Welcome to 2022, New Noise readers. So much has changed, yet, so much has stayed the same. Actually, it seems like most things have stayed the same from last year … which is kind of a bummer. Best not to dwell on it.
Just about the only thing that is new is the music. And thank god we have new music. Could you imagine a new year without new tunes? I don’t even want to think about it, honestly. We are blessed to live in a world where, as long as humans breathe, make sounds, and have the means to record those sounds, we will always have new music.
Of the things that are carrying over from last year that are good, one of the few, (very few) happy expectations is Bandcamp Fridays! On the first Friday of (almost) every month since March 2020, Bandcamp waives its fees for purchases made through the platform. This means more money going directly to artists for purchases made today. Pretty cool, right? I will always maintain that it is a cool idea … even if it doesn’t solve all of the industry’s problems.
As importantly though, it’s a good excuse to celebrate our shared love of music! To aid in your appreciation on this day, we’ve put together a shortlist of albums from this year and last that we think are worthy of your time today. If you find one (or several!) you like, you can purchase it using the links in the player below the description. Now go enjoy some music you little ragamuffin! Happy Bandcamp Friday!
Fit For An Autopsy – Oh What The Future Holds (Nuclear Blast)
Back in 2008, Fit For An Autopsy might have seemed like a latecomer to the cresting deathcore scene. Now, over a decade later, they’ve resurfaced as one of the genre’s forerunners. Oh What The Future Holds is their follow-up to 2019’s The Sea of Tragic Beasts, both produced by guitarist and founding member, Pat Sheridan.
While this newest effort is definitely a new direction for the band—integrating increasingly complex grooves a la Gojira (“Far From Heaven”) and blazing into the bright light of Deftone-esque atmospherics (“Two Towers”), with a liberal coating of Meshuggah (“Conditional Healing”) poured on top like mercury flavored confection—they’re not afraid to return to their brutal, battle-tested, crowd-killer approved breakdown-heavy roots on tracks like the churn and burn of “In Shadows” and the joint-popping pile on of “A Higher Level Of Hate.” Oh What The Future Holds shows that Fit For An Autopsy, far from dead, ares able to flex their creative muscles while still managing to crush expectations of savagery and sophistication.
Lady Wray – Pieces of Me (Big Crown Records)
Pieces of Me is probably the record Lady Wray would have made back in 1998, when she was still signed to Missy Elliot’s Goldmind label, had she had the chance. Despite a full career, though, it’s taken more than two decades to bring this side of her fully to light. But damn, if it hasn’t been worth the wait!
Pieces of Me is a gospel-soul album that sure sounds the way those old Staple Singers records did. But, more importantly, it FEELS the way those old records did, too. That’s the hardest part about making a soul record: getting people to feel what the singer is feeling—bringing the audience to the point where they believe they are living the words that are being sung to them, a feat which Lady Wray achieves on Pieces of Me achieves with inspiring aplomb.
Xenia Rubinos – Una Rosa (Anti- Records)
Xenia Rubinos wow’d (and maybe even confused a little) critics and audiences with her 2016 debut LP, a twisted and tangled fusion of soul and poly-rhythmic punk titled Black Terry Cat. On her much-anticipated follow-up, Una Rosa, the singer-songwriter, boldly embraces her Cuban-Puerto Rican heritage while reflecting on her past, a position psychic openness she maintains while facing the future with as much of a smile as it warrants (and can humanly muster).
Singing in Spanish, often over futuristic impressions of Afro-Caribian rhythms, she melds the cadence and whimsical presence of past jazz singers with a sense of grounded poise and clear-sighted bravado. Even with the mastery of form and vision on display, Una Rosa has a loose and extemporaneous vibe that makes it feel like it was all recorded in as near to one take as possible. Una Rosa is more than just an album; it’s a gift.
Taking Meds – Terrible News From Wonderful Men (SmartPunk)
It’s hard to place the new Taking Meds album in its proper context, but that’s what we’re here for, so I’ll do my best. Starting out as a sorta-kinda mathy, discordant, and fun-loving post-hardcore band comprised of mostly members of Such Gold, they’ve become a full, left-of-the-dial alternative rock on their third LP Terrible News From Wonderful Men. The funny thing about sounding like they should be opening for Local H circa As Good as Dead is just how perfectly they come across within this present moment in rock history, a time when the late-’90s revival is possibly at its zenith.
