Top8 - 02/19/24

February 19, 2024 - 09:33 AM

When they asked me to do this music blog for the station, I asked how long it should be. Chris Long said, "750 words". This week, we're at 1750 including an album review of the new Idles. Stop me before I kill again. Please send thinly veiled threats and outright lies to wtsq.org/contact

DIIV - Brown Paper Bag

Sometimes you see there's new music from a band you love and there's a moment where you worry — is this the album where they finally fail to deliver? I have never worried about that with DIIV. The band's new album is set to drop 05/24, and, if the new single is any indication, they have not yet jumped the shark. The dreamy, lush waves of the song run parallel to jagged guitars which build before releasing on the chorus. This is classic shoegaze and until Kevin Shields gets off his ass and releases a new My Bloody Valentine album, there's no one doing it better than DIIV. 


Mei Semones - Inaka

From the first notes, there's a mathy jazz element present in Mei Semones new single Inaka. That's interesting enough. It's what happens after that that is really entrancing. Semones swirls strings, changing tempos, and whole verses in Japanese to create a whole that surprisingly works perfectly together. I don't know if I have ever heard anything like this track. It reminds me of the best moments of Black Country, New Road, but is even more adventurous, though more delicate than explosive like that band. 


Screaming Females - Violence and Anger

The most bitter of bittersweet moments is goodbye. For nearly two decades, Screaming Females have been the best rock band in America. Maybe in the world. Combining a punk DIY work ethic and aesthetic, with an indomitable spirit and blistering guitar from Marissa Paternoster, Screaming Females were an unstoppable force. Sadly, this came to an end with the recent breakup of the band. One of the greatest moments of my life was introducing this band on stage. Beyond the music, they hold a very special place in my heart. All of this would be true regardless of how good the band's final EP is. As it happens, the EP is fantastic and the song I am featuring this week is one of the band's very best. Backed by the inimitable Jarrett Dougherty and King Mike on drums and bass, Marissa layers her trademark wailing vocal with her seemingly effortless guitar playing. At first laying back and delivering a restrained, rhythmic compliment to the band, she finally delivers the crunchy headbanging moments at the end of the song. All this with her amazing lyrics bringing a very relatable message about frustrations living in a world that never stops pissing us off. 


Carsie Blanton - Hope

It may come as a surprise to find a socialist firebrand with Carsie Blanton's retro jazz/country style. There's a very smooth, old-fashioned grace to a lot of Blanton's music and Hope, from her new EP Cool Kids,  is no different. If you heard this with no context, you'd probably assume the song was many decades old and being covered by a modern interpreter of songs. Blanton's songs just have that kind of timeless quality. Her message, while distinctly modern and progressive, is just as timeless. This song is so sweet it's sad, or maybe it's the other way around.


Metz - Entwined (Street Light Buzz)

Just about every single song in the Metz catalog is full bore assault on your ears. To me, noise rock like Metz hits harder than grindy, screamy music. There's a dynamic range to what you're hearing, it's just that it spends a lot of time punching you in the face. Compared to some of their tracks, Entwined (Street Light Buzz) is practically a ballad. Released as a two song single, in advance of a new album in April, All people contain multitudes, so it's good to be reminded that the dudes in Metz are actually people. Entwined (Street Light Buzz), is a song about human connection, in all its painful and joyous measures. It hits as hard as it does because it's being propelled by the furious intensity of a band like this one. 


Prize Horse - Under Sound

Prize Horse is a Minneapolis based trio whose sound is a little bit Deftones, a little bit Ride, and a fair bit of emo. This is a band that knows how to use quiet and loud dynamics to effect. It's not just loud-quiet-loud, there's a whole emotional shift that comes into the different sections of a song with Prize Horse. Under Sound is the song I have picked to review for this week. The song's vocals are surprisingly present in the song, but are still delivered with reserve. The music more than makes up for this. 


EFÉ - Truth ☆ Truth 

You put Truth ☆ Truth by EFÉ on, you see the artist being all cute and pink, you hear the first few seconds, and you think you know what's up. Another gossamer soft sadgirl track from sadgirl pink pastel princess Emily. I hope you left your headphones turned up, because at about 1:15 into the song EFÉ hurls three and a half tons of crunchy 90s grunge guitar at you. With a few very notable exceptions, the grunge era was mostly dudes. It's nice to see so many women playing with the genre now. EFÉ has a few other singles and EPs. I am looking forward to more. 


