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Post-Trash's Best of 2018 | The Year In Review

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by Dan Goldin, Nick Adams, Max Freedman, David Anthony, Kris Handel, Huw Baines, Chris Jones, Patrick Pilch, Allison Kridle, Dalvin Aboagye, Thrin Vianale, Niccolò Dante Porcello, Glennon Curran, Sarah Knoll, Dylan Pennell, Tim Crisp, Sacha Kingston-Wayne, Colin Vallee, Lydia Pudzianowski, Hugo Reyes


Another year in the books. We’re all older and wiser and the world of music press continues to shrink all around us. Post-Trash has had its best year to date (based off nothing but our assumptions and feelings) and the DIY community remains as radiant as ever, shimmering out from the shadows. It’s been an exhausting year for the world in terms of politics and societal regression, but there sure was a lot of incredible music released. From punk to free jazz experimentation to dream pop and crusty metal, records have become an escape, a chance to leave one existence and migrate over to the next, seeing the world in different perspectives at all levels of agitation.

Our “Year in Review" is a comprehensive guide to our favorite releases of the year without a pre-determined length. If we loved a record, we're including it. Simple as that (unless we just plum forgot it, in which case our sincerest of apologies). It's impossible to listen to everything released in a year and everyone has different tastes, but we feel pretty great about these particular records. Your next favorite band could be out there, it's just a matter of listening to something new. Journey down this rabbit hole with us. Together, we've profiled 100+ of the releases that make Post-Trash the site that it is, with countless others recommended as "further listening," a section for releases you might have missed, and we might not have spent enough time with. We're not saying these are the best albums, but rather our favorites. 

Discover something new. Support the music you love. Thank you for reading Post-Trash and help spread the word if you like what we’re up to. 

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BOOJI BOYS | “Weekend Rocker”

Drunken Sailor Records

Canada's noisiest punks Booji Boys' music seethes with a power-pop vibe, distorted and demented to the extreme, pushing the needle far beyond red. They had a great 2017 and released this album on Christmas, just after our feature went live, hence it’s inclusion here. Releasing their debut full length back in February ‘17 (also one of our favorites), and following it with a lo-fi as all hell EP in the heat of the summer, the Nova Scotia punk band returned with their second album, Weekend Rocker, an Xmas present to the world. It's the best record they've done yet, a brash and chaotic album that dips its toes in hardcore, scuzz punk, and pop with equal measure, ripping and tearing through spastic riffs and reverberated howls in a welcome celebration of primal noise and jangly melodies. Someone get this band on tour. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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MAMMOTH GRINDER | “Cosmic Crypt”

Relapse Records

At this point in my life, I believe I owe a great deal of my continued sanity to my wife and to extreme metal (though pretty much never simultaneously). While I've dabbled in metal's outer genres (sludge, doom, post-metal) for decades, it's only been the past five years or so I've been digging deep and finding out that the world of metal is vast and infinitely enjoyable, once you find what works for you. Mammoth Grinder works for me. The band's latest album Cosmic Crypt is all destruction and no bullshit, a wild ride that rips and rips and rips, and never lets up. They embrace thrash, progressive metal, doom, and sludge, reworking all them to sound a bit unrecognizable, a pummel steam engine barreling forward with massive force and apocalyptic fury. In what has been one of the roughest years of my life, its bands like Mammoth Grinder that have kept me mind afloat (its great music to work too as well). - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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NO AGE | “Snares Like A Haircut”

Drag City Records

Five years after their last album and a full decade after Nouns hit the blogs, No Age suddenly find themselves punk veterans. But the duo wastes no time on Snares Like a Haircut, their Drag City debut, proving that they’re no less vital—rarely have they played with the urgency and muscle of the opening three songs. The rest of the record unfolds with the varying volumes characteristic of No Age’s grab-bag songwriting, but all with a newfound clarity—especially on the soaring “Send Me.” Whereas they previously tended to obscure their pop sensibilities, No Age now seem unafraid to let their songs breathe and expand, making their warm dream-punk pack an added emotional punch. - Nick Adams || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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THE ROYAL THEY | “Foreign Being”

King Pizza Records

It was only January and there was a good chance The Royal They had already released one of the year's best albums. Nothing has changed. From the colossally heavy beginning of Foreign Being through to the wildly energetic end, the Brooklyn based trio's sophomore album is all smash hits. Power pop songs buried in heavy punk slime and surging post-hardcore deviations, The Royal They blur the lines between sweetness and primal fury, writing songs that are bright and hooky with enough muscle to shake the foundation of any DIY venue. There's not a moment wasted throughout Foreign Being, a record that shifts between ominous and immediate with explosive grace. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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SHAME | “Songs of Praise”

Dead Oceans

Another of the UK's exceptional post-punk records, Shame's debut is full of piss and vinegar, and a contender for album of the year. The young punks are snide as hell, digging into the anxiety and unease of our times with songs that create hypnotic lulls that ring false, quick to startle you back into their abrasion. It's crass and rude, but blistering and indignant in the best, most reckless of ways. The songs that make up Songs of Praise are well structured and intelligently played, easing tension with bursts of melody and just enough hooks to shout along while still keeping their punk abandon firmly in tact. It's a kick in the teeth with all the cleverness one can muster, a tip of the hat as you collapse from mental exhaustion into a heap of garbage. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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TY SEGALL | “Freedom’s Goblin”

Drag City Records

For what seems like an eternity, Ty Segall has been releasing exceptional records that brilliantly explore one of his many passions at a time, from blown out garage punk and Sabbath inspired doom pop to acoustic 60's leaning voyages and glam at its most psych rock. He's excelled at just about everything he's attempted and on Freedom's Goblinhe's finally putting it all together, and running goddamn wild. The results are sprawling and reeling, but it's a burst of every color in the spectrum, a odyssey of freaky grooves and phenomenally crafted rock music, breaking down just about every door in existence and spinning around in the collective dust. It's the album that's been (figuratively) decades in the making, and it's Ty Segall at his most daring and unpredictable. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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WATER FROM YOUR EYES | “All A Dance”

EIS Records

Water From Your Eyes doesn’t write sad songs, but its music might make listeners tear up. The winkingly-titled Brooklyn duo of Rachel Brown and Nate Amos has spent the last year or so churning out dance-infused post-punk so gleefully ecstatic that crying and dancing along feels natural, if not necessary. All a Dance, the band’s sophomore LP following an album and two EPs released in 2017, seems intent on destroying the line between post-punk and dance music with a smirk and a wink. Its six songs, which span 37 minutes, relegate Brown’s voice to almost a twee-like mumble, rendering it welcoming and even a bit coy against Amos’ bouncing but sparse confections. The songs sound more like soft revelations and dusty sunrises than they do defeated isolation and chilly moons, making for an album bound to please leather-wearing crust-punks just as strongly as it’ll satisfy the young city kids looking to get sweaty at a hip Friday night event. - Max Freedman || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

FURTHER LISTENING:

EXEK “Ahead of Two Thoughts” | THE GREEN CHILD “The Green Child” | MIND SPIDERS "Furies" | PORCHES “The House” | SIDNEY GISH “No Dogs Allowed”

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ANNA MCCLELLAN | “Yes And No”

Father/Daughter Records

This is one of the year's best albums, hands down. Anna McClellan's voice is utterly incredible, a natural presence that's so strong yet fragile, emulating the grandiosity of the singers from the 50's and 60's, but the earnest cracks and trills are explicitly modern (and expressively personal). Her analysis of anxiety and relationships mixed with the mundane and scattershot thoughts is brilliant, effective, and easy to relate to. We all have a galaxy of thoughts in our heads, only a fraction of which we ever choose to articulate, but throughout Yes And No, McClellan lets us into her mind, pulling at sentimental moments with a deadpan sense of humor. I don't often keep tabs on my favorite song of the year, but "Nail Biting Song" is an undeniable classic, a sweeping calamity of anxious energy. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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KAL MARKS | “Universal Care”

EIS Records

Kal Marks has always made ugly music, and I mean that in the best way possible. In the same way that Unsane utilized painfully claustrophobic music to build sonic onslaughts, Kal Marks has done the same, and while Universal Care still sounds like sheet metal being forged, it’s also the most beautiful thing they’ve ever made. The record oozes with a kind of fervor that the band has always had and captures perfectly here, with songs that push them in new directions without losing sight of their ultimate goals. It’s the kind of album that consumes you and makes you want to revisit because so few bands dare to be as uncompromising as Kal Marks. - David Anthony || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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PALM | “Rock Island”

Carpark Records

Palm are a 4 piece, frankly impossible to label, band from Philadelphia, PA with a 2 LPs and a bunch of EPs to their name and at the beginning of the year released one of the best “art-rock”/”punk” records of the year. On Rock Island, Palm brought their ever-expanding musical universe to near full bloom with a record that defies expectations and possesses a creativity and musical searching that is near unrivaled yet maintains an amazing level of cohesion. A few years back Palm released the Shadow Expert EP that showed a band starting to mature and gel both on stage and record and showed growth in the songwriting and maturity in musical craftmanship. A song like “Composite” is a constant push and pull between the dual guitars and interweaving and syncopated bass and drum work that encapsulates the musical world they live in. “Dog Breath” incorporates a healthy dose of “world-music” and dance inspired textures into the mix and shows the depth of influence that Palm are willing to breathe new life into their songs. Rock Island is a record full of innovation and standout tracks that are too numerous to name and it’s an invigorating experience to partake in, showing Palm to a be a band that is constantly evolving in every facet. They deliver on all the promise and intrigue shown in their earlier days and released a record that is as exciting and varied as their excellent live performance. - Kris Handel || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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RENATA ZEIGUER | “Old Ghost”

Northern Spy Records

Brooklyn art-pop extraordinaire Renata Zeiguer's new album Old Ghost is a work of true visionary beauty. Navigating between disparate genres and tonalities, Zeiguer's music paints portraits in broad strokes of color; vivid compositions that pull psych-pop and R&B together with indie rock and dreamy folk in unpredictable ways. "Wayside," one of the many stand-outs, is both gentle and explosive, led by a soulful rhythm, warm guitars, and Zeiguer's unbelievable voice. The verses collide with the comparatively mountainous hooks, slowly building into the a quick dash of distorted bliss. When the verse returns it's slightly amplified, a stunning yet subtle inflection that highlights the devout attention to details in all of Zeiguer's brilliant new record. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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SCREAMING FEMALES | “All At Once”

Don Giovanni Records

There aren’t many better spots to get lost than at a crossroads leading to scorched-earth riffage, gilt-edged pop hooks, doomy quasi-metal and sharp-tongued introversion. Screaming Females wandered along each path on All At Once, a viscerally exciting, richly rewarding rock record home to virtuoso playing and fleshed out, satisfying songs. Right now, they are operating at the peak of their powers and could really do whatever they want in future. Fortunately for us, they currently want to melt our faces and then offer a warm embrace. - Huw Baines || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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SNAKESKIN | “Hangnail”

State Champion Records

New York-via-New Jersey's Snakeskin have quietly released an early contended for "best kept secret" of 2018 in the way of their new mini LP Hangnail, an impeccable collection of seething indie rock buoyed around the songwriting talents of guitarist/vocalist Shanna Polley. Hopefully I'm wrong and that *secret* is spoiled because this album really is incredible, from the lyrics to the avalanche of guitars and saccharine beauty buried just beneath the towering distortion. Digging into fuzz and winding melodies, taking the surge of their indie, punk, and shoegaze forbearers (think Screaming Females, The Breeders, Sonic Youth) and turning them outward, the record is a full blown sonic assault with infectious guitar melodies, deeply gorgeous vocals, and their own shifting structural phrasing. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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SUPERTEEN | “Over Everything”

Sad Cactus Records

Having spent the past five years releasing increasingly great albums, perfecting their vision of tattered indie rock with sharp stabs of post-punk, psych, twangy hardcore, and their own unique go at jangly art pop, Over Everything, is a sweeping collision of opposing forces, a menacing blend of explosive dynamics and infectious melodies. Opening with the blur of "On Dogs," the picture slowly comes into focus, disorienting your senses before exploding into a sugary sweet melody on top of increasingly shaky ground. SUPERTEEN prove once again to expect the unexpected. There's a disarming sense of calm when their songs are slow to unravel, but they do so with a majestic fury. Stinging guitars and stuttering polyrhythms crash around the doubled vocals of Sam Robinson and Meryl Schultz, their voices working together in ragged harmony and spastic abandon. From there, the carnage ensues, a sound that SUPERTEEN do better than most - like a tornado running through a small town and everyone just shouting rather than taking cover. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

FURTHER LISTENING:

ANNA BURCH "Quit The Curse" | GIVING UP “Garner Cardinals” | KEIJI HAINO & SUMAC “American Dollar Bill - Keep Facing Sideways, You're Too Hideous To Look At Face On” | RATBOYS "GL" | THE SOFT MOON "Criminal" | SUMAC "WFMU"

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THE BREEDERS | “All Nerve“

4AD Records

All Nerve is The Breeders’ first record in ten years, which is strange because they sound like a band at the peak of their career. “Wait in the Car” sounds as fresh and vital as anything off Last Splash, and “All Nerve” features an impassioned, highly emotive vocal performance courtesy of Kim Deal. Steve Albini did an excellent job on the production end here, avoiding too much polish in favor of a grimy, honest sound: The guitars have bite and personality and the room mics on the drums make you feel like you’re right there with the band. One of the most compelling tracks here is “Spacewoman,” which does an excellent job of conveying feelings of loneliness and isolation. - Chris Jones || LISTEN: Spotify

