Wild Pink’s “Yolk in the Fur” is a Major Leap Forward

Wild Pink – Yolk in the Fur

Simply put, Yolk in the Fur from New York based Wild Pink is a true delight. The pastoral, easy sound is about as far away as any rock-learning music than you would expect from the region these days.

Opener “Burger Hill” is an excellent table setter, kicking off the record with placid synths and reverb-heavy guitar. “Lake Erie” is a majestic, sweeping single reminiscent of the last few The War on Drugs albums, while “Jewels Drossed in the Runoff” with it’s crashing riffs and Ross’s slightly above-a-whisper voice creating a song that’s both anthemic as it is gorgeous. “There Is A Ledger” churns only in a way that 1980’s pop-rock singles do – it’s a hard sound to describe here, but the jangly guitars and whooping synth feel so out of time but amazingly refreshing.

Yolk in the Fur is a major leap forward for Wild Pink. It’s a record that represents transition and a new beginning. But really, it communicates that they’re a band that’s deploying only a modicum of their skillset. Wild Pink’s wave is about to crest. This is your chance to catch it.

Yolk in the Fur is out Friday on Tiny Engines.

Hear/Here: Snail Mail, Culture Abuse and more


Snail Mail – Lush

Lindsey Jordan’s debut album is a confident collection of indie rock that could fit well in any decade – they’re confident, full-bodied anthems that have endless playback. “Pristine” is an amazing example of this – “Is there any better feeling than coming clean?” I’m marveling how “Heat Wave” starts as kind of a dreamy ballad before it nosedives into a straight-from-1993 speaker blaster. “Let’s Find An Out” brings things down with its simple strums as does the breezy vocals of “Golden Dream”. It’s an instant classic from a young artist on her first full length. With Lush as an example, whatever Snail Mail shows a ton of potential. She’s already an artist without limit. That’s so exciting.

Culture Abuse – Bay Dream

A runaway album of the summer in so many ways. Listening to their 2016 debut Peach, you’d think it’s an entirely different band. In some ways, it is. Frontman David Kelling is singing a lot more here, and it shows. While Peach had plenty of sludgy, ugly riffs, in place there’s big, bright riffs about songs about being kind to the bugs (Bee Kind to the Bugs), the sweetness of “S’Why” with lyrics like “I feel you pushing me forward/To the place I wanna go/There is no melody sweeter” and the California pop of “Bluebird On My Shoulder”. It’s the sound of a band spreading its wings in a totally unexpected, totally welcome way. I mean, it’s all really good. Get on this train now. Culture City Rockers forever.

Also enjoying:

Rolling Blackout Coastal Fever – Hope Downs – Breezy, jangly Melbourne-based indie rock that I’m still unpacking.

The Carters – EVERYTHING IS LOVE – A few requisite bangers, a nice way to cap off Lemonade and 4:44 but nothing totally major I think.

Flasher – Constant Image – D.C. punks from ex-Priests member Taylor Mulitz and others.

Natalie Prass – The Future and the Past – Great songwriter, “Short Court Style” is awesome.

Hear/Here: New Hop Along, Young Fathers, Kacey Musgraves and Wye Oak

Hop Along – Bark Off Your Head, Dog

Hop Along have been on a tear since the release of their 2012 debut, Get Disowned and came to proper prominence with 2015’s Painted Shut, a showcase of a young band coming into their own, and placing the extraordinary voice of singer/guitarist Frances Quinlan center stage. It’s a low-key classic in it’s own right, so the release of Bark Off Your Head, Dog comes with some high expectations. Happily, it doesn’t disappoint.

The nine-song collection adds some new hues to Hop Along’s rapidly kaleidoscoping sound – the rawboned riffs of the first single “How Simple,” the acoustic guitar and strings of the gorgeous “How You Got Your Limp” and the funky-mathy rhythms of “The Fox in Motion”. Then there’s some littler experiments: “What the Writer Meant” starts with brushed drums that break into a gorgeously power-pop chorus while “Look of Love” fucks with some serious psychadelic-era Beatles harmonies. Bark Off Your Head, Dog is album that pushes Hop Along forward, showing band striving to find what’s possible in their sound, opposed to making something that sounds like them. It makes sense – that’s never quite been their DNA. Hop Along sound a bit restless here, but that’s why it works. It’s very clear that Bark Off Your Head, Dog is just the tip of the iceberg.

