Over the years, both as a solo artist and in Ovens, Tony Molina has mastered the art of the micro song. From incendiary punk bursts to plaintive folk hymnals, Molina’s covered a surprising amount of ground with an exceeding amount of poise, and with curiously short run times. “Not The Way To Be” and “Can’t Find My Way”, two of the songwriter’s latest, find Molina occupying familiar territory: ’70s jangle and ’80s distortion collide with a breezy effortlessness on the former while the latter leans hard into Molina’s punk roots while also showcasing the songwriter’s pop and classical sensibilities. Packaged together, the songs barely eclipse two minutes but, as ever, feel exhaustively complete. Where others may only find an appetizer, Molina continues making meals. Leave these on repeat.
Listen to “Not The Way To Be” and “Can’t Find My Way” below and pre-order a copy of Songs From San Mateo County here.
The past two weeks of material, once more, have been loaded with exceptional works. Each of the major categories saw the influx of notable items keep the same ridiculous pace that 2018 has set across multiple genres. No matter the level of notoriety or recognition, every week this year has brought in a slew f entries that have ranged from wildly entertaining to legitimately unforgettable. With that being the case, featuring everything is an impossible task. This post serves as a reminder and reference point for a slew of those songs, clips, and records worth remembering.
A ridiculous amount of great songs came out over the final half of June 2018, roughly tripling the output of music videos and records. In accordance, the below list will be expanded from the preceding features’ three-slot format to a selection of nine. As usual, there’s a fairly vast palette of styles and influences to sample, each song offering up a distinctly unique thrill. Dive into the fray and get swept up in the chaos.
Whitney Ballen – Go
The first look at the fantastic forthcoming You’re A Shooting Star, I’m A Sinking Ship. Ballen uses a hushed vocal — one that’s curiously reminiscent of Nicole Dollanganger — on “Go” like a weapon, drawing the listener into a difficult narrative that acts as an effective counterweight to the casually optimistic sheen embedded into the musical arrangement. A fascinating presentation of the dichotomies resonating at the center of most mental health struggles, “Go”, while brilliant, only scratches the surface of Ballen’s capabilities.
Curling – Still Green
Following their appearance in the Best Songs list for June 2018’s first half, Curling come back to top themselves with “Still Green.” A basement pop rave-up that exudes the intensely relatable weariness of the slacker punk movement of the early ’90s, “Still Green” incorporates enough modern bent to ensure it won’t fall prey to accusations of tired revivalism. There’s an abundance of life thriving at the song’s surface and Curling makes sure each of the song’s 164 seconds land with maximum impact.
Ovlov – Stick
Not to be outdone by Curling’s repeat heroics as a featured act, Ovlov notch their third consecutive feature nod with the brooding, explosive “Stick”. All three songs to tease the band’s upcoming Tru have made a formidable case that we’re on the verge of hearing one of the year’s best records. While the first two — “Spright” and “Short Morgan” — relied on volume and power, “Stick” ensures that Tru won’t be a one-note affair. Unexpected, oddly moving, and incredibly engaging, “Stick” is a song that deserves to be left on repeat.
Sean Henry – Imperfection
Sean Henry‘s past work has been unfairly overlooked for all the usual, dispiriting reasons but the songwriter’s latched on to something with Fink that just might be strong enough to overcome those intangible obstacles. “Imperfection” was the final track to be released ahead of Fink‘s unveiling and it ably showcases an artist in full control of their creative powers. From the production choices to the delivery itself, “Imperfection” winds up coming surprisingly close to standing as a direct opposite of its own title.
Dentist – Corked
A familiar name to the site, Dentist have been steadily working towards their big moment, earning every lesson and success that’s come their way. In that pursuit, they’ve released a handful of great songs but “Corked”, their latest, doesn’t just set a new high but a new precedent. The band’s lit onto something that feels wholly their own and are prepared to accelerate their pacing from a jog to a sprint. “Corked”, as fine a basement pop song as anyone’s likely to hear this season, is a tantalizing indicator of what Dentist has in store for the future.
Slothrust – Peach
Slothrust‘s another name that’s been printed on these pages a handful of times and “Peach” is the latest reason to type it out. The lead-off single from The Pact, “Peach” is a galvanizing burst of the band’s singular brand of slacker pop. More immediate and self-contained than a lot of the trio’s earlier work, “Peach” makes a morsel feel like a mouthful, before becoming an entire meal. It’s the band’s shortest single to date but it lingers when it’s gone. Don’t miss this one.
