It’s not easy to make pop punk music. Like, ok, that’s not true. It’s mechanically easy to make pop punk music. It’s not easy to make pop punk music that can live and breath as it’s own thing. The genre purists are going to piss and complain no matter what. You’re derivative if you stick too close to the formula, you’re a trend jumping phony if you deviate. It’s fucking ridiculous. But let’s get down to brass tacks. Diet Cig is fucking good.
Swear I’m Good At This is exactly what any band would want their debut full length to be. Diet Cig has honed their indie pop influenced punk rock down to a science over the course of one EP and two singles. They are a two piece that sounds huge. Everything is firing, and everything works.
Swear I’m Good At This is in the fine tradition of records that sound happy but are lyrically kind of a bummer. There are songs about failed relationships. Songs about feeling lonely and hopeless. There’s some 20-something ennui. There are a couple fuck you songs directed to a society that really doesn’t seem to get what the fuck is going on. It’s musical sugar to cover up real life bitterness and I love it.
This a record full of singles and mixtape fodder. “Link In Bio” and “Tummy Ache” were absolute no-brainers to be lead of singles. “Barf Day” and “Bite Back” would fit perfectly on a bummer mix. It’s a record that is definitely going to appeal to an entire demographic of disillusioned kids just trying to find their voice.
This is the kind of music that exists to let you know you’re not the only one going through some shit. It’s 100% the kind of thing I loved when I was in my 20s, and I know some kid is going to be stoked on it. Diet Cig have all the potential to be huge, and I hope they everyone sees it.
Bandcamp / Buy It
Computer Magic makes a kind of music that I really like, but really don’t talk about on here. I primarily focus on guitar based stuff in the indie and punk rock variety, mostly because that is the kind of stuff that is sent my way. I was really excited to get sent the promo stream of this though. Computer Magic is the stage name for Danielle “Danz” Johnson. Danz has been putting out music under this name since 2011. She has been very prolific in that time. Nine EPs and four LPs, including last years Davos. Most of these releases have been self released or on import from Japan.
Obscure But Visible is the new EP, and it is definitely a winner. It is very much in line with the music Danz has released thus far. It is reverb heavy synth pop that would slot nicely in that genre, or with indie pop stuff in general. The tone is wonderfully set by “Dimensions.” As the lead off for the records, it really embodies the dreamy sort of atmosphere that is present throughout the EP. There is also a very retro type vibe present on the EP as well. Especially on “Been Waiting” and “Gone For The Weekend.” Not retro like “it sounds old or dated,” but more in that it sounds what people in the past would assume “futuristic” music would sound. Does that make sense? It’s like an undeniable mixture of modern music and retro kitsch.
This EP is also a testament to Danz as a producer and creator. I always enjoy seeing the person creating the music also be the one producing it. Everything sounds great, and that is the reason. She knows where the vocals should sit in the mix, she knows how to get the atmosphere needed for the songs. It’s that personal touch that adds a lot of heart to things. Everything on here has passed through her hands. All the way down to it being released on Channel 9 Records, which she runs. This is the definition of DIY.
Obscure But Visible is a hell of an EP, and is definitely a melting pot of great things. It would fit in nicely in your collection, right by stuff from Broadcast, The Blow, or even Neon Indian. It’s pretty great.
Channel 9 Records
Second Date are a young band coming out of Virginia. Their eponymous EP, also their debut, has a lot going for it. It is definitely worth some attention. They come out with a sound that takes from 90s alternative and the more modern incarnation of dream pop and shoegaze. They do it really well for the most part. “Bored” and “Ghost” are both very dynamic songs. They have a definite Lush by way of Pity Sex sound to them.
Second Date do fall into some common traps though. This is hardly unexpected for the genre, especially given their pop influence. “Flake” is the most obvious example. It’s not a bad song, but not as strong as the other two. It lacks a bit of bite, due to slightly weaker lyrics and some strange music choices. It has this weird funk-esque guitar line and a really out of place solo at the end.
That bullshit aside, Second Date is promising band that has a bright future. There are some things they can improve on, but there are also things that they’re totally nailing. But, y’know, that is a common thing for young bands.
A band that plays music that is fuzzed out and poppy is most certainly a band that I want to check out. Feature is a great example of that aesthetic working incredibly well. They are a band that mixes some solid influences together into a great package. Pop punk, indie pop, and garage influences pop up throughout. All working well together, and all a little fuzzed out.
This self titled cassette is actually a compilation release. It is made up of the band’s Culture Of The Copy EP and their songs from the Tourists split EP with Slowcoaches. This results in there being a sonic difference between the first four songs and the last three. This makes sense, as the band went from a duo to a trio in that time. The songs from the Culture Of The Copy EP sound a little quieter, and more on the indie pop side of the fence. The remainder play more like more muscular and riffy pop punk. Sonically, Feature remind me a lot of bands like Grass Widow or Vivian Girls. Especially in the vocal department. Their harmonies are unbeatable.
