Tuesday Tracks: Your Weekly New Music Discovery – March 17, 2020

The Dears, The Jacks, GUM, Tame Impala, Jay Watson, Sparks, Gleemer, Sasami

Clockwise from top left: The Dears, The Jacks, GUM (Tame Impala’s Jay Watson), Sparks, Gleemer, Sasami.

Every week, there’s more new music waiting to be discovered.

You’re no doubt stuck at home for the Nth day. Maybe you’ve even dried Netflix’s well of passive entertainment (it’s impossible). By now, you may be thinking that “social distancing” is not very fun. It’s time for new music to ease the nerves. Even with all the extra time creating the demand, the weekly waves of new music don’t get any less daunting. Seriously, who really has the time to sort through all that? RIFF does! We’re still here, still combing through emails (at least those of us who aren’t hitting the streets to bring you the latest on the Bay Area’s response to coronavirus.

We’re happy to bring you the latest, greatest new songs in this weekly segment. Enjoy this week’s hidden gems.


Sparks, “I’m Toast” — The brothers Mael have been making music since the late ’60s, remaining sadly unknown. Regardless, Sparks have never stopped delivering quirky, art-pop and glam rock. With a strangely fitting message, this song abounds with tongue-in-cheek humor. Everything about it sounds depressing, from trudging guitars, to the lyrics that melt down across the video. Driving steadily forward, the song develops a downer new-wave sound. The catchy keys make you want to get up and pogo along. Vocalist Russell Mael picks up the vibe with the lyrics, “There’s something burning/ I’m toast/ I’m finally learning.” The vibe remains ominous and dark, but the song’s charm will keep you sane during this insane time. As Mael says: “What does it all mean?/ 9-11/ Its worse than what I’d thought.”


Gleemer, “TTX” — This song takes a moment to grab you. The opening notes are sweet, soft and soothing, via vocalist-guitarist Cory Coffman’s beautifully somber timbre. Shimmering guitars gradually expand the soundscape. The fuzzed-out guitars add to the melancholic weight, but the aura remains pristine. The guitars swirl together and Coffman hauntingly sings, “It’s my party/ And I’ll cry if I want to.” The band reminds me of a shoegaze take on Toad the Wet Sprocket, and I realize I want more from these guys from Fort Collins, Colorado.


The Dears, “The Worst In Us” — It’s impossible not to smile as this song plays. Sure, the lyrics are anything but chirpy, but The Dears’ music is anything but dark. The song’s feel of impending doom is evident as vocalist Murray Lightburn sings, “And while they’re bringing down the rest of us/ They’re never bringing out the worst in us.” Around the two-minute mark, The Dears pull off an instrumental switch-up, with keys and drumming developing naturally and dynamically. The atmosphere becomes hauntingly post-apocalyptic at its peak. “The Worst In Us” comes off of The Dear’s eighth studio album, Lovers Rock. If this is any indication, the LP shouldn’t be overlooked.


The Jacks, “Threw It All Away” — Los Angeles quartet The Jacks channels its inner Strokes vibe on this jam. Equal parts British-invasion and early 2000s indie rock, The Jacks make some punchy garage rock, a la Louis XIV. The driving guitar hooks draw you in under lead singer Jonny Stanback’s warm, bluesy vocals. “Threw It All Away” has an ever-catchy chorus. The two-minute mark provides the ultimate payoff, as the tight guitars meld and build off one another. The band’s Southern-garage rock will have your fist in the air. Hockey fans will recognize their music from the the 2019 NHL playoffs.


GUM, “Out In The World” — If you’re still sad about missing Tame Imapala’s show, all isn’t lost yet. GUM, the solo project of Tame Impala’s, Jay Watson, released this catchy gem. Replacing psychedelic dance feels with earthy guitars turns out to be a good thing. Over dreamy guitars and distinct ’70s backdrop, Watson croons about isolationism and feeling alone. As the song crescendos, the chorus comes to life like a fresh breath of air with light, shimmering, swirling guitars. The song juxtaposes isolationism against sunny hooks, infectious and made for repetition.


SASAMI, “Mess” — Guitars, pedals and fuzz fill every sonic crevice of “Mess,” and that’s just the opening. Growling, yet soft vocals play against the guitar hooks, biting lyrics on this tightly wound arrangement. The song is melodic yet intense. This Los Angeles songwriter and multi-instrumentalist helps change the game for the singer-songwriters format. “Mess” churns and burns, but it’s the softness to her voice that really makes the song work. Lyrics like, “I’m just trying to get paid/ And I’m already high now,” etch themselves into your memory. If she sounds at all familiar, SASAMI was in Cherry Glazerr.


Rachel’s Pick: I saw both GUM and The Jacks this past week. Both were amazing in very different ways. Jay Watson is as impressive as anyone or anything associated with Tame Impala. It’s impossible to not get lost in “Out In the World,” but The Jacks’ “Threw It All Away” blows me away like when I saw them for the first time. Their garage rock sound is hard-riffing and gratifying both on record and on stage. The song is three minutes of throbbing guitar heaven. Catchy, punchy and in-your-face, it’s the perfect sing-along. With electronic music taking over the charts, I love that this band remains rooted in straight-up rock and roll. It’s garage rock at its finest with each of the guitarists shining and leaving me wanting more.

Follow writer Rachel Goodman at Twitter.com/xneverwherex and Instagram.com/xneverwherex.

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