Signal Boost: 15 Tracks from September 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.
Bethlehem Steel, “Not Lotion”
Rebecca Ryskalczyk shouting “I said I’ve been repressing as little as possible, how ’bout you?”—and, later, a stand-alone “Fuck!”—is enough of a statement to make “Not Lotion” worthy of being pinned to this September 2019 mood board, though the rest of the track certainly has plenty more going for it. Introduced with a sinister bass line, “Not Lotion” quickly reveals itself to be a sonic sequel to “Untitled Entitlement” from the group’s preceding record, which featured Ryskalczyk talking her way through repression and trauma before the track explodes in sound. “Not Lotion,” though, is considerably less patient, delivering a cathartic tirade in the song’s final moments.
Blacker Face, “My Life Matters”
It’s been five years since the dumbest phrase in the English language was invented in order to make our country sympathize with a certain vocation tied to a history of fatally victimizing innocent minorities, and there’s still plenty to unpack there. Taking a rather unconventional approach, Chicago’s Blacker Face made a really grimy music video soaked in milk and allegory for their track “My Life Matters,” an also-grimy blend of jazz, punk, math rock, and screamo, mostly drowned out by organs and sarcastic recitations of “blue lives matter.” If the woozy instrumentation and violent imagery feel a bit familiar, sufficiently jarring, and altogether confusing, well, Blacker Face has done their job.
Foxes in Fiction, “Antibody”
We have Warren Hildebrand to thank for launching the careers of (Sandy) Alex G, Soccer Mommy, and Spencer Radcliffe via his dreamy bedroom pop label Orchid Tapes, and every five years or so we’re reminded that we also have Warren Hildebrand to thank for some of the warmest, most intimate dream pop OT has to offer. Foxes in Fiction is the moniker Hildebrand has used to release his own music since he launched the label in 2010 with his FIF debut, and “Antibody” demonstrates just how much both projects have expanded over the past decade—from ambient, found-sound-embellished compositions to the experimental pop music they put out today. Using the slightest touch of Auto-Tune to disturb the innate comfort of slowcore, the lead single from his forthcoming third LP is a promising development from the more conventional dream pop of its gauzy predecessor.
Heaven’s Club, “Mnemonic”
One of my all-time favorite bands was called COOLRUNNINGS, and they didn’t appear to exist outside of their hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee and the obscure corner of Bandcamp established by their label Dracula Horse. In fact, they never even seemed to exist in this dimension, instead occupying a liminal state closer to an anxious dreamstate than a reality in which guitars and keyboards and drums all exist to create such sounds. Heaven’s Club, the unexpectedly gentle side gig of Deafheaven’s Shiv Mehra and Daniel Tracy, is the closest replication I’ve heard of this particular vein of neo-psychedelia, even if it pulls more from post-punk than the blog-rock trends of the late-aughts. The chorus of opener “Mnemonic,” in particular, recalls the dark berceuse melodies of their predecessors, momentarily placing the listener uncomfortably within a Black-Lodge-like state of temporal uncertainty. Though it’s been streaming since July, the revelation of Here There and Nowehere’s subsequent tracks amplifies the song’s full anesthetic potential.
Gold Dime, “My House”
I don’t know if this is a spoiler or not, but there’s no climax after the six-plus minutes of spooky tension building on “My House,” the title track off the forthcoming sophomore album from Talk Normal drummer Andrya Ambro under the new moniker Gold Dime. There isn’t even much in the way of build-up on the track—there’s hardly any progression in the no-wavey guitars and distinctly Ambro-devised drum pattering, though her briefly distorted vocals and an excess of feedback in the track’s final minute provide the number with an aptly sinister send-off. It’s hard to know whether the track actually gives off snuff-lite vibes or if I just can’t unsee its video.
Jupiter Styles, “Haunted”
I have listened to over fifteen songs in September of 2019, but only one of them continues to be stuck in my head since I first heard it: “Haunted,” the first single from Ratboy Sean Neumann’s forthcoming sophomore album as Jupiter Styles, premiered here last week, and has since then only burrowed further into my unconscious—er, I guess at this point my conscious—with Neumann’s distressed twang of “I won’t ever be anything else” soundtracking all my moments of uncertainty while forecasting a future for myself. Despite being fuelled by self-doubt, though, “Haunted” is stupidly upbeat and pristinely constructed, providing more than enough distraction from the thought that you may never be anything.
Liturgy, “God of Love”
“God of Love” is eight minutes long, but it was apparent by the one-minute mark how much I’ve missed the loosely black-metal group over the past few years. Toning down their infatuation with math rock since 2015’s The Ark Work, the standalone single sounds like straight atmospheric black metal before progging into a nearly comical number of directions—there’s prominent use of harp and vibraphone, not to mention a dramatic glitch as expertly woven into a metal song as anything The Armed accomplished on Only Love, while being as cinematically jarring as the incinerated filmstock in Persona. What’s maybe most shocking about the piece is that it never really goes anywhere, landing on modern classical as its reigning influence despite its composition’s direct lineage from half a dozen metal subgenres.
