When I was approached by Mustang News to write an article about music — anything about music — my head almost imploded. This was like asking Guy Fieri to write an article about his favorite sources of trans-fats or Cookie Monster to wax poetic on the joy that is the chocolate chip cookie.
Once my kid-in-a-candy-store mentality waned, I decided to write about four albums released this year I have greatly enjoyed. So kick back, put one of these beauties on the turntable and always keep it to the left.
The Hive Dwellers, Moanin’
Personal bias be damned. So what if Calvin Johnson — lead Dweller, former Beat Happening front boy and founder of K Records — is one of my heroes in life? So what if on a recent trip to San Luis Obispo, the Hive Dwellers stayed at my house where we ate pizza, played with a Ouija board and watched “Big Trouble in Little China?”
This album is still a great collection of songs ranging from sweet and candid to somewhat nonsensical. Johnson reminisces about past love on “Love Will Come Back Again” — a song that originally dates back to 1999. He sings fondly about his hometown on “Streets of Olympia Town.” Who knows what the heck “Lynch the Swan” is about, but it’s great.
The backdrops to these songs are rooted in throwback sounds; the twang of hillbilly slide guitar, funky Motown bass lines, ’60s mod drum beats and more. This record is great for riding bikes, eating pie or just lounging in the sun.
Allison Crutchfield, Lean In To It
On the Swearin’ frontwoman’s first solo release, she trades in her typical garage-laced overdrive and pop-punk exuberance for bedroom jams composed primarily on piano. Joined by Sam from Radiator Hospital, these songs are filled out with simple arrangements — some guitar, maybe a drum machine and plenty of tape hiss.
The subject matter, like the music, is also more personal than Crutchfield’s band Swearin’. A fallen relationship is lamented on “You,” another implied on “CC.” Have you ever been distraught or saddened by romantic rejection? Listen to “Rose Knows,” and suddenly that rejection will make sense — and you may even be okay with it.
I wouldn’t say this EP is better than her work with Swearin’; the two are distinctly different. One is a rowdy night of drinking with your best buds and the other is an intimate evening with your significant other — both great for different reasons. I’m just thankful this record won’t ever break up with me.
Pharmakon, Bestial Burden
Last year, right before embarking on a European tour, it was discovered that Margaret Chardiet, who performs under the moniker “Pharmakon,” had a malignant cyst so large it almost caused organ failure. Out of the hellish surgery and recovery, this album was born. It is an album of the body for our most primal feelings, and it shows.
On the track “Intent or Instinct,” an industrial grind loops for a few minutes until around the three-minute mark, when a guttural shriek that hardly sounds human pierces through the drone. Another track, “Primitive Struggle,” is what you’d expect: two minutes of coughing and spitting — a body betrayed.
However, don’t let this turn you off. It’s merely a facet of life as an animal, which humans are. The album ends with the title track, the most traditional “song” in Pharmakon’s catalog. Chardiet opts to sing instead of growl; however, her singing is arguably more unnerving. She chants “I don’t belong here” like a nursery rhyme over more heavy electric drone and bursts of maniacal laughter. Give this album a spin and let your inner beast out.
Andy Stott, Faith In Strangers
Electronic music maven Andy Stott has been making and releasing music for almost an entire decade. While his usual sound is still present — heavy dub-style bass mixed with light vocal clippings and an icy overall vibe — Stott applies it to various styles within the electronic music genre with great results.
“Violence,” the first track released, is a trap banger conceived on the ice planet Hoth. “Damage” is a fine piece of UK garage meets wonky electro constructed with machine gun percussion and a dissonant edge. The title track has bass-synth interplay that is, dare I say, warm — the exact opposite feel of most Stott tracks. Even though “Faith in Strangers” won’t officially be released until mid-November, this one is well worth the wait.