The Best Music of February 2014

Impose Automaton

Slothrust

Bands get crammed into our ears by the music industry. It's one of their primary business practices, whether its some fatcat in the Capitol Records building or the well-meaning mid-level indie label with enough pocket to outsource its publicity campaigns. Some cram because it's the only thing they know. Others cram to survive. If we had a Facebook relationship with the cram system the status would be “it's complicated”.

Enter Slothrust's Of Course You Do. Here's a record by a Brooklyn band that exists in the peripheral of the industry circle jerk lubricated by surficial ga-ga praise. So out of the mix, we just assumed they were from Nova Scotia. Of Course You Do captured our attention as an underdog; it took us an entire month to stop being offput by the band name, mostly due to mispronunciation (sloth-rust). No one went out of their way to cram Slothrust into our heads. It took a chance listen to “Crock Pot” to reel us in with intellectual musings on the functionality of Real Dolls, loneliness as contagion, and companion co-dependency. The duration of Of Course You Do yields further netting of our adoration via raucous solos elevating anthemic panic attacks offset by the ever-clever words of Leah Wellbaum.

The Best Album of February 2014

Combining Leah Wellbaum's slurring malaise with her punchy, post-grunge guitar, everything about Slothrust's sound feels both earnest and cathartic, like a heart that pumps raw after a winter run. The bottom end of Of Course You Do is backed by layers of distortion and lyrics that recall the casual conversataional style of Tom Waits or Fiona Apple, or even The Moldy Peaches. The best segments of the record are when Wellbaum really frees her deep vocals and breaks into punctuated melodies, showing that even the dirtiest of guitars and severest of songs can have a shine to them. The record will catch you when you dedicate yourself to listening to its lyrics, and it might have you thinking over your relationships.

The Best Music of February 2014, in no particular order:

NVM should not be written off as a simple surf garage album. While the band's image may seem goofy, they do not simply sing about sunshine and weed. Tacocat encourage physical escape, they are vocal about sexism, both in their songs and in real life. Bassist Bree McKenna wrote a powerful essay about the expectations of being a “girl band.” (You can read the essay for yourself on The Stranger.) but the crux of the band is that Tacocat is not Bikini Kill, and neither is every other band with predominantly female members. Tacocat expresses their politics in a unique form, preferring fun to anger, which contributes to the approachability of NVM.

With strength in brevity, the four-song EP presents Yumi Zouma as having great command over the dream pop genre, but as noted in a previous interview, they still feel the sound has exploration ahead that will manifest in the full length later this year.

Diamond Eyepatch’s relatively ambitious structure (side-A loaded with concisely warped songs, side-B diving headlong into oceanic instrumental expeditions) won’t surprise anyone familiar with Meddle or Soft Machine. Likewise, Baird’s always-unsettling intonations and bizarrely unflappable fixation on percussive experiments may trigger some Skip Spence flashbacks in certain susceptible listeners. Yet any probable influences are purely foundational support for the construction of monuments to Baird’s own interior world, a place alive with textures colliding, mutating, scuttling over one another like fragments of evolving pond scum.

In their latest release, Dancin’ With Wolves, Nashville trio Natural Child pair their traditional Southern blues/rock/country brew with a well-poured shot of bar-hardened hilarity. While the band’s previous album, Hard in Heaven, dipped deeper into rock and roll, their latest is more in line with 2012’s bare-assed, country-strong release For the Love of the Game. But whether it’s a harmonica or hard-and-fast strumming, Natural Child always sound like an almost unbelievable time capsule back into a good-time country bar, wobbling around the lines of reality like a giggling drunk. It’s fun, feel-good music designed for one-ounce doses.

Three Seashells is Lakutis appropriating the title of Demolition Man to his own nihilistic mania, which he expresses to the highest degree on tracks like "What The Fuck" and "Too Ill For the Law". Throughout the record Lakutis makes liberal use of the appropriated lyrics and styles, like his Wayne-esque "Motherfucker I'm ill" on "Animal", and "Black Swann" lingers dangerously close to a Death Grips homage. It's up to you whether you view the derivatives as setbacks or testaments to Lakutis' drunken style of which it has many fathers. Still it's tracks like "Jesus Piece", "Mumra", and "Body Scream" in which Lakutis seems less influenced by his peers and more devoted to his needs as an artist in conflict, who's public presence is that of a party animal, but on record digs deeper into his psyche.

Weekend Money has been periodically dropping singles since the spring of 2013 to build anticipation for their full length debut and follow up to the Naked City EP. The debut, Freddie Merkury, is built entirely from scratch, a product of the resources within arms length of Baghdaddy, who produces in an associative style similar to Hot Sugar, and the true-to-life experiences of Ne$$.

The Playa Piano cassette is a logical progression of our modern mixtape fetishism, DJ Screw worship, and softening of battle lines between mainstream and indie. Yom San chops Cam'ron's "Hey Ma", looping and freaking the piano sample to Yeah Yeah Yeah's "Maps" like Greg Gillis with a codiene addiction. It feels safe to say, Playa Piano is the end game. It was the last move to be made in the culture of mash-up and in post-DJ Screw stylistic biting. It's finally over, people. (At least, until Greg Gillis is forced into retirement by Coachella and promised a yearly stipend on the condition he headline in 2024.)

With a portfolio that checks DFA and Flying Nun releases under his belt, Harte's latest ambitious offering as Shocking Pinks lives up to all the buzz and hype with lushes expressions of emotion and experimentation that you could ever begin to hope for… and more still.

Evan Ønly turns back the clock from 2014 to somewhere around 1984, give or take a few days and months. "Shadows" exists in a whole new world, where the past presents vague premonitions for the future in the way that that the unconscious world of dreams impacts and informs the conscious waking state. Evan's delivery in conjunction with the mix tunes the song's frequency toward a drifting quality that straddles the spaces between time and the spawning origins of visions experienced whilst fast asleep.

Evan Ønly also contributed a Friday Night mix.

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