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.
Life Without Buildings, Any Other City
HIGHLIGHT TRACKS: “PS Exclusive,” “Juno,” “The Leanover,” “Young Offenders,” “New Town”
GENRE: Indie rock, post-punk, math rock
RIYL: The Raincoats, The Fall, The Organ, Television Personalities
Formed in 1999, Scotland’s Life Without Buildings released only one album, Any Other City. Truthfully, I would call Any Other City a cryptic album if it weren’t so playful and fun. What should become apparent to the listener right from the opener, “PS Exclusive,” is the jubilant energy this record oozes. Singer, Sue Tompkin, delivers her lines with a zestful peppiness unmatched by any other post-punk vocalist. Another aspect of this album that should become apparent very quickly is that the same vibrant energy is applied to the instrumental approach of the album.
It is not uncommon for post-punk albums to sound cold and distant, after all some of the foundational acts of the genre such as The Cure, Bauhaus and Joy Division basked in this level of detachedness. However, this can not be said of Any Other City, an album that presents itself with such warmth that I can only describe tracks such as “The Leanover” as both cozy and abstract. “The Leanover,” for me at least, is the highlight of the album. Its overall sound is hypnotic but ultimately cathartic as it builds and progresses over its almost five and a half minute runtime. “Young Offenders” is a rhythmically taut and driving tune and is one of the more aggressive tracks on this normally very twee album. The last song before the closer, “New Town,” is one of the album’s many longing and passionate tracks; however, this song’s blissful chorus makes it a standout.
I will admit, I am woefully ignorant of the background of the recording of this album and any subsequent projects from the members since. That being said, with its spirited quirkiness as well as its elucid and abstract approach, I will contest that Any Other City is one of the finest indie rock albums of the 2000’s. — M. Jarosinski
Billy Cobb, Zerwee
(2019, Please Sign Me)
HIGHLIGHT TRACKS: “The Shell Shack,” “Dumb Song for Virgins to Cry To”
GENRE: Indie rock, nerd rock, emo
RIYL: Weezer, Ozma, Remo Drive (Mostly Weezer though)
I feel obliged to start this recommendation by saying that Weezer is unironically one of my favorite bands, and, on that note, they have not released any good records since I first started listening to them as a high school freshman who was way too into Model UN. The band has recently devolved into a downwards spiral of irony and self indulgence. This includes feats such as inspiring an entire community of band shitposts (which I’m proudly a part of), releasing a meme cover album at the request of a 15 year old stan on Twitter, or more recently teasing two future albums consisting of ironic parodies of Van Halen and Radiohead as opposed to the return to form so many fans want.
One of those fans is Billy Cobb, an independent music producer and Youtuber who was well known in the Weezer fan base after making a few shitposts in the band’s subreddit. Last year he decided to take matters in his own hands and do what Rivers Cuomo hasn’t done in the past 24 years: release a stellar Weezer record. Zerwee is a tribute to the Matt Helder era of Weezer, perfectly replicating the era’s trademark falsetto harmonies, fuzzy guitar and nerdy lyrics about the beach and girls you can only get in your dreams. With the recent news that Zerwee Pt. 2 is under production I highly encourage you to listen to this four-song EP. As you do, remember your nerdy high school years where you were anything but cool. I’m sure that’s exactly what Rivers would want us to do. — Arthur Machado
The Chats, High Risk Behavior
(2020, Bargain Bin)
HIGHLIGHT TRACKS: “The Clap,” “Identity Theft,” “The Kids Need Guns,” “4573”
RIYL: This trio of ruffians from Queensland, Australia, barely out of high school, have somehow taken the world by storm with an extremely DIY sound. After listening to High Risk Behavior, however, it all makes sense. Lead singer Eamon Sandwith (commonly seen sporting a mullet and Oakleys) shouts stories of mischief over catchy riffs and deceptively tight rhythms. The Chats have put together an album that sounds straight out of the ‘70s and as Australian as kangaroos and surfing. I suggest listening to their big hit “Smoko” as well if you need to let out some energy during quarantine. — Jack Karnes
HIGHLIGHT TRACKS: “Bible Silver Corner,” “The Everyday World of Bodies,” “Tooth Fairy Retribution Manifesto”
GENRE: Math rock, post-hardcore, indie rock
RIYL: Slint, A Minor Forest, Don Caballero
What I love about the often underlooked math rock gem Rusty is what we in the business call range. I know that it’s a common convention of the math rock genre to shift violently between loud and quiet or slow and fast tempos, but the Louisville, Kentucky outfit Rodan really take it to the next level. The quietly simmering guitars and ponderously thrumming bass in “Bible Silver Corner” are not only the stark opposite of the crazed screams that immediately follow in the next track, “Shiner,” but in a strange way they complement each other perfectly. The best example of this is the sweeping, expansive “The Everyday World of Bodies.” Spanning almost 12 minutes, it starts with the highly Slint-esque usage of guitar harmonics coupled with almost whispered vocals which seem to keep trying to build up to something fantastic (the Slint influence is no coincidence: not only was Slint also from Louisville, but their seminal album Spiderland came out only three years before). Be patient though, because it won’t be until about eight minutes in when Rodan will finally give you the satisfaction of breaking out into a wall of sound graffitied with tortured sounding cries and noisy guitar feedback. Truly cathartic stuff.
