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ICYMI vol 11: Sunflower Bean, The Mountain Goats, Wallows

King of the Dudes – Sunflower Bean

There was an interesting (now deleted) tweet floating around the internet in the aftershocks of Matt Healy deciding there were no “big bands” doing “anything as interesting” as The 1975. That tweet was a somewhat flawed list of arguably much more interesting musicians, but the only female fronted group listed was Sunflower Bean. Julia Cumming is obviously no stranger to being the only woman in an aggressively male industry and takes full ownership of that on their latest EP. The title track pokes fun at that sexist, circle jerk mentality in an almost 80s power pop kind of way. Cumming digs deeper into this power pop and the idea of masculine energy on the overtly sexual “Come For Me” before settling back into a more grounded, rock centric “Fear City”. Wrapping things up is “The Big One” which feels very much like the exploding can imagery on the album artwork. It’s the grittiest that Cumming sounds on the record and the biggest genre switch, but it’s not jarring or out of place. It’s an exciting look at the many potential directions Sunflower Bean could continue to explore with their sound and I’m fully along for the ride.

– Lauren Khalfayan

“Ready To Let Go” – Cage the Elephant

I’ll admit, for a while there Cage The Elephant was a kind of a guilty pleasure, especially their early singles that came perilously close to one hit wonder status. They’ve all but shed their early novelty-rock tendencies and have grown into one of the most unique and engaging bands on the scene today. It’s been a little bit since their last proper album, 2015’s Tell Me I’m Pretty, and the live and mostly unplugged Unpeeled release of 2017 was an arrestingly beautiful and mature retrospective of the band’s back catalog that set the level of anticipation for new music pretty high.

Boy, does this new single deliver the goods. Lyrically musing on the temporary nature of existence and a failed relationship sabotaged by his own nihilistic tendencies, Matt Shultz is in full on Iggy Pop mode in the new video; wiry, muscular, and dangerously androgynous. Some of the imagery can be a bit heavy handed with visible influences drawn from Kubrick and giallo films, but even with eyes wide shut the song is a great lead single. I think we’re in for a treat when Social Cues releases in full on April 19th.

– Clayton Pacelli

“Younger” – The Mountain Goats

The Mountain Goats are getting ready to release their seventeenth album, a pseudo rock opera inspired by youthful days playing fantasy board games and sporting cover art so epic I’m compelled to buy a mid-1980s Chevy van and get it airbrushed on the side.

“Younger” is a sunny, upbeat tune that takes its lyrical cues equally from Dungeons & Dragons and The Iliad. Overcoming adversity through careful planning and violent execution is the subject matter, but it’s not all swords-and-sandals. As the camera pans back, John Darnielle describes a scene of kids gathered around a tabletop role playing game, his younger self triumphant. But as an older man the numbers on that twelve-sided die no longer make sense like they used to and the thrill of victory has been replaced by the scars and bruises left by the battle that is real life. It’s a promising first taste and I’m really looking forward to setting out for adventure when In League with Dragons releases April 26th.

– Clayton Pacelli

“Are You Bored Yet? – Wallows (feat. Clairo)

I’m endlessly fascinated by the phenomenon that is Netflix boys in indie guitar bands. The relevant Netflix boy in question is 13 Reasons Why‘s Dylan Minette and his outfit, Wallows. While their previous releases were heavier on the guitar, their latest single “Are You Bored Yet?” pivots more towards the bedroom dream pop variety. The music video is a hypnotic, outer-body, karaoke bar experience that looks like 35mm fashion Instagram exploded all over it (but in a good way). Minette is aggressively normal, but there’s something strangely captivating about his vocal delivery that makes it feel irreparably cemented in the indie pop canon.

– Lauren Khalfayan

Power Chords  – Mike Krol

I’ve been not so patiently awaiting this record and it does not disappoint. Self-described as “too indie rock for punk rockers,” and “too punk rock for indie rockers”, Mike Krol succeeds in hitting that sweet spot of harnessing the grit and scuzz of punk with the melodies and storytelling of indie rock. The combination of sounds feels part nostalgic, part futuristic. It also feels bumped and bloodied and bruised, well, because it is. There’s a lot of love lost on this record in various violent ways, but it’s all shrouded in a pop fuzz that leads you to believe that even with the world falling apart, we all might (?) be okay. Best enjoyed post-breakup screaming out of a fast moving car.

– Lauren Khalfayan

Warrior Queen – High N’ Heavy

Just for the record, I was not high when I listened to the new album from High N’ Heavy, but I wouldn’t begrudge you for taking a couple hits while you do. It’s not required, but it will definitely help you get into the right mindset. Warrior Queen is their fourth studio album and from the vintage paperback fantasy novel inspired cover design from Barcelona based heavy hitter Branca Studio all the way down through the album’s eight fantastically produced and colossally heavy tracks it’s abundantly clear that High N’ Heavy aren’t fucking around anymore. This is a mission statement, a flag firmly planted on the field of battle behind which legions of heavy music fans are called to rally behind. “Shield Maiden” is a stand out track; slow and doomy riffs elevated by spooky synths that separate the band’s sound from that of their bearded brethren and wailing vocals worshipping the prototypical heavy metal ride-or-die, the beautiful and deadly shield maiden fearlessly charging into battle against the barbarian hordes.

So drop the needle on this LP while rolling out a joint on the D&D board and get lost in High N’ Heavy’s medieval mysticism, or stream it through your earbuds on the train to your 9-to-5 to psych yourself up for the big meeting. Either way, your Warrior Queen rides beside you to victory.

– Clayton Pacelli

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