10 Songs on Repeat:
1. There Must be More Than Blood by Car Seat Headrest (2020)- The Will Toledo led band’s latest project is an ambitious and enjoyable sonic left-turn from their typically scrappy, guitar-oriented indie rock. There Must be More Than Blood plays out like a combination of anthemic Bruce Springsteen and the slow-burning electronica of LCD Soundsystem, yielding one Toledo’s most emotional and well-written efforts to date.
2. Cryptograms by Deerhunter (2007)- Off the band’s second album of the same name, Cryptograms captures the messy, psychedelic sound of early Deerhunter before going down the more refined root of their iconic breakthrough album, 2010’s Halcyon Digest.
3. Run For Your Life by clipping. with Le Chat (2019)- This experimental hip-hop trio’s harsh sound seemingly knows no bounds. Off last year’s brilliant There Existed an Addiction to Blood, this song fits the horror theme of said LP perfectly, the production constructed in a way that gives the literal sensation of helplessly running, topped by menacing verses from rapper Daveed Diggs and guest feature Le Chat.
4. Knife by Grizzly Bear (2006)- A band that over the last week have become a mild obsession for me, this folk-inspired indie group have a stack of elegant, skeletal and noisy tunes of immense quality up their sleeve. This melodic cut off their breakthrough album Yellow House serves as an excellent exhibition for their eerie early sound as well as a show-stopping display of singer Edward Droste’s spellbinding voice.
5. Song Machine: How Far? by Gorillaz with Skepta and Toney Allen (2020)- Reminiscent of the virtual band’s Plastic Beach album of 2010, it is UK rapper Skepta’s verse that really shines. An MC I have never been too big on, he really seems to be in his element spitting over Albarn’s synthy production, this single extending the great run of form Gorillaz seem to be on despite being written off due to two back-to-back disappointments (though I will always maintain, Humanz got a lot more hate than it deserved).
6. Fruitcake and Cookies by Sweet Trip (2003)- Shoegaze is a diverse genre that can be almost effortlessly blended with an array of styles. One of the most unique I have ever come across is on Sweet Trip’s velocity : design : comfort. The duo combines the jittery worlds of IDM and glitch pop with the sweeping noise of shoegaze, with this track’s switch up at about the halfway point proving why this fusion was such a good idea in the first place.
7. In Defence of Resentment by Street Sects (2016)- Street Sects released one of the most volatile, arresting and harsh hardcore punk records of the decade with End Position. The duo’s sound is a cocktail of screamed vocals, dissonant and harsh synths and disturbing samples, In Defence of Resentment being a prime example of this sound, making it not for those of a faint heart.
8. One Second To Toe the Line by Cindy Lee (2020)- This experimental pop project has been a joy to frequently revisit so far this year. This cut off of the project’s new album What’s Tonight to Eternity is unsettlingly playful, creating a discomforting sense of nostalgia through Flegel’s use of classic 50s and 60s pop tropes fed through layers of reverb and distortion.
9. The Sailor by Rich Brian (2019)- This Indonesian rapper surprised everyone when he released The Sailor last year. The album was a big step forward from the meme driven trap-rap of his debut, with the opening title track introducing a much more diverse production style as well as a lyrically competent and even outstanding documentation of the pitfalls of overnight fame.
10. Marquee Moon by Television (1977)- 1977 was the year punk rock exploded into popular culture. Where most bands, such as The Ramones, The Sex Pistols and pre-London Calling The Clash where mainly focused on short, sharp and simple explosions of energy, Television saw potential for the genre to sonically explore the bounds of underground rock music. Their 10-minute magnum opus off the album of the same name saw punk get launched into the unknown, trading the fast and furious guitar riffs for intricate and skilled interplay and the typically political lyrics for far more obtuse, metaphoric poetry. It is an exhilarating song, to say the least, even by today’s lofty standards.
This week’s tracks can be heard here- https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3JpEgdA0EfxsZiNx6diW5d?si=lDs9asUvQ2mcjQ631k750w.
