Bryce Rudow likes music. You can send all hatemail to [email protected] and tweet vitriol at him @btr0218 (or follow him to make him feel more popular while getting access to random new music he doesn’t have the time to write about).
Overloaded by all the “new music” options you keep hearing about? We’re here to help. Here are four songs we think you should fucking know (this week).
So first off, a bit of housekeeping…
Local band on the rise, Drop Electric, released their first single from their new album Waking Up To The Fire. You can listen to it here, as well as read a ridiculously poetic description of the song along with a quick Q&A with band member Kristina Rezkinov. The song is pretty different from their past material, showcasing a flare for electronics over a hip-hop beat. Don’t sleep on these guys.
The most awesome music website ever All Things Go has a pretty spectacular show tomorrow night at UHall with Little Daylight and Jakwob. I was late to the game on both but after binge listening to them this week, I cancelled plans to make sure I could be there to hear them.
Lastly, #MESITAWATCH2013 sirens went off again last week when Mesita released “Creature”. There’s not much else I can say at this point. The kid is on fire.
- Saint Yorda – “Disco”
ATG editor Adrian Maseda passed along Saint Yorda from Cork’s song “Disco” to me the other day and asked me what I thought about it because he couldn’t wrap his head around the song and wanted a second opinion. Curious, I checked it out and immediately understood why he needed help digesting it. It’s not often steel drums are paired with a tom-driven falsetto’ed bit of indie rock, but there it all was streaming through my headphones and peppered with vintage synth sounds, clopping cowbells, and crunchy guitar strums. Then, almost out of nowhere, the last 45 seconds of the song feverishly build to an emphatic close. It’s a lot to take in, but it works. It may have taken me a few listens to really get it cause sometimes I’m slower than the average bear, but it works, and it works well. The bass fits so succinctly with the toms that the song never seems to lose momentum and lead singer Paul O’Reilly’s emotive voice is captivating throughout.
It’s especially interesting to hear the unique direction of this song given their sonically scattered and sporadic releases. Most recently, they released a group of Songs Recorded with Cathal (possibly not an album title and just a description but whatever) which featured everything from the pretty excellent, Thom Yorkean “Death Ray” to the heart-achingly slow “Yr Bones” to the applicably titled “Surf Song.” Stylistically, while they didn’t snap the cohesion of the group of songs, they definitely stretched it; and that’s before you bring in their earlier releases like 2009’s barely-registrable ambient “Tokyo” or morose prom slow-dancing “Deep Water.”
But with “Death Ray” and now “Disco”, it’s apparent Saint Yorda (named after a character in a Japanese video game) definitely has both talent and my attention. I’m really interested to see what direction they run with, though. Interviews from a few months ago teased an upcoming mixtape so I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.
- Volcano Choir – “Byegone”
Whenever I hear someone say they want to be really famous, I don’t get it. Superstardom seems to crush more people than it helps, and I couldn’t handle not being able to go out in public without being swarmed by fans. Instead, I’ve always said that I wanted to be Ben Gibbard Famous. I would have all the money I would ever really need, I could probably get access to most people I’d want to meet, and I’d be able to pull Manic Pixie Dream girls like Zooey Deschanel (before she got all The New Girl on us), but most people, even if they were fans of mine, probably wouldn’t be able to recognize me. I’d be invisibly famous.
But I think it’s time to upgrade my wish.
I want to be Justin Vernon Famous. The 32 year old who is best known as the force behind Bon Iver has found a comfortable niche in the industry. He’s infinitely respected as a musician and songwriter, he’s got a legion of flannel-loving female fans, he gets to jam out with Yeezy, hell, he even won a Grammy. And, as more and more spotlights shine on Bon Iver, Justin Vernon continuously finds avenues where he is anonymously able to exercise his creative muscles.
Most people unfortunately don’t know that Vernon had a musical life before locking himself away in a cabin to create For Emma, Forever Ago; he was in a group called DeYarmond Edison which played a more folky, Americana take on what most people associate as Vernon’s sound. But what it seems like even less people know is that Vernon has almost as many side projects as P.O.S. (including one that they are both in); there is his work with Anais Mitchell, Gayngs, The Shouting Matches, and my personal favorite, Volcano Choir. It started as a small collaboration between Vernon and Collections of Colonies of Bees but has now become a group that is on the verge of releasing its second album.
Their first, Unmap, is a consistent, subdued bit of what might have to be described as slightly experimental indie folk; imagine Bon Iver’s second album but with a little more hutzpah. Songs like “Island, IS” and “Seeplymouth” were gems and some of my favorite releases of 2009, but despite reaching #92 on the Billboard 200, I’d have to say that Volcano Choir flew a bit under the radar. Now, with their first single off their new album, Repave, I don’t think anyone’s going to be able to ignore them.
“Byegone” is unbelievably beautiful. It’s shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that Vernon is able to produce such beauty, but this song is so good that it is almost shocking. It’s ability to transform from solemnly folky to powerfully uplifting is uncanny and with Vernon staying in his more raw lower register, this song dominates as an example of compelling emotional force.
Just yesterday, I was gifted Repave, and while I haven’t had the time to sit down and properly listen to it, I can guarantee it will be an album that I, and most others, will be giving its proper due soon.
