Listening Diary 28
Second hand recommendations and club-ready movie scores
Good morning! I hope you had a pleasant weekend. Here are ten tunes that I recently enjoyed listening to. The first five, one a day for the working week, are free for all to hear and consider. The next five however are exclusively for my paying subscribers. For the full suite of tunes and other fun bonuses, subscribe now at $5 a month!
“A Winner Every Time” by Oxbow (The Narcotic Story, 2007)
I saw Oxbow live back in 2007 when they opened for Isis’s 15th anniversary tour and had no idea of what to make of their music or the confrontational performance style. I had them filed away as “a little too weird for me” for years until my friend Jonathan Mondragon encouraged me to give them another go the last time I was in Chicago. With fresh ears I can tell why I wasn’t ready for them back in the day, and predictably the same things that alienated me then are what interest me now. Seeing Oxbow before a crushingly loud band left me wishing they’d lay in a little harder, but now its clear to me that the softer moments, underscored by piano, are the real draw. Moreover you don’t need loud guitars when you have a singer as electrifying as Eugene Robinson, who sings as if he’s recording adlibs to a melody only he can hear.
“Megatron” by Chu Ishikawa (Tetsuo: The Iron Man, 1989)
Oliver of Bellows had a bunch of us over to watch Tetsuo: The Iron Man as part of his two-month long horror movie night build up to Halloween. Tetsuo is one of those movies so foundational to other stuff that I’m into (nu-metal, industrial music, cyberpunk in general) that I was certain I was going to have a great time, and to my pleasant lack of surprise I did have a great time. Also unsurprising: the music goes HARD. This cue from the climax and closing credits perfectly captures the frantic pace and clattering intensity of the movie. I spent the rest of the night drumming along to this track on my legs long after the movie wrapped up.
“Asleep At The Trigger” by Autolux (Future Perfect, 2004)
Another recommendation from Jonathan Mondragon, seconded by Cat Costa-Jones. I’d had the impression looking at the cult of Autolux from the outside that this was a very loud band but it turns out that they’re just a very cool one. Like a lot of the best indie rock from this era, Autolux sound very reserved and self-assured. Everything is bone dry and delivered with no excess emphasis. Very stylish and mature. I like the use of white noise as a texture, cool way to add dynamics without breaking a sweat on any of the “real” instruments.
“One, World, Wound” by Dabda (Yonder, 2023)
This track comes by way of recommendation from Ryo Miyauchi. Korean math rock. The kind of tune you expect to be instrumental, all interlocking instrumental lines building to a slow crescendo, until the gorgeous vocoded harmonies cut through in the second half. When Dabda finally do deliver the expected explosive payoff it’s all the sweeter for the melodic detour. Nasty drumming too.
“Turtle Thief” by PAS TASTA (GOOD POP, 2023)
Another Ryo rec. Try and say this band name out loud in a midwestern accent for some cheap amusement. What I dig about this track, and what it shares in common with the best hyper pop, is the total freedom of its arrangements. By de-emphasizing the lead vocal into one digitally altered texture among many, Pas Tasta bring all of the detail that usually gets hidden in the background of pop production into the spotlight. They’re clearly having a lot of fun playing the quiet parts loudly, switching the lead synth to a flute sound, arranging the second verse around acoustic guitar, and then throttling up to arena rock for the finish. This kind of fun is infectious.
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