In an opinion piece for The Financial Times this month Emma Jacobs posits, “algorithms are a poor replacement for the workers at the old record and CD shop I used to visit, now closed down. The staff there were unusually friendly and extremely non-judgmental.” She quotes a blog post about automated music recommendations by Brian Whitman, former principal scientist at Spotify (“they’re statistically optimizing to make more money, to sell you more things”) and suggests, “rather than broaden our tastes, they might well be narrowing them.” Jacobs concludes her solution is “to spurn the algorithms and instead solicit friends and experts for their recommendations.” That’s exactly what this series has aimed to do every month of 2017, to recap the music most worthy attention not from critical consensus or a statistical analysis of what’s trendy, but from asking numerous people that follow music this simple question, “what music stood out to you last month?” The intention is to get their immediate reaction, a quick response that could be anything: an album, or several; a new song or music video; reissues, a concert, a music festival. Click through for the responses from January, February, March, April, May and June. As for July, typically one of the slowest months of the year for new music, our panel nonetheless had choice picks for the consideration of fellow music fans. Check them out below:
This Is Not A Drill founder and Drowned In Sound writer Lee Adcock
“For me in July…well, on the local front, Background (or is that BKGD?) whizzed out of nowhere with the zaniest single I’ve heard round these parts in ages, “Into the Wall.” Think of some time-defying union between early Fall and Guerilla Toss.
As for live gigs – well, that’d be a tie, but I’ll give the credit this time to Sequoyah, one of the most gifted and innovative singers in town. Last time I saw them, they were alone with a backing track; this time, they had a full jazzy ensemble behind them, and the crowd went nuts for it.
Finally, an album on the national front – and this is always tricky, since I’m usually listening to stuff a month before it drops. So, barring advance promos…yeah, this round definitely goes to Scottish slop punks Breakfast Muff. Well, them or Terry, the Aussie post-punk ensemble that outsmarts everyone and never brags about it.”
Reviews that don’t suck, songs of the day, interviews and more, This Is Not A Drill shines a light on the best music you’re probably not hearing elsewhere. Read recent reviews of Terry’s Remember Terry and Breakfast Muff’s Eurgh! (Amour Foo) and more, and follow on Twitter and Facebook. This piece on Dirty Projectors, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and the state of indie rock in 2017 is also recommended.
The Fire Note founder Christopher Anthony
“Ricky Hamilton / Quality Time Records
Ricky Hamilton runs Quality Time Records and plays in a multitude of bands currently rocking Cleveland. Ricky Hamilton has been pumping out noisy lo-fi punk music at a quick pace that most notably includes recent 2017 releases from his band Fascinating and his sophomore solo record, Killed By Ricky. Next up is the killer Shagg debut that is fronted by Nat Cherry and features Hamilton on drums with Marty Brass on bass. Be sure to check out the label’s Bandcamp page – you really can’t go wrong if this sound is in your wheelhouse!
Live In San Francisco series on Castle Face Records
TFN always looks forward to this series and Magnetix is the latest showcase. The group is a two-piece French garage-electro rock group with a catalog of singles and several albums that date back to 2002. This live setting catches the group in a more raw setting and the several songs that pass the 4 and 5-minute mark are filled with cut throat drumming and guitar work which instantly won TFN over.
A. Savage – “Winter In The South” [Single]
A. Savage is best known as one of the frontman for Parquet Courts and he will release his first solo record, Thawing Dawn, October 13th on Dull Tools. The single, “Winter In The South,” immediately connects the dots between his band and solo material with its bounce, rhythmic wordplay and a mojo feel all the way down to the spaghetti western strumming. This will be a definite full length to put on the upcoming radar.”
3hive’s Todd Simmons
“Two of my standouts were released in July and two were not, but standouts nonetheless.
• H. Grimace – Self Architect [opposite number records] 4/17
I had heard ‘2.1 Woman’ on my Spotify ‘Discover Weekly’ list. I dug the track so I checked out the album. I was pleasantly surprised – it’s shoegazey, jangly, reverbed goodness. This is my favorite discovery from July.
• Waxahatchee – Out In The Storm [merge] 7/17
Count me among the hordes currently loving the new Waxahatchee. Her song writing is solid and I really dig the new full band sound.
• Bedouine – S/T [spacebomb] 6/17
This is another surprise that I checked because an Instagram pal was raving about her. It’s super smooth and chill and her voice rules!
• NIN – ‘Less Than’ single [null] 7/17
I was way into Nine Inch Nails back in Reznor’s early days. Pretty Hate Machine was one of the records that got me through high school. After The Downward Spiral, I lost my taste for NIN and lost touch with him/them. When I was recommended the new single from a co-worker, I hesitantly gave it a go. I am so happy that I did. It’s a throwback to the early days and I really dig it. It’s too bad the rest of the EP is pretty lame.”
3hive.com is been a virtual jukebox, linking to MP3s since 2003, now embedding official streams. Tabs on top of the site make it easy to sort through the latest recommendations from specific genres (rock, electronic and psychedelic for instance). Follow on Facebook and Twitter.
