Signal Boost: 15 Tracks from June 2020 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.
Armand Hammer, “Slew Foot”
A new album from billy woods and/or Elucid is plenty to get excited about, but when Armand Hammer announced the track list for Shrines it was hard not to gawk at the stacked cast of contributors: Earl Sweatshirt, Moor Mother, Quelle Chris, Pink Siifu, KeiyaA, R.A.P. Ferriera—in addition to the always-welcome presence of collaborators Willie Green and Curly Castro. Yet the record’s standout track is one of the few guestless cuts—“Slew Foot” is pure Armand Hammer, with billy and Elucid’s gruff vocals teaming up over a beat rawer than anything they’ve rapped on since “The Rent Is Too Damn High.” Surprisingly, production on this one was outsourced to Fog’s Andrew Broder, rather than a Backwoodz in-house.
Bruges, “Fading Patterns”
Bruges appeared on Chicago’s hardcore scene in 2016 with a heavy, sludge-infused EP recorded at DIY spot Club Rectum, and nearly half a decade later they’ve kinda committed to the perceptible doom metal influence. “Fading Patterns” kicks off their longest records yet, consisting of lengthy cuts seemingly filling the void left by Pop. 1280 who veered toward synths on their latest LP. The gradual tension-building on the opener sets up the rest of the record well, as there’s hardly any relief over the record’s six succeeding tracks.
Den-Mate, “It’ll All Come Back”
Den-Mate’s new EP is only comprised of six songs, but a ton of ground is covered in that time—“Hypnagogia” channels The Knife at their most subdued, while the opening “All My Friends” is a considerably more somber take on the giddy electronica James Murphy conjured on his track of the same name. The lullaby “It’ll All Come Back” is among the record’s more subdued moments, scrambling through its three-minute runtime before things pick up again with the hectic electropop of “Eyes Up.” The stories recounted on Hypnagogia may be harrowing, but Jules Hale succeeds in making them dreamy.
The Dirty Nil, “Done with Drugs”
You ever just have responsibilities? Most of us do, and they prove to be, as they accumulate in life, incompatible with drug use, as so very few of them permit you to be wasted while you check off your to-do list. The Dirty Nil not only have a song specifically about that, but that also sort of seems to define their ethos—the Ontarian trio play punk rock like people who do laundry and keep their kitchens well-stocked, who’ve very recently reformed from a life of inside-out underwear and Chinese takeout. “Done with Drugs” is loud and aggressive, but in a way that would turn the volume down should the neighbors ask them to do so.
Emma Ruth Rundle + members of Mastodon, YOB, and Old Man Gloom, “Running Up That Hill”
To be clear, “Running Up That Hill” is one of those songs that’s so good that any cover of it would smash. But the stacked lineup of metal musicians conjoined by a mutual interest in K. Bush (as well as, like, friendship or whatever) yields a cover greater than the sum of its very good parts—wailing guitar, over-the-top theatricality, and other genre staples only add to the original’s gothy charm. As a whole, it’s surprisingly metal for hardly deviating from the original.
Show Me the Body are very good at making music, but they’re even better at compiling original music from their peers. At the beginning of the month they shared part one of their Mutual Aid EP for/on Bandcamp Day, which included new songs from SMTB as well as ONO, Self Defense Family offshoot Regional Justice Center, Sporting Life (the non-Wiki faction of Ratking), and others, with Girl Pusher’s glitchy digital hardcore track “feelings4feelings” proving to be a highlight. It’s the exact brand of aggression you could expect from the project, filtered through GP’s synth-punk mindset soundtracking a MySpace-era transaction of affection. (You gotta purchase the EP above to hear the single.)
Ho99o9, “Christopher Dorner”
It was only seven years ago that Chrisopher Dorner was killed, but his Wikipedia page already feels like something younger generations will stumble upon and be like, “What the fuck? Why did nobody tell me about this?” To be fair, there are now, on average, three hundred “What the fuck? Why did nobody tell me about this?” incidents every month in the world, many of which are given individual Wikipedia pages—but the story of Chris Dorner’s radical retaliation against LAPD should be taught in an all-too-necessary twenty-first century American history class in middle schools across the country. Shoutout Ho99o9 for taking the task on themselves in blistering punk form.