Much to my chagrin, Rusty is the only full length release that Rodan ever had. They were making music at a time when the market was totally saturated with the emerging math rock genre, and it wasn’t just Slint they had for competition. For some perspective, Drive Like Jehu and Shellac both put out fantastic albums in the same year as Rusty (Yank Crime and At Action Park, respectively). Despite the odds and their incredibly scant discography, I sincerely hope that Rusty stands the test of time. — Shelby Len
Caroline Polachek, Pang
(2019, Perpetual Novice)
HIGHLIGHT TRACKS: “Pang,” “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings,” “Door”
GENRE: Art pop, electropop, alternative pop
RIYL: Dorian Electra, 100 Gecs, Charlie XCX
Though Caroline Polachek has been active in the music industry for more than a decade, both in the synth pop band Chairlift and under multiple pseudonyms, this album marks her debut effort as a solo artist under her own name. Upon hearing the punchy hit “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings” that has already embedded itself into so many alternative playlists, it may be a shock to hit play on the album’s opening track. Opener “The Gate” has a much less explosive sound, a trend that follows through the majority of the album. This is not to say the production lacks drive — in fact, most every track has an underlying intensity built by the pulse of drum machines and rhythmic synth patterns. Caroline’s singular soprano manages to alternate between ethereal and frank in its delivery, as perfectly illustrated in the album’s title track. With the album’s prevalent themes of yearning, distance and restlessness, it’s the perfect set of anthems to get you through quarantine. — E.J.S. DeWeese
(2018, SonaBLAST! Records)
HIGHLIGHT TRACKS: “I’m Yer Dad,” “Vaccines Made Me Gay,” “Communicate With Me”
RIYL: tbh idk
What is GRLwood, I’m not sure. The song “I’m Yer Dad” introduced me to the world of GRLwood, and if I’m being honest I did find it on TikTok. Embarrassing. The vocals on this album prove that it should be more than a TikTok song. The composition of each song has kept me listening to the album over and over again. As much as I wish that I didn’t know all the words to “I’m Yer Dad,” I in fact do. The last song on the album, “I’m Not You,” is a somber track. It is drawn out and concludes the somewhat chaotic album perfectly. If you like folks screaming about being your dad I highly suggest GRLwood! — Izzi
The Hecks, The Hecks
(2016, Trouble In Mind)
HIGHLIGHT TRACKS: “Sugar,” “The Thaw,” “Trust and Order,” “Junior Showmanship,” “Airport Run”
GENRE: Post-punk, noise rock, art punk, calgary sound
RIYL: Women, Preoccupations, This Heat, Crack Cloud, Cindy Lee
For anyone with any experience with the legendary Calgary post-punk band Women, the sound that The Hecks put forth on their self-titled debut should sound eerily similar, right down to the ambient and noise interludes. That being said, if I were a member of Women I wouldn’t mind any bit of it, considering the strength of both the compositions and songwriting on this album. The track “Sugar” opens the album, with both its minimalist guitar riff and frontman Andy Mosiman’s vocals sounding quite confrontational. Moving on from there, the track “The Thaw” is full of vigor, pulsing forward with a Velvet Underground-esque energy and ending on a jumpy and mathy guitar riff. “Trust and Order” is one of the album’s most neurotic songs, featuring tense dissonant guitars and droning disquieted strings to accompany the track’s mayhem. “Junior Showmanship” features uneasy vocals along with off-kilter instrumentation that still ends up sounding lively and dynamic. Closing out the album is the track “Airport Run,” a garagey and animated way of bookending the album’s 29 minutes of exploratory noise rock. While it is true that The Hecks poses some very apparent sonic similarities to Women, the album has enough grit and determination to both stand on its own merits and be one of the more interesting post-punk releases of the last decade. — M. Jarosinski
Check out our playlist for the records of the week on Spotify below.