The end is definitely near: The weather in NYC dropped like 20 degrees this week, and we’re all over here looking back on 2014 trying to decide if the records we loved in March still stand up in November, and if the records we loved in November will stand up in March, and all the assorted and related questions that accompany this season of making lists. But the end is not here yet. There is still music being made, and making an argument for itself. Here’s five good examples of that.
Somewhere along the line, ’60s garage rock nostalgia went from a phase to a permanent fixture of the musical landscape. There will always be bands banging out Nuggets-style nuggets; it’s a fertile form that refuses to die. I’m beginning to think the same thing is happening with Reagan-era pop. At this point intense ’80s nostalgia has lasted longer than the ’80s themselves, and it’s showing no signs of going away. Consider School ’94: The young Swedish pop band’s members are all young enough to have grown up in a musical landscape where reclaiming and refracting the ’80s was a regular occurrence. It’s as much a part of their collective musical experience as indie rock, hip-hop, or EDM. It’s in the air. And what they’ve done with it on the love battlefield that is “Like You” — those shimmering arpeggios, that playful rhythm section, Alice Botéus’ virtuosic vocal — affirms that this style is far from tapped out. –Chris
Jersey club music is best understood as a slightly-more-melodic offshoot of Baltimore club music, that reliably riotous black house music variant that has owned the 410 for something like 20 years. Baltimore club had a rare pop-music crossover moment a few years ago, when scene veteran DJ Class threw some Auto-Tune on his voice and recorded the brash and giddily profane earworm “I’m The Shit.” Jersey club could do something similar with this one, a honking and insistent and slithery Auto-Tuned ode to the feelng of having an ass bouncing on you. The traditionally hyperactive club-music percussion only comes through in ghostly bed-creaks and breakbeat rushes buried deep in the track, but that gives the slinky melody room to operate, to bounce around in your head. It moves, and that’s what music like this is supposed to do. –Tom
Let’s deconstruct the narrative: 1) White boy feels like he lacks control, feels like a loser, feels as though he deserves to be in a position of privilege and that it’s everyone else’s fault that no one will pay attention to him; 2) White boy decides to take action, shoots up a school and then kills himself to escape the consequences; 3) Dead white boy is martyred by the press, turned into a “troubled” teen. The following questions are asked: Who was taking care of him? Why did no one notice the signs? It’s more comfortable for society to question its own role in the situation than lay blame at the perpetrator’s feet. It’s an easy and familiar story, one that has played out in the news at least a dozen times over the past decade, and one that usually — though not exclusively — plays out in suburban communities. With a sardonic and dark wit, Two Inch Astronaut pick apart the appeal of this narrative: “Is it publishable?” they ask. Will this make a good story? Where’s the redemption arc? The song reflects on our desire for an easy way out, a simple way to contextualize the unforgivable, to justify true evil. The Maryland band skewer the mythologizing of the dead white boy in a sprawling eight-minute simmering stew of scratchy punk and saccharine noise. They sound angry but resigned; they want to see this cycle end, but they also know that they feed into it by association. “Dead White Boy” feels like the culmination of years of not understanding why we choose to play into this story every single time, and a necessary step towards stopping ourselves from doing so. –James
“Picture You” is amazing for many reasons, but here’s one: Barely anything seems to happen over the course of almost 10 minutes, yet it never ceases to be breathtaking. The song is rolling scenery, unfolding like graceful drone footage of green pastures, snowcapped mountains, and blue ocean waves. The Amazing did a lot of work to create this feeling, of course. They made the beauty happen. The musical sleight of hand is that for all their subtle dynamic shifts and textural marvels, the band creates the sensation that all they’re doing is gliding through the atmosphere and reflecting back the glory below. –Chris
On their “Wishing Well” single last month, Screaming Females gave an idea what the kinder, gentler side of the band might sound like. But “Ripe” is a different animal entirely. “Ripe” is a merciless monster of a song, a ’70s boogie-choogle riff revved up and hypercharged, hammered home by a rhythm section that has no interest in letting up. “I said peel the skin raw,” howls Marissa Paternoster, like Rid Of Me era PJ Harvey in a basement punk frame of mind. If this is what the rest of Rose Mountain sounds like, the skin on your motherfucking face is not safe. –Tom