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CZARFACE & MF DOOM | “Czarface Meets Metal Face”

Get On Down Records

For five years running, Czarface, the collaboration between Wu-Tang's Inspectah Deck and 7L & Esoteric, has been the champion of underground hip-hop, at least in the circles we're concerning ourselves with. Like some sort of "boom-bap" miracle, the group announced a new record together with the one and only MF DOOM. Yes, that's correct, two of the best MCs the world has ever known (and Esoteric ain't too bad either) teamed up for a full album with 7L and The Czar-Keys handling production. Combining the knock-out punch of The Rebel I-N-S and Esoteric's hard-nosed delivery with the abstract glory of MF DOOM's lyrical magic, this one is ripped straight from the comics, a perfect union of true hip-hop legends. All three MCs go in, offering a taste of their individuals personalities and strengths over a sinister low-end heavy beat. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Spotify

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EMPATH | “Liberating Guilt and Fear”

Get Better Records

Philly quartet Empath released a slow drip of contemplative noise-pop in 2018, sharing a pair of Irv Teibel-inspired 7-inches after a stirring breakthrough EP. Liberating Guilt and Fear is a milestone in quick-twitch punk, sugar-coated in the group’s horoscopic camaraderie and splintering, abstract production. Clocking in just over 16 minutes, the four-track blitz of hardcore pop unfurls like a blooming time lapse, generating explosively therapeutic hooks over samples of avian trills and new age audiobooks. Three parts pop-perfection and one part sound collage, Liberating Guilt and Fear peaks in its overwhelming melodic nuance, plumbing listeners into the cavernous chorus of “The Eye” and hitting an erratic state of bliss with those late-stage chugs in “Carpet”—you know the ones. Empath’s caustic pop euphoria and cursory output made them impossible to ignore in 2018. - Patrick Pilch || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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THE EX | “27 Passports”

Ex Records

Nearly 40 years into their existence, Amsterdam's The Ex continue to find ways to push punk music ever forward with their heavy and hypnotic new record, 27 Passports. Veterans of the original punk expansion into more experimental music, it's incredible to hear them remain so sonically hungry after all this time. Resting on their past would have been easy, but that's never been The Ex, who have spent much of the past decade working with Ethiopian musicians to incorporate traditional East African music into their abrasive rhythmic attack and three guitar onslaught. It's those brilliant rhythms and caterwauling guitars that shine through the dissonance on 27 Passports, a tangled ripper of intelligent socio-political art-punk fury, burning a new cathartic impression into their already illustrious career. No one expects an album this good after 39 years, but then again, The Ex have never been one for expectations. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp

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FRANKIE COSMOS | “Vessel”

Sub Pop Records

Few can resist the tender and vulnerable Frankie Cosmos, led by Greta Kline, who never ceases to lay everything out--especially in her 2018 LP Vessel. I like to think of each track as separate, brief clips into the life of Kline and her cohorts. In her creamy vocals, Kline touches on romantic reconciliation in “Caramelize.” The jaunty “Ballad of R & J” mentions star-crossed lovers Ricky and Julie. Listeners feel like studio purveyors in “Ur Up,” which only features a light piano, background vocals and Kline’s sweet vocals and “ha ha” when her and her pianist have to restart the first few keys. “Being Alive” pushes you into the existence of vigorous drums and quickly slows as Kline sings, “Being alive/Matters quite a bit/Even when you/Feel like shit.” - Allison Kridle || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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GUIDED BY VOICES | “Space Gun”

GBV Inc

The ever majestic Guided By Voices are one of those bands that you can never count out, no matter how many records they release and who is involved in the band, there's always a chance for a new classic album in the endless parade of albums that are brilliant at best and still pretty damn good at worst. Last year Robert Pollard celebrated his 100th release (even with as many projects as he has, that's still monumental) and he's put more than a couple since then, their latest effort, Space Gun, a reminder of just how great a focused Pollard can be. There are always gems scattered in their daunting catalog and Space Gun is definitely a recent entry, one of the best records Pollard has worked on in the past decade. It's fully realized, relatively concise, and free of anything that may have been questionable to release, which is to say that these songs all rip it out of the park. Take for example "Colonel Paper," before it digs into a bluesy solo that wouldn't sound out of place on a Led Zeppelin album, Pollard musters his best self with lyrics like, "Eat a cigarette, man." - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Spotify

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HOT SNAKES | “Jericho Sirens”

Sub Pop Records

It's been fourteen years since the last Hot Snakes album but the reckoning has returned. Jericho Sirens is a promising return. Built upon the ever present chemistry of John Reis and Rick Froberg, their guitars unfurl with the same discordant spaghetti western bliss and the garage punk attack that established Hot Snakes' gnashing grooves and rock 'n' roll swagger. It's full of fire and shouted vocals but there's plenty of hip-shaking to go 'round. Reis and Froberg are great musicians in their own right, but they're at their best when together. Joined by Gar WoodJason Kourkounis, and Mario Rubalcaba, Hot Snakes are back at their usual tricks and we're as grateful as can be. It's a remarkable return that hasn't missed a step. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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ILSA | “Corpse Fortress”

Relapse Records

The DC based band have been creating an uncompromisingly heavy mix of blackened doom metal for about a decade and their new album Corpse Fortress has them sounding more filthy than ever. ILSA retain their signature sludge and primordial fury, generally delivered at a crawling pace, but there's an extra sense of depravity this time around... the times, right? Playing on Satanic themes (y'know because... metal) with colossal sludge riffs that absolutely demolish everything in it's path, its the filth you can love. ILSA is the soundtrack to your nightmares and the darkness on your bleakest dreams. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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JEAN GRAE & QUELLE CHRIS | “Everything’s Fine”

Mello Music Group

It takes a fair amount of gumption to perfectly execute the political awareness imbued in the sounds of Jean Grae and Quelle Chris’ collaboration record Everything’s Fine. An intoxicating combination of delightfully grimy beats from the underground and thoughtful verses from the Brooklyn rapper and Detroit MC forces you to come to terms with the fact that everything is anything but fine. The conscious tone taken by both Grae and Chris hits hard with an armor of self awareness that guard them from any lapses in thought. Songs like “Gold Purple Orange” and “My Contribution to the Scam” see the pair easily reflect off of each other in a manner you’d expect from frequent collaborators. The production has an aged style to it that’s a refreshing break from the intricate beats of the mainstream. - Dalvin Aboagye || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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SHELL OF A SHELL | “Already There”

EIS Records

Last year found Nashville's Chappy Hull pretty busy. Gnarwhal, his long standing post-hardcore duo, released the incredible Crucial, a crushing collection of experimental math rock songs that suspend all belief of what two people are capable of. He also joined Pile as their new second guitarist, spending a good majority of the year out on tour. At some point it seems as though he had some downtime, and with that, Shell Of A Shell was born as a "proper" band, fleshing out the home recorded demos and songs Hull had been working on. "Already There" and "To Disappear," the album's first singles are rippers (as one might expect) but its a different approach than Gnarwhal's bludgeoning virtuosity. Burning with vibrant guitar grooves reminiscent of John Reis' finest work, the songs twist through wiry verses and spiked melodies, Hull's voice commanding yet casual, opting for a near-spoken intimacy on the former and a gorgeous ease on the latter. Spoiler alert: it works. Hell, you could argue he's never sounded better. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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TUNDRASTOMPER | “Clean It Up”

Sad Cactus Records

Western MA's Tundrastomper returned with another mind-expanding record, the caustic Clean It Up EP via Sad Cactus Records. Tagged "#weirdpunk" by the label, their latest is a jaw-dropping set of unpredictable fury, a storm of flailing notes and spastic rhythms that draw as much from prog as they do post-hardcore, math rock, and no-wave. These songs don't so much unfold as they ignite. From the first shuffling moments of album opener "Sweet Baby Boy" to the close of "Patch It Up," the band opt out of playing it "cool," instead indulging the listener (and themselves) with a blizzard of convulsing rhythms and guitars that cut directly through the tangled splendor. Sonic freakouts abound, and every song takes its own approach to their madness. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

FURTHER LISTENING:

AMEN DUNES “Freedom” | ED SCHRADER'S MUSIC BEAT "Riddles" | FACS “Negative Houses” | GLUED “Insides” | HANK WOOD & THE HAMMERHEADS “Hank Wood & The Hammerheads” | JACK “Alchemical Rounds” | MEDIA JEWELER "1-800-SUCCEED" | MEYHEM LAUREN “Glass” | ONEIDA “Romantic” | ROSE MERCIE “Rose Mercie” | SHARK TOYS “Labyrinths” | TRACE MOUNTAINS "A Partner To Lean On"

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BAMBARA | “Shadow On Everything”

Wharf Cat Records

Brooklyn’s Bambara were a band I had not heard of until this year, but I’m oh so glad I found them. Shadow on Everything follows their 2016 album Swarm, and shows the band truly owning their darkness and further pushing the entirely ominous and enigmatic brand of post punk that is uniquely theirs. The variety of mood in this album is astounding- Bambara gives you dancey, haunted Dick Dale-esque riffs, punishing doomy interludes, and gorgeous ambient noise all in one. “Doe-Eyed Girl” tells a horrific story that you could almost entirely miss, as the catchiness of the song counteracts the dramatic narrative in a way that subdues its dramaticism with incredible artfulness. The exposition of characters- Jose, Elsa, Jack- that run throughout the songs give the album a depth that takes it to a level that I think truly set Bambara apart from other bands in post-punk. Shadow on Everything gives you infectiously catchy hooks, dramatically crafted lyrical narratives and motifs, and an overall air of danger that is undeniably inviting as it is intimidating. - Thrin Vianale || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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CHRISTIAN FITNESS | “Nuance - The Musical”

Prescriptions Music

For the past five years, Andrew Falkous abandoned the "industry" that essentially abandoned him and has been prolific ever since with both Future of the Left and his "one-man-band-but-never-solo-project" Christian Fitness. Last year's Slap Bass Hunks showed Falco moving into new territory, pushing the boundaries of the sound he's been perfecting since the days of Mclusky. Looks as though the envelope has been bust wide open with Nuance - The Musical. This album is brilliant as always, but there's an urgency to the musicianship that has the band adopting new textures and forms of attack. It's essential listening and could be one of the year's best come December. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp

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DRINKS I “Hippo Lite”

Drag City Records

We're happy to be welcomed back into the world of DRINKS, the collaborative duo of Cate Le Bon and Tim Presley. The two have continued to work closely since their debut Hermits On Holiday, a criminally overlooked album blending eerie post-punk minimalism and softer edged psych pop songs. The combination of Le Bon's experimental folk sensibilities and Presley's swirling lo-fi jangle works together perfectly, creating a detached sheen built on both repetition and lilting melodies. For anyone nervous the project was a one-time thing, fear not, the band released a sophomore album, Hippo Lite. Its hypnotic and tightly wound, structured with off-kilter grooves and discordant melodies that sound delightful under Le Bon's gloriously cool vocals. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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FORTH WANDERERS | “Forth Wanderers”

Sub Pop Records

The Sub Pop debut from Forth Wanderers is their most polished release to date, an astonishingly weightless 10 tracks from the young quintet. “Ages Ago” is sneakily one of the best Forth Wanderers songs to date, sent aloft by Ben Guterl’s guitar and made unforgettable by singer Ava Trilling’s lyrics. Few things this year sounded better than: “You’re like a dream to me/ I wake up/ I forget, and fall back asleep.” There is no blemish readily apparent on Forth Wandererseach and every track is a sonically bulletproof exploration of the not altogether unpleasant malaise of being young. - Niccolo Dante Porcello || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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GOAT GIRL | “Goat Girl”

Rough Trade Records

Back in April, London's Goat Girl released their full length debut, as confident and impressive an introduction as any, and one of our favorite (and most listened to) releases so far this year. Their songs are short and the lyrics are simplistic, but everything the quartet does is effective and sharpened to puncture. Repetition of phrases and ideas are cemented in lyrics that are both fed up and biting, a brash set of songs that make their point without raising the volume. Goat Girl's record is packed with 19 short and concise songs, each one offering its own vignette to the greater theme, transitioning with ease from surly to sarcastic. The record slinks forward with deep bass lines and Western-inspired gallops; dusty framework for the sinister aura and Goat Girl's well-produced malaise. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Spotify

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MIKE DONOVAN | “How To Get Your Record Played In Shops”

Drag City Records

Last summer The Peacers released Introducing The Crimsmen, a exceptional record that found Mike Donovan and his cohorts somewhere between the lo-fi warble of his past (Sic Alps) and the unedited charm of Guided By Voices. It was a sleeper hit for me that ended up as one of my favorite albums of the year, due in no small part to the infectious "Staying Home". Less than a year removed, Mike Donovan returns with his second "official" solo album, How To Get Your Record Played In Shops. "Sadfinger," our first taste of the album, is a fractured piano ballad, adrift with affected vocals and a simple composition that works together with Donovan's wistful voice. The sparse recording and delicate melody resonate with the project's solitude, a desolate and beautiful reminder that sometimes it's the empty spaces that speak the loudest. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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PSYCHIC FLOWERS | “Big Egg Universe”

