Brooklyn-based psych-folk project Olden Yolk, led by Shane Butler of Quilt and Caity Shaffer, haven’t been together for very long, and then only intermittently; a cursory search through their Bandcamp page shows a couple songs released in 2013, and a very haunting tribute to Butler’s mother released earlier this year. Their new track, “Takes One to Know One,” showcases a band that sounds, both musically and conceptually, mature beyond its years. It starts off with a loping, minor-key acoustic riff, backed by haunting strings, followed a driving backbeat and then Butler and Shaffer's circuitous vocal melody. As the song tumbles on over its eight-minute runtime, it takes on a hypnotic, trance-like quality, one that its accompanying music video—full of flashing stock images of old New York—captures perfectly.
"'Takes One to Know One' is a play on [a] phrase typically meant to assign blame through commonality," Butler and Shaffer said of the song. "Its use in the song is closer to an acceptance of our collective situation rather than a belittlement of it. It was written in our hometown of New York City--an iconic place whose icons (monuments, buildings, public art) are continually morphing and breaking down, shifting whatever former meaning had once been assigned to them. Some moments hit right when you feel like the 'writing's on the door.' The song, written during an especially jarring year of disillusionment, explores the process of finding solace in passing visages—a stranger's smile on the subway or the beauty of haphazard graffiti on a brick-laden wall. The song cycles around a group chant at the choruses. Its instrumentation is highly inspired by the percussion style of Jaki Liebezeit (of the German group CAN), a favorite of ours.”
Do Make Say Think are an instrumental post-rock group from Toronto, Canada whose music is defined by its weaving guitar lines and atmosphere of dread and exaltation. Now over 20 years old, the group recently released Stubborn Persistent Illusions, their first album in eight years. Ahead of their headlining show tomorrow Saturday, December 2nd at Murmrr Theatre, multi-instrumentalist Justin Small shared a playlist of what he described to us as “essential and influential non-post rock jams every post rock fan should hear.” Check it out below.
Self-described Brooklyn “funk-punk” group Operator Music Band create songs awash in layers of crescendoing synth and jagged guitar riffs, with sung-spoken lines and hypnotic, motorik drumming serving as an anchor to the songs’ grooves. The band’s first album, Puzzlephonics I & II–released earlier this year–served as a stunning introduction to their slightly off-kilter brand of funk; their new EP, Coördination, brings their synth experimentation and their sense of rhythm to the forefront. Lead single “Realistic Saturation” begins with the warm sound of a strummed guitar and an insistent drum beat (courtesy of Ava Luna’s Julian Fader), but a few seconds in, synths come in from every angle, and with a myriad of textures–washed out, bleep-bloopy, low and horn-like. “Communicator 4,” after riding a snare- and bass-based groove, switches it up halfway through the song for a faster, rhythmic synth trip. The five songs on the EP keep on hurtling forward until their too-short ends, the sound of a band that has the musical chops to ride a beat forever but the restraint to keep us wanting more.
A few months ago, AdHoc shared Honey Harper’s debut single, “Pharaoh.” The track—a slow-burn country tune that was ten years in the making—kicks off his debut EP, Universal Country, out now on Arbutus Records. Harper, aka London-based William Fussell, has a knack for carving out a wistful, nostalgic space within his lyrics and melodies. On the mournful “Secret,” Fussell seems like he’s one drawn-out syllable away from breaking into tears, singing, “How long must I belong to this?” The country-western “SOFR” chugs along with the help of a soft drumbeat and weeping pedal steel; one imagines the song wafting from a jukebox in a low-lit bar, everyone staring into their half-empty glasses. The songs draw the best out of the genre Harper chooses to constrain himself in: an art both immediate and indelible in its vivid evocations of longing.
Life is complicated, and so are the Downtown Boys. Like the roses that adorn the cover of their latest album, Cost of Living, their genre-exploding punk sound embraces beauty and crudeness, softness and thorniness. On stage, frontwoman Victoria Ruiz seethes about capitalist exploitation and white supremacy while speaking vulnerably about her experiences as a woman of color—sometimes all in one breath.
