There’s enough highly publicized new music released every day 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.
That’s why every month, our Senior Editor Mike LeSuer rounds up fifteen tracks to reiterate their importance in an unending stream of musical content. Comprised of pre-released singles, album deep cuts, and tracks by unfairly obscure artists, he thinks these guys could all use a little Signal Boost.
A7PHA, “Rappers Are Haunted”
A7PHA, the debut full-length collaboration between rappers Doseone and Mestizo, arrived in 2017 with the somber footnote that it was among the final LPs released by Anticon, the experimental hip-hop label co-founded by Dose in 1998. But although the music stopped coming a year and a half later with the posthumous final Alias album (in collaboration with Dose), we still see occasional glimpses of the label’s brilliance with releases such as A7PHA’s sophomore record, which sees Dose reteaming with Themselves collaborator Jel on over half the LP’s tracks. “Rappers Are Haunted” may be miles removed from that duo’s final collection of lively, rapid-paced raps, but it works as a matured reckoning with a quarter-decade spent pursuing a fundamentally misogynistic artform as well as an eerie elegy for a groundbreaking movement in hip-hop.
Don’t tell the tech bros but I’m developing an app that’s like DraftKings only instead you place bets on which deepcut blog-era hit finds its way to TikTok stardom and an ensuing major-label deal after lying dormant in our iTunes libraries from three computers ago for nearly a decade. If Weekend’s “End Times” doesn’t get resuscitated by Gen Z, at least the band’s Shaun Durkan has a promising future as one half of Crushed, a new project which merges his dream-pop tendencies with the playful pep of trip-hop, if their debut single “Waterlily” can be trusted. Actually go ahead and tell the tech bros…I wouldn’t even know where to begin with pitching this idea.
Faetooth, “Le Sorcière”
It’s been interesting watching Midwife carve out her own niche over the past few years with a genre she calls “heaven metal,” an overly sleepy take on the malapropped heavy music subgenre generally associated with eternal damnation. But I’d like to posit that heaven metal is a spectrum that extends toward doomier sounds as heard in the tired dirges of King Woman—or, by extension, a similar sound not infrequently grumpily roused awake in the sludgy music of LA’s Faetooth. “Le Sorcière” is a great intro to their Windhandian doom-metal with its lyrical theme of witchcraft also providing a great jumpstart for your 2023 Halloween playlist.
Heather Trost, “Blue Fish”
Admittedly I haven’t spent a whole lot of time with A Hawk and a Hacksaw’s discography, but every time I listen to Heather Trost’s new solo record Desert Flowers I’m convinced, depending which track comes on, that I’m listening to either Broadcast or a Quasi song with Janet Weiss on lead vox (it didn’t help that the latter announced their first album in a decade during Desert Flowers’s rollout with a new single which, to be fair, sounded a lot more Quasi-y). “Blue Fish” was among the pre-album tracks that hooked me by brandishing those apparent influences, although, again, to be fair, the end result is unambiguously Heather Trost–y.
Kembe X, “Always Loud”
I guess it’s pretty apparent from Kembe X’s delivery on the lead single from the rapper’s forthcoming FLATFOOTED EP that the song’s title isn’t necessarily meant to be taken literally. Instead, the murky boom-bap beat reinforces Kembe’s lyrics which instead extoll the virtues of living loudly as opposed to the empty noise of most rappers’ hollow brags. Side note: there’s a dark energy pulsing through this song which I had a hard time identifying up until the Bon-Iver-“Monster”-feature Auto-Tune bridge in the second half—there’s certainly some MBDTF influence on this track.
Kent Osborne, “Emotional Masochist”
I don’t know if we’re still using the term “cultural reset” but I’m not exactly sure what else to call the thing that happened when Ho99o9 enlisted Corey Taylor from Slipknot to give an extremely Corey Taylor from Slipknot appearance on their newest LP SKIN. “Emotional Masochist” is one among many tracks that have surfaced since that feels descended from this union of artists that would’ve seemed unlikely just two years ago, with Kent Osborne also benefiting from a more relevant form of reset dominating rap culture: there are so many total-reboot beat switches on this song that it would be funny if it didn’t work so well.
Mal, “I Can’t Reach”
Between Zach Hill and Nick Reinhart releasing music together again and just about every early-’00s post-hardcore/screamo band all of a sudden reforming to put out a shockingly prescient sophomore LP two decades removed from their cult-status debut, a project like Mal makes way too much sense at the moment. Landing somewhere between noise and math rock, the real star of their debut album (naturally titled Malbum) is the wailing sax that likely explains why “Kenny G’s holiday albums” makes an appearance in the press materials under their influences. The album even closes out with the fairly sasscore statement “I Can’t Reach”—which also includes cello in the mix, so I suppose we should add Cursive on cc: too.
