Mood Music for Today

If you’re like me, today’s political and social climates may have made you feel angry, resigned, or wishing to rise above and become better. You’ve gone to protests. You tried to find truth and reason in the news as to why U.S. citizens have done what they have, and instead come back with more questions. You’ve looked inside and found that because these feelings are so new, you need to develop new ways to cope. Music can be a great help here. In discovering new music, we can find new perspectives on old thoughts or find inspiration and encouragement when we need it most. Through my friends and my own curiosity I’ve found these bands whose music does for me all of these things. I present to you Stay Wild, Wicked Bears, and Uvluv.

Stay Wild

Art by Stay Wild

Stay Wild is a hardcore/punk band with a strong, progressive message. Their most recent single, “Stay Pissed“, embodies the need to continue to fight for change in our world. The song reminds us why we fight, what makes us mad and why we are justified in this feeling. Stay Wild also actively promotes social causes, including advocating for a feminist viewpoint through their lyrics on other E.P.s, and offering charitable merchandise to give profits to the Rainbow Railroad to grant relief to LGBTQ+ people persecuted in Chechnya.

Wicked Bears

Photo by John Barkiple

Wicked Bears is maybe the most existential music I’ve heard. Lyrics from their songs present a sort of optimistic nihilism. Their song “2049” offers the view that, while in the large scale of things our problems are insignificant, they matter to us. It offers a nice solution to the chaos and seeming lack of reason or morality we see so blatantly today: nothing actually means anything, so we just have ourselves and what entertains us (like death metal).

Uvluv

Photo by Uvluv

Uvluv, a local progressive rock band with soulful elements, presents instrumentals that keep your attention in their variance while the lyrics offer encouragement and paths of thought for reflection and self-improvement. “Rise In Love“, for example, tells you that pain from heartbreak can be turned into ultimately finding yourself. The vocals are wonderful purely in how they sound and the comforting lyrics are a bonus. They recently released a new album, Afterglow, which capitalizes on their progressive sound, and focuses on the difficult emotions that come from the passing of a loved one. It’s a fantastic representation of emotional intelligence, shattering the notion that we should ever repress emotion.

 

Music can provide outlets for a wide range of emotions, and it’s good to keep a variety stocked in your listening libraries. Hopefully you find this new music as cathartic as I have. Enjoy!

Rare by Hundredth: Shoegaze meets Hardcore

The album, Rare, by Hundredth is a unique concept. A melodic-hardcore band realizes that their sound doesn’t reflect their musical tastes, and make an effort to shift their focus from hardcore to shoegaze. This change brings them an intensity that the dream-pop genre tends to shy away from. Tracks like “Vertigo”, “White Squall”, and “Youth” are all very much post-punk, dream-pop ditties that are solid shoegaze with some edge. But ultimately, Hundredth seems to lack the nuances that drive shoegaze, and the sound suffers because of it.

While most dream-pop might bring to mind positive imagery such as rainbows and beaches, Rare shoots for more of a nightmare-ish feel, with lyrics such as “False hope/Spreads like a disease/The curtain is drawn/ And there’s no shepherd for the sheep” from the song “Disarray,” played over a soundscape featuring heavily distorted guitars, blaring power chords, and aggressive drum beats.

It is surprising just how well the band’s darker tone fits with the shoegaze sound. Hardcore and shoegaze seem like opposite ends of the musical spectrum, but Hundredth has really found a sweet spot where shoegaze reverb and hardcore’s intensity can meld together and create something uniquely enjoyable. Tracks like “Suffer” and “Hole” really showcase this hybrid sound.

Rare is a solid album, but it is impossible to shake the feeling that this is not the band’s full potential. Shoegaze, as a genre, has surprising depth with the diversity of emotions and sounds it can encompass and Hundredth just hasn’t quite mastered it. At a certain point, the songs all meld together in the worst way possible; there is little variation and that’s what really limits Rare. Somewhere in the album’s forty-five-minute run-time, the album loses its nuance. “Down” and “Chandelier” might start differently, but ultimately, they all become variations of the same song, just with different lyrics and slightly different chord progressions.

With Rare, Hundredth shows a lot of promise for the road ahead, and if you’re already a fan of the band, this album, while a massive departure from the rest of their discography, isn’t going to disappoint you. However, for everyone else, it’s a mixed bag. Tracks like “Vertigo”, “ Disarray ”, and “ Suffer ” are inventive and strong, but as a whole, the album just leaves a lot to be desired. My recommendation: go check it out because there is a lot to love, just don’t expect to fall in love with Rare as an album because the “pieces” aren’t all there yet.

Bite Back: Not a Saint or a Savior

Chalk full of barrowing guitar tones and existential dread that plummet nose first into your ear canals, this EP from the San Diego based hardcore outfit Bite Back is a brutal encounter. Five blistering songs fill this EP with lyrics of having to cope with nihilism, depression, and anxiety complimented with pounding guitars and breakdowns reminiscent of the mental beatings such a mind deals with—it isn’t pretty.
The songs on this album are very grim—they cater to a very esoteric demographic with Austin Bolechowski’s straightforward vocal and lyrical delivery that paints the band for who they are. The EP opens with “Day By Day”—it starts with an intense buildup of guitars and drums over the closing monologue from the character Patrick Bateman from the film American Psycho. It all gives way to Josh Orellana’s high velocity drumming then the rest of the band jumps into the sea of despair with Bolechowski’s opening lyrics, “Always struggling day by day, can’t ever think of what to say, trying to keep my head held high, but I just count my failures every night.”
The EP continues on with hints of groove, thrash, and sludge metal built in on their hardcore foundation all while keeping on the themes of mental anguish. “Sinner” hurtles a plethora of riffs with alternating vocals that range from controlled yells to high pitched screams with hair-raising lyrics like “I’ve been thinking thoughts that’d make the devil want to kill himself!” “Stray Dog” (appropriate for the band’s name) delves into the isolation side of depression with reoccurring lyrics like “I’ll live on my own, I’ll die on my own, these motherfuckers couldn’t spend a god damn night all alone,” and “I’m a mutt with rotting teeth, decayed like my fathers’ before me!” but the most tumultuous lyrics are sung during the breakdown—“What the fuck do you know about pain? You never lost anything!”
The EP takes a two-and-a-half minute breather with “Lull”—a sluggish, more somber number with more melodious vocals that still doesn’t steer the album off course. After a brief pause it traverses into the closing track with Bolechowski bellowing its moniker “Numb!” “Numb” pummels to a close with a beatdown of everything in Bite Back’s musical arsenal with the final lyrics “No puedo ser fuerte, lo que me mata es mi mente!” (“I cannot be strong, what kills me is my mind!”)
Bite Back’s Not a Saint or a Savior is destructive and incredibly brutally honest—these boys don’t hesitate to wear their hearts on their sleeves. The lyrics sum up a lot of key themes with depression and anxiety and the music is the perfect match, stimulating feelings of a mind at war with itself.