Luca Cimarusti, Reader music listings coordinator
The Weeknd chopped and screwed remixes: I realize that the idea of actually listening to chopped and screwed remixes (which are slowed down and intentionally skipped and scratched) may sound ridiculous. But when Abel Tesfaye’s introspective R&B jams are given the purple drank treatment, their depth, beauty, and eeriness are majorly intensified. The best versions I’ve found are made by a DJ named Kp’da Truth.
Wax Idols, No Future: This recent HoZac release cannot find its way off of my turntable. Insanely hooky girl-fronted garage-pop played with maximum efficiency. Led by Hether Fortune, who’s played in San Fran’s Bare Wires, Hunx & His Punx, and Blasted Canyons, this record is full of excellently crafted gems that don’t rely on the girly-girl gimmicks that the Best Coasts of the world often do.
Nirvana, everything: When the Nevermind 20th anniversary arrived back in September, I decided to revisit Nirvana’s records and have ended up listening to at least one of them every day since. I feel like I get it now more than I did when I was younger. I especially love how blatantly they wear their influences: each song is a display of Rapeman, Pixies, Melvins, and Flipper worship.
Noah Leger, drum tech for Blue Man Group
Anatomy of Habit, self-titled: Remember the opening scene in Blue Velvet? Familiar images are shown in such a way that you’re immediately aware of a deeply concerning underbelly, which gives unexplainable dark power to a bird perched on a tree branch or a guy watering his lawn. This record is creepy and vast in a way that Chicago music usually isn’t. Sparse guitar melodies lay on thick, perfectly balanced bass riffs, and honest singing and a noticeable sense of unity make this album shine. Seeing these guys live is a thing of next-level wonder. Is the percussionist whipping a piece of sheet metal with a chain? Yes he is.
Party Downers, self-titled: It would be tempting to assume from the name of this band that they’re the downers at the party, but what’s actually happening is that they exist solely to help you party down. I didn’t know skate rock was still something worth listening to, if it ever was in the first place, but this album keeps making its way into the listening stack because it’s just so damn fun. Fun in the same way the Descendents were. Epic but simple melodies inform us of the dangers of loose trucks, shaving but not getting kissed, and the excitement of coming together to learn to live up in the sky. Each song begs you: drop in, you know you want to pull that perfect grind at the other side of the coping—go for it. Fans of skateboarding, punk, and parties should absolutely check these guys out.
Dead Rider, The Raw Dents: This LP is just as much like a series of paintings or an architecture cruise as it is a piece of music. It’s a planetary tour of a galaxy that hasn’t been named yet. Ringleader Todd Rittmann’s vocals swagger like a young Brian Ferry, but the slamming beats and keyboard patches come together nice and tight to support unexpected guitar leads and horn lines. This is a super interesting piece of music that will suck you in and pay dividends if you give it some attention. The production is great too. Crank it up with your head right in between the speakers for maximum satisfaction.
Electric Hawk, self-titled: The three-piece instrumental band known as “the Hawk” to some of us has been kicking ass all over town live for the past couple years or so. Drummer Noah Leger (one of the city’s finest) along with bassist Graham McLachlan and guitarist Michael Burns (both Blue Man Group musicians) churn out a punishing, four-on-the-floor rock gem. Songs like “Blinkfuck” and “Dcon” display wicked riffage along with hairpin tight turnarounds. Engineer Andrew Schneider (Pelican, Keelhaul) does them justice to bring together a full, warm, low-end sound.
Indian, Guiltless: Indian has been one of my favorite bands, but I never expected Guiltless. One of the heaviest, most gut-wrenching records of the year (along with the new Leviathan Tentacles of Whorror). Dylan O’Toole’s vocals on this one are aguish personified. Sheer brutality. Shout out to Scott Fricke for the killer album art.
The Soft Moon, self-titled: I have not been able to stop listening to this record since seeing them at the Empty Bottle a few months back. This San Fran band displays everything I love in bands like Suicide, Bauhaus, New Order, etc. Dark synth never sounded so beautiful.