Signal Boost: 15 Tracks from June 2021 You Should Know
The month’s most discourse-worthy singles, according to our Senior Editor.
There’s enough highly publicized new music released every day 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 rounds 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.
Absolutely Free, “How to Paint Clouds”
It’s unforgivable when a band releases a new album for the first time in seven years solely because of the immediate sense of dread their audience feels upon realizing just how long it’s been since they discovered the group’s unique kraut-y space rock sound. I guess it lessens the blow a bit when that first single seems to pick up exactly where the last release left off, making Absolutely Free’s (a different band from Absolutely Not, I have realized on several occasions) return—and consequent assurance that we are still young and have hip taste and stuff—more than acceptable. “How to Paint Clouds” ditches the lengthy ambient buildups and crashing climaxes of the “On the Beach” / “Clothed Woman, Sitting” single in favor of something a little more evenly spread out, likely to accommodate those of us who can no longer sit through a two hour movie without dozing off.
I guess I didn’t really think about artists’ recorded music in relation to their live sound too much before the pandemic, but now it’s hard to listen to anything without comparing or contrasting it either to how you remember it sounding in a packed room or how you imagine it’ll sound when, hopefully, the artist is able to secure a venue in your city. Amenra’s fifth album and first to deviate from the Belgian metal collective’s Mass series, ironically, makes them sound more massive than ever, focusing the recordings more on the sound they conjure in a live setting. There’s a certain anticipation on opener “Ogentroost” (which also immediately lets it be known that the whole album is sung in Flemish) that’s familiar to plenty of live music experiences I’ve had, which the band most certainly delivers on about midway through the track’s 10 minutes. Can’t wait to hear how it sounds through obligatory earplugs.
“ABM” just so happens to be an acronym for two of the most aggressive movements in music: atmospheric black metal and Angry Blackmen, the noisy, verbose Chicago rap duo responsible for a pair of EPs on Deathbomb Arc. A month after dropping bombs over a Khaki Blazer beat for DBA’s comp with Hausu Mountain, the pair returned with a full EP of their own tracks that replicate that sense of warranted rage, remarkably, without losing their cool. “HAYWIRE” sees the pair at their most refined with each rapper occupying about 90 seconds of the track (and rapping over two different squealing beats), furnishing the single with breathless and entirely confrontational bars without passing into the meltdown vocals of past labelmate JPEGMAFIA.
Blu Anxxiety, “Internet Terrorist”
If you pick up on any of the lyrics to “Internet Terrorist,” “anarchy and eyeliner” probably best sums up the music of Blu Anxxiety—it’s the soundtrack to a modern-day Hackers remake featuring a fully glammed-out cast (otherwise, there’s certainly enough going on in this single’s music video to warrant a big-screen adaptation). Also landing somewhere between the horror of Transylvania and the kitsch of Wrestlemania, the latest from the NYC-based cyberpunk is the type of pulsing, fairly-sing-along-able mid-2021 sound that’ll make you excited to get sweaty in a stranger’s basement again.
I haven’t dived into the wormhole of atmospheric sludge metal far enough to differentiate Bossk from the other handful of bands like Cult of Luna and Rosetta that specialize in lengthy tracks pairing impossibly heavy guitars with a guy reciting lyrics that just like “ruhruhruh” to me—yet “HTV-3,” with guest vocals from Palm Reader’s Josh McKeown, sets itself apart from this tradition fairly well, even beyond the higher pitch of McKeown’s contribution and pummeling guitar breaks that recall the work of a hardcore band they share a label with more than anything on that roster in the realm of metal. Even at its peaks, A Dawn to Fear never reaches the screeching guitar and China-cymbal-heavy conclusion to this mid-album highlight. Hard to extract this from Migration’s broader curation of mood, but certainly the most easily recognizable song of the bunch.
There seems to be a whole industry of wrecking-ball noise-rap crews out there stalking the internet that I think artists of any genre could benefit from featuring on their album. Echoing the maximalism and intense clipping of BLACKHANDPATH—and, yeah, clipping. too, obviously—Prison Religion add a whole new level of freaking-out-anyone-who-doesn’t-spend-a-significant-amount-of-time-online to the already-all-over-the-place DAGR record, straining their voices over a skipping, bass-heavy industrial beat (with an incredible song title relatable to anyone who’s seen someone Jekyll out at a party to the point where you realize their sober persona is just a facade). Credit to DAGR for their ability to create something that doesn’t bend under this intensity.
MOD CON, “Ammo”
Beating Tropical Fuck Storm to the punch by a week or so, TFS’s Erica Dunn unleashed a new single and the promise of a new album from her alt account, MOD CON, with the fairly “Who’s My Eugene?”-y “Ammo” midway through the month. A bit more restrained than anything put out by that riff-happy project, there’s an argument to be made that “Ammo” instead takes after Sleater-Kinney, with its buzzy post-punk guitars and dueling vocals. Then again there aren’t a whole lot of other groups out there littering their guitar-squelch singles with military imagery.
