It has been a busy few weeks for Nick and I between shows galore for both of us (drummers amirite?!) and work and boring “real life” stuff so we didn’t post for you the last few weeks. So here we are again, and back at it with some stuff from the last few weeks(ish) that we dug and wanted to share with you. Take a listen to these songs and stay tuned, we are always digging into new stuff we want to share! Also don’t forget to tune into Nick’s radio show, Radiant Point, every Wednesday night for even more music both new and old.
As always, if you’re in a band or from a label, don’t hesitate to reach out and let us know about you! If we dig ya, you’ll get a nod in the column. Read on to find out what we dug the last week or so:
Atlas Engine– Simple Animal. Brooklyn’s own Atlas Engine is here with the latest single and the next installment from their upcoming EP Part 2…There Can Be No Regrets, the follow up and companion to 2021’s When The Compass Resets…Part 1. The songs showcases the lush and sweeping shoegaze qualities of this band with fuzzy, nuanced guitars and once the crescendo hits, beautiful vocal harmonies from singer Nick LaFalce accompanied by Meredith Lampe (of Colutura) and Caroline Yoder (of Fruit and Flowers) to close out the song. This is one of our most anticipated releases of the spring so be sure to keep your eyes and ears peeled for the full release due out 5/13 on Favorite Friends Records. [KH]
Boyish– I Think I Hate It Here. This is the latest from the catchy bedroom pop duo, and I immediately found myself reaching for the repeat button as soon as it finished after I heard it for the first time. The song clocks in at just two and a half minutes and in that time it packs a little bit of a harder uptempo edge than some of their previous material, mixing in plenty of jangly guitars, wistful vocals, and a crunchy lead guitar line to tell the story of a night at the movies gone wrong/ex drama. If you closed your eyes and didn’t know you were listening to something that was just released, you’d think this was a late 80s bop right out of the UK and the post C86/dreampop scene. That’s hardly a bad thing and in fact late 80s dream/jangle pop is one of my favorite eras of indie music, so I found a lot to love on this one. This is one of the bands I’m most looking forward to seeing play live and I am also very ready to hear the rest of the upcoming EP this song is a part of, My Friend Mica, which is due out this spring. [KH]
Carlton Jumel Smith– The Lovelieness of You/Heaven In My Arms/Devoted To You. New York’s Carlton Jumel Smith is a soul music lifer. For decades, he worked the club circuit and recorded independently released albums. In 2019, he released the magnificent 1634 Lexington Ave., which brought him to many people’s attention <raises hand> for the first time. Smith has returned with three excellent singles in advance of a what I hope is another record. Simple grooves and uncluttered, tasty arrangements provided by Timmion Record’s house band, Cold Diamond and Mink, serve as perfect vehicles for Smith’s strong, clear voice. He will immediately bring to mind the great male soul singers of old, particularly Al Green. “The Loveliness of You” is a slow jam, with an unadorned rimshot beat, subtle guitars and keys, and a countermelody of horns playing of Smith’s heartfelt devotional to a woman he loves. “Heaven in My Arms” continues similarly, a deep groove with light guitar and keyboard touches, giving Smith a foundation for a dynamic vocal performance. “Devoted to You” is funkier and upbeat tune, showing off the band’s swing and Smith’s rich and powerful voice. Though he may be a new to many of us, you can hear in his voice that he has been steeped in soul music for a long time. Hopefully more to come from Smith this year! [ND]
cheerbleederz– nail biters. A bit punk, a bit C86, the latest from this UK outfit is catchy as hell with a bouncy bass line and great harmonies throughout that give way to fervent shouts during the last chorus. “I don’t know what you’re doing, I don’t know how to be sane, there’s always something itching at me in the back of my brain” the words giving voice to the anxiety of just existing in the world in 2022, not always an easy thing to do. Cheerbleederz captured this feeling in a two and half minute indie punk gem and have given me (and I’m sure lots of other people) something to really relate to. This is the second single from their upcoming debut album even in jest, due out this summer. [KH]
Dehd– Empty In My Mind. An ode to a new crush, the giddy potential of possible new love and all the hope and longing that goes with it. Who can’t relate to the fun and simultaneous heartbreak intense pining brings? This song definitely has you covered in that department. The indie pop trio have released three other singles ahead of this one, all part of the upcoming album Blue Skies due out 5/27 on Fat Possum. [KH]
