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WIBLT: New Music That Slaps
What I've Been Listening To, 3/30/22
‘What I’ve Been Listening To’ is a bi-weekly series that highlights 8 projects, 1 song, and 1 video that have been on repeat for me. Be sure to follow the ‘What I’ve Been Listening To’ playlist that is always up to date with the eight standout tracks from all of these posts in 2022.
Your guide to music in a post-slap world
Diaspora Problems - Soul Glo
12 tracks, 39 minutes
Released: March 25th, 2022
From: Philadelphia, PA
Genres: Hardcore, Punk, Noise-Rap
Recommended For Fans Of: Show Me The Body, Backxwash, Bad Brains, Zulu
After years building up their brand of politically charged disruptive hardcore, Soul Glo explodes onto the scene with their latest release, and first full length under notorious punk label Epitaph Records. The title for this project came courtesy of the promoter for a past show. “You know how they just give those little descriptions on the Facebook page? The promoter gave the description in their own words of what each artist was like and for us, they just said: Philadelphia, diaspora problems. And I was like, ‘What does that mean?’ But also like, that’s apt,” singer Pierce Jordan told John Morrison for Bandcamp. Diaspora Problems is a thunderous and high speeds hardcore punk album, that also interpolates elements from hip-hop and other genres (McKinley Dixon, who I wrote up last year, is one of multiple rappers to appear as a feature). Jordan told Brooklyn Vegan that an inspiration on the album was trying to imagine what it would sound like if Meek Mill rapped over a song by Massachusetts straightedge powerviolence band Vaccine. While we may never know what that would sound like exactly, we probably have something better with this album. How could you go wrong with song titles like Gold Chain Punk (whogonbeatmyass?), Coming Correct Is Cheaper, Spiritual Level of Gang Shit, and the below linked Driponomics? Jordan’s mile-a-minute delivery packs layers of dense ideas over instrumentals that will have you ready to run through the wall. It’s the type of album that feels equally important as it is just a blast to listen to.
Standout Track: Driponomics (Feat. Mother Maryrose)
The Leather Lemon - P.E.
10 tracks, 36 minutes
Released: March 25th, 2022
From: Brooklyn, NY
Genres: Electronic, Experimental, Post-Punk, Dance
Recommended For Fans Of: LCD Soundsystem, Parquet Courts, Charlotte Adigéry
“Get turned UP and ON with the electrifying new lemon drop from P.E.!” promises the band per their press release on Bandcamp. P.E. is made up of members from the bands Pill and Eaters that come together to release their second album here, following the debut Person in 2020. The group describes their sound as centering, “within a Bermuda Triangle of dance music, electronic composition, and experimental rock.” That may be difficult to imagine, but when singer Veronica Torres opens the album singing abstract poetics over a dance beat while saxophone swirls in and out of frame, it will make more sense. That first track was also the first the band made in the process of crafting this album, created remotely during the first wave of Covid. “Blue Nude quickly became an inspiration for the rest of The Leather Lemon – something that foregrounded both the song and the sound, as fun as it was abstract,” Torres said. The album continues from there, experimenting with sound palette and scribbling between genre lines throughout. In some ways this project feels like it’s making connections between music you’d hear in various types of clubs: dance, pop, electronic, even some lounge jazz influence on Tears In The Rain. The Leather Lemon can’t quite be summed up in anything I could write here. It’s a courageous album that ventures off into what sounds like largely unmapped territory.
Standout Track: Lying With the Wolf
AiR - HEAVEN
11 tracks, 32 minutes
Released: October 20th, 2021
Genres: Alternative, Hyperpop, Electronic, Hip-Hop/Rap
Recommended For Fans Of: Harry Teardrop, James Ivy, Junior Varsity
Another newsletter, another discovery of a project I missed from the end of last year. I actually found Japanese alternative group HEAVEN while doing my Slaters writeup from the previous WIBLT post. HEAVEN was in the related artists on Slaters Spotify page and, intrigued by the cover and name, I gave it a shot. Very glad I did. HEAVEN is made up of the Japanese artists featured on the cover: LIL SOFT TENNIS (bottom right), RY0N4 (middle), and aryy (bottom left). AiR is credited as the trio’s first mixtape. There isn’t much press out on them right now, but it’s clear that these kids are onto something. Just listening to the music and seeing their visuals and clothing drops, there’s a very cohesive vision being executed that’s often difficult for artists to achieve with their initial releases. Bold and abrasive guitar sounds interject with electronic samples, and trap tier bass to make what feels like a hyper-rock mixtape. The energy is super contagious, from the first track Bolt (linked below), there’s a confidence that I recognize from my first time hearing other artists that I’ve gone on to love. AiR is an amazing introduction, as you’ll listen to the artists weave in and out of different sounds, all the while wondering with excitement what they’ll do next. Don’t forget you can utilize the streaming links above this writeup, as I haven’t found searching ‘AiR Heaven’ on streaming services to yield relevant results.