After letting “Sundowning” soak into my brain for three months, it was a relief to finally hear the second of two tracks on the nearly 20-minute double single of gloomy doomgaze from the U.K.’s long-awaited sequel to Jesu and Warning. In short, it doesn’t disappoint—“Unconditional” stretches the crashing-waves-on-a-hazy-shoreline of the A-side even further down the coast, closing the project out (spoiler alert) with an alleviation of heavy tides before (another spoiler) a fairly wet signoff.
Sirius Blvck, “World’s Smallest Violin”
Up until May, it was acceptable for all of us outside of Indiana to not know about Sirius Blvck, but his full-length collaborative album with Oreo Jones and David Adamson as 81355 is, like, stupid good and inexcusable to ignore. Less than a month later, with This Time I’ll Be of Use still heavy on rotation, the rapper announced a solo record set for release in July with the less introspective and more aggressive “World’s Smallest Violin,” which streamlines Blvck’s animosity toward the elite class into a tight two minutes. After a year of empty “thank our front line workers” gestures paired with a stark regression in income distribution, this one hits.
Slow Fire Pistol, “Exit 24”
For weeks now I’ve been getting press emails about an album from the band Black Pistol Fire, and every time I see that name I get really excited before realizing that Slow Fire Pistol, a different band, is the group that furnished the tail end of the RFC split single Portrayal of Guilt did, which is a rare two-song, under-10-minute release that feels so complete that I would consider it an “album.” I guess someone told SFP how much pain BPF had put me through, because the Atlanta group surprise-dropped an EP to coincide with whatever that other band was doing (couldn’t read the press releases through the glaze of disappointment covering my eyes). Needless to say the whole thing whip, but it’s that instrumental, doom-metal-lite, five-minute centerpiece that stands out most to me.
If you’re not from Chicago, you may be surprised to learn that there’s only, like, five people involved in music in this city, all of whom seem to know each other. Not that a collaboration between blissy new-wavers Spun Out and DIY rapper and growing-concerns poet (add Hideout program director to that list) Mykele Deville isn’t otherwise conceivable in 2021, but a mutual figurative (and probably literal) love for poppy-seed buns and abundant relish makes this 101-degrees-and-unbelievably-humid mashup feel entirely natural. Somehow rejuvenates the best sounds of 2011—a time when chillwave, cloud rap, and Tame Impala were all fresh—without sounding tired.
Sungaze, “Storm Chaser”
It’s been less than a year since the witch house duo Salem returned as mysteriously and suddenly as they’d first appeared a decade ago, and yet their October-released LP only feels like a small blip in the turbulent year that was 2020. If nothing else, it seems like their new genre of music video has caught on, with Cincinnati two-piece Sungaze most recently taking to storm chasing in their visual for the track of roughly the same name. Appropriately paired with the video is the duo’s slower, twangier take on Nothing’s overcast, heavy-shoegaze sound, with “Storm Chaser” sounding like the threat of a devastating storm that never quite touches down. The type of band you want to book at your tornado shelter.
Surf Gang, “Don’t Wanna Wake Up”
I don’t remember if it was the MCR-homaging Moretolifethanthis album cover or the similarly intriguing mixtape title “Punk Goes Drill” (in which he raps over tracks like “Mr. Brightside” and “Chasing Cars”) that originally turned me on to Polo Perks’ music, but it feels like ever since I’ve been digging deeper into the NYC rapper’s dense discography—about half of which appears to be less than a year old. That said, I’m new to his Surf Gang collective, though their latest LP (and second of 2021) echoes the emcee’s fusion of emo-conscious SoundCloud rap and drill in a much less cluttered manner. “Don’t Wanna Wake Up”—the second song on the album about being up too early in the morning, and the less bass-assaultive of the two—is the kind of track that uses its simplicity to its advantage, with the lyricists making the most of its lullaby beat’s two-minute runtime.
uoou, “Everything Is Happening”
In contrast to Crying, the band uoou’s Ryan Galloway is probably most known for—certainly by me, anyway—and a band I really have no idea how to categorize beyond some chiptuned pun on hair metal, uoou, gracefully, is pretty straightforward pop music. The debut single under Galloway’s newest moniker scraps the playfully warped-metal guitars and bedroom-pop vocals of that band in favor of something a bit more conventional, though still far from stadium-ready. Vocalist Mingjia’s delivery is a far cry from the daydream verses of Elaiza Santos, though they still feel pretty disconnected from the hammy performances pop music tends to celebrate. Is it pronounced “Oo-oo-oo”?
Witching, “A Piece of My Story Dies with Them”
Well, the good news is there’s a new Deafheaven album this year; the bad news for some folks is that it is decidedly not black metal; the other good news for those same people is that the new Witching single effectively mimics the spine-tingling squeals of George Clarke (though vocalist Jacqui Powell doesn’t appear to be rocking Clarke’s spooky little leather gloves in the music video). Both doomier and sludgier than what we’d expected from what is for some reason the only metal band certain people listen to, the relentless and tunneling “Piece of My Story” is an exciting look into the Philly group’s next chapter. Don’t think I didn’t find this band because of their name.