Young Fathers – Cocoa Sugar

Every once and a while there will be an album that pretty much levels the musical plane, one that becomes an earworm in the most serious of ways, rendering everything else kind of secondary. For me, right now, that is “Cocoa Sugar” by Young Fathers.

It’s hard to classify exactly what genre the Edinburgh, Scotland-based group are, because they encompass so many different ones at once. It’s a little hip-hop, it’s a little indie rock, and then there’s some weird touches of R&B. They won the Mercury Prize in 2014 for their debut album Dead and were featured prominently on last year’s Trainspotting 2 soundtrack. “Cocoa Sugar” is a densely layered collection melding Gospel choirs, skitter-stop raps and Radiohead-inspired sound beds.

I keep coming back to it time and time again because I’m always hearing something a little different each time. There’s not really any sort of comparison I can make for it from anywhere. Listen to “In My View” for some burnout balladry, the buzzing aria of “Lord” or the narcotic daze of “Wow”. It all changes from song to song and it couldn’t come from anywhere else. Don’t sit on this record or this group. It’s an excellent record which centers them on the cusp of greatness. They’re building a hell of a case for it.



Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour

Let’s get it out of the way: Believe the hype. All of Kacey Musgraves’s records are the real deal – slices of contemporary country that don’t sound like shit and hint at something greater and more progressive. Hint no more. Golden Hour is Musgraves best and most fully realized record, one that transcends country, or any genre really, with the focus on crystalline songwriting, gorgeous arrangements and something entirely different with the startling disco bump of “High Horse”. It’s the defining career achievement of which there are already many moments that have had that mantle previously. Just don’t waste any more time not listening to it.

Wye Oak – The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs

Wye Oak have never made the same record twice, and on The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs, it’s not about to change. Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack grow by leaps and bounds on each release, and this, their first proper studio album since 2014’s Shriek has them taking the synth heavy sounds of that record and Wasner’s excellent Flock of Dimes side project and bridging that with the hypnotic drum and guitars found on 2011’s classic Civilian in a way that sounds panoramic. “Lifer” sounds like a conservative synth track before it blows wide open into Wasner’s gargantuan guitar solo, while “Symmetry” sounds like a track from an 80’s action flick doused in nightmare fuel and lit ablaze. Wye Oak always make records worth checking out. Dig right in and stay for a while. This one is damn near untouchable.

What I’m Listening To: February 2018

Lucy Dacus – Historian

I first heard about Lucy Dacus the way a lot of people hear about new bands: from the playlist of the 2016 VP-nominee, Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia. Seriously. He included her song “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore” on a streaming playlist. Turns out his daughter is friends with Dacus. Obligatory next door neighborly plug it wasn’t: Dacus’s 2016 debut No Burden is seriously great. Historian is even better.

The Richmond based singer-songwriter builds on the confidence and songcraft of her debut by re-teaming with producer Collin Pastore, which was then mixed with John Congleton, who is known for his work with St. Vincent, among others. The result is a record that feels weightier and enveloping in sound opposed to the lo-fi sounds of No Burden. Dacus is 22, but the rich tone of her voice begets a singer whose doing it much longer. From the chugging opener “Night Shift,” a classic breakup song – “You got a 9 to 5, so I’ll take the night shift/And I’ll never see you again if I can help it/In five years I hope the songs feel like covers/Dedicated to new lovers” the sweeping, gorgeous “Body to Flame” and pop bite of “Next of Kin” – “I am at peace with my death/I can go back to bed”. It’s a career defining collection that’s worthier than the words written here, or like she says on “Addictions” – “invest your time in what’s worthwhile”. Historian might be the album of the year.

