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Reality Anonymous reinvigorate Chicago’s weird pop scene with The Ghost Host Vol. 1

Chicago’s music scene is rich, colorful, and full of variety—even during the pandemic—but in recent years I haven’t noticed much of what I call “weird pop,” exemplified in decades past by strangely hooky local acts such as the Children’s Hour, the Aluminum Group, and Bobby Conn. I guess we just needed some fresh blood—for example, […]

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Live Skull combine new songs with a resurrected 1989 Peel Session on Dangerous Visions

Few recordings transport me directly to a time and place like Dusted, the 1987 album by foundational New York noise-rock band Live Skull. Founded in 1982 by guitarists Tom Paine and Mark C., Live Skull were a buzz saw of guitar-led postpunk that combined art-rocker sensibilities with leather-jacket sneer, almost perfectly encapsulating the early-80s Lower […]

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Jesu seduces you with melodic bleakness

UK guitarist and composer Justin Broadrick is best known as a founding member of the industrial metal assault that is Godflesh. But capturing purely annihilatory noise in that pounding maelstrom is not his only musical interest. He formed Jesu in 2003 to focus on postpunk, goth, and the bleaker, lonelier shores of shoegaze, and characteristically, […]

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Minsk postpunks Molchat Doma transform gloom into resilience on Monument

Like many Americans, I was awestruck by images of the historic Belarusian protests against President Alexander Lukashenko (“Europe’s last dictator”) that exploded after the country’s August elections. But reports of police brutality from Belarus—and the growing chorus of international academics and reporters warning that Americans could soon find themselves in a similar spot—added sinister, unsettling […]

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Baltimore postpunk trio Quattracenta evoke myriad emotions on their new second album

For their new second album, Baltimore postpunk trio Quattracenta teamed up with producer J. Robbins (Jawbox) and the Brokers Tip label, owned by Bob Nastanovich (Pavement, Silver Jews). Those familiar names aren’t the band’s only nods to the 90s—their sound draws on Slint and occasionally the Jesus Lizard—but II doesn’t feel pinned to any one […]

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Memphis duo Optic Sink play minimalist postpunk to fuel isolation dance parties

Natalie Hoffmann is best known as a vocalist and guitarist with Memphis noise-punk band Nots, but in Optic Sink, her new project with percussionist Ben Bauermeister, she trades quirky, garagey rock for stripped-back, electronics-heavy postpunk exploration. In recent years Hoffmann has been dealing with a creative block triggered by losing two loved ones, but she […]

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Chicago darkwave trio Staring Problem sweeten their chilly postpunk on Eclipse

In 2010, Chicago underground music maven Patrick Scott (formerly of My Lai and 97-Shiki) launched postpunk label Modern Tapes with the self-titled debut cassette from Carbondale coldwave three-piece Staring Problem. The band have since relocated to Chicago, and Scott now lives in New York City, but their relationship has remained intact: Staring Problem’s first vinyl […]

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Throwing Muses evolve their version of alt-rock on Sun Racket

Few bands embody the aesthetic of alt-rock as thoroughly as Throwing Muses. Founded in Rhode Island in 1983 by teenage stepsisters Kristin Hersh and Tanya Donelly, the group made moody songs rife with sharp-tongued lyrics, postpunk guitars, and psych-folk vocal harmonies. Guitarists Hersh and Donelly traded lead vocals and shared the songwriting, and after adding […]

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Chicago band the Knees balance postpunk precision and shoegaze warmth on their debut EP

Chicago postpunk four-piece the Knees dropped their first single, “Round and Round,” three years ago; on the A side the band balance a terse, tightly wound melody with a smidgen of garage feedback, while the entropic B side, “Distribution,” displays their fondness for noise. Since then, the Knees have released new music at a trickle. […]