Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

What are you listening to this week?

King Krule (Photo: Cory Schwartz/Getty Images)

King Krule, “Dum Surfer”

It happens every year: Some indie rock band whose name or general press descriptors convince me it will be another boring garage-rock revival sneaks into my ears months later and I become a very late-to-the-party acolyte. This year, it was King Krule, which got recommended to me casually last week, and which I had been happy to sleep on forever, only to find, holy shit, they rule! At once atmospheric and fun, spacey and funky, it’s the best album of its kind I’ve heard in years, imagining Deerhunter at their most outré as produced by Prince Paul. “Dum Surfer” finds them at their most insistently hooky, but the whole new album is a winner. Hell, the whole discography is. What have I been doing these past few years? [Clayton Purdom]


Rainer Maria, “Hellebore”

One of 2017’s quiet successes, Rainer Maria’s first album in 11 years was the reunion I didn’t realize I wanted. The band emerged in the Midwestern second-wave emo scene of the mid-’90s, but by the time it broke up following 2006’s excellent Catastrophe Keeps Us Together, the trio had grown into something more ambitious and difficult to categorize. Rainer Maria, the group’s 2017 album for its old home, Polyvinyl Records, picks up as if no time has passed. I’ve played it a lot these past few months, which my phone seems to appreciate. Lately, when I get into my car, it syncs via Bluetooth and plays “Hellebore” unprompted. The atmospheric album closer drifts in a gauzy haze, which has made for the perfect soundtrack to gray days marking Chicago’s descent into fall. (Rainer Maria formed in Madison, so they know the drill.) It’s great to have them back. [Kyle Ryan]

LaVern Baker, “Saved”

LaVern Baker is an old-school Atlantic Records R&B great who’s probably best known these days for hits like the doo-wop-backed “Jim Dandy” and the break-up ballad “I Cried A Tear,” where she arguably plays second fiddle to a monster solo from sax virtuoso King Curtis (of “Yakety Yak” fame). A little deeper in her catalog, though, is “Saved,” a masterpiece of high-energy gospel that shows off the growling side of Baker’s versatile voice. Here she and her sisters in the Lord’s “soul-saving army” are surrounded by what, in the confines of this small 1960 recording, sounds like an entire marching band, with the “big bass drum” she sings about beating ringing out through all the pious revelry. [Matt Gerardi]


Big Heet, “On A Wire”

It’s hard to listen to “On A Wire,” the lead track of Big Heet’s album of the same name, and not hear echoes of Modest Mouse’s “Shit Luck” reverberating throughout lead singer’s David Settle pessimistic observations on the garbage fire that is Earth, 2017. “Layers of anxiety make me feel like staying sane is such a tightrope act / That any certain event could knock me off,” Settle sings. The shifting nature of the track also aids this unease, with the entire Tallahassee, Florida quartet starting and stopping several times in just over two minutes. Lyrically, the song reiterates the feeling many of us have likely had since the world began to careen off course (“The world’s on a wire / The water’s on fire / I’m drowning”) before indicating that there’s still one shred of hope: that being awake and aware allows, at the very least, the opportunity for change. It helps that the song is an absolute jam. [Leo Garcia]


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