Self Released

Power-pop comes in all shapes and sizes. Usually sweet and sticky with infectious melodies, there's also the punk element of the genre which generally equates to being blown out beyond belief, often to great effect. Which brings us to Psychic Flowers, the latest project from punk polymath David Settle, best known for Tallahassee's Ex-Breathers and Big Heet. While Settle has since left Florida for Philadelphia, Psychic Flowers lives on, hell, it's really only getting started. The band's debut LP, Big Egg Universe, is all blown out and jittering with melodic propulsion. Recorded to an 8-track TASCAM cassette recorder, Settle is joined by Ronnie Francisco (Big Heet, Protocol) and Adam Berkowitz (Ex-Breathers) on drums for an impressive debut that sprawls out and attacks with patience. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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SLEEP | “The Sciences”

Third Man Records

Doom metal titans Sleep returned with their third full length album, The Sciences, after a nearly twenty year break (perhaps longer, depending on how you choose to look at it). While some may find it diminishing, it gives me great pleasure to say the record sounds like Sleep, in the best ways imaginable. Sometimes you want change and innovation, but then again, if you're looking for a lot of change, Sleep was probably never the band for you. Known to obliterate a riff into the sludgiest breaking point, the band sound like demonic behemoths once again, really destroying all the can be seen as they plow down decency at a slow and stoned pace. There's a good deal of kitsch going on here in the lyric's space aged psychonaut adventures, but Sleep sell it with every ounce of their being, proving once again that sludge is life, and life is better when really fucking high. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Spotify

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SPEEDY ORTIZ | “Twerp Verse”

Carpark Records

It's been three long years but Speedy Ortiz are back with a new record, Twerp Verse. Adopting some of the synth pop elements of both Foil Deer and Sadie Dupuis' solo effort Sad13their latest pushes new textures to the forefront, but it's still undeniably Speedy Ortiz, built on clever lyrics and sweeping hooks. Dupuis' lyrics take slight twists whenever possible, offering expected lines and lyrical cliches in jest, pulling away at the last minute and subverting meaning and context to her whim. It's an album that speaks loudly, fighting for all it believes in over a landscape of easily memorable hooks. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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WRONG | “Feel Great”

Relapse Records

Let's get it out of the way, WRONG sound an awful lot like Helmet circa 1992-1994, and in no way are we upset about that. For the first half of the 90's Helmet were unstoppable, deriving their own mix of hardcore, punk, and melodic "alternative" rock that sounded thick as bricks and brilliantly aggressive. However, it's been 20 years since they released a good album, and it's time that sound is repurposed in capable hands, none more capable than WRONG. Feel Great, their sophomore album, is full of bludgeoning stop/start riffs, cavernous beats, and tight snapping howls. The thunderous grooves part for a twangy muzak styled interludes, only to dive back in for a touch of serious shredding. It's big, nasty, and direct as a bat to the skull. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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YAZAN | “Hahaha”

EIS Records

Each song combines different influences— delta blues, classic rock, folk, soul, indie rock, hard rock, rock ’n’ roll—but the record as a whole maintains continuity with its complexity of arrangement. Yazan’s technically sophisticated guitar playing is effortless. Each track has layers of guitar—sometimes many—resulting in lush and quick moving progressions that Yazan details with exquisite lead melodies by way of his voice or guitar lead lines (or both). It is clear that the guitar is Yazan’s entry-point point into music and has become an indispensable organ of his creative self-expression. The detail in the whirring of guitars is matched by the drumming of Yazan’s reoccurring collaborator, Kris Kuss (Pile). Kuss’ signature style—a bouncing, behind-the-beat tumble—drives steady and thumping like a tractor through each song, holding down the center line as a possessed Yazan paints loosely with his guitar and voice. - Glennon Curran || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

FURTHER LISTENING:

DOUBLE GRAVE “Empty Hands” | DR. OCTAGON “Moosebumps: An Exploration Into Modern Day Horripilation” | EN ATTENDANT ANA “Lost & Found” | HONEY RADAR “Psychic Cruise” | MELVINS "Pinkus Abortion Technician" | STAY ASLEEP "Mourner" | ULRIKA SPACEK "Suggestive Listening" | WARM BODIES “Warm Bodies”

MAY
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ASTRAL SWANS | “Strange Prison”

Saved By Vinyl

When we last heard from Calgary's Astral Swans, they had just released All My Favorite Singers Are Willie Nelson, one of our favorite albums of 2015. Three years later, Matthew Swann and his  beautiful project are back with Strange Prison, a new full length produced by Scott Munro of Preoccupations. Lead single "What Are You Gonna Do With Yourself" reintroduced us to the sparse and spectacular world of Swann's songwriting. His gentle vocals are soft but confident, singing with a hazy sort of dejection, offering lines like, "when I finally get a chance, make the same mistakes again". The song's gorgeous backdrop of acoustic guitars, simplistic yet effective rhythms, and the breezy whir of electronics create a heavenly soundscape for Swann to ponder it all. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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BAPTISTS | “Beacon of Faith”

Southern Lord Records

Vancouver's Baptists play hardcore music with a sludgy fury, shoveling on loads of filth and noise to complicate their already unrelenting sound. Their third album, Beacon Of Faith, is a brutal beast of primal hardcore and spastic metal that should appeal to fans of everything from SUMAC and Total Abuse to Oozing Wound and Harvey Milk. The album rips from start to finish, blasting with siren like guitars and Nick Yacyshyn's (also of the aforementioned SUMAC) incredible rhythmic dexterity, absolutely pummeling the kit with an unpredictable barrage of shifting time signatures. While the songs never feel overly complicated or progressive, the band tear through sections with a brilliant disregard, leaving a smoldering wake in their path. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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BIG UPS | “Two Parts Together”

EIS Records

Two Parts Together is one of the more chaotic yet collected records by Big Ups. The record constantly sways from large bursts of sound to muffled bass lines and vocal delivery. Listening to the album feels like riding waves of sound as they collide together, making for unique transitions. Yet the hooks on the record are still aligned with Big Ups’ previous efforts, which are hard hitting and furiously bold. It’s sad to see this will be their last release, but at least they went out with all they got. - Sarah Knoll || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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BLUE RAY | “Open Sesame”

Super Wimpy Punch Records

Blue Ray are an ultra prolific project from Cove Sauce's Johnny Steines who has recently been joined by CS' guitarist turned drummer Aidan Breen. While their former band is currently dormant, Blue Ray had an exceptionally productive year, quietly releasing a full length, GrubHub, and an EP, Glassy Gnomes, both gems of avant-pop squalor and reckless blistering lo-fi. It's underground music you can fall in love with. Blue Ray are that band you want to tell everyone about, even if only half those people "get it". Following those releases was Open Sesame, a new full length. Their latest is another aggressively blown out batch of perfected weirdness. Squealing distortion is used like paint on the canvas, coloring in songs with otherwise common structures, dropping enormous bursts of noise and feedback with a haphazard sensibility. It's not just noisy and freaked out for the sake of being noisy and freaked out though, Steines has worked his fuzzy lo-fi clamor into something magical, accenting each song with an enveloping wall, his shrieks and dissonance creating a stronger reinforcement to the melodies skewed just beneath it. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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COURTNEY BARNETT | “Tell Me How You Really Feel”

Marathon Artists / Mom+Pop Records

If you’re Courtney Barnett you don’t revel in your peace of mind, rather Barnett shreds through a fresher batch of songs simultaneously exercising her own demons and the sociocultural ones unearthed by the recent Me Too movement. It’s hard to hear a song like “Nameless, Faceless” and not instantly envision a festival crowd full of men uncertain if they can even sing along to a song like it. Barnett, however, is not hear to finger point, but her wry perspective is often illuminating and her penchant for ass-kicking rock knows no bounds on festival-pleaser-to-be “Hopelessness,” “City Looks Pretty,” and album highlight “I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch.” Whereas Barnett once used aimed her hundred yard gaze inward, turning to the world outside has produced some of her most vicious and wildly impassioned work to date, proving to the music world that her songwriting is one for the ages, and more pressingly, the voice we need to hear now. - Dylan Pennell || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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DOFFING | “Tower of Ten Thousand Miles”

Self Released

Tower of Ten Thousand Miles is the first proper full-length from the Montreal quartet, and their most impressive release yet. On their latest, Doffing deftly recall some of the finest post-hardcore, indie rock and punk moguls of the past 20-something years. The explosive “F.O.A.M.” breaches with the disruptive intensity of Evasive Backflip’s “WaspspraY” and melodically unfurls like a sinister edition of Archer of Loaf’s “Sick File.” Two tracks later, “Homing” arrives like the long-awaited musical follow up to At the Drive-In’s jittery “Invalid Litter Dept.” The track’s heady and anxious lyrics bring Cap’n Jazz’s shroom-driven tangents to mind, lines filled with adolescent angst following a sad boy writing “his name in the sand, hoping someone might see it/aliens, some known god or maybe the heroes told about in the constellations.”  The band is still quite under the radar, but they’ve already begun to carve a lore-heavy persona for themselves alongside their increasingly spectacular tunes. - Patrick Pilch || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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DRAHLA | “A Compact Cassette”

Captured Tracks

Back in May, Captured Tracks released A Compact Cassette, a collection of Drahla's previously released EPs and singles, an introduction to a wider audience for the Leeds based post-punk trio's wiry sound. Even as a compilation, it's a great record from a young band that push contorted structures with motorik rhythms and guitars that stab and dart in every direction. With delightfully raw circular bass riffs, guitars that come tearing their way in, knotting themselves around the rhythm in direct opposition, it’s Luciel Brown's hypnotic vocals, often delivered with a casual speaking tone, that lace their melodic presence, a graceful element to their entangled dizziness. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp

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GREG ELECTRIC | “Greg Electric”

Self Released

Greg Electric, which features current and former members of Nine of SwordsTed Nguyent, and Loose Tooth, released their self-titled debut EP, a furiously skronky beast of hardcore yelps and tangled chord progressions. Rachel Gordon's (Nine of Swords, Baby Mollusk) vocals offer that perfected bite and bark balanced with detached concern, teaming with disdain between a melodic and rhythmic approach. The band, Mike McGilloway (guitar), Dan Wolf (drums), and Kian Sorouri (bass) dart back and forth, guitars intertwining as the rhythms quake behind them. It's all delivered with an agile chaos, densely working up fits of sputtering rage and sludgy grooves. The band set up sing-song melodies just to shatter them with brutality moments later. It's all pretty menacing and abrasive, and it's a most impressive debut. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp

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ICEAGE | “Beyondless”

Matador Records

Over the course of the album Iceage veers between rock classicism and Western swagger, letting drums gallop, guitars criss, cross, and then clash, all while frontman Elias Ronnenfelt mumbles, spits, and gnashes over the newly streamlined discord. Equal parts din and clarity, early single “Pain Killer” set barrels onto the scene with barroom brass before erupting into the most liberating guitar lead in the band’s career. The song is a clear red herring as it’s the most straightforward moment of the record, replete with guest vocals from Sky Ferreira, maybe the only guest vocalist who can challenge Ronnenfelt to a gasping contest. Warts and all the song amounts to a near complete success, despite the fact that the slick horns never feel entirely at home on the song, nor do the strained strings, however, all of the discord created by these elements, the clanging guitars, and the breathless vocals serves to pronounce the clarity on display when that singular guitar lead erupts after the chorus. The feeling of release in this moment is unlike any the band have attempted up to this point and all of the faults and all of the highlights suddenly come into focus as deliberate in the best way. - Dylan Pennell || LISTEN: Spotify

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JO PASSED | “Their Prime”

Sub Pop Records

Vancouver's Jo Passed have made one of the year's most immersive records. The quartet's full length debut, Their Prime, out on Sub Pop is at times dazzling, challenging, contorted, and dreamy. There's a sense of freedom and abandonment when it comes to styles, with their sound eschewing tradition in favor of their own floating whirlwinds of noise pop taking every shape imaginable, touching upon influences like Fugazi, Cate Le Bon, and Deerhunter. Combining detached rhythms and skronky guitars that twist knots around the calming vocals, it's an incredible display of divergent styles in perfect harmony. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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LA LUZ | “Floating Features”

Hardly Art Records

The Los Angeles-based indie quartet La Luz has concluded their trippy trifecta of surf-inspired psychedelic rock with the release of Floating Features. Lead vocalist and guitarist Shana Cleveland, drummer Marian Li Pino, keyboardist Alice Sandhal and bassist Lena Simon, broadcast a strong signal to anyone drifting out there in the vast ocean of music. The message is clear: hop on board now if you don’t want to drown in choices. Once you emerge from the merciless waters, you’ll find yourself grateful for sinking some time into this ecstatic LP. At its peak, the thoughtful arrangement of instruments plays like an acid-fueled studio session between the Beach Boys and the Zombies. They play multiple positions very well as they bounce around from catchy earworms one minute to a living, breathing, surf rock symphony the next. Look no further than “Cicada” or “Loose Teeth” — two back-to-back tracks — if you need proof of how deep the bond goes. The potent blend of glittering guitar riffs and captivating compositions on the keys produces enough sensory input to rival the most complex art installation. - Dalvin Aboagye || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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LAWN | “Blood On The Tracks”

