Signal Boost: 15 Tracks from October 2020 You Should Know
Our Senior 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 Senior 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.
Seemingly the product of several years of being Malcomed—that is, being silenced by a “man who tells you you can’t be who you are,” according to Antonioni vocalist Sarah Pasillas—as a direct result of not being a man, “Malcomer” is a pretty solid track to pair with the flex of a recent signing to a notable indie punk label. The Seattle group’s second single since revealing their new ties with Lauren Records, the track’s got some IAN SWEET dreaminess, guitars spacious enough for Joshua Tree, and a sense of existentialism worthy of their namesake—as well as an always-welcome message to the emotional-manspreading community.
Bad Operation, “Perilous”
I was bummed a few years ago when New Orleans punks/Community Records VIPs All People announced they’d be calling it quits with the release of their final album, but now I realize the reason behind that decision was probably rooted in the fact that ska was coming back. The group always flirted with the genre, but Bad Operations, the latest of many outfits to boast Robert Landry and Greg Rodrigue among its operators, leans a little harder into the trombone and gurgling organ of the genre’s checkered past. “Perilous” is a great intro to the band—and perhaps to the genre for anyone wary of the cultural baggage ska’s been lugging around—with its punky attitude and a fun video that’s a little painful to watch in an era of no live music.
It’s been three long years since there was a B L A C K I E album, and a lot has happened since then. Noise rap took off for one thing—the vein of harsh dissonance explored by the Houston rapper reached the mainstream thanks in part to a Hamilton cast member, proving an even more bizarre pop culture moment than when Kanye rode Dälek’s coattails to the top of the charts in 2013. I picked “UNCOUNTED” as synecdoche for the full FACE THE DARKNESS LP—which was surprise-released on Halloween—all of which I want to highlight here, but the blown-out production, feral sax, ominous plinking piano, and nearly hoarse vocals fall right in line with previous releases, many of which have haunted me for years.
Deafheaven, “Daedelus” (Live)
I’m guessing someone else has already written about this with more nuance, but the only live albums I’ve ever really connected with have been documentations of tours I’d seen in person. One of the most memorable sets I’ve seen—and probably the one I’ve written about the most—was Deafheaven touring their 2018 LP Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, illustrating their sun-peaking-out-from-behind-a-cloud black metal with sunflowers strewn about the stage, which contrasted with the feral growls and extreme-black-metal getup of vocalist George Clarke. While their forthcoming live record 10 Years Gone serves as a stand in for the anniversary tour they’d planned for 2020, most of the track list is familiar to anyone who caught their OCHL tour a few years back. “Daedelus,” though, is a new addition to their live show, both recalling their early years (being the first song they ever wrote) while relaunching expectations for what future Deafheaven sets will look like.
Floating Room, “Warm Death (Hi-Fi)”
I got into Floating Room last year when her “Ant” demo proved to be my favorite take away from the 2019 Post-Trash comp. Getting to know Maya Stoner’s project from this woozy lo-fi recording, it was cool to ease into some of the songwriter’s hi-er-fi stuff, notably and nominally her re-recording of a 2016 track for an October EP, which sounds just as sleepy and welcoming of a cozy demise as its more ambient predecessor. What starts off as something you’d expect to hear covered on Post-Trash sort of wanders back into ambient territory in the final thirty seconds or so, as the guitar-drums-bass give way to extraterrestrial squeals.
History, “Butter Teeth”
One time my brother’s dentist told him he’d done such a bad job at keeping up with flossing that doing so was like “cutting through butter” for the dental hygienist during his checkup. I think about that a lot, unfortunately, and it comes as no surprise that a precursor to Street Sects is the band that wound up providing me with a soundtrack to this body-horror imagery. “Butter Teeth”—close enough to “Butter Gums”—is probably actually the least unsettling track on the self-titled project that sees the long-awaited release of early recordings from Leo Ashline and Foxy Shazam’s Daisy Caplan. Much like my brother’s dentist, Ashline is politely hinting at the hell that is potentially on the way.
Jeremiah Sand, “Golden Desert”
Look, I was probably just as skeptical as you were when Sacred Bones announced they were dropping a kitschy “lost album” from the dong-hanging cult leader from 2018’s midnight-movie-cum-meditation-on-Reagan-era-censorship Mandy. But knowing that the label won’t put out music from any ol’ accomplished film director or character actor, I’ve spent some time with the record and it’s nearly as entrancing as the universe it comes from—you can almost see faces surreally imposing themselves over each other in a purple psychedelic haze as Linus Roach denounces The Carpenters on standout “Golden Desert.”
