“‘Another Year in Hell’ is a commentary on the crushing realities of the pandemic as well as a testament to the global, fragile, and deeply personal ties that keep a scene alive. Opening with Overo’s searing feedback and anthemic vocals, the record next threatens to break speakers with Punch On!’s chaotic heaviness. On Side B, Zochor teases bouncy Revolution Summer energy before Coma Regalia closes out with desperate, explosive emoviolence. The result is a cathartic journey that leaves one both nostalgic for the past (after all, nothing says “DIY screamo” quite like a 4-way 12” released by 8 labels) and surprisingly hopeful for the future.”
My relationship with hardcore is varied at best. I mention this because hardcore split records are always hard for me to analyze critically. It mostly comes down to either liking it or not. This record is a solid slab of “I like it.” I like hardcore that still has melodic elements. I like a sound that isn’t just variations of the chugging guitars and RAHRAHRAH vocals. If a band leans into that style, then I like it to be a little weird. All those bases are covered. All four bands are engaging as fuck.
Ok. It’s 7am on New Year’s Eve as I’m writing this. I barely slept last night. I guess it’s year end list time. 2020 was a whole goddamn thing. In the broader sense, the pandemic and politics of the year were a fucking disaster. On a personal level, I had to leave Illinois at the end of the summer. I got transferred at work. I’m now up in Minnesota. It’s…ehhh. I can’t wait for live music to be back. I want to see how the Minneapolis music scene compares to Chicago’s. That will be a tough challenge. Chicago is the best.
Anyway. These are my favorite records of the year. In alphabetical order, because that just makes sense. Ok?
Anna Burch – “If You’re Dreaming” The Chinkees – “K.A. Music” Dehd – “Flower Of Devotion” Frances Quinlan – “Likewise” Gia Margaret – “Mia Gargaret” Gladie – “Safe Sins” Joan Of Arc – “Tim Melina Theo Bobby” Melkbelly – “PITH” Nana Grizol – “South Somewhere Else” NNAMDÏ- “Brat” Ohmme – “Fantasize Your Ghost” Open Mike Eagle – “Anime, Trauma And Divorce” Overo / Asthenia – “Split” Ratboys – “Printer’s Devil” Slow Pulp – “Moveys” Sugar High – “Love Addict” Surf Rock Is Dead – “Existential Playboy” Tenci – “My Heart Is An Open Field” Thank You, I’m Sorry – “I’m Glad We’re Friends” V.V. Lightbody – “Make A Shrine Or Burn It”
It’s worth noting that Gladie and NNAMDÏ both put out a bunch of great music this year. Consider everything they put out as being on this list.
Also, did anyone have a better year than Kris Esfandiari? Absolutely everything she put out this year was great. She released music as Sugar High, Miserable, Dalmatian, NGHTCRWLR, and KRIS this year. Everything sounded different, and everything is worth a listen. Excited to see what the new King Woman stuff will sound like.
Fuck it. That’s it. Spotify playlist included below.
2020 has been a disaster, and independent music is not immune. The live show ecosystem has fucking crashed. This split from Overo and Asthenia is a product of that. It was originally meant to be supported by a Japanese tour in November. That didn’t happen, and here we are.
I’ve talked about Overo before, and it’s absolutely no surprise that their songs are both fantastic. Their sound harkens back to the post-hardcore/screamo scene that was really hitting it’s stride in the 90s. They wouldn’t sound out of place in the Gravity Records stable of bands. Their sound flies effortlessly between quiet and loud. Delicate and intense. The guitars and vocals from Lindsay Minton and Brendan Stephens work so goddamn well in concert with each other. They have a great give and take, and that would be the star of any show. That said, I want to talk about the rhythm section of a minute. The low end on these songs absolutely propel things forward. All the credit in the world to Mercy Harper and John Baldwin. The former on bass, and the latter on drums.
“Haunted by Heat” is an example of how you can have a disjointed song flow together by sheer force of will. It’s a segmented song where the different parts are punctuated by a combined blast of guitar, bass, and drums. It’s a song about loss and coming to terms with the end of something. Engulfed in flames, left to pick up the pieces. It’s followed by a 47 second ripper called “Near the End.” The lyrics are simply “she told me that love is not enough.” It’s direct and to the point. Things end, no matter how hard you try.
Asthenia were definitely not on my radar prior to this release. I have to admit that I am largely ignorant to the punk and hardcore music coming out of Japan. But, goddamn, I need to pay attention. Their style of post-hardcore works perfectly on a record with Overo’s. They kick off their side with “人間たち” (Humans). Hiroshi Sasagawa told FLOOD that the song is “various punchlines thrown together, kind of like At the Drive-In style.” It’s followed by “幽霊たち” (Ghosts), which is about grinding routine. It’s about how you end up floating through your life without living at all. It jumps from calm guitar and soft vocals to heavy distortion and screams. The quiet/loud, slow/fast dynamic absolutely drives the point home. You can be lulled into false comfort easily, and you have to fight against it.
There is a level of angst that is almost universal. You can feel it in these songs. We’re all treading through almost insurmountable levels of bullshit. Music like this serves as a catharsis. We have to fight through it. We’re witnessing the end of a lot of old systems, but we can build something better. We fucking have to.
(This record is a joint release by eight labels. Choose your own adventure depending on where you are located. Asthenia is putting it out on their own Forge, but I don’t have a link. Check their website, I guess?)
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”
Overo is a band that I was stoked about the minute I heard they existed. The band is made up of Lindsay and Mercy from Football, etc., Brendan from Perfect Future, and John from Rose Ette. I’m not going to bore you with a lot of introduction and bullshit. Suffice to say, that is a goddamn line up.
The release here is a two song demo/single. The two songs featured are solid post-hardcore, but they also embraces the emo and punk connections. Both have a strong quiet/loud dynamic, but in notably different ways. “Cold Concrete” nails that dynamic with the vocals. “Shattered” with the music. Lindsay Minton and Brendan Stephens have very different vocal styles, but they work really well together. “Cold Concrete” has the former’s singing delivery going head on into the latter’s more yelling/screaming delivery. “Shattered” features more vocal interplay, with both singing at the same time.
I really enjoy how the song play with the post-hardcore style in different ways. “Cold Concrete” has a punk aggression to it. It’s a short song that drives to it’s conclusion. There isn’t a lot of posturing, but there are great riffs. “Shattered” is more jagged and angular. It starts with a minute of delicate guitar work before it crescendos into a mathy kind of jam. The guitar lead is fantastic and the shift at the midway point is a thing of beauty.
The long and short of this is simple. You’ve got a band with a killer lineup making two of the strongest genre songs I’ve heard in a minute. If there was a release more in my wheelhouse, I sure haven’t found it yet. Here’s hoping we get more stuff from this band.