Signal Boost: 15 Tracks from July 2019 You Should Know
Our Associate Editor’s favorite pre-released singles, album deep cuts, and tracks by unfairly obscure artists from the past few weeks.
There’s enough highly publicized new music released every month now to keep you busy for at least a year. Chances are you haven’t heard all of it—and if by some miracle of temporal tampering or unemployment you have, chances are you haven’t retained too much of it.
Blis., “Bad Weather”
There’s enormous “Lazy Eye” energy emanating from the new Blis. single—like, so much so that I had to go back and confirm that Carnavas absolutely holds up. A bit more structured in its distribution of angst, though, “Bad Weather” communicates the frustrations of recognizing a parent’s alcoholic tendencies in your own life, with sobering lyrics about seeing your father’s reflection in toilet water. More emo-leaning than shoegaze-y in its sound and lyrical content than Silversun Pickups ever were, Blis. are clearly on their own wavelength. Damn, Wolfmother kinda holds up, too.
As he preps the release of WHY?’s latest opus, Yoni Wolf dropped some vocals for the outro to the latest Ceschi single, a reworking of the track “Electrocardiographs” which he released earlier this year. Swapping the chaotic energy of the original with distinctly WHY?-esque piano and marimbas, the fast-talking Connecticut rapper’s verses about kids in cages feel a bit more optimistic. Recorded in memory of the late producer Sixo—labelmate of Ceschi and avowed WHY? fan—the end result is far more touching than the somewhat unnerving original.
Drab Majesty, “The Other Side”
There are few live experiences more entrancing than those put on by LA darkwave duo Drab Majesty—a pair of identical andogynous figures in sheet-white bob cuts swimming in fog and iridescent lighting. Although considerably less ambient than the live experience, “The Other Side” is a streamlined encapsulation of the trancy feeling of getting lost in these alien sounds and landscapes as you lose track of time (I swear the opening set of theirs I saw was at least an hour long—but, like, in a good way). Stepping out of the shadow of their gothy 2017 LP The Demonstration, their July-released Modern Mirror takes on a more commercial new wave configuration without damaging their mysterious allure.
Ed Balloon, “M’aider (May Day)”
Despite boasting one of the most interesting collaborative rap tracks this year with an Open Mike Eagle and They Hate Change–featuring centerpiece, the highlight of Ed Balloon’s new album The Dubs comes in the final moments, when his skittering beats and melancholy vocals set up the lucid closer, “M’aider (May Day).” Although the subject matter isn’t much lighter than the various forms of heartbreak that inform much of the rest of Dubs, “M’aider” is a welcome ray of light—there are certainly shades of “Hey Ya” in Balloon’s woeful lyrics, acoustic strums, and ubiquitous charm, but the sound of the track itself is truly unlike anything else.
Elvis Depressedly, “Jane, Don’t You Know Me?”
Run for Cover has already released phenomenal albums by half a dozen exciting new signees this year, and now they’re revealing a new project from an old friend, Elvis Depressedly. After bouncing around from solo releases to shutting down his Coma Cinema project, Mathew Lee Cothran is back to making music under the Depressedly moniker for the first time in four years, though “Jane, Don’t You Know Me?” echoes the bedroom-confined production loops and soulful Auto-Tune of his two recent MLC releases—only, despite the moniker, sounding a little more optimistic.
Jenny Hval, “Ashes to Ashes”
In the same way our parents tell us they remember exactly where they were when we landed on the moon, I’ll never forget where I was when I found out the new Jenny Hval slaps. While most nonsense-sounding terms typically used to describe her sound—free folk, progressive pop—vaguely and accurately imply a lack of structure, “Ashes to Ashes” is a driving new wave–inspired preview of a conceivably very danceable sixth album from the Norwegian songwriter, complementing the dark, driving beats of labelmate Blanck Mass rather than the dreamy folk of Marissa Nadler.
You don’t have to be from Chicago to feel at home within Yankee Foxtrot Hotel, and you don’t have to be a native of the city to recognize the Marina City towers that grace the cover—even if you only know them because of Wilco. Unfortunately, it is rare for anyone outside the city’s music scene to recognize artists like Slow Mass, Ratboys, and Meat Wave, all of whom paid homage to the 2002 landmark of Chicago culture on the new compilation of covers, All of God’s Money. Though each of these bands seem a little too tightly wound to reverently cover Tweedy and co., Meat Wave’s particularly Empty Bottle–cultivated strain of garage rock breathes new life into the teenaged single.
You can purchase the comp here with all proceeds going to the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.