Francie Moon– In The Light. The latest from the project helmed by Melissa Lucciola (who also drums in Gustaf), this new single is a quick slice of all the psych/surfy elements the band with fuzzy vocals and fuzzy riffs galore. This is the lead off single for the new album What Are We Even Really Doing? due out on 6/22 via Halfshelf Records and Sifter Grim. I’ve known Lucciola more from her work in Gustaf so it’s nice to explore her other work and her skill as a songwriter and frontperson and I’m very much looking forward to everything the new album has to offer come June. [KH]
The French Tips– Bloom. The latest single from this kickass Boise band showcases a more expansive sound than the previous three rockin’ singles that have arrived in advance of All the Rage, due out May 13. Beginning with guitarist Rachel Couch clean picking and hushed vocals, the tune builds to an eventual tidal wave shoegazy noise as the rhythm section of Ivy Merrell (bass) and drummer Angela Heileson deliver the bombastic bottom end. Haunting countermelodies abound from either Merrell or Heileson (or both?) around Couch’s ethereal lead vocals. “Bloom” showcases the band’s skill at dynamics and building and releasing tension. Stoked for the full record and hoping they somehow make it to the East Coast because this song in particular sounds like it’d kill live! [ND]
The Loneliers– I’m A Stupid Little Piece of Shit. The latest single from the NYC twee punks has been a live staple for the last few years so it was already very familiar to me but to finally get a recording that I can listen to whenever I want is a treat. It’s as catchy an ear worm as you are going to find and showcases the band finding the perfect balance between their rock and pop sensibilities, the chorus featuring sugar sweet harmonies from Jessie (guitar) and Debbie Rodriguez (bass) who share lead vocal duties in the band, backing one another up when not on lead (Jessie takes lead for this song). The band said in a press release that the song is “about self awareness. You need to be aware when you’re being a pain and be able to learn from your mistakes.” The song is part of their upcoming EP “Enough Already!” which will be self released on May 20th. [KH]
Sub*T– Asterisk. This is the latest from the up and coming band, a catchy grungey number that could have been at home next to Veruca Salt in 1993, but also feels very fresh and current. With a chorus laden with killer hooks and harmonies, this one will stay running around your head for a while and have you reaching for the repeat button. For now this appears to be a stand alone track (released by Fire Talk/Open Tab), but it pairs really well with their debut EP So Green, and is a great showcase of their pop/rock sensibilities. Here’s hoping a full length is in the works [KH]
Quelle Chris– Alive Ain’t Always Living. Quelle Chris’ winning streak shows no signs of slowing down with the lead single of the forthcoming full-length, DEATHFAME due out on Mello Music Group May 13. Chris’ creativity knows no bounds and he is constantly evolving his sound. “Alive Ain’t Always Living” is hip-hop soul music. Atop a pensive groove and gospel-tinged keyboard melody, Chris is thoughtful and introspective:
I’m so grateful, so grateful to be alive
But alive ain’t always living, sometimes n***as just survive
Both lyrically and musically, it’s one of Chris’ most engaging tunes to date and offering another side to an artist with seemingly infinite sides.
Shorty’s Swingin’ Coconuts– Il Cavaliere. Full disclosure: I adore surf music. I’m here for all the tropes—the wavy guitar, the jumpy grooves. Perhaps too often, modern surf bands lean more to the lounge sound more than the more aggressive guitar-driven sound of Dick Dale or Fender IV. So, it’s pleasing to hear Shorty’s Swingin’ Coconuts’ lead single “Il Cavaliere” from their forthcoming record Mai Tai in Hi-Fi, due out April 15 on the preeminent surf label Hi-Tide Recordings. The dual guitar attack brings a gnarly edge to the initial guitar hook. This then segues in a thrilling drumroll-driven build to a crashing middle, before settling back into beginning theme. A perfect surf tune! [ND]
Frida Kill builds on what it means to be a feminist punk band on their first EP 1, delivering all the energy of women-on-the-verge through their own original lens that is specific to the hustle of right now, trying to survive and thrive in New York City in 2022. But what are these Brooklyn superstars on the verge of exactly? Of turning over bullshit racist power structures, of surviving and transcending transphobia, of living through last night’s hangover, of dancing with their own demons.
