It’s finally spring, and you can feel it in the air if you pretend that the air is about 30 degrees warmer than it actually is. You can also hear spring if you know where to listen. Check out these ten recent indie rock singles to welcome the second-sunniest season of the year.
“Bleeding” by THICK
Brooklyn-based THICK have released a few singles since their stellar 2016 EP It’s Always Something…, though none of them are as energetic and energizing as “Bleeding.” The song is a rage-filled ode to menstruation, beginning with the verse, “I fuckin’ hate this city / And I wanna quit my job / My body doesn’t fit me / And your tone’s pissing me off.” In “Bleeding,” THICK wear annoyance like a coat, draping it over their every musical limb. Naturally, this annoyance is directed at men, and THICK describe the song as “drunk punk,” “girlwave,” and “period rock,” among other tags. The drums, guitar, bass, and vocals all vibrate with the emotional edge of somebody who’s having a shitty day and wants you to know it. It’s fun, furious, feminist rock.
“Up from Below” by Remember Sports
Remember Sports (formerly known as Sports) have always shined in the niche pop-punk realm that I call “liberal arts snark,” which is defined by a self-mocking, tongue-in-cheek college radio sensibility. In “Clean Jeans,” from the band’s 2016 album Sunchokes, lead vocalist and songwriter Carmen Perry sings, “You’re jerking off to Al Jazeera / and making your bed / I could be at Crossfit like you / but I’d rather be dead,” which is basically the closest thing I have to an anthem. The band formed as a group of Kenyon College students, and now they’re a staple of the Philadelphia garage rock scene. Perry has a powerful, confident voice that seems to fray, swell, and soften on command, elevating vocals to an almost religious plane of catharsis. “Up from Below” is the first single from their upcoming album, Slow Buzz, which comes out May 18, 2018. At just 2 minutes and 18 seconds, it feels tightly-wound, like an exploding spring. It’s feisty, intense, and surprisingly sweet.
“The Bahia Blast” by T. Rexico
Confession: this is technically not a single, since it appears on T. Rexico’s latest EP, Let’s Take a Dive!. Still, “The Bahia Blast” stands out on the four-song EP in that it’s the only instrumental track. T. Rexico consists of Bryce Doria, Thomas Souvannarath, Tristin Souvannarath, and Kiara Pornan, and if Let’s Take a Dive! sounds like it was recorded in one of the bandmates homes, that’s because it was. “The Bahia Blast” represents some of 2018’s grooviest surf-rock yet, simultaneously evoking Guantanamo Baywatch’s recent forays into instrumental desert jams and other garage rock currently wafting up from Southern California’s coastal communities (T. Rexico are based in Chula Vista, where they regularly collaborate with Fake Tides, another San Diego-area surf-pop outfit). “The Bahia Blast” is warm, fuzzy, and wavy, but it has direction, like a winding pathway to the beach. It feels expertly controlled despite its meandering, drifty detours.
“Dive” by Beach House
Beach House, the dream pop duo consisting of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scalley, has churned out album after album of layered, atmospheric, enveloping songs. They build these songs with simple elements: looped synths and spacious, sensual vocals. These songs become worlds for the listener to enter and, more often than not, get lost in. “Dive,” the second single from their upcoming seventh album, takes this premise to another level. It starts slow and sparse before transforming into a faster, headier, grander arrangement that swirls around you, like you’ve dived into something. Somehow this experience is both disorienting and empowering, and Beach House have succeeded yet again at bringing you into an entirely new zone of being. This song feels like a cosmic wake up, perhaps for both Beach House and listeners.
“Yooouuu” by Shitkid
Scandinavia-based Shitkid is the DIY-project of Åsa Söderqvist, who is intent on continuously experimenting while developing her own lo-fi bedroom-pop sound. “Yooouuu” was released as a single leading up to her recent Punk Slime Recordings EP, This Is It. The song is alternately ethereal, casual, and poetic, combining diverse musical influences. Söderqvist’s vocals are moaned, gasped, whispered, and secreted. You can hear her hold syllables in her throat, rotating them in her jaw before articulating them, if she decides to articulate them at all. While Söderqvist’s vocals are sometimes easy to decipher, as in “so many cigarettes / so many cups of coffee / for me and you,” they occasionally fade into the ambient music that surrounds them. These instances in which the different musical components of “Yooouuu” flirt with, intermingle, and bleed into each other are some of Shitkid’s most dynamic work to date.
