04/08/15 10:57am
04/08/2015 10:57 AM |


One of the cooler aspects of alternative rock in the 1990s was its notably better representation for female musicians than previous rock n’ roll eras. Media coverage still tended to be a bit condescending then, thick with “Women Who Rock?!” style novelty pieces. In 2015, the wry, hooky fuzz-bomb style of alt-rock persists, and at this point young women dominate it almost completely. This year has already been thick with superficially similar but subtly varied albums supporting that claim. New Courtney Barnett and Colleen Green records provide charm and crunch in equal measure, while high-profile indie-rock dudes currently seem sequestered in the emotive piano bar of 1970s singer-songwriter roles. (See: Father John Misty, Tobias Jesso, Jr., Sufjan Stevens.) Ivy Tripp, the third record by Brooklyn-via-Philadelphia-via-Alabama band Waxahatchee adds to the mounting mountain of evidence. (more…)

04/08/15 10:56am


At the end of 2014, a limited-run cassette from a small local label cracked this magazine’s top-5 records of the year. That tape was Common Interests Were Not Enough to Keep us Together, a collection of songs from Godmode, the Brooklyn imprint run by producer, musician, and ex-critic Nick Sylvester. Where their earliest releases focused on brooding, bad-natured noise rock, this one let in house, pop, and left-field disco, suddenly announcing Godmode as the most tasteful and varied imprint in the neighborhood. 

American Music is the label’s follow-up  compilation tape. Again it’s filled with un-hyped bands making weird sounds that draw from many eras of pop and experimental music, without leaning too heavily on any single flavor of nostalgia.

A few artists provide repeat highlights. There are two tracks from the wildly under-appreciated locals Courtship Ritual: an old one that reasserts last year’s LP Pith as motel pillow levels of slept on, and a new one that continues to sound like Young Marble Giants as a cabaret act. Then there’s the first new song from local noise duo Yvette since their vicious 2013 record Process. “I Don’t Need Anything From Anybody” smartly resists the shoe-gaze impulse to swallow vocal clarity with guitar fuzz, allowing a song with almost zero empty space to feel weirdly wide-open. It closes on a lovely remix  of “I Know It’s a Good Thing” by Shamir, which cranks up the synth squeals and surrounds his voice with faux-holy ambiance like “Like a Prayer”-era Madonna, making it an elegy for an act who blew up too quick to ever be a label mainstay. (His first album will come out on the bigger XL this spring.) 

There’s killer stuff from bands you’ve never heard of, too. Breeding Program’s “No Time for 69” is an overt electroclash revival that’s appropriately dumb, fun, and trashy. (“I bet computer guys invented 69,” it claims, dubiously.) The disco cuts feel in the moment rather than in quotes, present instead of hiding at a hazy middle distance. House tracks work into their grooves so relentlessly that eventual acid-rave freakouts feel like stress hallucinations from concentrating too hard. When that starts to feel a little formulaic, we get a song like Malory’s “Dah”—so dedicated to minimalism that its increasing intensity comes not from from loosening up but contracting tighter. The dance music is typically very carefully controlled, making brief noise snippets from Excepter, Manikr, and especially Kill Alters so crucial in context. They represent rare, necessary slips into chaos. 

American Music’s varied, but mostly dance-adjacent, sounds closely mirror those that DFA Records made such a huge impact with in the early 2000s, sometimes to the point of distraction.  But the similarities come from overlapping taste and and eclectic philosophy, rather than conscious emulation. It doesn’t resemble the sustained, pill-regulated mood of Johnny Jewel’s After Dark compilations either, structured more like a mixtape made by some clever, moody, more-earnest-than-he-thinks college kid. It top-loads with accessible material, earning credit for the wilder selections that follow. It’s over long, but as a function of its intended format. There’s space to fill, so why not fill it? It’s all pretty great, besides.

03/25/15 8:35am
03/25/2015 8:35 AM |

Photo via Instagram

Jana Hunter’s career has already contained multitudes. She started playing lo-fi folk “either twelve or like, thirty” years ago, a by-gone time when being a Beck devotee was unimpeachably hip. Since 2010, Hunter’s been fronting Lower Dens, a band who can execute her songwriting on a grand psychedelic scale. On 2012’s Nootropics they were mid-transformation, becoming a sulking krautrock behemoth.


