“You say it’s a good thing that you float in the air/That way, there’s no way I will crush your pretty toenails into a thousand pieces.”
Thus ends “Only in Dreams,”the closing track of Weezer’s 1994 debut Weezer (The Blue Album). Over time, and within the context of the song, these are words written about a girl so unforgettable, so unavoidable, that she is in the air and “in your bones.” (She’s also your ride home.) But the first time I heard this song – sometime around 2005 when I was 11 – I had absolutely no idea what those lyrics meant. I only knew that they were perfect, sounding suitably epic against the song’s explosive eight minutes.
Now, 13 studio albums into their career, fans and critics alike are still picking at Rivers Cuomo’s words as if they’re enough to justify ostracizing the band for another quarter century. Besides, they’re complete nonsense. Didn’t you read that piece about his spreadsheets? Each song is constructed to give the impression of a singular idea, but in reality, none of the words were actually written to go together. It’s all meaningless.
Julia Jacklin doesn’t want to be the type of artist that preaches to her listeners. Her sophomore album, fittingly titled Crushing, is full of dialogues that Jacklin herself has with her family and friends. Crushing is a story, one where the Sydney-based artist discusses her bodily autonomy. Don’t Let The Kids Win, Jacklin’s 2016 debut album, was existential but sometimes unsure. Now, she’s self-assured. She’s finding space for herself in a cluttered indie rock scene. With only two albums under her belt, Julia Jacklin is already rising as one of Australia’s finest songwriters.
Love is weird, messy, complicated. I know I’m not saying anything incredibly new or profound – we’ve all experienced the whirlwind of falling in and out of love. And sometimes at such an intensity that it feels like you’re dreaming. Copeland’s sixth album, Blushing, explores that sensation thoroughly and almost immediately on the album’s startling opener, “Pope.” Vocalist Aaron Marsh pleads, “Will you be my love?/Until I can prove that this world is not real,” over a swirling cacophony of swirling strings, programming, and more. Suddenly everything drops – it’s just distant piano keys and a women’s hushed voice. Without warning, it’s over. The track is a brilliant juxtaposition between the beginning of a relationship (“Did you dream about anything last night?” is something said during the beginning or good times of a relationship because you want to know everything about your partner) and the end of a relationship (“Hey, hey, are you awake? You should probably get up and get going. I don’t want to be rushed”) – when the women’s voice appears it’s jarring because it’s so comforting, reminding you of that good place you were once at but ultimately it’s a devastating reminder that it’s over.
Jetty Bones’ last release, 2017’s Old Women EP, was a bright burst of pop-rock. The band has described it as “a story of progress, growth, and the development of human connection,” and its optimistic message was certainly matched by its jaunty sound. - (pronounced “hyphen”) is the follow-up to Old Women, and the band has – called a more “brisk, contemplative” EP.
The New Orleans, Louisiana jam band Galactic appear to be brooding with confidence on Already Ready Already, as they continue to expand their sonic musical landscapes into a breezy 25-minute, eight-song record. While the early stages of their career focused on experimenting with various sounds that bordered between funk, rock, jazz, and blues, this set embraces the immediacy of a great pop song.
Montreal-based singer-songwriter Peter Sagar formed his solo project, Homeshake, after leaving Mac DeMarco’s live band in 2014. Sagar found himself fatigued and “at a creative dead-end” with guitar, in turn constructing luscious bedroom-pop and lo-fi R&B. The fourth album under the Homeshake moniker, Helium, out today, is a superb showcase of an artist rebuffing the usual pigeonholes in genres, textures, and soundscapes.
Coming off of a brilliant debut record called Vital, Morgxn has come back with an equally impressive “stripped” EP of the strongest selections from the debut into re-imagined tracks in Vital : Blue. It’s on this EP that Morgan Karr showcases his staying power as an Indie Pop artist with no other distractions besides a piano, carefully placed string sections, and his powerful voice.
