Elections tallies that take a month, new Turkey Day routines, and even a Cyber Monday that was off the chain in these quaran-times—none of these events could stop the onslaught of new music. Filling up Bandcamp pages, Spotify playlists (I thought Pollen was that thing made people sneeze, mystifying), and newly contrasting visuals, we have the clusterbus you’ve been fiending for since your housemate messed up the macaroni and cheese. #dontexperimentonthanksgiving
From darkwave riding a fixed gear in the NYC streets to a ska band from San Jose, we got it all. So hold tight my selector, these are some of the best tracks of the week.
RARE DM, “send nudes”
Okay. The visual of Rare DM (a.k.a. Erin Hoagg) riding around the streets of NYC on a fixie wearing thick heeled boots and a one piece that seems a bit drafty around the lower torso is quite the vision. She got a lot going on.
But it’s the gloomy bliss of synths telling a non-visual story. Those thud-quivering bass tones lay the framework to some type of farewell middle finger choon. “I can send my nudes to someone else,” is purred without desperation. It’s a flex for sure, in a true darkwave, nonchalant manner. Filmed on a GoPro during the first week of quarantine, the self-directed video sees Rare DM in various non-traditional biking outfits—that do work for her—checking for new 4 a.m. DM pals.
DRY CLEANING, “SCRATCHCARD LANYARD”
Compared to bands Placebo and Sonic Youth, I was duly warned in 2019 about the jaunty, atonal bass and guitars of Dry Cleaning. They pack a supreme wallop of a body blow. This is tense, post-punk energy you can’t get enough of. Florence Shaw constantly doles out a mixture of lyrics composed of inner monologue, Youtube comments, memories of songs, and phrases collected from ads on TV. It’s like Joe Buck—wait, bad example. Imagine your favorite sports ball announcer giving play-by-play commentary on the underpinnings of everyday life with grand displeasure. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
Firm friends for years, the band (Lewis Maynard, Tom Dowse, Florence Shaw, and Nick Buxton) only started making music after a karaoke party in 2017 inspired a collaboration. They wrote instrumentally to begin with, and six months later Shaw, a university lecturer and picture researcher by day, joined on vocals with no prior musical experience. They recorded the six-track Sweet Princess EP before playing their first show only last year. Dry Cleaning’s music is simple, direct, and uncomplicated. The Feelies, B52s, and Pylon all served as inspirations when the band first came together. I can’t stress enough how much they channel Arthur Russell’s brief-tenured band, the oh-so-brilliant The Necessaries.
“Scratchcard Lanyard” is a treatise on the joy of life’s little pleasures, where air fresheners become mighty oaks and Instagram filters are glamorous holiday destinations. In its companion video, the directorial debut of artist duo Rottingdean Bazaar (James Theseus Buck and Luke Brooks), concept and set design riff on the song’s celebration of the humdrum, inserting vocalist Florence Shaw into her own miniature night club.
If this is the beginning of an inevitable wave of COVID-inspired art, I’m all for it.
The quartet has finished work on their debut album for 4AD, with details to come.
THUNDERCAT (FEAT. TY DOLLA $IGN AND LIL’ B), “FAIR CHANCE” (FLOATING POINTS REMIX)
First thing first. Kudos, salutations, and shouts to Thundercat for his recent Grammy nomination.
It’s not the first for ole Thundie, but it’s always a sign of progress to see these somewhat stuffy awards platforms toss in a vote for the weirdly progressive artists who keep it pushing upstream. Back in April, as the world was spiraling into COVID-19 lockdown, Thundercat released his aptly titled album It Is What It Is featuring musical contributions from Flying Lotus, Childish Gambino, Kamasi Washington, Steve Lacy, Steve Arrington, BADBADNOTGOOD, Louis Cole, Zack Fox, Ty Dolla $ign, and Lil B. The latter pair graced the single “Fair Chance,” a song that reflected a more somber side to the album and was dedicated to the memory of Mac Miller, who tragically passed away in 2018.
Earlier this summer, rappers Smino and Guapdad 4000 guested on the hook friendly “Dragonball Durag.” Now, the golden one, much-loved British producer Floating Points steps up to bring a UK Garage type feel to “Fair Chance,” making the ballad into a dancefloor celebration of life.
COOL COMPANY, “FLOATIN'”
Cool Company is an independent future funk-R&B duo composed of dynamic vocalist Cool Yan and multi-instrumentalist-producer THANKYOUFATMATT. They’ve done well amassing massive streams via berths on Spotify’s “Nu-Funk” playlist, but I’m bugging they’ve made all their gains even before dropping this amazingly funny and funky video. Within seconds we get it. They’re serious, more importantly, dope with the R&B-funk hybrid, launching attacking tunes but still able to joke about themselves dancing around on a roof in funny lo-fi Vines.
According to THANKYOUFATMATT: “I came up with this concept after quarantine hit, when we had to minimize the complexity and the number of people. Most of the video is a static shot, I did lots of the zooms and motion in editing. It was partially inspired by some of the recent TikToks people are doing these days with the funny dance moves, fast editing, and camera tracking. We shot it on the roof of our apartment building in Bushwick.”
Influenced by artists like Outkast, Frank Ocean, and Stevie Wonder, Cool Company is gonna be around for a sec—with or without SPF 80 protection.
VOLUNTARY HAZING, “WHY (YOU IN A SKA BAND)”
Oh buddy, let me introduce you to Voluntary Hazing, a—lemme get this right—12-piece ska and pop-punk band who sometimes stumble into psychedelic, disco, and acoustic sounds. Formed in San Jose, they’re a bunch of marching band geeks (this is all self-described, the geeks called themselves geeks) that grew up in classical training, but began experimenting, and decided to play some rock music with their horns. Their interests include skanking, emo music, and memes. So many memes.
Listen, the Specials are my all-time go-to ska band, outside of them I generally don’t mess around with the genre for reasons you can figure out yourself. But I love Voluntary Hazing … love them.
Are they incredible? Well yes, in a certain type of way, very much so. Like the smell of newborn kittens.
They used to start almost every practice with “Sell Out” by Reel Big Fish, and they’ve had six bassists since their unofficial inception in the oh-so-fateful fall of 2017. They have a full horn section with trombones and trumpets, and alto, tenor, and bari saxes.
“Voluntary Hazing recounts comments we’ve received from ska naysayers while celebrating the genre and making nods to other musical influences (Yes, that is a quote from Igor Stravinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring’ that you’re hearing),” says Kayla, lead singer of the band. “The new video consists of pre-pandemic band footage to visually answer the question, ‘Why are you in a ska band?’ In the spirit of the upcoming holiday season, we want to express with the video that we’re thankful for friendship, music, and the amazing ska artists that paved the way before us.”
See what I mean? Humility.
After you watch this video it becomes so apparent, they are who they say they are. And that’s honest. We get quite a few ‘cooler than you’ videos here and it’s like c’mon … I saw you eating a burrito in Dolores Park a couple of years ago wearing purple pants, but now you’re sporting hundred dollar haircuts (in a pandemic no less!) and your first name is “Cool Ass Teddy” (that’s an exaggeration but you get what I’m saying. You know the type.) This cute lil’ band is all heart. I’ll take the geeks over cool ass Petey Water or whatever the hell he calls himself these days. Yes, Voluntary Hazing, you sure did make Mom so damn proud!