Guitars are Back - ISSUE 01: 10/21

Welcome to Stereo Field, the music newsletter dedicated to helping you discover new music.

This week's issue has a TON of new guitar music. Maybe it's the creeping chill of Fall causing us to retreat back to our comfy, indie-rock roots. Or maybe the record-breaking boost in guitar sales over the last few years has reignited an interest in guitar-based music, after samplers and synthesizers ruled the indie and alternative music of the 2010s. Either way, we're here for it.

In this issue, we're talking:

  • Exciting debuts from Enumclaw and Skullcrusher.

  • Our conflicting opinions on the new The 1975 album.

  • A sleeper cut from the Beastie Boys.

  • The return of one of the last decade's most exciting hip-hop collaborations.

And as always we've got a weekly playlist with everything we've been listening to, the upcoming releases we're the most excited about, and the trusty ole' meme of the week.

Let's get into it.

Turn on Images. An Image of three artists responsible for our album picks of the week for 10/21: The 1975, Skullcrusher, and Enumclaw

With so much great new music this week, we couldn't pick just one album to feature. Here are the three albums we couldn't put down this week.

Skullcrusher - Quiet the Room (Secretly Canadian)

Helen Ballentine's debut full-length as Skullcrusher is a mesmerizing, crushingly beautiful piece of ambient folk. Quiet the Room sees Ballentine navigating the darker moments of her childhood, specifically her parent's divorce. And while she may be looking back lyrically, sonically she is pushing forwards, taking the gentle indie-folk of her previous EPs and singles into an increasingly ambient and experimental direction. With production help and co-writing from indie super-producer Andrew Sarlo, and Noah Weinman of Runnner, the ethereal vocal performances, delicate orchestration, glitchy production, and deeply reflective subject matter make for a captivating 42 minutes living in Ballentine's world.

This album isn't exactly a casual listen, but if you've got a long commute, or if you can find 42 minutes to sit down and intentionally listen to music this week, this is the album you should put on.

The 1975 - Being Funny in a Foreign Language (Dirty Hit)

The Stereofield crew has mixed feelings on this one. And since we're talking about the most self-indulgent band in indie-pop, we might pontificate a little more than usual.

Taylor's thoughts: I loved the genre experimentation, extended instrumentals, and right-to-the-edge-of-cringe lyrics of the band's last two full-lengths. A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships and Notes On a Conditional Form took me from an arms-length listener to a full-on fan of the band. They might have been pretentious or, overly self-important, but the music had a deep sense of urgency. Like the band truly believed listening to it was the most important thing you could be doing.

That overarching sense of importance, as well as the experimentation of the last two albums, is largely gone from Being Funny in a Foreign Language. In its place are 13 of the band's most straightforward, fun, and IMO, bland, pop songs. Don't get me wrong, there are still some great songs here. The LCD Soundsystem indebted opener, 'The 1975', is an excellent ode to growing old and realizing that you maybe don't have the answers to all the world's problems. And 'Happiness', with production help from DJ Sabrina the Teenage DJ, is an absolute 80's pop banger. But the majority of the songs here honestly just feel a little meh, like the band isn't really trying that hard. Coming from a band that has made tryhard-ness an essential part of their brand, it just feels a little phoned in.

Julia's thoughts: I loved The 1975 in high school, but as I got older I started to associate their music with other "immature pop I loved in high school". I've still enjoyed a few songs from their more recent albums, but haven't considered myself a fan since high school. But the singles from this album had me reconsidering my feelings toward the band. After listening to the whole album, I remember what made me love them in the first place.

Sam's thoughts: I could never get past Chocolate.

No matter what camp you fall into, the album is worth a listen.

Enumclaw - Save the Baby (Luminelle Recordings)

Enumclaw made waves last year when they burst onto the scene with an exciting EP of Shoegaze-influenced rock, and a particularly bold slogan: "The Best Band Since Oasis". If unwavering bravado was half of the Gallagher brothers' charm, Enumclaw is certainly on the way there. Lucky for them, they might just have the music to back it up.

Where the band's initial EP, Jimbo Demo, had an unpolished and hazy DIY sound, Save the Baby is a polished indie-rock affair. Producer Gabe Wax (Soccer Mommy, The War on Drugs) helps the band trade in their reverb and chorus-laden guitars for tight, fuzzy tones, reminiscent of early Bloc Party, with a little grunge thrown in to pay homage to their Seattle/Tacoma roots. The songwriting is also much tighter here, and vocalist (and master mustache-grower) Aramis Johnson seems to have settled much more comfortably into his dry, brit-pop-influenced vocal style.

