Signal Boost: 15 Tracks from September 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.
One thing I’ve loved about getting into extremely heavy music is that often times after purchasing releases from these artists on Bandcamp—who, for the most part, I know very little about outside of the hellish sounds they create and the press photos that match them—I’ll get a notification from the group that is completely at odds with the personas I’ve projected onto them. Likewise, APES’s insanely hard new track “Cornwall” arrived with a visual of fairly graphic found horror footage and the cheery assurance from the Québécois group that this is, quote, “what [they] think is [their] most brutal and best material yet!” (exclamation point theirs). Meanwhile the track is as full of hell as its contribution from Dylan Walker will have you believe, closing out two minutes of pummeling deathgrind with a harsh squeal that’s practically Walker’s calling card at this point.
I’ve reached the point in my life where I realize that it was not only dumb to leave my hometown and move to a major city with the intention of being closer to a cool music scene, but also that my hometown’s music scene was (or at least had the potential to become) extremely sick. For all you non-Boost heads out there, that town is Erie, Pennsylvania, which claims the singer of Train and the bassist of Between the Buried and Me as expats—though between whatever those two poles are seeped out a cool lo-fi scene which includes now-Pittsburgh-based Barlow among its crop. If 2017’s In a Stranger’s Car saw the band teetering on the edge of heavy dream pop and GBV-like lo-fi, Walls of the Future sees them diving headfirst into noisy, stargazing arrangements that swell into a blanket of fuzz as heard on “At Home.” After all, home is where the lead singer of Train is from.
Blake Saint David, “All Evil”
There are two conflicting energies in the new video from Chicago’s Blake Saint David: the first of which echoes the artist’s new label home of Sooper Records in its playfulness, juxtaposing an artist with a modest SoundCloud audience against a ravenous paparazzi treating them like they’re Kanye while going about their daily life (eating a sandwich, absolutely whiffing a jumpshot, etc.). The other energy is much darker, as hinted at in the title “All Evil,” with the extremely tense and deeply convoluted R&B instrumental making the track feel like a serious indictment of the lifestyle that the photogs are trying to capture. It’s a whirlwind of inscrutable sound and vivid imagery similarly captured by Body Meat earlier this year—I’m eager to hear what else will get tossed in the mix in the future.
Deserta, “Lost in the Weight”
If ever there was a song title to perfectly describe the song itself, “Lost in the Weight” provides a perfect descriptor for the ideal shoegaze recording it succeeds in embodying: a sound so dense and sprawling that the listener experiences the sensation of glancing at whatever device the sound is coming from five minutes in to the track to recall what they’re listening to, to find out how long they’ve been listening to it, and to realign themselves to reality. This one-off single mimics the whispered vocals of Domenic Palermo while swapping Nothing’s nihilistic lyrics and backing sounds for a sense of wonder on par with Andrew Hung’s skygazing LP from earlier this year, which in many ways better suits the genre.
Double Dagger, “Luxury Condos for the Poor (Extended)”
Ever since I hit the 10 year anniversary of my high school graduation, every single morning has been a Groundhog’s Day of learning that an album I was extremely into during that period of my life is turning either 10 or 15 years old—or, as in the case of Double Dagger, that many of the artists attached to these records haven’t even put out new music since celebrating these albums’ decennials, making me sound even older when trying to talk about them around younger music journalists. In any case, it’s exciting to hear new recordings from the dissolved Baltimore trio that cranked out tight, frisky punk songs so in line with the early output of groups like No Age and Surf Curse that I always forget about DD’s third band member. Unlike my high school reunion, I’m excited to show up to this.
Both parties on the G36 vs. JK Flesh split Disintegration Dubs put out incredible albums this year—the former a post-apocalyptic dancehall LP as The Bug, and the latter a collection of dizzying jungle tracks from the turn of the millennium as Tech Level 2 (you may know the artist better as jesu, though). Kevin Martin’s contribution to the split alongside Berlin-based producer Gorgonn feels like a continuation of his work on Fire, only with the aggressive verses of Moor Mother and Flowdan—and the intense production choices employed to match their paces—stripped to the bare bones of Martin’s stark, post-industrial vision. I’m also just a huge sucker for anything with a weirdo Bandcamp tag like “sewer techno.”
Little Hag, “Cherry”
If I know anything about humans, it’s that we seem to panic every time we hear someone sing in an unconventional cadence, making an artist like Little Hag a tough sell on first listen. So if I’m trying to convince you to get into the New Jersey group, let me instead direct you to the music video for their recent single “Cherry,” which—in addition to demonstrating Avery Mandeville’s singular raspy, quavering vocals at their best—creates a beautiful visual metaphor for remembering your ex as a literal trash can, providing absurdist imagery of what it looked like when you were still together and how dumb it is to wish that that were still the case. Incredibly catchy guitar hooks, but it might be Mandeville shouting “Fuck you” at a trash can at a party that does it for me.
Negative Shawdy, “Old Self”
As someone who writes about music I’m constantly having the thought that genres are developing much quicker than we’re able to come up with terminology to describe them—I don’t know, for example, how to categorize the melancholy, minimalist chillwave raps Chynna blessed us with for a few impactful years. Whatever you wanna call that, Negative Shawdy has picked up the torch with the impressively weightless “Old Self,” which positions her hard AF rap verses against completely unexpected angelic harmonies on every recitation of “Blue dream” in the track’s chorus. With the help of Air Volee’s visceral production, the track certainly succeeds in reflecting its lyrical documentation of the high that comes with dumping an old, caustic lifestyle.
