Signal Boost: 15 Songs From February & March 2023 You Should Know

The months’ most discourse-worthy singles, according to our Senior Editor.
Signal Boost

Signal Boost: 15 Songs From February & March 2023 You Should Know

The months’ most discourse-worthy singles, according to our Senior Editor.

Words: Mike LeSuer

April 03, 2023

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.

American Grandma, “Stone Cross”
It seems a little on-the-nose that there’s an artist called Midwife who gained enough attention with her own fusion of dream-pop and slowcore (“heaven metal” is her term for it) that she’s midwifing a mid-sized Rocky Mountain region’s worth of peers’ albums into similar success. With a large portion of their new LP recorded at Madeline Johnston’s studio, “Stone Cross” is an early taste of what to expect from Denver’s American Grandma—and although its foggy texture may have more in common with Johnstone’s Flenser labelmate Drowse, there’s certainly plenty of heaven-gazing going on here.

Bleary Eyed, “Wreck”
I feel like I’ve been seeing optimistic shoegaze revival articles for about a decade now, but I think that we’re currently going through a unique moment where new bands are all starting to be kind of shoegaze and kind of grunge while also, inexplicably, sounding completely different from one another, rather than just tapping into whatever creative well Nothing discovered in 2014. I could list off a handful of Bleary Eyed’s contemporaries in their native Philly scene and beyond, but to do that would be a disservice—check out “Wreck” without adjusting your eyes and sink into something that defies categorization.

Bruiser and Bicycle, “1000 Engines”
Pretty sure the first half dozen times I listened to this track I had to google the band to see if it’s the guy from Morning Benders singing (sorry, that’s a reference you may not get if you weren’t following music blogs between 2010 and, uh, later in 2010). It’s not; but the inventively upbeat instrumentation backing the lead vocals feels like a distant cousin to the Benders’ baroque-pop-by-way-of-jangle-pop compositions, here sounding way more jittery and prog-inclined—if not downright cartoonish, with the inclusion of what sound like train whistles over passages of guitars that could best be described as chugging down a fixed track.

Buddie feat. Al Menne, “We’ll Never Break”
After releasing their debut album Diving back in 2020, Buddie are back, armed this time with Canadian visas, a graduate degree in sustainability, and the assistance of for-hire harmonizer Al Menne from Great Grandpa on several tracks across their forthcoming second LP, Agitator. The first taste of that release introduces the project as yet another slice of grunge-lite softened to meet the molds of a good pop song, both conjuring the ghost of LVL UP and nodding to peers in groups like Pope and Washer. Buddie are at their best when they’re this resilient.

Gal Pal, “Mirror”
At some point last year I got into an experimental pop artist called Sweetcream, whose Keyring EP introduced me to a fairly specific take on heaving industrialized pop music. Actually, I could tell you exactly when I got into it, because around the same time Palm was teasing their new LP of similarly glitchy industrialism, shortly after their co-vocalist released two similar singles as Kassie Krut and Foxing’s Conor Murphy was preparing an album as Smidley that was first introduced with an also-similar unpredictable guitar clang at its center. This is all to say that I, a music journalist whose job it is to give names to such things, have had nearly a year to come up with a term for the type of music Gal Pal’s recent single “Mirror” certainly falls under, but instead have simply produced a chaotic set of RIYLs which, consulting Gal Pal’s follow-up single, hardly apply to the trio. Gimme another year, I know I can do it.

God Is War & Andrew Nolan feat. New Villain, “The Hunt”
As the latest testament to the fact that genre means nothing anymore, the new collaborative record from post-industrial noise artist God Is War and powerviolence/sludge metal figure Andrew Nolan features a verse from rapper New Villain which, when paired with the duo’s instrumental, sort of just sounds like a typical cut from an of-the-moment hip-hop label like Backwoodz Studioz, or maybe a Griselda emcee hopping on a clipping. track. Which isn’t to say that “The Hunt” isn’t anything special—it’s cutting-edge hip-hop at its finest, perhaps made even fresher by the distance its creators have from the genre.

Held, “Thrown Against a Wall”
Another day, another new side-project threatening butt-rock and, fortunately, not delivering. The new spinoff outfit from Gulfer, in reality, is a borderline-frightening combination of Yow-y noise rock and coarse post-hardcore with even the song titles taking on an aggressive tone (googling “held + thrown against the wall” delivers some pretty harrowing news stories). Honestly, one “Lips of an Angel” was plenty.

