New music for your rotation
Now, Now - Saved
There’s been a massive wave of what I’ll call “study music:” usually lo-fi hip-hop instruments, a little synthwave here and there, but always a crackle over the mix with the tone all the way down - for some reason muffled music feels like a hug. When I found Now, Now I was binge searching for this sort of stuff. You know what I mean? Something not boring enough to blend into the wallpaper but not tiringly complicated, and two seconds into “Yours” you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Mixed with the visuals in their music video, “Yours” has sniffs of vaporwave, of whatever Tycho is, of everything 80’s, but forget about the influences. “Yours” is a mid-July affair, a first kiss, a clouded line between hooking up and catching feelings.
If all that sounds like your bag, “SGL” builds even further. I’m not entirely sure how they’ve managed to blend emo with a distinctly modern chillwave, but they did. Their track would fit perfectly on the most recent FIFA and it would probably have won a Grammy in 2005.
“Window” might be my personal favourite. Let’s just say it’s clearly meant for extracurricular activities...
Last, if you have to check only one song on a whim, let it be “MJ.” I’d stake next month’s rent on it being the summeriest thing you’ve ever heard. There’s little I can really say me about Now, Now beyond “they’re just brilliant.” Their 2012 release Threads, while a totally different sound, is one of my favourite albums of all time. For today and the cold winter months listen to Saved. Go back to the sun, fall back into hazy love.
Employed to Serve - The Warmth of a Dying Sun
I suppose I should get all the bias out now. I’ve got a relatively big Employed to Serve tattoo on my left arm. I’m hardly impartial but trust me on this one.
Vocalist Justine Jones’ work on their two full-length albums may be genuinely some of the best work in the last 20 years. There had been a massive movement in “heavy” music after Trap Them released Darker Handcraft, in which everyone wanted to be the grimiest, the crustiest, and they all fought to be “the next Converge”. Employed to Serve’s Greyer Than You Remember was a statement of intent: they are the next big band in the dirty underground.
One of my favourite music review podcasts, “That’s Not Metal,” described the LP as “a goat stuck in a combine harvester.” That’s what it is - listen to “Watching Films to Forget I Exist” for a bit of clarity. The riff that kicks in around 0:22 spits venom, demands your attention, and demands chaos all packaged in groove. It is one of the best riffs ever written, no question. But how were the filthiest band of the filthy bands going to follow up a tour de force in brutality? By slowing everything down.
Their first single from The Warmth of a Dying Sun was “I Spend My Days.” You’d be crazy not to hear Alice in Chains’ “Them Bones” in the opening riff. When us, who’d been salivating over this new album, had it in our hands, we lost our minds. Each track felt more mature, more calculated, more visceral. If Greyer was a series of machine-gun jabs, Sun is a prime George Foreman body shot.
For those of you who are into the heavier side of things, you’ll stankface your way through this. Employed to Serve drags out your inner Phil Anselmo - the grimacing mean-mugging headbang, but not the questionable politics.
boygenius - boygenius
We’ve got to get the aggression Sprained Ankle. She’s gotten relative popular, it’s great! So when I stumbled on a live video of her performing with some “boygenius,” I figured it was worth my time. Fast-forward 28:01 and I’m crying like my dog had died.
How did we get here? I’m not a crier. I don’t cry. I could count on one hand how many times I’ve cried within the last ten years. What’s up with that? Why am I writing this review, listening to the tracks again, and wiping my eyes? I still don’t know. There’s little room for interpretation in boygenius’ brevity. There are moments of ache that are, at times, unbearable. The whole of “Souvenir” and most of “Ketchum, ID” are borderline perfectly melancholic. If someone were to ask for an example of “so beautiful I want to cry,” I’d give them the first verse of “Me & My Dog.”
If anything, boygenius avoids traditional supergroup traps in which talent overtakes creativity.
Who remembers Chickenfoot? Me neither. No, our three geniuses approach a song as a song. What are we left with? The soundtrack to your guts, to your chest.