EP #1 starts out with the rollicking political energy of “Mujeres Con Mangos” (which also has a fantastic video directed by Holly Overton, with additional cinematography from Tasha Lutek). Maria Lina provides the lead vocals and lyrics on this first track, and she writes and sings from both her own perspective, and from the point of view of a Latinx woman selling mangos on a Bushwick street being harassed by police and ICE. There’s a very clever double meaning of the word “ice” in Lina’s lyrics here; the mangos are sold on hielo (ice), but ICE, of course, is also the nefarious force coming for the “Mujeres Con Mangos.”
Lina says that “Mujeres Con Mangos” was fueled by “reports of undocumented workers being arrested for selling churros in NYC and of a memory I have of passing by an old family friend Margerita (who sells mangos all year round on Knickerbocker Ave) and she was getting a ticket by the cops in the bitter freezing cold for selling mangos. She was very upset but did not back down. I stood with her for a while, bought some mangos and gave her some money and a hug. I feel like a lot of the time these people that provide fresh fruits, treats and ice cream for us on the streets go unseen. They spend time preparing these small things to make money to pay their rent, send their kids to school, send money abroad to their families, just like everyone else. They get up everyday and go to work outside in the heat, in the freezing cold, harmless and out of the way and still, the system finds a way to criminalize them. I wanted to write a song for them, give them a voice, I want people who have never thought about them to be kind, have empathy, and see them when they pass them. I want people to appreciate them. I want people to help in any way they can and I hope the message gets across with my song. I have my mother to thank for always instilling empathy to my siblings and me. She opens her doors to anyone and is extremely helpful in her community.”
Maria Lina and her bandmates are most certainly carrying on her mother’s tradition of being helpful in the community with “Mujeres Con Mangos.” Nothing is more feminist and punk than that.
After “Mujeres Con Mangos,” EP 1 moves into “Get Over It” and “Here’s Hoping,” anthems of trying to navigate social landscapes built on ignorance. Frida Kill is an ever-shifting (and therefore very exciting!) ensemble in terms of who is playing which instrument or singing/writing the lyrics, and in these two songs, Lily Gist (who was on bass for “Mujeres Con Mangos”) shifts to guitar and lead vocals. “Get Over It” rides on an aggressive guitar riff while Gist asks if she should even try. Gist is very open with audiences at Frida Kill’s live shows about the challenges she’s experienced as a trans woman, and her pain and frustration with others’ cruelty is palpable in her lyrics. The intensity of “Get Over It” is also accentuated with fantastic drum fills from Gaby Canales. “Here’s Hoping” shows the transphobic cruelty that Gist has faced even more directly, as she quotes verbatim things her high school classmates said to her when she first started transitioning: “die alone/ friendless/ fail / I’m hoping.” Clearly, Gist and Frida Kill are succeeding with all kinds of punk rock fun and building community along the way, so all those assholes can eat their words.
The fourth intoxicating track on EP 1 is “Demons,” and once again the Frida Kill women shift roles and instruments, and Jeanette D. Moses puts down her guitar for a moment and steps up to be the frontwoman. “Demons” will make you bounce around, as Moses brings so much fun and humor into her lyrics: “Weekends I can’t remember / Late nights I don’t regret / Hangovers that burn forever / Ah fuck is that my ex?” So it goes with the wild ride (and heavy anxiety) of working hard and playing hard in Brooklyn these days.
EP 1 closes out with the more introspective “Zine Song.” If “Demons” catches the euphoria of a night out, “Zine Song” is waking up with a new lover the next day. There’s a very cool ascending guitar line on this track coming from Gaby Canales this time, who’s stepped out from the drums to strap on the lead guitar. Maria Lina is back on lead vocals (and drums) for this one: “Sloppy lovers mind / intertwined…in and out of dreams.”
The minute you finish listening to EP 1, you’ll want to start at the beginning again! With mixing and production from Justin Ferraro and Jed Smith (“Here’s Hoping”), this is DIY punk rock at its best. Let’s hope that a full-length album is in the works soon. n the meantime, grab this EP and go check out Frida Kill at one of their many high-energy shows around Brooklyn. Nothing to do with these demons but dance with them…
EP 1 is out now via Insecurity Hits and is available as a limited edition tape and on all major streaming platforms.
Pictoria Vark is the switched-up performing name of Victoria Park, a bassist and songwriter based in Iowa City. Park has been working as a touring bassist with Squirrel Flower and Pinkshift, but was also releasing her own music over the past few years (her 2018 self-titled EP is available on Bandcamp as a split with Moon Sand Land). The Parts I Dread, on Get Better Records, is her debut LP.
