Happy Monday ya'll, we're back with our third installment of 'What We're Listening To' with tracks we can't get enough of. This week's roundup features Chicago favorites like Henry True, Cabeza de Chivo, Neptune's Core, Cass Cwik & the Small Gas Engines + George Arthur Calendar. Alongside indie standouts like Buck Meek, Mitski, Pretenders, Hotline TNT + more. This week's mix consists of a blend of local, national, and international artists and features a blend of the classic indie-rock alongside psych-rock and garage rock, with a fun showing of folk/country, in addition to synth-pop, & experimental punk. Listen to the full playlist on Spotify!
Track of the Week: Only The Wicked by Henry True
Bug Like An Angel by Mitski
“Bug Like an Angel” finds the divine in the ordinary, in the boozy drowning of sorrow. The narrator sings from the strange comfort of rock bottom: “sometimes a drink feels like family.” And suddenly, that choir of angels sings: “FAMILY!” This first track introduces a cosmic paradox: “The wrath of the devil was also given him by God.” This is an album in which dark and light exist in the same gesture, the same broken prayer. Like the Buddha inviting the demon Mara in for tea, The Land embraces brutal, daily pain — the necessary toll of transcendent love. The accompanying “Bug Like an Angel” video — directed by Noel Paul — explores community and an unflinching look at self-destruction so extreme it verges on a state of dance. The song’s narrator is depicted as a woman staggering and collapsing outside of a bar, welcomed by and ultimately rejecting the gentle embrace of a choir of which Mitski is a member.
Protocol by Hotline TNT
“Protocol” is sunswept and sad, as if frowning in the middle of a party. Like Teenage Fanclub battling Jesu for speaker space, a jubilant guitar jangle and arching melody counter shards of noise and a punishing rhythm section. Of the video, director Fiona Kane says "It's a rock n roll push and pull silent comedy for summer. The most important parts of summer are beating the heat and listening to rock music."Of the track, Anderson adds: “This song is about falling on a sword — sometimes you just gotta hold an L even when in your heart of hearts you know it's not fair. Saving the relationship is worth taking the blame now and again.”
Wise Wild and Free by Cass Cwik & the Small Gas Engines
"Cass Cwik & the Small Gas Engines are Chicago rockers crafting some truly raw and wholesome Americana rock. Since their 2018 debut, they've been blending elements of indie-rock with country stylings to create a catchy, weathered and nostalgic sound that’ll have you yearning for more." Wise, Wild, and Free
Only The Wicked by Henry True
"It’s a real place, “the city of my heart.” You explore it with music. Chicago born and raised songwriter Henry True knows this, so at the pace of his voice, he sings you across town: abandoned stone churches, sleek pedestrian bridges where lovers hold hands but keep to themselves, high prison windows people look through with grief in their heads—the music ferries you past it all. You take a walking pace (no “outrunning paranoia” here) so you can really hear the songs that come with the territory. Other “citizens of my heart” wrote them. Henry’s been learning them one by one. He performs them so they fit the scene. Sometimes a memory of how this place used to look visits you unexpectedly: a woeful croon ushers you past nightclubs. You feel a little silly, naturally. Night falls, you find a tavern, talk about a recent digital bender. Elsewhere in the neighborhood your friends are falling asleep, tangled up in sheets, embracing, worrying… wonders of the city of my heart, as sharply illustrated in your memory as they were in your eyes. A day well spent, perusing another block of this city with Henry. Each time you listen the lights go back up and he sees you again. - Neal Jochmann
Danza del Chivo by Cabeza De Chivo
Cabeza De Chivo are a psychedelic tropicalia band based in Chicago, IL. With infectious rhythms and a driving percussion section; guitar, bass, and organs blend seamlessly to deliver addictive dance instrumentals. Cabeza has independently released two debut singles in July 2023 but have been selling out shows in Chicago since 2021. Most recently, Cabeza headlined Thalia Hall with support from Spun Out and Lake and opened for The Meridian Brothers at Empty Bottle.
