The New What Next: Issue #44

The newest noise for your listening pleasure!

Amyl And The Sniffers
Melbourne, Australia
“Some Mutts (Can’t Be Muzzled)” b/w “Cup of Destiny” | Sept. 21 | ATO Records
RIYL: Party drugs. Party music. Party people.

Photo by Jamie Wdziekonski

Named after amyl nitrate—better known as the party drug “poppers”—as well as the shorthand for vocalist Amy L. Taylor, Amyl And The Sniffers’ new 7” is the musical equivalent of a house party. Of course, given the band’s sonic penchant, this party would need to happen in the garage, with plenty of red Solo cups of destiny and mutts sans muzzles. Amyl And The Sniffers’ garage punk is raucous, rabid, and quite rebellious; equal parts retro punk and classic rock, it’s loud but never obnoxious. As a prelude to their upcoming 2019 full-length debut, this 7” is as boisterous as the ’70s but as slyly sophisticated and socially aware as any underground punk single. “‘Some Mutts,’” Taylor notes, “is about a couple of things, but mainly I am talking about when someone tells [you] how you should and shouldn’t be, especially people who place expectations on females to be quiet, coy, and weak and are outraged when they’re not. I love wild people.” 2019 will be a big year for Amyl And The Sniffers—I can smell it.

The Ar-Kaics
Richmond, Virginia
In This Time | Oct. 26 | Wick Records
RIYL: Laughing. Crying. Ruffled collars.

“We have come to terms with being, when all is said and done, here for everyone’s amusement,” vocalist and guitarist Johnny Ward laughs. “Foolery is welcome in our camp, but it doesn’t mean we don’t try.” Retro-styled band The Ar-Kaics revel in that sort of winking entertainment. The group’s sophomore LP is an unabashed homage to ’60s punk with significant psychedelic trips along the way, putting The Ar-Kaics are at the top of the latest garage punk trend with their meaningfully miserable melodies. That gets to the heart and head of why In This Time isn’t as old-fashioned as you’d think—though the delightfully Renaissance Fair-esque cover art is downright hilarious. The Ar-Kaics formula homes in on making memorable music that moves you, from knees to neurons: the lyrics acknowledge life’s shared miseries while pushing for greater meaning, and the power-pop hooks bring an unexpected cheeriness to the whole charade. As Ward notes, “If the toes ain’t tapping, then we all may as well be napping.”

Burning Witches
Brugg, Switzerland
Hexenhammer | Nov. 9 | Nuclear Blast Records
RIYL: Salem Saberhagen. Metaphors. Spellbinding covers.

Of all their alleged abilities, it’s a witch’s power to influence one’s thoughts and actions that makes them especially haunting. Of course, sometimes this power of suggestion leads to delicious ends, and such is the mesmerizing command of Burning Witches’ Hexenhammer. The latest from the Swiss act relies on the influence of the old gods, but instead of Satan or Deadites, these witches call on the power of heavy metal titans: Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Dio. A truly menacing and enchanting twin-guitar attack looms large over Hexenhammer’s runtime, and Seraina Telli’s soaring vocals conjure some tasty auditory treats. It’s a massive credit to the band that their excellent cover of Dio’s classic “Holy Diver” isn’t even in the top half of this wonderful collection—which, wisely, does not focus on the plight of witches. As drummer Lala Frischknecht states, “The Middle Ages are one of the saddest eras in our history, and it is worth it to remind people of what happened in the past.” While much of this record’s allure springs from the greatness and atrocity of history, Hexenhammer cements Burning Witches as a monstrous force in the future of heavy metal.

Cedar Park
San Francisco
Fake Matter | Sept. 18 | Self-released
RIYL: Emotional roller coasters. 20/20 hindsight. Personal growth.

Cedar Park—the new musical amusement park, allegedly unrelated to roller coaster capital of the world, Cedar Point—specialize in excellently designed, fantastically executed audio thrill rides. Fake Matter is a ride in all senses of the word, full of stylistic shifts and changes in mood and perspective, with an impressively consistent quality throughout. Cedar Park’s aggressive and expressive sound runs the gamut, from emotional post-hardcore to grungy pop punk. The theme park architects—uh, the band actively embrace the idea that one’s sound should evolve over time, which plays into their hindsight-focused lyrics. “A lot of this album is about letting go and taking another look at a situation, realizing how you felt then can be so different than now and how starkly different those two things can be,” drummer Josh Aaron notes. The title plays into that theme, digging into the struggle of figuring out what really matters. It’s all about learning how to relax and enjoy the ride, and this particular journey is a magnificent time.

The Cocky Bitches
Austin, Texas
Mercy | Nov. 23 | Slope Records
RIYL: Confident female dogs. Occult vibes. Getting tipsy.

