We live in urgent times: our botched political climate grows darker each day, and under the reigns of a Trump presidency, the world can feel like it’s crumbling. Brooklyn post-punk quartet SIGNAL aren’t interested in finding harmony in any of this—their riotous, dissonant sound is music for the apocalypse. Their self-titled debut EP, set to release on August 10 via Ramp Local, is filled with grating noise: crunching drums flit unpredictably under the heavy distortion of a blaring guitar, played by AdHoc’s very own Carlos Salas. Wailing beneath it all is Aida Riddle, her piercing voice clambering for attention amidst the feedback.
“Dorks on Bikes,” which we’re premiering below, is the second taste of the EP. Like last month’s “BLL,” it gnarls with intensity. “Sometimes words are just the nonsense we mumble to other people to feel less alone,” SIGNAL told AdHoc over email. “You’re fucked if you do and fucked if you don’t. It sucks being with other people, but it sucks even more just being alone with yourself and your thoughts.” This reflection defines “Dorks on Bikes,” a song that ultimately feels like a raucous shout into the void.
Jordan Lee’s music as Mutual Benefit traffics in interiority, in those little secrets and spaces you save for your closest friends. His upcoming release, Thunder Follows The Light, doubles down on that intimacy. On single “New History,” Lee couches the passage of time in delicate pastoral imagery, singing, “The sun is setting on this town / Where rust and ivy intertwine / Where past and present remain bound / in all the things we leave behind.” This is where the music of Mutual Benefit has always derived its emotional power: In the puddled smallness of rust and ivy, where the inevitability of change doesn’t feel quite so oppressive.
Ahead of the album’s release on September 21, via Transgressive, Lee has released live versions of singles “New History” and “Storm Cellar Heart.” In the accompanying videos, Christmas lights are draped around the instruments and recording space like protective magic.
“It's important to me for the Mutual Benefit band to feel like a little family, so I got together some of my favorite musician friends in Brooklyn to make music and dinner at my apartment,” Lee told AdHoc about the recording process. “The end results were these two live arrangements and a veggie feast—not too bad!”
Emma Louise could have made another pop record. The Australian singer-songwriter more than proved her craft on her first two full-lengths, and has grown into something of an indie darling Down Under after touring with Sam Smith for the Oceania leg of his “In the Lonely Hour” tour.
Produced by Tobias Jesso Jr., Lilac Everything, her latest album, sees Louise ditching the pseudo-twee pop persona of her past releases and boldly experimenting with her voice, which she pitches down on every song. The result is a series of quiet, genre-defying pieces. The production is spacious and ambient, and the vocal manipulations shade each lyric with an extra layer of sadness. Over email, Louise told AdHoc that “it just felt so right.”
The first single, “Wish You Well,” is surprisingly Zen for a breakup anthem. “I hope you keep singing with your eyes closed,” she croons over a steady swell of piano and percussion. There’s no bitterness here, only sadness at what could’ve been, and some meager hope for what might be.
Nora Singh, the Hit Bargain frontwoman and self-described “Gallagher of noise rock”, is ready to move on from “queening,” or trampling men’s faces, during the band’s live shows.
Her reasons for this decision are partly practical: It’s more difficult to find face-standing fetishists now that Craigslist’s Casual Encounters has been shut down. But they’re also political. Over the phone with AdHoc last month, she questioned the subversive potential of stepping on male fetishists’ faces. “Can you really say you’re smashing the patriarchy by playing into a man’s fantasy?”
If you’re the kind of person who actively tries to incite collisions between the expected and the unexpected in your art, you also tend to be the kind of person who resists being put in a box, which is exactly the kind of person Nora Singh is.
“In terms of the creative direction of (Hit Bargain), we’re entering into another phase,” Singh explained over the phone. This new phase is inspired by a series of changes that occurred in Singh’s life and in the world since Hit Bargain released its self-titled EP in 2016. For one, the American people elected a man to the highest office in the nation who, at best, has a notorious reputation when it comes to his treatment of women.
“We have a known sexual assaulter, a misogynist, someone who’s disrespectful of not only women, but trans people, people of color.”
Also, Singh gave birth to a child last fall, which Singhs says is “the most punk rock thing” she could do, simply because it’s such a curveball to what people expect from her.
But becoming a parent hasn’t blunted the kinetic political energy of Hit Bargain, whose new album Potential Maximizer, which was released May 11 on Buzz Records, features strident takedowns of xenophobia, sexism, and capitalism over taut electric guitar riffs. Singh spoke with AdHoc about the #MeToo moment, identifying as a New Yorker while living in LA, and what the media tends to get wrong about queer and non-binary people ahead of Hit Bargain’s show with PILL and Yvette at Alphaville on June 21.