For as long as I can recall, A Day to Remember have been that strange mixture of incredibly divisive and inarguably popular within the scene. Being a (female) ADTR fan in 2009 looked like this: If people (let’s be real; mostly men) weren’t calling you “soft” for liking the band to begin with, they were heavily implying that you only liked the ~pretty~ tracks, like “If It Means a Lot to You” or “Have Faith In Me” (which are both bangers, by the way). The band apparently were too hardcore for the pop punk bros, and too pop punk for the hardcore kids. To put a finer and entirely subjective point on that observation: then as now, both the pop-punk and hardcore purists were enraged by a band that refuses to call themselves either, yet excels at both. When Homesick dropped ten years ago, I was a senior in high school. While they weren’t my absolute favorite band, they were up there. I wasn’t writing about music yet at the time, but I loved the record. Upon listening as a fully formed adult ten years later, my opinion remains largely unchanged.
On their third album, Seasons, American Authors crank up the volume and soul in a glossy effort that is arguably their strongest album to date. The band, best known for the Top-40 single “Best Day of My Life,” showcases their staying power in the ever-crowded Indie Rock genre. Under the careful tutelage of veteran producers Cason Cooley (Ingrid Michaelson) and Trent Dabbs (Kacey Musgraves), the two co-producers bring out the best in the Brooklyn-based band.
Folk-tinged indie rock is renowned for beautiful lyrics, intricate melodies, and stunning collaborations. It’s a style that’s held the spotlight inside indie circles for years, with good reason. Current stars such as Sharon Van Etten released her fifth album; Remind Me Tomorrow, just weeks ago. Van Etten goes for soul-crushing while experimenting with haunting, cinematic synth-led tracks. Last year’s For My Crimes by Marissa Nadler is equally haunting, albeit in much more subtle light. Just last week, Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst teamed up as Better Oblivion Community Center, delivering their intimate debut album that showcases both of their unique types of storytelling. Here enters Tiny Ruins, originally a moniker for New Zealand singer-songwriter Hollie Fullbrook.
Subsequent to the release of debut full-length, Some Were Meant For Sea, in 2011, Tiny Ruins opened for Fleet Foxes and toured internationally with Beach House. Cass Basil (bass) and Alexander Freer (drums) later made Tiny Ruins an ensemble, in turn recording the second album, Brightly Painted One, in 2014. Tiny Ruins were bestowed Best Alternative Album for Brightly Painted One at the New Zealand Music Awards in late 2014. Tiny Ruins wistful new album, Olympic Girls, out today, is the next big indie folk album of 2019.
The internet giveth and the internet taketh away.
Late last May, a 14-year-old Twitter user created an account dedicated to getting Weezer, now uniquely divisive in this stage of their career, to cover “Africa,” Toto’s 1982 hit and a resurging meme in the same lineage of Smash Mouth’s “All-Star” and Owl City’s “Fireflies.” Now, eight months later, the cultural tides have shifted. “Africa” has been viciously chewed up and spit out by the merciless internet machine, largely due to the outrageous popularity that accompanied Weezer’s studio cover. The song peaked number one on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart, the band’s first number one hit since 2007’s “Pork and Beans.” The band closed shows with it, made a bizarre, self-referential music video starring Weird Al for it, and even teased the song’s release with a superior cover of another Toto single, “Rosanna.”
In less than a year, “Africa” became the sort of meme your family would recognize or bring up in casual conversation, essentially nullifying the status it once held and finalizing its new residence in the lexicon’s void.
Nearly a decade has passed since the last AM Taxi full-length, their debut We Don’t Stand a Chance. Similarly to other acclaimed 2010 albums by punk bands like Against Me!, Titus Andronicus, and The Gaslight Anthem, it was much indebted to rock and roll acts like Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band; unfortunately, perhaps because of that, the band didn’t quite gain the traction the others did on the album’s release. They spent most of the 2010s since laying low, releasing a couple of EPs, but now they’re back with Shiver By Me, and what a return it is.
