One of the best parts about my time living in a DIY punk house was being able to see a ton of bands before they “make it big.” Over the course of the four years I’ve been involved in the space, I have seen some incredible bands come through my former basement, and every once in a while I am completely blown away by a performer. To that end, my friends like to poke fun of the face I make when I am impressed by a band, and I can’t really blame them: The face they’re talking about is usually just a big fat grin that you can spot from a mile away.
As a teenager, I played in a DIY punk band, so I am able to bring to the table a unique understanding of the difficulties of playing in an independent band in a digital market flooded with bands on Bandcamp and Soundcloud. That’s the reason I spend quite a bit of my time working with some of the bands that blew me away in that basement, helping them bring their music into the world and putting the songs into the hands of people that I know will dig it.
As such, I am very excited to have collected a few records and EPs that might have flown under the radar of the collective indie rock hivemind, presented for your listening pleasure below.
10. Daymoon, Strange Ranger
It’s hard to pin down the sound of Strange Ranger in one succinct “genre.” Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, each of Daymoon‘s fifteen tracks somehow sounds completely different, ranging from lo-fi pop to alternative, indie rock. The result is a record that is uniquely compelling, at the same time sounding familiar and entirely original. Strange Ranger have accumulated a great following over the last year since the release of their debut Rot Forever, in part thanks to consistent touring, but mostly because of the ever-evolving sonic landscapes they bring to the table.
The interlude “Doggies,” for example, features a sparse, but dramatic piano line intercut with sounds of dogs barking. Sure, this is a concept that sounds ridiculous, but it is somehow executed in a way that perfectly evokes the perfect setting for consumption of this record: A suburban bedroom surrounded by deafening silence interrupted by, well, normal sounds. This is not to say that Daymoon is comprised entirely of animal noises; a track like “Sophie,” on the other hand, is a perfectly crafted lo-fi pop song, while “Subaru” is one of the heaviest (and shortest) songs on the record. Stream Daymoon here.
9. Burst & Decay (An Acoustic EP), The Wonder Years
For most bands, an acoustic EP would just mean replacing electric guitars with acoustics. The Wonder Years, on the other hand, took the time to revisit the song’s arrangements as a whole for the Burst & Decay EP, allowing them to translate their hard-hitting punk sound to something a little less chaotic, focusing on melodies instead of catharsis. It’s with this project that the band has allowed themselves to step further outside the boundaries set by their classification as a pop-punk band, and once again craft a release that appropriately reflects the changes in their lives as they begin to settle into the arms of full-fledged “adult life.”
Burst & Decay takes its name from a line in the EP’s closing track, a reimagined version of No Closer To Heaven‘s “You In January,” the first true love song that the band has penned. It’s an experimental way to end an experimental project, and it pays off wonderfully. Placed in context at the tail-end of tracks plucked from the band’s string of three near-perfect LPs rooted in themes of existential dread and manic depression, “You In January” shines as a glimmer of hope, a sign that things truly can get better. Stream Burst & Decay (An Acoustic EP) here.
8. I Love My F**king Pets EP, COMPs
Short but sweet, COMPs’ four-song EP was crafted in a Michigan bedroom. However, despite the limitations of solo bedroom production, Geoffrey Webb was able to piece together some incredible hooks and beautiful guitar-driven pop songs. It’s a collection of very basic tracks revolving around programmed drums, but is nonetheless exceptionally captivating and serves as a testament to the power of the bedroom recording.
From the first seconds of “Lil 1,” each song on this quick EP is instantly lovable. The lo-fi nature feels very intentional, and Webb’s ability to harmonize with himself makes this release a special one. The highlight of I Love My F**king Pets comes with the closing “Fast Hands,” a wonderfully-constructed folky pop track that sees Webb narrativizing his internal monologues when meeting new people, unable to move past the warmth of their handshake. “Remember be kind,” Webb tells himself in the first post-chorus refrain. “It’s easy to miss out on all the good times.” Stream I Love My F**king Pets here.