Signal Boost: 15 Tracks from November 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.
That’s why every month, our Associate Editor Mike LeSuer is going to be rounding 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.
Best Coast, “For the First Time”
As 2019 winds down, we’re all starting to think about what types of changes we’re looking to implement in our lives to better ourselves in the coming decade, beyond the hollow and overly optimistic cliché of getting a gym membership. The return of Best Coast appears to harness this translucent positive energy, strategically announcing their first non-kid’s music LP in nearly five years upon the changing of the decade. With plenty of positivity taking place in the duo’s lives in the interim, “For the First Time” is predictably upbeat both lyrically and instrumentally, with Bethany Cosentino’s lines about learning self-care countering flutey gildings which match the earnest simplicity of Talking Heads’ most zen-like anthem.
black midi, “7-eleven”
It’s been a month now since I saw someone tweet about black midi sounding like an Adam Sandler project, and my relationship with the indescribable Londoners just hasn’t been the same. Seems like black midi saw the tweet too—three days later, they dropped a single utterly unlike anything found on their baffling debut from earlier this year, blending banjo and post-rock crescendos with totally un-Sandlerlike spoken word on a song with the more Carrey-wary title “7-eleven.” Following “Talking Heads” as a very reasonable alt take from Schlagenheim, “7” is a bizarre interpretation of Americana (is he attempting a Southern accent here?) in a vein surprisingly similar to Dumb & Dumber.
Buildings, “Sit With It”
Threading the needle between the Euro-freakouts of Girl Band and the bleak fatalism of Daughters, Buildings is notably a very not-black-metal band signed to a very black-metal label. On their second release for Gilead Media, the trio builds upon the Jesus Lizard aggression of 2017’s You Are Not One of Us while also venturing into a handful of other heavy-rock influences—including metal on the headbangable second track, “Sit With It.” Comprised of nearly doom-paced guitar and heavy-hitting percussion, “Sit” is…well, pretty bleakly fatalist (“What does this world have left for me?”) and pretty freaked out (“I pissed myself and took too many pills”)—but the sense of doom, like any track on Negative Sound, is fully their own.
Chris Laufman, “Where’d You Go”
Before there was Weyes Blood, there was Wise Blood (not to mention Wiseblood, and, for that matter, Wise Blood), the moniker of plunderphonic Pittsburgher Chris Laufman. Among a generation of electronic artists who dropped off in the era of file-sharing blogs getting shut down and bands being accused of ripping off Merriweather Post Pavilion, Laufman’s brief legacy—including his contribution to Stereogum’s Is This It tribute album—is definitely worth the revisit afforded by his retrospectively titled new record under his given name. While Greatest Hits isn’t actually a collection of previously released recordings, they certainly sound like songs written in the time of “Universe Is Blessed,” “Where’d You Go” perfectly demonstrating Laufman’s knack for blending samples, piano, and hip-hop beats under his own hazy vocals. Regardless of where he went, we’re glad to have him back.
Is seapunk gonna make a comeback in 2020? Are we gonna forgive all of Tumblr’s transgressions and hope the site doesn’t flag our pics of seashell bras obscured by flowing lime green hair? Will Azealia and Grimes squash the beef? If so, I trust clipping. and Shabazz Palaces to be on the cutting edge of a post-seapunk revival, with “Aquacode Databreaks” being a suitable mantra for the occasion. The perfect marriage of old school hip-hop and fucked up industrial sounds both parties excel at, “Databreaks” is admittedly less subaquatic than it is subterranean, borrowing heavily from Detroit’s techno scene. But no matter how hard I try, I can’t unsee Ishmael Butler pulling up on his seahorse, blinged out with diamonds.
Dogleg is one of those groups that sounds like all of your favorite bands, though never quite enough like any of them to make a confident comparison. There’s something of Nothing’s punkification of shoegaze in the guitar intro to “Fox,” a discernible one-note riff recalling Mannequin Pussy’s “Romantic,” and, perhaps most explicitly, a sense of their chaotic live show in their recordings mirroring those of Prince Daddy & the Hyena. The video for “Fox”—which introduced most of us outside of their native Michigan to the punk band—already posits their cult status, capturing one of their shows opening with a member of the audience shouting “We love you Dogleg!” and ending with the entire audience chanting their name. Something tells me we’ll all be joining in by the end of 2020.
Have a Nice Life, “Destinos”
With most of Have a Nice Life teaming up under the moniker Consumer last month for their debut LP covering the ritualistic practice of—you guessed it—consumerism, the band was freed up to focus their energies for Sea of Worry on the other tenet of Western religion: Christianity. The band’s always experimented with Christian imagery, from the Pieta undertones of the David painting on their debut to the Gregorian drone of its sound, with SoW’s “Destinos” offering a meditation on predestination, first from an audio sample of a preacher reflecting on beer bongs and eternal damnation, and later in the form of Dan Barrett’s lyrical musings on the paradox of free will. Reworked from a lo-fi demo featured on Deathconsciousness’ outtakes companion piece, “Destinos” is as densely orchestrated as the theological questions that wrought it.
Neon Indian, “Toyota Man”
Things are a lot less chill for musicians in 2019 than they were in 2009, rendering chillwave figureheads at something of an existential discomfiture. Being a first-generation Mexican immigrant offers its own set of existential threats under the present MAGA administration as compared to the early HOPE years, ultimately providing the springboard for Alan Palomo to reignite the Neon Indian flame after a foray into film soundtracks with his most actively danceable single to date. “Toyota Man” is an elementary-level dissertation on one particular evil of the empire that’s grown evil-er than anything Reagan could dream up, sung almost entirely in a language those who need to hear it most refuse to learn. Sung over a synth-funk groove so entrancing it could only be interrupted by an electric “La Cucaracha” riff, we can only hope the musical components of the track are the only elements to inform the future of this country.
