Every month, Uproxx cultural critic Steven Hyden makes an unranked list of his favorite music-related items released during this period — songs, albums, books, films, you name it.
1. Destroyer, Labyrinthitis
The last we heard from Dan Bejar, it was early 2020 and he was touring behind a spooky and prescient Destroyer album, Have We Met. A sinister work rife with apocalyptic warnings about the future, the album hit almost too close to home when, just over one month after it was released, the world was forced to shut down due to Covid-19. If the Vancouver native earned some credibility as an oracle on the last Destroyer LP, his latest effort points in a more upbeat direction. While the lyrics contain some of the darkest lines of Bejar’s career — so dark that Bejar talks about “the singer” on this record in the third person — the music grooves hard, drawing on an unlikely but somehow compatible combination of influences drawn from techno and rave cultures as well as gloomily catchy ’80s English alt-rock bands like New Order and The Cure. It’s similar to the musical palettes utilized on Have We Met and 2017’s Ken — Bejar considers Labyrinthitis the concluding part of a trilogy with those records — but on the new album there’s a greater feeling of exuberance. It surely is the most danceable music Destroyer has yet made.
2. Nilüfer Yanya, Painless
This buzzy British singer-songwriter was a breakout artist back in 2019, thanks to an eclectic amalgam of influences suggesting that Yanya ultimately wants to fuse the slinky grace of Sade with the sort of chunky and lovably punk anthems associated with Blink-182 and Libertines. Her latest LP has been in constant rotation for me this month — I can’t decide if the manic Hail To The Thief-style electro-rock of “Stabilse” or the smoldering drum machine workout “Midnight Sun” is my favorite track. But I haven’t gotten sick yet of playing them over and over again as I try to figure it.
3. Wednesday, Mowing The Leaves Instead of Piling ‘Em Up
This North Carolina band is quickly becoming one of the fascinating roots-leaning indie acts. This new covers album speaks to their uncommon range and ambition — country legends Roger Miller and Gary Stewart commingle with The Wipers’ Greg Sage and Adore-era Smashing Pumpkins. (Finally some justice for “Perfect.”) But my favorite tracks meet somewhere in the middle of those poles — the garage-rock take on Drive-By Truckers’ “Women Without Whiskey” and the gorgeous meltdown of Chris Bell’s immortal “I Am The Cosmos,” which just might be my new favorite version of that classic.
Along with being a fan of their music — I’ve seen them three times, which qualifies me as a medium-devoted follower by obsessive listener standards — “the next great American jam band” Goose fascinates me as an observer of both the indie and jam scenes, and the invisible veil that separates those worlds. Goose in many ways signifies that divide, even as they are attempting to bridge it. Their forthcoming album due in June, Dripfield, presents a litmus test for how a band like Goose is perceived by the mainstream media. Recorded in March of 2021 in Woodstock, New York, it was produced by D. James Goodwin, whose previous credits include records by Kevin Morby, Craig Finn, Bonny Light Horsemen, Whitney, and jam scene O.G. Bob Weir. And the sonic touchstones fall squarely in that sort of company — Goose’s most obvious influences include legacy indie acts such as Bon Iver, Radiohead, Fleet Foxes, and Vampire Weekend. I normally don’t listen to jam bands for their studio work — even the Grateful Dead struggled to capture their live magic on wax. But Dripfield is a consistently engaging pop-psychedelic record, like a trippier Father Of The Bride. While it is technically Goose’s third studio LP, it feels like a proper debut, far outstripping its predecessors in terms of quality and ambition.
5. James Krivchenia, “The Science Of Imaginary Solutions”
The drummer for Big Thief took a lead role on the recent Dragon New Mountain I Believe In You as a producer. But on his own, he does the opposite of Big Thief. The forthcoming Blood Karaoke (due April 15) suggests that future BT shows might have a “Drums/Space” section. You can hear this on full display on this recent single from the album — it’s some of the most bonkers music you’ll hear this month, veering from aggressive dance music to apocalyptic explosions to new age meanderings and then back to body-stirring techno. Basically anything but the gentle and stirring folk-rock of his regular band.
6. Caracara, New Preoccupations
My favorite “shiny guitar” album of the moment. Produced by “shiny guitar” aficionado Will Yip, New Preoccuptions has been described by this Philly band as a druggy album about recovery, which you sense from the charged, blurred sonics and the scarred but hopeful lyrics. But, admittedly, my relationship with this record isn’t quite that deep. At the moment, I am preoccupied by how New Preoccuptions relentlessly targets my ’90s alt-rock pleasure centers. I refer specifically to the post-grunge half of the decade, when bands like Third Eye Blind and Matchbox Twenty shed the sludge and went straight for soaring hooks. There’s also a generous helping of Bleed American-era Jimmy Eat World here. (I know that came out in 2001 but that record capped the previous decade’s pop-rock epoch.)
7. Band Of Horses, Things Are Great
My favorite moment in any recent interview I’ve done occurred earlier this month when Ben Bridwell brought up a negative review I wrote for Band Of Horses’ Mirage Rock a decade ago. The moment was good-natured, though I think he enjoyed making me slightly uncomfortable. Of course, Bridwell himself isn’t all that crazy about Mirage Rock, which he can admit now that he’s made a much better record. Things Are Great is a conscious return to the brawny, vision-quest-y rock of Band Of Horses’ mid-aughts era, when they first roared to indie fame on the strength of their 2006 debut, Everything All The Time. Their next album, 2007’s Cease To Begin, continued their winning streak, spawning a hit, the affecting ballad “No One’s Gonna Love You.” The band’s output gets spottier after that, an outcome that the candid and self-effacing Bridwell blames on his own lack of self-confidence. Too often, he says, he’s let other people goad him into artistic decisions he didn’t fully believe in. But that’s changed with this latest record.
8. Guerilla Toss, Famously Alive
I stumped for this band in my January 2022 column, but now that their new album is finally out I want to make sure you don’t miss it. An indie band with jam band tendencies — they let fans tape their shows — Guerilla Toss make some of the most purely fun and funky music you’ll hear from this corner of the music world. Now that live music has returned to a state of semi-normalcy, the time seems right for a band like this to get clubs jumping again.
9. Foo Fighters, “Somebody To Love” (Live In Chile, 3/18/22)
That Taylor Hawkins’ death at the age of 50 was so shocking speaks to how stable the Foo Fighters have seemed for decades as one of the last remaining stadium-rock bands. The tragedy that unfolded this month mirrors Hawkins’ overdose and subsequent coma back in 2001, but the drummer had seemingly come so far over such a long period of time that there was no reason to expect that such a thing could ever happen again. Now what’s left is a feeling of profound sadness — for Hawkins’ family, friends, and bandmates — and sense of waste. Here was a talented musician and effervescent personality who appeared to have at least a few more decades ahead of him as a jet-setting rock star. In his final performance, you see how comfortably he seemed to fit into this role. At a time when the term “rock star” has been devalued to the point of near-irrelevance, here was a guy who looked and acted like a genuine, old world, mf’ing rock star. But there’s always another life that exists beyond the stage and our own limited comprehension.