The RX is Uproxx Music’s stamp of approval for the best albums, songs, and music stories throughout the year. Inclusion in this category is the highest distinction we can bestow, and signals the most important music being released throughout the year. The RX is the music you need, right now.
Whether or not there is actually more music than ever in 2018, it sure feels that way. Thank the internet and streaming and home recording software for all of that. But maybe the strangest part of our current music-rich climate is how little of it marches to the beat of its own drum. Where some stands out due to its quality, there are likely countless of imitators standing faithfully in the wings. Genre becomes less of a helpful classifier than a necessary sorting point for fans to siphon through their options. If a band doesn’t have a peg to a trend, it’s hard to tell if they even exist.
But in a world where Ty Segall is in 25 indiscernible bands at a time and the tipping point on post-punk has long been reached, sometimes artists emerge that sound unstuck in time. They might lack an aesthetic that could easily be deemed as commercially viable, but they are more concerned with parsing through eclectic influences that don’t fall under the banner of the traditionally cool. And that’s what makes the debut album from The Love-Birds feel so special.
Based in San Francisco, The Love-Birds hardly had any buzz when they first appeared on my radar, thanks to a Stereogum write-up of their single, “Hit My Head.” In that post, the great Chris DeVille notes the difference between The Love-Birds and other bands who take a cue from jangly ’70s rock, saying “many bands of that ilk are retro-fetishist bullshit artists, but The Love-Birds actually belong in a lineage with their heroes.” It’s a bold statement for a band unleashing their first album, but he taps into something that feels true when listening. The Love-Birds aren’t trying to capitalize on a sound or transport its audience to a sense of nostalgia. They are performing in a language that is as natural as drinking water. Their musical influences are in fact their heritage.
Formed in 2016, the Bay Area four-piece comes out of an area that has been very public about the struggles that its art scene continually faces, with musicians frequently leaving the area in search of more affordable living. But the DIY scene and music community of San Francisco is still a vibrant and exciting place, and when a band like The Love-Birds rises above the city’s endless cloud cover, it feels like a major accomplishment. The fact that The Love-Birds share a love for warm 12-string guitar hooks with another California avian band, The Byrds, seems to mostly be a coincidence, but it’s hard to separate the way the songs float and soar from the feathered connotations that the band name evokes. If you really want your band to fly, you better make sure it has wings.
And boy do these songs fly. Opener “Again” finds singer Thomas Rubenstein sounding like Conor Oberst on one of his less tortured days, raw and shaken but still in control of his own emotions. There’s a breezy, gentleness to the song that isn’t necessarily indicative of the whole album, but is certainly a strong tool in the band’s repertoire. When the band does get a little messier and revved up — the particularly ’90s indie crunch of “Hit My Head,” the refined garage rock of “Gerrit” whose video is debuting below — it doesn’t lose an ounce of its tunefulness.