Feature are a band that is really easy to enjoy. This compilation of their work shows a good amount of growth in a short period of time. They are definitely worth a listen.
Ruined Smile Records
There is something about the whole aesthetic of lo-fi that appeals to me. I’m a sucker for it. All the better if it’s steeped in great pop melodies. Captain Baby deliver this kind of thing in spades. Sugar Ox is a great indie rock record in general, but it’s the fuzz and pop sensibilities that make it stand out. Captain Baby is the latest project for Asher Rogers, who is probably best known for his time in Cactus. This is a different kind of band entirely. The punk and thrash influence is gone, and Captain Baby are making something different.
In fact, Captain Baby share more in common with bands like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Tokyo Police Club. Sugar Ox is an enjoyable listen in the first place, but the dabbling in more experimental things makes it a very interesting listen as well. Album opener, “I Say You,” starts the record strong. It is a great piece of fuzzy production, and just a driving thump. It sets the tone really well for what will come next. Other songs, like “Climb Your Tree” and “Forest Charm,” add a faster element. They take cues from world music and dance music production. Mixing an (almost) four on the floor beat with guitar driven indie rock, they almost have a new wave feel to them.
Sugar Ox is just a great record all around. It is a strange document of the middle ground where world music (Hindi-pop in most cases, some Spanish influence though), indie rock, and dance rhythms meet. Definitely something worth exploring.
I was briefly in Brooklyn last December. I was hoping that, in the week I was out, I’d be able to find out why there are so many great bands from there. My research was inconclusive. Let’s credit it to bridges or something. But, instead of a terrible conclusion based on terrible research skills, let’s talk about Field Mouse. Coming from the very fertile music scene in Brooklyn, they have made a record that will stand out from the pack. While the music they’re making fall into some very well tread tropes, they have managed to make the music their own.
Hold Still Life is a record that eschewed genre rules. You can call it a regular, adjective free indie rock record. You can call it an indie pop record. You can call it shoegaze, dream pop, or a million other genre tags that only nerds like me give a fuck about. All that shit aside, it is a good record. Hell, it’s a great record.
It’s the mixture of things that make it work. It’s an almost seamless mixture of straight ahead indie rock and dream pop/shoegaze. Songs can go from being driving to more dreamy and reverb heavy at the drop of a hat. You can have a song that is carried by guitars and drums lead into a song that is more reliant on synthesizers without missing a beat. The disparate styles are held together perfectly by the fantastic vocals of Rachel Browne. It’s driving and catchy, but then also a bit fuzzy and drawn out. Field Mouse is a band that exists in this weird open space where things that shouldn’t work somehow work.
The first three songs are a great example of the record as a whole. “A Place You Return To In A Dream” is a very straightforward rock song. “Water In The Valley” starts of with a great bass line, and has a more 90’s alternative (think The Breeders) sound to it. “Two Ships” is more driven by effects. It is a bit more spacey. And, really, the record carries on in this way for the remaining nine songs. “Netsuke,” which is right in the middle of the record, is all those things at once. Hold Still Life features a little from column A, and a little from column B. Then they throw in shit from column C through Z. Field Mouse are able to make it all work, and make it all make sense.
But, hell. It’s obvious that I really like this record. Field Mouse made a record that has so many things I love in one package. I mean, honestly. Hold Still Life is a record that you really should be listening to. Like, right now.
It seems the first talking point that most people bring up when discussing Little Big League is the collective pedigree of the members. It makes sense, but it is a little boring to do, right? It never really explains the project at hand. Let’s just sidestep that stuff and focus on the record. It’s pretty simple when we look at it that way.
Little Big League have a great LP here. These Are Good People is a great example of a band taking an almost decade specific sound, but avoiding the whole throwback gimmick. It plays primarily like a 90’s indie/alternative record. In a very straightforward way in some places, but filtered through college rock or emo in some others. Sometimes the guitar is twinkly, sometimes it jangles. The leads are simple enough, but catchy and hooky.
The most dynamic thing on the record is the vocals. Michelle Zauner’s vocals range from delicate and soft to high and powerful to rough and yelled. It adds a very diverse layer to what would otherwise be very genre normative songs. Shit, we get bits of each in the first three songs alone. The album opens with “Lindsey,” on with very powerful vocals. “My Very Own You” has moments of the more delicate side. “Dark Matter” gets rough at the end. This carries on throughout. It’s not for everyone though. Michelle Zauner doesn’t have a perfect voice. It ranges somewhere between Mimi Gallagher from NONA and Caithlin De Marrais from Rainer Maria (other people also say Karen O. So there’s that).
Long story short, everything pretty much works on this record. It may be walking down a pretty well worn path, but it’s still a lot of fun. It’s a record that can be put on and enjoyed. It’s not trying to redefine a genre. It’s not trying to revolutionize a scene. It’s comfortable and a little familiar. There’s not a damn thing wrong with that.
Little Big League