Jonathan Something – Fine
Clocking in at just under two minutes, Jonathan Something’s “Fine” still finds time to stand out. A throwback pop song that reveals an astonishing array of influences (everything from Motown to disco to powerpop), “Fine” manages to feel comfortably familiar and thrillingly new over the course of its brief run time. Jonathan Something delivers it all with poise, conviction, and a sincerity that translates into one of the year’s most purely enjoyable songs.
Tony Molina – Wrong Town
A master of the micro song, Tony Molina has found a niche way to thrive since the earliest Ovens songs. Even as Molina’s edges have softened, there’s been a profound sense of assurance that’s cut through the noise. In addition to that gentle confidence, there’s always been a palpable sense of place; Molina knows the places worth belonging to even as his narratives question definitive decision-making. “Wrong Town” is the latest in a string of tender, ’60s-influenced folk-adjacent pieces. Warm and heartrending, “Wrong Town” deserves a visit.
Gia Margaret – Birthday
Gia Margaret‘s “Birthday” is a genre-demolishing track that’s been roping listeners into its orbit since its initial release. Bits of dream pop, shoegaze, and shoegaze find fascinating new intersections throughout the song, which is anchored by Margaret’s soft, spellbinding vocal performance. From front to back, “Birthday” is breathtaking in its unexpected scope and considerable beauty. A transcendent, mesmerizing work.
The past two weeks have supplied the world with more than a fair share of outstanding new songs. Even in that generous pack, there were some genuine standouts. The five songs below are five of that elevated crowd. From emergent upstarts to storied veterans, there’s a lot to dissect in these offerings. Each song’s memorable in its own way and deserves a closer look/listen. So let’s begin.
1. Weller – Burroughs
A band that pulls a handful of its cues from the ’90s alt scene without ever crossing the line into revivalism, Weller notch another impressive piece into their belt with “Burroughs”. Effortlessly charming and endlessly replayable “Burroughs” is a strong showcase for their talent with composition and cultivating atmosphere. Dynamic but never overpowering, engaging, and memorable, “Burroughs” is an essential addition to any carefree summer mixtape.
2. Flasher – Who’s Got Time?
Flasher have been building themselves one hell of a portfolio over the past few months. Everything they’ve released has been teeming with the excess energy of a band on the brink. What sets them apart is their conviction, “Who’s Got Time?” especially comes across as the band making a statement. This is basement punk of the highest order, leaning just enough into pop to ensure its status as the kind of earworm you hope never eats its way out.
3. Mutual Benefit – Storm Cellar Heart + New History
It’s been some time since anyone’s heard new material from Mutual Benefit but that all changed recently with the unexpected joint release of “Storm Cellar Heart” and “New History” that accompanied news of the project’s forthcoming album, Thunder Follows the Light. As tender and gorgeous as Mutual Benefit’s best works (this seems as good a place as any for the reminder that “Not For Nothing” remains one of the decades best songs), both tracks provide a gentle reassurance that Mutual Benefit’s set to retain its status as an act making some of today’s loveliest music.
4. Tony Molina – Nothing I Can Say
Another act making an extremely welcome return, Tony Molina‘s latest reintroduction comes by way of “Nothing I Can Say”, which finds the micro-song mastermind underscoring some classic powerpop influences, from a Byrds-ian jangle to harmonies that echo Big Star’s most compassionate vocal turns. In just over 70 seconds Molina turns in another song that doesn’t just feel complete, but exquisite. If “Nothing I Can Say” is a harbinger for things to come, the clamoring for the new record should have already started.
5. Fog Lake – California
In a very short amount of time, Fog Lake has established itself as a project that’s making some of the most vivid, haunting songs in the ambient-leaning music worlds. “Rattlesnake“, a standout song that helped establish Fog Lake’s name, was featured on here in multiple ways. “California”, the project’s latest, capitalizes on that song’s promise with abandon. It’s a song that’s so arresting, any random listener wouldn’t be at fault for forgetting to breathe during its run. It’s powerful, subdued, and lands like an anvil. Brace for the impact, exhale, and hit repeat.
Once again, an increasingly busy schedule has led to a brief gap between posts and diminished the possibilities for year-end coverage. For that reason, there’ll only be three more Best Of pieces before the third round of A Year’s Worth of Memories. Sadly, this means some previous categories will be neglected but don’t let that diminish the importance of things like online singles, compilations, and the other odds and ends releases.
This list will focus on the EP’s that were released this year, which had to be at least four songs or exceed 10 minutes in length (which disqualified some genuinely tremendous releases). A lot of great material came out this year and these EP’s managed to emerge as standouts. For any potential bias to be eliminated, EP’s that premiered here were deemed ineligible (but should still be celebrated). Enjoy the list.
