Remember 2013? 10+ years ago, a Northwest Indiana band started something odd, catchy, edgy and wacky in a stick-it-to-the-man type of way. Egg Punk, ever heard of it? If you have, you can thank Egg Punk legends The Coneheads for the birth of this odd subgenre of punk that features cheap synths, frantic drum machines, and sarcastic vocals.
Years later we have a project called Snõõper out of Nashville that channels the original ideas and sounds of this movement, taking obvious inspiration from The Coneheads’ pacing and lyrical flow. Their 2023 debut album, Super Snõõper, is a fast-paced Egg Punk album that feels like ADHD personified in the best possible way. This album gives off a lot of Gen Z energy – hyper, energetic, cynical, and youthful.
The track “Powerball” (below) gives an energy that makes you want to walk away from your workstation and start to dance in the break room. The whole album is a quick listen, clocking at 22 minutes and 58 seconds. That can feel like a lot when you’re in the second half of this album. The track “Music for Spies” wastes no time, and gives no time to relax. Moments like this can make it feel like the album is never going to end. But, by the time it’s over, I feel like I need more.
Overall this project is a positive for the genre. The sound makes me want to explore Egg Punk even more, which has me digging into Prison Affair or The Coneheads for their take on the oddball genre. Looking forward to future projects by these guys.
With each new OSEES album there are always two questions: 1) Will they change the spelling of their name again? 2) What musical genre pairing will John Dwyer make you fall in love with this time?
With Intercepted Message, they stick with the OSEES name as they have on their last three albums (they’ve gone through six name variations in the past 20 years). And this time, Dwyer cooks up his classic punk/garage sound and iconic vocal package and pairs it with keyboardist Tomas Dolas, aka Mr. Elevator Synth, to create sometimes subtle and other times chaotic experimental synth disco and new wave-inspired beats with weird, wacky, and sometimes uncalled-for lyrics. The resulting heavy, creative synth sounds make you want to tap your foot occasionally but also make you scratch your head when followed up with more mellow tracks that feel out of place.
“Goon” and the title track give us a taste of the potential of this sound, only to be followed up by tracks like “Die Laughing” and “Chaus Heart” that have their own moments but stray away from the already established synth disco sound, making them feel out of place. Halfway through the album, Dwyer and Dolas start to explore and experiment with this new style by adding more layers. The track “The Fish Needs a Bike” gives you some of the most unique and odd content in this album by adding strong garage psych touches that makes you think acts like Ty Seagal, KGATLW and Frankie and the Witch Fingers.
Each time I listen to this album I keep finding something new I like about it, whether it’s some of the best experimental synth tracks of the year or some unique experimental sounds that the band could easily capitalize on in future projects. On the opposite side, the experimental sounds sometimes veer into chaos with so many colliding sounds and layers of noise. My own personal experience with the fan base suggests this might be a positive for OSEES diehards. Overall, this project is a great example of an experimental album that will most likely be looked back on as a springboard for ideas and sounds that Dwyer and Dolas will evolve on in the future.
San Francisco’s The Umbrellas are back with their sophomore effort “fairweather friend” and 10 more tracks of pop perfection — shimmering, jangly, edgy, power-pop perfection. These words are not hyperbole either, this album is flawless. It’s impossible to highlight a track or two, so I’ll take the easy way out and post the singles below. Please give them a listen.
“fairweather friend” is out on Friday (01/26/2024) you can get it from Slumberland Records here and here. Tough Love Records here and from the 3hive Record Lounge in Provo, UT here. Wherever you choose to purchase makes almost no difference to us, just get your hands on this record and enjoy.
Los Angeles duo Double Life are channeling all the goods from 90’s post-hardcore, including powerful, groove-heavy drums, spacey vocals, chunky bass lines, and fuzzed-out guitar. Their first single and title track, “Indifferent Stars” (below), reminds me of bands like Jawbox and Failure with a bit of “Seven”-era Sunny Day Real Estate-like ferocity.
