Sometimes you can judge a garage rock album by its cover. Rock duo Japandroids have long opted for short, punchy album titles. The duo made their 2009 major label debut with the decisively named Post-Nothing, followed it up the next year with the similarly bold No Singles, a compilation of their limited-run EPs and then released Celebration Rock in 2012. Japandroids’ titles underscored their music: unadorned, fuzzed-out, straight-to-the-point rock tracks about Vancouver, traveling around and awkward love in your 20-somethings. As such, the title of the duo’s 2017 release — Near To The Wild Heart Of Life — signaled a change to longtime listeners.
Nine days remain until Joyce Manor release their fourth LP, Cody. In the six years since their 2010 Split with Summer Vacation, the pop-punk/emo quartet has matured in a familiar trajectory. The group toned down the blunt twenty-something angst of their 2011 self-titled debut, added in power-pop motifs and continued putting out unpretentious vignettes through 2012’s Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired and 2014’s Never Hungover Again. “Fake I.D.,” the first single off of Cody (slated for an October 7 release), resembled the Brit pop-inspired “Heated Swimming Pool” far more than any of the group’s latchkey SoCal musings. I freaked a little when I first heard it, to be honest.
No one is going to blame you if you spaced out for Green Day’s 2012 three-album, 37-song outpouring ¡Uno!, ¡Dos! and ¡Tré! The trilogy called into clear relief the inherent contradiction in the trio’s 2009 21st Century Breakdown. Green Day’s broad brush, lite manifesto take on politics was both far too milquetoast to seriously listen to as political punk, but too sincere and ideologically weighty to reward casual listening like fellow aging punks Descendents. The band kept 21st Century Breakdown and American Idiot’s big budget production and streamlined production for ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!
8:12 p.m.: We arrive in Buffalo. Jack bought a pass online that lets us park in a clearing under a bridge. A sign bolted to a cement support lists the rates — $75 daily maximum. It’s dark and we’re in a half-awake state from driving on Western New York backroads into fading light. 8:19 p.m.: We walk to the First Niagara Center.
PWR BTTM is a pretty unilateral band. A great and unashamedly unilateral band, but one-sided all the same. Frankly, there are only so many types of sounds a guitar-drum rock duo can concoct, and it’s not like PWR BTTM, even at their best, have been bounding through any boundaries, sonically. Ugly Cherries was remarkable more for what it was (a thrashing, vulnerable paean to queerness and what it can mean in all its iterations) than for how it sounded (pwr chords and pwr vocals that both, in turn, skidded from blared to whimpered with the click of a distortion pedal). As I heard it, their last album’s noises were auxiliary, secondary to and supporting the inescapable choruses, bleeding confessionals and brash, almost gaudy humor that stood at the top of the soundpile.
Before getting to “Fake I.D.,” let’s lay down some background on Joyce Manor. The California four-piece works in a grey area between emo and punk. Their lyrics skew far more often towards crypticness than the melodrama in their emo and pop-punk contemporaries’ work. Their songs are complicated, throbbing with raw energy and short: their four LPs all clock in at fewer than 20 minutes. The band’s 2011 self-titled debut posed a commitment to bile and pettiness that continued throughout their later releases.
If you haven’t seen Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster, you may be under the impression that it is a dark comedy about modern romance. At least, that’s how the movie’s social media accounts and many reviewers portray it. “Still haven’t seen the year’s wildest comedy?” asks a tweet in @LobsterFilm’s stream. An out-of-context gif of Ariane Labed twirling in the forest accompanies the post. This representation, bolstered by trailers that cut out any mention of the movie’s most disturbing aspects, needs to be corrected.
“Happy came to visit me, he brought cookies on the way.” Mitski softly spills out the words in a ghostly, vibrating mumble, over a quick, blasting automatic weapon-esque drum machine pulse on her single “Happy” — the second pre-released track from her forthcoming, sophomore sum, Puberty 2. The track is a beautiful mystery: a queer, sad, riddle of a song. The track recounts the memory of a visit from Happiness (who goes by male pronouns) who laid her down, told her it would all be okay, then vanishes while she’s in the bathroom, leaving a mess and reminders of the visit in his wake for the singer to clean up. In the song’s three brief verses, Mitski crystallizes the intoxication of happiness — the everythingness of small moments, the sun-filled room, cookies and tea with a lover — and the violent hangover of the come-down, the desperation to get it back. However, the most haunting emotion on the track, is Mitski’s apathy about the whole affair: that she is not heartbroken, screaming or crying: just a little bit sad, as she quietly cleans up the debris: “And I turned around to see/All the cookie wrappers/And the empty cups of tea/Well I signed and mumbled to myself/Again I have to clean.”
As it turns out, ambivalence about heartbreak is much sadder than heartbreak by itself.
Released with minimal hype by Electric Buffalo Records at the end of a blustery April, Resolve Yourself, the first release from Inspiraling (aka Gil Israel ’16), seems far divorced from landlocked Ithaca. The album occupies a beachy vein that tenuously falls under the surf-rock heading, but mostly rides its marriage of keyboards and hazy guitars into a nebulous realm. Few of Resolve Yourself’s tracks channel powerful momentum. Rather, they slowly drift along like musings from a lazy, sun-drenched afternoon. Resolve Yourself resembles early releases from slacker-rocker Mac DeMarco.
RAW EXPO can perhaps best be described as a gathering of creators and question-askers deconstructing barriers to collaboration. In the wide concrete dome of Milstein Hall, over 50 groups of and individual artists, publishers, engineers, developers, musicians, architects and people who came simply due to curiosity conversed and tested out products and processes. Simply put, a desire to create a fully interdisciplinary environment undergirds RAW EXPO. Now in its second year, RAW EXPO was hosted by and served as a kickoff for Medium Design Collective, a group of students that champions collaboration and design-oriented creation. Many members of ASSOCIATION, the group that organized RAW EXPO’s inauguration last year, remain in Medium.