Titus Andronicus – A Productive Cough

If you’ve followed Titus Andronicus for a few record cycles, you know they tend to work on an odd-even structure: They start with a relatively straightforward rock record (2008’s The Airing of Grievances) coupled by an ambitious high concept record (2010’s all-timer The Monitor). Repeat with 2012’s Local Business and follow it up with the even more ambitious The Most Lamentable Tragedy, released in 2015. The band’s latest A Productive Cough seems like the most personal record yet from Patrick Stickles, something that plays less like a shambolic punk collection and more like “Exile on the New Jersey Turnpike”. “Number One (In New York)” is a bombastic opener that never really crests, while “Real Talk” feels a lot like the Stones “Rip This Joint”. “Crass Tattoo” pretty much eschews Stickles’s vocal, instead, sung by Megg Farrell who brings the house down. There’s also a really fun cover of “Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan that Stickles changes the tense to first person. It’s totally unnecessary, but what really is here? Ultimately, it’s a minor work in the Titus canon that will have its fans and detractors.

Caleb Caudle – Crushed Coins

If you haven’t heard Caleb Caudle yet, start here. The North Carolina native has been making records for years, but on his eighth, Crushed Coins, his classicist country voice bends to explore different genres. Whether it’s the Laurel Canyon expanse of “NYC in the Rain” or the 60’s psych elements of “Empty Arms,” Caudle winds them together with ease. Guided by the steady hand of producer Jon Ashley, Caudle’s made his best record yet. There’s so many great moments, but the stripped down acoustic ballad “Until It’s Over”, is probably the sweetest. “There’s a light inside of her/cuts through my darkness/steals away these broken blues/punch for punch I’ve got an honest love/it’s true,” Caudle sings. He nails the words exactly. Way to put the rest of us to shame, dude.

Also check out

Screaming Females – All at Once
Turnstile – Time & Space
Camp Cope – How to Socialise & Make Friends

Superchunk’s What a Time to Be Alive Handles the Turbulence with Confidence

The world feels like it’s coming apart at the seams, some new scandal or piece of terrible news hits daily, or sometimes with even more frequency. It takes more effort to simply keep up than it does just to be able to digest the news. The result is mind numbing. Then you look to find respite from these things. There’s music. Superchunk knows this well, and somehow they found a way to channel the rage and anxiety of this turbulent time in history into their 11th album, the sardonically titled What a Time To be Alive.

Since the band’s return to recording at the top of the decade after taking most of the ’00’s off, 2010’s Majesty Shredding reintroduced listeners to Superchunk as a punk band with power-pop leanings, but imbued with an immediacy that at times make them sound like a different band from their earlier years. This continues on the album’s opener, the title track, a cascading ripper which pretty much puts this administration in the crosshairs – “There’s a crooked line that runs/through every crease in this map/and you want to take us all the way back” singer/guitarist Mac McCaughan sings. There’s virtriol in his voice – by the time the chorus hits “the scum, the shame, the fucking lies/oh what a time to be alive”, there’s barely a moment to catch your breath.

Just as that song halts, the punk stomp of “Lost My Brain” begins. McCaughan echoes the sentiment felt by so many pretty early – “I surrendered to the flow of shit/I gave up all my all my sleep/and I didn’t learn anything from it”. It’s a sobering lyric, but the rhythm section of bassist Laura Ballance and drummer Jon Wurster are pummeling, keeping the band buoyant despite the desperation of the lyric. If it already wasn’t clear,”Lost My Brain” makes it crystal – this is an album about trying to make it day by day living under the Trump administration.

Yet, the record is hardly downcast. McCaughan is pissed, but many of the album’s angry statements are filtered through classic Superchunk – the hooky as hell earworm “Bad Choices” with guitarist Jim Wilbur’s zig-zag leads and the similarly catchy “Dead Photographers”. Among these is the soaring standout “Erasure,” which is like a Merge Records roster showcase with Katie Crutchfield of Waxahatchee and Stephin Merritt of The Magnetic Fields guest on background vocals. What these songs all have in common is that Quicksilver energy and pitch perfect execution of a band who has played together for decades.