Valium Girls by Chasing Angels
Chasing Angels, founded by Mia Pucci and Izzy Marx is a post punk bimbo grunge band started in Chicago now based in LA. Mia Pucci, lead singer and bassist, explains how she has “been searching for something beyond daily life”, hence the name “Chasing Angels”. Bonded by bimbofication, leftist punk values, metal, and a love for partying, Izzy and Mia put on live shows full of glitter, peace, and feminine darkness; bringing the people together one mosh pit at a time.
Mosquito Bite by George Arthur Calendar
George Arthur Calendar (GAC) s a musician from Guadalajara based in the artistic metropolis of Chicago. His melodies are inspired by everyday experiences, since his music takes phrases from modern life and mixes them with timeless new wave, synth pop and lilting funk melodies. His music is also influenced by the independent scene in Chicago, where new stories for his songs emerge. “Mosquito Bite”, a dreamy tropical ballad that talks about taking risks, being present and that time doesn't pass in vain if you dare to get out of your comfort zone.“Mosquito Bite” is a perfect composition to slow-dance with your loved one to, while the track is filled with bubbles and technicolor lights. The mix of the single was done by Eladio Rueda and the mastering was done by HALFSPEED.
On The Loose by Modern Dairy
Modern Dairy is a four-piece band hailing from the musical hotbed of Chicago, Illinois. Combining the best of indie rock, alt-country and classic pop, Modern Dairy has forged a sound that is both timeless and contemporary. Drawing inspiration from a diverse range of influences, including Wilco, Talking Heads, Grateful Dead and The Beatles, Modern Dairy has crafted a style that is both familiar and fresh. Their music is marked by a rich melodic sensibility, buoyant guitar hooks and memorable lyrics that stay with you long after the music has stopped. Whether you're a fan of classic rock, folk rock or indie pop, Modern Dairy is a band that is sure to delight. With their infectious melodies, soaring harmonies and irresistible hooks, they are poised to take the world by storm. Keep an eye on this rising star - their best days are surely ahead.
Unloved by Neptune's Core
With a gradual build, rhythmic guitar strums and explosive bridge, "Unloved," out today, achingly sinks into feelings of loneliness and heartache. Written mostly in one sitting, Sofie Richter (vocals/guitar), says writing the song allowed her to put words to difficult, complex emotions she was feeling. The pain culminates in a bridge filled with soaring vocals and crashing drums, a catharsis that is heard sonically and felt by all when played live. Lyrically intimate, it cuts so deeply that in the beginning, playing it live would bring her to tears, but now, feels empowering. Richter says, "The first couple times we played it live, I cried either post-show off stage or once even on stage. It’s a brutal song. And as difficult as it is to put myself out there and play it, it’s the most rewarding feeling. I can just release." Sister and bandmate Hannah Richter (bass) is so proud of her sister's ability to dig deep into her pain and come out the other side stronger. Echoing the raw emotion that pours out of the track, Hannah adds, "Every single time I hear this song my entire body goes tense from the emotion built into this–it shows so much bravery."
Cyclades by Buck Meek
“When you are in love, it inhabits your environment, animates the inanimate, charging everything around you with a sense of meaning,” Meek says, “and not just new love; also love of many years.” The love that colors “Cyclades” is familial, depicting a true story of Meek’s father narrowly avoiding a motorcycle collision with a herd of elk. “These are all true stories, or at least as I was told, or remember them being told,” explains Meek. “There's a thin line between history and mythology. Our lives are made of an endless myriad of unfinished stories, of every encounter of billions of people at the center of thousands of years in each direction. The telling is secondary.”
Hold On by Foxtide
With a newly solidified band lineup, Foxtide is kicking off their next era of new music today, showcasing their mindset of not taking things too seriously and creating the kind of music that they’d listen to themselves. Previously dabbling a little more in easy-going, jazz-inspired, beachy tones, Foxtide’s new music leans into the intensity of their live shows that have won them a cultlike following in the SoCal scene. Over the next couple of weeks, “Hold On” will receive an official video treatment and fans can keep an eye out later this year for a new EP from the band. On the new single, frontman Elijah Gibbins-Croft said, “’Hold On’ incorporates influence from early 2000s garage rock while bringing something new to the table. The track is really a song about nostalgia, self-doubt and forgiveness. While the verses are a conversation between oneself, the chorus is simply asking someone’s forgiveness.”
