Swet Shop Boys is the duo of former Das Racist member Heems and actor/rapper Riz Ahmed or Riz MC. Last October they released their first full-length album, Cashmere, made in collaboration with British producer Redinho. The album drew influence from the Sufi devotional music Qawwali, a genre which is popular across India and Pakistan, and often uses hedonistic themes as a metaphor for spiritual longing. The spirit of Qawwali, which bridges the gap between politically divided communities, serves as an inspiration for the the album highlight “Aaja,” which features Pakistani singer Ali Sethi, as well as the track’s new video. Directed by Sofian Kahn, the video is at once playful and sweet, showing a teen cycling between Flushing and Coney Island (home to large Indian and Pakistani populations respectively) to flyer for an upcoming Swet Shop Boys show, all while nursing a crush. The video concludes with a sample from Qandeel Baloch, a Pakistani internet celebrity and activist who was the victim of an “honor killing,” to whom the video is dedicated.
There’s a venerable tradition of documenting a day in song—but what if this process could be automated? How can you document a moment or day in a way that is smoothed out of the messiness of personal experience? DC punks and Priests affiliates Flasher offer such an attempt on “Winnie,” the A-side to their upcoming 7”. “Winnie” recalls a motel breakfast in Winnie, Texas last May, intercutting verbatim quotations from news coverage of the Egypt Air Flight 804 with pharmaceutical advertisements heard on the TV that day. It’s a song that luxuriates in the weird, improbable sentiments created by juxtaposing the two source texts, and their uncanny effectiveness as pop lyrics—“these feet want to keep the beat moving,” taken from a diabetes medication commercial, is just one of many ear wormy hooks the track features. The track itself is riff-fueled post-punk joyride, sounding like something off an early Mission of Burma single; off-kilter but enthused with a deft pop sensibility. Flasher describe the track as a “bricolage tribute to the paranoia-fueled auto erotic American psyche,” but the song works just as well as a catchy-as-hell rave up.
Diet Cig have shared a second single from their upcoming debut full length, Swear I’m Good At This. With a title that sums up how one comes to regard their birthday with each successive year, “Barf Day” catalogs a series of disappointments on one lonely such day. The song is structured like a snowball tumbling down a ski slope, building in momentum and frustration, until vocalist and guitarist Alex Luciano drops all pretenses and declares that she just want to have ice cream on her birthday. The pay off to the build up is a triumphant half-time coda, where an overdubed chorus of Lucianos provide a cascading counterpoint to her confessional, confectionary mantra.
DC-native Eva Moolchan makes what she describes as “violent vibes” under the moniker of Sneaks. She first drew people’s ears in 2015 when she released Gymnastics on Priests' label, Sister Polygon. On it, Sneaks channeled the groovier, artier edge of early New York punk with a preternatural ear for brevity. Merge caught on and signed her, reissuing Gymnastics last year in anticipation of her new material. “Hair Slick Back” is the second single from her forthcoming record, It’s a Myth. With a bassline worthy of ESG, the song rides an irresistible groove as Moolchan delivers a tense, terse lyric belied by her double tracked, deadpan vocals.
Jay Som, the project of multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Melina Duterte, has released the third single from her forthcoming debut record. Previous singles from the album, Everybody Works, have encompassed a variety of styles, demonstrating the depth of understanding Duterte has for music and song craft. “The Bus Song” is a slow burner ballad that drew inspiration from the guitar-oriented pop of the early ‘00s, while “1 Billion Dogs" is a power pop by way of shoegaze gem. “Baybee,” the latest track we’ve heard from the record, is a perfectly constructed pop song, using an off kilter, new wave-influenced backing track as the basis for a hook so strong it could be on a Cardigan’s record. The accompanying video, directed by Charlotte Hornsby and Jesse Ruuttila, finds Jay Som and company dancing in a skiing resort. The main shot fixates on the group riding the lift up to the top of the slope, seemingly without the pay off of skiing back down. It provides a satisfying parallel to the song itself—beneath the song’s slick, bright melodies is a reflection on a commitment to care for someone in a way that is detrimental to one’s self. There’s no pay off to the work beyond the sense that one is still moving.
