Indie label Topshelf Records’ latest addition to their family is Special Explosion, a talented group of artists that have somewhat changed my entire outlook on music for several reasons. In just nine songs in 34 minutes, Special Explosion have grouped together their past EP’s for one self-titled compilation, which manages to both channel the ghosts of indie rock’s past, while simultaneously creating music we can be excited about once again. From Built to Spill and Pavement, the Pixies and Modest Mouse, to label-mates/contemporaries The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die and A Great Big Pile of Leaves, hints of influence sprinkle fuzzy indie anthems like “Lifeguard,” successfully combining enough elements of originality to get us excited for another upcoming EP.
Winding guitars wrap themselves around the back and forth of male and female vocals, which lend themselves to almost every track on the record. While songs like the epic, six-minute “Two Minute Time Trial” draw themselves out into a world of ambience, aggressive numbers like “Tomato Kitty” dominate the EP’s back half, as whirls of emotion and crashing symbols that clock in at hardly over two minutes. However, these songs at the beginning and end of the record simply complement its flawless midsection: a pair of sister tracks entitled “Past Nasty” and “Viewtiful Future.” While the former’s quiet-to-loud instrumentation is suited for late nights (down to its gorgeous use of steel-guitar throughout the bridge and outro), the latter is a reverb-drenched slow-burner that brings about beautiful images of space with the chorus, “And it’s everywhere/And it’s in the air/And it’s going to get the worst of you/Don’t start to fear your atmosphere/ And the things you say when the translation’s made.”
If you appreciate music as much as I do, there’s a good chance you’re always on the lookout for that Holy Grail of a band that cranks out music unlike anything you’ve ever heard. Special Explosion manage to be that band, honoring both their peers and influences while creating unique scenery and a heightened sense of anticipation for what comes next. I almost forgot to mention the best part about this release. While the compilation seems to have been a limited-time offer, you can certainly come across each of the three EP’s for FREE download via the Special Explosion and Topshelf Records Bandcamp pages! Without further ado, I give you the forerunners of indie-rock’s newest breed.
For Fans of: The Pixies, Built to Spill, Modest Mouse
Key Tracks: What are you waiting for? Download the EP’s for FREE via Bandcamp!
You Blew It! – Keep Doing What You’re Doing
On these emo-revivalists’ second album, “You Blew It!,” have made sonic leaps and bounds under direction of Into It. Over It.’s Evan Weiss. Gone is the muddy (but fitting) production of 2012’s Grow Up, Dude, replaced with a polished sheen and musical growth that does the record wonders. If anything is a hindrance to Keep Doing What You’re Doing, it’s simply a lack of memorability that made the songs of its predecessor so potent. The euphemisms are there, with vocalist Tanner Jones spitting lines like, “You can always consider me a friend/Just strictly in the past tense,” (“Award of the Year Award”) and, “I’m putting mind over matter/to put this matter out of my mind,” (opener “Match & Tinder”). While some tracks may begin to blur together, Jones and co. provide us with plenty of words to shout along to on Keep Doing What You’re Doing– a record that very well may go down as their definitive statement, given enough time and appreciation.
For Fans of: The Get Up Kids, The Wonder Years, Into It. Over It.
Key Tracks: “Match & Tinder,” “House Address,” “Grey Matter”
Childish Gambino – Because the Internet
If you’ve spent any time following the exploits of Donald Glover, it should come as no surprise that Because the Internet comes off as his most confident product yet, despite its content being rooted in uncertainty. From NBC’s Community to hour-long stand-up specials for Comedy Central, Glover has done it all, and on Childish Gambino’s latest release, Glover’s ambitions have never been higher.
Perhaps the oddest sentiment about Gambino’s concept album (combined with the release of a short-film and full-length script) is the way it’s been geared for the mainstream, despite strictly straying from almost anything resembling it. Smooth single “3005” comes close, but finds itself surrounded by atmospheric R&B hits like “Telegraph Ave” and the unsettling circus vibes of standout “Shadows”.
While the weirdness of the record does begin to break apart come Because the Internet’s final act, the record shows strong enough growth in both flow and production to keep old fans of Glover interested as well as add an entirely new dimension to Donald Glover’s ever-popular persona.
For fans of: Earl Sweatshirt, Frank Ocean, Drake
Key Tracks: “Shadows,” “Telegraph Ave,” “The Worst Guys”
The Smiths – Hatful of Hollow
As a category dedicated to advising you in artists often deemed “essential,” it would be impossible to go long without mentioning some of the classic influences who are partially responsible for nearly half the records in your collection. The first of these artists are a wonderful group of English rockers known as The Smiths, responsible for every Brand New album released as well as that song you love from Perks of Being a Wallflower (“Asleep”). On the proper vinyl release of Hatful of Hollow, the band has never sounded better. Hatful is essentially a re-recording of their debut, The Smiths, re-recorded in a series of live sessions with BBC Radio paired with several singles and B-sides. Here you’ll find all the classics that lead most to love the band (“This Charming Man”, “How Soon is Now”) as well as several of their best takes to date (“What Difference Does it Make?”, “This Night Has Opened My Eyes”).
The tempos are changed up, the band sounds fresh in their youth and Morrissey has almost never sounded better. Less B-side compilation and more of a reimagining, Hatful of Hollow proves over 16 choice cuts why The Smiths and Morrissey have held such a strong and emotion bond with their fans, proving an essential record for appreciative listeners of any and all genres.