Talk Talk Talk
It’s not hard to see that the Paranoyds evoke paranoia. Their name, for one, flat-out suggests it. So does the album cover on their latest release, Talk Talk Talk. Band members–Laila Hashemi, Lexi Funston, Staz Lindes, and David Ruiz–are shown wearing aluminum foil hats as if to defer extraterrestrials from reading their minds. Anxiety and campy 1950s science fiction themes also seep into their music, covering topics like the future and other alien life forms. Set to driving rhythms, scuzzy garage rock riffs, and a decidedly punk sound, the group concentrates these themes into impressive results. Like an old sci-fi radio program, Talk Talk Talk is an entertaining spaceship ride all the way through. — Brandon Miller
Kiwi Jr. – Chopper
Upon the first entry into the album, Canadian indie rock outfit Kiwi Jr. seem to create something that clutches onto the last few breaths of summer, just before the season shifts. A bouncy, feel-good buzz, “Unspeakable Things”, sets up the lively jangle pop that persists throughout Chopper’s runtime. However, the band’s intention for their latest release was to create something like a “Kiwi after dark” vibe–a collection of songs best suited for your 2:00 am commute home after a night out of drinking with friends.
Unmistakably on par with their previous releases, 2020’s Football Money and 2021’s Cooler Returns, Kiwi Jr. brighten their C-86-inspired sound with synthesizers, adding a new-wave tint that makes its cheeriness shine like vivacious carnival lights on a warm night. Even though the band may have aimed for something more lonely and reflective, Kiwi Jr. still give us one last ride on the teacup saucers before the cold weather takes all the fun away. — Brandon Miller
Judging by Thus Love’s early demos, they began life as an overly goth-influenced band that has since polished their messy sound to a confident post-punk sheen. Yet another tired crew of early 1980s Church/Chameleons/Bunnymen acolytes, you say? Roll your eyes if you must, but Memorial is much more than that. Whatever their influences, it takes serious talent for a band to write and sound this good their first time out. Mars’ vocals resonate like a subterranean Michael Hutchence on tracks such as “In Tandem”, which also features one of the more unconventional nine-time drumbeats to come around in a long while.
Early INXS is a fine descriptor for the energetic guitar-pop aspect that lifts this music above the bulk of today’s drearier post-punk efforts. Echoey Chameleons-style riffs, a la Reg Smithies, are a staple here, fusing with an aggressive rhythm section on “Crowd” to hit a livelier pitch than most purveyors aspire to; Sophia DiMatteo’s bass gets prominent placement as well. “Inamorato” may be the best example of a straight-out Mark Burgess composition, although that songwriter’s bleak-yet-rewarding aesthetic can be found all over Memorial. — Marc Edelstein
(Island / Zen F.C.)
The sudden rise of Yard Act during the pandemic isn’t something I think anybody could have expected. In less than three years, a band of anti-capitalist, sonic experimentalists became major label darlings during a time when the live music industry was nonexistent. On their debut full-length The Overload, they’ve managed to craft a distinct sound that’s refreshing enough that any comparison sounds a little farfetched but also recalls most eras of post-punk’s history at one point or another.
Many of the current successful indie rock and post-punk bands are still harkening back to the genre’s period of mainstream success in the 2000s. Yard Act definitely occupy a similar place in the genre to Black Country, New Road, Mush, or Black Midi in keeping the “post” in post-punk going through rampant experimentalism. However, Yard Act have songs that are more accessible to a mainstream audience than much of that scene. — Ethan Stewart
Instead of sounding like another band on each successive recording, Black Midi sound like they’re tampering with different genres. There remain the Black Midi staples – Geordie Greep’s Claypoolian speak-sing delivery, their machine-gun stops, the distortion of meter and time in the name of generating heat. But, on Hellfire, the group’s third LP to date and their second in successive years, Black Midi are out to toy with the trappings of jazz – and they perform their task with King Crimson-level technical prowess and zeal.