The album is exciting, but it isn't perfect. While Johnson's vocals are one of the most exciting things about the band, many of his melodies have a similar rhythm and pattern. There were more than a few times when we had to ask, "Didn't I just listen to this song?"

Regardless, the songs here have a unique sound in today's indie-rock landscape, and are a big jump from what was already an exciting demo. We're excited to follow Enumclaw on their quest to be the biggest band in the world.

Every week we curate a playlist of the new releases, old favorites, and newly discovered classics that we're listening to, and share our thoughts on a few of the tracks. Check out the whole playlist on Spotify, and find our thoughts below:

Check Out The Whole Playlist Here

SCREW FACE* - Jean Dawson

Jean Dawson’s second studio album Chaos Now lives up to its name. This record sees Dawson effortlessly move from the angry and hard-hitting pop-punk of ‘GLORY*’ to the pleasant acoustic folk of ‘PIRATE RADIO*. What makes ‘SCREW FACE*’ stand out is Dawson’s ability to jump quickly and swiftly between genres in a single track - all while sticking the landing. He creates the perfect sonic storm. This track is the perfect encapsulation of Chaos Now.

I Don't Know - The Beastie Boys

Let's start with a confession: I am not super versed in the Beastie Boy's discography. So this track might not be as much of a deep cut, or as out of place in their discography as I think. But after coming across I Don't Know on a random playlist, I was shocked to see that it was penned by the New York hip-hop legends. Delicate acoustic guitar, Brazilian percussion, and hushed, intimate vocals are not things I associate with the band that brought us the brash rap-rock of Intergalactic Planetary or (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party).

On I Don't Know, Adam "MCA" Yauch finds a sense of comfort in the universal truth that nobody really knows what the hell we're doing here. The track features a gentle, bossa nova-influenced instrumental, and some beautiful backing vocal "doot-doos" from Miho Hatori of 90's trip-hop group Cibo Matto. Whether you're a Beastie fan or not, this track is worth checking out.

Kill Her Freak Out - Samia

Samia has a unique ability to make the insanely specific feel universal and intimate, something few current songwriters are achieving as well as she is. The Funeral organ at the start of 'Kill Her Freak Out' immediately puts us in the shoes of someone reconciling with loss. In Samia’s words, this song is “for anyone who’s made a concerted effort only to share their most thoughtful, appealing, and intellectual feelings for fear of someone leaving. I had to finally yell the ugly thing, even just for me. It felt good kinda.” Samia’s lyrics are cathartic and beautiful, even in their ugliness.

S.D.O.S - Alex G

Alex G continues to make big moves, maintaining a long-standing underground fan base while successfully attracting mainstream attention. S.D.O.S is an immersive landscape of a track, and a stand out from his latest record, God Save the Animals. The distant strings and distorted low vocals are stunning, and even with only a few lines, the mantra-like lyrics stand out. S.D.O.S. sounds like the perfect song for a video game soundtrack.

Where I Go - NxWorries feat. H.E.R.

Yes Lawd! With Anderson Paak's popular tiny desk performance, great solo albums, and hugely successful Silk Sonic collab with Bruno Mars pushing him to the forefront of Top 40, who knew if we ever going to see new material from NxWorries. Paak's collaboration with legendary Stones Throw beat maker Knxwledge brought us some of the freshest hip-hop of the mid-2010s. So we're beyond stoked to report that after 6 years, NxWorries has returned. 'Where I Go' features Knx's signature stuttering, slinky beats, overlayed with a hazily chopped-up soul guitar, while Anderson and guest vocalist H.E.R. effortlessly trade croons and sing-songy rap verses.

Check Out The Whole Playlist Here

This month has been absolutely stacked with great new releases, and the rest of "Droptober" doesn't show any signs of slowing down. Here are the releases from today that we're the most excited about, as well as what's coming up for the rest of the month.

This week (10/21)

  • Dry Cleaning - Stumpwork

  • Frankie Cosmos - Inner World Peace

  • Nick Hakim - Cometa

  • Lowertown - I Love To Lie

Next week (10/28)

  • Smino - Luv 4 Rent

  • Fred Again.. - Actual Life 3

  • Nosaj Thing - Continua

  • Babehoven - Light Moving Time

  • Drugdealer - Hiding In Plain Sight

And we feel like it would be pretentious to not mention that Taylor Swift has a new album out today. While we haven't really kept up with her music, we know her last few albums have converted quite a few some-indie-record-that's-much-cooler-than-mine haters into bonafide Swifties.

Since we've got Alex G, Hovvdy, and Runnner all on the playlist this week, here's a classic from @hovvdy_memes