Russian Baths, “Tremble”
The debut album from Russian Baths has been a long time coming, and for anyone who’s kept tabs on the Brooklyn duo, there weren’t many surprises when the record was released last month. “Ambulance” and “Ghost” were shared as singles all the way back in 2016, while “Parasite” and “Tracks” began floating around the web this summer. Of the six new tracks, though, “Tremble” is the standout, positioning Jess Rees’ castrato vocals against the band’s sludgy instrumentation to provide the perfect hypothetical grunge horror movie soundtrack composed by a metal band. Stepping out of the shadow of producer Ben Greenberg’s career in noise rock, and checking their evident reverence for A Place to Bury Strangers at the door, “Tremble” is a uniquely chilling outro (not considering the even-more-chilling, nearly ambient proper closer, “Guts”) to their introductory LP.
Sarah Mary Chadwick, “Please Daddy”
2019 has unequivocally been The Year of the Daddies, for better or mostly worse. Arguably the least Freudian of the bunch came from Melbourne’s Sarah Mary Chadwick (whose full-on Daddy album arrives early next year), which is preceded by the release of a title track written at first as a letter to both mama and daddy about the songwriter’s struggle with depression and the prospect of suicide, and later, yeah, as a bit of an Elektral complex deal. As always, Chadwick’s commanding voice takes center stage, with a rich orchestral backdrop supporting her booming vocals before they’re reduced to smoldered submission at the hands of yet another big and strong Dad.
Sharks’ Teeth, “Broken Trust in Satan”
Since dissolving his baroque punk band Sun Hotel back in 2015, Tyler Scurlock has been up to pretty much everything—all under the decreasingly solo moniker Sharks’ Teeth, which has evolved from an ambient bedroom-recordings project to a cosmic jam band featuring nearly half of New Oreans’ DIY scene. According to their Bandcamp page, Broken Trust in Satan is the project’s seventieth release, and its title track epitomizes Sharks’ Teeth’s catatonically stoned anti-spirituals emphasized by the band’s current iteration as a nine-piece. Featuring the build-up—but notably not the payoff—of many a Sun Hotel breakdown, “Satan” demonstrates the patience Scurlock’s learned as a songwriter over the past five years, in spite of his lyrics continually being grounded in God and weed.
The more I listen to SRSQ, the less I hear Kennedy Ashlyn’s grief. Though the project was born of tragedy, last year’s debut Unreality was comprised of dream-pop ballads of varying levels of elation with a general recipe recreated for a two-track follow-up this past month. “Temporal Love” is a bold opener mirroring the rapturous choruses of “Cherish,” though “Unkept” stands out as a more unique sample of Ashlyn’s operatic vocals soaring over a blaring synth-driven beat, culminating in an industrial ecstasy rarely heard this side of Downward Spiral. The manipulated, moaning samples that open the track quickly give way to something considerably more optimistic, as she opts for an unexplored promised land she hopes is more palatable than the home she’s always known.
The Stargazer Lilies, “Monsters of Your Thought”
In the same way Peter Tscherkassky warped footage of The Entity to make it exponentially more horrifying, Black Moth Super Rainbow appendage Tobacco transformed an already psychedelic Occabot into something surreal far beyond your Tame Impala dreams. While all of The Stargazer Lilies’ new album warbles with the same water-damaged charm as “Monsters of Your Thought,” the record’s second track provides an early acid-filtered climax smudged in all the right ways by their enigmatic producer to resemble something you uncovered in your grandparents basement while under the influence of something offered to you in the form of blotter paper. Despite its unnerving title, “Monsters” is an overwhelmingly good trip—a cozy, dizzying epic for the cold months that lie ahead.
Walter Martin, “The World at Night (For Stew)”
Walter Martin has remained active since his band The Walkmen shelved the project in 2012, but the title track on the organist’s upcoming LP is the closest any of the band’s individual members have ever come to reimagining the sleepy, snow-covered gift that was The Walkmen’s wordy debut. Ironically penned as a tribute to late Jonathan Fire*Eater bandmate Stewart Lupton, “The World at Night” radiates Goodnight Moon/Sleepytime Tea household vibes rather than JF*E’s rowdy post punk, injecting somnambulant trumpet and bassoon into the unique formula that wrought Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone. Though the rest of the record pushes Martin’s solo vision forward considerably, isn’t it the point of a eulogy to acknowledge the past?
Weaves, “Internet Tears”
Is…is Weaves OK? We haven’t heard much from the Torontonians over the past two years, and their return to the public eye couldn’t be more concerning: a way-over-the-top (even by their standards) video for a loose single called “Internet Tears,” wherein Jasmyn Burke repeats the line “Sometimes the internet makes me cry at night” in various indecipherable intonations for four minutes. Like, all the major music sites covered the track, tweeting about how “Weaves (@weavesmusic) are back with a new single” or whatever, but did anyone stop to…ask Weaves if they were OK? It’s pretty apparent that the four-piece is suffering from an awful case of internet brain—it’s not normal for a band to perform in front of a green screen with their Wikipedia and Vimeo pages on it, and the way the song unravels at the end, just…hey Weaves, are you OK?