Desperately Free by Art Feynman
Temple to explores surprising sonic landscapes without the burdens of identity. Be Good The Crazy Boys was recorded live in-studio with a full band. The result captures a spirit of restless anxiety, and recalls the most frenetic work by Talking Heads, or Oingo Boingo at their darkest. " Slightly twisted takes on Kosmische musik, worldbeat, and art pop can be found scattered across the Art Feynman discography, but with Be Good The Crazy Boys, Temple fully immerses himself into pools of collective madness. With Be Good The Crazy Boys, Art Feynman proves to be more than just a character. He represents the part of the modern, collective consciousness that’s struggling to maintain balance in a toxic, chaotic world. In less skilled hands, that concept could result in a very somber listen. Fortunately, when Art Feynman gets his hands on the chaos of the modern age, it simply makes you want to dance.
I SAW GOD ON 10TH ST. by Duff McKagan
Duff McKagan has shared I SAW GOD ON 10TH ST., the new single from his eagerly awaited third solo album, LIGHTHOUSE, arriving everywhere on Friday, October 20. An official visualizer premieres today on YouTube.“I picture him as an old guy with white beard and hair, leaning up against a wall on a city street,” says Duff McKagan. “The ultimate jurist of us all. Pissed off, squinting eyes to ward off what he sees, spitting frequently with no care for who may be around. The Creator. God. Allah, Shiva...or whomever. I think I see him sometimes over on 10th St., hands in tight fists, and toes curled up and tense.”
Trendsetter by SPEARSIDE
Recorded on a Revox tape machine dating back to 1974 and described by the band as a “complete capitulation to the 70s power pop aesthetic”, “Trendsetters” fizzes with the timeless tuneage long synonymous with the genre, while adding a refreshing tenacity all their own. Barreling headfirst through two-minutes of good-time choral hooks and ageless no-frills riffs, it’s a track that nods to the new wave of US garage rock heroes such as Jay Reatard, Ty Segall and Young Guv, while beating with the blood of the Irish underground they are quickly beginning to stake as their own. Speaking about Spearside’s aims for their latest single, guitarist and singer Oisín Walsh explains “[Trendsetters is] a shameless pop song about the breakdown of a relationship, and an attempt to capture the energy the likes of Jay Reatard brought to this type of guitar music when it looked dead and buried. Young Guv is currently leading the resurgence of power pop without falling too heavily into the cheesy stylistic tropes that age like milk."
Company of The Bar by Skinny Lister
Lifted from what will be the band’s sixth studio LP, ‘Shanty Punk’ (out 20 October), the lead single is now accompanied with a head-spinning video shot in the band’s old boozer of choice — The Forge & Flagon – a garden shed that has been innovatively converted into a traditional pub complete with tankards, pumps, a wood burner, dart board, horse brasses and all manner of other kinds of trinkets. A venue that has loomed large in the history of the band, frontman Daniel Heptinstall explains: “Our fondness of the place was so great that we named our debut album after it. It’s been the venue of many great nights over the years, filled with music, good friends and great vibes. On occasion it’s been the place to gather for a post-show after-party when gigging up Leicester way. It has a magical atmosphere and we had great fun finally getting to make a video in there – cracked a few beers, pulled out the instruments and just tried to capture the spirit and uniqueness of the place. Long live the Forge!”
Free Love by Irreversible Entanglements
Every once in a while, the world is blessed with a band that helps define an era. Its sound, purpose and energy speaks directly to the cultural moment. Its individual members mirror the community’s identities, perspectives and aspirations; and collectively, the group forms a supernova, a sign of how we might get to the future — its music, in fact, already spelling aspects of that future out. Usually, it is history that cements the names of these bands in the books, but occasionally we’re capable of glimpsing their majesty unfurl in real time. In 2023, that band is Irreversible Entanglements (IE), the free-jazz quintet with an experimental punk mentality. And Protect Your Light is the kind of artistic and social statement that simultaneously plugs into and tweaks the zeitgeist. Over the course of the record’s eight tracks the band unite to deliver an unconditional statement of intent and rhythm. IE’s improvisations are molded in the fire of the moment, while its songs are born in experience, where music and life are one and the same. There is no one remotely like them on the planet, and no recent album like this one.