Insidiously intoxicating, the debut full-length from Paul Leary’s new psychedelic blues act, The Cocky Bitches, is many things—most of which can be inferred from Mercy’s visually, uh, sumptuous album art, featuring two heads, two wings, two legs, and six breasts. Musically and thematically, their style is alluring, arresting, erotic, and constantly engaging. The album’s deliberate, almost plodding approach completely immerses the listener in something defiantly other, something you won’t hear about in church. It’s impossible to feel sober while taking in the full breadth of Mercy, and it will leave you feeling markedly different by the end. One gets the sense that their own subjective trip is part of the music itself, and that’s exactly the case. “When we get together, something new and strange is created,” vocalist Baroness notes. “Rather than explain songs, I prefer it when the voyeur brings their own interpretation and life experiences. It brings everything to another level, like a story filtered through many humans and their shared experiences. It becomes bigger, becomes myth, and that’s where the art lies.”

New York City
Gnarcissists | Oct. 8 | BLISS NYC
RIYL: Urban grime. Harsh realities. Social renovation.

Photo by Jin kay Lee

Embracing all the chaos and energy that comes with a significant home renovation, NYC’s Gnarcissists are here to break down every load-bearing and non-load-bearing wall in sight and sing the praises of demolition. Yet, a total reinvention of the garage rock wheel would mean losing the gritty soul of the style, so Gnarcissists call out all the bullshit in the world backed by buzzsaw guitar riffs and riotously-shouted refrains, seemingly without taking themselves too seriously. Vocalist Matti Orr sums up this startling dichotomy succinctly, noting, “Sure, [the EP] is fun to play, but we still return to our house and question what we can afford to eat for dinner or how the fuck we can survive in a city that eats its young.” That cynicism works even better at the band’s boisterous live shows, where they further amplify the sonic and societal destruction on the record. Gnarcissists aren’t here to politely redo their kitchen; they want to tear it all down and start anew.

Hey, Chels
San Diego
Hey, Chels | Sept. 21 | La Escalera Records
RIYL: The perils of modern life. Good friends. Whiskey.

The best ideas form when friends gather with shared goals and a social lubricant—say, a bottle of whiskey. That’s pretty much what sparked the creation of Hey, Chels, featuring members of Western Settings, New Way On, and Squarecrow. While the lyrics of what is now “I Know You Are but What Am I?” were eventually improved with sober eyes, the sheer exuberance of the melody can be attributed to two friends—vocalist Jacque Mendez and bassist Ricky Schmidt—writing, drinking, and seeing what might happen. Hey, Chels don’t particularly resemble any of the member’s other acts, brimming with the intensity of grungy punk but imbued with a dream pop feel. This divergent sound works wonders with Mendez’ affecting lyrics, touching on school shootings, the plight of the working class, Henry David Thoreau, and existential and physical frustrations. “We live in an interesting time,” she states, “where there’s a whole lot going on around us. A lot of it is disappointing and somewhat frightening.” Her words are grounded by a personal touch that elevates them beyond political rants and makes the listener truly care. Hey, Chels aren’t here to save the world, but their powerful, punchy tunes might just offer up a salve for the chaos around us.

Holy Grove
Portland, Oregon
II | Nov. 9 | Ripple Music
RIYL: Showing your work on tests. Plotting destruction. LOUD NOISES!

Photo by James Rexroad

Part of the allure of metal is its raw, unfiltered sound—riffs and rhythms that are more like primal instincts that evolved over time than something analyzed or intentional. However, even the most beastly riff-barons need to show their work and check it again, as they never know when Professors Osbourne or Hetfield are going to grade musical papers. Holy Grove’s succinctly-named sophomore release, II, certainly does not sound like a work of carefully-plotted psychedelic doom, but bassist Gregg Emley acknowledges that this was intentional. “First and foremost, we want the songs to be all killer, no filler,” he says. “We get pretty analytical when putting the songs together and go over the parts in detail to make sure everything works well together and that we are serving the vibe of the song.” Vibe really is the critical word here, as the dexterous and slithering riffs and basslines work wonders with Andrea Vidal’s elastic, enigmatic vocals. These songs are a fucking blast, because the band were able to focus, amplify what made their debut work, and give everything the critical stink eye. The results—and the guaranteed headbanging and hip-shaking—speak for themselves.

The Goat | Jan. 25
| Spinefarm Records
RIYL: Good boys. Bad omens. The color purple—no, pink.