Dark Lane Demo Tapes by Drake- 4.4/10:
I find everything surrounding Drake tiring. From the mindless worship of his hardcore fans and the steady stream of hate he receives from the online music community; I find myself rolling my eyes whenever I hear he has done something new. First and foremost, I have to credit Drake on one thing, he understands what will become popular, and stubbornly sticks to it. Drake’s ability to consistently create radio-friendly, inoffensive, playlist-worthy hip-hop has kept him at the top of the modern pop scene for nearly a decade now. But it’s because of this, I find most of his music to be passionless, and Dark Lane Demo Tapes is no exception. Since releasing Views, Drake has now put out a steady stream of generic, interchangeable and totally edgeless music that has helped him remain popular, but for me personally, left me a tad disenfranchised with the modern industry. This mixtape is inseparable from his previous works for me, but the great irony is, I am not the kind of person Drake is making this music for in the first place, so what would I know?
Best track: Chicago Freestyle
BLAME IT ON BABY by DaBaby- 4.5/10:
In a world where trap-oriented hip-hop dominates Western popular culture, there seems to be a common cycle that has played out time and time again. A rapper releases a slew of singles, generating hype and anticipation. They release a debut album to capitalise on this, receiving moderate critical acclaim and making them hot property. They then rush their next few albums, releasing relatively sub-par efforts until eventually slipping into relative irrelevancy. This pattern seems to have played out almost to the letter for DaBaby. BLAME IT ON BABY is the rapper’s third LP in just two years, and while other artists like BROCKHAMPTON have managed to execute such feats with consistent results, it appears DaBaby cannot. While he can certainly get into a constant flow and occasionally deliver some interesting lyrics, Kirk’s rapping style really lacks any sort of versatility and diversity, with the same delivery eventually becoming grating by the end of the record. The guest features are also fairly ok, even at times managing to outshine the main attraction, but they too are nothing sensational. Production-wise, while everything is professional and clean, the beats feel generic and done hundreds of times before. It is not a career-ending record by any means, but unfortunately for DaBaby, it’s one that seems to be putting him on the path towards joining the mountains of faceless trap-rappers who are saturating the genre, not really helping with perceptions that the musical style is repetitive and uninventive.
Best track: CAN’T STOP
Making a Door Less Open by Car Seat Headrest- 7.5/10:
Never have I been so disappointed yet satisfied by an album at the same time. After releasing two of the 2010s best indie-rock records in Teens of Denial and the wonderfully re-worked Twin Fantasy, the once one-man project of Will Toledo seemingly had the world’s ear. So, what did he do with this attention? Basically… whatever he wanted. Making a Door Less Open is a messy and ‘experimental’ album, containing some of Car Seat Headrest’s best and worst material. I do want to get the negatives out of the way first and say that its due to this mix of good and bad that the LP doesn’t come close to the heights of his previous two records and even some of his messier Bandcamp releases. However, once this album hits its stride, it really flies. Though the typical guitar-driven indie of his classics is no longer present (replaced by synths and a general genre-less construction), the quasi-amateurish charm still manages to shine through along with Toledo’s emotional, insightful and downright relatable song-writing. It’s a step in a new direction for Car Seat Headrest, with their unique electronic-driven sound obviously likely to alienate some long-term fans. And I will admit, at times I did find this new sound a little alienating and hard to penetrate, and I certainly don’t think that this is even remotely on the level of Toledo’s classics. But I also feel that this is a good album, one that isn’t afraid of expectations and one that highlights Toledo as potentially one of rock music’s great song-writers in the next few years.
Best track: There Must Be More Than Blood
RESULTS OF THE EXPERIMENT!!
Before I get into this week’s feature article, I would like to share the results of my quarantine song experiment through this playlist. Thanks to everybody who contributed! From TikTok songs such as BENEE’s Supa Lonely to progressive metal icons Tool, I had a lot of fun seeing what was keeping you guys interested during these strange times.
