Each month offers up a number of month-end lists that highlight some of the best full-length releases. These lists are seen on a number of sites across the internet. However, what often gets lost in the commotion of creating these lists are smaller, independent releases that come in the form of 7-inch, EPs, and splits. These releases could feature songs from emerging talent looking to leave their mark in music or from prominent artists working with friends and other acts to create unique offerings not found on full albums. Here at Bearded Gentlemen Music, we thrive on digging through smaller releases the underground scene has to offer. Each month we shed some light on a number of diverse releases you may have missed. From garage rock to black metal. Post-punk to country. Anything can happen! Take some time to sift through our selection and dig on this!
The Best Underground Music of May 2017:
Gene Tripp / Golden Boots – Euro Tour” Split 7 –
From the label who individually cuts every single lathe record by hand, comes the latest split from Gene Tripp and Golden Boots. “My Hands” is a dreamy 1960s-era country ballad that only Tripp can deliver. Bizarre and surreal but at the same time emotionally beautiful. It’s like having your senior prom directed by David Lynch.
If you think Tripp’s mash-up of retro country and alluring creepiness was weird, wait until you hear Golden Boots’ ‘Tropical Trio’ version of “Virginia”! Sugary vocal hooks sway throughout this minimal-wave jam. It features a deliciously distorted bass and the sweetest rudimentary Casio beat this side of 1990. Despite having little in common, both tracks perfectly sum up why I love this label so much. Every release is unique and weird; just how 7” splits should be. – Aaron Cooper
X SUNS – Strawberry Mansion / Twelve Hours 7″
Poncé – Surrender To The Night/Elevator 7”
Cincinnati’s vinyl-only label Soul Step Records, have released some of my favorite 7” records over the past few years. As soon as I heard the first 15 seconds of Ponce’s neon pink single, I knew the tradition would continue! Hailing from Nashville, the twin brother duo of Ponce, offer power pop you’d swear came straight from your favorite 1980s teenage rom-com.
The synth-driven “Surrender To The Night” is heavy on retro sentimentalism, but cool enough to blast in your IROC Camaro with the t-tops off. The B-side “Elevator” trades the synths for a crunchy 1-4-5 guitar riff and more lovable attitude you can stuff into a Members Only jacket. Even though there’s plenty of retro call-backs throughout these songs, it’s not a superficial crutch. Both tracks are legitimately good songs. Ponce reminds the listener of the main reason we love those retro vibes in the first place: it’s just simply fun! -Aaron Cooper
The synth-driven “Surrender To The Night” is heavy on retro sentimentalism, but cool enough to blast in your IROC Camaro with the t-tops off. The B-side “Elevator” trades the synths for a crunchy 1-4-5 guitar riff and more lovable attitude you can stuff into a Members Only jacket. Even though there’s plenty of retro call-backs throughout these songs, it’s not a superficial crutch. Both tracks are legitimately good songs. Ponce reminds the listener of the main reason we love those retro vibes in the first place: it’s just simply fun! – Aaron Cooper
Imha Tarikat- Kenoboros
The debut EP from mysterious German crew Imha Tarikat sallies forth grimly on the Norwegian label Terratur Possessions, previously responsible for releasing resonant and formative releases by the likes of Urfaust, Celestial Bloodshed and Mispyrming amongst others. On these four tracks, the supposed duo run the gauntlet of black metal atmospherics with varying degrees of success.
“Grey Path” traverses thrillingly from Cascadian classicism to the kind of punk charge that Discharge fans will find hard to deny, with some slight post-punk influences lodged betwixt. Far better is the even more punk-charged title track which actually gains atmosphere for trying less hard to be epic and assuming its own cavernous nihilism. “Blazing Hive” endorses in the sonic-du-jour indulgence of post-metal but with pleasing force and depth. There’s nothing ground-breaking or particularly powerful to be found here but fans of Mgla, Darkthrone and Agalloch will find plenty to sink their teeth into. – Jack Mckeever
Medium Weekend – No Touching The Art
Seattle-based duo Medium Weekend released this killer three song EP back in February. Jack McKool and Spike Miller have names more akin to superheroes than regular people names. Like their names, their music sounds extraordinary.