Maria BC, “No Reason” (Ragana Remix)
I have a theory that significantly more people would be listening to metal if the broad category of music wasn’t predominantly represented by the, like, three crusty white-guy bands nominated for Best Metal GRAMMYs every year alongside two explicitly not-metal groups (not to be all Muse, but if Muse wins this year I’m gonna write a terrible prog-opera album about that conspiracy). I like to think Maria BC also subscribes to this theory and enlisted doom-metallers Ragana to rework the sunset-ambient dream-pop opener to her recent LP Hyaline as a plodding dirge considerably more in line with the Oakland group’s genre sensibilities to prove the point that the remix and the original version share a mutual sense of beauty. More artists should be doing this. Tricking people into listening to metal, I mean.
Here’s a fun thought experiment: what would a fun Xiu Xiu album sound like? In spite of its jagged industrial-punk edge and constant no-wave clamor, the first single from Model/Actriz’s long-anticipated debut album (they’ve been playing together since 2016) is dotted with eerily quiet bridges permitting vocalist Cole Haden to go full Jamie Stewart before the band returns for the trashcan-banging chorus. Really just the perfect track to ease your friends into the most objectively unlistenable shit in your library.
Seems like the widespread embrace of Turnstile far outside of the various dank corners of hardcore the band came up in signals a green light for like-minded heavy bands who place a significant emphasis on the collective joy of live music for both artist and fans over the passe currency of street cred. Which is why I nominate MSPAINT as the next band to soundtrack a Taco Bell commercial—“Acid” being a great addition to their resume, blending the mosh-friendly energy of a band like Turnstile with only the most playful elements of new wave. Maybe someday they, too, will get pics with Demi Lovato and Tim Robinson.
Nascar Aloe, “Fuck Face”
It’s been interesting to watch Epitaph Records’ hip-hop roster develop over the years, with many of their recent signings preceding the punk spirit of Nascar Aloe but few of them embracing the North Carolinian rapper’s apparent influences of digital hardcore, BLACKHANDPATH-esque blown-out industrialism, and RXKNephew’s, uh, just like…saying a bunch of weird shit on the track. “Fuck Face” is perhaps Aloe’s greatest confluence of these different elements to date, kicking off the track by shouting “I’ve got gingivitis” over digitized blips before a minimal beat that’s way harder than it has any business being drops. The future of rap seems very weird, but I’m extremely into it.
oOoOO, “Gone Fishin’”
I’ve now interviewed two figures that were in some way credited with the popularity of witch house a little over a decade ago, and both of them not only denied their involvement in the pseudo-scene but essentially pointed fingers at each other as the reasoning behind the brief movement’s existence. Interestingly enough, in the midst of the recent King Night–ification of left-field hip-hop, several of these figures have successfully resurfaced after gradually or abruptly shedding that skin. The latest of which is Christopher Dexter Greenspan, whose oOoOO returned after a five-year hiatus in 2018 with a series of trip-hop singles, which he recently followed up with the equally trip-hoppy, characteristically ominous, and deeply fun “Gone Fishin’.” It felt like a bit of a tease to have this deeply unspooky song drop immediately before Halloween, but honestly it’s hard to be mad about it.
Last year, Sirius Blvck released two of my favorite albums—one as a member of 81355, the other as a cinephile—and between releasing a slew of great singles as a solo artist and as a part of that newly formed group and hitting the road with Dehd, 2022 hasn’t been so quiet for the rapper either. On top of all that, though, he recently teased a new album titled Sleeping Dogs with another creatively spelled project called Ovrslept, with the lead single “Overkill” managing to skirt the line between the smoked-out ambiance of This Time I'll Be of Use and the aggressive (albeit distantly backing here) vocals of Cinephile. Don’t oversleep on this.
S.C.A.B., “Why Do I Dream of You”
Despite “S.C.A.B.” being the most hardcore-punk sounding band name I could possibly think of (maybe I’m thinking of C.H.E.W.?), the NYC-based post-punk quartet’s single “Why Do I Dream of You” instead exists firmly within the realm of dream-pop, which is probably actually the exact opposite end of the rock spectrum. I mean, it’s not exactly Cocteau Twins, but the jangling, daydreaming guitars match the wistfulness of the song’s lyrics (also coincidentally—...unless?—about dreaming) all while the single’s music video evokes nostalgic feelings for summer nights traipsing about New York. [Thoughtfully, while staring vacantly into the distance] Let’s open this pit up.
Smidley feat. Shinra Knives, “Another Devil”
Between this and the new Palm record (not to mention a cool new pair of solo tracks from Kassie Krut), real clangy guitars are having a huge moment outside their natural habitat of post-punk. The lead single from Foxing vocalist Conor Murphy’s second LP as Smidley is far from that traditionally morose genre, sounding more influenced by neo-psych wooziness and a particularly playful breed of instrumental hip-hop as guesting electronic artist Shinra Knives lays some overtly goofy cartoon-villain laughs over it all. Is this the coolest song about summoning the devil that hasn’t been written up on Metal Injection?