Friday, December 31, 2021

Song Highlight: Cloud District - 2sad2swim

Spotify informed me that the genre that I listened to most over 2021 was Midwestern Emo. You might remember me talking about the genre in my post about The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die. It is a branch of emo music that is usually characterized by unconventional vocals (sometimes whiny with moments of abrasiveness) and glimmering guitar lines, making it more approachable than some of the more hardcore-influenced emo bands. A friend of mine recently turned me on to the New York-based emo band Cloud District, and they fit in neatly with the whiney, introspective emo music that I have really come to enjoy. 

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Song Highlight: Bongripper - Satan

In the realm of popular music, most songs are fairly short and feature relatively standard song structures. These simple structures, combined with an infectious riff or a catchy vocal line are used to get stuck in your head. As you can imagine, not every musical act is aiming for such accessibility. Chicago, Illinois’ doom metal band Bongripper is a prime example of this, eschewing vocals entirely and plumbing the depths of a riff for upwards to 30 minutes in a single song. Despite this, their songs are surprisingly compelling, slowly evolving over their lengthy run times, layering new elements at a glacial pace. The band is a four piece, consisting of Ronald Petzke on Bass, Daniel O'Connor on Drums, and Nick Dellacroce and Dennis Pleckham on guitar. Their ridiculous band name came out of a joke about Sleep’s Dopesmoker neglecting to use all of the space on a compact disc (Dopesmoker is a single, 63 minute song about the Weedians traveling to Jerusalem with bongs strapped to their backs). They set out to write a song that used all 80 minutes of a compact disc’s run time, and recorded their first release, The Great Barrier Reefer in 2006.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Cadabra Records: bringing weird fiction to your turntable

Fall has always been my favorite season, with the air getting colder, the leaves changing colors, and the arrival of pumpkins, and specifically jack-o'-lanterns. I have found that the perfect companion to these times are the supernatural horror stories of authors like H.P. Lovecraft. A number of years ago, I came upon a record label, Cadabra Records, that specializes in releasing Spoken Word recordings of supernatural horror stories and weird fiction, all accompanied by spectral and eerie soundscapes.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Song Highlight: Cadaver Dog - Repulsed

I find a certain appeal to brevity in music. There is something admirable about being able to express yourself in a concise manner, saying what you want to say and not overextending your welcome. Hardcore punk is a genre that is often associated with brevity, where most of the songs are short and pass with blazing intensity.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Song Highlight: The Body - Tied Up and Locked In

When considering the genre of heavy music, I can think of no band that is more despondent than The Body. And perhaps most surprisingly, they are able to accomplish this without appearing overly heavy-handed or gimmicky. The piercing banshee wail of Chip King, set over the distorted hum of his guitar, and Lee Buford’s monolithic drumming is truly a unique and oppressive force. As a band, the Body have been pushing against the confines of the metal genre since their inception. They have been strong proponents of incorporating noise into their music, along with utilizing pop song structures and elements of electronic music. Their album I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer was built largely from spliced together samples of their older recordings, and many of their albums feature choral arrangements from the Assembly of Light Choir, demonstrating some of the diversity of their approach to making music. Furthermore, they are incredibly prolific and are constantly working with other musicians, releasing collaborative albums with bands like Full of Hell, Thou, Krieg, and Uniform

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Song Highlight: Chat Pile - Dallas Beltway

Disclaimer: This post describes a song dealing with violence toward children.

In my years listening to music, I have heard many songs detailing violent or disturbing subject matter. The list of metal bands singing about atrocities is almost endless, though not many of those songs actually feel unsettling. A lot of this is due to the fact that their exploration of violent subject matter is usually just for shock value and has no air of believability. The song “Dallas Beltway” by Chat Pile is one of the first songs in awhile that unnerved me. 