Double Life’s self-released, 3-song debut EP, Indifferent Stars is, out on January 24. It will leave you wanting for more. Here’s to hoping for more! Enjoy.
Mexico City’s Malcría do not pull any punches on their blistering 8 songs in 15 minutes new album Fantasías Histéricas. It’s an onslaught of relentless hardcore punk (like early Suicidal Tendencies on speed) that demands to be spun on repeat.
Montreal’s Feeling Figures touch about every “indie” genre on their debut long-player, Migration Magic, which is out now on K/perennialdeath. There’s garage punk (“Dream Death”), jangle pop (“Across The Line”), the noisy Sonic Youth-ish “Sink”, and even a saloon-style piano ballad (“I Should Tell You”). Not to mention that every song is covered in an infectious direct to VHS grime.
Migration Magic is rad from start to finish. There’s really no other way to say it. I wish I would have gotten to it sooner, it would have been in my top releases of the year for sure. I am sorry I slept on it!
Go buy Migration Magic from the Figs Bandcamp page or from us right now. Enjoy.
I challenge any musical outfit in the world to create a more thought-provoking and challenging piece of music than Armand Hammer’s We Buy Diabetic Test Strips, because I haven’t heard one this year. Just as their past three albums have, this release makes me feel like I’ll need to listen to it a thousand times in order to adequately peel back the meaning behind the lyrical layers that woods and ELUCID have laid. That’s the kind of challenge that puts them among my favorite musical artists of the present moment, ever brooding and exuding political acumen. In my opinion, their uniquely bold style and flows make them the most interesting rappers around.
In this release, they continue to demonstrate a deep understanding of the bleak and corrupt environment created by the powers that be, though they do it with personal anecdotes and poignant lyrical tact. Much of their language is subtle enough that we’ll need to rely on the Genius community to help us decode it little by little (despite woods’ line in this album that says “SMH Rap Genius improbable readings”), including the many apt historical and pop culture references. They’re anticolonial and anti-establishment in the most informed way. The title itself provides a clear critique of the greed involved in the American healthcare system.
With an all-star producer cast, the album presents an even more complex and mind-blowing soundscape of beats than their previous releases (which is saying a lot). Despite already having successfully “Scar[ed] the Hoes” this year, JPEGMAFIA appears as producer on tracks throughout the album in all his glitched-out majesty. Aside from Peggy, El-P and DJ Haram bring the biggest and most memorable beats. In addition, heralded woods collaborators Messiah Musik, Preservation, Kenny Segal, Jeff Markey, and Moor Mother also contributed their production skills, bringing the distorted, off-kilter, and abruptly changing sound that keeps me coming back to Armand Hammer albums again and again.
The album opens with a sound collage of lo-fi and sometimes backmasked spoken-word clips and dreamy echoes. These types of sounds resurface throughout the track list, complementing the unrelenting and dour raps. They blur seemingly mundane details and observations into deeper concepts with obscure references. Fans will recognize certain refrains from their previous work (i.e., “You don’t work, you don’t eat”). Whether they’re callbacks to past tracks, or simply their own mantras, you could never mistake woods and ELUCID for anyone else. You can feel that there’s deeper meaning in their haunting verses, but you don’t need to be able to interpret every word to appreciate their inherent poetic value and relevance.
Some of my favorite tracks are as follows, though there isn’t a dull track on the album:
“Woke Up and Asked Siri How I’m Gonna Die” is JPEGMAFIA at his best. woods paints a surrealistic picture of life that matches the vibe of the backing track: “Life’s a trip, if you live long enough you gon’ see it all / Life’s a blip, I flew in under the radar / Beat up spaceships, sliding under the light of a dead star / Still made my shift, appropriately lit for the graveyard.”
The aptly named Trauma Mic brings the sickest and most austere rumble from DJ Haram, complemented so well by ELUCID’s confrontational verse.
The Gods Must Be Crazy just has the best beat with the best groove (from El-P), and every verse flows so well with it. ELUCID references the novel 1984 with the line, “Why I still gotta dress for a thought crime?”. woods, who I can’t quote enough, raps, “White women with pepper spray in they purse interpolating Beyonce”.
