BLAG, Vol. 16: Best of 2018
During a lesson on The Scarlet Letter, my 12th grade English teacher was driving home the importance of adhering to "absolute truths." Rarely one to talk in class, I raised my hand, "There really isn't such a thing as an absolute truth, is there?" My teacher flipped out. At the end of her rant about my lack of morals, she challenged me, "I think child slavery is wrong. Do you believe in child slavery?"
"No. But child slavery exists in this world, so someone's good with it. It's relative, not absolute."
"Ladies and Gentlemen, let the record show that Vincent supports child slavery."
I'm not sure that's the reading that Nathaniel Hawthorne intended, but it's subjective, I guess. Whatever.
With subjectivity in mind, this is not a Best of 2018 List. It's a Stuff I Listen To That Happened To Be Released in 2018 List, in no particular order.
Rata Negra – Justicia Cósmica LP (La Vida Es Un Mus)
Last year’s debut of driving, but infectious punk from Madrid, Spain made my 2017 list, and they’ve certainly stepped up on the follow up. Everything about this record is bigger, more thought out, and executed at a grander scale. Those infectious melodies build upon each other, and shines best on the slow crescendo of “Nada va a Permanecer Dorado.”
Hot Snakes – Jericho Sirens LP (Subpop)
One of the drawbacks of working at Sorry State Records is probably when I come into the store and drone on and on about how much I love John Reis. I’ve written plenty on that subject, so I’ll keep this simple: do you like riffs? Reis is your Santa and he’s got a magical Bag of Holding full of Riffs.
Geld – Perfect Texture LP (Iron Lung)
The more I listen to this record, to more I admire how well Australia’s Geld balance high velocity hardcore with spacey flange noise jams. The last record I remember trying something to this effect was Cave In’s Jupiter, which was an exercise in contrast – and, retroactively, sometimes excess. Geld goes for a more economic and seamless approach, adding breath when necessary, then punctuating it with distorted violence. It’s a ripper that pauses so old people like me can catch up.
Negative Scanner – Nose Picker LP (Trouble in Mind)
Like the aforementioned Rata Negra, Chicago’s Negative Scanner came out with a solid debut of dark post-punk, then, on their follow-up, went bigger. The riffs embrace their Wire influence and get chopped and screwed with incredible wit.
C.H.E.W. – Feeding Frenzy LP (Iron Lung)
Another Chicago band, but those who know me should always presume the chauvinistic bias. The city has a stellar reputation for straightforward hardcore, but C.H.E.W. spin a new velocity on that sound, creating something much more visceral. Make sure the catch them live if you can: the drummer is one of the most blistering performers out there.
Vince Staples – FM! (Def Jam)
This time around, the concept is an homage to West Coast rap, in the format of breezy FM radio. The twist is how the fun, summer jams provide foil to Staples’ dark, snarky cynicism. He harshes every good time: from the stark realism that summer is always followed by gun violence to the beat of “Outside!” where Staples’ punctuating “Yeah!” is so sardonic, you can pretty much hear his eyes rolling.
No Love – Choke On It LP (Sorry State)
No one here will put this on their Best of 2018 List because it’s too close to home (Daniel and Seth are in this band), so I’ll claim this hill to die on. If you’re a regular customer and don’t have this, you should be ashamed of yourselves for directly taking food out of Tobio’s mouth.
Gumming – Human Values (self-released)
I got into this around October, a few weeks before Gumming played here at The Bunker, and it’s perfect for the holidays: demented punk that lurches menacingly. Some songs carry a playfulness where the cadence comes off like a spooky nursery rhyme. Fans of The Monorchid, do take note.
Cadaver Dog – Dying Breed LP (Youth Attack)
Two words: misanthropic and mean. Just throw my regurgitated id on a platter and let it fester, alone, in the corner of a Golden Corral hot bar.
Tentenko – s/t LP (Toothpaste Records)
Let’s talk about this trajectory: Tentenko’s rise to fame was as a late addition to the unconventional – sometimes even satirical – Japanese pop idol group, BiS (Brand-new Idol Society). The first single she appears on is “DiE,” one of their many critiques of idol culture, this one specifically focusing on body image. That’s pretty dark for being on the pop music charts, right? Next, BiS teamed up with Japanese harsh noise band Hijokaidan and formed BiS Kaidan. Here’s a video of a cover of Jun Togawa’s “Suki Suki Daisuki,” with homages to Hanatarash and The Stalin.
BiS disbanded shortly after the BiS Kaidan collaboration, and Tentenko stayed in the noise community, releasing CD-Rs of atmospheric drone and electronica, which is probably best exhibited on her Soundcloud page.
Her international debut is hailed as a return to pop, but instead of the pre-fab, disposable spectacle of contemporary idol music, these songs feel lived-in. Tentenko’s comfort with experimentation deepens her pop vision, and songs like “Goodbye, Good Girl” will definitely catapult her out of the idol world.
I ran out of words and/or time:
Alice Bag – Blueprint LP (Don Giovanni)
BB and the Blips – Shame Job LP (Thrilling Living)
Booji Boys – Weekend Rocker LP (Drunken Sailor)
Cold Meat – Pork Sword Fever 7” (Static Shock)
Convenience – Stop Pretending 7” (Iron Lung)
Crisis Actors – demo (self-released)
ISS – s/t 7” (Sorry State)
Janelle Monae – Dirty Computer (BMG)
Personality Cult – s/t LP (Drunken Sailor)
SBSM – Leave Your Body 7” (Thrilling Living)
Scarecrow – demo (Bunker Punks Discs and Tapes)
Vittna – 7" promo (Bunker Punks Discs and Tapes)
Warm Bodies – s/t LP (Erste Theke Tontraeger)
Various Artists – Basement Beehive: The Girl Group Underground LP (Numero Group)
Laughing Hyenas – Merry Go Round, You Can’t Pray a Lie, Life of Crime, Hard Times LPs (Third Man / Touch & Go)
Life destroyed this band, so let history be kind to the Laughing Hyenas. If you haven’t seen this oral history, it’s a good read.
Prince – Piano and a Microphone 1983 LP (NPG / Warner Bros.)
Season’s Greetings, you Grinches.
And, speaking of Grinches, this is worth a chuckle.
I guess this is a response to this tweet from our local Mountain Goat herder, John Darnielle.