Perhaps that is what makes What a Time to be Alive a great record. Nearly thirty years in, Superchunk are not only still making music, but they’ve made a vital record that rivals even their classic material. It’s a near impossible task, yet they keep accomplishing it time and time again. Now, during a time where getting up every day means feeling like you have to brace yourself for something terrible, there’s a record that comes out swinging in the face of that ugliness. It’s an album referencing a time and a place that somehow feels timeless. Superchunk’s exuberance and confidence in pushing forward is a good example that everyone can learn from.

What a Time to Be Alive is out February 16 on Merge.

Top Albums and Tracks of 2017

For someone who consumes a lot of music, I’m usually pretty late to the party on a lot of things, so it’s always hard for me to compile a year-end list. I’m giving it a go this year because I think there’s been a lot of important work done – not to mention some certifiable bangers coming out.

1. Daddy Issues – Deep Dream
I would start this out by noting that 2017 was a rough year for women, but that’s not true – it hasn’t been any more awful than previous years. The only difference is that this year we’re talking about it. Nashville power-trio Daddy Issues’ debut full-length Deep Dream is my album of the year because not only is it well-crafted, catchy grunge with lyrical context that has been sorely missing from women in rock, but also because their take-no-shit attitude is refreshing in an industry that has long told us to sit still and look pretty. (Or shut up and sing, if you’re a Dixie Chicks fan.)

It’s awesome to not only discover such angsty, grungey music being made by powerful women this year, but they’re also young, and I can’t wait to hear what they have for us next.

Best Song: Emily Maxwell’s “I’m Not,” written about her assault trauma and played by me ad nauseum this summer as I worked through the same.

2. Cayetana – New Kind of Normal
Without Daddy Issues, I never would have found Cayetana. Early in the year I tweeted, soliciting songs that people listen to when they need some cheering up, and Bass Jenna suggested “Am I Dead Yet?” by Cayetana. And boy, did this record hit me right where I needed it. I’ve been open about my own mental health struggles and search to feel “normal” for most of my adulthood, and this album hits the nail on the head. “Am I Dead Yet?” echoes exactly the thoughts I have when I’m in a depression pit, “Grumpy’s” encapsulates the anxieties I’ve long had around dating (“was I your friend or your drinking buddy, your first call or the understudy?”) and “Mesa” looks back on a relationship that had potential but ended. It’s a realistic look at what it’s like to be a woman trying to navigate mental illness and living the life you want.

Cayetana is hands down my favorite discovery of the year, and I am so lucky that I got to see them play. Highly recommend checking them out – they were very sweet as I almost fell over myself fangirling them as well.

Best Song: “Am I Dead Yet?” and “Grumpy’s”

3. Craig Finn – We All Want the Same Things
No surprise that Craig’s third solo album ranks highly on my list, so I won’t drone on about it for too long. It’s an amazing album with more instrumental depth than previous records (that flute though) and continues his tradition of being one of the best writers in the game.

Best Song: “Birds Trapped at the Airport”

3. Cory Branan – Adios
I never thought there would be a year where a Cory Branan record would land so far down my “best albums” list, but here we all are. When I saw Cory play last summer, he said that the new album was his “death” record – and I immediately perked up. For me, his dark songs (“Survivor Blues” and “Hold Me Down” from MUTT, specifically) have always been where his writing shines, so I went into Adios with high hopes. It delivered.

Sonically, it’s very diverse – from the 80’s synth of “Visiting Hours” to the southern blues take on “Walls, MS” or “Cold Blue Moonlight”‘s waltz – but it all fits together well. “The Vow” is some of his most personal songwriting, a tribute to his late dad that his wife finally convinced him to record, and the killer-cop song “Another Nightmare in America” that floored me the first time I heard it (and continues to affect me on every listen.) He brought back a track from an old Jon Snodgrass split with “Yeah So What?” and I’m taking that as a personal victory after years of shouting to hear it live.