The record is a real workout – a mind-bender – and Greep, in particular, unleashes arhythmic guitar lines and blurred line readings of his lead vocals nearly to the point of exhaustion. He positively melts down halfway through “The Race Is About to Begin”. But that’s what we’ve come to love about Black Midi. Hellfire is a wonderful entry in their growing and impressive canon, the sort of recording invented for critics to throw phrases like “tour-de-force” at it. Black Midi continue to put out adventurous and challenging music that keeps listeners on the tips of their toes. — Justin Vellucci
Stumpwork follows Dry Cleaning‘s breakthrough debut LP with another collection of angular, indie-flavored post-punk woven together via Florence Shaw’s dispassionate musings. In both gestation and execution, it’s tied closely to its predecessor and provides the same evidence that Dry Cleaning are truly an album band, one that makes the most sense where their songs are piled on top of each other like clothes in a wardrobe.
Here, as before, Dry Cleaning essentially play songs about London. Their London, like most other cities borne of the Western plague, is one long sprawling post-capitalist nightmare where every corner reveals another sutured wound from which the magic’s been sucked dry. Scattered throughout are bare moments of levity, humor, and even uncomplicated joy, but these are raised patches on a quilt stitched in gradients of anxiety and anhedonia. — Rob Moura
Wet Leg – Wet Leg
Wet Leg‘s self-titled debut is 36 minutes of pure fun: a popcorn flick with a few slow parts but otherwise no filler. Music of this variety is tough to do right, so that is worth celebrating. Every single track is louse with hooks, from the demented guitars on “Chaise Longue” and “Oh No” to the lyrical repetition on “Wet Dream”. The words are simple enough to form universal sing-alongs, and both Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers – each with their own library of phonetic nuance – deliver them compellingly. Yet that lyrical simplicity belies enough sharp insights about the pitfalls of young adulthood to keep the record from being a guilty pleasure.
These insights occasionally register as timeless, especially the summarized drag of “Being in Love”, but more often, they’re specific to today. “Oh No” summons every wasted night spent getting increasingly lonely while scouring Instagram, feeling the life drain from your eyes. “Angelica”, similarly, collates every party spent battling social anxiety and measuring yourself against the “it” girl. These scenes naturally form extensions of a single experience – they could be scenes plucked from an acclaimed coming-of-age film. — Rob Moura
Farm to Table
The obvious selling point of Bartees Strange’s work is the eclectic sound – his relentless blending of various hip-hop and indie rock idioms that is distinctly his. Like on Live Forever, some songs live closer to one sound than another (here, “Mulholland Dr.” is more indie rock, while “Cosigns” is more hip-hop). On Live Forever, these two sounds would often act as foils for one another, like on the electrifying “Boomer”. The strategy on Farm to Table is often subtler. “Black Gold”, a gem tucked into the back of the record, blends confessional nearly-spoken lyrics and a drum machine with a profoundly melodic falsetto chorus and fingerpicked acoustic guitar.
Top-to-bottom, Farm to Table is Bartees Strange doing the things he does best: everything. While it’s tempting to dive into this album waiting for the next “Boomer”, an artist as accomplished and subtle as Bartees Strange is best appreciated for what he offers, not for what we project onto him. Farm to Table is a record to dwell within, not one to merely be impressed by, making it a fitting and remarkable sophomore effort for an artist whose debut turned so many heads. — Jeremy Levine
Black Country, New Road
Ants From Up There
Black Country, New Road‘s sound is bold and progressive, unconcerned with imitation or revivalism. The six-piece paint classical and jazz instrumentation on a deconstructed rock canvas, layering atop nuanced lyricism that conveys sharp narratives and achingly-sincere emotions.
It’s a heady combination, but one that makes a riveting antidote to their post-punk peers’ seemingly-endless obsession with aping genres that lived and died 40 years ago. It’s hard to overstate just how good Ants From Up There is. It’s not quite Black Country, New Road’s masterpiece, as the band are too young and raw for it to be that perfect. However, it’s tough to find much fault with it. The sprawling nature of the tracks, especially the final two, makes for staggeringly compelling listening.
The disregard for conventional structure and instrumentation, combined with the adroit, sincere lyrics, makes Ants From Up There one of the richest and most emotionally-honest albums released by a young British band for quite some time. In a world that seems content to reanimate the past perpetually, Black Country, New Road are daring to dream up something different. — Tom Morgan