Forged Artifacts Records

New Orleans' Lawn are a special band, the type that can shift between jangly pop, warm indie psych, and tangled moments of post-punk without ever committing to one sound, creating something cohesive in the process. Following 2016's exceptional out-of-nowhere introductory EP, Big Sprout, the band released their full-length debut, Blood On The Tracks via Forged Artifacts. An early favorite for the year, the album pulls from the garage pop minimalism of Flying Nun's catalog, built on tight melodies and precise rhythms that carry the jangle into the psychedelic beyond. The duo are putting songwriting first, and heading wherever that may lead them second. Its an approach that could leave an album sounding scattered, but Blood On The Tracks is an impeccable listen, shifting seamlessly and creating a carefree cohesion. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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LICE | “It All Worked Out Great (Vol. 1 + Vol. 2)”

Balley Records

There's also been something just a bit more snide about noise rock in the UK that has spoken to my sensibilities. In an era where it seems many are content to pull from the Mclusky playbook (and aspects of The Fall's impeccable catalog), there's a new crop of bands over the pond making artistic weirdness and spewing their own venomous sarcasm. Enter LICE, the first band signed to Idles' record label, Balley Records, a band that incorporate a sinister twang into their unhinged freaked out cowboy punk. The band released two companion EPs, It All Worked Out Great Vol. 1 and 2, both scratchy and scathing, taking a bluesy saunter and dementing it into their own slurred punk chaos. It's brash, noisy, and full of that maniac charm Falco perfected so many years ago. The next generation is arriving, and LICE is one of the better starting points. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Spotify

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LITHICS | “Mating Surfaces”

Kill Rock Star Records

It could be argued that none do post-punk better these days than Portland's Lithics. The band released their debut, Borrowed Floors, two years ago, a stunning record that cemented them as one of the underground's most exciting new bands. The quartet returned with Mating Surfaces, their Kill Rock Stars debut, a tightly wound record that sounds something like a tool box falling down a flight of stairs, the contents rattling as they hurtle confidently forward. Lithics work with jagged elements at their most fluid, the type of post-punk that will have your head bobbing or find you checking your pulse to make sure you're still alive. Quick barrages of shifting hypnotic grooves lay the perfect framework for Aubrey Hornor’s unshakeable vocals and lyrics. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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MOMMA | “Interloper”

Danger Collective Records

Interloper, the excellent first record from Momma on Danger Collective Records, is full of unexpected vignettes of everyday moments. Leaning heavily on harmonies and intertwining guitar lines, there is a familiarity to what Momma do, and yet theirs is a fresh approach that is bolstered by the propulsive force of their songwriting. “Capable Type” cruises forwards on a consistent swell of Friedman and Weingarten’s voices; “Clear” relies on a nifty lick that relentlessly swirls around their harmony before blowing off steam in a frenetic finish. Interloper is a noteworthy effort from a phenomenal songwriting duo, and one of the best records of the year. - Niccolo Dante Porcello || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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PUSHA T | “Daytona”

G.O.O.D. Music/Def Jam

The Clipse were the best new rappers to emerge for the 2000s, the flawless combo of brothers Pusha T and Malice. Their first two albums are legendary (and their third a classic in its own right) and the series of Re-Up Gang mixtapes (together with Ab-Liva and Sandman) are just as essential. Pusha T aka King Push (and rightfully so) has stayed active in the years since their dissolution, and his latest album, Daytona, produced by Kanye West, is as hard-hitting and hard-spitting as the best moments of his career. Pusha's coke rap lyrics have always been something to behold, his clever word play unmatched, proving there's always a new way to talk about what you know about. While his G.O.O.D. Music debut took him out of his comfort zone, Daytona finds Pusha making the beats work to his vision, demolishing each one with pure unadulterated lyricism that hold no punches and bites no tongues. Don't even talk about that other dude, he's not even in the same league. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Spotify

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SEDIMENT CLUB | “Stucco Thieves”

Wharf Cat Records

It's been three long years since we've heard new music from The Sediment Club but the wait is over. Stucco Thieves, the New York band's latest album of sordid punk is as chaotic as ever. There's a new focus on "songs" within the album, but it's a refinement that only devoted fans will notice, as the band still embrace inaccessibility and discordance at their core. "The Payoff" is as good an introduction to the new record an any, a reward for those who have been waiting patiently. In less than two minutes, The Sediment Club invoke the ghosts of no-wave inflected krautrock, riding a tightly wound groove as the melodies swing wildly around, gasping and shouting at one moment, calm(er) and focused the next. The album splinters into a dust storm of contorted glory from one warped song to the next, arriving somewhere between the avant-punk of U.S. Maple and the crisp post-punk of Uranium Club. Which is to say, it's great. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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SLOW MASS | “On Watch”

Landland Records

On their debut record, Slow Mass prove themselves to be a jaw-droppingly versatile band. Opening track “Gray Havens” showcases the talents of lead singers Mercedes Webb and Dave Collis, who harmonize as the song reaches its sonic climax. Other standouts include all out banger “Schemes,” led by David Maruzzella’s propulsive drumming, and “Blocks,” featuring Josh Parks’ jagged lead guitar playing. While Slow Mass certainly know how to write barn burners, some of the songs that shine brightest here are the quieter ones. The majority of “Oldest Youngest” is haunting and restrained, while “G’s End” serves as a beautiful wrap up to an emotional rollercoaster of an album. - Chris Jones || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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SPLIT CRANIUM | “I’m The Devil and I’m Ok”

Ipecac Recordings

Aaron Turner (ISIS, Sumac, Old Man Gloom), patron saint of all thats heavy, resurrected Split Cranium with a record following a six year silence from their debut. The viscous crust punk meets d-beat meets apocalyptic metal band have expanded their line-up to include fellow Gloom member Nate Newton (Converge), Faith Coloccia (Mamiffer), and Tomi Leppänen (Circle), joining Turner and Jussi Lehtisalo (Circle). The results are brutally heavy yet leans further into punk and hardcore than ever before. Tearing through everything in it's path with a spastic d-beat rhythm and Turner's unmistakable world crushing bellow, catharsis has arrived. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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TROPICAL FUCK STORM | “A Laughing Death In Meatspace”

Joyful Noise Recordings

You may or may not know this, but Melbourne, Australia's Tropical Fuck Storm released one of the year's absolute best records. A Laughing Death In Meatspace was released back in May on the band's home shores and saw a U.S. release in late October thanks to Joyful Noise. Formed by The Drones' Gareth Liddiard and Fiona Kitschin, their latest project works on a similar template, but the picture itself has been skewed, fried, and utterly demented in the best of ways. From the cover art, to their choice of band name, album/song titles, to their graphically disdained and sardonic lyrics, Tropical Fuck Storm don't really deal in subtleties, but they specialize in the unpredictable, spouting beauty from the ugliest moments, embracing the darkest corners and most desolate of bars, with an attitude that's somewhere between Nick Cave and Future of the Left. It really is something special. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

FURTHER LISTENING:

CONNECTIONS “Foreign Affairs” | ELIZABETH COLOUR WHEEL “Queen Tired” | ILLUMINATI HOTTIES "Kiss Yr Frenemies" | KITTEN FOREVER “Semi-Permanent” | LOCATE S,1 “Healing Contest” | NATE TEREPKA "Sunlight Farm" | SIEVE “Three Secrets” | WAND "Perfume" | YOURS ARE THE ONLY EARS “Knock Hard”

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DUSK | “Dusk”

Don Giovanni Records

The Wisconsin based Dusk's self-titled full-length debut is nothing short of spectacular, a record that combines folk and country music with a slacker pop drawl and a dusty nuance of Americana storytelling. It sounds modern with a call-back to the easy going days of folk music's roots, a collection of songs that would sound as great being sung around a campfire as they do on your headphones walking through a crowded city. Dusk transport you from where you are to where you wish you were; the open air, endless freedom, and thick harmonies of a better life. Traveling from red barns to monster trucks, bolo ties to bald eagles, this one plays up their surroundings with gorgeous images and the band's slow-dripped twang in impeccably lackadaisical form. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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FLOATING ROOM | “False Baptism”

Good Cheer Records

Floating Room's sophomore album is stunning at every turn, in both it's shimmering atmospheres, gentle moments of reflection, and it's nuance for swarming, muscular, shoegaze done-to-perfection. The Portland quartet navigate heart yearning sentimentality and brawny noise pop in simultaneous bursts, the force of their blanketing guitars only aiding Maya Stoner's beautiful lyrics and floating melodies. False Baptism is a testament to everything they do so well, balancing blistering leads with dreamy haze, an approach that manages to retain aggression without compromising any of it's delicate emotional heft. Layering guitars, synths, vibraphones, and beyond, Floating Room's wall of sound is lush and dense, but light and accessible, the perfect come down to get lost in. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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GOBBINJR | “Ocala Wick”

Topshelf Records

gobbinjr is among an elite group of pop songwriters, the type that create songs that wiggle their way into your head, forever and unshakably engrained there for the rest of time. While Emma Witmer's songs often revolve around anxiety, falling apart, and everyday tragedies, their music is always radiant and clever. Their new album Ocala Wick came out on Topshelf Records, in all its hooky glory. It's somber yet uplifting, infectious and well-constructed... and dammit, these songs are all on a scale of incredible to flat out amazing (Sorry Charlie). It's the most fun you're ever going to have from what is essentially a set of sad songs. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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JUNE GLOOM + ROCK SOLID | “Subletter / Something Solid”

EIS Records

Feelings... am I right? June Gloom and Rock Solid make good use of their feelings, from sadness to hopefulness, anxiety to acceptance, loneliness to realization, and they work their thoughts out on Subletter / Something Solid. The split is a bare bones release for each songwriter, working through the challenges of life, love, and the world at large. It's honest and beautiful, inner-thoughts translated into songs that reflect their feelings with a stunning immediacy. Rock Solid and June Gloom's lo-fi production works to their advantages, the songs wrapping themselves around you with the intimacy of an old friend, someone who understands, and someone who wants to listen. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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MELODY’S ECHO CHAMBER | “Bon Voyage”

Fat Possum

French influenced dream pop in the vein of the legendary Broadcast and Stereolab came back in a big way during 2018 and no one did it better than the return of Melody’s Echo Chamber. I first heard Bon Voyage during one of the darkest weeks of my life and the light and hopefulness is powerful, even if you don’t speak a word of French (which I don’t). Blending together orchestral psych with electronic experimentation, Melody and her band take a brilliant approach to nuanced instrumentals, adding in soft touches of shoegaze, manipulated indie pop, heavy space-aged drifts, and the occasional touches of soul and jazz. It’s a record that plays with influences to create something strikingly unique, each divergent path coming together to create something bigger than its parts. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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MIRANDA WINTERS | “Xobeci, What Grows Here”

Sooper Records

While Melkbelly thrash through colossal riffs and brilliantly chaotic rhythms, at the heart of the band is guitarist/vocalist Miranda Winters. Her vocals and clever lyrics twist delicate word-play around the ensuing pummel she and her bandmates are consistently perfecting. Slight uses of near-repetition and warm melodic touches cut through the noise, it's the counterpoint in their sound that makes it so special (and the drumming... hot damn, that drumming, but that's not what this post is about). Back in January, Winters treated us to "The Future District," a solo effort that stripped everything back and confirmed what we all knew, she's a gifted songwriter in any capacity, context be damned. That song is but one of ten incredible songs from Winter's solo album, Xobeci, What Grows Here?. The lo-fi cassette release is a pleasing blend of Winter's songwriting and field recordings, perfect in any context. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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PALBERTA | “Roach Goin’ Down”

Wharf Cat Records

Avant-punk heroes Palberta continue to get better with every passing release, taking everything that makes them amazing and expanding upon it, often becoming simultaneously more accessible and discernibly stranger. In the year that has passed since their last record, the members have kept themselves busy with a multitude of projects including the amazing sludge noise of Shimmer and the bizarre-pop mastery of Lily & Horn Horse. On Roach Goin’ Down, their second effort for Wharf Cat Records, the trio are pulling themselves slowly in the pop direction. The band do it on their own discordant and brilliantly disjointed terms though, as evident by the album's weaving non-conventional hooks and each and every twist and howl, twitching between skronky melodies and fractured rhythms with an experimental grace. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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PLLUSH | “Stranger To The Pain”

Father/Daughter Records

San Francisco based quartet Pllush's new record is a beautifully dynamic album the wavers between slowcore longing, dream pop, and muscular indie rock, touching on everything from punk and shoegaze in-between. It's a testament to the band's songwriting, a big and brash record that relies on confidence and casually crushing melodies. "Shannon," the album's lead single is a fine example, a song that puts as much wondrous emphasis on the bridge as it does in the hook-strewn verses. It's only a matter of time before that piano refrain is driven deep into your subconscious. On the other side, "Ortega" leans toward the band's penchant for fuzzy slacker punk. The song, a reflection of growing up and figuring shit out, takes solace in that while everything may not be perfect, it's all the learning experience that is part of getting older. With stretched syllables and walls of thick guitars, Pllush maneuver melodic ideas in and out of distortion, casually creating deep hooks and layered bliss. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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PROTOMARTYR | “Consolation EP”

Domino Records

Old Reliable aka Protomartyr have done it again. Less than a year after the release of their latest full-length (and Domino Records debut), Relatives In Descent, the Detroit quartet are back with a new four song set, the Consolation EP. Picking up where their last record left off, Joe Casey's lyrics continue his poetic sprawl, with a souring look at culture and the depravity caused by it. Joined together with The Breeders' Kelley Deal (whom the band have previously worked with via their split 7" with Deal's R. Ring), the EP is a boisterous slow burner, Protomartyr offering a great deal of nuance as it plods forward, from piercing feedback to stampeding sludge and sharp stabs of distorted guitars. Protomartyr forever. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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SAM EVIAN | “You, Forever”

Saddle Creek Records

You, Forever is an interesting addition to the catalogue. A more considered piece than PremiumSam Owens’ bow as Sam Evian, the record’s low-slung, soporific delivery masks a meticulous streak a mile wide. There aren’t any rough edges caused by ill-fitting shapes here, and none of the willful guitar abandon of his old band, Celestial Shore. Even when he gets into it with himself, or the world behind that sunshine, he is a steady hand at the wheel. The LP was recorded on a borrowed reel-to-reel eight track at the height of summer, and the songs have the happy illusion of being effortless and open. Tuning to a Rhodes in the room and working within the limitations of the apparatus, Owens marshalls his band beautifully. - Huw Baines || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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SELF DEFENSE FAMILY | “Have You Considered Punk Music?”