PawPaw Rod, “Hit Em Where It Hurts”
Somehow I slept on this track for a year (per the visualizer’s YouTube comments it looks like everyone’s discovering it on Spotify, a platform I’m wary of taking recommendations from), but ever since Godmode uploaded the new EP it now resides on to Bandcamp I’ve had its overcast-funk loops stuck on repeat. Where the rest of the EP pulls from cleaner funk and soul influences (not to mention those explicit shouts to The Roots), “Hit Em Where It Hurts” feels like a fully unique fusion of those genres with bass-fueled moodiness matching the sense of longing covered in the lyrics. It’s the type of track you might wanna listen to for 61 consecutive minutes—and fortunately someone else has had that thought.
Springtime, “Will to Power”
It’s been bittersweet watching Tropical Fuck Storm grow out of their blues-guitar roots into a sound that could maybe best be described as a tin hat nebula, progressing while at the same time leaving behind a part of the band on their recordings which proves so vital to their raucous live set. As if to apologize for the continued experimentation on Deep States, Gareth Liddiard almost immediately followed that record up with news of a new collaboration with a pair of avant-garde jazz figureheads who, ironically, seem to keep Liddiard’s out-there ideas in check. “Will to Power” is a hell of a way to kick off the campaign for the trio’s new record, blending a moody guitar familiarly descendent from The Drones with steady piano and percussion that ultimately warps into a TFS-sanctioned whirlwind of guitar and vocals equally out of whack. Can’t wait to hear this song stretched to 15 minutes if and when they tour.
Threshing Spirit, “In Silent Judgment”
Has anyone written about how we’re living through a golden age of genre accessibility? Seems like every cool new artist I come across has a genetic makeup that’s like 50 percent genre I love and 50 percent genre I have no idea how to fully appreciate. Threshing Spirit, for example, is an extremely black metal project from an artist whose discography weaves its way through spheres of ambient electronics (I think—I know how to apply the word “ambient” as an adjective for music, though feel quite unqualified ascribing it as a genre) with ties to country (is that The Men album with “I Saw Her Face” on it country? No? Then yeah, no, I’m not really into country), with the first single somehow both reflecting that past output and staying trve to its most discernible influence. This is what I imagine the Demon’s Crest soundtrack would sound like if it’d had input from Morricone and the Weaver brothers.
There’s plenty of selling points on the new Tony Seltzer LP—from guest verses provided by Eartheater, Lil Ugly Mane, MAVI, and plenty of others to the promise of hearing a pitched-down voice shout “Hey Tony!” a whole bunch of times (personally, I was sold when I first saw a press pic of Seltzer rocking a Deathspell Omega tee, allegations of that band’s white supremacism aside). With “Joyride” promising the LP would be just what that single’s title suggests, I was also excited to hear verses from a bunch of names that appeared last year on CORPUS’s Mutual Aid EPs—especially TrippJones, who adds his nonchalant flow to the night-drive beat of “Keep It Low.” Some good spooky laughs in there, too, to make it seasonally appropriate for October.
Undo K From Hot, “Dumb Little Fucker”
Alright folks, I’m still not over this. I may be lurking the wrong corners of the internet, but when Nick Reinhart and Zach Hill dropped G.A.S. earlier this year and all we got were a few news posts announcing the new project from “Death Grips’ Zach Hill” with no mention of the duo’s prior band, Bygones, or even a single reference to Reinhart, whose prolific career within and outside of Tera Melos deserves at least a shout, I felt like I was living in a 2019 musical romantic comedy film directed by Danny Boyle with a screenplay by Richard Curtis and based on a story by Jack Barth. Between a long-overdo The Ladies reissue and a return to Undo K From Hot with a loose single called “Dumb Little Fucker” without so much as an arrhythmic peep I now feel like I’m living in an alternate universe where math rock and the city of Sacramento also do not exist.
*Twitter personality Eric Alper voice* What’s your favorite song that shares a name with the artist who created it, as well as the title of the album it appears on? I’m embarrassed to admit that off the top of my head the only one I can think of is She Wants Revenge’s “She Wants Revenge” from the album She Wants Revenge, but thankfully Upchuck’s new single “Upchuck” from the single Upchuck also fits the bill. Released through Famous Class Records, I could see the track appearing as a B-side to one of the label’s LAMC singles opposite someone like Meatbodies or JEFF the Brotherhood, though there’s also some heavy new-school Show Me the Body energy on their brand of body-war-inciting garage punk.
Webbed Wing, “Make a Dime”
I swear I’ve heard “Where Is My Mind?” reworked on, like, half a dozen songs this year, and you know what? That’s extremely fine. We can talk copyright law all day (thankfully we have friend-of-the-pod Nate for that), but my defense of the new Webbed Wing single—which takes a slightly twangier and shoegazier, and also less Fight Club-y approach to the track’s dramatic slow pacing and wailing guitar—is that it isn’t like they’re tapping “Livin’ on a Prayer” or something for a reference point (sorry if that’s not an example of an objectively bad song). WW’s seems to be an earnest love letter to friends and performance after a year where nobody could really rely on the latter to make a living. It’s certainly far from the Travis Barker–featuring anthem for cosplaying as an outcast it could have been!