With November just two weeks out of view and AOTY season still drowning everyone’s feeds (our forthcoming coverage will arrive, as it always has, at the very end of the year), now seemed like a perfect time to reflect on what the past month had to offer. Whether it was the James Bond theme of the future, a surprise side-project, or a local band syncing up with a major name, there was a lot worthy of reflection. Below are a dozen of those standouts.
1. Mike Krol – I Wonder
Ever since catching the tail end of the first show Mike Krol ever played with a backing band (that band being Krol’s close collaborators Sleeping in the Aviary), it’s been hard to ignore the songwriter’s appeal, drive, charisma, and commitment. Merge picked Krol up a few years ago before the release of Turkey, which just might be one of the most fun basement pop records of the decade. “I Wonder” finds Krol sticking to a familiar formula but making room for more surprises, like enlisting partner — and Mege labelmate — Allison Crutchfield (Swearin’) for backup vocals and pushing the run time well past 100 seconds. As is always the case with Krol, it works. Brilliantly.
2. Mister Goblin – Nothing You Do (Happens)
Losing Two Inch Astronaut was a considerable blow to a scene that had claimed them as a linchpin. Sam Woodring, that band’s guitarist, vocalist, and principal songwriter, couldn’t leave well enough alone, returning now with a new project called Mister Goblin that picks up right where Two Inch Astronaut left off. “Nothing You Do (Happens)” was one of the first looks at the project and is one of the best tracks to have the fortune of Woodring’s involvement. Inventive, fiery, and mesmerizing, the post-emo/hardcore/punk/whatever track is a welcome reintroduction.
3. HAVVK – Always The Same
“Always The Same” is a slow-burning track that swings on a pendulum between indie pop and post-punk, alternately gentle and unwieldy. There’s a hypnotic effect that the swings back and forth achieves, pulling the listener increasingly deeper into something strangely brilliant. Small, surreal touches abound on the track, which should go some ways in establishing HAVVK’s name. Hard to miss and easy to love, “Always The Same” is a track worth investment.
4. Nancy – I’m Not Getting Sober, I’m Just Getting Older (Helluva Guy)
A lot can be achieved in 100 seconds or less, a fact that’s more or less the crux of the entire basement pop genre. Nancy offers up the zillionth piece of supporting evidence in the 96 second blast of “I’m Not Getting Sober, I’m Just Getting Older (Helluva Guy)”, a track overflowing with smart hooks and a quick wit. Short, punchy, and incredibly effective, “I’m Not Getting Sober, I’m Just Getting Older (Helluva Guy)” is a song that’s more than worth the commitment.
5. The Yada Yada Yadas – Human Emotion
Riding an opening section that falls somewhere between The Polyphonic Spree and early Flaming Lips, The Yada Yada Yadas take another strong turn on “Human Emotion”. The song eventually dovetails into other segments, touching on everything from brit-pop to the slacker movement of the late ’90s, without ever feeling empty for its revivalist tendencies. Fascinating and surprisingly explosive, “Human Emotion” goes off like a firework and outright refuses to come back down.
6. Silverbacks – Just In The Band
“Just In The Band” find Silverbacks well on their way to transforming into a fully fledged post-punk powerhouse. Frantic in just about every sense, “Just In The Band” never fully looses its tether from the anchor, staying intact enough to create a sense of urgent direction. It’s a wildly impressive work from a band that’s very clearly ready for their breakout moment. It’s only a matter of time before the tether breaks and they take off.
7. Disq – Communication
“Communication” sees Disq pairing with Saddle Creek for an intriguing 7″ series, while also hitting on a career high. A noise-damaged basement pop number laced with basement punk tendencies, “Communication” is surprisingly volatile. The band’s penchant for melody remains at that heart of their work but “Communication” suggests that their experimentation with atmospheric choices could propel them to previously unseen heights.
8. Mo Troper – Never Dream of Dying
Aggressively — and humorously — marketed by the label as the theme to the next James Bond film, Mo Troper‘s “Never Dream of Dying” finally saw release after months of soft teases. The franchise would be lucky to have this one. All of the traditional Bond theme hallmarks are in place, from the sweeping orchestral section to the classic ending and everything in between. Even separated from its own framework, the song feels like a rousing triumph, making it perfectly at home in Troper’s incessantly impressive repertoire. It’s a classic.
9. Chelou – Out of Sight
One of the more left-field surprises of the past few weeks, Chelou’s “Out of Sight” operates as one of those rare, transfixing tracks that doesn’t sound like it’s connected to a specific time. Echoing shades of Hot Chip, RJD2, and other pop-minded acts in a similar vein, “Out of Sight” creates a mesmeric tapestry out of a collage that veers from classic metal flourishes to art-pop. A genuinely remarkable track that more than deserves the plays its been racking up since appearing online.
10. YOWL – John the Collector
YOWL continues to impress every time they reappear, stringing together an incredibly strong collection of tracks that’s continuously raised their profile. “John the Collector” is the band’s latest shot of bleary post-punk. Hazy but energetic, the band keeps their foot on the pedal, taking off towards some unknowable destination. A shout-sung narrative covers the breadth of things as varied as familiarity, friendship, and destruction, culminating in a powerful resolution that tips its hat towards the intrigue of letting some things go unsolved.
11. And The Kids – Champagne Ladies
It’s been a while since we’ve heard anything new from And The Kids but “Champagne Ladies” is here to amend that trend. One of the band’s most immediate and accessible songs, “Champagne Ladies” finds the project aligned nicely with acts like Middle Kids, who rely on a distinctly rural sense of wonder to ground anthemic melodies. From the palm-muted rhythm guitar figure to the bells providing “Champagne Ladies” a splash of color, everything here congeals into a sum far greater than its parts, ably demonstrating And The Kids’ continuing growth as songwriters.
12. Maria Kelly – July
“July” is yet another breathtaking track from Maria Kelly, an artist who’s no stranger to crafting wintry soundscapes. While the title may suggest a summery affair, “July” is as icy as anything Kelly’s released. Soft, pointed, and quietly lacerating, “July” cuts to the bone. A clinical self-dissection, the song’s blunt honesty is challenging and rewarding in equal measure. There’s some solace to be found in “July” but it’s through the recognition of shared pain. Haunting and intimate, the track cements Kelly’s position as an artist worth knowing.