“Body Language” by Idaho Green
Idaho Green have cleaned up their garage punk sound since moving from their home state of Montana to Brooklyn, N.Y. in 2015. Their early work had an untamed, manic quality to it, with their 2012 EP, I Don’t Like Your Facebook Page, coming off as both intentionally and unintentionally out of control. In 2016 they released another EP and a single which both sounded a little more contained and measured (which is not to say that they sounded very contained or measured). Those releases still had a noisy, rambunctious, post-punk feel. Fast-forward to March 2018: Idaho Green’s new EP, Rancher Bones, is their most focused work yet, and “Body Language” is their most focused song on the EP. It has a narrative throughline in the refrain, “Give me more second chances,” which aches with feelings of regret, longing, and desire. Idaho Green’s bandcamp bio reads, “Voice cracks and jumping jacks since 2008.” It’s an apt description of the anxious, embodied chaos and playfulness that is their music.
“Pristine” by Snail Mail
Snail Mail’s 2016 EP, Habit was, by all accounts, a big deal. Among other things, it landed Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan a much-coveted Pitchfork feature and high-profile gigs at SXSW and Coachella. Moreover, it whetted her fans’ appetites for more of her cool, grounded rock. “Pristine” is the first single from her upcoming debut full-length album Lush. When Jordan sings, “I’ll never love anyone else,” we hear a matrix of despair, desperation, anger, self-reproach, and sincerity that immediately unravels the apparent simplicity of the lyric. When Jordan sings, “Is there any better feeling than coming clean?” we can only imagine the many emotional and narrative dimensions of her rhetorical question. This song feels like a coming clean—a release, an opening, a sigh, a confession, and a scream all at once. As we’ve come to expect from Snail Mail, this song is tender, solid, and smart.
“Cole Gate – Demo” by Glambat
Glambat is the moniker of New Haven, Conn.-based songwriter Emily Rose Alderman, whose cheeky indie music falls somewhere between “post-grunge” and “shoegaze,” according to her bandcamp. “Cole Gate – Demo” showcases Alderman’s playful songwriting and biting sense of humor. She trains her gaze on a former lover (“He swam in a trust fund / I waited for hours / Took me without telling / Connecticut fish scale”) and local concerts (“There’s always a hit list / there’s always a set list / …there’s always a mosh pit”). Needless to say, Alderman’s songs are not exactly mosh pit material. They’re thoughtful and self-conscious, careful, and self-reflexive. “Cole Gate – Demo” has the unassuming quality of a demo, but you get the sense that it’s actually finished. The song, like the songwriter, seems to be claiming its demo-hood with a charming pseudo-amateurism.
“Poison” by Bad Kids
Like T. Rexico’s “The Bahia Blast,” this song isn’t actually a single, since it was released on Bad Kids’ recent EP Seeing Ghosts. Also like T. Rexico, Bad Kids are a San Diego-based rock band, though they refer to themselves as “Good, old-fashioned, dirty, teenage, Californian hoodrats.” Fair enough. “Poison” is pure sunshine, its guitar riffs pounding you like the sun on a hot summer day. This is the type of song you want to drive to with all the windows down, salt in your hair, sand on your feet. It’s breezy, light, and grainy, washed in the aural equivalent of polaroid haze, which makes sense given that the EP cover art is a collage of faded polaroid photos. The song is blurry, out of focus, and inviting. It’s irresistible, even if slightly cryptic.
“Sometimes – Live in Los Angeles, CA 2018” by Jurassic Shark (Jam in the Van Live Session)
If you haven’t yet heard of Jam in the Van, you’re welcome. Jam in the Band is the “mobile solar powered recording studio and Youtube channel” that regularly uploads their live recordings to Spotify. They’ve featured Habibi, Palehound, Clean Spill, Tank and the Bangas, The Regrettes, and dozens of other emerging and established artists. And if you haven’t yet heard of Jurassic Shark, you’re welcome for that too. Jurassic Shark are (unsurprisingly) based in California, and they describe their last EP, Blue School, as “lovesick plank punk” and “post casual.” Jurassic Shark performed three songs for Jam in the Band in January, including “Sometimes,” a quick, fraught, aurally and emotionally distressed punk song. Vocalist Daniel Fowler sings with a manic vulnerability than manifests in a self-consciously shaky style. The live version of “Sometimes” emphasizes Fowler’s unstable, wobbly vocals, and there is something paradoxically joyful in Fowler’s searching, thrashing repetition of the refrain, “sometimes I cry.” The song sounds like it’s coming out of hibernation, finally ready for spring.
Matt Wallock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org