Signal Boost: 15 Tracks from July 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.

All Pigs Must Die, “Deep Sleep”

Hardcore punk kind-of-supergroup All Pigs Must Die returned after a three-year silence with sentiments many of us can relate to at the moment. The Converge-associated group dropped a loose single from the recording session that wrought 2017’s Hostage Animals (and the Caustic Vision EP shortly after), which compresses the group’s expansive coverage of crust punk and sludge metal down to two minutes with a cover of the ’90s groove-metal band Poison Idea’s Feel the Darkness single. Stripping the original of its THPS soundtrack-worthy charm, you gotta respect that they kept that lick-y guitar solo.

An Albatross, “Return of the Lazer Viking”

I was in eighth grade listening to Franz Ferdinand and not much else when An Albatross released Blessphemy, which is my excuse for why “Return of the Lazer Viking” is my first encounter with the band, who eerily returned from a decade-plus absence within days of a new Fall of Troy single (and, regrettably, in a time of social distancing). But AA’s sphere of influence is clearly more aligned with the chaotic math/noise of early HEALTH and the buzzsaw guitars (and chaotic math/noise) of Daughters, with the new two-song, four-minute EP sounding firmly planted in the mid-aughts noisecore scene. All proceeds for the single’s B-side benefit BLM, BTW, so grab it here.

Corey Flood, “Heaven Or”

I’m gonna speculate (optimistically) that in a decade or so COVID will not only be over, but it will be such a distant memory that we get confused every time we see an image circa 2020 where someone’s wearing a facemask (this speculation is (pessimistically) based on the assumption that so much other shit will go down in the interim that we’ll quickly move past a global pandemic). Relics of the period like Corey Flood’s “Heaven Or” video will pop up on YouTube autoplay and we’ll just be like, “Oh, here’s a band performing their song from their respective homes for no apparent reason, OK,” despite the menacing chic of a facemask countering the song’s totally harmless demeanor. 

Dehd, “Month”

Here’s a moment I already have seared into my brain: Sitting in my girlfriend’s apartment in Logan Square, Chicago, while at the end of the block protestors chant “Fuck CPD” outside Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s home. The lights are off, but the room is sufficiently lit by the rotating blues from the cavalcade of cruisers lining the block. Under the chants, Jason Balla cooly alludes to “This never-ending new summer feeling.” I imagine this wasn’t the summer feeling he had in mind when he wrote “Month,” but at this point it’s gonna be hard to untangle the two most monumental events to hit the city in the summer of 2020.

Double Grave, “Long Drive Home”

The opening riffs to Double Grave’s “Long Drive Home” sound like Kal Marks covering Dikembe’s viscous cover of “If It Makes You Happy.” That all kinda changes when Jeremy Warden’s relaxed vocals take over, steering the single in the direction of its eventual (still grungy) slacker-rock guitar solo. It’s the kind of early single that keeps you guessing as to what kind of album Goodbye, Nowhere! could possibly be.

Exhalants, “Blackened”

As you may have heard, live music is off the table for the time being, so instead of stumbling into a dive bar with a cover charge, COVID is requiring us to do the necessary legwork to find the type of band that’s so loud you can hardly hear their songs’ melodies. Here’s a freebie: Austin’s Exhalants have a full LP of such aggressive music dropping in September, and they’ve already shared a pair of singles from the collection. While “Bang” kicked things off with a—not gonna say it—“Blackened” better recreates that at-sea feeling of seeing music being played but not quite being able to sift through all the noise to make out a song. 

Funeral Fires, “Party Puke”

Funeral Fires’ “Party Puke” video looks a lot like that clip of the Russian kid going beast mode on the dance floor, but instead starring those white American youths media warned parents about in the ’90s, moving their bodies in equally confounding ways to the absolutely putrid breakdown near the end of “Puke”’s two minutes. And it works for the song, which sounds like a contemporary reinvention of the type of heavy outsider music these kids dug at the time (did you catch the guy with the Tool tee?). If you’re familiar with Gatherers or any of the others bands from whom FF poached their lineup there should be no surprises here.

Girl Friday, “This Is Not the Indie Rock I Signed Up For”

Full disclosure: one of the songs I’d originally planned to cover this month got swapped out for another in the midst of the long-overdue unravelling of a certain indie label that got me and my friends through our college years. This reckoning, of course, was just a fragment of the greater issue that is the manipulative and abusive behavior of men that’s long overshadowed the music industry, including its small pockets of underdog labels. As far as I can tell, this is not what “This Is Not the Indie Rock I Signed Up For” is about, though the title—combined with its lilting, upbeat verses—dreams up a shift in our culture to permit a new indie rock, one inclusive of all genders for the sake of being inclusive of all genders. I’m so happy Girl Friday are here.

