Joe Woods

Published on 2020-08-31

New Music: August 2020

Here's a link to the playlist. The play buttons embedded here will play 30-second clips if you're not logged into Spotify in your browser, which is probably the best way to listen to the tracks while reading this article.

Well, that's two-thirds of 2020 through. I hope you're taking your time and enjoying things, despite everything going on. Here's some songs that I really enjoyed this month.

Yumi Zouma — Right Track / Wrong Man

Yumi Zuma's new effort, Truth or Consequences, is spectacular. It's electronic, poppy, soft, but still often danceable.

I picked "Right Track / Wrong Man" here because it stands out to me as the most single-worthy track off of the record, but I'm surprised and delighted to find that other tracks of theirs are getting more attention online. Great!

"Right Track / Wrong Man" clocks in at just under 3 minutes, but it's so tight and cohesive that it feels much shorter. It's a really neat package, with airy motifs that get stuck in my head.

Previously, I was a fan of their track "Barricade (Matter of Fact)," which almost feels like it's come from a different time. Truth or Consequences is often happier, more triumphant than the previous Yumi Zouma tunes which I'm familiar with.

illuminati hotties — content//bedtime

Is FREE I.H: This Is Not the One You've Been Waiting For the best record ever made while under duress? Quite possibly. Am I doing something unethical by listening to this record in a way that will give Sarah Tudzin's former record company cash?

So many tracks off of this record are so catchy that I've woken up with them stuck in my head. There's something comical about "content//bedtime," but not in a distracting way. It's honest and a type of punk that I love — caring and uncaring, pretty but with a jagged edge.

"content//bedtime" in particular is brilliant. The digitally-demolished eighty-seven-second-long intro, dancing polyrhythms, and the astonishing fake time signature shift in the chorus are legendary.

Also be sure to check out "frequent letdown," which serves as a thematic motif for the rest of the record and will be permanently wedged in your head after the first time you listen to it.

If this isn't the one I've been waiting for, then I can't wait for the one I should have been.

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever — She's There

"She's There" has a Built to Spill feel, with driven guitars dictating the pace and direction of the journey. The vocal parts are incredibly gripping as well, a collection of clever hooks put together in shifting sections.

These Melbournians have put together a rocking collection of tracks, but "She's There" really stands out to me as one that will stick with me for a while. It's timeless, but I feel like I'll look back on it and it'll sound just like some time having gone by.

Melkbelly — THC

"THC" kicks in immediately with a evil-sounding tone, but quickly gives away the nature of the game by shifting in and out of these metal-esque building sessions. There's something dulcet underneath a layer of grunge and grime, especially when the ultra-catchy chorus kicks in. It's a succinct track, though five minutes long; I often find it stuck in my head, the chorus playing over and over again.

Hovvdy — Runner

"Runner" is such a moving track; I feel a physical weight in my heart from the very beginning, and I can't quite pin down why. Maybe it's the instrumentation and chord structure, maybe it's the low-fi, double-tracked vocals mixed in with a cool but almost early-2000s atmosphere. You know those songs that got popular because of The O.C.? This song is like that, but better.

This track is emotive and a great achievement, and I'm looking forward to the album that it will support.

Fontaines D.C. — Living In America

A Hero's Death is a smashing record. It's dark and crunchy; it's an album to listen to while getting things done, as long as you don't stop to think too hard about the troubling thoughts that the lyrics often point to.

Grian Chatten's vocals have such character, with a timbre that misleads your ear into gliding past his technical ability.

I think I've said this before, but some music takes difficulty as a substitute for aesthetic pleasure; execution of tasks instead of generating something universally beautiful. A Hero's Death is both: every part of the instrumentation is so spot-on and challenging, but coming together to an engaging work of art. And "Living In America" is my favorite example of this off of this record — it's challenging and beautiful.

Ghostpoet — Nowhere To Hide Now

Every track off of I Grow Tired But Dare Not Fall Asleep is so, so good, but "Nowhere To Hide Now" really sticks out for me. It gives me the chills every time.

And just wait until the vocals kick in. Ghostpoet's vocal stylings have so much emotion behind them, acting out the story on top of a spooky, cabaret-like soundscape.

I highly recommend this album — listen to the title track "I Grow Tired But Dare Not Fall Asleep" next.

Secret Machines — Everything Starts

Everything in this track comes in pairs, which play against each other: the guitars pinging off of each other, the octave-split, sometimes diverging vocals; the double-tracked call-and-response.

As you may have noticed, I like songs that invoke a lot of emotion. I feel like some folks might not get this one, because this song does seem to rely on a lot of tropes to get to a tragic atmosphere. But… I like that. A lot. It's still novel, in the way that every song must rely on tropes and mimetic tools while still striking off on their own enough.

This song tells a moving story, and I absolutely adore it.

Coriky — Hard to Explain

Ian MacKaye's vocals have a sharp edge which contrasts so well with the its soft surroundings on this track. Imagine if The Offspring and The New Pornographers made a supergroup. That's the best way I can describe this track, which is, well, erm, hard to explain.

I love the way this track packs a big punch by shifting in and out of big and quiet, always playing on the same theme but weaving in and out of it.

Flat Worms — The Aughts

Now everybody's talkin' 'bout the aughts, the tens, the teens /
Only a means to an end

This song rules. Play it loud. For the vast majority of this track, the bass line is riffing off of a single note, bouncing on an octave, and it is extremely cool.

Everything gives space to everything else — the vocals gesture over to the guitar, then the guitar nods back to the vocals, each giving each other permission to take off. The drums have this impressive, ballistic flair to them, especially in those tiny fills in the normal line in the verse. It all comes together to this loud package.

Another ripper of a track off of this record is "Market Forces," a well-rounded jam which I also can't get enough of.

The Beths — I'm Not Getting Excited

I am!

Elizabeth Stokes' vocals fit in so well with the frenzied symphony which carry them, providing the hook and the justification for everything else to rock out for a solid nearly three minutes, even in the almost-pop-punk parts where everybody drops out.

It's catchy, and feels much shorter than it is, because the instrumentation is so tight and put together.

Hum — Waves

Hum's Spotify bio is almost entirely:

Rock music

I think that's lovely, and not quite right. They rock, but Hum is this fantastic, shoegazey post-punk. All of the instruments move as one. This is another one of those tracks that's not quite metal, taking all of the right motifs to make technical sound that harnesses a chaotic energy and somehow plays it cool and slow.

Also, what a great album cover.

Land of Talk — Diaphanous

I stumbled across Land of Talk's most recent record, Indistinct Conversations, after suddenly getting their 2008 track "Some Are Lakes" stuck in my head at least once a day and looking up the band to see what they've gotten up to lately.

12 years later, Indistinct Conversations is a collection of soft questions. "Diaphanous" is not quite a lullaby, but it's sweet and sad. It knows to hold the thread of the conversation in just the right way in order to create something floating and engaging.

Another Sky — All Ends

Another Sky have an extremely distinct style. I admit that I wasn't immediately engaged on my first listen through I Slept On The Floor, but I'm glad I gave it another shot, because it has quickly become one of my favorite albums from 2020.

Another Sky are clearly a project. There's a specific atmosphere being crafted and invoked throughout this whole record, and they have it dialed. And really, that atmosphere won't be for everyone — I implore you to leave your prejudices at the door and to give it a real shot.

"All Ends," in particular, will tug at your heartstrings, if you let it.

On the other end of the rock spectrum of this album is another favorite of mine, "Fell In Love With The City," which repeats its refrain and really drives home the wall of sound that Another Sky has built.