Run For Cover Records

From the outside looking in, trying to get into Self Defense Family can feel like a painfully taxing process. The band’s discography consists of over 40 releases each of which holding its own piece of necessary context you’re told needs to be understood to fully “get it.” But that fact alone can serve as the only context necessary to take in their 2018 LP Have You Considered Punk Music? Singer Patrick Kindlon uses a backdrop of disparate, moody music to take a hard, honest look in the mirror. “Is it possible to do a thing forever and learn nothing? And get no better?” he laments on “Certainty Of Paradise.” Kindlon’s dive into the self is a harrowing look at lonely and bitter feelings, and the band that surrounds him, ever-changing and evolving, is top notch in creating something that isn’t quite punk or emo or indie, it can only be looked at as Self Defense Music. - Tim Crisp || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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SNAIL MAIL | “Lush”

Matador Records

Lindsey Jordan begins “Heat Wave” by vividly describing a summer night spent pining after a crush until falling asleep fully clothed. The power of Snail Mail’s debut album Lush is in the amount of detail Jordan puts into her songs. When I first heard this album I immediately wanted to talk about it with everyone I know so it makes me glad to see so many people, especially teenagers, connecting with it. Every track is surprising in its own way, from the affecting “Pristine” to “Deep Sea,” which fully submerges the listener in its melodrama. Lush is the work of someone who was survived heartbreak and become a better, wiser artist because of it. - Sacha Kingston-Wayne || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

FURTHER LISTENING:

BLACK THOUGHT “Streams of Thought Vol. 1” | DJ MUGGS & MEYHEM LAUREN “Frozen Angels” | DUMB “Seeing Green“ | GLOOP “The Tourist” | NINE INCH NAILS “Bad Witch” | NOVA ONE “Secret Princess” | SCAPHE “Factory Gleam” | SCRUNCHIES “Stunner” | SPENCER RADCLIFFE & EVERYONE ELSE “If I Knew How“ | VITAL IDLES "Left Hand" | WAVELESS “As One More Folded Paper Crane” | WINDED “Schwartz Goes To Heaven”

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CHAMPAGNE SUPERCHILLIN’ | “Beach Deep”

Broken Circles

Beach Deep, the band's sophomore album is a genuine work of art. Their experimental French pop sound swirls with touches of retro perfection, warped psych, sweeping bits of R&B charm, and gentle electronics, executed with a steady grace. The layers are delicately packed and percolating at all times. There's the brief dream pop bliss that comes from the guitar solo in "DJ Scott," the menacing low end beauty of "Armée Du Salut," the hauntingly sparse slow burn b/w acoustic motorik boogie of "Rosa Canina," and the shimmering surf groove of the album's title track "Beach Deep." It's always adapting, taking new shape, but remaining intrinsically cohesive, a vision of art-pop at its very best. Without speaking the language, the music, melodies, and Juliette Buchs' gorgeous vocal presence speak their own sentiments, offering an exploratory freedom and beauty that can be appreciated by all. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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CLEARANCE | “At Your Leisure”

Topshelf Records

For their Topshelf debut, Clearance reaches to all corners of the last 40 years of independent rock, putting together eleven remarkably familiar, yet fully authentic tracks. At Your Leisure smacks of R.E.M.’s college radio charm, Soft Boys’ neo-psychedelia and Mark Mulcahy’s radiant jangle pop. There’s a dash of Oasis mixed with a heavy splash of Deerhunter’s notorious psych on tracks like “Frozen Orange/No Wonder” and “Haven’t You Got the Time?” Cox-like coos occupy the final moments of the former, while “Desire Lines” arpeggios surface on the latter. “Haven’t You Got the Time?” is At Your Leisure’s most immediate highlight, landing in a melodic intersection of “Speed Trials” and “Hardcore UFOs,” as frontman Mike Bellis phonetically recalls Robert Pollard’s long “i” inflections. - Patrick Pilch || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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THE CRADLE | “Bag of Holding”

NNA Tapes

Producer-musician Paco Cathcart is a prolific mogul in New York’s DIY avant-punk scene. He performs with Shimmer and Big Neck Police, records with Palberta and Palm, and performs solo as The Cradle. Cathcart’s project has yielded dozens of experimental tapes and recordings, tangibly mapping the artist’s patchworked creative evolution on his personal Bandcamp page. Bag of Holding is The Cradle’s NNA Tapes debut and Cathcart’s finest record to date. It’s cohesive and unclouded, a picaresque account of modern-mysticism recounted through episodic storytelling and the musician’s sharp attention to detail. Bag of Holding examines overlooked events, inflating surface-level mundanity into heavily introspective observations of life’s subtle anxieties: a D&D violation, a miscommunication in a 7-Eleven, an unusual coincidence. With help from Sammy Weissberg and Lily Konigsberg, Cathcart narrates the present, weaving eccentric avant-folk into a timely snapshot of an artist’s shifting perspective. - Patrick Pilch || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify 

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LANDOWNER | “Blatant”

Born Yesterday Records

Landowner's album, Blatant, is just that - there's about as much subtlety here as a hammer to the skull. Self described as "weak hardcore," Dan Shaw and company have built themselves a deviant post-punk record thick with wit and abrasive tonality, skewering everything from the far-right to environmental disasters. It's not for the faint of heart, but then again, little is these days. First single "Moving Again" is the album's opening track, an immediate statement of sonic intent with a dense low end groove and harsh stabbing guitars. The sound is clean and focused, blunt with force and upfront in its aggressive tendencies. With all the charm and sour humor of Big Black and The Fall, Shaw's lyrics are bleak but biting, lashing out at disposable culture, entitlement, gentrification, and instant gratification. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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MARLOWE | “Marlowe”

Mello Music Group

Underground hip-hop got a gem by the way of the self-titled debut of Marlowe, better known as the duo of producer L’Orange and MC Solemn Brigham. The record, one of the best new hip-hop albums in the past few years, is refreshing from the beats to the undeniable lyricism and ability of Brigham, a young and relatively unknown talent. Having made a name for himself in recent years with album collaborations that include Kool Keith, Stik Figa, Mr. Lif, and more, L’Orange has become an incredibly reliable producer for anyone who misses the glory days of 90’s hip-hop and fuzzy sample heavy beats. Brigham shows a diverse talent for shifting flows between rapid fire spitting and knowledge based poeticism, delivered between elegant rhymes and melodies around circular beats that draw from the boom-bap greats. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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NOPES | “Stapler”

Magnetic Eye Records

Let it be known, Nopes are one of our absolute favorite bands on the West Coast. Last year we had the pleasure of sharing a single from the short and riotous Fun Limbo EP and the band are back with corrosive new album, Stapler. Don't judge this book (or record) by it's cover, the Oakland noise punk band's sophomore full-length is pretty much as good as it gets. A triumphant upheaval of fuzzy guitar shredding and thick as bricks rhythms, the band tread between balls to the wall noise rock, slacker punk, and the SST glory days, in their own delightfully volatile way. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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THE OPHELIAS | “Almost”

Joyful Noise Recordings

In a year where a lot of the female led music making the "best of year end lists" is dramatic and slow burning, The Ophelias debut Almost is a real stand out. The deep well of sounds that populate this record, as well as the surreal and poignant lyrics by Spencer Peppet, make Almost a refreshing antithesis to the current trend. Tough times don't always need to be expressed by a drawn out piano ballad or plodding, guitar-centric keening. Sometimes they're more rightly excised by grooving, letting your troubles get carried away by the sure ferocity with which you can shake them from your body. While not a dance record per se, I dare you not to bop along to every track here. - Colin Vallee || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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OPTIGANALLY YOURS | “O.Y. In Hi-Fi”

Joyful Noise Recordings

Originally released as part of the Rob Crow subscription box from Joyful Noise (a collection that includes many incredible releases to come), Optiganally Yours came out of retirement with O.Y. In Hi-Fi. The long awaited and heavily anticipated third album is an exceptional record that has the duo sounding better than ever before. It's a new shinning moment for the band and Crow, an artist that has never lacked shinning moments. Released to a wide audience in July (because this record is simply too good not to get a full release), the band shared intricate pop songs that layer vocals, lush harmonies, and of course, the optigan, used to create an atmospheric background that's steadily rising, building into a crescendo of Beach Boys-esque glory. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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OVLOV | “Tru”

EIS Records

Underneath all the distortion, there’s a pastoral beauty to Ovlov’s songs that’s hard to put into words. They are able to capture moments of wonder and angst in ways other bands simply cannot. On this record, Ovlov explore their introspective side, opting to open the album with a wash of guitars and vocal harmonies in the form of “Baby Alligator.” There are also several up tempo tracks, including “Stick” which features a driving punk rock rhythm along with an infectious chorus, and “Short Morgan” where Steve Hartlett sings at the top of his lungs and shreds a searing guitar line. One of the most emotional tracks here is album closer “Grab It From The Garden,” a churning slow burner that is truly crushing. - Chris Jones || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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TY SEGALL & WHITE FENCE | “Joy”

Drag City Records

Like peanut butter and jelly, milk and cookies, or apples and pie, Ty Segall and White Fence go well together. The two ultra-prolific musicians' styles most certainly have a degree of garage psych overlap, but when together they take both aspects of their respective sounds and it let run wild. Their first collaborative album, Hair, was released back in 2012, a psych-pop odyssey that leaned further toward retro than their respective catalogs had at that point. Six years (and a world of albums and projects) later, the duo have teamed up again for Joy. The album's first single "Good Boy" is a breezy effort full of texture and pop bliss, cascading drums, and lush acoustics, mixing the band's psych roots with a prog detachment. It's unpredictable and yet easily accessible, a welcome exercise is combining their sounds to create something familiar but ultimately the culmination of their efforts. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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WIMPS | “Garbage People”

Kill Rock Stars

On Garbage People, the third full-length from Seattle’s Wimps, the band sound more focused than ever, regardless of what they might be focused on. Between stealing pizzas, discordantly dismissing chores, and questioning the decrease in the bee population, Wimps are here to say what we're all thinking, and they do it rather brilliantly. Still relying on their well coiled slacker fuzz meets locked-in post-punk, Wimps ooze charisma in all their punk intelligence and sarcastic lyrics (delivered in a non sarcastic way). It's that ability that has Wimps shimmering with deadpan joy. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

FURTHER LISTENING:

BELLINI “Before The Day Has Gone” | BODEGA “Endless Scroll” | CARLOS HERNANDEZ “On Folly” | DEATHSNACK “American Lifestyles” | FOND “Fond” | GODDARD “Between The Lights” | KISS CONCERT “Look Bad/Feel Bad“ | NEGATIVE SCANNER “Nose Picker” | PATTI “Bad Back” | SAM LEIDIG “Tarski’s World” | THE SHIFTERS “Have A Cunning Plan”

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BABEHOVEN | “Sleep”

Good Cheer Records

If you listened to Babehoven’s debut EP, Sleep, only once or twice when it was released earlier this year, you’d be forgiven for misremembering it as a full-length release. The five songs on it are easily some of the most memorable of 2018. “Out of this Country” and “LA,” especially, are fascinating dichotomies—broad, sweeping tunes that sound as though they were recorded in a bedroom. This is the mesmerizing skill of songwriter Maya Bon, who wrote and initially performed and released this material on her own in Los Angeles. After moving to Portland and joining forces with bassist Skyler Pia and drummer Elias Williamson, Bon and Babehoven were introduced to a wider audience via Good Cheer Records. On Sleep, Bon’s work is complemented perfectly by Pia and Williamson. The EP is equal parts intimate and grand, a combination that makes for one of the most impressive label debuts of the year. - Lydia Pudzianowski || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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BAKED | “II”

EIS Records

On IIBaked bring the listener their familiar reverb driven and hazy take on garage psych but cranked up a notch and tightened into punchy little packages. R.J. Gordon and Isabella Mingione switch off vocals (as well as Jeremy Aquilino) and push through their own emotional attachments and letdowns in increasingly compelling and maturing fashion. Baked still bring the pounding rhythm and motorik repetition on this EP, but some surprising melodies and brightened vocals add another ingredient that provides a new flourish. II carries a significantly lighter environment than Farnham, their previous full length which was a remembrance of a friend that passed. - Kris Handel || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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DUST FROM 1000 YRS | “A Sweet Thing Turns Sour”