Y’all Can’t Stand Right Here is a biased favorite due to the MF DOOM sample. woods includes one of his best verses: “Passed my own crime bill / It said if you scared, go to church, you could still get killed / Life’s hell / Natural life, If your lies put somebody in the cell / Ten years for trading stocks, enhancements for brokering deals / CFOs pleading out junior traders flipping / Flip you for real.”
On Empire BLVD, Junglepussy and Curly Castro’s features complement the sinister bassline and dark tone of a track that ends up being a banger. woods’ verse blows my mind on this one, and ELUCID absolutely destroys it as well, spitting fire at the end of the track and including the line “If you can’t be used, you’re useless.”
We Buy Diabetic Test Strips is out now via Fat Possum. You can get it from their Bandcamp page or from us here.
Roman Ruins (aka Graham Hill) is back with a brand new single, “Drum Machine”, as well as announcing a new album (his first since 2014’s incredible Source of Pride), entitled Isotropes.
“Drum Machine” is a head-nodding affair, full of many layers of sound and texture, coupled with Hill’s ghostly vocals. This single could be, possibly, considered a tad on the bedroom-pop side of things, except for the incredible amount of depth contained within. In fact, the album cover describes what Hill is doing on this track (I assume the rest of the album as well) perfectly.
Isotropes is coming in February via Gold Robot. You can spin “Drum Machine” in all the usual places, including below. Enjoy.
billy woods, half of Armand Hammer, dropped his 13th studio album, Maps. This is his second album with producer Kenny Segal following their critically acclaimed 2019 album, Hiding Places. The duo keep building on their early 2010s underground, experimental hip-hop sound – giving vulnerable, eerie, and tense vibes throughout.
The sounds and emotions of Maps remind the listener of the self-reflection and wisdom you get while traveling. Maps leans into the honest – and sometimes frustrating – feeling of travel as well. woods and Segal brought in more featured artists this time around – including indie hip-hop heavies like Quelle Chris and Aesop Rock. And teamwork makes the dream work: the eighth track, “Year Zero,” has some of the hardest bars we have heard all year with Danny Brown bringing his heavy hitter sound of the underground hip-hop.
Guilherme Coutinho e o Grupo Stalo is the Brazilian album that you both never knew existed and never knew you needed. A true treasure of a find, the album incorporates elements of funk, fast-paced samba, tropicália, MPB (música popular brasileira, or Brazilian popular music), American-style jazz, and bossa nova. It’s lo-fi but highly technical, surprising, and interesting throughout.
Little is known about Guilherme Coutinho, who both plays keyboard and sings on the album. The record was pressed in 1978 at an obscure pressing plant in Belém, a city in northern Brazil seated at the mouth of the Amazon river. (The two major pressing plants, Polysom and Vinil Brasil, are located thousands of miles away in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, respectively.)
Guilherme Coutinho e o Grupo Stalo opens with perhaps the album’s most beautiful track, Atalaia, which greets us with a bossa nova chord structure, Coutinho’s soft vocals, and a backing melody played on what seems to be a theremin. A soft wah-wah effect, which stands as a characterizing element throughout the album, pulses within each instrumental layer. The same effect intensifies in “As Feras”, a funky, space-age-sounding track that shows off Coutinho’s technical prowess. Other standout moments include the breakdown of “Macaréu”, where an upbeat samba guitar (resembling a cavaquinho) picks up tempo and leads into “Fuga” which similarly plays with alternating rhythms in an interesting way.
The album closes on a high note with “Tema Pro Alvarito”, a 7-minute improvisational jazz track that more closely resembles the sound of an American jazz trio rather than a Brazilian bossa. Coutinho’s electric piano (not unlike a Rhodes–though it’s difficult to find information about the instruments used) stands alongside a pleasant, plucky upright bass melody and carries the track with impressive licks, fills, and runs.
Ultimately, you won’t regret spending a quick 32 minutes delving into one of the most interesting albums that Brazil’s underground has to offer.