Jack – Resting Places
One of the more harrowing listens of 2016 was centered around the loss of a loved one. It was an event that seems to have transformed something in Brittany Costa, the mastermind behind Jack and Resting Places. This is an explosive EP and it deserved much more circulation than it received.
Krill – Krill
A posthumous release from one of the most fiercely beloved bands in DIY punk, Krill‘s self-titled swan song may also be their finest work. Bassist/vocalist employed baritone guitar lines to spectacular effect on Krill, something evident from the EP’s brilliant opening track (“Meat”). Precise and teeming with feeling, it’s one hell of a goodbye.
Eskimeaux – Year of the Rabbit
Following this site’s pick for 2015’s Album of the Year proved to be a shockingly easy feat for Eskimeaux, who quickly released a summery EP overflowing with memorable moments. Year of the Rabbit finds Eskimeaux deepening the best aspects of their music and refining some newer tricks. It’s a breezy listen that carries substantial weight.
Kynnet – …Taas ne Kynnet
A blast of fired-up basement pop from Finland, Kynnet once again proves to be an uncontainable force with …Taas ne Kynnet. This is hard-charging music that transcends the language divide and effortlessly engages listeners with its overwhelming immediacy. Give in or get out of the way because once …Taas ne Kynnet gets gets going, it’s not stopping.
Forth Wanderers – Slop
Headlined by its breathtaking title track, Slop is a warning shot from the increasingly ambitious Forth Wanderers. While “Slop” is undoubtedly the standout of the EP, the other three songs don’t ever come across as being overshadowed, revealing flashes of the band’s brilliance. Slop is a uniformly strong outing that packs a serious punch.
Happyness – Tunnel Vision On Your Part
Happyness teased Tunnel Vision On Your Part with “SB’s Truck“, a song based on the fascinating historical footnote that saw the unlikely pairing of Andre The Giant and Samuel Beckett. The band continues to do no wrong, turning in another immensely enjoyable collection of songs that further their growing reputation as master popsmiths.
Faye – Faye
An extraordinary debut from an extremely promising band, Faye‘s self-titled is a beautifully crafted work that capitalizes on the sort of subtleties that some veteran acts still have a difficult time navigating. Nearly half of this EP rightfully earned individual features before its release and the EP’s remainder lived up to the promise of those tracks.
Snail Mail – Habit
2016 saw Snail Mail start to break out and earn some overdue attention on a much larger scale. A lot of that can be attributed to the remarkable (and surprisingly affecting) Habit. Vulnerable, defiant, and tenaciously pointed, Habit‘s the kind of record that burrows under the skin and refuses to leave. A gem and a career best.
Hazel English – Never Going Home
There were few, if any records, released in 2016 lovelier than Hazel English‘s Never Going Home. A spellbinding mixture of dream pop, basement pop, and post-punk, Never Going Home‘s the kind of painfully beautiful work that deserves to be remembered. It’s a series of grace notes that openly offer contentment and warmth.
Fern Mayo – Hex Signs
Fern Mayo became a staple of this site’s coverage based on the white-knuckle intensity of their live show and in Hex Signsthey manage to harness that intimidating forcefulness. Easily the best work of the band’s burgeoning career, Hex Signs is a confrontational demonstration of the type of strength that refuses to be ignored.
don’t – forget it.
One of the unique thrills of music writing is the discovery of a young, unknown band from a relatively small area that are doing interesting, impressive things. don’t met all of those qualifications to such an excessive degree with forget it. that it became unforgettable. While possibly the least recognizable name on this list, they deserve the placement.
Patio – Luxury
Being able to watch a band evolve from their first show and thrive in the state of progression is a privilege. It’s even more of a privilege when the band in question is one like Patio, who excel at the formula that makes up Luxury: wiry post-punk that serves up as much dry wit as it does sheer attitude. What’s scary is they’re still only just getting started.
Strange Ranger – Sunbeams Through Your Head
Sunbeams Through Your Headmarked an exhilarating new chapter for Strange Ranger who, almost paradoxically, seemed galvanized in their decision to more fully embrace a downtrodden nature. It’s an EP characterized by moments either brave, bold, or beautiful. An extraordinarily compelling listen and the sound of a band hitting its stride.
Tony Molina – Confront the Truth
As someone who could claim in-your-face micro-punk as a specialty, Tony Molina‘s gorgeous Confront the Truth likely came as a shock to some. Anyone well-versed in Molina’s work could easily see how the songwriter could conjure up a gentle 7″ full of retro-leaning acoustic pop songs that invoked the spirit of the late ’60 and early ’70s. A sublime work.
Talons’ – Work Stories
One of the rare records where the distinction between album and EP becomes blurry, Work Stories nevertheless saw Talons’ extend a quiet streak of ridiculously impressive records. Hushed and haunted folk-inflected songs comprise Work Stories, each as breathtakingly gripping as the last. Work Stories is another piece of mastery.
