The Tiny Telephone Boys are a threepiece from Boston and not your average band. Their write their bandname in formula: (T-T)b, and they add chiptunes (i.e., those synthy sounds from old school arcade games) to their classic emo sound. Chiptune emo? Really? But it actually works quite well on their Suporma EP. RIYL: The Hotelier, Modern Baseball, The World Is Beautiful… Available for pre-order now on limited colored cassette (silver w/ pink splatter) through Acrobat Unstable.
When I first heard Euphoric Ouroboric, unaware of who or what, the music evoked an image of a street performance by a motley theatrical group which you cannot pass by without stopping to watch and listen. It’s indie folk rock, with less common instruments, e.g. jarana jarocha and huapanguera (both Mexican), woodwinds and accordion, making it reminiscent of Neutral Milk Hotel at times, but it’s more than that: the beautiful song Helen, Can You Forgive Me? for example, would fit well in a mixtape with tracks like the Stones’ Fool To Cry. It’s a kinda strange album, but certainly a captivating and interesting one. It turns out to be by David Wax Museum – David Wax and Suz Slezak, with Alec Spiegelman – and they have already made several albums that I have yet to discover, their new full length is a self-released D.I.Y. home recording. I have no idea if they ever play in public places, but they would definitely get my attention, I would love to hear the great lyrics of Juniper Jones live.
Perfectly Lethal are a threepiece from Boston, featuring Stephen Benson (Drums, Vocals), Aaron Lange (Guitar, Vocals), and Chris Amaral (Vocals, Guitar, Bass). I am pretty sure they took their name from a Replacements outtake from Let It Be. They are no Replacements copycats though, but they do sound heavily influenced by ’80s American underground music, operating somewhere on the midpoint of college rock, powerpop and punkrock on their five-song Demonstration Tape. It’s a great first taste of the band, and their potential is on full display on EP standouts I Can’t Stand It and Henry VIII. Perfectly Lethal, remember that name!
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You may know J. Wang from bands like Tiltwheel, Dan Padilla or Altaira. Come Closer is Wang’s solo project and his first LP Pretty Garbage was largely recorded in the back of his house. It’s not a 100% solo effort, since Wang was helped out by his Tiltwheel/Dan Padilla bandmate Davey Quinn, and Chris Prescott (of Pinback and RFTC fame). The sound of Come Closer trades the punkrock from Wang’s other projects for pleasant laidback indierock, with hints of Superchunk, Jets To Brazil and the Promise Ring. Pretty Garbage has an understated quality making the record easy to overlook. It’s a grower though, and worth the effort of multiple listens. Songs
like Get It Wrong, Footsteps, The Last Time, and Mayday slowly get under your skin, the latter a subtle play on Springsteens’s Dancing In The Dark guitar riff. In the end, Pretty Garbage is a strong collection of songs that feel like a breath of fresh air. Out now on Pirates Press Records on some pretty cool vinyl variations. There also is a limited edition with a fanzine “describing lyrical content reference and the story behind making the album.”
This psychedelic pop / rock band from Los Angeles, California is a great discovery. After listening to Winds‘ debut album Look At The Sky once, I immediately became a fan. At the same time I realized that it’s a record that can only continue to grow, if only because there is too much to hear to fully comprehend at once. Band members have gained experience in Lucille Furs (their album Another Land was at no. 15 in my AOTY 2019 list) and Triptides, then you know what to expect. Check out the video below for The Way You Feel to get a better idea of that, although the track Chocolat, with French lyrics (performed by Nina Antonucci), is completely different. The album is out now digitally and on vinyl LP through Natural Music.
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‘A sound that is much easier heard than described.’ American singer-songwriter / multi-instrumentalist Mitchell Gonzalez finds it easier to make good songs than to put them into words. Then let me give it a try. I would call his work so far acoustic folk, but this new track titled Tell Me Now, Marina is completely different (and makes me more excited): energetic garage rock with a heavy guitar and awesome organ, think of JEFF The Brotherhood. Anyway, just listen and enjoy.