This Week’s Feature Article- Underground and Unknown: Alex’s Guide to Some Cult Classics
A cult classic is an album that manages to either mostly or entirely avoid any sort of mainstream attention from fans and critics alike. Instead, they are records that cultivate dedicated followers over time, some eventually even achieving wider recognition. In this week’s feature, I want to take you guys through some cult classics I have listened to and give my opinions. For some of these records, I would likely count myself in the ‘cult’ following they enjoy, others, not so much. But I hope that some of you might prove brave enough to just give one or two of these records a go and see what you think. Without any more delay, let’s get started!
Violent Femmes by Violent Femmes (1983)-
This album gained its cult status through word-of-mouth, amassing quite the following in American colleges, even managing to push it into the Billboard top 10 nearly a decade later in 1991. It has since gone to be considered a classic of the indie scene of the 1980s. A record I certainly enjoy, Violent Femmes is a punk-meets-folk angst fest that thrives on simple instrumentation, sing-a-long belters (such as the now-classic Blister in the Sun) and a healthy dose of self-loathing. Its the perfect soundtrack to teen frustration and messy breakups.
Highlights- Blister in the Sun, Add It Up, Promise
Madvillainy by Madvillain (2004)-
Though not a massively obscure record these days, the fanbase of this album is almost unmatched in terms of dedication in hip-hop. There are many out there who would hail this record as the best hip-hop album ever made, and, I could honestly see why. This collaboration between rapper MF Doom and producer Madlib (both icons in their own right) saw the two heavyweights meet in arguably the peak of both their careers. The chemistry between the two is electric, Doom laying down some of the most memorable bars in rap history and Madlib creating a gloriously inventive, Frankenstein’s monster-like set of beats, with both these elements blending together perfectly. As you can tell, I can certainly see why this project has, such a dedicated following.
Highlights- Accordion, Meat Grinder, Raid, America’s Most Blunted, Figaro, All Caps
Soundtracks for the Blind by Swans (1995)-
This New York experimental band have built a career from creating some of rock music’s most challenging, isolating and disturbing records. As a result, the Michael Gira led project has never enjoyed a mainstream audience, however, the cult following they have is one of the most significant in rock music, with this LP having a mainly dedicated audience. Created before a hiatus that would last until 2010, Soundtracks for the Blind is a behemoth listen, standing at two hours and twenty minutes. It’s not easy going by any stretch of the imagination, with its combination of unsettling ambience and post-rock grandeur making it massively inaccessible. It’s an album I love, but not one I visit often.
Highlights- In an album like this, individual tracks in isolation often make little sense. If I had to pick any that captured the mood of this record, it would be I Was a Prisoner in Your Skull.
1000 gecs by 100 gecs (2019)-
A modern cult-classic, this debut album from the American music duo is one of the most confusing pieces of pop music I have ever listened to. Its ethos is to simply do as much as possible in as little time as possible. The songs are loud, messy, confrontational, dominated by absurdly high-tuned vocals and completed by some obscene lyrics. It covers genres as random as dubstep to ska, making it one volatile collection of songs I have ever listened to. It is honestly difficult to capture in words just what the music of 100 gecs is like, and while I personally do not love it, there are plenty out there who do.
Highlights- money machine, stupid horse
In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel (1998)-
Often at the receiving end of “I am so indie, look at my unique music taste” jokes, Neutral Milk Hotel’s 1998 indie-folk record is a joyful little oddity of an album. Though personally, I would not call it an all-time favourite, it’s an album that has a strange mythos surrounding it, one that has amassed a legion of followers. One of only two albums recorded by the ever-changing group (the only permanent member being oddball Jeff Magnum), its style of lo-fi, noisy, chaotic yet undeniably melodic folk music has been incredibly influential on underground music since its release. It has received little recognition in the mainstream (only because it has had no real impact on mainstream music as a whole), but those who love this album adore it, the mystery that surrounds it creating an intensely dedicated following.