Self Released

If anyone can call the lead single from their album "Bad Shit," it's Dust From 1000 Yrs, one of the finest sad bastard songwriters we've ever known. The now solo project of the man simply known as Bone to most, self-released his latest, A Sweet Thing Turns Sour at the tail end of the summer. Raw and immediate, the new Dust record could just be Bone's best effort yet, an album that combines earthy textures and gravely voiced depression with dynamic arrangements and a real tortured sense of beauty in the shallows. The album rattles with loose rhythms and distorted folk ideals, the simplistic structures dropped on their heads and contorted with a veteran's attention to detail. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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EXHALANTS | “Exhalants”

Self Sabotage Records

Out of the demise of Carl Sagan’s Skate Shoes, Exhalants created a punishing, ear tweezing, and head ringing debut release. The record vacillates between high-energy songs like “Cauterize,” to slower more meandering tracks like Public Display of Failure.” Steve Pike’s guitar is sharp and incisive in some tracks and dull in others. Songs like “If Only” will take their time in reaching the eventual climax, rewarding a listener with patience. All of the LP’s components in totality will leave the listener fully satiated like after having an extremely satisfying lunch. - Hugo Reyes || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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OH SEES | “Smote Reverser”

Castle Face Records

Another year, another great chapter of Oh Sees history has been written. Picking up where last year's Orc left off, Smote Reverser takes the quartet's growing prog rock tendencies and lets them run wild. Their unique brand of melted prog blends in everything (thee) Oh Sees have built their impenetrable catalog upon... garage, punk, krautrock, freak folk, and spaced out psych, so when they take some time to "jam out" with a visionary freedom, they're able to retain some sense of purpose. John Dwyer and company are still rattling in reverb, but the songs throughout are jittery and full of shifting time signatures, orchestrated movements, and sprawling passages into realms of distorted organs and pitch shifting synth exploration. It's a beast of explosive double-drumming and guitars that glitch and explode down a number of rabbit holes, chasing an eternal locked in groove, determined to disrupt and expand beyond any preconceived confines. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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PET FOX | “Pet Fox”

Self Released

We all know that a great drummer makes a great band (it's science) and we all know that Theo Hartlett (Ovlov) and Jesse Weiss (Palehound, Grass Is Green) are both incredible drummers. What you may not already know is that both Hartlett and Weiss are both great songwriters and guitarists as well. They can really do it all and they do it all so damn well... you know the type. Joined together with the always brilliant Morgan Luzzi (Ovlov), the trio have formed Pet Fox, a great new band that gives each of the members a chance to shine in their own radiant glow. With Hartlett on guitar and vocals, Luzzi on bass and keys, and Weiss on drums, the trio's self-titled full length debut is as sure as they come, a painstakingly nuanced mixture of AM radio gold and post-hardcore undertones (think Jawbox with a sunnier, more gentle disposition). - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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TOMBERLIN | “At Weddings”

Saddle Creek

At Weddings is the sterling debut record from Sarah Beth Tomberlin, of Louisville, Kentucky. Tomberlin's has delivered a record that reaches emotional levels that are extremely relatable for everyone trying to find their way through life with all it's highs and lows. Songs like "Self-Help," "I'm Not Scared," and "Video Games" tackle depression, destructive relationships with yourself and/or others in a manner that's open and honest to a fault. There is a constant hum that adds a sense of brittle tension that works its way through every song and heightens the emotional intensity. At Weddings is a record that deserves the wider reaching release it received this year and is a record of uncompromising beauty. - Kris Handel || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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TRAPS PS | “New Chants”

Innovative Leisure

My introduction to LA’s Traps PS came this year with their incredible new album New Chants, an album that plays like the modern day equivalent to Television better than most. With an impressive catalog already behind them, their latest is all caustic and jittering post-punk, creeping and grooving with a manic energy, one that feels ominous and tense but in short bursts that rarely pass the two minute mark. The tight rhythms crack under their guitars sharp attacks, collapsing and expanding to push the tempos and keep their structures unpredictable. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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WARM DRAG | “Warm Drag”

In The Red Records

On Warm Drag's self-titled debut, the duo of Paul Quattrone (Oh Sees, !!!) and Vashti Windish (K-Holes, Golden Triangle) have created a stunning landscape of mood and atmosphere that shifts and expands at their whim, taking the path less traveled in just about all directions. It's a great record from two musicians who have never shied away from a bit of abrasive experimentation. They're throwing in the kitchen sink of ideas throughout Warm Drag and executing them all with grace and a love for bleeding electronics. Self described as "post-noir noise disco" (genres... right?) it's a fairly fitting description for the record as a whole. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Spotify

FURTHER LISTENING:

BUMMER “Holy Terror” | ETHERS “Ethers” | FOUNTAIN “Acid Bath from the Jaded Jungle” | GATWOOD “Gatworld Vol. 1” | HONEY BUCKET “Furniture Days” | PIOUS FAULTS “Old Thread” | RONG + LANDOWNER “Split” | SCHOOL DAMAGE “A To X” | SONNY FALLS “Some Kind Of Spectre” | SUPER THIEF “Eating Alone In My Car” | UNIFORM “The Long Walk”

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AVA LUNA | “Moon 2”

Western Vinyl Records

After a three-year hiatus, Ava Luna is strolling back into the spotlight with a strong return in the form of their latest LP Moon 2. The album sees the Brooklyn-based indie rock group maintaining a stable position in an increasingly diverse and crowded lot of genre-bending acts. The past several years has seen the rise of other sonically strange supergroups that casually toss around opposing genre elements. While at times it sounds as if Ava Luna is trying their best to flank others like Hiatus Kaiyote, you quickly realize this assumption to be false. Moon 2 works off of the template set by 2015’s Infinite House. In doing so, it triumphantly puts the group in their own lane. In the hands of the five person outfit, a disparate collection of ingredients is measured and mixed in such a way to create the musical equivalent of some complicated confection. - Dalvin Aboagye || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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BLACK BELT EAGLE SCOUT | “Mother Of My Children”

Saddle Creek Records

Katherine Paul’s debut album as Black Belt Eagle Scout is a powerful diaristic of an intense period of tumult, and showcases a powerful range of songwriting. The opener “Soft Stud” is perhaps the best rock song of 2018; a scuzzy and unrelenting salvo that sets the tone for the rest of Mother Of My Children as an album that pulls no punches. Other standouts “I Don’t Have You In My Life” and “Sam, A Dream” find Paul grappling with loss and longing, the pillars of this remarkable record. An indigenous queer woman, Paul’s work as Black Belt Eagle Scout is evidence that the future of rock music hails from the people who have historically had the least attention paid to them. - Niccolo Dante Porcello || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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BORZOI | “A Prayer For War”

12XU Records

For the past few years it has felt like it's only a matter of time before Austin's Borzoi go and release something of a modern art-punk, post-noise rock, cult classic. If you've ever seen them live than you know the potential is bubbling over (it only took seeing them once for me) and the time to get weird is upon us. Following last year's blown out, mangled, and perhaps all-too-lo-fi-for-most Surrender The Farm EP, the trio released their full length debut, A Prayer For War, via the ruthless 12XU Records (Unholy Two, Obnox, Xetas). The album is the sordid punk masterpiece they seem so destined to make. They've upped the fidelity and sonic comprehension without loosing any bite. Hell, they've never sounded better. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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C.H.E.W. | “Feeding Frenzy”

Drunken Sailor / Iron Lung

Feeding Frenzy is a relentless assault of d-beat and fastcore from Chicago’s very best current hardcore band. The group—comprised of three Orlando transplants and a front-person who’d never sung in a band before this one—is as brutal as they are seamless, blowing through a masterfully sequenced first side. Ben Rudolph, Russell Harrison, and Jono Giralt (the aforementioned transplants) play with the intuitive precision of three players who know and understand the spaces each fill and the moves each will make. This cohesive assault fills all spaces, while Doris Jeane’s raspy, mocking growl grabs listeners by the throat. Feeding Frenzy builds brilliantly while Jeane points the fingers at cops and nice boys alike, culminating in a last track that sets fire to any and all constraints of hardcore subgenre. - Tim Crisp || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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EXPLODED VIEW | “Obey”

Sacred Bones Records

Last year Exploded View released the short and sweet Summer Came Early EP, one of our favorite releases of the winter, providing an experimental warmth to the cold months. The international band (split between Berlin and Mexico City) led by Annika Henderson are back with their sophomore full length, Obey, every bit as intelligently detached and intrinsically artistic as their previous records. The album is noisy and disorienting but inarguably beautiful, a radiant glimpse of the trio's time spent exploring the studio, using overdubs and tape manipulation to create an effect both dreamy and terrifying. The dark sprawl and piercing highs lend to Henderson's mellow but impassioned vocals, her strong voice wavering between swirls of chaotic reverb and dense layers of delightful dread. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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GOUGE AWAY | “Burnt Sugar”

Deathwish Records

Despite the fact that I’m pretty personally invested in Gouge Away, as they are a stalwart band that came out of music scene from my hometown, I think most unbiased people would agree that Burnt Sugar stacks up as one of the best albums of the year. When it comes to hardcore punk, Gouge Away is one of the most emotionally intelligent and raw sounding bands I’ve ever encountered in the genre. My favorite track, “Disassociation” erupts into a catchy riff that emphatically accentuates Christina’s poignant, harsh vocals; the way this group constructs songs that are both wildly catchy and emotionally impactful never ceases to astound me. A follow up to their powerhouse release , Dies, their latest offering shows the band trusting their instincts, and jumping passionately into a new phase of their sound. The tracks on this album will validate your feelings, will provide a source of solidarity, and will also make you want to dance like it’s your full time job. Produced by Jeremy Bolm of Touche Amore, Burnt Sugar shows Gouge Away continuing their tradition of speaking about the things that are most important to them, riffing hard, and unleashing their inhibitions in their writing. - Thrin Vianale || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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HUMAN PEOPLE | “Butterflies Drink Turtle Tears”

EIS Records

For a band that sounds like they are bored to tears while they meticulously shred, Human People is anything but lackadaisical, disinterested and certainly not boring. Singer and guitarist, Haley Livingston, presents questions that we have all asked ourselves like “What’s the point of living when you’re always alone?” and “What’s the point of living when you only get stoned?” in “Black Flower.” The Brooklyn quartet includes the throwback “In My Speakers” from their 2016 EP Sleep Year, which talks about an entity living in their speakers. Livingston assures us, “I will smile when I want to.” They continue to keep it real in “Jenny,” with their swift riffs while vocalist Marisa Gershenhorn’s tunefully sings, “I can’t fake it if you want me to/I look like you and act like you but I’m nothing like you.” The whole album feels like the coolest eye roll ever. - Allison Kridle || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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LALA LALA | “The Lamb”

Hardly Art Records

We've been expecting big things from Chicago's Lala Lala since we first heard 2016's Sleepyhead album, an exceptional record of downer rock songs that resided somewhere between lo-fi slacker grunge and bedroom pop confessions. The band did some touring with Girlpool, Palm, and Frankie Cosmos, and now they've released their Hardly Art debut album, The LambIts everything we've come to love about the project, grim pop structures with Lillie West's stark and confessional lyrics. The songs take a relatively skeletal approach, soaring into propulsive hooks, and back again into the doldrums of the restrained yet beautifully crafted verses. It's a strong first showing from an album we were heavily anticipating. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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MILKED | “Crawling Passed”

Self Released

Always meant to be more of a studio project with the occasional local show rather than a touring band, the prospects of Milked’s continued activity took a turn when Kelly Johnson moved from Chicago to the wide open spaces of Eugene, Oregon. With the distance looming between the band’s members and about a decade spent creating music together, there was a sense of importance to record together again, not necessarily for the last time, but in celebration as the end of an era. The resulting album, Crawling Passed, is an incredible outpouring of everything that makes Milked (and Geronimo! before it) so special. The colossal fuzz still reigns supreme, but the band push further in every direction, from acoustic pop to ruthless hardcore, incorporating it all with charm and grace, it feels like a resolution, one last farewell (though we hope not). - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp

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MOTHERS | “Render Another Ugly Method”

Anti- Records

A brooding and forceful record, Render Another Ugly Method, sees Mothers departing from the softer sounds of their previous output by leaning into their most sinister tendencies. “BEAUTY ROUTINE” asserts this from the get-go, built on spires of jagged guitar and an unsettling rhythm section, dictating the rollicking pace going forwards. Across the nearly hour long record, Kristine Leschper’s astounding voice is an omnipresent fog, commanding the utmost attention regardless of arrangement. The closer “FAT CHANCE” is the sharpest Mothers get, fitful and steering an uncontrollable ship around Leschper’s yells: “one hundred/ gold night-dresses/ flayed open/ when i close you open/ how many fingers/ must you put in my mouth/ to muffle my apology.” Render… is not the easiest listen of the year but it is unparalleled in substance, and an endlessly rewarding listen. - Niccolo Dante Porcello || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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PIG DESTROYER | “Head Cage”

