“Get Refreshed” is a weekly column by Billy Bugara covering all things digital in the music world. Refresh yourself here.
Cover by Bernard Vernon
fishmonger, Or, How To Be Today’s Perfect Album For Yesterday
What do you call an album that sets out to do everything, and then does more than everything? I think I’d refer to an album like this as “one in a million,” but fishmonger also works just as well. We were promised quite an impactful project given the anticipation that came from underscores’ long-awaited solo return, yet none of us could have predicted the sheer ambition, flawless sonic balance, and masterfully-constructed songwriting that this album ended up exhibiting — all under the mantle of numerous sounds, styles, and overall creative dynamism within this 34-minute journey.
This is the first album to fully, and I mean fully, encompass what the decade of the 2000s means to those who grew up in it; it goes above and beyond what even the likes of 100 Gecs have been able to do inside that same arena. Everything is here, and it’s here en masse: the brightest points of pop’s teen-centric era, the emotionally-profound soundscapes of alt-rock and emo that laid below it, even the shallow and downtempo tones of art rock. Ask yourself what the best part of the 2000s was, and whatever you answered was probably executed flawlessly on this album.
What begins as a garage rock-centric mesh of sounds – as “70%” leaps off the starting block with all the force in the world – ends with a pair of the most beautifully put-together indie ballads of the year thus far in “The fish song” and the Maxwell Young-accompanied “Del mar county fair 2008.” And what might lie between these two contrasting ends? Just about the most diverse set of tracks to come together as one this year. You don’t have to hear “it’s the new wave of the future” enough times to understand its intended message; the future of indie is underscores, the coming era’s most ideally-equipped superstar.
Aj Simons and Umru: “Hate It Love It” // AQNB: Heavenly Creatures
Consider these two a pairing you’ll not lose sight of in the coming future. Aj Simons has the potential to break into the heightened pop landscape with easily one of its most unmatched vocal demeanors; their approach in this light is whimsically gripping and all-too-captivating, yet it’s so tellingly different from the atypical modern pop standard we see so often today. And if anyone were to bring the best out of such a unique sense of pop artistry, of course it would be someone as prolific as Umru. The two recently teamed up for “Hate It Love It” — an exhilarating single that sees Aj putting in their most focused and fine-tuned level of performance yet, and Umru following suit with his multi-layered and multi-faceted production work. It’s a new age pop cut through and through, but it benefits immensely from just how one-of-a-kind of a performer Aj is in their own right.
Also worth mentioning is this track’s appearance on AQNB’s fourth compilation album Heavenly Creatures — which received a digital and CD release just recently. It’s a collection of tracks that certainly give a clear-cut, full-length, and all-encompassing look at the state of online music today, featuring some of my absolute favorite acts right now such as Reserv, Kuru, lei, and many more.
Ever since Stef dropped his still-magnificent single “old” back in September of last year, his output has followed something of a loosely-tied narrative — both in its structural approach and songwriting alike. Weaving together similar flows and lyrical sentiments in each of their proceeding singles to end out 2020, he’s entered the new year with the exact same approach; this time, however, he’s equipped with an apropos EP on the horizon. His new single entitled “nightmare” – a dense, pounding electro-pop cut that features production from teinami – sees itself taking the broken-up and hollowed-out aspects of his previous drop “allison” and filling those layers with an extra sense of substance and energy, all while keeping its effectively shallow tones as true as ever. From an act that is presently redefining the concept of “logical progression,” he has again proven that consistent sonic divergences can indeed coexist with seamless artistic endeavors. It’s difficult to name anyone who has accomplished this feat better than Stef in any recent era of music.
New Song, New EP, Same Eighty. Just How It Should Be.
For those unaware, the spitting image of pop music’s future isn’t known by a traditional name… nor even a set of letters at all. In fact, it takes just four simple numbers to identify who that person exactly is. 8485 is pop’s natural answer to all questions surrounding what it will shape up to be in the mainstream eye moving forward. She’s an all-encompassing vocal force based on her range by itself; she’s creatively-relevant in each sound and style alike she chooses to take on; she’s gifted in all things songwriting, narrative building, and emotional conveyance above all. Put simply, she’s the game’s next dominant superstar, and there’s no doubt about it.
And if there ever could be any doubts from anyone at all, just one listen to her recent single “southview” with Fish Narc and Blackwinterwells would dispel them in a single moment’s notice. The track – which serves as the lead single to her coming EP “plague town” on April 14, is a masterwork of alt-rock infused pop — something akin to the absolute best of the mid-2000s in this light, all with a modernized demeanor about it based on Eighty’s sentimentally-sound songwriting and overall delivery upon the cinematic production work provided for her. For as much of an excursion as this sole single is completely on its own, we can only speculate how stunning this promised EP will be once that day does arrive.
Saturn and deth coni: “letz 5hake”
Speaking of coming projects, let’s just acknowledge how much we need Saturn’s promised release as quickly as possible. “2022 my year fr” was a great tease for what’s to come, but their next single off the project “letz 5hake” is just that much better from every single angle it could be. The addition of fellow Graveem1nd talent deth coni here – who provides a beat that’s just as exhilarating as the verse he spits over it – brings out the absolute best in Saturn themself, as they soar over the instrumental with a bevy of new flows, new topics, and all the hooks one could ask for from them. They just seem to discover a new way to effectively captivate their audience every single time they release, and their signature attention to detail in this light and beyond just makes the anticipation for this future project that much higher as a result.
Oh, and the more they play up their “No More Heroes” motif, the happier I become every single time. Shout out to Braxton Knight indeed!
Ponyboy vs. Prince Philip
Words by Katie Manners
If one song could kill Prince Philip on the spot, it would be SOPHIE’s “Ponyboy.” The experimental track is the first song in a 500-song playlist that has gone viral for conceptualizing a world in which Prince Philip’s 99-year-old body cannot handle the stress of pop’s next wave. Originally titled “songs that would kill prince phillip on the spot,” the playlist now goes by a softer name: “mixtape for my bestie prince phillip :),” and is comprised of aggressive, bass-boosted sounds that could stop the heart of any English monarch. At the forefront of Prince Philip’s demise is the late trans icon SOPHIE, whose music has always challenged the norm. But her music is not the only aspect of her being that could cause heart palpitations in the aging duke’s chest. SOPHIE’s transness is royally transgressive, which makes her top-tier placement all the more appropriate in such an oppositional playlist.
As an ambassador of resistance, SOPHIE is by no means the only transperson within the playlist to bring about Prince Philip’s demise. The playlist is full of trans artists whose music is explicitly queer and anti-authority. Dorian Electra’s “Ram It Down” and recovery girl’s “that girl is my world (you transphobic piece of shit)” are some of the playlist’s queer anthems that refuse to sonically back down. Not only would they shake the bones of Prince Philip’s fragile frame, but they’d shake up his ideologies as well. Upon hearing Folie and Kid Trash’s pitched-up vocals, the Duke of Edinburgh’s ears would bleed, and if he ever laid eyes upon Jackie Extreme’s computer-generated avatar he’d simply pass away. (It doesn’t need to be said that Fraxiom would beat the monarch to death before he even had a chance to press play on food house’s anti-Republican track “metal.”) And when Prince Philip meets God, she’ll reapply her lipstick, fluff up her curly red hair, and tell her little ponyboy to go straight to hell.