Rock Beams - Pastels

I don't play enough hip hop. Almost entirely because it takes so long to edit tracks with a lot of profanity. Songs like Pastels remind me that I should try harder. Rock Beams is a Charleston, WV based artist with a couple EPs now under his belt. With production firmly in the Nujabes lofi style, Rock Beams' lyrics roll over the track with a cool, unaffected flow. The whole EP, Da Vinci's Finesse, has this energy. It's chill, not urgent, but earnest and sincere. The track is musically interesting and inventive with perfectly selected audio clip samples. Rock Beams is also worth paying attention to lyrically. Perfectly suited to the dreamy, nostalgic quality of lofi beats, the song is a sentimental sketch of an object of affection. Like all the tracks on the EP, it's over before you know it, but that just means that you can listen to it 10 or 20 times in a row without getting sick of it.


IDLES - TANGK

Let me spoil the ending – I am pretty confident in saying that TANGK is the worst IDLES album. Punk rock is a lot of things, but more than anything else, I think it's a rejection of a level of bullshit and excess which is present in the dominant culture. It's a bit surprising then that so many truly great punk acts, finding early success with a raw, simple sound, eventually indulge in greater and greater experimentation, and eventually become something in the neighborhood of what they seemed to be rebelling against at the start. This is especially perverse when one considers that the initial steps toward this death spiral are often positive ones. Consider The Clash – their 1977 self-titled debut was extremely ragged and, at times, sounded as if it was barely produced at all. It succeeded because its simplicity suggested honesty. By the time the band got to 1979's London Calling, they had the money and influence to command greater studio time and resources. This resulted in an album that sounded very little like their first. London Calling was a triumph though, often thought of as being the best album of the following decade. Just a few short years later though, the band released 1985's Cut the Crap, nearly universally viewed as a complete failure which had completely lost its way. The Clash, perhaps the greatest punk act of all time, did not survive this disaster of an album. 

Which brings us to IDLES, a band which has often been compared to The Clash. Both acts are known for their outspoken politics and working class solidarity (though it is worth mentioning that, until quite recently, Idles were conspicuously silent on the subject of the Palestinian genocide unfolding in Gaza). For the band's fifth full length album, they turned to famed Radiohead producer Niles Godrich. This has led many people to talk about a "Kid A" turn for the band. Unfortunately, the result is significantly less interesting.

In spite of some stand out tracks – Gift Horse and Dancer, TANGK comes off half-baked and uneven.  Perhaps trying to recapture some of the moody, atmospheric vibe of certain tracks from 2020's excellent Ultra Mono, the band instead end up with tracks that occasionally sound like unfinished demos, like Roy, POP POP POP, and Monolith.

Or, worse yet, don't really sound like anything at all, such as A Gospel. What is the point of this? It can't be the lyrics, which are only vaguely coherent, and it can't be the music, which sounds like a cat walking across a synth and a piano from a room at the far end of the hall.

After having listened to the album twice, I am not sure what any of the songs were actually about, other than, amorphously, "love". Perhaps that is by design. Yet, if so, it may be among the most banal such examinations in recent memory. Most of these lyrics sound like magnet poetry found on your artsy friend's refrigerator.

The worst thing about TANGK is that it's coming from a band we know is capable of better – Gift Horse is a fine track that could go on any of the band's previous (and better) albums. It wasn't that long ago that I was ecstatic about IDLES – here was a modern band, with a sizable fan base and energy for days which was playing exciting, edgy music with a message. TANGK is that same band if it was your friend who graduated from college, got sober, started talking about "spirituality", landed a job, and posted a dating profile picture wearing a polo shirt. You still love the guy, but it's just not the same. TANGK isn't IDLES' Cut the Crap moment, it's worse than that, it's just kinda boring.


Here's a playlist of all these songs together - Top8 - 02/19/24

And the extra innings, some other things I've been listening to, new and old.

Blossom Dearie - Plus Je T'embrasse



Black Country, New Road - Concord



Veruca Salt - Seether



Thanks for reading, 

Emily

See also

Top8 01/16/24

Top8 01/16/24