AdHoc: What were you doing before you formed Hit Bargain?
Nora Singh: I used to be in a band called These Are Powers when I was in New York. We disbanded around 2010, 2011 or so. I moved to France in 2011. I had lived in New York from 2001 until 2011. I moved to France to marry our European tour manager, as you do. So I was in France until about 2014. Basically, I went for love and I stayed for the food.
We split, and I didn’t want to repeat myself, so I moved to LA in 2014 on April Fool’s Day. I lived in a house full of ex-New Yorkers and incidentally met [guitarist and vocalist] Mike [Barron], who had also just moved from New York. The whole band has, at one point or another, lived in New York. With the exception of Sean [Monaghan], our bass player, none of us knew one another before starting the band.
No band attacks vocal harmonies with as much commanding intensity as Los Angeles-based La Luz. Their eerie brand of surf-rock has always had something cinematic about it, thanks in no small part to their deadly four-part crooning. Their latest outing, Floating Features, finds the band dragging those screen dreams into the open. It’s simultaneously their most immediately rewarding record and their slowest burning, holding you captive with vibrant production and razor-sharp songwriting. Make no mistake: Floating Features will turn you into a Luzer for life.
AdHoc caught up with lead singer and guitarist Shana Cleveland to dig into their latest concoction.
AdHoc: Which song is the oldest on Floating Features?
Shana Cleveland: I’m actually not sure. I know that I wrote “Cicada,” “Walking Into the Sun,” and “Lonely Dozer” early on. I wrote those first few in Northern California and the rest in LA, where the band fleshed them out together.
You tend to put a few instrumentals on your records, just tracks where you and the band rock out and jam. Is that something that you feel is central to the identity of the band?
SC: I think it is. It’s fun to have that break. We have so many vocals, oftentimes with four-part harmonies through most of a song. So when we come back after this long instrumental break, it feels really triumphant to break in with these huge harmonies. I’ve listened to a lot of instrumental stuff—surf music and finger pickers like John Fahey—so I always appreciate an instrumental song. This record we just had one, and the others had two, but it was nice to put that one as the first track. Even though there’s only one, it has a very prominent place on the record.
Nebraska-born, Brooklyn-based indie rock group Navy Gangs first came to our attention back in 2016, with their brilliant self-titled EP. Their eagerly awaited follow-up, Poach, comes out August 3 on Modern Sky. Delicate Steve, who worked with Navy Gangs on their last release and has collaborated with Mac DeMarco and Paul Simon, resumed producer duties for Poach. The 14 track album is sprinkled with the band’s signature energetic riffs but also offers doom and gloom in songs "Dark Days" and "Vampire."
We chatted with lead guitarist and vocalist Matt Tillwick and bassist Wilson Keithline just before they headed out to shoot the music video for their latest single and Poach opener “1Alone.” The track is one that Tillwick says is "a song I wrote in my first New York apartment 1A... [it's] about the FOMO (fear of missing out) feeling, and how to embrace it."
AdHoc: I love the single you released, “Housekeeping” and the video with the cute little cardboard cut out of you. Can we expect the rest of the album to have a similar vibe?
Matt Tillwick: No! The album is pretty dark—that’s probably the happiest song. It’s pretty widespread of an album; it has light and dark throughout and really ties in to all of the moods of being alive.
How long have you been working on these songs?
MT: Some of them are a couple of years old, and some of them are a couple of months old. We decided to record a bunch more songs than necessary and just pick through those.
A spirit of lust slinks in and out of Sixteen Jackies’ sound. The Philadelphia-based quartet is headed by Jody DeMarco, whose breathy wails seduce and plead over art-rock rhythms. On their latest release, Mascula, surfing guitar melodies pair with psychedelic basslines in a tempest world of dreamlike dimensions. Released this May by Born Losers Records, Mascula follows the band’s 2017 EP, Movie Was Bad. This new record features “Power,” a song where Sixteen Jackies’ fantasy and passion reach haunting new heights.
“I wrote it when I was 20 and first felt the sting of being turned down by another gay guy who thought I was too feminine for him,” DeMarco told AdHoc via email. “Power” sees DeMarco wrestling with the complexities of these queer longings: “I used the song as an outlet for those dark feelings I had, but I exaggerated them to absurdity, basically writing myself as the villain of some sort of occult erotic thriller,” he wrote.