More than that, it’s crazy just how rock-solid and catchy this record is. This is even more surprising when you reflect on the fact that the record was recorded and produced at God City by Kurt Ballou. This record is a lot of things, but heavy it is not! “Daylily Gardener” has the sugary singe of running through a candy store while someone shoots bottle rockets at the shelves and displays, with delicious fragments of exploded, collateral confections becoming embedded in your pores and hair.
“Musclehead” is a dizzy, shadowboxing exercise with the frenzy of a helicopter blade, while “Tangerines” dips into the jangly stream of a gacked-out, guitar-hook geyser, and “Citgo” is an oddly ambivalent and amusing ode to the mid-life crisis we all know is coming in our 30s (if you’re not there/currently experiencing one already). It’s hard to imagine a record like this existing so far out from ’96, but I’m not complaining, and you shouldn’t, either. Post-grunge is only as passé as you let it be.
Slant – 1집 (Iron Lung Records)
Slant from Seoul, South Korea released their debut LP early in 2021, and it stayed with folks long enough to make it onto most (reputable) “Best of” lists of punk records for that year. This is far from a shocking turn of events for anyone who had heard even one-10th of the record’s 17-minute runtime. But if you’re still somehow not in the know, allow me to clue you in.
Slant rips! They rip like a run-away circular on a hardwood floor, leaving a cleanly defined path of destruction and fine-grain mayhem in its wake. The band makes a lasting impression from the drop with tracks like the lurching cleave of “Enemy,” then ups the ante with the devil may cry peel of “Terminal,” and just in case you had any reservations left, they make the final move to bust them down like battering ram on “How Did It Feel?” which slings its titular accusation like a mule kick to the diaphragm. Sure, Slant have a bit of a retro sound, but that doesn’t stop them from giving their music everything they’ve got—which is more than enough to wreck you several times over. Slant bring the pain you crave!
Bug Love – Judge ( Self-Released)
Ben Kaunitz is currently a member of Snail Mail. But that’s not all! He also has a solo career as Bug Love! This second LP Judge was written and recorded in quarantine while living with his parents and reflects both the joys and deep crisis that this entailed. Musically, Judge is a whimsical ride through space-aged new wave and future-focused power-pop that could not sound more optimistic on its surface if it tried.
But Ben doesn’t have to try that hard, he’s very talented, and these songs feel almost effortless in their composition. However, there is an undertow. A sense of pensive concern pervades the album. These conflicts surface and take shape through the lyrical contents, which mostly dwells on symptoms and feeling driftless, purposeless, and a constant confrontation with one’s own inadequacies—so basically the feeling of having to move back in with your parents as an adult. It’s a sympathetic journey of emotion reckoning that Ben takes you on, one made all the more palatable by the progy pop jams he so eloquently produces. Judge is one of the softer blows you’ll experience in your adult life.
Curly Castro – Little Robert Hutton (BackWoodz Studioz)
Named for an early inductee of the Black Panther Party, Curly Castro’s Little Robert Hutton is a hip-hop tribute to the tradition of mid-20th century’s black radical politics. Couched in the premise of the Panthers developing advanced technology in the manner that Forge might create for the X-Men, at a time when the spread of a techno-organic virus is ripping through the ghetto and imbuing young radicals with the power to shapeshift, heal themselves, and control technology, it recasts history in a fantastic way.
The album posits that these uncanny developments would turn the tide of the FBI’s war against freedom fighters and black radicals in the ’60s, leading to a better future for all of us today. The stories and skirmishes depicted on the album play out over mercurial currents of bad-ass, neo-noir, Afrofuturist, boom-bap produced by Quelle Chris, Messiah Musik, Blueprint, and many many others, with lyrics fired off by a legion of guest appearances, from Breezly Brewin, to billy woodz, to ShrapKnel, and so many others—all of them impassioned by the struggle, kicking it off on every track like they are busting up a sting operation, guns akimbo. Little Robert Hutton isn’t just a party; it’s a rager, and one that might teach you a thing or two about the struggle for freedom in this country.
Fuss – We’re Not Alone (Phat ‘n’ Phunky)
Fuss is the blissed-out, blow-up of pop-punk enthusiasm we need right now. Founded by Shinobu’s Bob Vielma to help him break up a persistent, bad mood, he is joined by Joyce Manor’s Chase Knobbe Nick Aguilar, on guitar and drums for the band’s first outing, We’re Not Alone. The album is wall to wall, sing-along-worthy song-writing, that pays as much homage to good-natured goofs like The Ergs as Pacific power-houses like Asian Kung-Fu Generation.
