MJC's Records of the Week: 3/1

  • Post Author
    by Music director
  • Post Date
    Mon Mar 02 2020

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. From new releases to classic albums, here's what the members of MJC have been listening to.

The Central, Discovery of a Rat

(2016, Blue Bedroom Records)

HIGHLIGHT TRACKS: “Totem Bowl,” “DeathJazz Now,” “Dirty Scoundrel”

GENRE: Mathcore, grindcore, post-hardcore, experimental rock, progressive pop, math rock

RIYL: Lightning Bolt, Harkonen, Plebeian Grandstand, Beaten to Death, Palm 

Discovery of a Rat, is the third full length from Madison-based experimental grind and mathcore band, The Central. Within the confines of this 12 song and 36 minute album, The Central presents feats of smoldering intensity such as the track “Aku Law,” featuring blazing fast instrumentation and vocals that stop instantaneously on and off during its duration. A couple of the tracks can be seen as fun and strange diversions into much more accessible territory, such as the track “Totem Bowl.” This song retains the insurmountable pace the band utilizes on the more grind focused tracks on the album, but takes a much more eccentric and melodic approach to the band's blindingly fast speed. Along similar lines, the track “Palate Cleanser” features bouncy instrumentation reminiscent of indie pop and even whistling. This song comes after a longer string of outlandish grindcore tracks such as “DeathJazz Now,” a punishingly heavy blitz of a song with enough power to register on the Richter scale. With Discovery of a Rat, The Central have defied both the expectations and traditions established by many grindcore bands, and in doing so they have created one of the most creative and rousing grindcore albums of the last decade. —  Matt Jarosinski

Smog, Kicking a Couple Around

(1996, Drag City)

HIGHLIGHT TRACKS: “Back In School,” “Your New Friend”

GENRE: Folk, singer-songwriter, slowcore

RIYL: Bill Callahan, Sun Kil Moon, Red House Painters

An art history professor of mine once tried to explain to my lecture why something like a blank white canvas might be lauded as great art. He described how a viewer might get so infuriated looking at it, protesting in anger that “I could do that!” Despite the fact that yes, you could undoubtedly do that, the ability of the proverbial white canvas to provoke such a visceral response in the viewer attests to its status as a piece of great art, because what is art if not something that can elicit emotion? I think this applies perfectly to Smog's EP Kicking A Couple Around. Incredibly sparse and ornamented only here and there with a tambourine, aside from guitar and vocals, singer-songwriter Bill Callahan has managed to create something incredibly heart-wrenching and delicate, something that although melancholic, I adore listening to.

Above Callahan's gentle strumming, he portrays himself as helpless and pitiful, but in such a way that you can't help but to empathize with him. In “Back in School,” Callahan sings about how he pathetically tries to go to an ex's party, uninvited and already drunk, and how in earnest he's “trying to learn [her] language / It's like a fly learning how to bark.” He repeats this refrain over and over, pleadingly. That's just a taste of just how emotionally raw this album is. The opening track “Your New Friend” features barely any instrumentation at all, with only a chord or two between each line as Callahan slowly weaves the story of how his girlfriend has found love in someone else, but he does nothing to confront her about it. It's so intimate it almost feels like you're hearing him recount this story to you over the phone. If I were you, I'd save listening to Kicking A Couple Around for when you're feeling a bit introspective or wistful. Even so, if it makes you feel a bit down, it just goes to show you that it has the same effect as a great work of art. —  Shelby Len

100 gecs, 1000 gecs 

(2019, Dog Show Records)

HIGHLIGHT TRACKS: “ringtone,” “stupid horse,” “xXXi_wud_nvrstøp_ÜXXx”

GENRE: Hyper pop, electronic

RIYL: ????

If you've been around campus for the past week, you might have heard of 100 gecs. Dylan Brady and Laura Les came to the Sett on Friday, Feb. 28, 2020 marking one of the most iconic WUD Music shows in history and one of the best nights of my life. In preparation for the show I listened to 1000 gecs on repeat. Last semester I heard 100 gecs for the first time and I wasn't a fan. I was uncomfortable by the auto tune and the unpredictable crescendos, and refused to listen to much of gecs until a few weeks ago.

Obviously “Ringtone” introduced me to the chaotic world of 100 gecs. The line “I used to love that ringtone / When you called me / Now it makes me sick,” hit me. Letting someone go is challenging and being reminded of them in the smallest way, like a ringtone, can take you back and make it difficult to move forward. After I fell in love with “Ringtone,” I quickly hopped on the bandwagon of loving 100 gecs. “Stupid Horse” is my anthem. When the duo shouts “Racing horses at the derby / Why am I never getting lucky?” I always lose my shit. Seeing gecs live was magical, the word I kept using that night was “immaculate.” Never have I ever seen so many indie kids moshing at Union South in my whole life. If I'm being honest, I didn't see Dylan Brady and Laura Les, I was so caught up with throwing my body around the Sett. It was an amazing night and they are truly an amazing duo that I will love for a long, long time. —  Izzi Bavis

Khruangbin, Leon Bridges, Texas Sun

(2020, Dead Oceans, Columbia and Night Time Stories)

HIGHLIGHT TRACKS: “Texas Sun,” “Midnight”

GENRE: Soul, R&B

RIYL: Black Pumas, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Whitney

Leon Bridges and Khruangbin is the partnership I didn't know I needed. Texas Sun, the collaborative EP between Bridges and the instrumental-heavy trio, provides the perfect sun-soaked antidote to March in Wisconsin. Khruangbin's soulful instrumentation provides a fitting backdrop for Bridges' swaying, romantic lyrics. It could be that they're both from Texas, or that they are both leaders in the world of contemporary soul, but when Leon Bridges and Khruangbin play together, it is magic. Turn on Texas Sunand let Bridges' soothing voice carry you all the way to a warm summer night in the Lone Star State. — Zoey Knox

Billie Marten, Feeding Seahorses by Hand

(2019, Sony Music Entertainment)

HIGHLIGHT TRACKS: “Cartoon People,” “Boxes,” “Vanilla Baby,” “Toulouse”

GENRE: Singer-Songwriter, Indie Folk

RIYL: Ashley Ericksson, Haley Heynderickx, Bill Callahan, (Sandy) Alex G

Feeding Seahorses by Hand represents everything great about the singer-songwriter genre. This album brings back memories of warm summer nights, picnics in the grass, the smell of the grill out back and the faint flicker of fireflies as the sun begins to set. Everything about Billie Marten's latest record is imbued with this sense of warmth, intimacy and nostalgia. Unlike most artists in the crowded singer-songwriter and indie folk genres, Marten never gets old. Each of her songs is filled with a youthful sense of adventure that spreads from her words into the soul of the listener. Her quiet, intimate delivery conveys her emotions beautifully without ever getting boring or feeling overdone. Even when singing about her negative experiences as a bartender, she never sounds jaded.

Just like Marten's voice, the instrumentation throughout Feeding Seahorses by Hand consistently trades volume for potency. Everything is played as quietly as possible and is recorded with such warmth that you feel as if you're right there in the studio with her. This all adds up to one of those rare albums that doesn't have a single skippable song on it. While it's easy for music to be ruined by trying to repeat the past, Feeding Seahorses by Hand actually benefits from it. By never losing her hope for the future, Billie Marten has created a shining example of how to sing about looking back. — Sean Horvath