Girl Friday is Los Angeles’ latest musical endeavor to ring out throw the hollow city to offer up something that’s quite captivating to say the least. Made up of Vera Ellen and Libby Hsieh, the duo shares its latest offering with the double A-sided, digital single (Hardly Art Records.) First up is the keyboard/electronically driven “I’m Impossible,” a beautiful track that moves at a mid-tempo, with gorgeous, lingering vocals that hang over the musical backdrop, like angels sheltering listeners from all that’s wicked and unbeneficial to one’s soul. Yes, just like that. “You’re Getting a Dog,” well, this one travels back in time for something a bit more kitschy, with an 80s-like drumbeat & keyboards manifested out of a John Hughes film. But it’s the harmony that makes the track palpable. I’m in, but I’m not. Then again, I’m in…but I’m not.
To say that Thought Leaders is post-punk is probably an understatement. The four-man group is the epitome of what that tagline probably truly is. For some, being pigeonholed could be a kiss of death, only requiring a signature on that certificate, but for the Bay Area outfit, that’s not the case. Not by a longshot. The band just released its debut full-length In Wastelands (King Of Sticks Records), make no excuses or shy away from influences. Of course, the band takes from decades past and has allowed music to sear itself within their respective craniums, but that’s ok. Thought Leaders give a perfunctory nod to them and allow the songs to spew forth in all their glory.
The music throughout In Wastelands isn’t for mass marketing consumption but more so for those with an acquired taste for savagery in sound. That’s what we seem to have here and listening to this, the band’s forefathers would be proud. I’m drawn to a number of things here but I always seem to circle back to “Burning Glass,” with an unrelenting bass groove that Tyler Cox seems to channel the ghost of Paul Raven as Ville V howls around as a madman possessed. It’s astounding! Kirk Snedeker is comfortable with his role here in the background, providing drums at a distance while guitarist Andrew Lund wraps guitar notes and lines all around the track in an attempt to wrangle in the beast…or have it ready for an attack. It all seems to work. This is followed by “Jane Doe’s Estate,” a frantic number where the band congeals instruments together seamlessly, and here, they play a bit with dynamics and harmonies. The song itself is intense, with bombast that’s sure to leave listeners with a healthy dose of tinnitus.
Thought Leaders never move in a linear motion though, changing things up ever so slightly to keep us interested. “Shallows” is far removed from Lady Gaga, as instruments slowly build around Lund’s guitar & keyboard as Snedeker’s tribalistic drums can’t be ignored. The band moves full throttle here with punctuation marks every so often. It’s compelling, all the while entertaining with malice & venom. The band closes with “Saturday Night Leave,” one of its catchier numbers and while Lund doesn’t imitate Geordie Walker, the similarities can’t be ignored. That is unless you listen to more of Ville V’s howled vocal display showcasing his range here with higher notes that are fitting.
Where does this leave us in the scope of things? Well, I assumed that was obvious because the music Thought Leaders put together here is uncanny. In Wastelands puts on full display the band’s love of darker imagery & timbres. It succeeds in getting its point across. And then some.
Occasionally, things come from the most unlikely of places. I’m never once to create false narratives and insinuate I know more than the next person but if I do, it’s just coincidence or happenstance, pick one. Just out today is Jeweler’s Loop (Filthy Broke Recordings), the new album from San Francisco’s Diamond Lung. This isn’t the duo’s first go around, as if follows up 2017’s When Did Everybody Learn To Fly? and if there’s anything we can all get from the duo’s new album, it’s to be able to move backward and pick up their last joint, and possibly some of their other albums.
Diamond Lung is made up of beatmaker/producer Brycon and lyricist Lightbulb. Sure they’ve played and recorded with an assortment of familiar names (Murs, Awol One) but that’s neither here nor there because Jeweler’s Loop has collaborations with artists that may be lesser-known but lacking absolutely nothing in talent. Brycon & Lightbulb though, traverse landscapes of Hip-Hop classicisms, utilizing older Boom-Bap styles while remaining fully rooted in the present. They kick things with “From The End Of My Rope/Piano Lesson,” which offers up passionate lyricism coupled with hearty melodic beats that swivel and swerve all around Lightbulb’s words. “Donnybrook,” featuring Tilli Prego, walks a line of happy go luck, sampling instruments that are infectious and reminiscent in style & age to A Lighter Shade Of Brown’s “On A Sunday Afternoon.” Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, although Lightbulb could probably rhyme circles around ODM, and the music isn’t as flagrantly commercialized for radio play here. Tilli’s baritone adds flavoring to the track as well, cornering that melody and making it his own. But one track isn’t what they’re all about, there’s much more to be offered.
On “What’s The Plan?”, an odd recording, both Brycon and Lightbulb are off. That’s not in the sense that the track is poorly recorded, but Brycon creates a thunderous offbeat, one in which Lightbulb rides like lightning. To the layman, it may seem disjointed but it’s not, the two work it seamlessly. But there are other tracks that I’m engrossed in, like “The Secret Weapon,” which features fellow San Francisco emcee Dave Canal whose cadence & flow sounds weathered as if raised on 40s and east coast city jungles. While he may steal the spotlight over Brycon’s urban beats, Lightbulb doesn’t take a backseat here but Canal is captivating. This is exactly what I referred to earlier regarding these lesser-known artists, which continues with “What If U Slipped.” The track, featuring an assortment of guest appearances like Baghead, Dregs One, Jamie Zee & Professa Gabel, should be bound for classic play. The musical backdrop is sultry, bordering on Neo Soul as the collective rhyme & flow lazily, yet perfectly intertwining their words amongst one another.
Diamond Lung provides an unencumbered number of tracks that surpass expectations on Jeweler’s Loop and I think we’ve only scratched the surface here. The duo provides a tight release that’s loosely fitted for listeners that are fans of any genre or style. This isn’t easy to accomplish but Diamond Lung, yeah, they make it seem like it was.
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