Kairon; IRSE!, “An Bat None”
Even among the select category of bands with semicolons in their names, Kairon; IRSE! are one of the most bizarre acts, blending shoegaze, prog-rock, and heavy psych in a way that’s less abrasive than their Finnish peers in Oranssi Pazuzu—and more in a way that’s conducive to naming albums after lines from Napoleon Dynamite. “At Bat None” precedes their first new record in three years with a particularly spacey approach worthy of a minor rebrand. Kairon; A Space Odyssey is not the name of the new album, by the way.
Nana Grizol, “Plantation Country”
Now seems like a good time to dispel any notions we Yanks have about the South—we’ve seen enough footage over the past couple months of BLM protestors occupying streets to put to rest the “Get it, because the South’s racist?” bit, and Nana Grizol—as much as I hate the phrase—now more than ever are doing their part in this movement. With their backing horns sounding more Dixie-derived than ska-conscious, and their queer identities firmly front-and-center, South Somewhere Else peaks with the contemplative “Plantation Country,” knocking Southern tourist boards for whitewashing the region and contributing to an already-skewed vision of the Southeast United States. It’s angsty in the way that your older brother manages to be when calling out dog-whistle racism on Facebook while maintaining his background in education.
No Age, “Agitating Moss”
No Age have a consistent habit of saving their best tracks for the end of the album, with “Primitive Plus,” “Chem Trails,” and “Brain Burner” ranking among the duo’s greatest recordings. While Goons Be Gone derailed the thesis I’d assigned to the band’s gravitation toward complex sound design mastered on Snares Like a Haircut, “Agitating Moss” continues their legacy of killer closers, ending a record of surprisingly straightforward lo-fi jingles with yet another uncomplicated banger. In fact it almost sounds like a raw demo of their Everything in Between closer, stripping its bells and whistles for the pure punk sound their detractors have been itching for since Nouns hit.
Pay for Pain, “You Take Command of My Heart”
In case you missed it, Tigers Jaw Theseus’-shipped themselves into a new band called Pay for Pain, which transfers all of the yearning from their original project into a new gig that reveres jangle pop over emo—and all else, really. “You Take Command of My Heart,” though very Adam McIlwee-esque (and also despite coming from a band called “Pay for Pain,” on an EP called “Pain”), is perhaps the breeziest track he’s written to date, tapping a punk-minded group like The Men during their brief cow-punk stint.
Planet Loser, “Inside Your Mind”
“Planet Loser” is probably the most slacker-rock band name imaginable, making the pristine dream-pop reverberations of “Inside Your Mind” all the more surprising. Channelling that genre’s pained longing without any hint of burnt-out self-deprecation, the woozy loose single fits neatly into the ’gaziest pockets of 6131’s discography, sidling up to the gentle noise of Kindling in particular.
Self Scientific, “Selfish Pride”
That Denzel/Terrace/Kamasi/et al police brutality track is pretty much par for the course for all three of those artists, and we welcomed it at the dawn of June as the soundtrack to the latest, most powerful chapter to BLM’s uprising. But can we talk about Self Scientific—the sporadic duo of West Coasters Chace Infinite and DJ Khalil—grouping for an anthem with nearly as much firepower? “Selfish Pride” sheds light on the politicization of the conflict by politicians and the media alike while angrily pleading for power on behalf of the people.
Video Dave, “Tuesday”
Rather than a Makonnen cover, Video Dave’s “Tuesday” is a club’s-going-up-anthem for anyone who’s too online to ever bother being IRL. With a mundane, talky flow like his peers Open Mike Eagle and Serengeti, Dave’s music is the perfect antidote for the anxieties he raps about, in this case matter-of-factly recounting a months-long text-only relationship. It seems tough to make an earnest, melancholy song like this sound upbeat—though for Dave it appears natural.
Since 2020 appears to be yet another year when Thou isn’t giving us four entire new records, I guess we’ll have to get our sludge-metal fix elsewhere. Vile Creature’s one of the first “elsewheres” I’ve tapped (they share a producer with Thou on their new album), taking the Baton Rouge band’s massive sound and somehow expanding upon it—their new record’s dramatic seven-and-a-half minute closer (as with its prolonged, twangy, six-minute intro) features backing vocals that sounds like a full choir lining the Hamilton duo’s aggressive doom metal.