You won’t be able to stop your toes from tapping to humble, hooky jams like “Teriyaki Dinner (Grown Ass Man pt. II),” or the downy and downtempo surf of “Pillow Talk (Cool Like Pingu),” and there is no sense in trying to resist their charm. This album sounds the way a hug from a close friend you haven’t seen in a while feels. Give yourself over to Fuss’s uncomplicated goodness!
Age of Apocalypse – Grim Wisdom (Closed Casket Activities)
Age of Apocalypse are darkly refreshing. Their second LP, Grim Wisdom, was produced by Taylor Young and feels about as epic as some of Danzig’s better solo efforts, minus the awkward, beefcake machismo. There are precious few hardcore bands out there willing to go the Life of Agony route in terms of their melodicism, but vocalist Dylan Kaplowitz really captures the grim grandeur and potential of this style in full.
Another big part of this album is the atmosphere, which feels suitably forlorn and drafty, like it was recorded in a haunted, Eastern European castle. Grim Wisdom can feel more like a Candlemass album than a NYHC record at times, which is far from a knock, and even a full-on endorsement in my opinion. More bands need to take these kinds of chances!
All this might be noteworthy worth as such, if Grim Wisdom did not also have the grooves. And buddy, does his album roll! “Valley of the Mystic” has a punishing doomy and errant uppercut to its melodic mush that awesomely reinforces Dylan’s plangent wails, and bangers like “Rotten Kingdom” are bolstered by an excellent sense of gothic menace mixed into its writhing thrash. Crack open Grim Wisdom, and find out what shadowy secrets it has in store for you.
Noir Disco – Now! 2073 (Self-Released)
Nolan and Carter Dickson and their loyal co-conspirator Henry Miller, are the Chicago-based group Noir Disco. It’s a bit of a misleading name, as they’re neither a disco ensemble, nor are they very dark. Actually, the lack of any kind of mystery, morbidity, or crestfalleness is more or less the point of their debut Now! 2073. Through an irrepressible and energetic mix of garage, funk, and krautrock that will recalls everything from Self., to Sparks, to a wacky carefree breed of Hot Chip, the trio delight in shakedowns of self-serious pretension (“21st Century Hipster Man”), content overdose and media saturation (“Television”), obsessions with self-optimizing, rise-and-grind culture (“Hungry”), and general fears of aging and irrelevance (“Getting Old”).
It’s a pretty good time overall, with lots of fresh funky beats and witty observations that righteously punch upwards. They say if you can’t beat them, join them. But what you don’t hear as often, is if you can’t beat them, then mock them viciously. Sometimes the latter is the better, more satisfying option.
Life’s Question – LP Promo 2021 (Triple B Records)
One of life’s many unanswered questions, is why does Chicago hardcore … well … go so hard? The answer to this question remains unexplored. Not because it is that much of an enigma, but because everyone listening to ChicagoHC too busy tearing it up to get hung up on the details. It just does, chief. Roll credits. While they are gearing up to smash faces and expectations with their forthcoming 2022 LP, Chicago’s Life Question have released a three-track promo through their label to psyche you up for the apocalyptic throwdown that is headed your way.
The preview includes two songs off the new LP, the Cro-Mag-esque, Thunderdome throwdown “For You” and the crossover crunch “A Prayer For My Old Man.” The third track, the gangrenous drag “Rotting From The Head Down,” is a rerecorded track from their 2018 Cursed the Will to Dream EP. Better open wide because this knuckle sandwich is coming in hot!
VHS – I Heard They Suck...Blood (Wise Blood Records)
Grindcore goes about as well with grindhouse cinema as blood goes with gore. They’re about as inseparable as well. Ontario deathgrinders VHS celebrate a very specific type of b-movie flick on their latest LP though, the kind where the “b” stand-in for “bloodsucker.”
I Heard They Suck...Blood is an attempt by the band to show the gritter side of these creatures of the night—shedding daylight on their many awkward and unflattering portrays in popular culture and having some fun with their status as the unrepentant junkies of the classic monsters line up. Beyond its monster-mash themes, VHS’ sound on the album is both pungently diseased and slickly produced, meaning that you can enjoy this gorefest in harrowing HD. I Heard They Suck... is ugly, brash, and a bloody good time!
Featured image courtesy of Xenia Rubinos