Few recent songs cut into our real-life Groundhog Day as “World’s Best Magician.” Philly folkie Shannen Moser catalogs the Mondays that bleed into Mondays with bleary-eyed defeat. Some seek comfort in music, but I want to live in, recognize and learn from the moment. This song, as it lilts and slightly drones, does that.
For the first time in months, I hugged someone who wasn’t my wife, daughter or father-in-law. My family had talked about “opening our circle” to two of our closest friends in D.C. This was strategic on our part, as it was becoming impossible to have socially-distanced backyard dinners without our toddler running to them with glee, but also as a slow opening out of isolation. We also know this couple has been and will be as cautious as us, but willing to brave grocery stores where we still cross our fingers at curbside.
I had dreamed about this moment, breaking quarantine like you break a fast — after a long sleep, meditation or prayer, a moment of release. Instead, I felt my body recoil in the embrace, still tethered to fear. What a cruel essence of humanity to repress: touch.
When I was in the post-Soviet country of Georgia in 1997 with a no-name Christian rock band (yeah, that’s a story for another time), our host prepared us Americans, the guys especially, about the cultural norm of boys holding hands. After a couple days at a camp, a teenage boy I’d befriended (and with whom I shared little language) started to hold my hand on the way to meals. There’s no other way to describe the moment other than freeing and just… really nice. A friendship forged across language barriers, built into the simple trust of hands held. I could never figure out how to bring that home.
I want to get back to that trust, but deeply feel the feedback loop of days. — Lars Gotrich
(Note: Some of these albums can only be found on Bandcamp, so click the links to explore!)
Chepang, Chatta (Nerve Altar): Hands down, the most gripping grindcore album of 2020. Chatta is where these Nepalese grindsters truly become a New York band, absorbing a world of noise pollution — powerviolence riffs, psychedelic death-metal guitar solos, spectral chord voicings, blast-beaten hardcore, free-jazz madness courtesy of saxophonist Mette Rasmussen and guitarist Tashi Dorji — to present a clear-eyed vision of destruction. Across 17 minutes that blur together with raucous speed and tact, Chepang executes Takafumi Matsubara-level precision, Painkiller insanity and genre-obliterating extremes worthy of Napalm Death.
TALsounds, Acquiesce (NNA): Sure, any ambient synth jam can melt like an Alex Mack GIF, but how many convey the shades of physical and emotional change? Through melodies and long tones that ascend, question and spiral, Natalie Chami navigates complex emotion with both vulnerability and exploration.
v/a, Under Siege (A World Divided): The punk comp is not dead! Every single track of Under Siege is is a boot-to-throat revelation, from the barbed-wire histrionics of Italy’s Impulso and the doomy and violin-led noise-punk of Tunisia’s L’Enfance Rouge to the buzzsaw hardcore of Colombia’s Exilo and the blackened crust of Ka’Tzon La’Tevach via Tel Aviv and Madrid. After my first listen, I immediately bought just about every cassette on this promising label split between Tunis and Montreal.
Green/Blue, Green/Blue (Slovenly): Most garage-rock bands would be so lucky to have something this blood-curdlingly good as its debut, so makes sense these newbies have been doing it forever in other Minneappolis bands like The Blind Shake, The Soviettes and Birthday Suits. There’s a cool streak of New Zealand jangle jimmied between these exceptionally catchy punk chunes, especially “With That Face,” voted Most Likely To Hit Rewind And Hit Play Again by me.
Amaria Hamadalher, Music from Saharan WhatsApp 05 (Sahel Sounds): Straight from their cellphones to Bandcamp, I love this resourceful series from Sahel Sounds. Amaria is a sharp, textural guitarist who joined Les Filles de Illighadad in 2018 and here leans into the grit of melody more than her Tuareg counterparts, with the rust of the strings scraping her fingers.
Archie Shepp, Raw Poetic & Damu the Fudgemunk, Ocean Bridges (Redefinition): Pan-generational, pocket-busting music culled from a five-hour improv session with the master. Shepp’s always been an explorer beyond jazz, but here opens up a sprawling conversation of living and lived-in earthy funk and turntable bop.
The Soft Pink Truth, Am I Free to Go? (self-released): An anti-fascist crust-punk covers album in only the way that The Soft Pink Truth could make a crust-punk covers album. Bleak, blackened and glitched techno/house versions of Aus-Rotten, Doom, Nausea and Discharge.
24 tracks. My favorite Dedicated Side B cut changes daily and right now it’s Carly Rae Jepsen’s bubbly version of Daft Punk (“Fake Mona Lisa”). Kate NV goes Enya-pop. Jason Molina’s newly unearthed “Shadow Answers the Wall” sounds like Songs:Ohia at its broodiest and I couldn’t be more bummed (as in, it’s a bummer jam of the highest bummer quality). Mike Polizze puts down the Purling Hiss psych noise for folky sunshine and rainbows. We close out with “Flamenco Sketches” from Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue — just spend 10 minutes in awe of the late Jimmy Cobb’s brushwork, which is so, so light, and yet so, so prominent and feeling.
What: Turntable Report (newsletter)
Why: Tracy Wilson and I met in a Richmond bar years ago, having struck up a conversation about drone, metal, post-punk and obscure free-jazz records. We share a love for record collecting, good beer and good food, so when she started a newsletter, I couldn’t smash that subscribe button fast enough. Tracy’s got stories for days about the music business as the frontperson for ’90s post-hardcore darlings Dahlia Seed (and later, Positive No), record label owner, DJ and as a former sales rep for Caroline Distribution, but more than anything, her giddiness and deep knowledge are palpable in every record recommendation. (That’s how I found out about Green/Blue, for instance.) Like Viking’s Choice, the Turntable Report is wildly catholic in its tastes — from exotica and obscure funk to English post-punk and French pop music — so definitely consider them a comrade in wild combinations.