Top8 - 04/01/24

April 01, 2024 - 07:38 PM

I want to start this off with a special shout out to all of my trans and nonbinary siblings out there. As I write this on Sunday, March 31st, it's Trans Visibility Day. We are the ones who named ourselves, and we are not going anywhere. You're not alone.

Anyway, back again for another Top8. Some weeks it's a challenge to pick only 8 things. This week, I'd have really struggled to find a ninth. Maybe it's the end times. Please send all locust plagues to

Cloud Nothings - I'd Get Along

For a brief moment in the 2010s, I had given up on new punk or even punk adjacent music. It wasn't speaking to me anymore. Then I heard Cloud Nothings. This is one of those times when a band was exactly what I was waiting for. In the time since then, the band has released six more albums, and are now about to drop a seventh. The spirit and fire in "I'd Get Along" is the same as the early albums. Starting slow and working themselves in a frenzy, this track suggests the forthcoming "Final Summer" will be one of the year's best. 

Blondshell - Docket (ft. Bully)

I don't always know what to make of Blondshell. Sometimes it comes off a little soft and poppy to me, but other times the music feels closer to Bully. So imagine my surprise when Bully shows  up as a guest on the new Blondshell. The track delivers on the promise. Maybe I just relate to the lyric – "My worst nightmare is me", The song seems to revolve around the realization that someone isn't worthy of their partner's love. The duo provide an ironically upbeat rock track to match the depressing words. What's not to like?

Merce Lemon - Will You Do Me a Kindness

Modern life is lonely. Maybe inexorably so. We need each other, but we are driven apart by the hell that only comes from other people. Their impossibly different needs and desires. Our inability to be what they need. Our inability to accept love. "WIll You Do Me a Kindness" spends some time with this feeling. There's no answer here because there are no answers. We are damned to each other's absence. We can sometimes soften the blow with an aching work of brilliant art like this song. It hurts but it means you're not completely alone. We're all singing along.

VR Sex - Inanimate Love

A lot of VR Sex's songs seem to be about VR sex. And that's fine. The band does, as the British say, what it says on the tin. "Inanimate Love" is asks "why does it matter if you don't have a heartbeat"? A possible answer is self-referential. The track is a distinctly analog post-punk affair, very solidly in the Sisters of Mercy darkwave vein. To me, this is what we do that machines and AI are not so good at (at least not yet). Expressing the frustration and confusion of being human, especially in a world increasingly made up of simulacrum.

Boris - Luna

If you asked me my five favorite bands ever, my answer would vary from day to day. One band that will almost always make that list is Boris. Though they have been around for over 30 years, they are still prolific, imaginative, and unique. One way they express this, oddly enough, is by releasing the same song more than once, but in varying forms. Luna is such a song. I first encountered it on 2011's "New Album". The version we're talking about today is from a split with fellow Japanese band, Coaltar of the Deepers. As one of the loudest bands in the history of rock music, Boris can bring an absolute assault to your ears. Yet, like the best shoegaze bands, on this version of "Luna", Boris also manages to have delicate elements which exist simultaneously. 

Perennial - Art History

The longest song on Perennial's new EP "Lemon on Plastic"  is 1:22. Art History is 1:05. Not a lot of time to do anything but make a big egg punk racket and shout a couple of verses. There's not even a chorus. It took me longer to write this paragraph than it will take you to listen to it. And I love it. 

Sbowe - Seed

Full disclosure – I am performing poems at a show in Charleston with Sbowe. If you feel this review isn't sufficiently unbiased, I will agree to settle our differences with three rounds of rock, paper, scissors, or battle mode Mario Kart. 

Writing in another publication about my friend Kate in the band Lung, I once wondered why the cello wasn't the dominant western instrument instead of the guitar. It's more flexible, and at least as powerful. Especially when it's electrified. Sbowe is the music project of Rachel Icenogle and it represents another point in this argument. From the album "Bat Hat" I have selected the song "Seed" for this review. There is a breathless intimacy in the performance of this song. The delicacy of the cello pairs with Icenogle's own voice to create a song that feels, at first, like it's being performed, just for you, in a closet. The cello here floats easily from a dancing pizzicato to sweet bowed phrases. The song itself begins with a whisper and builds to a torrent of layering strings, vocals, and other sounds (I think there's a clarinet). This isn't classical music, but it holds a little bit of the sweeping passion that sometimes comes from that genre.

Kintellect - Winterlachia

My dear friend Brad Kinder is well known as the best rock drummer and producer in the state of West Virginia. What you may not know about Brad is that he is also a passionate disciple of the lofi hip hop icon J Dilla. In the vein of that legend, Kinder brings us "Tape 1", a collection of 1-2 minute tracks that each explore the instrumental sonic world of lofi hip hop. If you're like me, you ran into lofi for the first time with the Lofi Girl (a.k.a. Study Girl) youtube live stream. There are a ton of people out there making this kind of music, so it's hard to stand out. Especially when the genre is so often seen as being specifically background music. On Tape 1 though, Kinder manages to do just that. All the tracks on this album are great, but I am picking Winterlachia for this review. Using the nostalgic, dreamy elements of the genre to his advantage, he creates a tiny world for you to live in. Winterlachia has an icy synth line that picks out a melody against the laid back chill of the beat. For a track that is not even a minute and half long, it manages to transform itself into something a little different by the end. All of the tracks on Tape 1 are like this. Go ahead and study if you want, but this is an album you can really spend some time listening to. I repeat a single track for a while until I have soaked it up completely and then move on to another, like little vignettes of a dream that you only remember bits of. 

And this week's extra innings -- a few other things I have been listening to.

 Hurray for the Riff Raff - Alibi

 Lankum - On a Monday Morning

Natalie Merchant - The Living

And a playlist of everything:

See also

Top8 - 03/04/24

Top8 - 03/04/24