Signal Boost: 15 Tracks from July 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.

allie, “ETYG”

There’s something particularly otherworldly about “ETYG,” a pre-album single from ex-Cavetown drummer allie’s debut solo album, that separates it from similar artists like the more countrified Hovvdy and punkier supporting Other People Records roster. Allie Cuva perhaps most accurately describes this singularity in their sound as “guest bedroom pop,” a play on a pre-existing genre denoting the sense of discomfort differentiating their recordings from the at-home feel of traditional bedroom pop sounds. The first taste of the new record coasts on a hushed, longing vibe—like recording one’s heaviest thoughts after your hosts have gone to bed. 

brothel. feat. AFTERMYFALL, “Searching for the End”

I’m glad we’re finally in a place where assertions of Hybrid Theory and the entire Deftones discography being objectively good aren’t met with any snark, and that subsequent generations of musicians are occasionally even tapping into the ways these artists’ sounds were much more nuanced than most nu metal. This new collab between brothel. and AFTERMYFALL seems to blend LP’s penchant for industrialism and vocals ping-ponging from distorted verses to emotional choruses, and Detones’ experimentation within the realm of shoegaze. The result reminds me more of the recent King Yosef & Youth Code LP, furthering that pair’s mission of making enormous strides within the parameters of a long-abandoned Case Logic full of CDs bought at Hot Topic in the mid-’00s.

Butch Dawson, “Get Money”

Between the biweekly releases of the new best Turnstile single yet and the looming reveal of Butch Dawson’s latest EP, it feels like Baltimore hasn’t seen this much cultural cache since Animal Collective and The Wire. The second track Dawson’s released from the forthcoming project was allegedly adapted from a specific vocal cadence from DAMN., making it less a knockoff of Kendrick and more an exploration of a single idea woven into that album’s tapestry, much in the same way Merriweather Post Pavilion inspired a glut of ideas that were ahead of their time. Lots of great fits in the video, though I think Butch rocking a tee with what seems to be a graphic of himself on it takes bands wearing their own merch to shows to a new level.

Chat Pile, “Roots Bloody Roots”

With this whole nu metal resurgence thing going on, it’s become pretty clear to me that the genre’s kinda like Star Wars in that it doesn’t have much appeal to folks who didn’t grow up with it—either in its first iteration of its reboot. I’ve also realized that in almost every case, the only thing that doesn’t appeal to me about the genre—musically, at least—is the vocals, which makes the forthcoming covers album The Flenser’s putting out all the more appealing. Chat Pile’s take on Sepultura’s “Roots Bloody Roots” echoes the original fairly respectfully (minus a bit of the cool and extremely dated drum fills), replacing vocals that sound the way a goatee looks with something a little more bleak and maniacal (in a word, “Flenser-y”). Are we getting a Woodstock 2024 or nah?

Cryogeyser, “Sonic Peace”

I’m always surprised when other websites write about Jack Shirley and only credit him with producing for Deafheaven and Jeff Rosenstock until I turn to his Wikipedia page and realize that, yeah, even though I’m familiar with most of his work, almost all of it is with bands that have yet to receive their due. Enter Cryogeyser, whose timetetheredtogether is slated to drop this fall, with Shirleyed-up new single “Sonic Peace” proving a seamless fusion of slacker rock and shoegaze. With the producer’s sharp-edged guitar rock familiar to the Deathwish catalog on full display, vocalist Shawn Marom’s harmonies and tamed guitar bridges offset that dark energy to create a perfect balance of sunshower noise rock. 

Ducks Ltd., “18 Cigarettes”

It’s officially August now, which means it’s finally the time of year when I start to take seriously the ever-looming question of what the song of the summer will be (er, you know, has been). Usually that conversation doesn’t include tracks about blasting a back of cigs a day, while telling yourself it’s OK to spiral like this because you doled a couple of those smokes out to someone else—but 2021 has been, uh, different in plenty of ways, one of which being this re-evaluation of hedonistic impulses in a time when our brains keep telling us we need to make up for all the bad decisions we weren’t able to make last year. Unrelatedly, you can’t deny the power of a pair of non-Kiwis saying shit like “gilded portico” with a perfect jangle pop accent.

Feminazgûl, “A Mallacht”

I try to avoid including Adult Swim Singles Series entries in this column because, well, I worry any given month when those tracks are in season will lead to me writing about 15 ASSS entries. Feminazgûl’s contribution to the 2021 season, though, warrants special attention—as can be expected from a band whose name is a portmanteau of femininity and those spooky ghost guys who are obsessed with Frodo’s ring in LotR, the track is a whirlwind of black metal commemorating the lives of feared, grieving women from popular white people folklore. There’s more than enough piano and, yeah, keening, to set it far apart from the subgenre of same-y campfire-crackle metal it exists within, as if its vocal and lyrical contribution from a Master’s holder in folklore wasn’t enough to make it unique.

healthyliving, “Until”

healthyliving cited Daughters, Eartheater, and King Woman in the first interview the band did as a unit last week surrounding the rollout of their second-ever single “Until”—which, to me, doubles as a killer (and apt) RIYL listing. Equally inspired by their band name ironically alluding to the commodification of not-dying, the group’s blend of (relatively) light doom metal and off-kilter, misanthropic noise rock aligns them equally with Elizabeth Colour Wheel or Emma Ruth Rundle at her sludgiest. When Daughters said “you can’t get what you want” they were, seemingly, and unfortunately, referring to a full-length from this band in the immediate future.

