Bully, Feels Like
FOR FANS OF: Japandroids, Sleater-Kinney, Screaming Females
Have you heard of the game Gone Home? It was a critically-acclaimed indie game in which you play a college student home to visit your family for the first time in their new house. You arrive to find that none of your family members are around, and you have to find out why. Along the way, the poignant and intense story confronts questions of sexuality, personality, and the exploration of self through music. The incredible score is bolstered by cassette tapes the player finds throughout the house featuring classic underground Riot Grrrllll-style punk songs that punctuate the story of personal development for the main character’s 16-year-old younger sister. The game is short, maybe two hours long, but after finishing it the first time through, I found I couldn’t shake the story. Something intensely personal was ringing through my body. And ever since that first playthrough, I’ve become increasingly fascinated by the experience of female punk singers. Something about the societal struggles of young women who choose to confront the pressures of forced femininity through aggressive hard rock music compels me to seek more, more, and more. I’ve become enamoured of a few bands in particular, and, based on their debut Feels Like, Bully might very well find a long-standing place in that rotation. From the rollicking exuberance of “Milkman” to the straining need of “Trying,” the songs are at turns potent and incredibly catchy. They deserve a listen.
Thundercat, The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam
FOR FANS OF: Flying Lotus, Gnarls Barkley, Anderson Paak
If female punk singers are my secret identification, skilled rhythm musicians are my deepest source of envy. I don’t remember the last concert I attended where I didn’t dream of being on stage with whomever I was watching, playing the drums, or, since I’ve started to learn the bass guitar, bass. It doesn’t matter who it is or how complicated (or indeed how uncomplicated) the music is, I always want to be the one making those incredible sounds, providing thrills for throngs of people absorbing every beat. Though I haven’t yet seen him live, I have no doubt that Thundercat (the stage name for Steven Bruner) would spark a similar desire in me. It’s hard to encapsulate just how incredible Thundercat’s bass skills are. Beyond just his instrument of choice (a custom-built six-string bass), his abilities have astounded some of the greatest instrumentalists of our era. His work has bolstered the likes of Flying Lotus, Herbie Hancock, and, recently, George Clinton. On his solo work, most recently the EP The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam, Thundercat both showcases his incredible instrumental work and shows off an impressive range as an R&B singer, combining elements of jazz, hip-hop, funk, and soul into a unique and trippy sound. “Them Changes” is thick and bouncing, while “Lone Wolf and Cub” is haunting and grand. Looking to his earlier work, he has tremendous melodic power even when he’s clearly just messing around lyrically, as on “Tron Song” from 2013’s Apocalypse (followed by the even more breathtaking “Seven,” which ends in literal laughter). I don’t even have to watch his fingers trace patterns on the fretboard to feel the desire to take his place, to have the sheer talent of his abilities. Alas, I’ll have to settle for enjoying Thundercat as a performer, and imagining I could do anything nearly as well as he.