Standout Track: Bolt
My Friends - Mousey
9 tracks, 36 minutes
Released: March 11th, 2022
From: Christchurch, New Zealand
Genres: Alternative, Indie Rock, Folk
Recommended For Fans Of: Regina Spektor, Eliza Shaddad, Katy Kirby
New Zealand alt-rocker Mousey follows up her 2019 debut album with her latest, My Friends. The creative outlet of songwriter Sarena Close, this album was written during lockdown while navigating the emotional baggage of life-long friendships. It’s earnest in its lyrics and the gentle care she holds her subjects with is obvious. While there are loving tracks that make friendship feel as fun as the cover art implies, Close is the first to admit that maintaining these relationships isn’t always easy. Like with the song My Hands Are Made of Glass, Close told Flying Nun, “this song is me at my lowest. I love people so much but sometimes I hurt them and it makes me want to lock myself away so I can’t hurt anyone anymore. I wanted the strings to sound like fingers on a chalkboard, screeching up and down. The peak of the song feels like inner chaos incarnate.” The album is highlighted by how vulnerably self reflective Close’s lyrics can be. Relationships between anyone can be difficult to maintain, especially when struggling yourself. This record is a tribute to the good and bad of those friendships, and all the forms they can take. “While my last album was about ‘being let down and being a let-down’, this album is about ‘being let down but being loved,” Close said. “I initially hoped the new record was going to be really light, cute and wholesome. But even though there are many ‘sweet’ songs, my year was really hard and some of my long-time friends left me with some nasty scars - so obviously the record reflects that too."
Standout Track: The Bench
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Joyride - Nathan Bajar
5 tracks, 13 minutes
Released: March 22nd, 2022
From: New York, NY
Genres: Alternative, Indie, Bedroom Pop
Recommended For Fans Of: Yeek, Nick Hakim, Zack Villere, cehryl
The first project following Nathan Bajar’s lovely 2019 debut album, Playroom, arrived this week in the form of the Joyride EP. Music comes secondary to Bajar, a photographer who’s captured stunning portraits of everyone from his family members to celebrities like LaKeith Stanfield & BabyTron. While photography was always his focus, in 2017 Bajar’s roommate showed him how to make beats with Ableton which is when the Filipino-American artist started writing and recording music. With this sophomore project it’s clear that he excels in both fields. The songwriting approach feels similar to his approach to portraits, as he focuses in and brings out intimate beauty through little details in his subject matter. “I don’t consciously do that,” Bajar told Jade Gomez for Vinyl Me Please. “It just so happens that the music sounds the way it sounds because that’s just how I know how to make music. However, there is a connection between the photos I’ve taken and the music, but it’s just a feeling.” The artistic vision is clearly instinctive, with Bajar starting to direct his own music videos as well. Joyride isn’t a flashy project, but one that you sit with and appreciate more and more with subsequent listens. Each track offers warm guitar tones and lush vocals with hints of soulful psychedelics sprinkled in. It’s a testament to family, love, and life’s small melancholy moments.
Standout Track: Healing
ONDAMICUNDERDACOZMICLYTZ - NAPPYNAPPA
10 tracks, 34 minutes
Released: March 11th, 2022
From: Washington, D.C.
Genres: Hip-Hop/Rap, Experimental
Recommended For Fans Of: Sir E.U, JPEGMAFIA, Pink Siifu
Earlier this month DC underground rapper NAPPYNAPPA released a new project, but that’s nothing new. Known for prolific output (he dropped 4 solo projects in 2020 while also working in collaborative efforts like Psych Nah and Model Home), this is one of a few projects Nappa’s already released in 2022. How does one make music at such a fast pace? “I wake up and hit up every homie I make music with, like, fifteen people,” Nappa told Chris Richards in his 2020 Washington Post profile on the rapper. “Whoever responds first is who I’m about to be on the path with.” For this project, those people were producers ToothChoir, Black Moses, Jelani Kwesi, Pat Cain, and RICTHESUPERSONIC. I can’t say I’m up to date on every Nappa release, but having followed him since my time working shows in the district, this does feel like one of his best (solo) bodies of work. As with everything he puts out, NAPPYNAPPA spits abstract ideas here over even more unconventional beats. Jonathan Williger summed it up nicely for Bandcamp when he called it “classic NAPPA: strange, potent, and entirely in its own universe.” To the casual observer it may come off as nonsense, but give Nappa the benefit of the doubt and you’ll start to unravel some of what’s going on behind the madness. As I relisten to track 7, Source, it brings to mind this moment from Richards’ 2020 profile:
It seems as good a time as any to ask Nappa if he believes in some kind of God. “The Source!” he shouts over the noise, throwing his arms out toward the field. “We didn’t grow this grass!”