Hotline TNT, “Had 2 Try”

Hotline TNT first made an impression on me with their contribution to last year’s heavyweight comp The Song Is Coming From Inside the House, though “Stampede” didn’t quite carry the one-two punch of “Had 2 Try”’s intense intro pulled straight from the Lightning Bolt songbook leading into a grunged-up version of Spirit of the Beehive’s chic lo-fi sound stripped of its samples. I think we’ve reached the golden age of songs you can both headbang with and completely zone out to.

Know//Suffer, “Scarecrow”

In the same way their native El Paso is a cultural melting pot, Know//Suffer blends aromas of hardcore punk, sludge, and black metal into a vibrant and amenable mix that reflects their being only a degree or two separated from the spasticisms of The Number 12 Looks Like You and the unstoppable force that is Black Sheep Wall. Their new EP’s centerpiece meanwhile exhibits djent-y squeals and strongarm vocals channeling the rage particularly inflamed at the time of the record’s recording last summer, with vocalist Toast Williams bellowing lines like “Look me in the eyes when you say things are equal” and, conclusively, “I can rant and rave and curse until the Black skin I carry turns blue in its face.” With a nod to Nietzsche’s observation, to know is sometimes to suffer—Know//Suffer’s M.O. is to turn that suffering into action.

PRXJEK, “My Head Is a Prison”

If nothing else makes me feel old while trying to keep up with music as someone who’s, like, 60 in music journalist years, it’s that I’m constantly getting press releases for new Epitaph artists who fully embrace the trap aesthetic—head-to-toe tats, facemask, etc.—only to later find that they’re actually the leaders of pop-punk groups. Like, I guess this is a thing no one’s told me about yet? Because they assume I’m too old and won’t care? Anyway, it made me feel weirdly good to listen to PRJEK’s debut single for Hopeless Records which, in fact, is a trap single that sounds a whole lot like what I thought, like, Lil Lotus would sound like: good ol’ fashioned speaker-blowing, metal-infused rap. It’s not you, Lil Lotus, it’s definitely me.

SMTK feat. Dos Monos, “Headhunters”

Basically, if you can figure out how to rap over a black midi song, you’re capable of rapping over anything. It isn’t a totally different vein of whacked-out jazz rock Dos Monos find themselves lyricsizing over on “Headhunters” (black midi and SMTK both feature on their new remix album), turning the lurching free jazz into a cool-as-absolute-fuck live-band hip-hop track (which…seemingly bilinguifies Sole’s hook from Deep Puddle Dynamics’ “June 26th, 1998”?). A full-album collaboration might be nice. Just sayin’.

sonhos tomam conta, “Lonely People in Neon Cities”

It might be the fact that “Lonely People in Neon Cities” happens to be my favorite movie genre that led me to the new sonhos tomam conta track—but it seems more likely that it was my interest in Lua Viana’s LP Wierd from earlier this year that gave me the appetite for more from the Brazilian artist. Unlike the subtle moodiness of your Blade Runner: 2049s and your Wong Kar-Wais, STC’s lonely neon cities are afflicted with a sonic brutality at odds with the slow pace of these cinematic mood pieces, with layers of pounding dream-pop guitar burying screaming vocals, desperate lyrics—and even the apparent blackgaze influence that undergirds the whole project.

Surrounder, “Service”

In more ways than one, “Service” is the spiritual sequel to Pile’s “My Employer” (the best Pile song, in my opinion, if we’re going with the alt version): it’s an enraged realization of your inability to fit the oversized expectations of your employer alongside those of your personal life, which are a totally reasonable size, and finding yourself apologizing for it. More importantly, though, Surrounder fully embody Pile’s gnarliest vocal takes and instrumentation on the track, raising Rick Maguire one with a rogue “Oh shit!” uttered early in the song before the vocals hit a raging climax in the final minute. Tip your fucking servers. 

Swan Meat, “Tearz Circus”

I, someone whose entire mark on culture journalism seems to be my inability to differentiate proper nouns, had the misfortune of discovering Swan Meat at just about the same moment Body Meat began infiltrating my playlists, and it certainly doesn’t help that the German producer’s dizzying trance music reaches the same level of overwhelming as Christopher Taylor’s. Swan Meat, however, goes quite a bit further with “Tearz Circus”—originally released last year, but resuscitated for mastering master Heba Kadry’s new comp It’s Not Complicated, which goes to support a cause that is not, in fact, complicated—a rambunctious breakbeat composition that ends with a gentle reminder that the dubstep resurgence is a) not too far off and b) surprisingly welcome.

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