Five Albums You Should Be Listening To Right Now
This week's curator: Austin L. Ray of the late lamented Paste Magazine.
Every two weeks, titans of the mediasphere give Nerve their music recommendations. This week: Austin L. Ray, a writer who has contributed to The A.V. Club, All Music Guide, Paste, Billboard, and Spin over the course of the last ten years. He's also obsessed with Twitter, where he talks about music on the regular, makes jokes, and sometimes offends people, all in 140 characters or less!
1. Nobunny, First Blood (Goner)
The first time I saw the infamous Nobunny was at a rock festival in Atlanta aptly called the Mess-Around. As I stood at the front of the crowd staring at a silent, fidgeting band with no frontman, suddenly my girlfriend made a disgusted noise and quickly moved out of the way of… something? Reader, Justin Champlin, the man who dons a filthy and terrifying rabbit mask and not much else when he performs as Nobunny, had just slithered across her foot and onto the stage. His music is similarly dirty, albeit with the punk spirit and melodic sensibilities of The Ramones thrown in for good measure. It’s riotous fun.
2. Justin Townes Earle, Harlem River Blues (Bloodshot)
Justin Townes Earle is the son of the legendary Steve Earle and namesake of the legendary Townes Van Zandt. But listening to the third full-length album from twenty-eight-year-old Earle, it's easy to imagine a not-too-distant future where not every article written about the young songwriter dwells on his royal lineage. Moreover, one can imagine a slightly-more-distant future — say, ten to twelve years from now, and, at his current rate, ten to twelve albums from now — where he's the one getting name-checked as a legendary reference point in stories about the day's new talent, his three names cozied up against those of Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, George Jones, and country's other all-time greats.
3. Slices, Cruising (Iron Lung)
While they may not exactly be reinventing the wheel, Pittsburgh's Slices do, in fact, turn the wheel very quickly in a manner that appreciators of hardcore punk and noise will enjoy. In other words, Slices are more dynamic, efficient, and exciting (also, less irritating!) than that overwrought sentence and its silly metaphor. The band plays a particular brand of aggressive, unrelenting hardcore that will turn off many and titillate few. However! Those latter few will be very pleased with this racket, as it's well-made and invigorating, wanky atmospheric tracks aside. Come to think of it, maybe the more "ambient" of the songs here are designed to give the listener a break. After all, last I checked, heart palpitations and exhausted breathing aren't usually part of a typical listening experience.
Listen: “Nightmare Man”
4. Magic Kids, Memphis (True Panther Sounds)
If you like Belle & Sebastian, running through fields while holding hands with a loved one, Pet Sounds, babies, or all of the above, chances are pretty damn good you'll love Tennessee's Magic Kids. These youngsters make music that is audible joy, all singalong vocals, obsessive instrumentation, and infectious pop songs. It's kind of ridiculous. Like any great pop dynasty (and yes, I'm telling you now, these actual kids — none of them are older than twenty-one — are a pop dynasty in the making), Magic Kids, at the end of the day, write with skill well beyond their years.
5. Torche, Songs for Singles (Hydra Head)
There aren't many legit rock bands making music today (or ever) that get both a) consistently referred to as "metal" and b) consistently (and favorably) compared to the Foo Fighters. In fact, maybe Torche is the only band that fits this particularly unorthodox bill. And yet, it makes sense. This Florida/Georgia trio makes undeniably heavy rock 'n' roll, but heavy in a way that is equal parts punishing and hook-laden. For every headbanging moment, there is a singalong chorus. Songs for Singles was billed pre-release as an album, but really it's more like an EP — eight songs and twenty-two minutes, six of which belong to epic closer "Out Again." It's gone in a flash, a blink-and-you'll-miss-it affair that leaves ears smiling and fists pumping.