03/11/15 7:05am
03/11/2015 7:05 AM |


Mike Hadreas, the Seattle songwriter who’s drawn great acclaim for the beautiful and pained records he’s recorded as Perfume Genius, is in a “frazzled” pre-tour state. He’s about to leave for a second U.S. swing in support of last fall’s Too Bright, his third and best record. It will bring him to Manhattan’s Stage 48 on Thursday, March 19th, ahead of dates supporting big-deal Matador Records labelmates Interpol and Belle and Sebastian. I caught up with him by phone, shortly after his return from Rite Aid, where he “somehow spent like a hundred bucks” in cautious preparation. (“It makes me feel better to have various cremes and serums.”) 


02/24/15 3:24pm
02/24/2015 3:24 PM |


With their DIY roots and a hard-gigging work ethic, New Jersey’s Screaming Females come across as punks, but their music has always been a purer strain of classic, airbrushed-van-dwelling hard rock. The friction in their sound comes from sussing out the intended scale: It’s always been unclear whether they’ve been attempting arena fare and falling short, or if they’re consciously trying to make hard-riffing guitar rock into something more relatable and human-sized. They’ve got a scrappy, striving quality that makes them seem forever like a band that might suddenly rise to some higher level. But at this point, they’ve been a working band for a decade and put out six full-length records; to a large degree, they are what they are.  (more…)

02/11/15 8:48am
02/11/2015 8:48 AM |

Photo via Bandcamp

Sam Ray has been creatively restless and irrepressibly prolific for years. The Maryland producer has multiple aliases for delivering lo-fi of differing flavors. He’s in indie-pop acts like Julia Brown and Starry Cat, and leans punk with the slightly more amped group Teen Suicide. More often he produces gauzy ambient and lightly glitchy electronic music, both in the collaborative group Heroin Party and what seems to be his primary creative vehicle, Ricky Eat Acid. Ray plays two headlining shows in New York City in the next couple of weeks, one at Brooklyn’s Shea Stadium and one at Manhattan’s Mercury Lounge, a sign that the project might be entering a whole new phase. (more…)

01/28/15 1:48pm
01/28/2015 1:48 PM |

Photo by David Waldman

“I think everything is ridiculous, is basically my philosophy,” says Matt Flegel. Going by his dark lyrics for the Calgary post-punk band Viet Cong, straight-up nihilism would have been another strong guess. If the end of Flegel’s previous band, Women, was one source of his bleakness, that’d be understandable. An onstage fistfight with bandmate and brother Pat in 2010 put that band on hiatus, thus nixing a European tour. And the tragic death of guitarist Christopher Reimer the next year precluded any chance the band had to continue. But despite all this, Flegel seems good-natured and bright about his second run at success, and is hardly the caricature of a tortured artist. And it’s perhaps because of his experience and perspective that even Viet Cong’s career-boosting “Best New Music” nod from Pitchfork was met with an even, matter-of-fact affability from Flegel: “Our manager was pumped.”


01/27/15 8:12pm
01/27/2015 8:12 PM |


Hi, not sure if you’ve heard, but a blizzard happened this week. Doomsday prophecies aside, it’s actually been a pretty chill affair. We have no clue what you’ve been up to, but we’ve spent most of the day lounging horizontal on the couch listening to reggae and sipping Modelos. While working of course! But we’re well aware you can’t get away with living the island life all week long, so when you’re ready to strap on your snow booties and mush out onto the frozen hell-tundra our beloved borough has become, you know where to go. (more…)

01/14/15 9:10am
01/14/2015 9:10 AM |


Sleater-Kinney and Belle and Sebastian came up at the same time and were embraced by overlapping circles, but the bands began by evoking completely disparate ideas: While one band punched and clawed its way to a finer future, the other daydreamed of a more vibrant past. Their respective ideas of indie-rock have long felt suited to completely different goals and activities—demanding the spotlight versus drifting happily out of view; storming the pit or just taking the bus. And yet, despite their opposite dispositions, these two groups wound up being two of the most enduring bands of the 90s. Now, both start their third decades with return albums. No Cities to Love is the first by Sleater-Kinney after a ten year hiatus, and it’s-a-stomped-boot-on-the-gas-pedal of an abruptly announced reunion. Meanwhile, in spite of Stuart Murdoch’s time off spent directing a film, Belle and Sebastian have remained conspicuously active in the last decade, embracing a new identity as crowd-pleasing pros. Their ninth album, Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance, is the fullest evidence of that creeping extroversion. Again the groups take different routes—one clarifying their resolve, the other expanding their boundaries.


01/05/15 8:45am
01/05/2015 8:45 AM |


No Cities To Love
(Sub POP, January 20)

There’s something admirable in a sainted rock band deciding to embark on a reunion tour to support new material instead of merely working through the old hits for an expanded pool of ticket buyers. But this is likely to be even more exciting in practice than it is in theory. Simply put, there’s going to be a new Sleater-Kinney record!