Park is a bassist by trade, and her basslines are quite cleverly composed. That’s not to say the songs are purely bass-driven — there is a mix of guitar, drums, bass and vocals on the album — but something about the song construction belies Park’s bassist roots. The guitars (provided by Gavin Caine, Jason Ross or Michael Eliran, depending on the track) never take over the main riff of the songs with grandstanding, and the solos that do exist meld with rather than overtake the songs. The drums, also played by Caine, complement the songs well, keeping a steady and often laid back beat. Park’s voice is a breath of fresh air — no affectation or overproduction, no following trends. She isn’t trying to sound like anyone but herself.
The album was recorded not only in Iowa but also New Jersey (where Park was born), New York and Colorado. Park told Iowa Public Radio that the “Parts” in the title of The Parts I Dread can refer to geographical place, ala Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown, and the songs do span the country, from Demarest, NJ to Wyoming, yet Park’s confessional, heartfelt lyrics move through not only places but feelings. Although she’s in her early 20’s, Park’s youth doesn’t work against her — she’s forthright, but reflective. The songs are often anxious and lonely, touching on relationships, especially the familial.
Highlights of the album are many, but several tracks especially stood out to me. “Wyoming,” a reflection on her parents’ cross-country move, is also a journey through tempo changes. (The Bandcamp exclusive release has a beautiful solo version of this song which really brings out the plaintive quality of Park’s songwriting.) “Good For” tackles being abandoned when you really need it most (“Why am I here for? Friends who finally shut their front doors?”) “Demarest,” which we also covered in our Single Serve column here, builds beautifully into a perfect penultimate track, showcasing both the gentle moments and steady forward motion that characterize the album as a whole. Fans of current bands like Soccer Mommy (whom Park has opened for, with Squirrel Flower) and 90’s midwestern indie will love this album; I can absolutely see fading “Wyoming” into “I Am A Scientist” by Guided By Voices on a mix.
The Parts I Dread is out now digitally on Bandcamp; a vinyl release is planned for later this year. Park is currently on tour with Pinkshift; catch them here in NY on May 11 at Terminal 5.
It makes perfect sense that in October 2020, Allegra Krieger drove across the country from Brooklyn to California to record her second and most recent album, Precious Thing. These ten contemplative songs wash over you like the daydreams you have while watching the world fly past outside the car window on a long road trip. The music is at times lush and sweeping, and in other moments sparse and intimate, with only Krieger’s voice paired with an acoustic guitar or a few piano notes. Her lyrics are full of keen observations of the beautiful and painful world around her, and overall the album is a calming, comforting balm coming out of the tumult of these past two pandemic years, both for Allegra Krieger and for us, her listeners.
The album’s first track, “Wake Me If I’m Asleep,” opens with an extended instrumental introduction before Krieger’s voice breaks through over the guitars, singing: ”the ambulance’s siren/ mixes with the violin/ there’s a body on a bed rolling down the street/ while looking out of my window, I call you up on the phone/ say I hope you get home all right/ wake me if I’m asleep.” There’s a consistent theme here of wanting to hold the things you love very close, while also knowing that everything is constantly shifting, speeding by, and you can’t keep these dear things close to you for too long, and maybe it’s wiser to step back, to love with a looser grip. We hear this realization again in “Taking It In,” the album’s third track (which also has a gorgeous video shot at Coney Island): “No, I don’t want to lose it / reaching / reaching / gone.”
All ten of these songs are gems, but my two favorites are “Let Go” and “No Machine,” both of which have surprising meandering melodies that really show off Krieger’s unique songwriting style. In “Let Go,” the piano is in unison with her voice in some places, accentuating the unexpected turns of the melodic line, as the lyrics again bring us back to the challenge of accepting inevitable changes: “nobody wants to be unhappy/ but nobody wants to let go.” “No Machine” features an absolutely regal (and again, wonderfully surprising) trombone sound from Kalia Vandever as Krieger’s lyrics embrace crises of faith and what it means to be human and flawed: “soaking up the remnants of pain, the absence, the choice, the excessive noise, the presence of some higher power to turn away from…no automated machine can keep up with me/ what I feel is what I’ll be.”