Relapse Records

Maybe it's the times, maybe it's just me, but I listened to a lot of Pig Destroyer this year. The Virginia based band's extreme dismantling of grindcore, thrash metal, and noise rock is abrasive and ugly, furious and demonic, and it's just what we needed. Its been six years since the fantastic Book Burner, but the DMV's most brutal metal experimentalists returned with Head Cage, a record thats as dark and nasty as the come. The songs are aggressive in the most unfriendly of ways, full of lacerating bellows and an onslaught of dense drums that tear between destructive pummeling and a sludgy groove, the songs pulling the band into the settling smoke beyond the chaos; a more accessible territory, at least for the moment... but then again, we're still talking Pig Destroyer. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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PILE | “Odds & Ends”

EIS Records

You may or may not know this about me, but Pile's Big Web 7" is one of my favorite recordings ever. The three songs that make it up (Big Web, Afraid of Home, Scissors) are perfection as far as I'm concerned, each holding their own nuanced ground in harmony with the release as a whole. They weren't necessarily intended as a singular vision (they are essentially b-sides from Magic Isn't Real) and that's part of the beauty. Those three songs are now remastered as part of Odds And Ends, a collection of Pile's out-of-print singles, hard to find compilation offerings, and "Cup," a never before released song that has been kicking around since the earliest days of the band. The single, finally recorded during the A Hairshirt of Purpose sessions, is Pile at its best, a song that feels instantly classic and timeless, fitting itself well into any part of the band's catalog, but finding a special fit among Big Web and the rest of Odds And Ends in particular. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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PUPPY PROBLEMS | “Sunday Feeling”

Sleeper Records

Recorded over the past two years, Sunday Feeling has been a long time coming, and the wait was more than worth it on a debut album that's as confident in every detail, every heartbreaking phrasing, and the depth of its emotional resonance. Puppy Problems’ Sami Martasian is joined by Ben Styer, Benjamin Rector (Dust From 1000 Yrs), Ethan Long, Christine Varriale, and Joel Demelo, bringing their songs to life while leaving them confessional and minimalist in composition. They offer the perfect balance between songs built up and stripped down, each finding space as we're given a tour through the mind of Puppy Problems and Martasian's restless fears and worries. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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SAUNA YOUTH | “Deaths”

Upset The Rhythm Records

Ever since we first heard Dreamlands back in 2012, we've been in love with London's Sauna Youth, hell, I even like the pun name. The bands third album, Deaths, was released in September via Upset The Rhythm and it finds them doing what they do best, making chaotic and vault-tight punk. Discordant guitar attack stabs with a mischievous abandon, riding atop motorik grooves and just gnashing its teeth all the while. The band's rapid pace and jerky riffs recall this year's Lithics album (another stunning example of post-punk done to perfection), but there's an unpredictability that Sauna Youth achieve in a small window, whirling a tornado one moment and diving into the scuzz the next. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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THE SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE | “Hypnic Jerks”

Tiny Engines

One of the most impressive things about The Spirit of the Beehive is that their songs continually evolve, never resting on one idea for too long. Opener “Nail I Couldn’t Bite” explores about a thousand ideas, including the funkiest dance beat you’ve ever heard and a final passage that sounds like a warped version of the Beach Boys. Other highlights include “Mantra is Repeated,” which features heavenly vocal harmonies, and “ (Without You) In My Pocket,” which sounds like a sonic adventure led by guitars and synths. There’s no question that The Spirit of the Beehive are an extremely unique, special band and it is clear that they have arrived at something challenging yet oddly accessible here. - Chris Jones || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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SUMAC | “Love In Shadow”

Thrill Jockey Records

Aaron Turner has always been a colossal presence through ISIS (the band, relax everyone), Old Man Gloom, Hydra Head Records, or any of his various genre-bending side projects. His lumbering bellows and decimating riffs have given him a legendary status. For all his many accomplishments though, SUMAC, the post-ISIS trio Turner formed with Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists) and Brian Cook (These Arms Are Snakes) could just be his greatest band yet. Their third (or fourth, depending if you count this year's collaboration with Keiji Haino) album, Love In Shadow is a sprawling, epic, dystopian ripper that traverses movement after movement of both guttural dirges and all out skull crushing shredded bliss… in the name of love. Over an hour in length with only four tracks, each song plays out like an album, crawling like an avalanche through both the peaks and valleys, devoid of rigid forms and reliant on the trio's collective instincts and intelligence. It's a lot to take in but worth every expansive second. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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VIAGRA BOYS | “Street Worms”

Year0001 Records

I’ll be completely honest, I didn’t want to like Viagra Boys. During the roll out of their record, their name alone was enough to dull my curiosity and avoid their music altogether. Eventually after enough friends asked if I liked them, I reluctantly gave their single “Sports” a listen and was less than amused, but engaged enough to dig into the album, Street Worms. Turns out, all the bands constant joking aside, the album rips, it’s humor one pointed facet of the socially destructive whole. Everything is jabbed and prodded with satire, but the band’s post-punk skronk is focused and menacing, bringing a heavy thud as their punches land in a perfect unison. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Spotify

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WOOLEN MEN | “Post”

Dogs Table

There’s a lot of wonky post-punk out there. It’s so hot right now. But Woolen Men aren’t casual dilettantes. They’ve been around long enough to know what they’re about and Post is as close to a perfect example of that as you could want. It’s stacked to the gills with winning guitar leads, and there’s a lush, gauzy air to songs like opener “Brick Horizon,” adding swatches of color to their established blueprints. DIY ‘til they die and all the better for it. - Huw Baines || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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ZULA | “New Years”

Inflated Records

Brooklyn's Zula are back with New Years, their third full length via Inflated Records, and it could just be their best album yet. The experimental pop band have a new rhythm section, Alejandro Salazar Dyer and Jo-Anne Hyun, and the pair are more than capable of filling the big shoes left behind, showing an adept understanding of the band’s many art-rock and tropicalia influenced psych tendencies. With the Terepka cousins, Nate and Henry pushing the boundaries once again, Zula dazzle in a real majestic bliss, swerving between shimmering synths and heavily affected guitars for something that sounds gorgeously futuristic and humbly retro. The songs shift as though as the band are wandering through the thick of the rainforest, willingly unaware of what lies ahead and what came before. Safe to say that Zula are only getting better and better. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

FURTHER LISTENING:

BOOJI BOYS “Unknown Pleathers” | GØGGS “Pre Strike Sweep” | GUERILLA TOSS “Twisted Crystal” | ING “Ing” | THE INTELLIGENCE “Live In San Francisco” | MARBLED EYE “Leisure” | OPTIONS “Vivid Trace”

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ADRIANNE LENKER | “Abysskiss”

Saddle Creek Records

On October 5th, 2018, our lord and savior Adrianne Lenker blessed us all with her 10 song masterpiece Abysskiss. It’s been 4 years since Lenker has released a solo record, as per her touring with Big Thief, but it was certainly worth the wait. Winding, circular acoustic guitar melodies and Lenker’s heart wrenching vocals create unity amongst the songs, as if each is intertwined in some massive, inaccessible idea. Abysskiss feels like it has a secret, some sacred plan one can only speculate about. Opening with the reverent, lamenting “Terminal Paradise”, the track notes the ephemerality of beautiful things, and how new life springs from complete death. This album is saturated with imagery surrounding death, birth and rebirth, the celebration of the human body, and the mysteries of love. The title track patiently asks “wilderness, vast abyss, will we ever kiss?,” a question as wistful as it is strangely relatable. Abysskiss reminded me to stop, to look around and to appreciate the small moments in life that are a part of our endless cycle, and the importance of human connection. - Thrin Vianale || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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DAUGHTERS | “You Wont Get What You Want”

Ipecac Records

Daughters are back! We've been waiting for this moment for about eight years now, ever since the noise rock chameleons released their self-titled masterpiece then called it a day shortly after. Well, the Rhode Island luminaries released a new album on Ipecac Records and its a mix of slow sprawling noise rock entrails, disorienting and unnerving electronics, and a visceral outpouring of exuberant punk that's as big on groove and wigged out skronks as it is violent sarcasm and howled menace. The tension just builds and Daughters knowingly push it toward the edge, but pull back into horror themes, and hypnotic dirges. For a band that has never released the same record twice, their sound is still evolving all these years later, but the deranged feelings of unease are Daughters through and through. Bring the filth, bring the weirdness, we're clamoring for more. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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DAVID NANCE GROUP | “Peaced and Slightly Pulverized”

Trouble In Mind Records

Even though it was released this year, Peaced and Slightly Pulverized, the latest from David Nance (and Group this time), feels a bit like it’s of another era. On his previous albums, Nance has proven that he can expertly handle and bend a variety of genres, and the title of this one is a good indicator of what to expect. Peaced offers extended jams, guitar solos, and fuzz effortlessly plucked from the realm of Crazy Horse and Dinosaur Jr. In other words, it feels like the faded, worn denim jacket with the patches that’s been in your family’s closet for years, the one that somehow fits everyone just right and works in all types of weather. Put it on whenever. It goes with everything. - Lydia Pudzianowski || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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DEAD RIDER | “Dead Rider Trio Featuring Mr. Paul Williams”

Drag City Records


If you’re familiar with Chicago’s Dead Rider (or Todd Rittmann’s previous band, U.S. Maple) than you already know all bets are off with what you may get from their shapeshifting art rock. Each release is a new spin on punk at its most intelligent, combining sonic depths and impeccable patience to create music that really rattles your bones, doing it without force and overt heaviness. Their records have always been about presenting what’s possible and how divergent ideas can sound cohesive. And so they’ve done it again with Dead Rider Trio featuring Mr. Paul Williams, a new record on Drag City that offers just that, Dead Rider joining forces with Paul Williams, an experimental/noise musician from London. The pairing is met with synchronicity from both sides, each matching the billowy artistic madness of other. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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DEAD TENANTS | “LP II”

Already Dead / Buzzhowl Records

Brooklyn/Queens minimalist post-punk trio Dead Tenants continue to be one of the city’s best punk bands on their sophomore full length, a record so tightly wound and intrinsically coiled your neck could just snap. Conveniently named LP II, the album (released via Already Dead Tapes and Buzzhowl Records) is rife with buzz saw riffs that scrape and prod at the impeccably tight rhythms, the sort of impenetrable force that has room to play with noise and hypnotic pummeling. The guitar takes wild stabs of dimly lit distortion and makes it feel nuanced, coloring in the shades of grey that oozes from the tangled precision of the bass and drums. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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DUDS | “Immediate”

Opal Tapes

Last year Manchester’s DUDS released their infectious debut, Of A Nature Or Degree, via Castle Face Records, an album that stood amongst our favorites of 2017. Wasting no time, the band are back again with Immediate, out via Opal Tapes. While the band may or may not have turned their name into an acronym (depends where you look), little else has changed, and we’re grateful for that. Still one of the most unpredictable rhythm sections in post-punk, their songs swerve and jitter with a nimble take on structure, bouncing around like elastic stretched to the breaking point. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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EROSION | “Maximum Suffering”

Hydra Head Records

It's been a monumental year of heavy music, both of the ugly and beautiful varieties, and Nick Yacyshyn has been a central force behind three of our absolute favorites from Sumac, Baptists, and now Erosion. Switching from his usual spot behind the drums to guitar, Erosion also features Baptists members Danny Marshall and Andrew Drury, as well as Rick O’Dell (Hard Feelings) and Jamie Hooper (3 Inches of Blood) rounding out the line-up in brutal fashion. "Maximum Suffering" is the band's full length debut, though it hardly sounds like the work of a band finding their footing. Erosion arrive fully capable of decimating any and all obstructions in their path. With a filthy blend of crusty hardcore, explosive grindcore, sludge, and blackened metal, it's constantly morphing but always triumphantly disgusted. Heavy as a herd of elephants, the music is engaging and dynamic, a band that matches every bit of destructive force with unpredictability and brilliant catharsis. We can't stop listening. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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FOND HAN | “Wronked”

EIS Records

Fond Han’s sophomore LP is a naturally disorienting record, capable of swallowing listeners whole with torrents of sprawling effects and cathartic melodic tension. The creative floodgates burst on Wronked, becoming the full-length result of Thomas Baumann’s five day brain dump with Seth Engel of Pallet Sound. The album’s chaotic and dense arrangement is an immersive psychedelic development in Fond Han’s erratic post-hardcore experimentation. Wronked swathes listeners in unearthly cadence on “Wolfcrier,” raucous grindcore on “Wronk” and miry reverb on the revamped version of “Ughed.” The record repeatedly implodes, altering its own fleeting image beyond recognition, only to reinvent itself moments later. Wronked tests the limits of detachment, meandering through long-winded movements of heady compositions and jazz-spliced punk. - Patrick Pilch || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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GNARCISSISTS | “EP”

Bliss NYC 2018

New York quartet Gnarcissists have carved out a return to snotty, brash, and filthy punk on their self-titled debut EP. It’s built on jangly punk riffs that recall the grime of the city’s bands in the 80’s, spitting, slurring, dangerously belligerent, and glorious reckless. Both clever and aggressive, the band thrash through would-be-pop songs, observing their surrounding from the depths. Gnarcissists scorn is delivered with a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor - biting and frantic, but sarcastic and delightfully stumbling from one gutter anthem to the next. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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IAN SWEET | “Crush Crusher”

