Over the past two years, Fire Talk Records has become a trusted go-to source for finding great new artists. They’ve curated a tight roster of acts who fall across a wide spectrum of post-punkish indie style rock. Rack em’ up: Deeper, Cola, Dehd, Mamalarky, and Bnny to name a few – but it’s been a power trio out of Kentucky, Wombo, that has most captured my imagination over the past year. While they have two albums prior that are wide sprawling in ideas and performance, it’s on last year’s excellent “Keesh Mountain” EP where they leaned into a decidedly more angular and Dada approach. Their new album Fairy Rust builds on top of that in layers, pushing further on their ability to veer from math rock to pop hooks and finds them hitting a solid stride in carving out a sound all of their own. It’s a clean sparse production that puts their tight instrumental interplay front and center, with bassist/singer Sydney Chadwick’s detached and eerie voice tying the time-signature shifting skronk together in ways that belie the cacophony often going on underneath.
100% peak Cronenberg, with all of his historical body horror themes cranked up to eleven (bio-mech transhumanism, mutation vs evolution, fetishization of body trauma). If you are a long-time fan, you likely will not be disappointed. He’s not been as weird, gory, and pseudo-political as this since Videodrome 39 years ago and the entire film has a surreal subconscious dream feel, akin to Existenz. The cast is fantastic in inhabiting and selling this dark bizarre world, and while it’s purposefully pretentious satire in portions and is not for the squeamish, it’s so absolutely strange and singular in its vision that it lands as a true return to form. Go in blind, let things unfold of their own accord, and good luck.
33 of my favorite songs from 2021, hand-sequenced in an unranked fashion.
Nilüfer Yanya‘s “Crash” single from earlier this year was a catchy synth and guitar stomper that benefitted from fantastic cavernous production. Her voice is stunning: a confident lower register with the ability to octave jump, chant, and chirp in ethereal ways, all in lockstep with her clever syncopated guitar work.
A remix version of her Feeling Lucky EP was released a few weeks back, which contains both the original and remixed versions of every track, and from which I came across an earlier single, “Day 7.5093” (embedded above). It’s punchy and propulsive pop, exhibiting all the aforementioned vocal and production traits. Her ability to evoke and drive a mood with each phrase is masterful. It’s been on non-stop repeat.
In an untypical surprise, I also find the remix of the track to be incredibly revealing and worthy of its own praise. Brooklyn’s KeiyaA pushes things into an entirely different zone, with a full transposition of the song’s melodic underpinnings into a spacious dub-jazz that counterpoints Yanya’s vocals in ways that convert the track into a haunting lament.
The following songs have been trapped in my head for weeks.
Hachiku‘s “I’ll Probably Be Asleep” is perfect in its lengthy unfurling melodies and ambient-waves-of-guitar production. Vocalist Anika Ostendorf’s breathy flitterings invoke prior pixie muses, conjuring Bjork and Blonde Redhead vibes, with an incessant blown-out drum machine keeping things trancey and hard. This has been a difficult song to shake: I hear it in my head in the shower, when walking to the cafe, when doing dishes, when setting up pivot tables… it’s stupid. My sucker-for-it tastes in music are all wrapped up in this one track. Kudos, Hachiku.
In their now decade plus, Montreal’s Suuns never really blew up in the way that they should have. Their more avant-garde art-punk leanings may have kept them from a larger audience, but it’s also what has cemented them as such a compelling and unpredictable act. It makes the straightforwardness of their new single, “Witness Protection,” all the more refreshing: an eerie glitchy verse refrain crescendos into a beast of a drum break, washing out the final minute with a cathedral guitar loop.
The new single “Separate“ from last year’s favorite UK alt-rock band, Sorry, moves well beyond guitars and into something else entirely. As with their prior single, they are pushing their chopped-up production tactics even further, making for a unique sound that falls somewhere between hip-hop and cult chants.