FLOOD Essentials: January 2020 feat. Big Star, Frances Quinlan, Radiohead, and More

Our recommendations from the first month of a new decade.

We’re only one month into the new year, and things are already pretty fraught. Trump is getting impeached but it won’t really matter, the oddly booze-sounding Coronavirus is freaking people out, and one of our greatest living athletes died in a freak helicopter crash. 

What the world needs now is music, sweet music. It’s the only thing that there’s…well, just the right amount of, probably. Sometimes too much to keep up with, truth be told. But to make it easier for you, we’ve selected our favs from this month.

Big Star reissues, Craft Recordings 

Originally released in 1972 and 1974, respectively, #1 Record and Radio City can still take your breath away with their bracing guitars, soaring melodies, emotionally-charged lyrics, and song structures that often zag when you’re expecting them to zig. Though the Fab Four are an audible influence on the albums, it’s generally more White Album–era Beatles being drawn upon than A Hard Day’s Night, along with such disparate elements as Led Zeppelin’s swaggering hard rock, Kinks leader Ray Davies’ brooding introspection, and the sweet soul music of Big Star’s Memphis hometown. — Dan Epstein

Read our feature on Jody Stephens of Big Star here.

Radiohead’s Personal Discoveries from Their Public Library

The Radiohead Public Library site launched an expansive treasure trove of videos, audio, photos, merch, and other artifacts from the band’s twenty-seven-plus years career. To commemorate the library’s opening week, the band members took turns serving as “librarian” each day, spotlighting their finds from the archive along with personal anecdotes on the RPL site. — Randy Bookasta

We highlighted their picks here.

…And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, X: The Godless Void and Other Stories

“When you wanna leave, when you wanna get the hell out of here / But leaving is not an option,” Conrad Keely snarls through the thunderous art-punk din of “All Who Wander.” For a band that dreams on such a regal scale, the intimacy of the lyric stands out. And for Keely, that sense of displacement and claustrophobia defines the turbulent journey of …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead’s first LP in six years. — Ryan Reed

Read our feature on Trail of Dead here.

Holy Fuck, Deleter

Every so often, Holy Fuck grace us from on high (Canada) with a new LP of high-energy, instrumental electronic rock that sounds like it could soundtrack a DCOM about blackhats (I guess the band would have to release it under a pseudonym if they wanted to be billed in the credits). Since “Lovely Allen” earned them commercial success in 2007, the group’s sound has slowly evolved over four subsequent releases, most recently landing them in the realm of krautrock and neo-psychedelia on their new record Deleter. — Mike LeSuer

Read Holy Fuck’s playlist of songs that inspired the album here.

Locate S,1, “Personalia”

Believe it or not, it’s tough to make it as a musician these days. You can hear this struggle clearly in “Personalia,” the first single from Athens, GA–based songwriter Locate S,1’s forthcoming album of the same name, as she opens the track with the line, “Almost killed myself so I went home / I just cannot take these local shows.” Yet the simmering new wave instrumentation isn’t the only sign of hope on the single, and the album to follow. “Personalia” takes its name from a Mary Ruefle poem, marking a shift in the poet’s creative life from an old woman’s spirit trapped in a young woman’s body to the inverse—that is to say, Locate S,1 represents a hopeful reinvention for Christina Schneider, who’s cycled through a number of musical projects before touring with Frankie Cosmos and signing to Captured Tracks under the new moniker. — Mike LeSuer

Frances Quinlan, Likewise

On the lead single off her solo album Likewise, “Rare Thing,” Frances Quinlan recalls a surreal dream where barbs like, “I know there is love that doesn’t have to do with taking something from somebody” sting against a stippled synth. For “Detroit Lake,” she conjures images of a hawk striking prey, blooming algae, and words left unspoken, while the plaintive notes of “A Secret” mirror her lyrics’ portrait of geographical and emotional distance. At times, the syncopation between her vocals and the instrumentation is so effortless that it feels like she’s dynamically bending the instruments to her will. — John Coyle

Read our feature on Frances Quinlan here.

The Frights, “Leave Me Alone”

Surf-punks The Frights released a new album of uncharacteristically emotive songs. Everything Seems Like Yesterday is the group’s second LP for Epitaph, and the first to see them move in the direction of introspective acoustic songwriting, rooted in vocalist Mikey Carnevale’s original intention to share the songs as a solo record. Among the ten new tracks, “Leave Me Alone” stands out as particularly earworm-y pop song, borrowing little more than its angsty subject matter from their SoCal-punk godparents. — Mike LeSuer

TORRES, Silver Tongue

Silver tongue or not, the politics of the heart are still a fruitful influence for the Brooklyn singer-songwriter over nine new songs. Scott’s fourth album as TORRES sees her shape-shifting again with a sense of purpose and poise. The indie-rock artist pivoted from 4AD to Merge Records for Silver Tongue and takes on all production duties. She’s already constructed the sound she wants to dwell within. — Kyle Lemmon

Soccer Mommy, “circle the drain”

At long last, Soccer Mommy has announced her sophomore album and follow-up to 2018’s groundbreaking Clean. color theory will arrive February 28 via Loma Vista Recordings, and along with the previously shared “yellow is the color of her eyes,” we got a sunny new track this month called “circle the drain.” — Mike LeSuer

Son Little, aloha

There’s a palpable joy and freedom to these recordings that make it the most appealing Son Little album to date. The songs themselves benefit from a lack of spit and polish, as Aaron Livingston has always been a bluesman at heart. His compositions here are raw, unvarnished extrapolations of old country-blues and early rock and roll tropes, and they’re all the better for sounding a bit shaggy. And if Livingston has an old soul, he’s by no means stuck in the past, something evident from the SoundCloud-style naming conventions in some of these songs (“bbbaby,” “about her. again”). — Josh Hurst

Jack River, “Dark Star”

Jack River is the moniker for Australian singer-songwriter Holly Rankin, whose EP Stranger Heart is the follow-up to her 2018 debut LP. Album track “Dark Star” is an electropop jam highlighting Rankin’s distinctive sugar-high voice—with shades of Gwen Stefani’s slightly weepy grunge—and a sultry electric guitar riff trailing Rankin’s lyrics. Directed by Tatjana Hamilton, the corresponding visual is hazy and nostalgic, full of retro static flickers and sequins. — Kim March

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