We’re wrapped up in a time of instant gratification, and if that’s something you’re always in need of, San Francisco’s Hot Flash Heat Wave may not be the right fit for you. The band’s third full-length release, Sportswear, is a subtle expedition into its sound. With “Yesterday” the band eases into its sound with melodic keyboard notes and autotuned vocals that are captivating but ever so slight and slow. “2 Birds” picks up the pace, allowing the indie rock-isms to follow through here. There’s plenty of bounce and melody around the band’s delivery through its songwriting, which is sweet & tangy. “Grudge” though moves with powerful directness, made for radio play but it’s worth its weight in gold. The band offers a couple of different looks with its new album but it’s all worth the time to listen to.
The well is full. In actuality, there’s an overabundance of cheerful indie pop groups clawing their way through the muck and mire of what attempts to pass as underground or even “cutting edge,” a term that probably died out with the great Boomer exodus of New York City. There’s absurdity while also a fair amount of music that rises from the chaotic overflow of sewage, glistening from the majesty of the crowns they wear.
While The Districts formed in 2009 while still in high school back in Pennsylvania, the band has released only four albums, but the members have honed their collective skills for its fifth release, Great American Painting (Fat Possum). With its new release, the band plays with melodies that are unrelenting at every turn and simply refuse to hit the pause or off switch. Its opening “Revival Psalm” is fitted with dueling guitars, melding together as one as Rob Grote’s voice wavers around harmonizing with itself but keeping its melody steady throughout. You will not be able to listen to it only one time. Once you get past your fascination with it though, the infectious guitars & vocals of “No Blood” will have you entranced even before the dynamics shift slightly almost a minute in. Grote’s voice leads the band through the song as the shifting guitars follow its lead.
There’s a lot of drive in the band’s songs but it’s not the only way the group moves. The jangly 70s-inspired “Do It Over” is filled with cooing vocals, atmospheric guitars & rhythms and you can’t help but fall in love with Grote’s charismatic vocal delivery. And then it’s back to business as usual with “White Devil,” which may seem to move at a feverish pace, but instruments seem to be set to 11 for this hard-hitting rocker. It’s over the top but works in the band’s favor. But it’s on the airy “Outlaw Love” where The Districts showcase its diversity over a steady rhythm it builds around, including harmonies in the background and foreground. This is probably my favorite track on the album but that’s not to take away from any of the other songs here because those over-the-top guitar antics return, opening “Hover” and then calmly quieting down, strumming along to Grote’s warm embrace before the band crescendos back up again. Maybe I was too quick to pick a favorite but either way, you know.
Great American Painting is an astoundingly good recording, an album made for everyone, and anyone with great discerning taste. Things are looking up in 2022 and The Districts are at the forefront of it.
There are some groups and bands that some listeners have gushed over and frankly, I never thought they were that deserving of the accolades they’ve received. Except the Buzzcocks; say what you will about them, they deserve all the praise they receive. Not that anything I’m saying here has anything to do with anyone else. But groups have come and gone, and we’ve seen the influence they’ve had on other groups, in particular The Fall. Others have come around and placed their own identity of a sound they popularized. What the hell am I getting at? I’m rambling at this point.
2019’s Shiny New Model EP was a palatable release, a good offering but soon forgotten in a slew of album releases. And now, New York’s Bodega returns with the album, Broken Equipment (What’s Your Rupture?) and this time around, seems like the culminating effects the last couple of years has had an impact on the group. We’ll address the elephant in the room here and how Mark E. Smith’s influence is obvious, but vocalist/guitarist Ben Hozie isn’t a parrot to anyone’s pirate stance; his delivery overshadows many that came before him. With Broken Equipment, Bodega has found its way and whatever it was the group hinted at with previous releases, is fully realized with the sophomore full-length and we should just address that from the get-go. Both Hozie and Nikki Belfiglio share vocal duties within the group and its seamless. The rest of the band, guitarist Madion Velding-VanDam, bassist Adam See, and percussionist Tai Lee, all help see to that as well.
“Thrown” grabs your attention quickly with its mechanical movement and hypnotic rhythm as we get a sense of muted guitars notes as chords chime in. It’s difficult to ignore Hozie’s impactful voice, occasionally doubling for the harmonies, no matter how brief they are. The song’s bounce truly is reactionary, and you may find yourself dancing with the fervor of an 80s Molly Ringwald in a John Hughes film. This is the starting point when you understand that while the band may have any political ideology tossed within its lyrics, it’s not politicized. It seems to be a matter of fact. It seems the band is propelled by its rhythm, and “Doers” has that rhythm section has it tightly wound, with sirens blaring in the backdrop, guitar effects tossed around, but everything is pieced together with reason. The song is direct but disjointed at the same time. Seems things are fragmented underneath, but it doesn’t even matter when as a whole, it’s fantastic! “NYC (Disambiguation)” has a story-like quality breaking down New York and its creation, but it’s done with such ease, utilizing the band’s free-flowing melodies, it’s astounding.
