My As We See It column in the November 2021 issue of Stereophile was a sincere expression of regret over my inability to connect with current rock music. It ended with a request for recommendations. I got ’em. What’s more, most (but not quite all) of those who responded found themselves in the same situation: They too found most current rock’n’roll difficult to relate to.
So, it seems appropriate to share some of the responses, right here on this page. But first, I’ll note a few bands and albums from the last couple of decades that I like very much but failed to mention in that column: Spoon, especially Transference; Wilco, especially Yankee Hotel Foxtrot; TV on the Radio, especially Return to Cookie Mountain.
Those albums, though, are a little bit old, so beyond the scope of my current plea, which was for music of the present momentreleased, let us say, during the last several years by bands that weren’t around until a few years before that. Some of the recommendations below violate one or both of these requirementsthe band has been around too long, or the music isn’t quite recent enough. I decided to include them anyway because they’re pretty recent and they’re good.
I received far too many strong recommendations to include on this page. This is just a sampling, but if it’s on the list, I’ve listened to it and, while I may not connect with it deeply, I can at least understand its appeal.
The musical act most frequently recommended: Wet Leg, comprising two young women from the Isle of Wight. They don’t have an album yetjust two singles. Both are hilarious and catchy as hell, especially “Chaise Longue.” They’re almost a novelty act, but then so was Devo. So were the B-52s.
Here’s an excerpt of an email I received from Chris Livengood (who, with his wife, whom he met “in underground punk/hardcore clubs in the ’90s,” runs EMBER Audio + Design in Winston-Salem, North Carolina). “There is so much great shoegaze, post-punk, hardcore, and metal worthy of exploring, but a crux for me has always been that it needs to be lyrically relatable and make me want to raise my fist or convulse as well as this aging body will allow.” Chris recommends Drug Church, specifically their LP Cheer and recent single “Tawny.” Both, Chris writes, “are seemingly built from familiar parts, but a recombination with more brains, insight, and verve than seemingly exists elsewhere.” He ends with, “if it doesn’t sound good on your system, head to the car, roll the windows down, drive far, and turn it up. It’s balm for you, not your gear.” Hear, hear.
Jerry Jarvis of Midlothian, Virginia, took an oblique approach to satisfying my request for new music: “Why not try going deeper on the Glory Days of artists you already like or even their contemporaries? For example, I’m a big Linda Ronstadt an, and I’ve had a great time finding old Karla Bonoff albums and listening to her originals of many of Linda’s best tunes. … Another great example is Georgie Famehis transition from rock and skiffle in his early days to the wide variety of jazz he does now is always an enjoyable listen.” Rick Dembicki of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, recommends Freedom Fry. “Check out their cover of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.’ And yes, I am old enough to know the original.” Rick also recommends Montreal’s Fwonte. “‘Peyi’ is a beautifully craftednay, near-perfectthree-and-a-half minute, highly danceable wonder. I look ugly when I dance, but I just can’t help it when I play this man’s music.”
Mike Harkins, who is based in Austin, Texas, and so has ample opportunity to hear new music, writes, “For a real blues-rock experience, I heartily recommend Carolyn Wonderland’s new release, Tempting Fate. Carolyn just got off a tour with John Mayall, and he doesn’t hire slouch guitar players.”
James Price, another Texanfrom Galvestonoffered these recommendations: “Wooden Fields, S/T; Motorizer, Seduction; Mercury Boys, Return to Cinders; Devil’s Witches, Cherry Napalm; Laino & Broken Seeds, Sick to the Bone; Night Beats, Outlaw R&B.”
Not everyone who wrote in was a stranger. I received the following from Kurt Gottschalk, who, in addition to contributing music reviews to Stereophile, hosts Afternoon New Music Tuesdays at 3pm on WKCR, the excellent Columbia University radio station. (Yes, there’s an internet radio stream, so check it out.) Kurt writes, “Here’s a sampling of rock albums from 2021 I enjoyed: Black Midi, Cavalcade; Fucked Up, The Year of the Horse; Big Brave, Ilk; Melvins, Five-Legged Dog; Liturgy, Origin of the Alimonies; Dry Cleaning, New Long Leg; plus the new Nobro single.”
London-based Phil Brett, another Stereophile music reviewer, also recommended Dry Cleaning’s New Long Leg. Phil calls Dry Cleaning a “great South London post-punk band” and their new album “Brilliant. Female spoken vocals over fantastic beat. Worth checking out. Competing with Pharoah Sanders’s Promises for new release of the moment.” Interesting juxtaposition.
I also heard from Jason Davis, who has written two My Back Pages essays over the last couple of years. Jason offered a long list of thoroughly annotated recommendations, all on the heavy side, almost enough for a column all by itself. I’ll save most of that for a different moment and include just one of his recommendations here. “Deafheaven’s Infinite Granite,” he wrote, “is my album of the year.”
Mastodon’s album Hushed and Grim, released in September, was recommended by several readers.
From Josh Zeckser of Portland, Oregon: “Nova Twins”you’re welcome! Can I have a free tube amp now, please?” Sure you canwait, you meant from me? No, sorry.
I’ll end with what might be my favorite email so far: “I am sending this for my brother Steve. He has a suggestion. Call him at [phone number deleted], 8am8pm EST before November 1.”
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