This week features an ’80s throwback from Sumerlands, a blues rock hook for Ukraine from Jace Allen, Swedish punk from No Fun At All, the latest in a string of greatness from Titus Andronicus, some serious banjo playing by Appalachian Road Show, and a collaboration of quiet power from Zoe Boekbinder featuring Gracie and Rachel.
Jace Allen, “Hail Federate” — This one benefits Ukrainians, which is enough of a reason to like it, but the actual song is worthy of a spot by itself. The vocals have a soaring, powerful Bon Jovi vibe without the Bon Jovi pitch, and that grungy blues rock guitar hook is of rare quality. I don’t have $1,000 to donate to a Ukrainian family like the song asks, but if you do, I suggest you do so to reward Allen for that riff.
Sumerlands, “Dreamkiller” — This song, and for that matter the video, may make you think someone taped this off MTV in 1987 and uploaded it. They did not; it’s actually new, but the pitch-perfect throwback hair metal vibe genuinely makes it hard to tell. Lots of bands can be inspired by a genre that’s faded from its prime, but not a lot of bands have the skill—or frankly the guts—to go all out and just put out a full-blown throwback song. And for that, Sumerlands, I salute you.
Titus Andronicus, “(I’m) Screwed” — Titus Andronicus is not a new, up-and-coming band. This is from its upcoming seventh album in its 17 years of existence. But it has the blessing and curse of being the sort of band that other musicians love. The band is incredibly talented, innovative and original, and has enough success to make a living, but at the same time, for whatever reason, an “artist’s artist” rarely reaches superstar status. It’s a shame, as “(I’m) Screwed” aptly demonstrates, since Titus Andronicus’ refined indie punk is great and you should listen to it more.
No Fun At All, “It’s Not a Problem” — Did you know Sweden has a punk scene? No Fun At All has been around since the ’90s, so apparently it’s not recent news. Sweden just doesn’t seem super punk to me. These guys have the sort of Bad Religion vibes that I listen to every chance I get.
Appalachian Road Show, “Blue Ridge Mountain Baby” — This is not my usual jam. I have a very broad range of musical taste, but generally I wouldn’t consider this a part of it. And yet… listen to it! It’s great, right? It’s so infectiously joyful it’s forcing me to love it despite myself. Listen for yourself, and you’ll get it.
Zoe Boekbinder featuring Gracie and Rachel, “I Am Yesterday” — Hi everyone, it’s Rachel Alm! I’m going to sneak in here and add my pick of the week because Willis came down with a bad case off the ‘Rona. And my pick is this collaboration by labelmates on Ani DiFranco’s Righteous Babe Records. This is a quiet, beautiful, drumless tune about post-relationship blues. Zoe Boekbinder sounds truly forlorn as they sing, “I saw you walking with your new guy/ I am yesterday/ Didn’t even say goodbye.” Boekbinder proudly proclaims that this song was written, engineered, mixed, and mastered by all women and non-binary people. That sounds more like the future, not yesterday.
Danny’s Pick: I have to salute Sumerlands for how hard they lean into the period piece aspect of “Dreamkiller,” not just in the song itself but in the video. I love songs out of time and I wish things like this happened more often. I want a Beach-Boys-style surf rock band with modern production values, and I want grunge to come back so my flannel shirts return to style. Follow Sumerlands’ lead, everyone!
Follow editor Daniel J. Willis at Twitter.com/BayAreaData.