As quarantine lingers on, the music makers continue to create. For the next two months, I'm digging into some of the best underground sounds to come out of this unprecedented time.
Mlady - Proximity
The Colorado-based dream pop band is back with a new, quarantine-fitting track, Proximity. This is their first single of the new decade, and it could not have come at a better time. Although this writer prefers the vibes of the acoustic original - released six months before their Bandcamp-exclusive demo tape, from my living room - this new version is fuller and more developed. Lead singer Hannah Beeghly once again delivers an excellent vocal performance to pair with the talents of guitarists Austin “Hoss” Bourdon and Ian Mahan.
The second verse is perhaps the core of this song’s message: the primal need for community and interaction.
I think I read once that monkeys don't care
about other monkeys unless they're there
they've got community
some daily company
don't pine for what they cannot see
they're just creatures of proximity
The song’s third verse initially spoke to my experience with the pain of maintaining long-distance relationships. However, the coronavirus has given this song a greater message.
my stomach hurts when I think about it
and I can't sleep, my heads too crowded
you want what's best for me
I think that's what you mean
I hate it selfishly
cause we're creatures of proximity
Although this writer lives in an area where folks aren’t taking quarantine seriously, I feel the loneliness in the longing for company and human interaction.
Proximity isn’t too flashy or energetic, which is exactly what makes it such a comfortable, easy listen. Mlady continues to deliver soft mood music for the Rocky Mountain High.
The Bottom Line: Hey, lonely soul in 2020 in quarantine - or little sad new wave emo-hippy teen in 2035: time to drift for 4 minutes into your feelings- or at least learn the ukulele or guitar to play like Hannah at an open mic.
With three new songs released since their 2019 self-titled EP and solid tour - hell, these guys are still virtually delivering solid performances in quarantine - this writer is really looking forward to a full-length project in the near future.
-Lyricism: ★★★★★ -Artwork/Visuals: ★★★★★ -Delivery/Performance: ★★★★★ -First Impression/Enjoyment: ★★★½ -Staying Power: ★★★★
Final Score: ★★★★
Count Crumulet - Louder!
Count Crumulet is a bedroom producer and creator from St. John's, Newfoundland whose style can’t be nailed down just yet on his debut project. Recorded in under a month for a local music competition, Louder! is a lyric-less buffet of tasty progressive rock music.
Much of the rest of the album is mid-tempo mellow high for the ears - differing from it’s explosive, surf rock opener, Extrema, and the second-to-last track Hornet II: Return of the Hornet.
The Botanist is the favorite child of this family. Such a smooth, subtle bass line in harmony with a funky guitar of the Count. Fans of Khruangbin and 1980s era Red Hot Chili Peppers will enjoy this one.
Now since I’ve never done peyote, I cannot tell you if the next track of the same name lives up to that particular high. But I do enjoy an easy ride through the heart of Texas as the acid kicks in perhaps as much as this. The heatwave continues on The Fall of the McNamara Clan; a twangy, phased-out electric guitar carries us like a lone cowboy coming to save the listener from heat exhaustion and the Eagle-Bear hybrid monster they are hallucinating (due to the aforementioned peyote).
After a trip through the desert, it’s time for some jam rock. Higher Order Funktions is probably the most relaxing song on the record. If not, then the album’s closer Expirer takes the title.
Decompression takes a little synth journey back to the days when Modest Mouse and Phoenix were our “indie darlings”. Nothing wrong a simple drum set behind an orchestra of synth and bell loops - when done right.
Look, this review should have been published months ago. But I was too busy enjoying this album. This record shifts from surf rock to garage rock to funk to psychedelic rock every five minutes. Phish Phans and Deadheads might really wanna check this guy out.
The Bottom Line: It’s an all-you-can-jam buffet?? Someone get me a lighter, a horse, and a map to Tijuana….
The Best Tracks: Extrema, The Botanist, Higher Order Funktions, Decompression, Hornet II, Expirer
The "So-So" Tracks: Peyote, The Fall of the McNamara Clan
The "Meh" Tracks: Hornet
-Artwork/Visuals: ★★★★★ -Originality: ★★★
-Delivery/Performance: ★★★★★ -First Impression/Enjoyment: ★★★★★ -Staying Power: ★★★★ Final Score: ★★★★½
GaryOAKland - GaryOAKland II
The San Francisco beat-maker is back with the follow-up to his 2019 debut album, Paint by Numbers. GaryOAKland II is his third project released since his sudden arrival to the music scene in 2018. Gary hasn’t come quietly since his surge in popularity in the last year. He’s been teasing listeners with this self-titled album through various collaborations and singles. So it came to no surprise when the sounds shifted from future funk and house to a lo-fi electronic jazz vibe.
After hearing the lead singles, Show Me How and Sunset Surf Club, I came into this project expecting a playlist of focus music, with maybe one or two tracks good for the car or a lazy afternoon in quarantine. I was not disappointed. Mix subtle funk guitar, low-presence electric piano, boom-bap drums, reverbed vocal samples and loops as classic as a song from yesteryear: you’ve got the ingredients for a GaryOAKland cuisine.
The first four tracks do not miss. While Show Me How and Every day I fall in Bogotá is somewhat of a return to form. This upbeat track could find a home on gamer and boutique store playlists alike. I was slightly disappointed with OAK GOURMET - not because of poor production, but the missed opportunity to blow out subwoofers in Silicon Valley.
The second half of this album cools things down. Mostly Sunny and Ocean View could be contemporary jazz classics.
The Super Smash Bros enthusiast has delivered a project for grown folks. If GaryOAKland keeps up this pace, 2020 won’t seem so bleak, after all.
Bottom Line: Look, there are many summer moods and vibes. If you want hype music, come to Atlanta and find your latest trap rapper. If you want to be sad and brood over this quarantine and the girl/guy you’re sipping over, go listen to some indie rock darlings or sad boi Soundcloud rap. If you want to relax after a long day, sip a corona light and smoke a thick stogie in the sun, come to GaryOAKland, California. If you need to stay inside and get work done but long for some Vitamin D and fresh air, then let GaryOAKland II take care of you.
The Best Tracks: Show Me How, Every day I fall in, Bogotá, OAK GOURMET, Mostly Sunny, Ocean View The "So-So" Tracks: Interlude, Sunset Surf Club, Cruise McDuck -Artwork/Visuals:★★★★★ -Originality: ★★★½ -Delivery/Performance: ★★★★★ -First Impression/Enjoyment: ★★★★ -Staying Power: ★★★★★ Final Score: ★★★★
Marc Avery is an aspiring songwriter and producer from Atlanta, Georgia. His primary genre is trip-hop; blends of elements from funk, surf rock, chill hop, blues, synthpop, and psychedelic rock/jazz.