This was my mid-20s, which I have come to call the second coming of my teenage years. Everything sucked, nothing made sense, relationships held on by a thread, drinking was fun (but also wasn’t) and I had no freaking idea what was to come. The future (and present) was terrifying, but sort of exciting because it’s one drama after another (hey, I watched a lot of Bravo reality shows in those days).
Anyway, I told a girl — a show buddy, a late-night jukebox-feeding buddy, a cheap Chinese lunch buddy — that I loved her, but not in a “I’ve been pining after you for years” kinda way; I wanted her to know what she meant to me as a friend. After some awkward silence, I was asked to leave, so I had to buy a last-minute Amtrak ticket home. (Before we go any further, it’s all cool between us now. But I also recognize that, even in a vulnerable declaration of next-level friendship, I had the power in that heteronormative situation, so her reaction really wasn’t off base.)
Normalize telling your friends you love them. Tell them a lot. Make it weird.
More than decade later, I started to see that phrase online. It made me think about how far relationships have come in just a generation. We elder millennials shoved our feelings into songs and blogs and not other people; the entire internet could know our deepest passions, but maybe not your bestie. But I’ve learned a lot from folks 10, 20 years younger than me: they are more open and direct with their expression of love, and to whom they show and tell. It has encouraged me to do the same, though not without some hesitation; I am, if ever, an introverted mole slow to surface. But those three small words have cemented and fortified relationships old and new, and just feels so good when said back. Telling a friend that you love them doesn’t have to be weird; it’s really nice!
A new sixer (almost) every week. Follow my collection on Bandcamp.
Zach Phillips, Feed a Pigeon, Breed a Rat (La Loi): The point of a pop song is that, if written well, anyone can sing it; this 22-track album, with just as many guest singers, splashes some booze on the songwriter savant for an avant-pop flambé. Once upon a time, Zach Phillips ran OSR Tapes, an American label that balanced weirdo and twee; he now lives in Brussels, and recently released a fabulous tape from his lo-fi bossa nova duo Fievel is Glauque. Feed a Pigeon feels like the natural extension of his already-prolific catalog, so far: obtuse jazz chords and progressions, wordy lyrics, bumbly bass lines, practice-amp guitar shred, busy drums. These are pop songs all tangled up, sung by folks with sympathetic ears: Ryan Power, Godcaster’s Von Lee, Alice Cohen, Blanche Blanche Blanche’s Sarah Smith, etc. I especially like the back half when everything, including the album’s community radio announcer arc, falls apart. If you dig, Zach’s currently running a campaign to get the album pressed to vinyl.
Lower Automation, Lower Automation (Zegema Beach): Stick around long enough and the extremely niche music of your formative years returns; in this case, the sassy violence of turn-of-the-century screamo. At the Drive-In and the Fall of Troy figure deeply here — as do Mr. Bungle and Dillinger Escape Plan — but Lower Automation cranks that yelpy math-rock chaos up a few notches. The frazzled energy of this Chicago trio is off the map, with a technical wizardry that still remembers to write songs.
Monocot, Direction We Know (Feeding Tube): Rosali Middleman burns low and slow in this Philly duo with drummer Jason Gerycz (Cloud Nothings), recorded in a rehearsal room at Jerry’s On Front. She’s a guitarist on several levels — singer-songwriter, shredder, choogler — and, on the first and last tracks here, layers loud psychedelic drones like a fuzz blanket over aerobic percussion. But the session also vibes with sunglasses-at-night cool, favoring lysergic tones and feedback bends to busy fretwork, Gerycz the frenetic-but-collected pulse beneath.
Blu~ish / Dream Crease / Enchanted Forest, Energy Hum: Volume Two (Mutation): Is it weird that meditation music makes me wanna pee? Lots of twinkling and chiming sounds over soft synths and wordless cooing… it’s a porcelain fantasy! TMI, I know. Three-way ambient split that sets the pace for the day, whether an inward journey or watching the world go by. I particularly like Dream Crease’s contributions (also self-released as Nocturne Chalice): a waterfall of synths cascade like shimmering rainbows in slow motion, tinted with just a glint of cosmic sadness.
Jalang, Santau (Heavy Machinery): 24 minutes of blood-pressure bursting, d-beat pounding, bilingual screaming punk from Naarm (that’s Melbourne in Aboriginal slang). Delivered in Bahasa Indonesia and English, Alda’s shredded vocals are a spiked-glove-to-jaw wallop that spurs on Jalang’s speed. Think Los Crudos and Dropdead, but with some rock and roll swagger.
The Stroppies, Look Alive! (Tough Love): Came across the Stroppies in Maggot Brain (the magazine) with Maggot Brain (the album) on the cover. I guess I’m a year late, but this is my newsletter and I’m generally of the mindset that music comes to you when it should. And this Melbourne band makes exactly the kind of bleary-eyed jangle-pop that checks off my boxes — The Clean, Tall Dwarfs, the Velvets and Nuggets garage-rock obscurities — but crafts their own thing. Standard guitar-bass-drums format applies, but Look Alive! is sly on the switch-up; it’s a homemade pop pastiche plastered with motorik drone beds, rave-up Farfisa organ and rumbling piano that twists everything just askew.
29 tracks. Opens with Jalang’s Sleater-Kinney fake-out. The Linda Lindas — the teenage punk band du jour — named its new song “Oh!” and, yes, it actually sounds like S-K (in a great way). A slurpy two minutes from Moor Mother (trust when I tell y’all this is a Full Album Experience). “You ain’t no punk, you punk / 808 put the groove in your butt” is my favorite lyric of late (thanks, punk ravers Ghösh). Remi Wolf brings back the F-U-N of pop music. Santeria hypnosis via Okonkolo. Claire Rousay and more eaze in an ambient hoedown mood. Myriam Gendron can sing me sad French love songs forever. African jazz-funk goodness via Ghana’s Okyerema Asante recorded at a D.C. studio in 1977. Space Afrika’s space ghost noise. Brett Naucke’s drone power trio with TALsounds and Matchess. Multi-hyphenate death metal from both Protosequence and Inferi got me tied up in knots. Operatic industrial via Sunk Heaven. Grouper goes back to her acoustic guitar. Sarah Davachi makes an organ (?) sound like a fog horn. From Nursery to Misery was an ’80s teen goth-pop band; roségoth vibes. NTsKi was my favorite feature on the last Giant Claw album; “On Divination in Sleep” could very well fit in any modern pop mix, surprisingly! Camila Cabello goes flamenco. I’ll always have a soft spot for MxPx. Chubby and the Gang’s new album sounds super polished, so far, and not sure I’m down with that. Buffalo Daughter’s industrial cubism. Succumb’s metallic hardcore will swallow you whole.
Stream the official Viking’s Choice playlist via Spotify, Apple Music or ¡STILL NEW! BNDCMPR (third-party playlist platform for music on Bandcamp) . Here’s the permalink for this week’s mix and the archives.
The nice thing about the BNDCMPR playlist is that it features a lot of Bandcamp-only music this week, such as Lower Automation, Rosali’s forthcoming solo guitar joint on Unifactor, my favorite track from that guest-heavy Zach Phillips album, black metal terror via Mehenet and death-punkers Children With Dog Feet.