The Providence four-piece’s thunderous new album bolsters these revolutionary messages with a new sonic clarity, one that sets blistering guitar riffage and Ruiz’s condemnations of the Trump administration front and center. Ahead of their upcoming show on November 17 at Brooklyn Bazaar, Ruiz spoke to AdHoc about the gendered and racialized labor of resistance, as well as the challenges of inhabiting a musical space that commingles English and Spanish language lyrics, punk and Mexican tejano music.
AdHoc: Downtown Boys is getting quite a bit of press around the new album. How has all the attention altered your approach to recording and releasing music?
For a lot of us, this was our first rock band like this. So after six years, we’re gonna be a little bit more refined. We wanted to break away from being typed solely as a punk band; we have always felt like we’re part of many genres, and not fully part of any genre. We also think about [creating] a sound that opens the accessibility to the music.
We’ve always been influenced by Sun Ra Arkestra, a lot of Tejano music, and Mexican music—a sort of elegant chaos. And I think we seek people who are looking for that elegant chaos—and a message, and a space that you can’t quickly define [using] labels that you already know.
Clearly, we’re in it because we believe in the people who believe in us and are part of a bigger community and collective power. We’re committed to proclaiming our messages of protest and crystallizing our dissent. Still, I think our growing platform has both motivated and challenged our message and what we believe in. When the message gets too set in stone, we try to transform it and find a new dimension [within] it.
Local Brooklyn by way of Connecticut indie-rockers Furnsss released a self-titled tape today, their first major release since Silent Gold in 2015. Lead by songwriter, guitar player, and singer Brendan Dyer, the band has crafted six well-composed indie rock highlights. Songs like “Roll With It” and “Drag” are loud and sweeping, with crunchy guitar riffs that sound like something out of early Pavement. Other tracks feature rhythms that nod to contemporaries such as Hoops, Swings, or Mac Demarco. Speaking with AdHoc about the new release, Brendan casts a wide net of influences, including Michael Jackson’s Bad, which he says inspired the swinging rhythm on “Divine.” Overall, Brendan has constructed a great rock tape, one as concise and focused as it is compelling.
AdHoc Issue 23 is here! Download a PDF of the zine at this link.
What does a piece of music say about the person who made it? In AdHoc Issue 23, we hear from artists who build their art upon a framework of personal as well as cultural experience. Victoria Ruiz of Downtown Boys discusses the uphill battle she faces as "a brown, thick, femme frontperson," especially in terms of the expectations placed upon her by audiences and journalists. Still, she notes, these pressures have "made me want to stand closer to the fire and be in this band even more, because I know that there are a lot of people in the world dealing with this experience."
Elsewhere in the issue, Titus Andronicus' Patrick Stickles writes about the importance of all-ages venues in his personal and artistic development, and electronic musician Elysia Crampton talks about how the stories and traditions of the Aymara people have helped shaped her recordings. As with Ruiz, their work is grounded in unique personal experiences, relayed with an honesty and specificity that encourages listeners to contemplate their own experiences in similar ways.
AdHoc Issue 23's contributors:
Patrick Stickles is the singer-songwriter-guitarist of Titus Andronicus. He wrote about all-ages venues for this issue.
Aubrey Nolan is a Queens-based illustrator, cartoonist, and host of the monthly reading series for cartoonists, Panels to the People. She made this issue's illustrations.
Frankie Broyles is in the band Omni. He is a musician/designer from Atlanta, GA, and designed the cover for this issue.
Look out for physical copies both at our shows and at record stores, bookstores, coffee shops, and community centers throughout the city. If you happen to live outside of New York, you may order a copy as well.
Relatives are a New York and Providence-based folk-rock band whose slow-burn melodies and roundabout lyrics are equal parts playful, bookish, and melancholy. The duo—Katie Vogel and Ian Davis—started writing together in 2007, and their close kinship is evident in the strength of their songwriting.
Their new album, Weighed Down Fortune, is filled with songs that are spare in instrumentation yet feel lush and full. “Hope Springs” rides a bouncing beat and jumpy melody in service of puzzling, circuitous lyrics like “surely someday we’ll find that after all it was intended as such.” Perhaps the funkiest and most immediate song on the album, “Typee,” counters its danceable beat with cryptic lines like, “It’s an apocryphal world—we can’t keep scratching our noses but never stop the itching as such.”