One thing is certain here though, the chemistry Belfiglio & Hozie have volleying their deliveries with one another is clear. We hear it on the percussive drive of “No Blade Of Grass” as instruments play off of one another and guitar notes sway through the greenery. We can’t forget that Bodega is a punk band and “Statuette On The Console” makes it clear. The band rips through just a few chords with Belfiglio handling lead on this one, as they all move through it with singularity leaving just a small opening for lead dissonant guitar notes. And then there’s “How Can I Help YA?” where the band’s penchant for noisy pop antics is accentuated by lifting harmonies and revolving chords. You can’t help but just fall in love with the way the group’s compositions delicately intertwine everything its comfortable with.
For Broken Equipment, it seems Bodega has kicked the doors wide open, offering a healthy dose of pop culture through punk aesthetics, never losing its identity after breaking off the chains of the past few years. One of the best records this year? That’s a definitive “Hell Yes” from me.
Hardcore is a troubled beast. The style, the genre, is so fragmented with numerous subdivisions that it’s easier to just assimilate anyone and everyone under one general umbrella. This has been the way. If it’s loud and abrasive, chances are you’ll find it here, just ask the store clerk at your local record store instead of blindly walking through aisles of records and CDs.
It’s easy to understand how when one mentions Philadelphia’s gritty Soul Glo, the first thing that comes to mind is in fact hardcore, but the band is much more than that. On the group’s fourth full-length, Diaspora Problems (Epitaph), the band experiments, possibly more so than usual. The opening “Gold Chain Punk (whogonbeatmyass)” cleverly disguises the 20th Century Fox theme with a hit from a bong before the band plays with jangly, punk guitar chords as vocalist Pierce Jordan offers up rapid-fire lyricism, and honestly, you won’t give a shit’s damn what it is he’s singing about leaving no space to breathe. The band maneuvers through punk and hardcore here, with both infectious and staccato rhythms all within the same song but never at the same moment. It’s followed by the odd-beat of “Coming Correct Is Cheaper,” complete with Rob Base sample off “It Takes Two” before the melee ensues with a controlled chaotic freneticism that’s unrelenting. There are no pauses, just balls to walls tumultuous interplay between musicians and it’s sheer madness and amazing all at once.
Soul Glo doesn’t follow any clear blueprint of what it should do, it seems to create multiple annexes to get its point across. “Jump!! “(Or Get Jumped!!!)(By The Future)” seems to be one of the clearest tracks here as maniacal vocal delivers scream over paint-searing guitars, with an underlying rhythm that never seems to slow down. Nor should it. “Driponomics feat. Mother Maryrose” takes a different approach altogether. Soul Glo takes the same approach to Hip-Hop that it does with Hardcore: it throws out the draft and blends it into its own identity. GG Guerra’s bassline is the one constant, accentuated with programmed beats & noise. Jordan’s vocals are thoughtful and the title an obvious nod to the Reagan years but on a 2022 come up. Mother Maryrose a Philly native spitting bars along for the ride. She comes at it hard and holds her own. The band hits gold with this shit right here.
I can’t help but think Soul Glo truly is on that next level ish when “(Five Years And) My Family” hits. It shifts from spooky John Carpenter horror theme to a rocking indie aesthetic into a quick-paced hardcore 1-2, 1-2, 1-2, and the band never missteps. Soul Glo dips their feet back into Hip-Hop with “Spiritual Level Of Gang Shit feat. Mckinley Dixon and Lojii,” a throwback to blended heaviness & Hip-Hop of old circa Judgement Night, when bands got down with emcees, spawning one of the first collabs on a grand scale. But make no mistake, “Spiritual Level…,” this really is on a different plane altogether. The band includes horns highlighting their escapade and the blend as a whole, it’s like nothing you’ve ever heard before.
Soul Glo’s Diaspora Problems will probably leave you at a loss for words because the band is beyond description and one needs to take a good look inside to form their own opinion. Be warned though, Diaspora Problems is a beast of a different nature and once you go in, you may not be the same coming out.