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Song Highlight: The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die - Getting Sodas

Over the past few years, I have found that YouTube has very effective algorithms for helping me find exciting “Midwestern Emo” bands. Midwestern Emo is a subgenre of Emo music that takes more cues from indie rock than the hardcore punk that influenced most early Emo bands. While still being guitar-driven, the guitars are cleaner and less aggressive than those from hardcore punk. The vocals are often whiny and not what would conventionally be considered “good,” though that is made up for by the singers’ earnesty. Despite the genre name, not all the bands are from the American Midwest, with notable early practitioners like Sunny Day Real Estate being from Seattle. As with most niche musical genre tags, you can find scores of Reddit posts with people arguing over what band belongs in what genre. My description would almost certainly be ridiculed by “true” emo fans.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Song Highlight: Junior Kimbrough - Done Got Old

For much of my life, I never connected with the blues. To me, most of the genre sounded same-ish, repeating similar lyrical content ad infinitum. This is a little surprising, given my love of sad and despondent music, and my allegiance to guitar-driven rock music, which arose from the blues. This mindset began to change when a good friend of mine introduced me to the music of Junior Kimbrough, originally by way of an excellent EP of covers by the Black Keys.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Song Highlight: Thou, Emma Ruth Rundle - Out of Existence

The Baton Rouge sludge metal stalwarts Thou have been hard to pin down stylistically since their inception in 2005. While you could just slot them into the Doom / Sludge metal genre and call it a day, that would be underscoring their creativity. It is not uncommon for their tracks to intersperse crushingly powerful riffs with gorgeous post-rock ambient passages. If asked to think of a band that is able to be beautiful and ugly within the confines of a single song, Thou is the first that comes to my mind. Through a dizzying collection of releases, they have explored many different sounds. In 2018 alone, they released an ambient noise/drone EP, a grunge rock EP, a decidedly not metal alternative rock/acoustic EP, a full length record, and a split with the black metal/doom metal band Ragana.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Song Highlight: Rilo Kiley - The Good That Won't Come Out

A friend of mine prompted me to revisit Rilo Kiley’s music via a fantastic article on Pitchfork Media in anticipation for Jenny Lewis’ 2019 album On the Line. Lewis started her career as a child actress in the 1980s, but she grew tired of telling other people’s stories and started Rilo Kiley in 1998 with another child actor, Blake Sennett. The band became known for Lewis’ insightful and clever lyrics overtop fun and bright pop music, often a little at odds with the despondent lyrical content. 

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Song Highlight: Julien Baker - Shadowboxing

If you have paid even passing attention to independent music in the past few years, you have undoubtedly heard about Julien Baker. The singer-songwriter burst onto everyone’s radar when her debut album Sprained Ankle was re-issued in 2015. The album was recorded while she was still a student at Middle Tennessee State University at just 19 years old. The album is a very personal examination of depression, substance abuse, and questions of faith, all set to sparse acoustic guitar. Before the success of her solo career, Baker toured and performed in the punk rock band The Star Killers (later renamed Forrister). While sonically that music is very different from her solo work, there is a groundwork of earnestness that runs through all of her music.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Song Highlight: Hüsker Dü - Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill

Hüsker Dü was was born out of the hardcore punk scene in the early 1980s but by the time they disbanded in 1988, they had made a lasting impact on more than just punk rock; they helped to usher in the era of Alternative rock of the 90s (Black Francis of the Pixies famously put out an ad searching for a bassist, looking for someone who was a fan of Peter, Paul, and Mary and Hüsker Dü). Unlike their contemporaries in the hardcore punk community, they did not eschew the music of the past (listen to their superb cover of the Byrds’ Eight Miles High). They began to embrace melody more and more, moving beyond the confines of the blisteringly fast, amphetamine-fueled hardcore punk of Landspeed Record. By their 3rd studio album, New Day Rising, the band had finally fully embraced the notion of writing melodic pop songs, though they were still delivered with a punk rock intensity with noisy, buzzing guitars and the vocals buried under it all.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Song Highlight: Drug Church - Weed Pin

Drug Church at Franklin Music Hall in Philadelphia, February 11th, 2020.

2020 was not a good year for live music, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic effectively ending social gatherings for the majority of the year. One of the last shows that I saw before the pandemic shut everything down was Thrice, Mewithoutyou, and Drug Church at the Franklin Music Hall in Philadelphia. And while I love Thrice and Mewithoutyou, the main reason I was there was to see Drug Church. I had only just started to listen to them a few weeks earlier. They are a punk rock band from Albany, New York that combine aspects of hardcore punk with catchy grunge passages and muscular riffs à la Noise rock masters the Jesus Lizard