Pionears Julien Van de Casteele
“For us the main thing that caught our attention this month is the Soundcloud crisis. Is Soundcloud really on the verge of disappearing? Will someone step in?
Soundcloud has been our main outlet for sharing music on the blog and gradually became a hotspot for discovering new music. Compared to other platforms in the market (Spotify, Deezer, Bandcamp, …) Soundcloud allows for an undisrupted access to music that artists can just put out there on the spot, without having to go through a somewhat official release. It’s the best way to follow up on an artist and to share their work broadly. It seems unimaginable to see Soundcloud disappear…
On a positive note, we’ve listened to some great music this month and here is our highlight:
- Loners – ‘Horizon’
- Blue Hawaii – ‘No One Like You’
- Paradise – ‘Rock N Roll Dream’
- Spiral Stairs – ‘Trams (Stole My Love)’
Independent Ethos co-founder Hans Morgenstern
“Protomartyr ‘A Private Understanding’ is a fine example of creating anticipation with familiarity in a wash of noise that only grows more ecstatic as it reaches toward climax across it’s near five-and-a-half-minute sprawl. A rich, deceptively intricate work that reveals a grand new sophistication for the group and bodes well for the group’s new album Relatives In Descent.
From Miami, Chicken Liquor, self-released a video for ‘Quince’ at the end of July directed by the Miami-based performance artist Antonia Wright who rolls her nude body through a church and meadow, among other places, via quickly hacked up edits. The song’s driving energy speaks to the classic power in “power trio.” It’s no wonder these guys warm up the stage around town for the likes of another local, classical power trio, The Jacuzzi Boys. They also made a fan of David Bowie before he passed away, so there’s that.
TORRES’ ‘Three Futures’ may be the most moving song I’ve heard this year. It’s haunting, barely-there melody buoys an instance of conflicted love with a surprise ending. In her husky smoky voice, singer-songwriter Mackenzie Scott sings, ‘You didn’t know I saw three futures/One alone and one with you/And one with the love I’d knew I’d choose.’ A clash of visions that connotes both the complexity of a momentary thought and the sprawl of life. In a video rich in stark humor, Scott plays three roles that finally merge together for a creepy/sensual pose in menage a trois.”
Vice chair of the Florida Film Critics Circle, Hans writes about indie music and cinema for a variety of websites including MiamiNewTimes.com and his own Independent Ethos. For more on these three songs above jump through to this post and follow updates at twitter.com/Indieethos.
The Owl Mag’s Wayne Jessup
“Hard to believe it’s just a shade over five years since Waxahatchee’s American Weekend. With it’s bedroom/field recording vibe, the stark confessional maximized it’s lo-fi ness, stripping her previous efforts (Ackleys/PS Eliot) to the bone. On subsequent tours and LP’s Cerulean Salt (2013) and Ivy Tripp (2015), she’s built back up, adding deeper textures to her songs that range from sparse acoustic songs to full blown rockers. Crutchfield’s Waxahatchee is her vessel, and the lineup has ranged from her solo, through every configuration up to the quintet that powered the Ivy Tripp shows. Out In The Storm is the fullest realization, effortlessly incorporating all sides of her vision into a seamless whole. Few American songwriters are as adept at walking the tightrope of imbuing stark confessionals with the universality to connect to all. It’s her life, and she’ll do what she wants to, indeed. It’s the acknowledgment of personal failings, and that there’s a cost to every action that sets her apart from the pack. ‘No Curse’ shows off an airtight arrangement, ‘No Question,’ with its grinding ‘it sets you free’ coda, and ‘Brass Beam’ come out fangs bared, while ‘A Little More’ and ‘8 Ball’ hew to the more hushed side. That said, as on “Recite:Remorse”, it’s those quiet moments that can be the most powerful, the halting delivery that finally looses the line ‘…I was cleared for takeoff,’ and the band picking it up behind her. ‘Fade,’ like Ivy Tripp’s ‘Bonfire,’ is the perfect closer, harkening back to the first chapter in this journey, American Weekend, yet, in its summation of a doomed relationship, shows the long road out of Waxahatchee Creek.”
Psych Insight Music founder, Simon Smith
A Deep Well by Cavalier Song
“To call this a hugely powerful album is something of an understatement. It is a set redolent with musical and verbal symbolism, yet it is somehow a symbolism that is malleable… solid enough to demand to be listened to, yet flexible enough to leave it open to interpretation. It is an album that I expect to never listen to in the same way twice, and it is an album that you really need to hear yourself to appreciate its intensity and ambition. For me Cavalier Song have really stepped up with A Deep Well and after Blezard that is quite a feat.”
Dag & Natt by Kungens Män
“With Dag & Natt Kungens Män have created a cycle of improvisations that they claim can accompany us through the day and night. Whether they have or not remains to be seen since a few listens in most definitely not enough to judge whether this is the case. Nevertheless the signs are promising, and certainly from a purely musical point of view this is a set that would be remarkable were it recorded in the studio in the usual way. That these are spontaneous expressions of the bands collaborative creativity is a mark of their individual and collective ability to deliver something that I am sure will be challenging me to decipher its meaning for many listens to come while, at the very least, enjoying the music.”
