MJC’s Records of the Week: 2/19

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. 

Unwound, Challenge For A Civilized Society (1998, Kill Rock Stars)

HIGHLIGHT TRACKS: “Laugh Track,” “Sonata for Loudspeakers,” “Lifetime Achievement Award,” “What Went Wrong”

GENRE: Post-hardcore, art rock, noise rock 

RIYL: Slint, Polvo, Shellac, Rodan 

One of the things I most appreciate about Unwound is that every album they released feels like a natural progression from the last one. With that in mind, Challenge For A Civilized Society, lies right between the despondent and tight noise rock of 1996’s Repetition, and the winding masterful art rock of 2001’s Leaves Turn Inside You within the Unwound discography. I think it’s prescient that I refer back to these albums, because oftentimes the content of Challenge For A Civilized Society truly feels like a combination of both of these works. The record opens up on three more straight forward post-hardcore tracks that still retain Unwound’s signiture off-kilter rhythms and frantic energy “Laugh Track” being the highlight of these tracks with both its surreal lyrics and jittery main guitar riff. As the record progresses it becomes apparent that what Unwound wanted to achieve with this record was more than just delivering their traditional streak of rebelliously esoteric punk songs, in particular the track, “Sonata for Loudspeakers” is arguably Unwound’s most lush track they released up to this point, with the track being decorated by a sombre horn line that appears in the last third of the song. On that same right, the track, “Lifetime Achievement Award,” is one of the albums most withdrawn and least aggressive tracks. Another interesting tidbit about the song is that its vocal melody is taken from a recording of the “Happy Birthday” song played in reverse, in fact, the same tape used to source the melody is played over the track in its closing verse. For all intents and purposes the closing track of the record, “What Went Wrong,” both follows the Unwound tradition of placing some of their most atmospherically impressive works as a bookends, but is also unlike any other song Unwound released up to this point. Sonically the track does a fantastic job at foreshadowing the soon approaching magnus opus of the band that is Leaves Turn Inside You with its taut performance, loud-quiet dynamics, and melancholic vocal delivery. Ultimately, to many Unwound may only be the band that released Leaves and ultimately its not my place to tell anyone what they can and cannot appreciate, that being said I think it would be a shame if someone viewed the former as a masterpiece but was yet to give this album a chance, as both tread the same territory with their brilliant progressive songwriting and trenchant performances.  — Matt Jarosinski

Twin Peaks, Sweet ‘17 Singles

HIGHLIGHT TRACKS: “Blue Coupe,” “Shake Your Lonely,” “Fat Chance”

GENRE: Indie rock, garage rock, indie folk

RIYL: ROOKIE, The Nude Party, Natural Child

Verging on being a indie rock classic, Twin Peaks Sweet ‘17 Singles has been on repeat at my house for the past week. The Chicago natives sound is a fresh indie rock twist on classic rock roots; layered guitar parts and riffs reminiscent of the Stones fill each track. Highlights from the album include “Blue Coupe” and “Shake Your Lonely.” Despite being a studio recording, the band’s live energy and loose style bleed through, but not at the expense of the tightness of a group who has spent long hours in the practice room. Sweet ‘17 Singles combines the best of indie and classic rock, and it’s a combination that never fails to make me smile. — Ethan Cook

Fly By Midnight, Happy About Everything Else…

HIGHLIGHT TRACKS: “Waiting Tables,” “Lovely,” “…Sad About You”

GENRE: Pop, indie pop

RIYL: Mokita, Loote, Virginia to Vegas

With meeting all those Friday deadlines for homework and peering anxiously around the calendar corner at midterms starting to creep up, I recently have not been able to work on an assignment without Happy About Everything Else… playing by my side. Catchy, snappy beats and clever lyrics make taking derivatives bearable, and let my literary side fangirl a little bit here: the wordplay of this album is incredible. Rarely does an album act like a book, but Fly By Midnight creates a mini-plotline in every track like chapters of a novel in an album that absolutely must be listened to sequentially. Note the intentional punctuation of the title and the double purpose of the lyrics when “I’m waiting tables” becomes “waiting for tables to turn.” Based on lively rhythms and dynamic vocals, this album makes you want to move until Happy About Everything Else… plays out the closing measures of “…Sad About You.” — Martha Kowalski

Le Femme, Psycho Tropical Berlin (2013, Disque Pointu)

HIGHLIGHT TRACKS: “Antitaxi,” “La femme,” “Sur la planche 2013,” “Si un jour” 

GENRE: Psych-punk, surf rock, new wave, post-punk

RIYL: Juniore, Vendredi sur Mer, Claire Laffut, Papooz

French psychedelic surf rock band La Femme’s debut record Psycho Tropical Berlin is exactly the escape hatch I have been looking for to take my mind off the approaching deadlines and depressing polar weather. The album is a perfect blend of the punk DIY attitude, surf rock jubilation and psychedelic rock’s otherworldly feelings. The album starts on a high note with the catchy guitar melodies in “Antitaxi,” reminiscent of 60s surf music, with riffs that sound like they came straight out of Dick Dale’s discography. The upbeat tropical vibes permeate through the remaining songs, with each of the rotating group of vocalists bringing their own quirks and idiosyncrasies to the unique amalgamation of genres. I’ve been entranced with this band ever since my sister showed me their stellar performance of “Sur la planche 2013” at the 2014 French music awards Victoires de la Musique. The whole band looks and sounds like they would be part of the supporting cast in a Wes Anderson movie, the formality of their attire and classiness of their sound clashing directly with the joyful arrangements present in the 16 tracks of the LP. With their new album already announced for later this year I find myself listening to Psycho Tropical Berlin tracks in loop, I’m really looking forward to the band’s new releases simply because I just need more of this unique sound. Psycho Tropical Berlin was my introduction to the amazing world of French psychedelic rock, and even though I don’t understand any of the words they sing this record really resonates with me. If you’ve been wanting to learn more about international alternative acts, or you are a fan of English speaking bands like Tame Impala or Pond you should check La Femme’s incredible debut album. Who knew that a mix of Kraftwerk and Dick Dale would result in such an innovative mix? — Arthur Machado

Kiki Gyan, 24 Hours in a Disco 1978-82 (2012, Soundway Records)

HIGHLIGHT TRACKS: “Disco Dancer,” “Disco Train,” “Loving You”

GENRE: Disco, funk

RIYL: Chemise, Chic, Curtis

Saturday night I dj-ed with my friend Ben for WSUM’s birthday. I did an all vinyl set filled with disco, funk and house. Sunday rolled around and I was feeling sentimental, the kind of sentimental where I played “She Can’t Love You” by Chemise nine times in one day. I was missing the life that was full of djs, dancing and getting home at 3 A.M. So in an attempt to feel something again, I took to YouTube. I had listened to some of Kiki Gyan’s stuff before, but I had never sat down and listened to an entire album. I played this record front to back a dozen times since Sunday afternoon (and mind you I’m posting this on Monday at 1 P.M.). Each track makes you want to dance and forget about your responsibilities. If you are looking to attend a virtual dance party, “Disco Dancer” will surly be the first track. — Izzi Bavis