Sept 9, 2019, in The Time Before Covid, I went to see the Swedish pop outfit Hater at the Rickshaw Stop, but it was the opening act Sonoda from L.A. that was the highlight of the evening. They held the entire crowd rapt in their palm from the opening chiming notes spawned from meditation bowls through to closing with a Stereolab cover. Dreamy, slightly detached cool. Exploring their existing catalog provided a heady expanse of quiet lo-fi synth pop, with a decidedly 60’s new-wave bent.
They’ve recently released a three song short film featuring live performances and ambient scenes titled Here We Are Now. It’s earnest, lovely and weird.
It’s been eleven years since we’ve formally heard from the Friedberger siblings in tandem. Today I learned that The Fiery Furnaces released a new single, “Down at the So and So on Somewhere,” this past June. It’s easy to see why it didn’t make any big waves. Almost as a rebuke to any weighty expectations and counter to their past complex arrangements, this track is more like an extended singular strutting musical sketch over which Eleanor spits mad verse:
Trigonometry tutors often go to dance class three times a week
I can picture powder blue matches in the mirrors
You check your time warp watch in the car
While it’s admittedly lightweight and exhibits the best of their humorous side, the internal hype in me desired something a bit more meaty – but it’s good to have them back to rekindle their unique brand of fractured pop. Their records are dense, strange, and chock full of killer hooks.
My current favorite post-punks, Crack Cloud, have a new live album out on Bandcamp. Comprised of takes from two 2019 sessions at KXLU radio in L.A. and BBC 6 in London, they cover a span of material from their two prior EPs and this past July’s excellent Pain Olympics. It’s far more raw in production and rocking than any of the studio recordings, with a significant bpm increase and a firmer leaning into the punk side of the equation. That revved up added muscle tends to obliterate any of the more nuanced melodic side that is present in some of the studio versions of these songs – enough so that this may not be the best entry point for new listeners – but combined with their incredible host of YouTube material and live clips, it firmly cements them as the one act that I’d most like to see in person when that time arrives again.
For the second time this year, the mysterious SAULT collective have released an album that is consistently incredible, front to back (they pulled off the same double threat in 2019 as well). Post-funk, with a heavy dose of Nile Rodgers + afro beat styles + a fierce political edge. This is music for right now.
I’ve enjoyed a wide breadth of games this year, but Into the Breachhas been the one that I’ve gone back to repeatedly. Best summarized as robots vs. kaiju chess, it has clever puzzle-like mechanics, unending replayability, and a perfect tough-but-fair balance that has led to many late nights. I bought it a second time for the Nintendo Switch just to ensure that I can take it on the road with me this holiday season. Best part: it’s $15. If you are a fan of strategy titles, this will serve you well.