Entertainment has become a useful tool for passing the increasing amount of days spent stuck inside during the COVID-19 pandemic. Television shows, podcasts and livestream concerts have rescued us time and time again from the boredom of six months of social distancing.
With everyone stuck at home for another semester, sometimes the best escape from reality is dancing in your living room — so The Phoenix compiled a list of music releases you may have missed in the last few months.
Bartees Strange – “Mustang” and “Boomer”
The newest singles from Bartees Strange cap off a string of 10 releases from the artist that started six months ago with his debut EP of The National covers. A fan of The National throughout his career, Strange makes a point to reimagine the band’s alternative sound through the music he had been surrounded by at different points in his life — including jubilee, techno, country and hardcore.
However, “Mustang” and “Boomer” — original singles for his new album — stand out amongst the rest of his seemingly ever-growing discography with an energy only hinted at by his earlier release “HAGS.” With his full-length album “Live Forever” releasing October 2, Bartees Strange is an artist to catch up with and keep a close eye on.
Rina Sawayama – “SAWAYAMA”
Rina Sawayama’s debut album is a bold take on many of the pop elements that have elevated the likes of Ariana Grande and other recent festival headliners. The tracks vary greatly, with the album featuring both songs including “XS” — a pop-heavy song with accents of metal guitar — as well as “STFU!,” which is nu-metal track through-and-through.
The influence of Evanescence and other artists from the early 2000s are apparent, though she’s able to retain her own unique sound throughout. There is no doubt this Japanese-British singer/songwriter would be a fitting contender for the next Lollapalooza — or Riot Fest — whenever that may be.
Retirement Party – “Runaway Dog”
The second album from Chicago rockers Retirement Party came out in May, nearly two years after they came onto the scene with their first record. The band has grown from the explosive, angst-filled sound of their debut album to a more filtered chaos. “Fire Blanket” is the best example of their refined edge — an angry message to a selfish friend told through frantic drums and wandering guitar leads, an homage to the sound of their previous record.
The second to last track, “Afterthought,” is the complete opposite — a contemplative song with a mid-track peak that’s more representative of their new sound. Retirement Party’s latest release comes with an air of confidence curated by experience and time on the road, evidence of their growth since they broke onto the scene in 2017.
Backxwash – “God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out of It”
Backxwash’s most recent release crosses genres and generations to create a dark album that explores her relationship with faith and home. Samples of Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin make appearances during the sludgy, dragging beats that are almost reminiscent of grunge.
In spite of the cacophony of genres displayed on the record, her rap style is always front and center. Slower portions of the album — best described as brooding — eventually blow up into overpowering bass backing up her in-your-face style of rapping. “God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out of It” solidifies Backxwash’s intensity while expanding on the murky, creeping backgrounds of her previous album.
Illuminati Hotties – “FREE I.H: This Is Not The One You’ve Been Waiting For”
Despite a global pandemic and issues with their former label, the California-based band Illuminati Hotties managed to put out a mixtape. The indie pop group made a bold diversion from their usual sound in exchange for one closer to punk, with Sarah Tudzin — the mind behind the group — funnelling her disdain for her former label into the record.
On the album’s centerpiece “free dumb,” she sings “While the world burns / How could you care about a fucking record.” Each of the 12 diss tracks comes in rapid succession, with tracks rarely lasting more than two minutes, though the intensity of the songs can make them feel much larger.
Dogleg – “Melee”
The highly anticipated debut record from Michigan’s post-hardcore kings finally came just as everything began to shut down. The two singles “Fox” and “Kawasaki Backflip” set the tone for the album that was to come, its intensity being set permanently to 11 from the first track.
Throughout the album, drummer Jacob Hanlon’s fills hang in the air momentarily before they crash-land into another one of lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Alex Stoitsiadis’ choruses. While the band didn’t make it to Chicago on tour with Microwave or at Pitchfork Festival due to the pandemic, they did release three music videos over the course of the last year — including one inspired by “Clerks” — and a series of live performances that are sure to provide a few hours of entertainment.
Backwash’s “God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out of It” is available for streaming on Bandcamp while the rest are available for streaming on Spotify and other streaming services.
Click here to check out the “Music You May Have Missed In Quarantine” playlist curated by Phoenix editors.