Melkbelly is a noisy post-punk band that turns standard rock songs into a mess of lo-fi experimentalism. I’ve had a passing interest in them for a while now, but they never really clicked for me until I heard Miranda Winters’ solo record back in 2018. It put a lot of the songwriting into perspective. There are some great melodic songs buried in the noise, sludge, and experimentation.
Pith, as a record, is the deconstruction as final product. You have so many moments where you think this record is going to go in an expected direction, but then it just turns left. The album opens this way. “THC” is a straight forward, melodic song that devolves into extended noise. “Sickeningly Teeth” just keeps changing tempos to the point that it’s an uncomfortable, jittery listen. “Kissing Under Some Bats” is a three minute song that turns into the guitar repeating a single chord for damn near the rest of the seven and a half minute run-time. All while the background just layers and layers until it is a wall of noise. But, even at its most out there, the songs remain coherently songs. To keep this review Chicago centered, this is what I think U.S. Maple would have sounded like if they gave a fuck about theory.
It’s a very real possibility that someone from Chicago will read this and label me a suburban asshole who is missing the point. And, to be honest, they’d probably be right. All I know is that I love this record. It’s not an easy one to define, but it’s definitely worth a listen. Especially if you have an ear for melodic music that is covered in noise.
Wax Nine Records
Some of my favorite version of punk and hardcore come from places where punk and hardcore aren’t huge. A lot of great stuff has come out of the Midwest and the South, and we don’t really give it the attention it deserves. DayWaster seems like one of those bands. My knowledge of Paducah, KY is limited to driving through it on my way to Tennessee, but I can’t imagine there being a lot of youth counterculture there.
DayWaster is a hardcore band for assholes like me who generally don’t like the genre. It’s a hardcore band made up of people who are probably too talented for the genre. Every song, even the simplest sounding ones, have some shit going on in the background that you might miss if you focus on the overall package. “DW” opens the album with an intense Dead Kennedys vibe. “Stuff The Leg” has this start/stop riff going throughout that adds a stuttering tension to the song. It’s these little things that sell the record for me. You’re expecting some by the books 4/4 bullshit, but you get these little leads and shifts that add a lot of nuance and dimension. I know that sounds like faint praise, but I don’t mean it in a condescending way. In a genre where the norm is “angry dude yelling over simple chords,” this kind of stuff stands out.
So, I mean, I don’t know. I’m definitely not the target demographic for this record. I only have a passing interest in the genre. I don’t come from a small town scene. But, despite all that, this record worked for me.
You will see a lot of SST Records references when people talk about Bauwaves. I hate starting with that kind of reference, but it is very apt. From a musical and production standpoint, there is more than a little Hüsker Dü and Dinosaur Jr influence to this band. Most of the songs on u r everything would definitely fit on a playlist of stuff from Flip Your Wig or You’re Living All Over Me. Maybe throw some Lemonheads in there too. If that sounds appealing to you, go listen to the record. It can really be that simple. But, as always, I need to make everything a whole thing.
One of the greatest parts of early alternative rock was the way bands were willing to take chances. More specifically, that they allowed themselves to be vulnerable in a way that punk didn’t necessarily allow up to that point. Punk was still young, and in the throes of the nascent hardcore scene. The genre still had an angry, nihilistic edge to it. Alternative rock came out of that, but made some changes. Sonically, the music was still punk. Lyrically, it was something a bit different. The lyrics were more personal. The bands were able to express other emotions. It’s that tradition that Bauwaves is part of.
u r everything isn’t a fun record. It’s not a happy record. In fact, it is a profoundly sad record. These songs are Lew Houston telling you exactly what he was going through in detail. It’s a record about depression. It’s a record about angst. It a record about knowing that you are fucking up your life, but you just can’t seem to stop. That is what makes the record so goddamn engaging. You are listening to someone using music as a way to deal with trauma. It is a record of catharsis. You can hear this all over the record, but I think “Years Later” and “It Ain’t Real” are the strongest.
On their debut, Bauwaves make a 30 year old style sound fresh and vibrant. This style of alternative rock has largely fallen out of fashion, but it’s nice to see some people still care. Bauwaves are students of the genre, and they have added a great piece to the overall canon.
