Joey Agresta is a junk shop cashier in Burlington, Vermont who moonlights as a mad doctor style musician, crafting strangely layered, skewed pop songs on an eraser headless tape recorder under a mouthful of culinary themed names. His releases under monikers like Joey Pizza Slice, Son of Salami, Salami Junior, etc, have graced dedicated weirdo labels like Night People, Feeding Tube Records, Goaty Tapes, OSR Tapes and more. For his newest, upcoming release, Let’s Not Talk About Music, which he has announced today, Agresta has forgone the cured meat sobriquets for his own given name, signifying the more serious subject matter of the record. “I Feel Like Shit And I Want To Die,” the first single from the record, finds Agresta embracing a lo-fi jangle pop sound, with bright, chiming guitars and a casiotone organ evoking a shambolic hymn. The lyrics, like the title, are disarmingly straightforward, ruminating on the strain deep sadness can place on relationships, and the anxiety and insecurity that strain evokes. It’s one of the most accessible and relatable things Agresta has ever made; and one of the saddest too.
Listen to the song below. Let’s Not Talk About Music is due out May 12 via Wharf Cat Records.
From her time as a co-trickster with Dean Blunt in Hype Williams, to her cycling through various aliases for different releases, Inga Copeland has never made easy legibility an artistic priority. Her debut full length, 2014’s Because I’m Worth It, was released as copeland, while a subsequent EP, RELAXIN’ With Lolina saw her take on the name Lolina. Last year, she retained the name Lolina for an album called Live In Paris that was not, actually, recorded live in Paris, however insistent the sinister chant of the titular phrase three minutes in is. Today she has shared a cryptic video for a track called “Fake Bond,” with the video’s still image splitting the difference between her monikers by referring to her as “Inga ‘Lolina’ Copeland.” The track is built around a wobbly electric piano loop that switches between two, unbalanced feeling meters, anchored by a slick, mischievous bass line. Meanwhile, strange, waterlogged sounds interject here and there, as if performing a modernist ballet.
Alex G is now (Sandy) Alex G—putting to rest long years of confusion between the Alex Giannascoli we know and love, and a very different, west coast singer-songwriter who also goes by Alex G, and, of course, restauranteur and my personal favorite Chopped judge, Alex Guanarschelli. The (Sandy) prefix isn’t too unusual anyway. It’s been part of the URL of Giannascoli's Bandcamp for a long while. The announcement is accompanied by a new single from his forthcoming record, Rocket. “Proud” continues the folksy, country-inflected sound explored on the previous single, “Bobby.” It’s a handsome song, with a lazy shuffle and a Floyd Cramer-style piano that dances around the mix. (Sandy) Alex G’s sweet vocal melody belies the complex, ambivalent relationship the song maps out—one that mixes admiration and resentment in equal measure. In the chorus, Giannascoli ruminates on the possible consequences of his own failings, a train of thought that proves too difficult to follow by the end, when he lets the last line, “if I fuck up,” trail off into the fade out.
Andy Molholt, member of bands like Speedy Ortiz and Very Fresh, pursues his own particular musical vision as Laser Background. Under this moniker, Molholt explores the affinities between psychedelia and childhood. “We Trust,” the opening track to Laser Background’s eponymous, debut EP, features a Spongebob Squarepants-style sea shanty chorus amid waves of flanged guitars and laser blast synth washes, while follow up record Super Future Montage’s “Fantasy Zone” sets Prince-like pitched up vocals against a Mega Man-core backing track.
“Climb the Hill” is the second single from Dark Nuclear Bogs, Molholt’s forthcoming record. If you have an affinity for anagrams, you might’ve noticed that Dark Nuclear Bogs is an rearrangement of Laser Background—a play on mid-career self-titled records that refine or subvert a band’s vision. If “Climb the Hill” is any indicator, then this trope will bare fruit. Not only is it one of Molholt’s most fully realized pop songs, it simultaneously pushes his music and production towards more textured, out-there, and evocative territory. It’s centered around a sparkling, nursery-rhyme keyboard line that’s rhythmically a little unbalanced, dropping a couple of bars here and there as it loops. The effect is something like the musical interpretation of a psychedelic crib mobile. It’s a compelling backdrop for Molholt’s pretty, hazy vocal melody, which relates what he has described as a “bit of psychedelic fiction”— a story about “a bell that you can ring” but can’t hear unless “you are pure.”
Being a kid, when a good chunk of what you experience every day is new and weird, is probably pretty trippy. The wooziness of psychedelia in music has often been used to explore hazy ambiguity between pleasure and terror; presence and non-presence. By connecting this ambiguity with the susceptibility to experience that comes with childhood, Laser Backgrounds makes psych-pop that’s remarkably affecting.
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.”