Hardly Art Records

Crush Crusher, the sophomore record of Jilian Medford’s project IAN SWEET, contains some extremely introspective and honestly crushing (pun intended) songwriting. Medford’s vocals switch from cherubic-to yowling ferocity at the drop of a pin and the songs follow suit with jangly dream-pop giving way to crunching waves of guitar and impressive rhythm section work on most of the record. A song like “Question It” carries jangly brittle guitar riffing in the background over rolling drum fills, while another highlight “Holographic Jesus” has Medford bending her vocals over humming synth and guitar. Medford and band are also very adept at finding a groove and sitting down into it on a few dance-floor worthy moments. Crush Crusher is a record full of songwriting that is full of growth and experimentation and a record that reveals something completely different with every listen. - Kris Handel || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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PEEL DREAM MAGAZINE | “Modern Meta Physic”

Slumberland Records

Seemingly coming out of nowhere with one of the year’s best debut records, Peel Dream Magazine and their Slumberland Records released Modern Meta Physic album, are firmly in the running for “rookie of the year.” The New York trio explore different pastoral glimpses of dream-pop, shoegaze, and bummed out indie rock with a true attention to detail and texture. There are no hard turns and nothing jagged about it, the edges are all melted down and poured into their own fluid shapes, the fog only heightening the sense of layered melodic sweetness. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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PUBLIC PRACTICE | “Distance is a Mirror”

Wharf Cat Records

Following the demise of Brooklyn's WALL, Sam York and Vince McCelland wasted no time in forming Public Practice together with members of Beverly, picking up somewhere near where they had left off, creating some of the post-punk revival's most captivating music. Their heavily anticipated Distance Is A Mirror EP, released in October via Wharf Cat, is tight, hypnotic, and dance-floor ready. It's a collection of smash hits in a perfect world. As the beats slink along with locked in grooves, the guitars scrape and dash around with an early B-52's charm, York's vocals doing the rest of the work for the sticky melodies that show a wider range than the typical WALL song. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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STOVE | “‘s Favorite Friend”

EIS Records

The year that gave us the first Ovlov LP in five years also brought a new one from Stove, the band that was formed in Ovlov’s ashes. We are lucky to have both. Ovlov works in instant gratification, but Stove, as time has gone by, has expanded in its depth as a project and as a platform for the ever-expanding songwriting of Steve Hartlett. 2016 saw two EP’s—Is A Toad In The Rain and Is The Meat That Fell Out—which were marked by exploration and experiment with less emphasis on the electric guitar as a guiding force, but something more like a paintbrush. ’s Favorite Friend returns back to the drive of the band’s debut Is Stupider, but its attack is much more subtle. The record steps carefully through its first half before upping the ante with a run of cathartic tracks that marks Hartlett’s best guitar work to date. - Tim Crisp || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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SUPER UNISON | “Stella”

Deathwish Records

When Punch screamed their last, the prospect of never hearing Meghan O’Neil roar into a mic again was a bleak one. Luckily, Super Unison soon came along, veering left from her old band’s ferocious hardcore and into rich post-punk terrain. Stella, their second LP, is more pointed, more furious than its predecessor, and it sounds incredible. Recorded with Steve Albini, it’s raw when it needs to be and driven on by a sort of grinding urgency that never lets the listener settle. Stunning stuff. - Huw Baines | LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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SURFBORT | “Friendship Music”

Cult / Fat Possum Records

Brooklyn’s Surfbort have always kept it dirty. From their explosive live shows to the layer of grime and scuzz in their songs, it’s an aesthetic choice that works because it’s true to the source. These are dirty days we’re living in and thankfully Surfbort are here to revel in it and throw themselves raggedly onto the heap with a chaotic punk grace. Their endearingly titled and long-awaited full length debut, Friendship Music is all nasty swagger and overblown shredding. The songs quickly devolve into agitated and defiant grooves, the band’s raw punk and hardcore tendencies influencing their political unrest and anti-authority anthems. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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UPPER WILDS | “Mars”

Thrill Jockey Records

Loud, ambitious, heavy, hooky... all the good stuff. Mars is a rock record to make you believe that people should persevere with making rock records. Dan Friel and band’s second outing amps up the weird without overlooking the basics that made their debut, Guitar Module 2017, stand out. Amid tales of martian strip malls, human failings and grand experiments, Upper Wilds make the sort of glorious racket that sets heart racing. - Huw Baines || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

FURTHER LISTENING:

ALEXANDER “Settle Down” | THE BERRIES “Start All Over Again” | CURREN$Y & FREDDIE GIBBS “Fetti” | EXIT GROUP “Adverse Habitat” | GIRL GAZE “Fade Out” | KINSKI “Accustomed To Your Face” | MOUNTAIN MOVERS “Pink Skies” | STRANGE RELATIONS “Sideline Kid” | SURFACE TO AIR MISSIVE “Surface II Air Missive” | VALUE VOID “Sentimental” | WARTHOG “Warthog” | WINDHAND “Eternal Return” | YOUNG JESUS “The Whole Thing Is Just There”

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DRESSAGE | “Take Me Home”

Self Released

When we premiered “Star Scar,” the first single from Dressage’s sophomore album Take Me Home, I didn’t quite understand the claims of them being “a cowboy band.” Upon hearing the album in full, I get it and I’m along for the ride. The New York based band (which now includes ex-Birthing Hips’ vocalist Carrie Furniss), take their own unusual approach to the Western elements of their sound, but the influence is interspersed in moments of genuine twang and cinematic drifts. While much of the album is built on no-wave inflected punk and jazzy experiments, it’s the wide open moments of songs like the spaced out “My Universe,” the medieval tinged “Town To Town,” and “Dusty Trail” with it’s spaghetti western flare that make Take Me Home an undeniably interesting listen. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp

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DRUG CHURCH | “Cheer”

Pure Noise

Drug Church has hit with probably their most accessible album yet on CheerWhipping off a bit of the grimy sound to highlight lyrics about western culture and the working class. Cheer comes off as a an album that wants to be listened to by everyone. The guitars still wail and hold its own sound but are less hardcore and more along the lines of hard rock. Although this might seem negative, it helps to convey a more coherent record and spreads its wings to capture a wider audience. - Sarah Knoll || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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FAILURE | “In The Future Your Body Will Be The Furthest Thing From Your Mind”

Self Released

It’s never likely that a legendary band from the 90’s will make a great album in the late 2010s, especially after a nineteen year absence, but Failure did just that back in 2015 with their triumphant return The Heart Is A Monster. Three years later the band have outdone themselves yet again on the visionary In The Future Your Body Will Be The Furthest Thing From Your Mind. Released throughout the year as four EPs (the final one coming together with the complete LP), the band wrote and released songs as they came into being, figuring out the album piece and by piece wth every moment a continuation of the ideas before it. It’s slick and polished, but warped and cosmic, a record of swelling hooks and impeccable guitars that has Failure with their sights forward to the stars but grounded in reality. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Spotify

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IRK | “Recipes From The Bible”

Self Released

I’ve never been to Leeds, but I’m all for whatever is happening over there to gift the world bands like Blacklisters and now Irk. While I consider the former to be one of the greatest living bands, my introduction to Irk has left me side-swept, another sordid noise rock band that has perfected the genre’s two key ingredients, that bass tone and those deranged vocals. Hell, the band don’t even bother with a guitarist... and it’s not missing. Their full length debut, Recipes From The Bible is brilliantly unhinged, a sputtering and convulsive drag through the mud. The record doesn’t shy from berserk attacks and sucker-punches, it comes out swinging and keeps going until its exhausted every last muscle. With enough time in the year to soak this in, its probably among 2018’s best. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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J FERNANDEZ | “Occasional Din”

Joyful Noise Recordings

It's been three long years since Chicago's J Fernandez released the exceptional Many Levels of Laughter via Joyful Noise but the psych pop visionary is finally back with a new album, Occasional Din. Embracing the gentle sounds of psych with radio-friendly sheen and repetitive structures, Fernandez's music is wondrous and spacious with room to wander, but concise and compact, keeping you engaged all the while. Much like Chris Cohen or Stereolab, there's a warmth in the recordings, experimental pop songs that are off-kilter but never jarring. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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J MASCIS | “Elastic Days”

Sub Pop Records

Let it be said, J Mascis’ new solo album Elastic Days is the best record he’s released since Dinosaur Jr.’s Farm almost a decade ago. That’s not necessarily a shot at the other records that have come since, but an endorsement that his latest is truly exceptional, an album that boils down his songwriting to its barest of elements and shines as a result. While he’s been no stranger to the folkier territory of his influences (namely Neil Young, as always) his songwriting sounds impeccably focused, the lyrics and melodies ringing together with introspective nuance and acoustic textures that provide welcome space for Mascis to do his thing, blistering solos and all. Songs like “See You At The Movies” (a true Mascis classic), the upbeat jangle of “Cut Stranger,” and the heartbroken “Web So Dense” show a depth in range, all buoyed by his earnest delivery that wisely never reaches too far out of his comfort zone. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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LISA/LIZA | “Momentary Glance”

Orindal Records

As a fixture of Portland, Maine’s vibrant and creative DIY folk scene, Lisa/Liza released her sophomore full length (or 8th, depending on who is counting), Momentary Glance, on Orindal Records. Whether you’ve rapturously devoured her catalog from the start or you’re tuning in for the first time, nothing can prepare you for the minimalist beauty of her latest, recorded together with Efrim Manuel Menuck (GYBE, Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra) while grieving the loss of a friend during what she described as the hardest time of her life. The album is her first to feature her live band, moving from bedroom acoustics to electric wonder without losing a stitch of atmosphere or personal attachment. This record is about as beautiful as they come, each performance stretched out with dimly shimmering clarity and blissful patience. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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MISTER GOBLIN | “Final Boy”

EIS Records

No does it quiet like Sam Woodring, the once mastermind behind Maryland’s Two Inch Astronaut (among many other hidden gems such as Mattress Financial, Dogs Without Borders, etc). He’s back as Mister Goblin, a moniker that might not fit the sound, as he takes a brilliant shift further into pop music. Of course, this shift if is done his terms, with some the EPs songs still more art-punk than traditional pop, the verses wandering down intricate patterns and the ever shifting bent melodies that range from dreamy to explosive. There’s something new to discover with every listen, consistently rewarding in its attention to detail and clean delivery. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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RICK RUDE | “Verb For Dreaming”

EIS Records

Last year Rick Rude’s full length debut came and knocked our damn socks off. Released in the first weeks of the year it remained an absolute obsession until the year’s end (and beyond). Thankfully, we didn’t have to wait all that long for its follow-up, the brilliantly diverse and optimistic Verb For Dreaming. The New Hampshire quartet function more as a close-knit family than they do a band, each member bringing their unique personality and song-writing inflections to the table, working together to flesh it out with cohesion. It’s there in the rowdiest moments (“Doughnation,” “All Lock”), the gorgeously serene (“Dollyhook,” “Surrounds”), and their unfiltered exuberance (“Jupiter,” “Verb For Dreaming”), the band expanding one other’s ideas to the fullest. They’ve created an album that is honestly uplifting and joyous in the process. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

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VINCE STAPLES | “FM!”

Def Jam Records

The promise of Vince Staples has been clear from the start and his 2014 EP Hell Can Wait set him up as one of the most promising young MC’s in the game. Though despite two strong LP’s—Summertime ‘06 in 2015 and last year’s Big Fish Theory—both came with glaring “yeah, but” attachments. The double LP Summertime was untouchable through the first disc, but the second disc felt sprawling and unnecessary; Big Fish Theory worked with a sonic template that did not catch with those who’d taken to the dark beats of Hell Can Wait. FM!, on the other hand, is thorough, concise, and brilliant without qualification. The record plays like a summertime drive with the radio on, tuning you in to a segment of inspired cuts from Staples who is locked in to a groove that is accessible, fun, and extremely rewarding with each listen, and at a sharp 22 minutes, best experienced when it’s played through twice. - Tim Crisp || LISTEN: Spotify

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WASHER + BETHLEHEM STEEL | “Split”

EIS Records

Washer and Bethlehem Steel are pretty much a match made in heaven. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and again, these bands only knows how to write smash-hits. “Super Pop,” Washer’s new single is barely over a minute long and yet it manages to sneak in just about everything you know and love from the the duo. It’s got a thick as syrup vocal melody from Mike Quigley, a pounding rhythm from Kieran McShane, and more than a few left turns that skronk and delight. Bethlehem Steel’s “Fake Sweater” is a certified ripper from the moment it begins, but it's only after you’ve listened a few times, picking up on the song’s nuances, that it truly becomes a classic. They twist and turn, proving section by section that you only need to introduce an idea to make it stick, cementing riffs, melodies, and jagged attacks without repetition or formulaic structures. - Dan Goldin || LISTEN: Bandcamp | Spotify

Further Listening:

ANDERSON .PAAK “Oxnard” | BLACK THOUGHT “Streams of Thought Vol. 2” | EARL SWEATSHIRT “Some Rap Songs” | GABBY’S WORLD “Beast On Beast” | THE GREAT SABATINI “Goodbye Audio” | LOOKERS “Mirage” | MAL DEVISA “Animal Equation” | MAL DEVISA “Mystery Tsrain” | MAL DEVISA “Shade And The Little Creature” | MONOBODY “Raytracing” | OCS “Live In San Francisco” | RAYS “You Can Get There From Here” | SUN YOUNG “Tiles” | TERA MELOS “Treasures and Trolls”