I made a spreadsheet of new releases in 2019. I tried my best to listen to as much as I could. I managed to listen to about 30% of it. Not super great. Anyway, in alphabetical order, these are records I liked this year. Also, a Spotify playlist of 2019 stuff. Alright.
beabadoobee – “Space Cadet” (but, also “Loveworm”)
Ceremony – “In The Spirit World Now”
The Coathangers – “The Devil You Know”
Dowsing – “Sky Coffin”
Elton John Cena – “All Rats Go To Heaven”
Faye Webster – “Atlanta Millionaires Club”
Foie Gras – “Holy Hell”
Funeral Advantage – “Nectarine”
Girl K – “For Now”
Haybaby – “They Get There”
Jay Som – “Anak Ko”
Jetty Bones – “-”
Kitty Kat Fanclub – “Dreamy Little You”
Lettering – “Harbinger / Less Violent”
Lili Trifilio – “Book Club”
Lilith – “Safer Off”
Long Knives – “The Subject”
Murs – “The Illiad Is Dead and The Odessey Is Over”
Otoboke Beaver – “ITEKOMA HITS”
Overo – “Overo”
Pedro The Lion – “Phoenix”
Perennial – “Food For Hornets”
Petite League – “Rattler”
Pivot Gang – “You Can’t Sit With Us”
Quelle Chris – “Guns”
Ramona – “Deals, Deals, Deals”
Sheena, Anika And Augusta – “Simple Pleasures”
Slow Pulp – “Big Day”
Strangers – “Good Enough”
FROM THE INBOX:
Looking back at the religious upbringing that guitarist/vocalist Chrisy Hurn has – for the most part – since left behind, and gazing ahead at the person she hopes to become, “Have I Been Deceived” finds her further questioning “the shit I’ve held on to” in a dreamy country-rock sway.
Speaking on the new track, Hurn says:
“Think about “Have I Been Deceived” as an open letter to God. This past year, I have been feeling like I was brainwashed. I was taught to think in a particular manner, taught to love in a specific way, taught to think about my body and sexuality in a specific (ahem oppressive) way, and quite honestly at the time, I ate that shit up. I was the girl in highschool trying to convert all my friends, telling everyone to stay abstinent, listening to every Christian band that sounded almost as good as the real thing. That was my entire identity. Throughout my twenties, this identity fell apart.
I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable with who I was, so much that being around any type of Christian culture, makes me feel nauseous, or worse.
I want to let that go, I want to think clearly about faith, but I am afraid that I am not able to. I am afraid that I was gaslighted into loving something that is wrong or an ugly version of something that could be good. I don’t know who I am without my past. I don’t know who I am moving forward. I wish I had a more clear answer but I don’t; I am just here.”
Basement Revolver is a band who has been kicking around for a minute now. I posted one of their songs back in 2017. I always wanted to give them a proper write up, but I never did. I love fuzzy sounding indie rock, and their new single delivers that. It also adds a little country twang to the sound too. This particular song has a definite Cranberries vibe to it.
Lyrically, the song is also great. People who grow up in religious environments can really only go one or two ways. They continue with it, or they question and defy it. It’s a personal story that is always compelling to hear. Even in subtle ways.
Finally, the video is great. Stop motion is always a thing I’ll love.
Wax And Digital is out now.
FROM THE INBOX:
In theme and style, A. Billi Free effortlessly slides between the present and the future and between earth and space on her debut album I Luma dropping August 12th on Tokyo Dawn Records. Meaning “in front” in the Samoan language, I Luma centers A. Billi Free’s sincere musings on discovery and adventure in her universe over soulful, uplifting, dance-ready jams.
I Luma is backed by an electronic/pop/alternative R&B sensibility entirely composed and produced by Chicago production duo and Tokyo Dawn artists, Tensei. Interstellar jazz multi-instrumentalist Angel Bat Dawid on clarinet sets the tone for this enchanted musical journey on the track “Flourish”.
Recorded in New Mexico, Illinois, and Massachusetts, the resulting magic outweighs the challenges of this type of creation as the album’s sonics are strong and richly layered, providing a solid foundation for A. Billi Free’s smooth tone and earnest message to transmit through the cosmos. Rooted in an eclectic blend of hip hop, soul and electronica, she has spent the last decade in the deserts of southern New Mexico and west Texas fusing elements of both the city and the border into her sound.
Video by Scott Iulianelli, Analog Prints.
