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Massive Year-End Retrospective Playlist

As promised above, this entry is about the massive year-end retrospective playlist recently assembled by the Deli editorial staff (ahem) and posted to a popular streaming service. Or, rather, retrospective playlists, as in two entire playlists. BOOM!! And not just a year-end retrospective, but a years-end retrospective, covering music released in both 2020 and 2021. BOOM!!

***** PLAYLIST ONE *****

Never let it be said you don’t get your money’s worth on this blog. Because here you were promised one thing and now you’re getting twice what was promised. And each playlist is already massive by its own account. Taken together we’re talkin’ twenty-one freakin’ hours of music which is maybe kinda poetic since ya know since 2021 and all. Or, as noted tantric sex expert Sting would say, "synchronicity".

***** PLAYLIST TWO ******

And yeah I get it I get it 21 hours of music is pretty freakin’ insane, even a little bit obscene as well. But you know what 2020 and 2021 were pretty freakin’ insane, even a little bit obscene as well, so again we’re talkin’ synchronicity here. What’s also insane is how much freakin’ good music came out in 2020 and 2021. It must mean worldwide pandemics are good for creativity after all which means these years weren’t a total write-off after all.

So by all means lock yourself in a room for the next 21 hours Trainspotting-style in order to properly enjoy these playlists—featuring 339 Original Songs by 339 Original Artists, including artists hailing from all around NYC, all around the USA, and all around the world—in one unbroken binge session. But please do enjoy them responsibly. And if you need to call in sick tomorrow from staying up all night binging on sweet sweet musical nectar from the gods then by all means do so. Because there’s a labor shortage ya know and what’s your boss gonna do, fire you for loving music too much?

And just one last piece of advice: it's highly recommended to open up your Spot-I-Fried preferences, and apply a three-second crossfade when listening to these digital mixtapes cuz it'll make listening to the mixes all the more immersive, that is, if you're at all inclined to take advice from a humble music-blog website. Happy 2022 y'all... (Jason Lee)





Bad Static explore sweet-and-sour duality on "Cherry Cyanide" EP

Hey, did you know you can get poisoned and maybe even die from eating too many cherry pits? Well neither did I, that is, until hearing the new Bad Static EP Cherry Cyanide released today. Because, as hinted at in the title, cherry pits contain a chemical that once ingested gets converted into the toxic compound hydrogen cyanide. The more you know!

But this EP isn't a science lesson, instead it taps into the longstanding status of cherries as a metaphoric device. So it makes sense Cherry Cyanide is a concept album (erm, concept EP) based around the notion that some things (or even people) in life may be sweet on the outside but then turn out to be not-so-sweet on the inside if not downright toxic. Take the EP’s eponymous opening song, for instance, which starts with a familiar three-chord major-key progression that sounds like the band’s about to launch into a fun-loving cover version of “Louie Louie” or “Wild Thing” or “Walking on Sunshine.” 

But then there's a sudden shift when the drums kick in alongside a low-key menacing minor-key descending guitar riff, and lyrics about how you’ll soon be “foaming at the mouth / oh there is no doubt / my cherry cyanide / will make you wanna die.” Meaning when the chorus returns to those major chords from before with entreaties to “Kiss me! Kiss me!” and “Drink me! Drink me!” you may have second thoughts given what you’ve learned about cherry pit consumption and the consequences of fatal kisses even though the “bittersweet ending” is still tempting and it's this seductive-yet-dangerous vibe that the song really captures. The more you know!

And speaking of surface prettiness/inner menace it’s fitting the Cherry Cyanide press release namechecks bands like the Runaways and the lesser-known Anemic Boyfriends as influences–the latter being an underage Anchorage-based early ‘80s punk rock trio (!) led by one “Louise Disease” whose über-bratty, sneering leering delivery is appropriate to her moniker–because here are two bands who used surface prettiness to get a foot in the door in order to kick your teeth in with their take-no-prisoners ‘tude and music, a strategy used by many female rock musicians past and present to fight the frequent sexism of rock audiences and the music industry (except for “emerging artist music blogs” which are hardly part of the "industry" and always enlightened!) plus either way it’s pretty cool to be a glamorous savage no matter your gender.

The next song “Ectoplasm Nightmares” continues this theme of inner/outer duality–except the narrative perspective is switched to that of the victim–with lyrics about being possessed by an outside presence, i.e., “feeling haunted by people from your past and going to drastic measures to try and forget.” Bad Static put this across musically by starting off with a plodding beat and doomy Sabbath-y sorta riff before kicking into a driving double-time rhythm with lyrical pleas for demonic exorcism and warnings of crumbling sanity before lead singer Nicol Maciejewska (whose vocals up to this point alternate between sedated and sneering) tops off the song with a growling “you’re making me go insaaaaane!” and a burst of crazy-kookoo-train manic laughter as the music disintegrates behind her.

