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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

What are you listening to?

Shannon & The Clams (Photo: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)
Shannon & The Clams (Photo: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

Wiki, “Mayor”

Wiki’s got one of the most emotive voices in rap, a thick New York sneer that spouts off like a lit-fuse Joe Pesci, his lyrics equal parts shit talk, unchecked emotion, and bleary-eyed poetry. His old group, Ratking, only put out one full-length, the remarkable So It Goes, and now, after a few years of rambunctious collaborations and EPs, comes his solo full-length, No Mountains In Manhattan. It is, like MIKE’s May God Bless Your Hustle, a concrete jungle playground at once relentlessly experimental and conventional. After the breezy intro, “Mayor” kicks things off with triumphal horn blasts, but, good lord, just listen to all the stuff Wiki does: screaming that he’s the best rapper, going loose and low over funky drummer loops, crooning sweetly over sirens, and shouting the name of his manager (“LUBANSKY”) in a voice that, on a scale of one to 10 in pure New York-ness, measures a full “Joe Pesci.” Lubanksy also directed the grainy, lo-fi, wonderfully drunk video. I didn’t even mention his teeth, but that’s a thing, too. Wiki for mayor. [Clayton Purdom]

Washer, “Dog Go Bark”

New York’s Washer epitomizes a certain Platonic ideal of scruffy, lo-fi pop-rock. The two-piece group (consisting of Kieran McShane on drums and Mike Quigley handling guitar and bass duties along with vocals) follow in the proud tradition of ramshackle and ragged groups from the Teen Beat days of old, playing hoarse and joyous pop songs in a freewheeling and angular manner, the commitment to an endearing spirit more important than precise technique. The band’s new record, All Aboard (coming out September 15 on Exploding In Sound), feels very much of a thematic piece with labelmates like Speedy Ortiz, even while the musical ambition is much more stripped-down and simple. Every song follows some simple, fuzzy guitar riffs, paired to equally straightforward drums, overlaid by Quigley’s amiable, off-kilter melodies. It’s not rocket science; it’s just a kind of music that many, many bands play yet few manage to make engaging, let alone with as much appeal as Washer delivers. “Dog Go Bark” is an excellent example of the album as a whole—a genial and catchy tune that eventually releases in a cathartic blast of riffing, Quigley yelling, “Get away, get away, I don’t wanna” over it all. It comes across like a statement of purpose when faced with the pressure to provide something more genteel or polished. Washer has charm for miles and an admirable commitment to following wherever the muse leads them, be it noisy outbursts or sunny-sweet hummable nuggets. [Alex McLevy]

Shannon And The Clams, “Point Of Being Right”

I just moved a few months ago, and the only thing I’m missing about my old haunt was the proximity to two fantastic record stores. The closest thing I have now is the small selection sold by a vendor inside my new town’s raddest vintage store. Lucky for me, the taste of the guy who curates the tiny collection is right in line with mine. The store will stock big releases, but its specialty is rock’s dingiest, kitschiest subgenres—garage, surf, rockabilly—all of which I’ve been obsessing over for years. Last time we stopped in, my partner and I spotted Gone By The Dawn, the great 2015 album from one of our mutual favorites, Shannon And The Clams, and we couldn’t resist adding it to our record collection. I’ve been listening to it a lot again, and although it doesn’t quite eclipse Sleep Talk as my favorite Clams release, tracks like “Point Of Being Right,” one of the band’s absolute best, show that this charmingly shaggy group can put together tight, straitlaced songs without sacrificing its wild, infectious energy. [Matt Gerardi]

Kumbia Queers, “Que No Quede Huella”

The first day of September has always held a greater sense of renewal for me than the start of the new year, thanks to decades of schooling. But lately, I’ve been looking back as much as forward, remembering my mom’s orders to “get out of bed and get ready” for class, set against the sounds of 105.1 FM, our local Mexican radio station. In an effort to avoid wallowing in nostalgia, I’ve been jamming to the Mexican-Argentine roqueras Kumbia Queers. This all-female tropi-punk group—made up of Juana Chang, Florencia Lliteras, and Ali Gua Gua—has released great covers of cumbia classics like Bronco’s “Que No Quede Huella,” which now greet me first thing in the morning. This multicultural outfit is innovating in one of the oldest genres of Latinx music, fusing that familiar, fluid two-step with their own raw queer-core sound. [Danette Chavez]

Nosaj Thing, “All Points Back To U”

I hate Nosaj Thing, but it’s not his fault. My hatred is a knee-jerk, Pavlovian thing that’s been slowly ingrained by my iPhone, which has the annoying habit of playing the very first song alphabetically from your library as soon it’s plugged into your car stereo. Through years of frantic fumbling, I learned to detest the opening synth swells of “A” from 2015’s Fated, which in turn colored my entire perception of that album and its producer. But things are different now: I’ve fixed that iPhone problem, and Nosaj Thing has a new album, Parallels, that I quite like. As our own Clayton Purdom pointed out in his review, Parallels has a warmer, airier feel than its predecessors, with most songs built around a single sustained mood. Lead single “All Points Back To U” is a perfect example of that effective minimalism, its open, ominous synth tones and gentle beat pulsing like a slow, solitary strobe light beneath the hushed croon of electro-soul singer Steve Spacek. It’s haunting, it’s romantic, it’s endlessly replayable, and best of all, it’s not titled “A A All Points Back To U.” [Sean O’Neal]


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