On her third album as Pharmakon, Brooklyn artist Margaret Chardiet explores the relationships between humans and their bodies and the bodies of others, and how our self-conceptions mediate these relationships. On “No Natural Order,” the second single from Contact, Chardiet takes aim at a pervasive assumption underlying our understanding of the self—that we are ordained, either by nature or by divinity, to be stewards of the world around us. The track is built around a throbbing synth pattern and a slamming drum hit which demarcates every other bar; a seemingly logical pattern that that is progressively undermined by clattering sounds and shivering electronic buzzes. Chardiet’s vocals, delivered with all the contempt merited by the violence endemic to a belief that the mastery over our world is our birthright, affirm that humanity is not, in fact exceptional. We are merely, she argues, “animals, lost in a confused dream / where Mankind is real, / and at the center of everything.”
Boston slop-rock tricksters Vundabar are sharing a new song, “Shuffle”, with all proceeds from digital sales going to Planned Parenthood. The track hones in on the band’s sonic signatures; reverbed guitars and dry, fuzzed out drums hack out an exaggerated waltz while the band sings an elegantly constructed, hook-filled melody in a swooning falsetto. The band turns the song’s structure inside out multiple time across its three minute length, agitating for new ways to express the song’s central lyric: “I just want to hear my own voice.” One moment it’s a whisper, the next a scream.
Florida emo foursome You Blew It! have released a new video for the song “Arrowhead,” a highlight from their newest record Abendrot. “Arrowhead” is a slow burner of a song, patiently unfolding the song’s central, coiled up riff throughout the it’s three minute build up. Josh Coll, member of labelmates Foxing, was called upon to direct the video. Structured like a short film, the video seizes on the song’s gradual development and the chorus’s central protest that “there’s got to be something wrong with me,” featuring a narrative of a young girl with flower buds on her head that haven’t yet bloomed and is rejected by her dandelion’d peers. The video, shot in Philadelphia, takes cues from ‘90s indie film makers, featuring a bright, Wes Andersonian color palate against the contrast of a muted, wintry city.
Pile embody the restless, hardworking DIY ethic about as well as anyone can these days. Their constant touring and bloodletting live performance are the stuff of other band’s mythologies—remember when Krill (RIP) made a “failed concept album” about some kids who realize they are part of a Pile song? With their tenth year of existence and the prospect of making a fifth album looming on the horizon, frontman and founder Rick Maguire decamped from Boston—a city as wrapped up in Pile’s mythos as DC was for Fugazi—to a cabin in Ellijay, Georgia, where he wrote and toured solo across the South. It’s a hermetic gesture that’s actually consistent with the particular adjective whose shape seems to fit the intensity and drama that’s so particular to Pile’s music and ethos: ascetic. That their forthcoming record is called A Hairshirt of Purpose just confirms this suspicion. A hairshirt is a garment of animal hair intended to be uncomfortable, worn as a form a penance.
“Dogs,” the second single from the new record, embodies that self-isolating impulse. It’s a remarkably quiet, restrained work. The slamming crescendos of distorted guitars the band has long since perfected show up as red herrings, a brief contrast from the gently arpeggiated, mellotron washed verses. The dynamic build of the song revolves instead around the violins and violas—a relatively novel addition to the band’s repertoire—which swirl into the track’s second half. It’s a stunning song for band that’s made a career goal of writing and performing the most arresting music possible.
When George Xylouris, a Cretan lute player descended from Greek music royalty, and his long time friend Jim White, an Australian drummer famous for his work with Dirty Three and PJ Harvey, first began collaborating, they likened themselves to goats. Their music, Xylouris argues, is “like goats walking in the mountain.” They may not have a concept of where they are as they navigate rocky territory treacherous to ordinary bipeds, but they are remarkably confidant walking up sheer cliff walls. The goat lent its name to Xylouris White’s first record, which they released in 2014. But the peak of the mountain, Black Peak, is the focus of their sophomore release. WNYC has recently shared a great live recording of a track from that record, “Forging.” Seeing the the duo perform together somehow clarifies what is otherwise a hard-to-pin down sound. Between the particular sound of Xylouris’ lauoto, White’s thunderous, melodic drumming and the prog-folk vocal melody, you get a sense of their uncanny, unspoken musical communication—the same powerful glue that ties together these similarly droning, psychedelic live jams of brother duo Tonstartssbandht.