Glass Beach, “Running”

Here’s a sentence: Glass Beach wrote a new song for the Bill & Ted 3 soundtrack which didn’t make the cut so now they’re selling it on Bandcamp for $100. Their first new music since The First Glass Beach Album—which is technically in the running for album of the year for the second consecutive year—“Running” blends the band’s operatic power-pop sound with riffage that would make The Most Excellent Pair proud, not to mention album art that would help them confront some long-repressed truths about their friendship.

Josiah Wolf, “the king of our time”

July saw the release of an intriguing new LP featuring WHY?’s Josiah Wolf in collaboration with members of Deerhoof and Xiu Xiu, released on Deathbomb Arc—but for Josiah traditionalists, I’d recommend his three-song EP crest, which maintains the vibraphone-heavy sound of Alopecia and the older Wolf sibling’s decade-old solo debut. “king of our time” covers a broad seven minutes, prominently featuring vocals from Josiah’s wife Liz, who’s long been involved in the WHY? universe, and who duets here with distorted vocals welcoming a revolution over ambient whoosh and that all-too-familiar patter of “Shoeing Horses” vibraphone. 

Sen Morimoto, “Woof”

Midway through July, Sen Morimoto made headlines for getting bumped from a city-sanctioned live stream event for Chicago’s Millennium Park at Home virtual series after his implication that hiring a cowboy to crack down on census negligence did not excuse Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s recent inactions in regard to defunding the city’s police force was censored on the stream. Nearly as importantly, Sen also announced a new self-titled LP mid-month, with the blues/hip-hop hybrid “Woof” serving as that record’s first single. Coincidentally, the track is about the songwriter howling so loud that his dog is concerned, though the negligence that’s causing him harm sounds like it’s more personal than political. 

SPICE, “I Don’t Wanna Die in New York”

At least once a week I think about the time Mark Kozalek encountered a poster advertising $uicideboy$’s I Want to Die in New Orleans and at the last minute decided to rename his own album I Also Want to Die in New Orleans. I’m not sure that there’s quite any implication that SPICE—a new project featuring two members of Ceremony and a violin—necessarily want to die in New Orleans as opposed to New York, especially as the frantic closing track to their self-titled debut has very little in common with either of those eccentric artists. There’s definitely a sense of anxiety in the track you probably won’t find anywhere in the stimulant Want to Die or the depressant Also Want to Die.

Spirit Night, “Different Bodies”

A little behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like being the editor of a music publication in 2020: All of my social media—regardless of whether or not there’s any evidence that I’ve updated it in five years—is constantly flushed with DMs from music publicists and indie artists and labels begging me for coverage I’m much more often than not unable to provide. When I got a text the other day from an unknown number with one such message I flung my phone out the window—though as I was ruefully reconstructing the device a little while later I realized the message came from Dylan Balliett, a.k.a Spirit Night, who may or may not have played guitar in TWIABP at some point. His Gone/Different Bodies dual single has been on repeat ever since, with the lengthy, enveloping, and, off-brandedly hopeful B-side proving to be the highlight.

Standing on the Corner, “Zolo Go”

The fact that the vocals on “Zolo Go” are performed by a seven-year-old is probably, like, the fifth most interesting thing about the song, which appears on an EP entitled G-E-T-O-U-T!! the Ghetto from an avante-garde jazz/zolo/conducted improvisation (?)/[deep breath] krautrock trio that counts one of Winton Marsalis’ kids as a member. It’s a pretty minimal, lo-fi track, but its span of seven minutes packs a ton of much-needed goofy vibes, particularly following up the chaotic sounds of part-two of the title track. Also some of the most fascinating album notes I’ve seen this year.

Tunde Adebimpe, “ReelFeel”

I don’t think I’d heard anything from Tunde Adebimpe since he crashed Anticon’s twentieth birthday party in LA a few years ago, but it seems the TV on the Radio vocalist has been sharing singles under his own name on a Bandcamp page since lockdown started. Following his WARM WEATHER GHOST EP and the Nazi-bashing “People” single, the less-shoutily titled “ReelFeel” is pure pop bliss featuring production from Chrome Sparks. If you miss TVotR circa Dear Science, this is even further out there.

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