Talent is a remarkable thing. When you see it, you recognize it almost instantaneously, and it becomes nearly blinding to any of the other faults surrounding that artist. On the debut full-length LP from Maggie Rogers, her talent oozes through the speakers with rare confidence not usually found from a new artist. Heard it in a Past Life is a remarkable introduction to an artist who is 100% comfortable in her skin and knows exactly the type of music she wants to create.
On the debut LP from Cassettes, Wild Heart is an earnest love letter to the 90’s era of pop-rock that dominated the airwaves. The five-piece band from Philadelphia shows a ton of promise on this debut record that was co-produced by Ace Enders (The Early November) and Nik Bruzzese (Man Overboard), and was carefully mixed by Vince Ratti (The Wonder Years). This album features a wide range of summery vibes and good times that finds the band reminiscing while still keeping an eye on the future.
On the third album from the St. Petersburg trio, Polyenso, Year of the Dog finds them stretching the boundaries of their already dynamic sound on this experimental EP. Polyenso are on the brink of something remarkable here on this release. If you can tune into the world of this band and lose yourself in the music, you’re in for a treat.
On January 12, 1999, Britney Spears hit the music scene with …Baby One More Time. Boy bands, Britney Spears, and company ruled the late 90s and early 2000s with their music. The title track dropped in October 1998, which gave fans a taste of what to expect. It also helped blast Britney into her celebrity status. It’s the only track I can imagine having such a big impact from the get-go. Wouldn’t it have been odd for them to have the lead single be literally any other song on the album? That’s sure how it feels now, anyway.
Radar State is a new powerhouse band that consists of Matt Pryor and Jim Suptic of The Get Up Kids, Josh Berwanger of The Anniversary, and Adam Phillips of The Architects. Each of these guys has been in the game for quite some time. The Get Up Kids’ Something to Write Home About turns 20 this year, to put things into perspective.
Strays feels like a cohesive album even with the tradeoffs at lead vocals. No matter who is singing, you get what this album is all about. “What’s a Rebel” is a jam that feels like it could be a summer anthem. As soon as the hook comes in, energy courses through you. I found it hard to sit still while listening to the song because it just makes you want to jump. If I were sitting while listening to it, I’d either have my head bobbing along to the beat or had my feet bouncing up and down. It’s just that catchy.
I made sure that 2018 was the year I finally made my way through The Sopranos. I finished the final season just before the year ended. It was quite the trek and nicely timed given that The Sopranos Sessions was set to release this month. After finishing the show, I jumped into the book and went on the wild ride all over again.
AFI have never been strangers to the darker side of things, as clearly evident from the shadowy packaging and artwork of their latest EP, The Missing Man. However, what I’ve always admired about this band is the silver linings found in their music. After releasing arguably their darkest-toned LP to date in 2013’s Burials, they followed this effort with 2017’s AFI: The Blood Album, an album that incorporated many of their past styles into a single record. On this EP, AFI has found a way to pay homage to the path they blazed before, while still adding new elements to their trademark sound.
As I sit here looking at a blank page, pondering about how I’m going to approach writing about The 1975’s gargantuan third album, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, I turn to my dear friend procrastination and flick open Twitter on my iPhone. After a few minutes of scrolling through an endless timeline, disgusted and amused simultaneously, I had the belated (and probably way too obvious) realization that A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships is an exploration of our codependency of the things – whether it’s drugs, sex, the internet – we use to temporarily numb the sting of loneliness.
Much has been written about The 1975’s leader Matty Healy decision to spend six weeks in a rehab facility in Barbados to fight his addiction to heroin – a stint that helped Healy reflect not only on his life, but the lives he was affecting. His decision to get clean came shortly after the band started writing A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, so unsurprising a lot of the lyrical content is derived from the recovering addict’s time spent in therapy.