Molly Drag, “Out Like a Light”
You know that friend who’s been trying to get you into Codeine and Red House Painters for years? Who was excited a few years ago when slowcore started to make a resurgence, but has since become bitter about the newly ubiquitous state of the genre within communities of festival-goers who namedrop Duster in their Tinder bios? You should tell that friend about Molly Drag.
Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire, “FCK Boy!”
You may only be familiar with Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire from his guest verses on records by El-P, Czarface, and the members of Das Racist—or from his iconic doomed-party rap remix of his track “Huzzah!” featuring the underground’s finest circa 2011—but his eloquent (albeit nasty) verses have a life of their own in his solo recordings dating back a decade. The opener to his recent self-titled LP is a perfect point of introduction, pairing the rapper’s seamless flow with a hard-hitting beat (not to mention the on-brand campy video). Like most of eXquire’s best tracks, “FCK Boy!” feels spiritually tied to the manic verses of his peer Danny Brown, teetering violently between comic relief and mental breakdown.
Strange Ranger, “Ranch Style Home”
Strange Ranger’s Remembering the Rockets takes several surprising turns over the course of its fourteen tracks, not least of which is the campy Dandy Warhols–indebted “Ranch Style Home.” Generally encapsulating the nostalgia factor of early-aughts indie rock, the stupid-fun element of Urban Bohemia–era Dandys comes into play with the nearly parodic slacker rock vocals, building from loud monotone to choruses of shouted harmonies. It’s a far cry from the earnest pop rock that opens the album and the vulnerable piano balladry that closes it, but feels right at home within the experimental wheelhouse of the band’s latest chapter.
Riffs for Reproductive Justice, the new comp from Kim Kelly’s Black Flags Over Brooklyn project, has plenty of attention-grabbing names among its thirty-three metal and hardcore tracks, including Emma Ruth Rundle, Elizabeth Colour Wheel, Planning for Burial, and Woe. But the biggest get was New Orleans’ swampiest metal troupe, Thou, who covered Nirvana’s cover of Leadbelly’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” with characteristic endurance. The nine-minute sludge metal rendition echoes the best longform cuts from last year’s Magus, building up to a chill-inducing guitar solo that consumes two entire minutes.
You can purchase the comp here with all proceeds going to the National Network of Abortion Funds.
It’s a shame witch house got cancelled before it ever really took off, but we’re fortunate to still have artists like Pictureplane and TR/ST (neé Trust) to carry the torch for extremely haunted dark web–inspired darkwave. Re-emerging after an absence of five years this past April to release The Destroyer – 1, Robert Alfons is readying that album’s sequel for a November release with “Iris” as its first single. It’s Halloween-y to say the least, amping up the dark synths of a John Carpenter score with the combined club-readiness and futurism we’ve come to expect from the project. But there’s a beauty to it that never made itself known in the work of projects like Salem—a crisp tranciness that neither relies on the blown-out bass of trap music or prays on your most occult fears.
Uniform & The Body, “Penance”
It’s hard to identify the optimism many of Uniform’s best tracks are built upon, considering the brute-force guitars, snarling vocals, and bleakly real worldview that comprise the duo’s output—particularly when they’re backed by the haunted doom metal of The Body. “Penance” falls neatly into this category, though, not just due to its self-bettering lyrics, but also because of its uplifting melody, pretty unique to either band’s discography. The prominent use of what sounds like a simulated pipa roots it in classical Chinese music, a small detail on the busy track, albeit one that outweighs the hard-hitting industrial beat.
Vivian Girls, “Sick”
With the recent return of Vivian Girls came a lot of bad memories of the state of music in the late 2000s—namely the short lifespan of groups like the Vivs, Dum Dum Girls, and Best Coast, who all seemed to exist in the shadows of their equally talented male peers. Fortunately, the band’s return was also marked by new music from Vivian Girls, who seem to have picked up exactly where they left off nearly a decade ago with irresistible pop melodies soaked in coastal reverb, as hinted at with lead single “Sick.” At a characteristically short two minutes, the track instantly recalls the contradictions laid out in their first three records, which were comprised of carefree songs about our culture’s most pressing anxieties.
Wear Your Wounds, “Truth Is a Lonely Word”
When Jacob Bannon isn’t destroying his voice fronting Converge, he’s quietly singing over maximalist soundscapes via his solo project, Wear Your Wounds. The project’s second release cranked up the experimentalism to a nearly comic degree, with backing choral arrangement on lead single “Rust on the Gates of Heaven,” while Santana-like guitar solos characterize much of the rest of the album. “Truth Is a Lonely Word” stands out as a particularly innovative track, with plucking strings providing an ominous melody and low-pitched piano offering a lurching beat. While Converge has always felt like a trailblazing act, Wear Your Wounds once again proves itself nearly unfollowable. FL