Infinity Crush, “Demolition Derby”
Before sifting through the new Infinity Crush LP, I’d never heard another love song about a demolition derby, and unfortunately that inspired me to do some research (wouldn’t recommend this one, or this one; this one’s kind of cool in a chaotic The Pop Group kinda way). But neither nauseatingly cock-rocky nor taken from an album with the phrase “pwns n00bs” in the title, Caroline White’s ballad about the event—which, to be fair, is almost entirely populated by folks who listen to hair metal or who still do irony—is a soft and disarmingly earnest account of a tiny romantic moment in an aggressively unromantic setting. 

The Infinity Ring, “Crown of Stars”
Back in 2019, while we all sat on the edges of our seats 90 minutes into Robert Eggers’ bizarre homage to lighthouse keepers and their tedious routines, as Bob Pattinson is—spoiler, though you’ve already seen the movie—on the verge of finally getting to rendezvous with the Big Light, I’m sure we all shared the same thought: what if Michael Gira was soundtracking this disturbingly intimate moment? I suppose if that thought never occurred to you you’ll never have to ponder it, as The Infinity Ring’s recent single leaves little to the imagination.

The Library Is on Fire, “Back Pocket”
Having only released one album since their 2010 debut, The Library Is on Fire still feels like a relic from that era of hyper-local indie band that has a fairly comprehensive Wikipedia page for some reason and zero hi-resolution press photos. Yet they’ve hinted at their first new chapter in nearly a decade with the words “The Degeneration Elegies, 2023” finding their way into their Bandcamp bio, along with their first new single since 2014’s Halcyon & Surrounding Areas in the form of the still-reverent-to-’90s-scuzz “Back Pocket.” Taking a more down-the-middle grunge approach than what their in-turns thunderous and eerily calm debut had in store, the spirit of Robert Pollard is clearly still possessing every move they make.

The Lost Days, “For Today”
If you’re still unfamiliar with Tony Molina’s music, you could get familiar with it pretty quickly—his prolific two decades of music spanning hardcore punk, power pop, and, under his own name, everything in between probably amounts to around an hour of music. His latest endeavor, a two-piece with Americana singer-songwriter Dawn Riding (a.k.a. Sarah Rose Janko) under the moniker The Lost Days, is no different, condensing Janko’s widescreen hi-fi ballads to jangly, bite-sized jams hewing closer to Molina’s expertise in lo-fi earworms than anything in either artists’ discographies. Album standout “For Today,” is over before it ever really sinks in, but it also lingers long after you’d expect it to.

Marcyline, “The Ruins”
I’ve been led to believe that Gen Z’s taste in music is almost entirely being shaped by the algorithm at this point, in which case there’s nothing to do but hope that, say, Phil Elverum finds his way into playlists that will inspire young folks to process The Microphones’ tape-hissiest fits through hauntology TikTok, or wherever it was that teens were using The Caretaker to scare each other. Marcyline is a perfect synthesis of these two influences, with “The Ruins” serving as the most upbeat moment on Chris Paraggio’s debut LP that still manages to balance ramshackle production and ambient elements of dark-woods horror. Let’s get this trending.

Noble Rot, “Casting No Light”
Frankly, it’s pretty rude to claim what is almost certainly one of the most death-metal band names since Skullcrusher and use it to produce a debut track that’s this harmlessly alluring. While the new outfit’s comprised of members of METZ and Holy Fuck, it’s their cultier Canadian peers Hooded Fang that come immediately to mind throughout the track, between the wonky, tunneling-psych instrumental and its hushed vocals. 

Predatory Void, “*(struggling..)”
For lack of a better analogy, Predatory Void is like the boygenius of Belgian post-metal, with members of Amenra, Oathbreaker, and countless other celebrated acts spanning alt-metal, dark ambient, thrash, atmospheric sludge, witch house, dark folk, death grind, and even some less-made-up-sounding genres. But for those of us who find such categories of music both familiar and appealing, “*(struggling..)” certainly delivers upon the implicit promise made by such a union of talent, jerking back and forth between the echoing post-rock soundscapes of Amenra and the most confrontational passage of Oathbreaker. 

Spanish Love Songs, “Smile Like You Mean It”
A good cover takes a familiar song and puts a new spin on it that accentuates the solid songwriting at its core; a great cover does this while making you realize how incredible a band’s B-tier track is. I guess “Smile Like You Mean It” was technically a single, but the fact that it got buried among the solid-gold first half of an album as beloved as Hot Fuss makes it feel like a blip in The Killers’ now-extensive discography. Which only makes Spanish Love Songs’ slightly intensified resuscitation of the song nearly 20 years later all the more welcome.