Living Hour, “Dreams”
I’ll never forget where I was when my old upstairs neighbors first discovered The Cranberries’ “Dreams”: directly beneath them as they put the song on repeat all afternoon. I may someday forget where I was when I first heard Living Hour’s kinda dreamy, kinda Lomelda-y cover of the song—directly beneath a different upstairs neighbor, who is currently belting out…“Amazing Grace”?—but that’s probably not a bad thing. While it’s far from the heat-stroke shoegaze that first drew me to Sam Sarty’s project, this cover shares its unique deep-exhalation appeal. Oh, and careful—when you google “living hour dreams” it autocorrects to “living your dreams,” which is apparently a song from Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3. This is not that song.
NAH is one of those artists I’ve totally given up on keeping up with—every time I check his Bandcamp to hear his latest release there’s already a new one scheduled to drop at the end of the week, packed with a dense track list and a laundry list of familiar featured artist and likely new favs. MORTAL GLITCH is the latest from the noise-rock percussionist and instrumental hip-hop experimentationalist, and “Big Silence Muted” is one of two tracks featuring cloud rap pioneer Cities Aviv, a similarly prolific voice in Bandcamp’s hip-hop scene. In true Michul Kuun form, the track sounds like it could be a lightly chopped-and-screwed jazz track were Cities’ distorted vocals swapped for an equally erratic sax.
Nappy Nina, “Weight”
I keep having this thing happen where I—a person who doesn’t listen to jazz—am enjoying something before being like, “Oh, dude, this is just jazz.” From Sen Morimoto’s bedroom hip-hop to the tribal metal of Neptunian Maximalism, it turns out so many things are jazz these days, even if they don’t tell you that explicitly. Nappy Nina might be a bit more open about her influences, but the thumping, piano-driven “Weight” inhabits the same realm of jazz rap as an artist like R.A.P. Ferreira, where it’s so fluently merged with hip-hop that it makes me forget I’m listening to a kind of music I generally have such a hard time processing. “Weight,” on the other hand, goes down easy—Nina’s irreverently coherent mumble rap sounds perfectly paired with a hip-hop drum beat and moody cellos, blowing by so quickly it’s hard to ever consider an anti-jazz bias.
The OBGMs, “All My Friends”
While we have Knocked Loose and 21 Savage to thank for yanking the exclusive rights to the song title from James Murphy in recent years, garage punks The OBGMs are the latest to put their hat in the ring for the definitive song called “All My Friends.” Not nearly as miserablist as any of those three songs, OBGMs’ tune vows to “figure shit out” rather than to wallow in the fact that all their friends are strangers, lending an upbeat energy to its rousing punk chorus. Considering their vow to do “what Drake did for Toronto hip-hop” for the Toronto punk scene, I have faith in them.
The latest entrant into the canon of rap tracks dedicated to the late Nirvana singer comes from Ricky Lake, an artist whose style is an odd synthesis of Danny Brown and LMFAO. His music, I guess, more closely aligns with Danny, as the Cobain references in the new track feel symptomatic of his inhabiting the emo rap corners of SoundCloud, tapping underground mainstay Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire for a feature (dude goes all out—his verse sounds like the fiery one he drops on “Better Clothes & Nicer Lives” from his self-titled). It’s not quite as dark as Denzel’s ode, but the bass could do just as much damage to your sound system.
Sarchasm, “Green Hornet”
My last memory of listening to FIDLAR was the Fourth of July 2014, when, after drinking expired Budweiser all night, my roommate made me a mixed drink he called the “Gulf of Mexico,” which wound up just being tequila with a ton of salt in it. FIDLAR’s self-titled was seemingly on repeat, and after that night I was turned off to, uh, most of the things that this memory is composed of. All that said, hearing “Green Hornet” finally took me back to a time pre-Gulf when I could enjoy something reckless like this.
Soft Kill, “Pretty Face”
With this meme making the rounds recently, I wanna take this opportunity to come out and say I prefer whatever wave of new wave we’re on in 2020 to either The Cure or The Smiths—or New Order, for that matter. In a post-genre world, it’s bands like Soft Kill (who I first caught wind of when they toured with a black metal band) who I turn to when I want to listen to some weighted-blanket rock, and the morbid, post-punky first single from their new record, which conflates death and ecstasy in its final thirty seconds, has me posing as the seasons change while delegates for Robert Smith and Morrissey duke it out in the replies.
Wake, “Beyond Empyrean”
Wake solidified their status as a Deafheaven-caliber Metal Band You Should Definitely Know About Even If You’re Not Into Metal at the beginning of the year with their complex Devouring Ruin LP, but for some reason Deafheaven is still the only household-that-attends-music-festivals-name metal band formed in the past decade. Their new Confluence EP continues to push for the recognition the Calgary band deserves outside of metal circles—“Beyond Empyrean” is beyond human, wallowing in the band’s favorite pools of atmospheric sludge and powerviolence while incorporating a something of a speed metal guitar solo in the track’s final push.