A Love by The Pretenders
The Pretenders have shared “A Love,” the new single from their forthcoming studio album, Relentless. An official visualizer – featuring exclusive footage of the legendary band’s recent live run at small UK clubs – is streaming on YouTube. Relentless arrives via Rhino Records on Friday, September 15. Pre-orders – including digital download, baby pink vinyl, black vinyl, and CD – are available now. “I suppose ‘A Love’ is the most traditionally Pretenders-sounding song on the album,” says Chrissie Hynde, “in the vein of ‘Kid’ or ‘Talk of the Town’ or any of the mid-tempo ones over the years. I often see love/relationships almost in the same vein as drug addiction. Although, having said that, I know I am jaded and cynical…”
Chemical Balance by Childe
Pop connoisseur, Childe, is back with another masterclass in emotive modern storytelling as he shares"Chemical Balance" with the world. The follow up track to "Better Friends" and "Death Wish" he confidently heads us towards his first full project, the idiosyncratic Stoned & Supremely Confident LP in September. Teasing the track on social media with his ‘sofa sessions’, he seamlessly blends his powerful voice with soothing guitar chords to unleash another indie-pop earworm that is quintessentially Childe. Touching on subjects very rarely captured by a male singer-songwriter, he delves deep into his psyche by opening up about personal and family struggles of mental illness and over-medicating. On the meaning behind the track, he adds: “Medicating can be an effective part of managing depression and anxiety, but it's being used as a blunt tool. Each brain is different. My sister was diagnosed as having bipolar disorder and I think that instead of numbing out her reaction to life, we have to look at why so many people are feeling like this. The world is broken, not the people.” It’s another triumphant display of personal growth and life experiences as he pushes forward in his own lane to reveal taboo subjects that so many are afraid to discuss.
The Garden by Mereki
Continuing to pair striking visuals with the songs from her debut album Death of a Cloud, Australian/English savant of purposeful pop Mereki today releases the official video for “The Garden.” Extending her storytelling through the lens of director and longtime creative collaborator Lizzy Born, this video is a playful, artful depiction of uninhibited joy. Tapping into a childlike wonder of dancing like no one is watching and bouncing on the bed, “The Garden” sees Mereki in her purest as she gallivants across the South of France – Watch. Throughout the video, Mereki can be seen in outfits hand selected by the French fashion company MaisonCléo. The brand is dedicated to ethical consumption by individually crafting all of their pieces from surplus fabrics from French Couture Houses.
Anchor by Richard Walters
Enveloped by Walters’ tender falsetto, “Anchor” is a spacious piano piece adorned with longing string arrangements to stir the soul. A song dedicated to his daughters, it finds the artist opening-up about the intense and transcendent connection we feel with our closest family. As Richard explains: ‘“Anchor” is a song about and for my daughters; I've been away a fair bit the last 12 months, which felt especially hard post lockdown, and it's a song about that familial pull and instinct to protect and support them.” Co-written with esteemed songwriter Edd Holloway (Lewis Capaldi, Tom Grennan), who had also recently become a father around the time of writing, the resultant single is another fine example of Walters’ exceptional ability for intimate storytelling, captivating vocals, and intricate musical arrangements.
Bewildered by Allman Brown
London Singer-songwriter - ALLMAN BROWN - has unveiled his new single, “Bewildered”, taken from a forthcoming EP which is being slated for release this Winter. Having initially started out as a relatively low-key track, “Bewildered” bloomed into an ‘80s-style pop ballad when Brown was inspired by A-ha’s “Take On Me” while recording vocals. With evocative and organic storytelling filtered through soaring pop melodies and bittersweet, anthemic choruses, the new track was initially born out of an anxiety dream. As Allman Brown explains [“Bewildered” is about] the feeling of waking up in shock and disorientation but then realising how that one person in your life can settle you back into place, how a loved one or a relationship can anchor you to reality and soothe you.” As fluttering synths, swelling strings and a warming piano line build the track to a blissful crescendo, Brown adds: “The last verse is a pocket summary of the film ‘Everything Everywhere All At Once.”