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.
Noveller is the moniker for LA-based guitar wizard and score composer Sarah Lipstate. Fresh off a tour supporting Iggy Pop, Lipstate is prepping for the release of her new album, A Pink Sunset For No One. “Deep Shelter” is the first single and opening track from the record. The piece is based around a looping two-bar chord sequence. For all the ambient trappings of Lipstate’s processed, layered guitar work, her music is highly melodic and has a linear, teleological structure. Synth-soaked guitar motifs are introduced and developed, soaring to astral heights.The song’s swelling, movie-magic warmth recalls the strange, otherwordly optimism of Neu!. In the last minute, a piano enters the mix, pushing the song towards a minor key and a waltzing cadence, evoking the sensation of falling gently, like a feather, back to earth.
Listen to "Deep Shelter" below. A Pink Sunset for No One is due out February 10 via Fire Records. Noveller will be performing at St. Vitus on March 11 with Egyptrixx and Eartheater.
Minnesota seems to occupy a particular place in contemporary musician’s imaginations. For both Lil Yachty and The Courtneys, it’s a cold and faraway one. “Minnesota” is the third single from The Courtneys forthcoming record, II. Like their previous single, “Tour”, the song is driving and anthemic. The rhythm section maintains a steady, propulsive pulse, like highway markers passing by the window, while guitarist Courtney Loove splits the difference between Sonic Youth and Boston-like guitar heroics. But if the expectation of road anthems is to represent "motoring away", leaving something behind—an expectation that “Tour” delivered on, albeit with a palpable anxiety and ambivalence—“Minnesota” is instead about being the one left behind. The opening verse describes restless stagnancy, with drummer Jen Twynn Payne singing that she’s “back and forth” and “up and down.” Confronted with the prospect of being left behind, she promises to see the song’s ‘you’ “in the winter snow” sometime in an uncertain future.
Jay Som, the sobriquet of Oakland-based songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Melina Duterte, has released the second single from her upcoming debut full length, Everybody Works. “1 Billion Dogs” is a blitzing, fuzzy wall of a power-pop song; hurtling ahead as if the titular pups were unleashed on dog run all at once. Duterte’s vocals sit low in the mix, offering a layered, dead-pan melody that twists and turns beneath the craggy guitars and bombed out drums. There’s one brief reprieve where the guitars cut out and the song’s central hook rings out clear—when Duterte promises the listener that she’s going “up up up up up”—before a gnarly, processed twin guitar fanfare brings the track to a close. With such a killer pop sensibility and a knack for conjuring up a rocker that sounds like an unstoppable force, it’s hard to argue with her claimed trajectory.
Rubblebucket member Alex Toth describes his new band, Alexander F, as a new age punk band. Born out of a meditation retreat in Quebec in the wake of major life changes and a series of losses, the project’s aggression is tempered by a playfulness and melodicism. “Call Me Pretty,” the third single from their upcoming debut record, plays with the contrast between tense, half-spoken, half-sung verses and huge, synth-supplemented choruses. Alex Toth tapped plenty of his pals to help him realize the record—featuring appearances from Delicate Steve, members of Perfect Pussy, Here We Go Magic and more. Kimbra comes in with the assist on “Call Me Pretty,” elevating the chorus higher into pop bliss with her call-and-response delivery of the song’s titular command.
We’re just shy of two weeks into the Trump presidency, and it’s clear already that people wishing to resist his agenda find themselves both needing channels of action and means to take care and comfort in dangerous times. Rough Trade Publishing is trying its hands at doing both with a new “A Song A Day Keeps The Pain Away” subscription program. Artists from across the publishing companies pretty staggering catalog are contributing unreleased tracks, which subscribers will get every day for the first 90 days of 2017, with all proceeds going to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Among the announced artists are Rachel Grimes, Kevin Devine, Juliana Hatfield, and Lushlife. Yesterday, New York noise rock veterans A Place to Bury Strangers released their contribution, a track called “Bad Decision.”