New Music | Friday Roll Out: Jeff Rosenstock, Brain Damage, Sprain, Speedy Ortiz, Rashid Hadee x Thaione Davis

It’s been three years since the Los Angeles outfit Sprain released an album, As Lost Through Collision which was a pretty amazing display of sonics and melody. The band has just released its new The Lamb As Effigy (The Flesner) which opens with “Man Proposes, God Disposes.” It starts with a sea of strings leading into post-rock antics, with dueling guitar attacks and a stormy rhythm. In the seven minutes plus, we’re in for it now. But, the band eventually changes its direction into what seems like art-induced self-indulgence. “Privilege Of Being” for instance, warps and twists around guitar intonations, feedback, and prose. It may leave you scratching your head wondering where the group is heading. “We Think So Ill Of You,” is structured better and is understandably a beast of a song but I’m not sure if it makes up for the rest. The lengthier tracks at over twenty minutes, as I mentioned, seem to wallow in self-indulgence. Considering Sprain’s earlier output, I really wanted to enjoy this but alas, I can’t even force myself to listen again.

It happens. There are moments when two or more artists combine their skills & talent, usually resulting in powerful creations. Chicago’s Rashid Hadee x Thaione Davis are no strangers to one another, and have released an assortment of collaborations and yes, we always have to refer back to Still Hear, the one album that should always top the lists of classic albums. The two have joined forces once again but this time it’s for OTG // Off The Grid (Culture Power 45) where beats have been mined, 20 tracks in, without need for filler on any musical joint here. There’s an abundance to whet one’s appetite to, like “Chez Trugoy,” with its unconventional rhythm, or “The Fury Of A Patient Man,” which moves hypnotically throughout. Yeah, OTG is a pleasant surprise.

Founded by Columbus, OH’s Brian Baker – Brat Curse, DANA, Smug Brothers, and a whole assortment of other acts – Brain Damage makes art pop, and Previous Episodes is heavy on it and you should all be aware of it. “The Wheels Are In Motion” is filled with jangly guitars, slight on the distortion as the band lets everyone know their synth drive is sometimes underscoring its tracks. But it’s “Mind’s Eye” that let’s everyone know, they’re also heavy on the synth but rock out as well. It’s fun, it’s catchy, and full of melody.


Sometimes, it’s difficult to see/hear what others do. There’s no jumping on bandwagons if something doesn’t hit you in the face in the first place. And that’s what leads us to Speedy Ortiz, the band led by Sadie Dupuis, who has been releasing material since 2012. It’s not that Speedy Ortiz is a bad group, it’s just that the music has never had the power to assault the senses from the get-go. It could just be this lonely scribe’s opinion but the band has released its fourth full-length release, Rabbit Rabbit (Wax Nine) so it’s a do-or-die moment here.

There’s something here I couldn’t initially put my finger on but I think I see/hear something going on I hadn’t heard before and it begins with the opening “Kim Cattrall.” The song begins to maneuver in a direction that may seem to oddly place guitar melodies, but they begin to make sense, combined with Dupuis’ voice and it’s clear through the chorus, especially when she sings the overdubbed “Take his magic/don’t let me understand/that’s how I fuck up all my plans.” You don’t have to listen to it more than once to hear it but it’s surprisingly infectious and is stuck like Crazy Glue. That’s the recurring factor here, how Dupuis is able to create vibrant choruses that shouldn’t fit when they do. We hear it again on “You S02,” although it seems to move in chorus-verse-chorus mode instead of the opposite. That’s pretty ingenious, and the tempo change, while flagrantly open, it’s almost unnoticeable.

Throughout, Rabbit Rabbit there are things that are impressive, and you can take “Ballad of Y&S” for example, playing with melody, juxtaposing melodies together, and superimposing them on interesting backing melodies as guitars sing along. The song moves effortlessly. As a listener, you don’t have to move directly from beginning to end and I have to go back over “Scabs,” which I didn’t even gloss over. The track rides a melody the band builds around and Dupuis finds an assortment of melodies with her voice. It’s interesting the way she sings, moving from catchy rhymes to cooing choruses.

Of course, like the band’s membership, Dupuis’ voice is the one constant instrument that needs to be addressed. As she sings with the guitar accompaniment, it’s unique and unable to be duplicated. I have seen the light and Speedy Ortiz walks alone with Rabbit Rabbit to show us all the way.


There’s something to be said about diversity and showcasing different aspects of your own artistic creativity and that’s one thing Jeff Rosenstock (Bomb The Music Industry!) has always had going for him. In case you’re unaware, Rosenstock has cemented his DIY legacy with a myriad of projects he’s been a part of with a couple of dozen releases and that’s not including his works under his own name. I’ll always refer back to Post- which had songs sonically sculpted around his guitars that drove listeners crazy. No Dream rocked the fuck out in a punk frenzy and we were all here for it. His new release Hellmode (Polyvinyl Records) moves a bit differently but probably takes nothing away from Rosenstock.  

For the record, Rosenstock never does shy away from his punk roots and you hear it with the frenetic drums on the opening “Will You Still You” right before the song is swallowed by overdriven guitars and reverts back to gentler strumming as Rosenstock curls and bends his vocal melodies around here. What’s interesting though are the backing harmonies which create a monstrous ruckus and beautifully add color to Rosenstock’s palette. While he may play with the screams and quick-paced rhythms like on the 1.5 minutes of “Head,” things change up, most notably on “Doubt,” a rock/pop number where I anticipate dynamic shifts that aren’t there, which keeps me guessing. Rosenstock chose to go a different way, keeping things simple until he places that dynamic shift, I was expecting earlier more than halfway through the song. It’s fucking brilliant. Loud guitars ride the wave alongside backing vocals and it doesn’t let up from this point on!

Rosenstock does a lot of interesting things here, incorporating less screaming and more vocal melodies. “Future Is Dumb” just might make you rethink what you’re doing with your own life and he could have revamped the title, instead, calling it “future is nonexistent,” the “future is shit,” or even “who cares, we’re all gonna die soon anyway.” But when he sings “…the world doesn’t owe you,” you know then and there, he’s right. It’s a heavy rocker that pours it on thick lyrically, masking it in melodies that are catchy AF! The real surprise comes on the more reserved title track itself. While it is different, Rosenstock’s folk leanings are clear as he strums along on his guitar as keyboard washes make their way in. The song’s light strumming is reminiscent…nope! I’m not going to do that because the musicality of the track is Rosenstock through and through. But it’s the emotionally charged heavy hitter “3 Summers” that’s perfect in every respect. It’s filled with Rosenstock’s clever wording, all the notes are combined as if they’ve always existed that way, and the melodies are unrelenting! Sonically, this is a masterpiece of a song, and its dynamic shift, yeah, we should all enjoy it.

Indie artists have a lot more to offer than one might assume or think. With Hellmode, Jeff Rosenstock proves he has an abundance of ideas that have seen fruition. This is probably Rosenstock’s best offering to date.