I don’t know what part of the country you’re reading this from, but chances are it’s been a week straight of storms and/or oppressive humidity. It’s pretty much suffocatingly hot in New York today, but we’ll be soldiering on and heading to Panorama this weekend anyway, a prospect that’d be a little less enticing if not for the presence of Janet Jackson. (And the presence of Father John Misty, of course. The Mist makes any festival tolerable.)
Next week, we’ll unveil the results of our Song Of The Summer poll, as sure a sign as any that, somehow, there aren’t too many weeks of summer left! While trying to stave off apocalypse anxiety with all the headlines about worldwide record-high temps, we did have some pretty bright spots to the week — like the surprise marriage of Phil Elverum and Michelle Williams, one of the more heartwarming indie stories in recent memory. And, of course, we also had some good tunes. Check out the week’s five best below.
Oh hey, I crunched some numbers. Check this out: The most recent census (2016) reports the population of Canada — the country — to be 35,151,728. For context, that’s about 10% fewer people than live in the state of California. Plus? There are 40 albums included every year on the Polaris Music Prize Long List (which “annually honours and rewards artists who produce Canadian music of distinction”). In sum? The 2018 Polaris jurors had to clear almost impossibly long odds to snub You’re Not You Anymore, the superlative September ’17 full-length release from the face-melting, bone-breaking Ontario outfit Counterparts.
Underscoring this oversight is Counterparts’ upcoming Private Room EP, which will drop almost a year to the day after YNYA and comprises a punishingly tight triad of recordings deemed not good enough for that album. WTF?! This was on the cutting-room floor? THIS IS CRAZY. Here’s more numbers: The three tracks on Private Room clock in at 6:38 total, and on a per-millisecond basis, kick ass at a rate roughly 1000x harder than anything else I’ve heard in a billion years (guesstimating here). If you sat down to diagram these compositions, they’d look like symphonies on paper. Crammed as they are into two-minute grenade blasts, they’re incalculably dizzying displays of power, precision, discipline, and dynamics.
“Monument” is the EP’s opener and first lead single, and at 1:50, its shortest cut. It is a fucking behemoth, as you can hear for yourself. That said, I’ve spent a solid 14 of the last 24 hours listening to an advance of the EP, and based on my calculations, “Monument” falls maybe half a point short of the two numbers that follow. It’s a 10/10, obviously, but Counterparts regularly sit at 11 and touch 13 when they’re really throwing heat. Point being: It’s all relative. Approximately 99.997% of the world’s currently active distortion-boosted riff-purveyors, at every level, will never get within a mile of a moment like “Monument.” Maybe fewer, actually. There are something like 7.6 billion people on the planet today, and countless bands doing amazing, inventive, inspirational shit with unrelentingly loud music, but I can’t think of too many that rank with this one. And when I try to come up with examples of anybody doing it better? Right now? The number I’m stuck on is zero. –Michael
At first, Mothers’ reliance on a motorik pulse for “Pink” seems perfect. Kristine Leschper explained that the premise of the song is a series of memories set in cars, and what better way to trace the passage of time than the sort of merciless forward momentum rhythms that often defined krautrock? But the sound of “Pink,” though relentless, is not necessarily one of progress from one point to another. Rather, it fixates on these specific moments, the kind of moments you live through where time seems to warp and crystallize around a single image or conversation: a brief panic as someone runs a red light, a thudding proclamation like “Living another 50 years seems impossible.”
These scenes don’t come across like wistful recollections, parsing scraps of a person’s history; Leschper also cited the idea that revisiting these snapshots results in “feelings of childlike removal and helplessness.” And that’s the defining sound of “Pink” — human voices trapped within these mechanistic rhythms, propelled forward but not necessarily reaching a new, or better, destination. After all, when “Pink” finally reaches its conclusion, it meets not an answer but rising walls of corrosive distortion, the song breaking down like a car careening off the side of the road and into a crash landing. –Ryan
Allison Crutchfield calls Fall Into The Sun “the adult Swearin’ album.” Our first test case for that thesis is “Grow Into A Ghost,” a fine reintroduction to a band whose legend has multiplied exponentially during its five-year absence. On the surface it sounds like the same unit behind 2013’s awesome Surfing Strange: a fuzzy and fiery compact guitar jam with a hell of a hook, urgently racing through the space between pop-punk and indie rock. But as promised, we’re getting an older, wiser Swearin’ here.
For one thing, it has lyrics that could be mistaken for Matt Berninger’s red wine poetry: “Cloudless people in sunglasses/ The black glitter of New York City.” For another, the space around the track’s pummeling straight-ahead foundation is shaded in melancholy tones worthy of its subject matter. And then there’s that: “Grow Into A Ghost” is about the way another person can permanently alter your identity and then fade out of your story, until they’re nothing more than a legend ricocheting through your memory.
It may be no coincidence that this band has chosen to come back with this song. Its narrative could just as easily apply to their music’s life-changing impact on a small but passionate cohort of listeners. “Will you come back soon and let me love you completely?” Crutchfield pleas. The people we yearn for often don’t; thankfully, Swearin’ have. –Chris
His voice is lace and chiffon. It’s a contented helium sigh. It’s Terrence Trent D’Arby waking up from a satisfying afternoon nap. It’s such a comforting, reassuring, featherlight voice that it might take you a few listens to fully absorb what it’s singing. What it’s singing is this: “No one wants to be the odd one out at times / No one wants to be the negro swan.”
On the song that gives his new album its title, Dev Hynes offers a shimmering meditation on the entire state of being black and weird — of being visible, whether you want to be or not. He’s built up an elaborate sonic fantasia around him: bubbling pools of synth, soft plumes of bass, a tender swooping jazz horn. It’s a warm, welcoming song about the struggle to feel welcome, anywhere. –Tom
Somewhere along the way, Fucked Up became one of the best classic rock bands around. They never quite stopped being a punk band, or a hardcore band, but the music they’ve made has simultaneously become more experimental and more populist, piling on the psychedelic and prog signifiers while remaining as anthemic, uplifting, and melodically direct as possible. Or, I should say, as melodically direct as possible when Damian Abraham and his titanic, throat-shredding roar are responsible for the vocals.
Abraham’s voice is a deceptively versatile instrument, though, and on “Raise Your Voice Joyce,” that voice does a lot of the heavy lifting. The twinkling synth line and searing, propulsive guitars immediately launch the song into your brain, but it really shines when the transcendent chorus hits and Abraham’s fiery growl merges with Jen Calleja’s soaring, sugar-sweet vocals. That’s when it becomes clear that, for all its bombast, this is a pop song, with a saxophone solo and all. It’s a fucking good one.
The upcoming double album Dose Your Dreams marks a return to the story of David Eliade, the protagonist of Fucked Up’s glorious 2011 rock opera David Comes To Life, and “Raise Your Voice Joyce” serves as the introduction of Joyce Tops, a revolutionary sorcerer who lives in a garbage bin behind David’s work. To a lot of people, that’s exciting, but you don’t really need to know any of that to appreciate that Fucked Up are still making some of the most exciting, immediate music of their career. That’s what important. Cherish that. –Peter