In the video for the track, which we’re debuting below, we see DeMarco perform these tensions; unrequited attention breeds a certain frenzy, left to fester under the view of a Super-8 lens. Director Bob Sweeney focuses on macabre found objects: a devil’s mask in a blonde wig, a bone nailed to a wall — hazy cabalistic glimpses that foreshadow Jody's lovelorn descent.
Listen and watch the rousing track here, and be sure to catch Sixteen Jackies when they play Sunnyvale in Brooklyn on June 7.
Nate Terepka's debut solo effort, Sunlight Farm, is an EP that feels instantaneously classic — from opener "Tempelhof," in which the Brooklyn-based musician mellifluously croons over bright piano chords and shuffling percussion, to tracks like "Out In Sun," where a pulsing, resonant 808 beat is overdubbed with vocal croons and acoustic plucks. It's a stunningly beautiful release that links quintessential rock sounds to an experimental future, walking a tightrope between past and present over the course of seven tracks.
Such a sonic aesthetic is not surprising for Terepka, who as a member of psych-rock outfit Zula has made experimental-yet-accessible alternative music his bag. Whereas Zula's last release Grasshopper feels more textural and atmospheric, Sunlight is characterized by organic instruments playing counterpoint to various discordant electronic swells. It’s an ambitious effort for an EP, but Terepka pulls it off in a way that simultaneously isolates and engrosses the listener, a product of his desire to “acknowledge [isolation’s] importance while also trying to reach beyond it” throughout this release.
Christina Schneider has been putting out music under the monikers C.E Schneider Topical, Jepeto Solutions, and Christina Schneider’s Genius Grant, but it’s with the name Locate S,1 that she’s taken her specific brand of off-kilter bedroom pop to its dizzying, prismatic peak. Schneider’s most recent album, Healing Contest, produced entirely by Of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes, was released in April on Sybaritic Peer and is by turns inviting and disorienting. That half-facetious tension in the title plays out over the course of the album: Just when you think you’ve got them pinned down, these songs turn themselves inside out.
On “1 800 Capital C,” Schneider brings that tension to the fore by working sharp, catchy songwriting into a heady dreamscape of post-ironic elevator music. She told AdHoc over email that she wrote it in the shower in Greece, while “thinking about American capitalism.” As such, it’s easy to fall for lines like,“Have you even tried the simulator / Have you breathed the cool mist of the mist machine?” Schneider wraps you in what feels like a theme song for the cool mist of capitalistic inertia before you can ask yourself if you’re buying what she’s selling. Through a veil of lilting synths, she implores: “What we want you to do is / Pick up the phone and call the number on the screen.” All we have to do is call.
The decidedly lo-fi video for the track, which we’re debuting today, was directed by Taylor Ross (of Surface To Air Missive). Schneider told AdHoc that the video “features everybody who played on the album, and that makes me happy.”
For her newest album as Half Waif, Nandi Rose Plunkett knew she needed a change. Just under a year ago, she and Half Waif guitarist Adan Carlo and drummer Zack Levine (who’s also Plunkett’s partner) relocated from their longtime home of Brooklyn to the much quieter, tinier town of Chatham, New York. They now share a home - and a life - in a small town not far from where Plunkett grew up in Williamstown, MA.
Living this close to home for the first time in years, with a long-term partner, away from the madness of the big city, Plunkett was able to approach her music more consciously than ever before. On Lavender, Half Waif’s sophomore album, she’s unsparing and honest as she explores the complex, potentially ephemeral nature of familial and romantic relationships. Although it’s not unfamiliar subject matter for Half Waif, over the band’s most assured and robust electronic art pop arrangements to date (not to mention some truly haunting piano ballads), Plunkett’s almost philosophical straightforwardness is profoundly bone-chilling, maybe even radical. “There’s something to be said for...crafting something with the conscious thought of, ‘Okay, I want to write the song in this manner. I want to come into it with this specific goal,’” she tells AdHoc over the phone, with Carlo also on the line, as she recounts Lavender’s genesis. Her deliberacy has resulted in a thrilling next step for an already exciting act.
Adan, how has being in Chatham, where you haven’t previously spent much time, influenced your writing with Nandi and Zack?
Adan Carlo: Being up here offered us the opportunity to really be 100% in a creative space. In a place like Brooklyn or even somewhere like Montclair...we wouldn’t necessarily be living together. We wouldn’t have been able to focus on [making Lavender] as much as we did. It was waking up, working on it…’til we were going to bed.
Nandi Rose Plunkett: We don’t really see anyone else except for each other. [Laughs] There are days that are just completely filled with making music. It’s great; we don’t have anything else to do. [Laughs]