8track: Happy Out, Francis of Delirium, The High Ceilings, jxss, MUNDAZE., Crisco Dreams, Secret Knives, Tilly Dent

8track is a new COUNTERZINE feature where we review 8 tracks by 8 artists and arrange them in sequence like those old 8-Track tapes (the WCW of portable analogue audio media you don’t remember). This edition, Program 1 includes tracks by Happy Out, Francis of Delirium, The High Ceilings, and jxss, while Program 2 features music by MUNDAZE., Crisco Dreams, Secret Knives, and Tilly Dent.

 

Program 1

 

A1: Happy Out – “Deadhead 2”

happy out
Happy Out

Kicking things off with some noisy boys from Donegal, Ireland, we have Happy Out with “Deadhead 2”, the middle selection of their ‘Deadhead’ trilogy. While we certainly wouldn’t go so far as to call the angsty drunk-punk assault of “Deadhead 2” subtle, there’s a definite deftness to the way guitarist Ciaran Coyle crafts addictive and cathartic melodies of distortion, just as sure as he spills pained, slurred vocals all over that canvas of controlled chaos. It’s packaged tightly, even if the actual sound invokes an image of barely legal rowdy boys stumbling out of a pub after one too many rounds. The band note their influence and support of acts such as Titus Andronicus and Idles frontman Joe Talbot, which makes sense, but we’ll add “PUP but less indebted to pop punk and more indebted to 90s-early 2000s noise rock” to that list as well. “Deadhead 2” comes from the band’s debut conceptual EP Is, Was, Wasn’t, which is available to purchase here(socials: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)

 

A2: Francis of Delirium – “Quit Fucking Around”

francis
Francis of Delirium

Next, we have “Quit Fucking Around”, a catchy, youthful, and energetic indie rock jam from Luxembourg-based band Francis of Delirium. The band’s first true single following an April 2019 demos release, “Quit Fucking Around” is a clear and direct anthem seeking to shake a young generation out of cyclical, negative thinking. 18 years old, frontwoman Jana Bahrich speaks to herself as much as she does to the rest of Gen Z when she acknowledges the struggles against hopelessness when you feel as though you’ve “lost the controls to [your] own game” in a mess of a world largely made for you by preceding generations, while still insistent that these thoughts won’t make the situation better, cutting through the defeatist self-talk with the belted chorus of the song’s namesake. “Quit Fucking Around” comes from the band’s upcoming April 2020 EP, but the single is available pay-what-you-want here right now. (socials: website, Facebook, Instagram)

 

A3: The High Ceilings – “On the Line”

high ceilings
The High Ceilings

Following a song born of helplessness and frustration, is yet another song born of hopelessness and frustration (it’s a mood a lot of us are maybe kinda feeling right now): The High Ceiling’s “On the Line”. “On the Line” harnesses that frustration differently than “Quit Fucking Around”, however, embracing bitterness and railing against those who would attempt to dictate and grandstand regarding the behaviors and opinions of others. The High Ceilings’ scoff at those who would present themselves as infallible, with vocalist Ben Horder noting “everybody’s got a point of view, everyone’s got some shit stuck underneath their shoe” and stressing the importance of acknowledging your own issues before going after others with moral impunity. The sound and melodies themselves, however, are much lighter and breezier than you might expect, blending Australian favorite jangle pop with bits of grit from folk and country rock: a cool, refreshing wind, with some little specks of dirt occasionally smacking you in the face. It’s The Clean, pissed the fuck off, with a harmonica: it’s pretty good. “On the Line” is available to purchase here, and the band look to release their debut LP Murrah Hill early this year. (socials: Facebook, Instagram)

 

A4: jxss – “crooks”

jxss
jxss

Closing program 1 is “crooks” from Toronto-based singer-songwriter jxss. “crooks” is a crunchy, tense shuffle of a lo-fi noise pop tune relaying the inner battle with anxiety: fitting, as it sounds the type of track to nervously pace around the living room. jxss waxes on how it controls her, from preventing her from going out when she otherwise might want to, or speaking out, bemoaning that whenever she musters the the emotional wherewithal to “tear [its] walls down”, it simply “knock[s] [her] out”, “always [having] [its] way with [her]”. It’s an energetic track, but introverted and slightly jittery, aided by fuzzy, distorted guitars and brief, sudden rhythm shifts. “crooks” is out now and available to purchase here(socials: Twitter, Instagram)

 

Program 2

 

B1: MUNDAZE. – “Happy”

mundaze
MUNDAZE.

