Signal Boost: 15 Tracks from August 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.
Black metal is about 40 years old at this point, but as artists like Annihilus continue to prove, there’s still plenty of ground the genre hasn’t covered. It’s hard to argue Follow a Song From the Sky is anything else, though woven into its corpse-painted DNA is a lurching hardcore punk reminiscent of a group like Gouge Away, while more prominent still is an industrial surf rock influence that recalls the first Odonis Odonis album. The latter sound might be best demonstrated on the late-album track “AMA,” which, to boot, also features one of the only acceptable hair metal guitar solos I’ve ever heard.
Anxious, “Call From You”
I saw Anxious open for Glitterer and Wicca Phase a little while ago, and even though the band doesn’t boast a former formative-’10s-emo frontman who’s swapped his guitars for the opportunity to sprint around the stage with a mic, the Connecticut group felt like a proper callback to Ned Russin and Adam McIlwee’s roots. Anxious’s first single via the label that launched Russin and McIlwee’s careers pivots from the Hesitation-Wounds-by-way-of-“Sabotage” hardcore of the lead track from the EP they were touring on when I saw them in 2019 to a clean punk sound more in line with Run for Cover’s sonic palette. Damn, nothing more relatable than the final seconds of this music video.
Blvck Hippie, “If You Feel Alone at Parties”
It’s been an interesting time trying to connect with people over the summer as we’re all riding the highs and lows of coming out of quarantine—the absolute euphoria of your first social gathering consisting of more than three people in over a year, for example, followed immediately by your first panic attack and/or bludgeoning recollection of the specific loneliness you feel at parties, which you’ve conveniently forgotten as you’ve yearned for social interaction for a particularly long year and change. Blvck Hippie conveys this exact anxiety through the language of moody guitars (and also the language of English), which forgo the nostalgia we’ve all felt for social gatherings in lieu of another nostalgia—one for circa-2010 blog rock and an era of saying home and downloading way more MP3 tracks than you could ever listen to. If only he’d released this single back in May it would’ve saved me a ton of emotional energy.
Bummer, “I Want to Punch Bruce Springsteen in the Dick”
We talk a lot about hot takes in music, but I gotta say—“I want to punch Bruce Springsteen in the dick” is right up there with “The guest verses on Donda are extremely acceptable” in terms of things that could quite possibly make you wanna cover your own crotch. This is likely also the reason the YouTube video for this track only appears to have a 75 percent approval rating, since the song itself goes hard as hell. While I thought I was listening to Meat Wave every time Dead Horse’s lead single came up on shuffle, “Springsteen in the Dick” offers a considerably less spastic and more headbanging side to the band. Feels like the honorary successor to the one-sided Julian Casablancas/Oozing Wound beef from 2019.
Chastity, “Dying to Live”
At the beginning of the pandemic I did a deep dive on the Deathwish catalog after impulsively buying one of their tote bags and suddenly becoming nervous folks on the street would start asking me what my favorite Some Girls EP is. It was interesting to hear over time how their discography evolved from a somewhat-samey collection of artists you’d expect to see open a show for Converge to a space where the experimental aggressions of artists like Greet Death and Oathbreaker can flourish. The recent signing of Chastity, though, takes things a bit further from DW’s original noisy thesis—following the heavy pop-punk guitars that open the song, Brandon Williams’ instantly recognizable and indiscernibly distorted emo cadences are anything but aggressive. I guess The Armed already called it, but 2021’s the year the barriers separating hardcore from literally all other music is getting decimated.
Dazy, “Invisible Thing”
I’ve noticed that as I grow older, the average runtime of the songs I listen to has skyrocketed. I could probably say something cool about growing more patient with age, but honestly it’s just a combination of my taste devolving into gross little corners of black metal and ambient, combined with a mounting frustration at the self-seriousness of old-school punks and devout hardcore enthusiasts. “Invisible Thing,” though, feels like a much-needed reminder of how much can be done in under 100 seconds, with the fuzzed-out power-pop anthem—one of among 24 tracks on Dazy’s debut album, which, as its title suggests, is both a collection of “the first 24 songs” released by the artist and also a maximum blast of super loud singles—doing as much with its brief runtime as Basinski does in 75 minutes.
Landing directly between the bouncing, unpredictable beat of Pop Smoke’s chart-dominating “Dior” and FLOHIO’s criminally overlooked No Panic No Pain EP lands “Questions,” the latest track from French-Cameroonian rapper Dirtsa, whose production choices on the song channel the former without the problematic lyrics, and whose breathless flow invokes the latter (and whose name, unfortunately, prompts pages of Google search results for “Did you mean ‘dirty questions’?”). Paired with its equally entrancing visual, this is plenty to get you hyped for the EP that’s primed to follow.