It goes against sound reason and upstanding moral character, but sometimes, it’s fine to judge a Puppy by their cover. The musical alchemists’ debut, The Goat, is a masterclass is stark juxtaposition: foreboding occult imagery beautifully contrasts a neon pink background. But just how menacing can a band named after a widdle doggie really be? It turns out, Puppy can have their treats and eat them too, as The Goat is absolutely everything its mesmerizing cover hints at. It’s like Fountains Of Wayne or peak-era Weezer—is this the Pink Album?!—made a thrash-inflected doom record. Vocalist and guitarist Jock Norton’s indie-styled tenor serves up haunting melodies aplenty, but his riffs are the real G.O.A.T. that make the record truly sing. Given that two-thirds of the trio came from the alternative scene, while the other member specializes in stoner and doom metal—two styles with stricter rules than a Midwest suburban mom—the musical deviation makes complete sense. “To a degree,” Norton says, “this album is both a collective celebration and rejection of the musical scenes we were involved with before.” Fire up the fuchsia and coral candles: The Goat is one hell of a musical brew.

Radar State
Kansas City & Lawrence, Kansas
Strays | Jan. 11 | Wiretap Records
RIYL: Rescuing stray animals. Jukeboxes. Living up to your idols.

Whether it’s a new-school dive bar jukebox or a curated streaming playlist, there’s something beautiful about gathering together some of your favorite bands and appreciating what links them—often, their ability to speak to you without you even realizing it. In the pursuit of making a perfect real-life playlist, one needs to have incredible ingredients, which the newly-formed Radar State—featuring members of The Get Up Kids, The Anniversary, and The Gadjits—do in spades. The band also utilize an interesting wrinkle to their advantage; as co-vocalist and guitarist Josh Berwanger notes, “Having three lead singers gives the band and album a playlist-type feel, which I think works out really great.” What makes Strays truly—sorry—sing is the group’s ability to distill everything that made their past works so endearing into something completely distinct. Radar State’s rootsy indie punk is fast and loud, but they have quite a bit to say, and the resulting album highlights the power of old friends creating something new and exciting.

Skull Pit
Tokyo & New York City
Skull Pit | Nov. 16 | Metal Blade Records
RIYL: Pen pals. Vinyl collectors. Auditory caffeine.

Skull Pit formed thanks to arguably the most metal pen pal pairing of all time. Exumer vocalist and bassist Mem V. Stein’s extensive vinyl collection led him to post a copy of a record by Japanese doom behemoths Church Of Misery for sale online. That band’s bassist, Tatsu Mikami, wound up on the site and reached out to Stein. Bonding over a shared love of proto-metal—think Motörhead, Tank, and classic NWOBHM—the two realized their musical careers each had a sizable void the other could fill. Despite being known for thrash and doom, respectively, Stein and Mikami began sending each other the music they fell in love with as kids, discovering a pit of epic proportions. “The love for this music is what made this record possible,” Stein beams. Of all the great things about Skull Pit—the energy, fantastic musicianship, and surprisingly bountiful hooks—what really stands out is the band’s appreciation of those who have gone before them. Skull Pit are all about showing love to metal elders, as metal elders, and that experience shines through on their debut.

Umeå, Sweden
Adult Lobotomy | Nov. 23 | Crazysane Records
RIYL: Paranoia. Childhood passions. A severed head as sedative.

Photo by Ossian Danielsson Öberg

There’s freedom in embracing imperfection. One can still strive for excellence—as Statues do on their recently released Adult Lobotomy—but going all-in on whatever may happen is liberating. These seasoned musicians formed after their previous acts fell apart, and they wanted to play like they were falling in love with music all over again: loud, fast, and off the cuff. The group’s paranoid, punchy post-punk is delightfully polished in its alleged inadequacy. Statues reveled in embracing their first takes, and that live atmosphere results in a record imbued with a reigned-in reckless abandon. This approach (im)perfectly suits the album’s themes: using a lobotomy as a metaphor for a—good and necessary—societal reboot. “I think we found a nerve in [our first takes],” Statues say. “I can definitely hear us struggle in some parts, and I really like that feeling. We’re not pros. It’s like when we started playing music at a young age.” That carefree attitude translates to a wonderfully passionate and headstrong musical statement.

Six Feet Deep | Oct. 19 | Red Scare Industries
RIYL: Skipping family functions. The holidays. ADHD.

The most impactful Thanksgiving of Tightwire vocalist and guitarist Paul Kettler’s life started with him ditching his family gathering to attend a secret punk show. Jetty Boys were playing in a packed room of 20 or so near where Kettler attended college. He recalls that the show featured the guitarist grabbing a beer during a solo and continuing to play flawlessly, so it wasn’t all that different from a family Thanksgiving. “It was organized chaos. It ruled,” Kettler states. That frank description is also apt for the kind of manic, melodic madness Tightwire specialize in. Like the best high-wire performers, this Minnesotan group abide by two rules: make it fun and get it over with quickly. The songs on their debut LP, Six Feet Deep, require zero attention span, yet they very quickly lodge themselves into your cranium. It’s love at first note for this fast-rising melodic punk juggernaut. Don’t be a turkey! Tightwire are the—cranberry—sauce, boss.