So program 1 was a lot of hopelessness, bitterness, and anxiety. Luckily, we start with California indie pop band MUNDAZE. and their song “Happy”! Great, right!? Time to get cheery! Welp… nope. This bouncy, twangy little gem is about anti-commercialism, depression, and the “fake-it-til-you-make-it” approach to happiness! Yay! The band run through all the things we’re told should make us happy: houses, cars, days at the beach, each one leaving them feeling as empty as the last: the house is not a home, the car can’t take them to a place where they feel better, etc. Ultimately, they find solace in “an eighth of weed and smok[ing] it til [they] make believe [they’re] so happy”. This Santa Cruz, country-flavored, laid-back, escapist stoner pop joint comes from the band’s late 2019 album Tangerine, which is available pay-what-you-want here(socials: Facebook, Instagram)

 

B2: Crisco Dreams – “Skater on the Lake”

crisco dreams
Crisco Dreams

As much as we keep saying we don’t like to pick favorites on these, we keep picking favorites on these: “Skater on the Lake” from Baltimore indie country band Crisco Dreams is a gorgeous and intimate ode to taking time for yourself, characterized by its naturalistic poeticism, soulful, earthy vocals, intricate acoustic guitar work, and tasteful, selective use of steel pedal. It’s a bit like a great The Tallest Man on Earth song, though the lyrics less abstract and Nicky MB’s vocals more of a classic croon compared to Mattson’s gravely whine. He sings “there’s such a thing as too much of a good thing” when speaking of activity with others, rejecting invitations so he can “skate on the lake”, while still appreciating the thought and noting he’ll be free another day. A grounded, superbly written tune wielding relatability and a bit of near undefinable magic: if songs were coffee, this would be our choice blend. “Skater on the Lake” is available to purchase here. (socials: Facebook, Instagram)

 

B3: Secret Knives – “Simple Bliss”

secret knives
Secret Knives

Next up, we have Wellington, New Zealand’s Secret Knives with “Simple Bliss”. Riding on top a wave of a twinkling, looped piano and rhythmic shaker, Ash Smith’s shaky, childlike vocals paint in vivid watercolor morbid imagery with neurotic purpose (“I shiver and I feel a fever / See my head beneath the cleaver / To the butcher I request / Make sure my mess is elegant!”) followed by harsh blasts of noise. On several levels, it feels reminiscent of the earlier work of Avey Tare, particularly Spirit They’re Gone Spirit They’ve Vanished: take the elements of the sprawling “Chocolate Girl” or “Alvin Row” and cram them into a pop song little under four minutes, you might get something like “Simple Bliss”. Also of note is this incredible music video: a psychedelic odyssey fueled by the experimental animation of New Zealand On Air. “Simple Bliss” comes from Secret Knives’ album Snuff, available digitally and on cassette via Prison Tapes here(socials: Facebook, Instagram)

 

B4: Tilly Dent – “Castle of Sand”

tilly dent
Tilly Dent

We close out this 8track with “Castle of Sand” from London singer-songwriter Tilly Dent. This isn’t the first time we’ll compare an artist to Elliott Smith, and it likely won’t be the last, but perhaps we should be a bit more specific: not Roman Candle era, more Figure 8 era, still deeply affected by sorrow and anger, but not so much violent and raw, more close and achingly clear. “Castle of Sand” sounds sweet, with Dent’s soft vocals leaning into you as the guitar melody weaves its way into your subconscious, so intrusive you can hear the strings creak as Dent shifts his hand on the neck. The lyrics, however, are black: existential dread and nihilism, the line “Castle of sand / Built but to fall / Look at your life / It means nothing at all” waxing on the futility of persisting through life when ultimately, it all crumbles like grains of sand. It’s achingly beautiful, but also, it just aches. “Castle of Sand” comes from Dent’s debut EP available here. (socials: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)

 

And the playlist:

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