Frontierer, “Glacial Plasma”
Frontierer has always dealt in extremes—you think you know how hard heavy genres like metal and hardcore can go, yet nothing could have prepared you for the mathy herks and djenty jerks of their debut LP Orange Mathematics back in 2015. Similarly, with that album firmly digested, “Glacial Plasma” still proves nearly too intense to sit through in its three and a half minutes of intense whiplash. It really feels less inspired by any offshoot of metal that came before it and more inspired by the elements. It feels like waiting through a heavy downpour that shows no sign of letting up—or a more compact force of precipitation like hail, or an avalanche, or glacial armageddon.
Joyer, “Cranky Boy”
I might just be saying this because I was five years old in 1996, but it feels like there’s an entire genre of laid back rock music that’s specifically about being five years old in 1996. Sort of in the way a certain chapter of emo feels defined by album covers mined from band members’ actual photo albums, artists like Fog Lake, Molly Drag, and Joyer make music the 30 year olds among us should put on while flipping through images of our childhoods. “Cranky Boy” certainly abets this mental setting with lyrics about hissy fits and a grainy home-video-looking visual featuring plenty of toys. But it’s the song itself that sets the mood—a contemplative slowcore arrangement that feels slightly out of focus, lost in its own past.
Julia Shapiro, “Come with Me”
I try to write about a wide range of music every month for this column, though it’s a bit troubling to think that the mellowed-out, downtempo light-psych song I chose this time around to counter all the metal and hardcore included here was described by the songwriter herself as “really evil sounding.” She has a point—“Come with Me,” the first single from Julia Shapiro’s new album which she describes as a sort of ouroboros of dark thoughts inspiring dissonant instrumentation which inspire dark thoughts, does sound like a calm trip through hell. I guess that may be an honest way of rebranding Signal Boost: the most evil-sounding songs released every month.
Listless, “High Risk”
You can keep your Tarantino and Eastwood revenge-Westerns, which generally see marginalized individuals used as props by white guys seeking to get even with each other—“revenge” really works much better as a genre within an industry egalitarian enough to allow these marginalized individuals a platform to tell their side of the story. This vein of hardcore has been going through a renaissance since G.L.O.S.S. instigated their Trans Day of Revenge, with the self-proclaimed “revenge band” Listless following in their footsteps. It may be hard to hear exactly what’s going on lyrically within “High Risk”’s ghoulish run time, but I’d guess it’s somehow a response to Clint spitting his fucking chew on everyone he meets.
Lotic, “Come Unto Me”
I’m fairly new to the deconstructed club scene, so what I’m hearing when I listen to a track like this is a Silent Shout single disassembled with various factions of the track plugged into a beat you can only dance to if you’re intelligent (am I close?). Interested to hear what sounds like a new direction from Lotic, who I previously became familiar with through “Surrender,” which sounds like a spiritually forebear to that ambient noise tape the Full of Hell guy recently put out. “Come Unto Me,” though, explodes with ideas and sounds—I’d call it “cinematic” if that word didn’t get thrown around as much as it does. Or if a cinema this futuristic existed yet.
Spirit Was, “I Saw the Wheel”
Look, I’ve heard over six black metal songs, which makes it OK for me to speak like I’m an authority on the genre. When “I Saw the Wheel”—spoiler—brings the beat back but more satanic, what they’re doing feels fresh within the realm of that genre rather than just using the well-worn trope of corpse paint as a concept to make the track unique (the thumping additional drumming buried in the mix until about the 4:30 mark feels particularly fresh). Takes Gregory Pepper’s flirtation with an idea the rest of the way into hell.
There seems to be a sweet spot for most rappers between when they learn they have natural chemistry with their collaborators and after they’ve reached the level of success where they’re being roped into guest spots for big-name artists left and right without really considering whether or not their contribution to the track even feels remotely natural. With TOBi and Jazz Cartier both being either up-and-coming or already-made-it emcees depending on who you ask, a joint track like “Woah” demonstrates both rappers at what feels like their peak as they trade lines back and forth without either of them losing steam. Feels like they could go forever before Cartier’s interruption referencing the song’s structure signals the outro.
Zulu, “Straight From Da Tribe of Tha Moon”
Hopping onto the Zulu train late on the occasion of the LA powerviolence collective dropping an official music video to their song about feeling caged nearly a year after the track came out—presumably delayed due to the fact that we were significantly more stuck-inside a year ago. The subject matter, of course, is more deeply systemic than that, vague in its lyrics but blunt in its, well, powerviolent sound. It only feels natural, then, to pair the track with footage that looks inspired by a Public Enemy music video, the band’s crew posting up in their SoCal neighborhood and letting their highly aggressive sound compensate for the smiles they can’t help but flash.