While the intro to this piece stated that the majority of the odds and ends would be ignored, an exception is being made for the excessively great split EP that saw Mercury Girls (who also released the excellent Ariana 7″ in 2016), The Spook School, Wildhoney, and Tigercats each contribute two songs. Continental Drift doesn’t feel or operate like the majority of split releases by virtue of its exhaustively complete unification.
All four bands on Continental Drift can come across as singular acts, on closer inspection they begin to appear as slight mutations of each other, rendering this split an effortless listen. There could very well be a group of people that’d mistake Continental Drift as the work of one inhumanly talented band (though the shift in accents may provide a tipping point). Each of the four acts bring their best work to the table and make characteristically strong impressions.
Over Continental Drift‘s eight tracks, not only is there never a weak song, there’s never a weak moment. Each of these songs is tightly crafted and masterfully executed, providing each act with a highlight reel that could attract unfamiliar listeners to the rest of their respective discographies. There are so many soaring moments scattered throughout Continental Drift that the end result is stratospheric. In theory, this split was enticing but in its execution Continental Drift achieves a staggering amount of perfection.
Over the past week and a half there was a vast arsenal of material that found release across all three major formats. All of the titles that made a sizable impression will be linked to below and all of them are well worth exploring. Over the next few days there will be a laundry list of individual items to find small features but that in no way should deter from the immense value of the songs listed below. If there was enough time to provide each and every one of these entries features of their own, a regular day would have to be well over 24 hours. As it stands, the best approach is to simply bookmark this page and peruse these selections at a preferred pace. Keep an eye out for more updates from this site very soon and enjoy the incredible offerings that are available below.
Like “See Me Fall”, “Hung Up on the Dream” — the second track to tease Molina’s forthcoming 7″, Confront the Truth — leans into an acoustic angle that grounds the songwriter in intriguing ways. Far removed from the exhilarating excess of Molina’s past work, “Hung Up on the Dream” manages to invoke and echo a formidable cast of influences. Traces of everyone from The Beatles to Cat Stevens to Weezer to Sparklehorse are evident throughout “Hung Up on the Dream”, without ever overwhelming Molina’s own identity.
Clocking in at under 90 seconds, Molina still manages to convey a frighteningly realistic sense of heartache and longing. The phrase that gives the title its track opens the set of lyrics, which eventually reveal themselves to be the most strikingly vivid of Molina’s storied songwriting career. There’s an unavoidable resignation that defines “Hung Up on the Dream” that winds up elevating the song to a quiet transcendence.
It’s another masterstroke from an engaging artist who may just be on the verge of releasing 2016’s best 7″. If the rest of the eight-song collection can live up to the precedent set by “See Me Fall” and “Hung Up on the Dream”, Molina’s name could be showing up in a lot more places in the year’s final stretch. No matter how things shake out, it’ll be a privilege to be present for the ride.
Listen to “Hung Up on the Dream” below and order Confront the Truth from Slumberland here.
As is typically the case, every single one of those entries above is worth exploring in greater detail and the fact that they’re not featured at length in this space shouldn’t diminish their impact. For this post’s featured title, the attention turns back to an old favorite: Tony Molina. Ever since turning in some spectacular work with Ovens, the project that earned Molina an early dose of notoriety and acclaim, the songwriter’s been on a hot streak.
2014’s Dissed & Dismissed,the last record to be released under Molina’s name, was an exhilarating collection of micro-punk numbers that were infused with expansive ideas and an earnestness that isn’t always present in the genre. Now, Molina’s returning with a new, eight-song 7″ release entitled Confront the Truth and is teasing the record with “See Me Fall”.
Stripping way back, “See Me Fall” occupies the space of Molina’s most plaintive offerings, a straightforward acoustic number anchored by a familiar sense of trepidation and longing. There’s still a classically-influenced solo to close the proceedings out — a Molina staple — but it’s more subdued than scintillating, demonstrating Molina’s increasingly acute sense of atmospherics.
While it may not be the celebrated songwriter’s most explosive track, “See Me Fall” still manages to become an immediate standout in an impressive discography. In just over a minute, Molina manages to evoke a quiet despair that elevates “See Me Fall” from being somewhat of a curiosity to being genuinely memorable. Vocals, acoustic guitar, and an abbreviated running time is an economic setup but, like so many times before, Molina turns a small scale into something grandiose. It’s a potent reminder of Molina’s considerable talent and a song that should be remembered fondly several years down the line.
Listen to “See Me Fall” below and pre-order Confront the Truth from Slumberland here.