Chicago pop-punk bash Riot Fest is this weekend, which means I’m in store for quite a lot of melodic nostalgia. As always, the lineup is a blissful mess; I think I’m most excited to see The Aquabats, Jerry Lee Lewis, Blondie and Incubus. I have to be honest and admit that I don’t know much of the contemporary stuff on the lineup, but I do know that this week’s Pop Gazing picks are all great ones, and that’s what you came here to read about anyhow!
Men I Trust: “Seven”
Those Montrealers Men I Trust, whose unbelievably perfect single “Tailwhip” is easily the best 2017 song I didn’t have the acuity to fall in love with until 2018, are back with their first release since February. This latest single “Seven” is a sleepy, sexy tune with a prominent guitar solo; it’s that TOPS flavor of pop which is terribly fashionable and deservedly so. Expect Men I Trust’s long, long awaited debut album in early 2019.
Kurt Vile: “Bassackwards”
The wily Philadelphian behind “Loading Zones” (featured here a few weeks back) has returned with a second single to his forthcoming album Bottle It In, and it is an absolute sizzler. Kurt Vile is no stranger to penning 10-minute songs, and his comfort in the format shows on “Bassackwards.” As is also often the case in the work of fellow long-meditation songwriter Mark Kozolek, it’s tough to say where the track is going — even 6 or 7 minutes in — or whether by that point the track has already arrived in the pocket it’s going to ride out in.
There’s a very thick cloud in the air of the “stuff” Vile claims (in 2013’s “Goldtone”) to not touch on this track, evident in its ambling path and the psychic physics at play in the lyrics. It’s a slow burner alright. Vile brings his gold tone to The Sylvee on Dec. 20 with Jessica Pratt.
Julia Holter: “I Shall Love 2”
“I Shall Love 2” emerges slowly (and somewhat ominously) with Holter announcing that “that is all, that is all — there is nothing else.” A hum steps in, followed by a persistent silver pulse and then more spoken and then sung verse from the musician whose incredible 2015 album Have You in My Wilderness is still one of my very favorites from recent years. The first single from her forthcoming album Aviary, Holter’s maximalist tendencies are in full form in the the track’s climax. Its earlier murmurings give way to a tremendous swell which follows the track to its end. “I Shall Love 2” sounds reflective, both of itself and of the world around it. I’m thrilled and very eager to hear what comes next from this record.
Juiceboxxx: “Ripping Up My Soul”
There’s no one like Juiceboxxx. Born of Milwaukee’s DIY scene as a teen in the aughts and on virtually perpetual tour ever since, he’s a living legend with a devoted cult of enthusiastic fans quick to praise his Springsteenian rap-rock sound and ethos. “Ripping Up My Soul,” a single from the Never Surrender Forever EP coming out on Friday, does a great job captures the energy of a live Juiceboxxx set with its chugging guitars and his hallmark bleak-yet-determined lyrics. In addition to its Juiceboxxxian anthemic chorus, it’s got some screamin’ lead guitar that wouldn’t be out of place on a Sheer Mag record. Catch Juiceboxxx at Mickey’s Tavern on Sept. 23.