Every week at WSUM, our Music Director, Izzi, chooses her favorite new releases to add to our music library. In turn, WSUM’s Music Journalism Club shares what records they’ve had on repeat recently. From new releases to classic albums, here’s what the members of MJC have been listening to.
Black Thumb, It Is Well With My Soul
HIGHLIGHT TRACKS: “Goes so Slow,” “Tomorrow,” “Where the Lilies Bloom”
GENRE: Indie-rock, shoegaze
RIYL: Tenement, Shoobie, Duster
Hailing from my hometown of Appleton, Wisconsin, Black Thumb is a relatively underground project that blends elements of shoegaze and indie rock to create a sonic expression that is both dreamy and psychedelic. A side project of Colin Wilde, who plays organ for rock group Tenement, Black Thumb features an ensemble of players pulled from other Appleton contemporary groups, such as the aforementioned Tenement, Dusk and Technicolor Teeth. It Is Well With My Soul is Black Thumb’s debut album, and provides a consistent but varied range of sounds from start to finish. “Goes So Slow” is down tempo and riff driven, reminiscent of slowcore projects like Duster and Bedhead. “Tomorrow” gives off a shoegaze vibe, using wavering background synths, chorus-heavy guitar riffs, and droning vocals to create a dreamy and dense atmosphere. The album even includes some indie pop influences on tracks like “God Fearing” and “Show Me the Way.” This is a notably polished and exceptional album from such an underground project, and I hope to make its existence better known. — Ayden Schultz
The Dismemberment Plan, “!”
HIGHLIGHT TRACKS: “Survey Says,” “Ok Jokes Over,” “If I Don’t Write,” “Fantastic!”
GENRE: Post-hardcore, indie rock, post-punk
RIYL: Brainiac, Q and Not U, Les Savy Fav, Unwound
The Dismemberment Plan’s debut, “!”, falls in a strange place relative to the rest of their discography. “!” doesn’t have the same level of pop sensibility found in the band’s 2013 album, Uncanny Valley, nor does it have the mature and cold introspection of Change. It certainly doesn’t have the same polished and ingenious anxiety of both Emergency & I and The Dismemberment Plan is Terrified. What “!” does have is charm, energy and quirk — almost immeasurable levels of quirk to be exact.
The album starts off on “Survey Says,” a track that commences in a state of absolute dissonance, but as the track progresses it reveals its second layer of surprisingly surfy indie rock. This can not be said of the track “Ok Jokes Over,” one of the heaviest tracks the band has ever released. With gritty distorted slide guitar soaring in the chaos of the rest of the instrumentation, the track wouldn’t be out of place if played by noise rock contemporaries to The Dismemberment Plan, The Jesus Lizard.
On “If I Don’t Write,” the band harnesses the angular surges of previous tracks and combines it with some bittersweet songwriting and introspective lyrics. It is not long before the band launches back into its neurotic post-hardcore sound, namely on the track “Fantastic!,” a twitchy and tremulous track that shifts from periods of build-up during verses to releases of this pent up energy during its tense chorus.
While “!” is much more raw than anything the band has released since, the album serves as a monument to The Dismemberment Plan’s ability to write excitable and enthusiastic songs from their very start, and stands up in the level of sheer tenacity to any of their subsequent releases. — Matt Jarosinski
Tré Burt, Caught It From the Rye
HIGHLIGHT TRACKS: “What Good,” “Caught It From the Rye,” “Real You,” “Last Hurrah”
GENRE: Singer/songwriter, folk
RIYL: Bob Dylan, John Prine, Brandi Carlile, The Lumineers
Tré Burt immediately draws comparison to Bob Dylan on his debut album Caught It From the Rye. Yet Burt manages to stand apart by providing a completely unique perspective: just as Dylan told his story in bits and pieces through his music, Burt expresses both immense pain and unbound happiness from his own life through intensely personal songwriting. With the exceptions of the sweet duet with Sea of Bees on “Franklin’s Tunnel” and the haunting whistle that opens “Undead God of War,” the recent signee to the seminal John Prine’s Oh Boy label wails away completely solo with his harmonica, guitar, and raw voice on every song on the album. And wail he does; bad songs are hard to come by on Caught It From the Rye. Standouts like “What Good” and “Real You” are truly beautiful, and I highly recommend this album to anyone looking for personal songwriting that touches the heart. — Jack Karnes
Nathaniel Rateliff, All or Nothing (Single)
HIGHLIGHT TRACK: What A Drag”
RIYL: Phosphorescent, Bear’s Den