Tommy And The Commies
Sudbury, Ontario
Here Come… | Sept. 28 | Slovenly Recordings
RIYL: Rhyming. Oxymorons. Not being a moron.

There’s something in the maple syrup in Ontario that keeps it pumping out fantastic punk bands, and Tommy And The Commies are no exception. Their retro punk power-pop is as jubilant as it is seriously good. There’s a fine line between emulating the past and embracing the feel of what made the greats so exceptional, and Here Come… does the latter. The record brims with all the angst, energy, and frustration ’70s U.K. mod-punks like Buzzcocks, The Jam, and The Exploding Hearts were known for, but there’s something else, something deeper, that elevates The Commies beyond a simple throwback act. Frontman Tommy Commy—who laughs and notes that the band’s name literally came about because “commie” rhymes with his name—is matter of fact about the album’s themes. “Writing about what you know is key, and in [this] case, that’s the self-destructive nature and hopeless romanticism I am negatively defined by but, alternatively, embrace,” he says. It’s that winking paradox that makes the band’s occasionally silly, often abrasive lyrics land so well. Tommy and his batch of Commies are in it for the long haul with their seriously fantastic power punk.

TV Party
Ventura, California
EP #1 | Oct. 21 | Burger Records
RIYL: Tubes. Antennae. Getting up to change the channel.

Small-screen celebrators TV Party take a lovely left-of-center view of garage punk. Their particular sonic station comes in stunningly clear, with loads of ’70s and ’80s punk, power pop, and new wave influences that create something equal parts soaring and haunting—imagine The Strokes playing Buzzcocks covers, and you’re halfway there. TV Party’s self-titled debut LP will be released through Burger Records as three separate EPs, and one listen to lead track “Angry” will have you shouting out, “Don’t touch that dial!” Its post-punk attitude is binge-worthy, and vocalist Jesse Brinkenhoff’s stream-of-consciousness lyrics are unrelenting in their honesty and charm. The most unexpected anecdote is how the band bonded and unwound while writing these tunes. “When we were writing the record, [guitarist] Jesse Jenny and I got real into ‘The Bachelor,’” bassist Matt Kash laughs. “There is something special about sitting around with your pals and watching people try to find true love.” Don’t let the frustration and punk edge fool you: TV Party are romantics at heart.

Oakland, California
Cosmovore | Nov. 9 | 20 Buck Spin
RIYL: Sonic horror. Frightening art. A pleasant menace.

Photo by Aloysius V. Cummings

“As a band, I think we enjoy doing the ‘wrong’ thing,” Ulthar co-vocalist and guitarist Shelby Lermo states, “whether it’s structurally, timing-wise, tempo, composition, etc. We specifically set out to do things that are off-kilter, nonsensical, or just plain weird but still heavy and menacing.” Lermo’s explanation captures why the band’s debut effort, Cosmovore, is such an apt initial statement for the latest extreme metal supergroup—featuring members of Vastum, Extremity, and Mutilation Rites—to come out of Oakland. What makes Ulthar’s dripping, Dali-esque clock tick is the unholy marriage of everything, pushed to its furthest reaches. The mix of black, death, and sludge metal on Cosmovore—which denotes a literal hunger for the entire universe—is far from uncompromising. Instead, by trying to valiantly to do the “wrong” thing, Ulthar manage to do the exact right thing, creating total sonic chaos that is maddeningly addictive.

Well Wisher
Asbury Park, New Jersey
This Is Fine | Sept. 28 | 6131 Records
RIYL: Accidental wisdom. Actualization. Greeting cards.

Well Wisher aren’t the first act to combine brash power pop with gritty grunge riffs, but they might be the best at wielding deadly hooks like a set of freshly-sharpened kitchen knives. Vocalist and guitarist Natalie Newbold’s voice has an earnest streak, which drives home that there’s a wonderful depth to this debut batch of bangers, something significant behind the sheen and fuzz. Each song carries at least two handfuls of well-crafted guitar licks and hummable melodies, and Newbold’s lyrics come from the realization that, as she puts it, “sometimes you have to make really hard decisions to lead a more fulfilled and happier life.” To further belabor the point that there’s wisdom at the bottom of this well, the band’s name comes from a sad but endearing story from Newbold’s childhood. “My dad and I unfortunately don’t have a great relationship, and on my birthday card the year my parents got divorced, he had written, ‘Wish things were different. –Dad,’” she recalls. “That always stuck with me. Just the idea that you can wish things were different all you want, but how you command and conduct your life is all that matters.” If This Is F

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