With beautiful production from Luke Temple, and an outstanding ensemble of musicians backing her up, Allegra Krieger has gifted us with a gorgeous and intimate journey in Precious Thing. It’s an album that you get lost in, that you float away on, an album for dreaming and waking up to see more clearly.
For Brooklyn band A Deer A Horse, their first full-length album Grind has been a long time coming. The band has been performing together for some time, releasing singles and EPs since 2013. Through touring and buzz, the band has built a following for their hard, grungy punk sound, and are ready for the next step.
Backswimmer and Everything Rots That Is Rotten, from 2017 and 2019 respectively, featured the same lineup as the new LP: Angela Phillips on vocals & bass guitar, Dylan Teggart on drums, and Rebecca Seatle on vocals & lead guitar. For Grind, they kept previous producer Jamie Uertz, who has worked with Anthrax and Gojira, and also recorded with Sylvia Massy, an Oregon producer who has worked with heavyweights like Tool and System of A Down.
Grind kicks off with the lead single “Bitter,” an ode to unsolicited advice. “This song comes from my lifelong experience as a fat person constantly being given unsolicited advice on how to lose weight from people who have always naturally been slender,” Phillips explains. The compelling video for “Bitter” features Phillips emerging from a TV as some sort of self-help sleazeball turned demonic stalker.
Other topics touched upon on Grind include pleasure, escapism and the fear of failure on “Panic” (as Seatle says, “Too much fear and too much pleasure are two sides of the same coin, separating us from our own futures”) and the uncovering of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church on “Give It Up.”
The production on Grind is appropriately scuzzy yet clean sounding, with no member lost in the background. There is definitely a live feel to the album, as drummer Teggart confirms: “The meat and potatoes of what you hear on Grind is the sound of the three of us trying to capture our live energy.” Indeed, it works, and even songs with a plodding quality like “Brute Force” keep the energy high. One standout track is “Dinner Theater,” romping through various dynamics and time signatures in less than four minutes,
A highlight of the album is the excellent guitar work courtesy of Seatle, who has apparently since left the band. There is a lot of loping around the fretboard, fiercely distorted, but not so much as to be unintelligible. It’s not all three-piece grit and grime on Grind, however. Synths and piano appear on several tracks, and there are even strings, with violin from Comfort Cat and cello by Kate Wakefield of Lung.
As we all know, the past couple of years have been hard. Musicians were particularly hit, with gigs and album recordings postponed or canceled. Yet one pleasant trend I have noticed as people slowly crept out of isolation is the formation of new bands. It’s as if many of us realized there is no time but the present, and remembered how much music can do for us.
Gluehead started as a solo project, helmed by guitarist Liam Daly. After reconnecting with Kris Woodcock, a former classmate, the two began jamming together, and another band began. Bassist Luis Aznarez on bass and drummer Alex Hadjiloukas were recruited through want ads (yes they still work, as I myself can attest!) By summer of 2021, the quartet was already playing their first shows, and on March 25th, 2022, their debut album Get Stuck was released. According to the band’s press release, the album is a “friendly reminder that loud amps still save lives.”
Get Stuck is a fairly traditional shoegaze and post-rock album, which is to say that Gluehead have studied the masters well and learned what works. Although they’ve been together for only a little over a year, it’s impressive how dialed in the four members are together. The guitars swirl around each other, moving through dynamic changes, and the rhythm section underpins it all with grace. (In particular, I’m a big fan of the cymbals.).
The dreamy instrumental portions of these songs were my favorite parts of the record; some of the longer tracks are best treated as an immersive experience rather than background music, and I would recommend headphones. Get Stuck is definitely for listeners who want to lie back and let the music flow.
There is a certain abandon in the vocals in contrast to the preciseness of the music. In true shoegaze fashion the vocals can sometimes be subsumed into the music, but that allows the solid fuzzy riffs to stand out. But it’s not all spacey fuzz; more fast paced tracks like “Sunshine” bring out the energetic side of the band. There are also harder moments (“Dwight”) among the quiet songs, such as “Mindfield” (which honestly puts me in mind of Bends-era Radiohead.)
Gluehead wear their love of the 90s on their sleeve, and any fan of Slowdive, Ride or Swervedriver will recognize and enjoy these influences; fans of more recent shoegaze-inspired bands like Cloakroom will also want to give it a listen. Get Stuck is out now on Bandcamp, and you can follow them at Instagram for all the latest news and upcoming shows.