Melt Downer by Melt Downer
“Taking the shorter tracks aside there would be a well-decent punk/ noise/ psych album that would fry your mind and melt your face. But that’s not the whole story here. There is also the sound of a band kicking out in many different directions, the sound of a band exploring away from its (hard)core elements and doing just what bands should be doing…confounding and surprising the listener in a way that is both thoughtful and thrilling.”
Psych Insight Music is the essential reference for staying up to date with the current psych scene, particularly the new releases overlooked elsewhere on the web. Follow Simon’s favorite new listens at bandcamp.com/psychinsightmusic and twitter.com/psychinsightmsc and read his reviews of the aforementioned albums from Cavalier Song, Kungens Män and Melt Downer.
Simon is also walking 3000 miles this year to raise £3000 for a cancer charity. Details on how you can help him reach his goal are here.
musicOMH’s Sam Shepherd
“It’s been something of a quiet month for me, what with life being all busy and that, but definitely worth a mention are the new albums from Melvins, Public Service Broadcasting and The Fall.
I’ve only reviewed Melvins [A Walk with Love & Death] though. It’s definitely an album of two halves. One, the standard grunge inflected rock behemoth we’re used to and the other a more experimental and peculiar version. It’s definitely worth a listen.
Public Service Broadcasting always seemed like a band whose schtick might tire fairly rapidly, but they’ve managed to keep the basic concept of plundering documentary footage for inspiration fresh over the years. Every Valley is an effective and emotional work based around the story of the Welsh mining industry. A lot of people think that maybe the shine has left the band, but I don’t think that’s the case at all. It’s a strong album.
The Fall need no introduction, or at least they shouldn’t, beyond ‘WE ARE THE FALL.’ New Facts Emerge is the 32nd or 33rd album from the Group and the first since Eleni Poulou left. What remains is probably the most straight up ‘Rock’ incarnation of The Fall to date. It’s a belter of an album and not nearly as bad as some might have you believe.”
Ravin’ Wire founder, Bob Sarles
“I just got the boxed set of live Doc & Merl Watson live recordings [Never the Same Way Once], recorded by Owlsey at The Boarding House in San Francisco.”
The roots of The Ravin Wire go back to a mid-1990s e-mail list-service that sent subscribers several articles per day. Since 2009 followers have been updated with a variety of content from across the web shared on the Ravin Wire facebook page by Bob Sarles – a film and television editor and filmmaker based out of San Francisco and Los Angeles – and by following Sarles’ twitter account.
“Since its release this year I’ve been listening to Matthew Ryan’s Hustle Up Starlings. I’ve been a fan of Ryan’s music since his debut album May Day in 1997. Yet his last few albums have been standouts for me (and apparently for other music reviewers too). Ryan’s gravely voice and songwriting skills have led to comparisons to artists like Bruce Springsteen throughout his career, but he has his own sound and his own poetry.”
Pophistory at Chimesfreedom.com has a unique take on current events: through cultural history. The story of the Mexican workers in California that inspired Woody Guthrie’s song “Deportees” for instance. Read more about Matthew Ryan’s Hustle Up Starlings here and follow on Twitter and Facebook.
IndieNugget co-founder, Maria Lopes
“My fav from July is ‘Oasis’ by HYMMJ.”
Jason Grishkoff from Indie Shuffle linked us to his site’s monthly playlist. He notes “with an average of about twenty tracks per playlist, that makes at least 140 amazing songs we’ve uncovered so far this year. Here’s hoping you enjoy the latest installment.”
- SOL GEMS – Echo Eyes
- SOFI TUKKER – Fuck They
- Mutemath – Stroll On
- Kan Wakan – Phantasmagoria Pt. 1 (Ft. Elle Olsun)
- DUCKWRTH – BOY (Prod. by Alexander Spit)
- Jay-Z – The Story of O.J.
- illuminati hotties – (You’re Better) Than Ever
- Ted Jasper – Get It Together
- Upsahl – Can You Hear Me Now
- Coldplay – A L I E N S
- Masego – Navajo
- Low Island – Holding it Down
- nvdes – Do You Think About Me?
- Holy Oysters – Just So You Know
- LEAN – Come Back
- Beshken – Lightning By The Sea
- RAC – The Beautiful Game (Ft. St. Lucia)
- Dornik – God Knows (Prod. by Jungle)
- Kainalu – Love Nebula
An essential site for discovering the greatest of the latest new music, Indie Shuffle uses a unique music player powered by SoundCloud to facilitate carefully curated listening. Follow Indie Shuffle at twitter.com/indieshuffle.
- Stack #148 (selected by Portals’ Tyler Andere) with Lomelda, Sophie Meiers, James Deen + ehiorobo, Jakob Ogawa + Clairo
- Stack #149 with Choker, Yaeji, UV-TV, HDLSS, Yu Su, Basement Revolver
- Stack #150 with Blue Hawaii, Shannon Lay, Smileswithteeth, Little Simz, Morly, Benedek
Since 2005 Hype Machine has tracked the new tunes generating buzz on the countless blogs around the world and allowed an easy way to listen to them all. Subscribe to Stack by e-mail here and follow Hype Machine at twitter.com/hypem.