Another track, “The Ambiguities” reminds me of Mount Eerie and Julie Dorion’s excellent 2008 collaboration Lost Wisdom, both in its intimate vocal harmonies and in the simultaneous sorrow and hope embedded in its lyrics. Davis says he drew inspiration for the song in “Pierre; or, The Ambiguities, a novel by Herman Melville about wealth, loss, sex, death, and angst." Melville’s novel and Weighed Down Fortune are alike in more ways than one: Both are oblique and evasive works that touch on romance, philosophy, writing, and family dynamics; but, in the end, a simple strength and beauty shines through.
Fairbanks, Alaska looks lovely on Google images. Snow-dusted mountains billow out of the green earth—nature’s answer to the mighty skyscrapers that, 4,256 miles away, give or take, line Manhattan’s horizon.
The former city is where Emily Yacina recorded her newest album, Heart Sky, this summer while on break from The New School, where she is studying environmental science. The latter is where she and I meet to talk about it.
“I was working for a non-profit in Fairbanks that does environmental activism work, so, in terms of visuals, I was just surrounded by nature and obsessed with that when I was there,” Yacina said. “I miss that when I’m here and felt like I was just able to be in nature and really reflect on everything that had happened the past year.”
Emily never offers an exegesis of what that everything is, because she doesn’t need to.
“It’s a really intimate album,” she says of Heart Sky. “I definitely put a lot out there. Usually, in the past, I’d keep things pretty vague in terms of lyrics or my songwriting, but I felt so safe writing the songs that they definitely feel more personal—all of the songs are of course personal, but these ones feel more literal.”
On “Vision,” she sings, “All the pieces/ of the past year/ are so sharp and clear.” Previously, Yacina would dole out clues on her albums, but this one feels like the first one where say lays every piece of the puzzle on the table.
Heart Sky’s opening line—“Wanted to find out where it went wrong”—is ultimately its raison d'être. Over the record’s 11 tracks, Yacina addresses her former partner and attempts to pinpoint the elusive moment when the relationship came undone. On penultimate track "Clue," Yacina sings, "Something you said/ struck me like a clue," her hazy, layered vocals belying the hurt. Poring over the past might not illuminate the present, but Yacina’s music rewards the listener with the knowledge that anguish, while mostly ugly, can be turned into a thing of beauty.
“I just hope that people can use [the songs] to apply to their own lives and whatever that means for them,” Yacina said.
What follows is an edited transcript of a recording that picked up both Emily’s words and an entire Björk album that played in the coffee shop as we spoke, shortly after Heart Sky’s release. Emily plays with Soccer Mommy and Yohuna at Baby's All Right on 11/14.
Shame are a wild five-piece rock band from South London. With their biting lyrics, crunchy guitars, and hard-as-knuckles songwriting, they kick up quite the storm. Songs like "Concrete" are anthems full of intense emotion, paranoia, anger, and absurdity. Other songs, such as "Theresa May," are quieter, purposeful jabs at the Prime Minister and Tories in England. Known for their high-energy shows, Shame will be playing in New York for the first this Friday, November 10 at Baby's All Right, with support from Honey and Language. Ahead of the gig, we caught up with frontman Charlie Steen. They will
AdHoc: "Shame" is quite a name. You guys often seem pretty self-assured in your music and performance, so where does the name come from?
Charlie Steen: The name "Shame" is something of a gift we recieved from our technical advisor and saviour, Lenin, our drummer Forbes' dad. After sitting at our practice space—The Queens Head in Brixton—for weeks, churning out the worst band names imaginable, "Shame" was the only one we didn't quite hate and eventually learned to accept.
How did you guys end up playing together?
I think we all started playing together more out of pure boredom than anything else. The group's ties run deep, as we all went to various schools together through our childhood and teens, and it just came to be that one day we decided to play music.
Let’s talk about “Concrete,” your new song and video. It’s a pretty paranoid song. What was on your mind while writing it?
Lyrically, the song is about someone in a trapped relationship. We all know someone in this situation or have been in this situation ourselves, [and] I wanted to speculate on the emotional and psychological damage this might cause to the person involved.