Standout Track: Charged Up
So Cool - Low Girl
5 tracks, 22 minutes
Released: March 4th, 2022
From: London, UK
Genres: Indie, Alternative
Recommended For Fans Of: Lucy Dacus, Claud, Clairo, Julia Jacklin
UK alternative group Low Girl is lead by Sarah Cosgrove, who started writing music in her hometown of Hemel Hempstead at the age of 12. Twelve years later, the band has their second EP, So Cool, following the debut EP Big Now from last year. In just five tracks, the band offers up something for everyone while exploring ideas of loss, self-doubt, and mental health. The production comes with an assist from Michael Smith (known for Wolf Alice and Honey Lung among others), with instrumentals that feel aloof but compelling, almost in a too cool to care kind of way. Then the lyrics come in to remind you she does care, particularly with the tender final track Andreas. I can’t help but think of Phoebe Bridgers’ I Know The End when I hear this closer with the way it tugs at your heartstrings over six minutes while building up to the project’s grand finale. It’s probably the emotional highlight, but there isn’t a song worth skipping on the whole EP. On the below track, Cosgrove said in a press release, “there was a girl I liked who was quite hot and cold with me. I’d end up feeling pretty disoriented, trying to maintain some sense of composure and resolve but failing miserably. I knew none of it was good for me, but my tendency to be self-destructive made it inevitable.”
Standout Track: So Cool
This Is My Life / Das Ist Mein Leben / C'est Ma Vie - Sparkling
4 tracks, 14 minutes
Released: March 11th, 2022
From: Cologne, Germany
Genres: Pop, Electronic, Alternative
Recommended For Fans Of: Grouplove, The Wombats, Everything Everything
Sparkling is the German trio of brothers Leon and Levin Krasel, with their friend Luca Schüten on bass. This latest EP (their first project since the 2019 debut album I Want To See Everything) features Joe Goddard (of Hot Chip) and Al Doyle (of Hot Chip & LCD Soundsystem) on production. While just a brief four tracks, the melody heavy alternative rock will easily worm its way into your head for days. Stuffed with catchy riffs, catchier hooks, and dance floor ready bass lines, listening to the recorded tracks almost leaves a slight regret that you’re not hearing it live with a packed crowd. This Is My Life feels like it fits nicely in the vein of early 2010s indie pop rock like Two Door Cinema Club, Fitz and the Tantrums, Matt & Kim, Smallpools, and many others. Some may take that remark as a nostalgia baiting negative, but I find it very positive to be able to revisit a worn down sound and make it feel fresh again. I’ve heard plenty of bands both old and new try to recapture that era without contributing anything new or worthwhile to the sound. Thankfully with Sparkling, that’s far from the case. In 2022, I rarely get the feeling of being back in my childhood home discovering a new indie band on Sunset In The Rearview or Hype Machine via the family desktop computer (yeah I’ve been at this music discovery shit a long time). Sparkling sounds just like that, sweet innocent joyful bliss.
Standout Track: Not the Right Place
aloof ona roof (Feat. Unwanted) - Kinrose
Kinrose dropped his latest EP, Easygrowing last week, and you’ll want to get in on the fun. From working on songs together in the college studio to now, I can confidently say this is his best work to date. Definitely can’t miss if you’re a fan of warm, smooth, and soulful rappers like Smino, Saba, and Mick Jenkins. This intro track was a favorite off the project for me.
I became a big Nirvana fan while in high school, which segwayed me into a Foo Fighters phase as well. I tried to see the band live over those years, but things (often work) got in the way. A few years later, work would work out in my favor though, as my venue ‘security’ job got me a shift at the grand opening of The Anthem in DC that the Foo Fighters were headlining. There was an invite only soft-open show, and then a grand opening the following day. Got stuck outside working the line for the grand opening and didn’t see a second of that set, but was lucky the night before when I got positioned in a spot making sure fans didn’t drunkenly stumble into the front of house area where the audio team worked. Essentially, this just gave me an incredible view to watch the entire set, and I finally got to see my one time favorite band in person. Though my Foo Fighters fandom had waned over the years, songs and lyrics came flooding back to me as I heard them screamed by thousands of fans. Seeing it live confirmed what I had known from watching countless live performance videos as a teenager; the Foo Fighters treat every set like it’s the biggest show of their life. Sure the main attraction is seeing Dave Grohl running all over stage, but so much of that spirit also comes from the man behind the drum kit (if you want highlights check the My Hero breakdown starting at the 9:30 mark, and the Monkey Wrench performance that ends the video). Reminiscing on that night lead me to seek out any footage, and I found this fan’s thorough recap covering both nights (think I even caught a brief pixelated glimpse of my head in the footage where Dave ran around the venue). Though the audio is thin on whatever GoPro or camcorder was used, it’s more than enough to capture the energy that Hawkins put into the live set. All that’s just to describe where my mind went when I heard the tragic news Friday night. Rest in peace Taylor Hawkins, I’m glad I got to share a show with you at least once. Wether it’s this fan’s footage or a more official, higher quality production, take a bit of time to appreciate all the energy he gave us.