Top8 - 03/18/24

March 18, 2024 - 07:53 PM

Welcome back to Top8. I hope everyone has survived the week off in the new publication schedule. It worked out to be a bit of luck for me, as I have been on vacation over the past week. While I was away, I saw Hurray for the Riff Raff, Lung, and Girl Cologne -- wildly different shows, and all really cool. I am also really excited to get into some new music with you all. Please send all suggestions related to travel or music to

Dave Matthews - Pretty Bird

People hate The Dave Matthews Band. I have been personally denigrated by mean-spirited music snobs for the fact that I don’t. That said, it’s hard to be a defender of the band in 2024. Their last really solid album was 2002’s “Busted Stuff”. 22 years without a proper banger is, honestly, long enough to give up on a band. And I pretty much have. But, every three or four months, I feel a nostalgia bug bite me, and I end up listening to “Live at Luther'' or “Live at Red Rocks”. Because of this, the band stays on my radar, which is why I got a notification about Dave’s solo cover of the Hazel Dickens classic “Pretty Bird”. Two decades of smoking weed and singing for three hours a night have left Matthews’ voice surprisingly nimble, yet his trademark wisps of falsetto fly a little closer to the ground these days. I don’t know quite enough about guitar playing to say what style of fingerpicking he’s using here, but it’s immediately recognizable as the same old wry but earnest Dave. This song is special to a lot of us here in West Virginia. Matthews cradles it with a tender and gentle touch. I have been listening to this on repeat. Also possibly crying in public a lot.

Etta Marcus - Theatre

Once you pay attention to music for a few years, you start seeing how, occasionally, a really interesting artist breaks through the noise and gets noticed. Inevitably, in their wake, you have a crop of people who heard that album and were inspired to make music too. It’s the circle of life with music, and it's beautiful. Over the last 10 years or so, most people would agree that Mitski has been one of the best examples of this. It follows then that there will be a generation of people who share some of her energy. Etta Marcus is surely one of these, and her song “Theatre” is a fine example of the Gen Z re-embrace of rock guitar. Some of Marcus’ other music is lighter and poppier fare, but even then, she’s solidly in the leagues of bands like MUNA, or Chappell Roan. Marcus also has a live recording of this song worth checking out.

Drunk Mums - New Australia

Punk rock grows like a fungus -- anywhere the environment is right. Find disaffected white teens out there, and the chances are that, alongside the Swifties, the hip hop kids, and the handful of classic rock evergreens, you’ll find the punks. The world is a hateful place, and by the time we start waking up to that, a lot of us are ready to start drinking, vandalizing public places, and listening to the Clash. Or, as the case may be, the Saints who set a standard for Australian punk rock that stands up to anything from the UK or the States. These days, this is the world of The Chats, Amyl and the Sniffers, and a TON of other amazing bands. One of those is Drunk Mums out of Melbourne. The new single is called “New Australia'' and it's about as trad punk as you’ll find. Drunk Mums have really dialed into the mid-80s UK second wave punk sound here with a track that fits right in with the UK Subs or Cock Sparrer.

Unmanned - Leave That Girl Alone

I’ll be honest, I liked Unmanned before I even heard the band. Everyone in the band is a friend of mine, and I like their music in the other bands they all play in. It was a safe bet that the band wouldn’t suck. Turns out that 2021’s self-titled debut delivered on that promise. Even then though, I knew these women had another gear to find. On their new EP, “As The Beacons Stand Aflame” they do just that. You’re going to hear some Runaways / Joan Jett, and more than a little bit of The Donnas in the sound of this EP. I am featuring the song Leave That Girl Alone here. This is a swaggering rocker with just a drop or two of honey-dipped twang. All the songs on this EP have their own vibe, but they all sound like Unmanned. Don’t sleep on this Charleston band.

Girl Cologne - Dead Weight

Wandering the streets of Cleveland after seeing Lung this past week, I lucked into seeing the last quarter or so of Girl Cologne’s first headlining gig at CODA (for a decade or so, one of the coolest little corners of the city to see a show with 20-30 people). Girl Cologne has the charisma of 5 bands on stage. You can tell they love playing and they love playing together. Their new single “Dead Weight” allows a little bit more nuance and a depth of emotion while maintaining the energy of the live set. I am excited to see more from these kids, and hopefully I’ll catch them again soon.

Washer - You’re Also a Jerk

There’s a warmth to the buzzing, distorted guitars Washer offers on “You’re Also a Jerk” that is some kind of comfort food for 90s kids. Washer has been around for a while now, but somehow I am just getting turned onto them. If you’re into bands like Pup or Fidlar, you’ll find a lot to like here. I've had this on repeat for a week. 

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Wild God

At some point after “Murder Ballads", I stopped being able to understand what any of Nick Cave’s songs were about. I feel pretty sure that “Wild God'' is the sort of insular, self-referential lyric that has become so common for him. Whatever it is that he’s on about, he’s absolutely singing the hell out of it. Also like many of his recent efforts, the song works itself into a complete lather by the end, with choirs and strings and the whole thing. And this is all fine. Better than fine, it's really very effective and emotive. And yet, I just can’t connect to it. I can’t relate to anything in this song. If you liked Skeleton Tree, or Ghosteen, you’ll probably like this too. For me, I’d like to see Cave get out of his echo chamber and write the kind of songs we know he can again.

Kamasi Washington - Prologue

If you’ve heard me tell this story before, forgive me. A while back someone asked me why there was no good jazz anymore. I told them to listen to Kamasi Washington, Robert Glasper, and Esperanza Spalding and get back to me later. Later, I heard that they were hooked. That’s how good Kamasi Washington is -- he can restore your faith in a whole genre of music. Washington’s music is unabashedly jazz, wild and improvisational, but also meticulous and magnificently performed. Washington would be a star in the jazz world if he was born 70 years ago, or 70 from now. “Prologue” moves at a breakneck pace, pushed along by drums that sound like a break-beat and a bass that often lays low, but never stops supporting the whole enterprise. And then there’s Washington himself, building a mighty, screaming head of steam before bursting and coming back even stronger. If this is a prologue, what on earth will the rest sound like?

And this week's extra innings, a few other things I am listening to.

Waxahatchee - 365

Hurray For The Riff Raff - Pa'lante 

J.S. Bach - Unaccompanied Cello Suite No. 1 in G major, BWV 1007: II. Allemande (Yo-Yo Ma, cello)

Lung - Brock

And a playlist of the whole thing.

Thanks for reading and listening,


See also

Top8 - 04/29/24

Top8 - 04/29/24

Top8 01/16/24

Top8 01/16/24