- Dumb – Retina
While I had heard Dumb’s first release, “Dive,” a few months ago and appreciated their spin on this nu-grunge style (we’re going to have to pick a name for this genre soon enough so I’m going to be trying a few out)*, I ultimately forgot about the song. But now, with “Retina”, they’ve gone ahead and cemented themselves as a band worth fucking knowing.
For their young age, they do a pretty mean Pixies impersonation, but they do bring their own swagger to it; lead singer Dylan William’s voice croons a bit more while also hinting at something more vicious than Frank Black ever belted out. However, the song does the quiet, quiet, loud formula of quirky alt-pop so well that it could almost pass for an unknown band from the time period its borrowing from most. Honestly, it’s actually quite impressive.
And it’s the reason they’ve already gotten buzz from NME and BBC despite having only two real releases (though there are some whisperings that BIG BAD MUSIC LABELS have had their eyes and hands on this band for a while behind closed doors…conspiracies are awesome), and it’s yet another example that something pretty special is going on in Birmingham in terms of a music scene.
A third single called “Still I’m Stuck” is apparently coming out sometime in autumn and it will be interesting to see where they’ll be at in even that short time. But in the meantime, listen to my self-aggrandizing rant:
* Back when 2013 was just beginning, I made a few (sort of) bold predictions about where we were headed musically this year, and after knocking it out of the park when it came to Frightened Rabbit and A$AP Rocky, I’m going to give myself a pat on the back that I have been itching about for a while. In the article, I predicted “The 90’s will be the new ’80s; ’90s Alternative-Pop will be more and more of an influence for upcoming indie-pop bands,” and with more and more bands reaching back to ’90s influences, whether it be Birmingham’s Peace-led grunge scene or the increasing homages to ’90s alt-pop that are popping up on this side of the pond, I’m pretty confident that I deserve a gold star for being the smartest man alive. As The Raised By Wolves’ Dusty Durston said when I interviewed them a few weeks ago, “So much of what we are is what we grew up on, whether we like it or not; that ’90s super melodic pop radio…” And with that, I’m going to put on the new Diarrhea Planet and think about all the late ’90s punk it reminds me of.
And now, it’s time for…
THE GUEST WRITER YOU SHOULD FUCKING KNOW: Jeb Gavin Edition
While it has never been explicitly determined, it is likely JEB is an old grizzly bear who showed up at a BYT office party one day and never left. He trades bits of philosophy and life lessons for cheeseburgers, and once ate a tube amplifier to gain its power.
- Ashley Monroe – “Weed Instead Of Roses”
Finding new music is easier than ever, and finding good new music isn’t as daunting a task as people make it out to be. Yes, you have to be an arbiter of culture and think critically about the things you like, but whether or not you acknowledge it, you were going to do that anyway. Don’t eschew the marvelous signal for fear of having to wade through a bit of noise. There is no threshold anymore; find yourself something great and explore unabashed. While there’s stuff out there you should eventually discover (gay rappers like Cakes da Killa, or horn-and-drum jazz collectives like the No BS! Brass Band covering Mingus come to mind), I’d like to make the case you should try some new outlaw country – especially if it’s a woman or women making it.
The master’s thesis that is the history of country music aside, know that the radio station you skip over from one pop broadcast to another isn’t all of what country music has to offer. It’s pop country, in the same way pop music is mostly mediocrity shlumping up and down the Hot 100. Somewhere in the early ’90s, country music artists had the same epiphany alt rock bands would have after grunge started to peter out: you can cash in on a regression toward the mean. This was actually a return to the roots of country music, a formulaic system centered around Nashville, run with the efficiently of the Japanese railway system. For a period stretching from the early ’60s through the 1970s (though the argument could be made it lasted through much of the 1980s), a few country artists rejected this system. They wanted to write songs about outcasts, and they didn’t want to dress up in rhinestones and cut disco versions of their records (yes, Johnny Cash gets a pass. He always gets a pass). There was more to it, but I’m wandering east from West Texas and away from the point.
Then, outlaw country went dormant for over 25 years. But now that technology has made niche fandom possible globally, it’s time to bring it back. But why women you might ask? Again, more history: Tanya Tucker, Emmylou Harris, Jessi Colter; later in her life, particularly on Van Lear Rose, Loretta Lynn. Outlaw country has always had women, but the state of country music is such that there are now more ladies playing better outlaw country than there are men doing likewise, and the women are making it commercially viable.
The best known of the new lady outlaw country musicians is probably Miranda Lambert. (Note: if you do listen to even a little bit of country music and thought, “hey, what about Gretchen Wilson?” Don’t. Just don’t.) Lambert was one third of the not-really-super group Pistol Annies along with Ashley Monroe, and Angaleena Presley, and you should listen to their first album, Hell on Heels, but it’s not what I’m rambling on about here. The above track comes from Monroe’s latest solo album,Like a Rose. Of the three, I think Monroe tells the best stories, and does the best job salvaging bits of other country sub-genres to suit her needs. The album itself isn’t perfect, but “Weed Instead of Roses” is as close as you’re going to get to a dating ethos this summer, and the de facto mantra of women making outlaw country today. So here we go, kicking off the re-appreciation of outlaw country by us young, hip people.Don’t be scared of it. They’re storytellers, they’re damn good at it, and they’re trying to avoid kowtowing (NOT A PUN) to the country music industry you like to mock.
If you/someone you know is up for the task of writing non-sequitered musical ramblings, feel free to shoot me an email at [email protected], tell me I look pretty, and convince me why you should be a Guest Writer We Should Fucking Know.