Tuesday Tracks: Your Weekly New Music Discovery – June 18, 2019

Vagabon, Pallbearer, Nérija, Tennis System, Seratones, Rocket Summer, Nerija

Clockwise from top left: Vagabon, Pallbearer, Nérija, Tennis System, Seratones and Rocket Summer.

Summer’s here, and with the season comes a tidal wave of album releases. It’s the best time of year to be a music fan, but also the most overwhelming. With so many new songs dropping every week on multiple streaming platforms, keeping up is easier said than done.

Before you resign yourself to your old favorites, RIFF can help you add some choice cuts to your playlist!

Thanks to this weekly segment.


The Rocket Summer, “Morning Light” — This newest single clarifies that Bryce Avary hasn’t lost the industrious songwriting chops that brought him to the forefront of the 2000s wave of indie rock. As one of millennial rock’s premier one-man shows, The Rocket Summer’s style relies on tactfully placed layers. The difference with this and lesser artists is the undeniable payoff. From a simple, catchy guitar lick, Avary expands the arrangement without losing the catchy vibe of its first moments. His synesthesia—he associates his music with colors—caused him to associate “Morning Light” with yellow, black and white. Incidentally, those are the colors of the bee on the cover of Avary’s upcoming album, Sweet Shivers. This is exactly the kind of spontaneous cohesion that has made The Rocket Summer an ideal for a generation of bedroom rockers to aspire to be.


Pallbearer, “Atlantis” — Sub-Pop Records presents the latest single from this prog-doom powerhouse. Pallbearer has considerably evolved its sluggish Sabbath worship, and this song proves the band will still be bringing the crushing riffs alongside soaring vocal melodies and tasteful musicianship. The first half may as well be a prog-rock throwback, but the second half drops back into the morose guitar harmonies and plodding drums with which the band started out. The incredible thing is that the contrast doesn’t create conflict. These guys can generate leveling epic doom riffs while paying homage to rock and roll champions like Boston. After such a momentous step forward with 2017’s Heartless, Pallbearer seems ready to stake its claim as a part of Nuclear Blast’s roster.


Vagabon, “Flood Hands” — Lætitia Tamko did not originally write this song for her project as Vagabon. While it is a definite change of pace for her, she’s made the synthetic transition incredibly well. Her production is full and lush but maintains a connection to her indie pop roots. But it’s her voice that seals the deal for this stylistic switch-up. It functions just as well amid analogue keyboards as it did against indie rock guitars. The fact she’s behind the production and instrumentation makes this cut as personal as her previous work, regardless of its change in approach. With a sharp beat, compelling dynamic changes and sticky hooks, “Flood Hands” bodes well for Vagabon’s next album.


NÉRIJA, “Riverfest” — Contemporary jazz is a tricky style to pull off skillfully, but the U.K. has collectives like NÉRIJA to properly balance spontaneity and precision. “Riverfest” sidesteps the pitfalls of many improv jazz groups, finding its footing in an infectious motif before divulging into expressive soloing. Unlike nu-jazz acts that tend to use hip-hop, funk or world beat rhythms, drummer Lizy Exell and bassist Rio Kai favor a bombastic, unpredictable approach akin to Kieth Jarret’s Standards. Shirley Tetteh’s solo juggles funky rhythm and free-form melody, while the brass section continuously layers bombastic, yet harmonious lines to an electrifying effect. It’s hard to recommend this type of jazz to anyone without a preexisting interest, but “Riverest” is one cut I’d recommend more widely.


Tennis System, “Shelf Life” — As shoegaze gains wider recognition, bands like Tennis System hold the torch of My Bloody Valentine with fiery energy and palpable aggression. Jack Shirley, who produced the likes of Oathbreaker, knows how to impart head-bobbing intensity to a pulsating wall of sound. Like most self-described shoegaze bands, Tennis System wears its influences on its sleeve. The band’s not the first to add a bit of post-hardcore and punk, but it captures the enveloping sonics of the former and the rawness of the latter. As underground genres continue to blend, “Shelf Life” shows how certain combos can become so natural that it might not even register as a crossover. It just is, and it’s a fun ride.


Seratones, “Power” — If the B-52s acquired an affinity for midi strings and were fronted by a gospel singer, the result wouldn’t be too far off from this new Seratones song. “Power” has vocal chops and a spunky groove, but it’s neither a nostalgia trip nor a simple vocal pop number. The frustration at the state of society is evident in the feral snarl, but the emotional realness doesn’t overshadow the incredible melodic ideas. The underlying grit of this song gives the song a rustic blues vibe, though more in atmosphere than actual execution. Those who like their rock and roll road-weary, yet cutting edge, will have a lot to chew on here.


Max’s Pick: Of all the bands riding the wave of the 2010s doom explosion, Pallbearer has most gracefully expanded its horizons. It’s heavy, groovy and technical all at once, with sing-along vocal melodies. While it’s a far cry from mainstream palatability, it’s truly remarkable how well these guys elevate crushing heaviness with classic rock boogie and a healthy amount of heart-tugging guitar soloing. If nothing else, this cut shows that Heartless wasn’t a fluke, and Pallbearer can confidently take on the new decade.

Follow editor Max Heilman at Twitter.com/madmaxx1995 and Instagram.com/maxlikessound.

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