 11, 2024 - 09:07 PM

Who can believe it's already almost Valentine's day? Always remember, even if no one else loves you, WTSQ does (just don't be weird about it). Our love language is new music, so let's get into this week's selections. Send all valentines to

Yard Act - We Make Hits

First up, new stuff from Yard Act. The Leeds post-punk act feel like genre stalwarts at this point, but the new album, Where's My Utopia is only their second. Look for that on March 1st. In the meantime, the band has released four excellent singles, including We Make Hits which we are reviewing today. The song about being a band is a pretty well worn trope at this point. It's always struck me as a little odd that some bands go from talking about things with which everyone can relate, to talking about being in a band, something most people have never experienced. Yard Act bring their signature bass heavy, vaguely disco bounce to the topic and, in the process, twist it into an honest, but snarky, look at the paradox of being successful and also having ethics that argue against the accumulation of wealth. As the song says, Yard Act make hits, but not the kind that Nile Rodgers made. This isn't pop purely for popularity's sake. It's a band committed to making music how they want and enjoying the whole thing while it lasts.

The Chisel - Cuts Like a Knife

From around 2003 - 2008 I was mostly listening to bands like Dropkick Murphys, Social Distortion, and Bad Religion. Hellcat Records type of stuff. At some point I fell out of love with that sound. I will blame hearing bands like Boris or Neutral Milk Hotel for that. I just lost the plot with street punk. It felt a little silly; like the dudes in the bands were trying too hard to convince us that they were real working class Joes who understood hard times. When I heard the Chisel for the first time, like pretty much everyone else, I immediately thought about 2003 era Dropkick Murphys. I started to skip the track and then I just stuck with it for a little while longer – I ended up loving it. The brash, shouty, chest-thumpingness of it all. The sing-along choruses. The threats of violence. The blue collar aesthetic. Street punk is like emo. The emotional content is exaggerated for effect, but the result is still catharsis. Most of us have the world's boot on our neck. We need a release sometimes. Stop being too cool for school for 3 minutes and 36 seconds and give Cuts Like a Knife a spin. It's worth it.

Beth Gibbons - Floating on a Moment

As long as people talk about Beth Gibbons, one of the first words they will say is Portishead. It's unavoidable. Portishead were just one of those bands for a lot of us. On her new single, Floating on a Moment, Gibbons doesn't run from her vocal sound of her iconic past. This always sounds exactly like her voice and delivery. The musical element reminds me a lot of late era PJ Harvey. This is a good thing, and Gibbons easily leans into the moody vibe provided. Yet, this is also very much NOT triphop. Gibbons seems to be set to blaze her own trail at this point, and good on her for it. Most people her age are well into their fossilization. It's refreshing to hear something different in her case. Look for the full album out in May. 

Annie-Claude Deschênes - Phones

The lyrics to Phones are supposedly about having a lot of anxiety associated with making a phone call. I don't know French, so I have no idea if that's true. What I can tell you is that the song's insistent, pulsing bass line reminded me immediately of Charlotte Gainsbourg's 2027 classic Deadly Valentine (Gainsbourg is also French but was kind enough to sing that song in English). Phones is marinated in the synthy Italians do it Better aesthetic. Italians Do It Better impresario Johnny Jewel  has his fingerprints all over this track so it can easily slide into the backseat with bands like Desire or Chromatics. If you're into the coldwave sound of bands like that, you'll love Phones.

The Paranoid Style - Client Sales

I've been following The Paranoid Style for a few years because William Matheny plays in the band. It's usually a safe bet that if Billy is involved with something, it's worth your attention. That's the case on the track Client Sales. The Paranoid Style's Elizabeth Nelson doesn't really spend a lot of time with the sort of boilerplate pop music topics. This is indie rock for people who have spent time watching C-Span. Political theory and sociology instead of boyfriends and torrid affairs. The trick that Nelson manages is that she makes these seemingly dry topics personal, and in the process makes them pop and sizzle. She understands that politics are always personal. The full album is The Interrogator which is out now.

Check out the track on bandcamp

Pissed Jeans - Sixty-Two Thousand Dollars in Debt

When I started this column, I would avoid featuring the same bands over and over again. While I am still committed to that, I can't help but bring you another track from Pissed Jeans. The album Half Divorced isn't even out yet, and it's my front runner for album of the year. $62K in Debt manages to both absolutely rip and be painfully germane to the lives of so many Americans drowning in debt. The full length album is due out March 1st, and cannot come soon enough for me. 

Chelsea Wolfe - House of Self-Undoing

I recently saw a meme that said, "Chelsea Wolfe is the goth Lana del Rey and I will not be taking questions about this." And you know, fair enough. Wolfe has Lana's icy cool poise and her breathy vocal. Both also started with simpler acoustic oriented music before growing into genre-defining icons. Chelsea Wolfe will melt your face off though. That said, the new album, She Reaches Out to She Reaches Out to She, seems to push into a more Siouxsie and the Banshees feel when compared to 2017's doomy Hiss Spun or 2019's atmospheric Birth of Violence. The single House of Self-Undoing fits very solidly into the Siouxie vibe while also being a fair bit heavier and harder than that band usually got. Wolfe always sounds like herself, but she is also always evolving. 

girl in red - Too Much

Girl in Red is one of those artists who comes to represent more than just them and their music. Much like boygenius, fans of girl in red use the music project's name as a sort of shibboleth indicating a person's queerness. With all that context, it could be easy to lose track of music itself. Luckily, girl in red is usually brilliant. Starting with a simple keyboard / piano motif, the new single Too Much quickly turns into a genius pop track about the value of being with someone who lets you be you. Sounds like something a 16 year old girl would listen to alone in her room. Or maybe a, uh, slightly older one too. 

Lavinia Meijer - The Orchard (by Philip Glass)

 You didn't know you needed to get excited about the harp did you? But I did. That's why you can't get enough Top8. Lavinia Meijer is a Korean-Dutch harpist with a pedigree a mile long that includes this teacher and that conservatory and etc etc etc. All that's fine and lovely. But the really important thing here is that she can play. On her reading of Philip Glass' The Orchard, Meijer is both subtle and gentle while still managing to ring out with a glassy restraint. She's joined here by my favorite violist Nadia Sirorta. Harp and viola are wildly different instruments, yet these two manage to weave their sound together so well that you eventually stop even thinking about it. Contemporary classical isn't something we drop into the mix for you at 4:30 on a Friday drive time, but as long as I am at WTSQ, it will always have a home here. 

Extra Innings

Asis: Sova - Hardcore Maps

Charlotte Gainsbourg - Deadly Valentine 

Sweet Pill - Eternal 

Feeble Little Horse - Freak


Wednesday - The Burned Down Dairy Queen

And here's a spotify playlist with all these songs - Top8 -2/12/24


See also

Top8 - 03/04/24

Top8 - 03/04/24

Top8 - 02/05/2024

Top8 - 02/05/2024