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Judge Grumble are an indierock/indiepunk band from Richmond, Virginia. They recently released their second album, Overruled! It’s the second act in a trilogy of concept albums and it’s quite the trip. Buckle up for an eclectic mix of poppy indiepunk tracks (Shy Guy, Kudos To You), quirky indierock (Literati, Quiltbag), and sketches that are plain weird. I asked the band to explain the origins of their cartoonesque bandname and the spoken word sketches on their record. “Back in high school we had this joke where we would come up with random phrases and call them “indie band names.” I’m not 100% sure but I think Judge Grumble was one of those. Waaaay way back in the first iteration of the band (2012 or so?) the “character” of judge grumble became an inside joke. We’d do the whole voice and improv little skits during practices and stuff. Eventually we decided we wanted to bring some of those skits to life in between the tracks for fun (and also to pad the length).”
Given the variety of songs, and the quirkiness of the sketches and some of the songs, it’s unlikely that you will like every single track on Overruled! But, Judge Grumble have made an album that is definitely worth your time. I particularly like how the band aims to make every song interesting. Listen to the many elements they’ve stuffed in Chewed Out for example. Right before the 5-minute song appears to overstay its welcome, the band introduces a pretty cool group vocal harmony that transitions in a punkrock fade-out. Judge Grumble doesn’t need to be quirky or eclectic to be interesting though. The straightforward indie rock of Braindead is one of my favorite songs on the record. But the song that especially drew me in to Judge Grumble is Weehawken, a throwback to the emo poppunk of the early ’00s with an infectious chorus. The band explains: “On the surface, Weehawken is about a little town on the far north side of new jersey and the ennui of a guy who commutes between there and NYC. But none of us have ever lived in NY or NJ… we just really liked the name—it sounds slangy, like “are you hawkin’? cause we hawkin’.” Somehow Alex turned that wordplay into something more meaningful.” Download Overruled! now on Bandcamp.
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I’ve never understood why moody postpunk bands like Protomartyr and Fontaines D.C. are such critics darlings and tend to end up in a lot of AOTY lists. Okay, Fontaines D.C. have some songs I like, but for the most part bands like that are too bleak or too boring for me. Basically, I have trouble connecting with them, which, of course, is a matter of personal taste – or more likely, a lack of complexity in my taste palet. But every now and then, there is a band that manages to pull off moody and complex postpunk in a way that I can fully get behind. Take Waste Man from New Orleans. On their second LP (One Day It’ll All Be You) they take punk and hardcore in new directions without losing any of the thrill of actual punk music.
Waste Man offer tempo variations, edgy bass lines and excellent guitar riffs. They constantly keep you on the tip of your toes with the unpredictability in their songs. It’s a record full of surprises that offers thrills, excitement, and cathartic releases that I often find to be lacking in this kind of music. Album opener The Siren is a good example of the many sides of Waste Man, where danceable postpunk verses and hardcore punk choruses bounce off each other. Run All Night is one of the most catchy songs on the record, which distantly sounds like a mashup between the Stooges and Thin Lizzy. Proofreaders, Singles, And Philosophers is one of the most exciting songs released in 2021, and already is one of my favorites of the year. And then there is album closer Wishful Thinking, in which Waste Man introduce the power rock ballad to the postpunk world. Quite the week for Feel It Records, who simultaneously released that excellent Spread Joy record.
Early 2020, Dazy released a three song digital single called Revolving Door. It was my first taste of the band, and the 90 second song Weatherman Got It Wrong hinted upon your-new-favorite-band material. Three months later, we are treated to an 8-song EP that shows even more potential: The Crowded Mind. Dazy play noisy and fuzzy altpop that will appeal to fans of Lemonheads and guitar-driven britpop. Underneath Dazy’s distorted sound are excellent pop songs, and tracks like See The Bottom, Right As Rain and Perpetual Motion would have received major air time in the nineties.
The crazy thing is, Dazy is not even a band. It’s a solo project by a music publicist (James Goodson). Goodson is also a member of grungepunk band Teen Death and poppunk band Bashful – make sure to check out their 2020 album Driving. Dazy’s releases are currently digital only. Let’s hope that Goodson ultimately will release his best tunes on a LP.
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Kip Berman had already made his mark with The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, but with his new solo project The Natvral he continues his career in a way that deserves your attention. The full-length debut album Tethers features nine indie folk rock songs that are more intimate than what we were used from his previous band (that’s what family life also does to artists), sung with his distinctive voice that draws attention to the lyrics. One of my favorite tracks is New Moon. Berman explains to Stereogum that this one is about a struggling musician he knew coming to terms with a love that wants something (or someone) a bit more stable – and knowing, almost before they do, that it’s not him. Listen below. Out now trough Kanine Records / Dirty Bingo Records.
‘Oh it’s time to save what’s left of your life // You’ll survive another night, then another night’