A. Billi Free is exactly the kind of surprises I like getting in my email. Her new record is absolutely fantastic. I can’t recommend it enough. It’s just a great mix of pop, hip-hop, R&B, and soul.
A. Billi Free
Tokyo Dawn Records
FROM THE INBOX:
This song was inspired by the feeling of youth and naive invincibility.
The emotions experienced when you are young and feeling misunderstood.
Stagnant and searching for a reason to keep feeling like the past wont catch up to you.
“PAL” is a rollercoaster of thoughts, trying to make sense of multiple personalities and your own insanity. This song always brings me back to multiple places and experiences throughout my youth/young adulthood. Falling in and out of love. The transition of realizing my parents are flawed people just like you. Driving down a beautiful tree-lined road with my friends, looking for something fun to do and searching for a way to sustain that feeling of invincibility.
Dan Edmonds produced “PAL” at Fort Rose Studio in Hamilton.
Ross Miller (The Dirty Nil) really helped produce and shape the song with me in a way that captures the essence of it to a perfect T – just an added bonus of having grown up together and experiencing the same time-killing nights out. With Jason Bhattacharya on the kit, we all had so much fun adding something special to each session that made our hearts flutter.
Hope you enjoy listening to “PAL” as much as I did making it!
~ Julianna Riolino ~
I absolutely love this kind of stuff. I guess you could call this indie rock with a slight folk influence? Either way, it’s 100% my jam. This is the second single J.R. has released this year. The previous single, “BE MY MAN” fucking goes. Make sure to check that one out too. I’m really looking forward hearing more. Hopefully these two singles mean an EP or full length is coming soon. A real press person would probably look into that.
I’m changing the “Song Of The Week” feature into “From The Inbox.” This is being done for a few reasons. But, it’s mostly because calling a feature “song of the week” only makes sense when you update it once a week. Also, most of what gets posted is stuff I get in my email.
There will probably be a few things getting posted that aren’t from the inbox, but ehhh. The format is simple. Media, one sheet blurb, and then a dumb note from me. Yep.
All five of you, please make note.
Lilith – “Vacation”
Usually I post these with some press blurb from an email or something. I was not sent any press release for this particular one. Safer Off is a record I’ve been looking forward to, and I just really like this band. I’ll always love some good pop rock.
Take This To Heart Records
I (relatively) recently was talking about Long Knives. When discussing them, I mentioned how much I liked Kris Moya’s songwriting. As luck would have it, I have more of their music to talk about. I should have talked about this back in May, but I’m the worst reviewer. Anyway. Strangers is Moya’s solo project. Being responsible for all the instruments and vocals, save for some of the backing vocals, Good Enough is a record that speaks directly to their influences. I feel like that is both appealing and intimidating for any musician. Your project will sink or swim based on your vision and voice. The proverbial buck stops with you. Luckily, this record swims.
One of my favorite things about this record is that it taps into a different part of the greater punk genre than Long Knives does. That band was firmly on the emo side of the fence, this project is definitely more on the indie rock side of things. Good Enough would sound right at home on a label like Salinas or Don Giovanni. This is the kind of music that will always appeal to me. To be honest, if you like that kind of stuff, I don’t know how you couldn’t find something to like on this record. You want a hooky pop influenced song? “Strangers” and “30 Day Free Trial” are there for you. An energetic, uptempo jam? “Like Fun Gay, Not Angry Gay” has got you covered. Shit, “If The Apocalypse Comes, Beep Me” closes the record in a way that does both.
My favorite kind of song is an undercover sad one. I think Good Enough is a record that speaks to that. Even an upbeat sounding song can have a bit of bummer introspection. “Like Fun Gay, Not Angry Gay” speaks to that. It’s got a triumphant sound to it, but lyrics like “When my body no longer feels unworthy of taking up space // When my brain is no longer filled with shame” speak to the struggle that has being overcome. See also: “If I’m busy then that’s why I’m still around // I keep myself busy, but it brings me down // I’m out of control when I’m alone” in the record closer. To me, that’s that kind of thing that makes the record worth listening to. Anyone can make an indie punk song. Actually using the genre to say something is when songs become great.
Strangers is a project that just appeals to me in almost every way. By any metric I have available, I would say this record has been super slept on. I hate RIYL statements, but this record would certainly appeal to fans of stuff like All Dogs or Swearin’. Ok?