Highlights- King of Carrot Flowers Pt. 1, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, Two Headed Boy, Holland 1945
Long Season by Fishmans (1996)-
An album that is simply one big, long thirty-five-minute track, the magnum opus of this Japanese band has cultivated itself an almost entirely online cult following since its release. It is a shame the record continues to go underappreciated, as despite the undeniable fact that it is one song long, it’s one of the most immersive listens one can have. The Japanese band managed to fuse dub, dream-pop and psychedelic music expertly across the track, creating four distinct sections of this song and keeping it totally engaging throughout. It is a tragedy that frontman Shinji Sato will not be able to see the appreciation this album is now receiving due to his death in 1999, but it’s good to see this album get some recognition, even it is just through the internet and not mainstream listeners or media.
Highlights- The whole thing
Mista Thug Isolation by Lil Ugly Mane (2012)-
This Florida noise artist turned rapper has a following that hangs on just about every word he says, and that is hugely due to his wild 2012 cult classic. Dripping in menace, mystery and absurdism, Mista Thug Isolation is the perfect combination of classic gangsta rap attitude with modern experimental smarts. Production-wise, the album is dark and filled with some hard-hitting instrumentals that borrow elements from jazz-rap and horrorcore. However, Lil Ugly Mane’s cult appeal, I believe is drawn from his lyrics and vocal style. Through a comically pitched-down voice, the listener is bombarded with deeply absurd and at times vile lyrics about crime, drugs, sex and violence, the album serving as a satirical deconstruction of these elements that often dominate hip-hop, with Lil Ugly Mane being more of a character than a representation of the man behind the project (namely, Travis Miller). It is also important to note the impact this album has had on the development of ‘cloud-rap’, with Lil Ugly Mane’s sound and internet savviness creating the blueprint for other rappers of the same vein such as Denzel Curry to gain more mainstream recognition. I defiantly love this album, and anyone who is looking for one of those “dumb fun” hip-hop experiences, this is for you.
Highlights- Serious S**t, Radiation (Lung Pollution), Slick Rick, B**ch I’m Lugubrious, Throw Dem Gunz
Deathconciousness by Have a Nice Life (2008)-
For me, this is the ultimate cult classic. Receiving no attention from both critics and listeners upon its 2008 release, it’s the following decade of word of mouth praise and slowly growing fanbase that has seen Deathconciousness become the jewel in the eye of many music fans worldwide, myself included. One of my all-time favourite records, there is honestly little music out there quite like it. Recorded by two close friends over six years for a grand-total budget of $1000 (or so they claim), this album is a sonic titan. I will attach a warning for those who want to give it a listen, it is an oppressively dark record. Written at a time when both members (Dan Barret and Tim Macuga) where suffering from deep depression, the album is frank in its depiction of mental health, touching on issues like suicide, death, loneliness and hopelessness with a confronting honesty. Sonically, the album is relatively minimalistic, most songs revolving around simple compositions of bass/electric guitar, keyboards and electric drums. However, it’s what the duo did with their limited resources that has made this album so endearing and enthralling to so many. Soaked in reverb and distortion and sustained at lengths of often over five-and-a-half minutes (leading the album to be a massive one-and-a-half hours long), the songs on Deathconciousness have a noisy vastness to them, helping carry the weight of its themes. Its genre-blending is also excellent. While the backbone of the record is skeletal post-punk, the duo fuse together with other genres such as shoegaze, ambient, post-rock and industrial to help form their unique sound. It’s cult following continually grows, particularly on the internet, with even mainstream publications giving some of Have a Nice Life’s newer works attention. Whether it be the album’s vivid depiction of mental health, its unique sonic blueprint or even the absurd, totally unrelated titles of some of the songs, Deathconciousness is an undeniable cult classic.
Highlights- A Quick One Before the Eternal Worm Devours Connecticut, Bloodhail, The Big Gloom, There Is No Food, Waiting for Black Metal Records to Come in the Mail, Holy F*****g S**t: 40,000, Deep Deep, I Don’t Love, Earthmover