They open up with “Guard Your Oranges”. Beginning with a dreamy 3 minute plus intro gives you a false sense of calm. Right when you let your guard down a flurry of heavy math rock rips a hole through your mind’s eye. The next track, “Interlude” is anything but an interlude. An engrossing instrumental roller-coaster. The final track “TWOMIMOWT” is the only one with vocals. The whole EP is seamless and could have been recorded as one long song. Holy hell these guys are rippers and I can’t wait to see what is to come from them. – Matt Jamison
Maurizio Bianchi & Abul Mogard – Nervous Hydra / All This Has Passed Forever
This new split by sonic voyagers Maurizio Bianchi and Abul Mogard for Ecstatic records is sure-fire proof that, in more ways than one, drone can be the most human genre of all. Bianchi’s ‘Nervous Hydra’ is a nightmarish 17-minute cacophony drenched in nigh-on-impenetrable fog. It asks its listeners to search for the sustenance and melody that obtusely propels it and is utterly intoxicating in its almost cheekily antagonistic quest. It’s also asking for a huge a leap of faith, but to those who let it subdue them it’s completely thrilling.
By contrast, Serbian composer and producer Abul Mogard steps up to apply 16 minutes of his characteristically reflective, deeply layered and occasionally almost tear-jerking pathos on ‘All This Has Passed Forever’. Initially, it’s a sheer change in tact from Bianchi’s gambit, but as it unfurls it allows the creeping sense of an emotional journey from loss and anxiety to a life-affirming glance at the future to develop. – Jack Mckeever
Transylvania Stud / The By Gods – Searching With My Good Eye Closed
I used to think there were certain artists that can’t be covered. Soundgarden being one of those bands. Chris Cornell‘s voice is so distinct, anyone attempting to duplicate it generally yields unfavorable results. It’s an unspoken law. You don’t mess around with Jim, and you don’t cover Soundgarden. This school of thought was recently challenged unexpectedly with the release of Transylvania Stud’s cover of Searching With My Good Eye Closed.
You might remember my brief review of Transylvania Stud’s previous EP, Red Queen in the last Sevens & Splits column. A side-project from Navaeh’s frontman Andrew Godfrey, specializing in spaced out desert rock, not unlike Failure or Queens Of The Stone Age. Out of nowhere comes this random cover on his bandcamp page. Instead of playing all instruments himself, Godfrey enlisted the help of one of my favorite Nashville bands, The By Gods. Good Eye may not be the most popular Soundgarden track for a relatively new band, but Godfrey and co. go all in and make it their own. The beats are heavy and aggressive, guitar and bass gnarly as a rabid grizzly, and Godfrey’s vocals are surprisingly on par with the legendary Cornell. – Aaron Cooper
I discovered Arkansas’ I Was Afraid in the Spring of last year when I stumbled upon their previous release Endless Ecstasy.
Here is a little fun fact about me (that I am sure no one gives a shit to know) I am obsessed with the mid 90’s space rock band Hum and I pretty much worship their final two albums, You’d Prefer an Astronaut and Downward is Heavenward. Well, I Was Afraid to me are like a new and updated version of Hum. That’s not to say that they are direct rip-offs, because they are not at all. There sound just reminds me of one of my favorite bands of all time, which in turn makes them one of my favorite “new” bands out right now.
Their status of favorite new band was cemented even further this year with the release of their latest EP, Lonely Frontier that consists of four solid tracks of shredding reverbed-out cosmic themed jams. The musician work from all four dudes is top notch and the vocals are just what you’d want from a shoegaze-space rock type band.
I Was Afraid offer all of their jams for free to download on their Bandcamp page. I suggest you get on it. – Jon
Aaron (or Coop) is a freelance writer, multi-instrumentalist and overall lover of all things music. As an advocate for indie record labels and artists, he is passionate about local scenes and do-it-yourself artistry. If it’s good, it’s good. If it’s bad, he’s not afraid to explain why.