Best Song: “Visiting Hours”

4. Kesha – Rainbow
Thank you, Saint Kesha.

When she dropped “Praying” out of nowhere, I think everyone in a ten-mile radius heard my shrieks of excitement and subsequent sobs after listening to it on repeat for a few hours. Her very public sexual assault trial against Dr. Luke (and the treatment and reaction of the label afterward) was perhaps the first time a lot of people were hearing about sexual misconduct in the music industry and as a precursor to #MeToo, her career stagnated as she wrestled with getting out from under working with and for her abuser. It’s impossible to listen to “Praying” and hear it as anything but an anthem for survivors.

Rainbow is still full of the traditional Kesha-style bangers: “Woman”, “Learn to Let It Go,” and “Bastards” are all empowerment anthems to dance around your room in the style of her past albums – but with a little more substance.

Best Song: “Praying”

5. The Menzingers – After the Party
True to form, I was a bit late to the Menzingers party. A few years ago a friend played them during a drive around Nashville and passed me the CD when I said I liked it, but I never listened to it again. Late last year when I heard “Lookers” for the first time, I immediately got on board. I turned 30 this year, so the album’s theme of “aging punks” does feel just a little on the nose, but I don’t mind a little pandering in my music.

(And I love being Midwestern, so anything that pays tribute to my great nation helps hold some weight for me.)

Best Song: “Lookers”

6. Chris Gethard – Career Suicide
This isn’t the type of album most people would expect to see here, but this was the Year of The Geth for me. For the uninitiated, Chris Gethard is a comedian and host of The Chris Gethard Show now on truTV, occasional actor, pro wrestling fan, and very outspoken about mental health. His stand-up special from last year, Career Suicide, is so named because he tracks back his illness, starting from when he was first starting to realize that something was wrong and that having suicidal thoughts wasn’t normal, and tracking through diagnoses, addiction, prescriptions and side effects, and how to start feeling better.

The special is available on Hulu, and I can’t recommend it highly enough (with the suggestion that it’s maybe best viewed on a Good Mental Health day.)

7. Japandroids – Near to the Wild Heart of Life
Another band I was late to the train on, it took me a long time to get into them – and it wasn’t actually until I saw them live that my mind was changed. I love how big the guitars are, I love the energy of the live show, and the sing-along choruses on songs like “North South East West.” (Plus I love geography songs, so that’s really just hitting me where I live.) The shift in “Arc of Bar” gives a nearly-8 minute song a refreshing shift in tone, and “No Known Drink or Drug” is a great album closer, and one of the year’s most romantic rock songs.

Best Song: “North South East West”

8. Paper Tiger – In Other Words
If you’ve been around me for longer than five minutes, you will have heard the following words come out of my mouth: The Hold Steady, Daddy Issues, Cory Branan, Doomtree. Paper Tiger’s In Other Words was released this year, a full album version of four four-song EPs he put out over the course of a year. The first installment came out last year on the day Prince died, and while everyone else was blaring through his catalog, I was lost in In Other Words, Pt. 1. I described it as “musical Xanax,” and Paper Tiger continues his streak of releases that always make my year-end list.

Best Song: “Light Music”

9. Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit – The Nashville Sound
Potential controversial opinion: I think Jason Isbell is much better when he’s playing with the 400 Unit than his solo releases. While I take issue with the sequencing of The Nashville Sound (how do you not open with a song like “Anxiety”?) it’s a great Nashville rock album… and yes, I probably did just invent that genre.

Best Song: “Anxiety”

10. Penny and Sparrow – Wendigo
I discovered Penny and Sparrow a few years ago and their sparse, literary songs really resonated with me. 2017’s Wendigo sees them continue on with their tributes to Les Miserables and explore more complex musical compositions. It’s perfect music for cozy winter nights, so let Andy Baxter and Kyle Jahnke soothe your winter blues.

Best Song: “Smitten Pt. 2”

Favorite Songs: