I would venture to guess that there’s a much larger pool of musicians who grew up playing in their school’s jazz band than there is of musicians who grew up actively playing shows with their friends inspired by the Modest Mouse albums they found in their older siblings’ room (only one of those two things is an extracurricular your parents generally pressure you into and can adequately explain to your relatives). If you think about it, it makes sense that there’s an untalked about high-school-jazz-band-to-indie-rock pipeline, but as these bands begin to sound more influenced by freeform noodling, improvisation, and prog structures, maybe it’s time we should address this.
One such band, Spirits Having Fun, is celebrating the release of their second LP today, and are using this occasion to put forth this observation with a dense playlist comprised of tracks that echo their own sense of adventurous riffing and left-turn percussing. With peers like Moontype, Wombo, Floatie, and Palberta in mind—not to mention Deerhoof, the rightful godparents of the movement—the collection of songs assembled by the band’s Andrew Clinkman does plenty to contextualize Two’s philosophy of indie rock forged by musicians who conceivably bought a fedora in their teen years but were too afraid to wear it in public.
Stream the playlist below, and read on for Clinkman’s insight—and make sure to check out Two here.
Wombo, “Sad World”
Wombo are lower-Midwest favs of ours, I love the way they build these super tight revolving grooves where it’s sometimes hard to tell where a phrase begins and ends.
Hennen, “Root For”
Brilliant track from the solo project of Hannah Rainey from Shady Bug. I love Hannah’s guitar playing, and how she lets each riff linger and have a moment in this song.
Locate S,1, “Community Porn”
Christina Schneider is a friend of the band and one of our favorite songwriters! Truly a supreme melody maker.
Izzy True, “Angel Band”
I believe Izzy played on our first show ever, and many since then. They are a true rockstar. I love this record so much, and the bass/guitar riff from “Angel Band” lives rent-free in my head.
Carrie Furniss, “Bitter and Sweet”
Brand new song from Carrie who’s been a dear bud of mine for about a decade and a half. This one is shimmering ultra-pop, and the directness of the hook has the power of ten thousand laser beams.
Zach Phillips, “Heaven a Smile”
It feels like Zach has churned out, like, three of my favorite records of the past decade in a span of about six months. Ma Clement’s moody vocals surf above turbulent chord changes. There is so much activity here and yet the whole package somehow manages to be catchy as hell.
One of our absolute favorite Chicago bands. Sam Bern’s main riff bursts over the bar line with rare beauty. Lots of irregular rhythmic stuff happening here, and yet the song cruises along so smoothly. I think about this song a lot.
Creative Healing, “Cow’s Feet”
Full disclosure: 50 percent of Spirits Having Fun also belong to Creative Healing. I really love this record they put out earlier this year. Nigh unclassifiable intersection of free jazz, old-time, and many other things. Andy Allen and Mia Friedman are geniuses of the highest order whom I cherish.
Deerhoof, “Wrong Time Capsule”
Deerhoof are the masters of loose, free-flowing, infectious grooves and enormous riffs. This song is one of our favorites from the catalog. The staggered entrance of guitar, bass, and drums is one of my favorite musical moments ever. It generates so much forward propulsion; feels like a rock band falling down the stairs.
Ruth Garbus, “Pitiful Poetry”
Ruth is a treasure. She draws immense beauty out of such sparse ingredients. How does she do it? The Hildegard von Bingen of Joni Mitchells.
Palberta, “Red Antz”
Modern masters of dissonance as consonance. Their hooks have so much life and you never seem to hear them the same way twice.
Moontype, “Stuck on You”
Beloved darlings. I love so much the way they present Margaret’s knotty, weird songs in such a buttoned-up and polished manner that sounds so stadium huge. Every time I listen (I have many, many times) something tucked deep inside the song reveals itself to me. Endless treats for every listener.
Ryan Power, “The Cavalry”
Ryan’s music has been cherished by all of us over the past decade or so. He makes songs that I compulsively start over again as soon as they’re over. Just perfect music. Ryan also mixed and mastered “Two”!
Kevin Wynd, “Isittimetogetsentimental?”
Kevin Wynd is our nemesis. At least one song on our new record is an extremely targeted diss track directed toward him (I will dedicate a three-second-long guitar riff to anyone who can correctly guess which one). This song slaps though.
Secret Sibling, “Didn’t Wanna Tell You”
Michael is a marvelous musician and songwriter. Kim Mayo, who is featured on this track, simply possesses one of my favorite voices on planet earth.
Borey Shin, “Thanks, Sigh”
Borey is the secret weapon key to so many beloved projects over the years and a beautiful person to boot. This track reminds me of an ornate music box bestowed upon you from your grandmother—the melody sings in your heart for eternity.
Chris Weisman, “Socrates”
Chris Weisman has been staggeringly prolific over the past 20 years. Listening to his discography is like exploring an infinite network of caves each with the most strange, exquisite crystals I’ve ever seen. One of the eminent masters of melody.
Dorothea Paas, “Anything Can’t Happen”
Another installment of what feels like the best year of recorded music in recent memory. I love the way that Dorothea lets every phrase breathe and expand and come to its own organic conclusion. Additionally, I pantomime the huge epic drum fill that arrives almost precisely at the golden section of the song 100 percent of the time I listen to it.
sundog, “Made It Thru”
What a lush, gorgeous guitar texture this is. Jon’s voice has such a stirring immediacy to it in the way the melody hangs right along the edge of the break in his voice for most of the song until he finally bursts through it yielding some glorious yodeling.
Old & Weird, “Kirkobain”
I love Old & Weird! Their songs sound so free and alive. Righteously untethered tunefulness. First shown to me by dear friend of the band Julia Dratel, who directed the “Entropy Transfer Partners” music video.
Jolee Gordon, “I Can’t See It”
Delightful pop. Melodies that shift and bend before arriving at an endpoint. You can’t predict or “see” where they’re going, you just have to surrender to the song and follow along—word painting, I think!
@, “Friendship Is Frequency”
This record caught me off guard! It’s so good, and this song in particular has that quality of feeling like it has always existed somewhere in the universe and Stone and Victoria uncovered it for the world to see.
youbet rocks! This track feels like a pot of pasta with the lid on simmering along that could boil over at any moment, but instead just hangs in that zone of max kinetic intensity.