Mark Hoppus, “Just What I Needed”
A few years ago, Brian Borchardt gained minor notoriety outside of his work with Holy Fuck by posting a SoundCloud playlist of Alvin and the Chipmunks singles slowed down to sixteen speed, making the voices no longer unbearably squeaky, but also turning the accompanying ’80s pop song instrumentation into skin-crawly doom metal. To most listeners it was just a passing gimmick, but to this day I look to these profoundly unsettling tracks when I’m in the mood for something sludgy and upsetting—though this unmanipulated Cars cover from one third of Blink-182 may fit the bill just as well. Stretched to a somber five minutes, Mark Hoppus’ take on “Just What I Needed” surfaced the day after we learned of Ric Ocasek’s death, and was allegedly recorded for a pivotal scene in a pilot episode of a detective TV show that never made it to air. The organ dirge cover is, uh, certainly not true to the feel-good nature of the original, but it definitely makes you feel something.
If you follow Travis Egedy on Twitter, you’re constantly reminded of his diverse range of influences on the aesthetic that informs his work as a fashion designer with his clothing line Alien Body, and as a musician under the moniker Pictureplane—vintage Mortal Kombat arcade machines, gothy superheroes, conspiracy theories, not to mention more obvious inspirations like Hackers and The X-Files. It’s no surprise, then, that Egedy has a history of collaborating with plenty of out-there underground musical collectives, from Anticon, to Goth Boi Clique, to the Juggalos. His latest track with GBC’s Fish Narc is among his most interesting collabs, matching his signature near-whispered vocals and fizzy synths with an insomniac techno beat and pounding kick drum. As you might expect, there’s a lot going on in the track’s brief three minutes.
Portrayal of Guilt, “Sacrificial Rite”
One time I saw Portrayal of Guilt open a bill otherwise comprised of European black metal bands and no one seemed the least bit upset—which is quite a feat for an Austin-based screamo band playing to an audience notorious for their outspokenly purist interest in one specific subgenre of aggressive music. Though the quartet have always dabbled in various shades of metal, the bite-sized length of most of their songs sides them more within the lineage of hardcore, the two-minute “Sacrifical Rite” obviously being no exception. The A-side to a two-song split with Soft Kill, this particular track sees the band doing a bit more to appease their apparent newfound ABM audience, pivoting from the synth-punk and post-hardcore influence of last year’s debut LP toward something a bit more ceremonial.
Rosie Tucker, “Ambrosia”
Who among us hasn’t had a religious experience while prepping fruit salad? With a name referencing the food of the Greek gods, “Ambrosia” is instead about the Cool-Whip slathered fruit dish aging slowly in our fridges overnight to be enjoyed tomorrow, which happens to be one day closer to our individual and collective demise. Rosie Tucker’s slow-burning ballad about life and death and love and loss and reverence for dairy-congealed fruit is a painful reminder of life passing us by as we wait for our potluck dish to be ready—melancholy guitar begets a chorus as heavy as its lyrics, offering little in the way of resolution.
There are plenty of reasons why working with a dangerous aesthetic has been a very bad idea in extreme rock music—whether it’s a violent crowd at a pre-safe-space punk show or an oh-they’re-actual-Nazis revelation within the metal community. But in recent years hip-hop has adopted this aesthetic to deliver meaningful conversations regarding mental health and oppressive politics, pulling from dark web imagery and internet-sourced sounds to complement bleak realities embedded in the lyrics. The fact that Denzel Curry and slowthai—who rap about these two subjects, respectively—found each other is little surprise, as their aggressive music has plenty in common, but the extent to which the combo functions together is rarely matched. Kwes Darko’s Hitchcock-homaging production suits the headiness of the verses, while the video (strobe warning) adds an extra dimension of minimalist horror to the mix.
Surf Curse, “Opera”
For nearly a decade, Surf Curse has been pumping out songs that could best be described as anxious—not because of the instrumentation, which is mostly an inland derivative of West Coast garage punk, but because of co-vocalists Nick Rattigan and Jacob Rubeck’s frantic vocal deliveries. While their new LP Heaven Surrounds You features such performances at nearly every corner, early single “Hour of the Wolf” presented the band in a whole new light, with Rattigan sounding genuinely pained, straining his voice over somber guitars. “Opera” is a near replica of this delivery, instead finding accompaniment in naked acoustic guitar (weird), backing female vocals (weird!), and maudlin strings (weird!). It’s many a first for the band, but the experimentation lends itself to a clear high point on the record.
Touché Amoré, “Deflector”
Spokespeople for rarely comfortable people everywhere, Touché Amoré reminded us of their reputation a few weeks ago with “Deflector,” a loose single in which Jeremy Bolm’s panic attack gets soundtracked by a Ross Robinson–produced orchestration. Most notable, as can be expected from TA, is the song’s minor-breakdown chorus, which is bookended by fairly abstract—though undeniably relatable—disparate metaphors about being a nervous boi to counter the epic poems spouted by their tour buddies La Dispute. If there can only be one, I’m sorry, but it’s 100 percent gotta be “Deflector” over Reflektor.
Weakened Friends, “What You Like”
Either breezy pop-punk bands don’t hibernate during non-summer months, or, I dunno, our planet is just done with having non-summer months—but either way, Weakened Friends dropped another contender for song of the summer earlier this usually-chilly month of September with “What You Like.” Though the trio hails from Portland, Maine, they match the specific melodic energy permeating Philly’s emo scene as of late with an extra dash of Jersey-sourced edginess, recalling Save Face and fellow Don Giovanniers Screaming Females. Yet to be assigned to a follow-up to last year’s debut Common Blah, here’s hoping Friends will keep us warm should the seasons ever change.