Nathaniel Rateliff’s All or Nothing is quite the departure from my usual listening habits. By this I mean that he is not a Chicago 20-something with six roommates who make up the city’s latest indie or garage rock outfit. Rateliff rose to prominence with his band Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, a folk inspired rock group with a handful of gold and platinum albums to call their own. The full album, And It’s Still Alright, Rateliff’s first solo album post-Night Sweats was released on Feb. 14 by Stax Records. As someone who is resistant to change, I was happy to hear that the songs on All or Nothing still bear the heart of Rateliff’s work with The Night Sweats, sharing tender, honest songs in Rateliff’s colloquial tone. The standout track, “What A Drag,” the most upbeat song of the trio, is a three minute earworm whose snappy beat and chorus are hard to ignore. As always, Rateliff’s music has a sense of timelessness about it, and the maturity of his songwriting shows. His country and R&B inflections are a nod to Rateliff’s southern roots and will allow these pieces to exist outside of the time they were written. — Zoey Knox
Jorge Ben, Samba Esquema Novo
HIGHLIGHT TRACK: “Chove Chuva”
GENRE: World (Brazil)
RIYL: Arthur Verocai, Joao Gilberto
On January 10, 1963, Jorge Ben released his debut album, Samba Esquema Novo, which combined horns, guitars and Ben’s distinct voice to create one of my favorite albums of all time. This record shaped the future of popular Brazillian music during the ‘60s and ‘70s and defined Ben’s career. Ben uses each instrument and lyric to navigate the listener through the album. “Chove Chuva ” is a classic, and Ben has since re-recorded the song a few times and released different versions. My favorite recording of the song remains the one released on this album: it is quick and inspires me to get up and do something. I first listened to this album in spring of last year when the snow was melting and the sun stayed out longer. It is now February of 2020 and the weather is battling itself, as if it can’t decide if it wants to be winter or spring, and I can’t decide if I’m exhausted or excited for the rest of the semester. Jorge Ben’s album is grounding, influential and maintains its place as one of my favorite albums of all time. — Izzi Bavis
Ought, Room Inside the World
HIGHLIGHT TRACKS: “Desire,” “Brief Shield,” “Disaffectation”
RIYL: Protomartyr, IDLES, Parquet Courts
On their highly underrated album Room Inside the World, Ought takes a unique approach to the usually aggressive genre of modern post-punk. In lieu of overdriven guitars and gnarly, growly vocals, Room Inside the World’s sound is largely populated by bleak organs and Tim Darcy’s deep and mournful baritone. The tones Ought provides are cold and distant, much like those of their contemporaries. If Protomartyr and IDLES are like rough quartz, Ought is smooth marble. The tempos are slower and the songwriting is sappier than you may expect from a post-punk album released in the past five years, but the style works much better than you may think. It pains me to consistently find this album when digging through the sale bin at the record store, because I believe the value of this album is truly unseen. — Ayden Schultz
Gang of Four, Entertainment!
HIGHLIGHT TRACKS: “Natural’s Not In It,” “Damaged Goods,” “I Found That Essence Rare,” “At Home He Feels Like A Tourist”
GENRE: Post-punk, dance-punk, art punk
RIYL: Wire, Minutemen, Shellac, Swell Maps, Parquet Courts
With the passing of the band’s long standing guitarist, Andy Gill, on February 1st of this year, I found it within myself to revisit one of my favorite records of all time once again after a two year hiatus. What I rediscovered is that Entertainment! is still quite possibly the greatest post-punk album of all time.
To begin, I think that if I ever had to point a newcomer to the album that defines the genre of post-punk, I would wholeheartedly steer them in this album’s direction. With tracks such as “Natural’s Not In It” and “Damaged Goods,” we can see that while the sound of Entertainment! is not entirely separated from punk acts such as The Clash, the approach to creating its angular and energetic attack is worlds apart. With jagged and frigid yet vivacious sounding guitars, these tracks truly deliver a burst of vigor to the record and help add to the already groovy atmosphere created by the band’s impeccable and exceptionally tight rhythm section.
In addition, some of the aforementioned angularity of this album showcases some of the best musical interpretations of anxiety I have ever heard. Take “At Home He Feels Like A Tourist” for example: a track that basks in its own skittish energy with a punchy staccato rhythm and lyrics expressed with sheer levithan tension by vocalist Jon King.
This is just a smattering of what Entertainment! has to offer. I did not cover the genius reiteration of the album’s title in “5-45,” nor did I sufficiently cover the gloriously strange and noisy experiment which is the song “Anthrax.” I also didn’t divulge into how this album could be described as a study into how much meaning a band can put into an album with the most minimal amount of playing possible and how it demonstrates the importance of space and silence in creating atmosphere. Lastly, I did not do justice to the beyond astute and razor-sharp leftist politics that compose much of this album’s lyrical content. That being said, if you have 40 spare minutes, visit Entertainment! and see why this album is still indeed one for the ages. — Matt Jarosinski
Check out our playlist for MJC’s Records of the Week on Spotify below.