The third-and-final song “Reanimation” is inspired by necromancy with “little whispers building up inside…calling you from the gra-a-a-ave” and here again the narrative perspective changes, but this time switching to the entity or entities haunting the narrator in the previous song, which is a neat way to put across the loss of a grounded, singular perspective that’s inherent to some forms of mental illness (and to modern art natch) which is another theme of the song and again the music nails the vibe cuz I've got scenes from Evil Dead playing in my head when this plays.

And this one's the most Runaways-esque of the bunch with its throbbing power chords and stuttering vocal delivery (from “ch-ch-cherry bomb” to “I’ve been calling you from the gra-a-a-ave”) and one can only hope that the galvanizing musical presentation here by Nicol (vox, rhythm guitar) Kelsie (backing vox, bass) Mario (lead guitar, production) and Demetrio (drums, percussion) and the not-so-subliminal mantra of “reanimate me!” don't lead to an epidemic of children playing with dead things despite the PSA message contained in the opening lyric. (Jason Lee)





Seasonal record roundup: The Heart Attack-Acks drop a "Love Bomb" and an Xmas banger

On “Love Bomb,” the debut single by The Heart Attack-Acks, the Queens-based duo of Candice and Cody bring an energy and dynamism to the disco-new-wave number that the world hasn't witnessed since Billy Joel and Christie Brinkley danced around awkwardly in front of a car repair shop circa 1983a car repair shop that just happened to employ a small crew of line-dancing mechanics plus a couple crop-top-wearing-popping-and-locking breakdancers—and by the way this is the second song called “Love Bomb” to be reviewed on this blog in the past several months so please no confused letters to the editor!

And if this seems like a pretty random comparison to draw just check out the Heart Attack-Acks press photo above and tell me there's not a downtown-guy-uptown-girl dynamic at work there–except since they’re from Queens it means Cody must live in Glendale, or maybe Ridgewood, whereas Candice must live up in fancy-pants Astoria Heights. And oh yeah there’s the matter of the band’s name too.

As far as “Love Bomb” goes, well, it doesn’t sound a whole heckuva lot like “Movin’ Out” that's true. But it’s clearly indebted to the music Billy J. was likely vibing to that same year (1977) on nights when he’d put on the ol' Groucho Marx disguise and drive from Long Island to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn to hit the 2001 Odyssey discotheque with Tony and the boys. And also on nights when he’d drive into Manhattan to hear some next phase new wave down on the Bowery. Which is all just a way of saying that “Love Bomb” is a twitchily danceable mutant punky-disco-party-tune. And since there’s nothing more inherently New Yawk in musical terms than a twitchily danceable mutant punky-disco-party-tune it’s really quite a smart career on the part of T.H.A.A. to pay homage to their hometown musical heritage right out of the gate. 

Not to mention “Love Bomb” is a great kiss off song and that's very NYC toobut one that’s not so much about “creeps in the street” (see above) as it's about the creeps we all carry around in our pocket these days, like pick-up-artist wannabees who bombard potential victims with digital bum crumbs of approval and affection until suddenly withdrawing if-and-when the conquest is achieved (“first off, you blow up my phone / but in a month, you’ll leave me all alone”).

But the song’s narrator is clearly too astute to fall for such cheap tactics (unlike over at @thedelimag where we gladly accept transactional praise!) and instead turns the tables on her love bomber (“so in the meantime, I’ll take what you can give / train you like you’d do me, if I gave in”) which is clever (love bomber, bomb thyself!) and also clever because the majestically-adenoidal NYC-accented call-and-response overdubs make for a nice callback to classic empowered ‘60s girl group anthems except updated for the iPhone Generation. 



And speaking of updating, the Heart Attack-Acks also have a new Christmas single out called “No Sleigh Bells Tonight” and yes I know I know Christmas is over already but hey you’re well within your rights to play Christmas music up 'til New Year’s Day at least just like people keep their trees for that long so why not. And the song itself will get you back in that Santa spirit from the moment it hits you with a Motown-style bass line and some sleigh bells too in the intro (see what they did there!) soon going on to evoke a Phil Spector Christmas Album kinda vibe (peep that “Be My Baby” beat!) while lyrically dispensing with all this “Birth of the Messiah” business and instead rightfully focusing on the true meaning of Christmas just as God intended, which involves a mixture of devastating bone-chilling loneliness, forlorn romantic pining, and, quite possibly, murder (ok I’m inferring the latter, but Phil Spector!) all set to a jaunty sleigh-worthy beat. (Jason Lee)





Track-by-track: Ok Cowgirl's "Not My First Rodeo"

When I first heard the band name "OK Cowgirl" it made me think oh cool sounds like if you crossed Patsy Cline (the O.G. Cowgirl and Queen of Country Heartbreak) with Thom Yorke and Radiohead (because “OK Computer” natch) but really what are the odds of this actually being the case?

As it turns out, pretty darn good. Because “Patsy Cline meets Radiohead” isn’t the worst description for OK Cowgirl’s music—given how well lead singer/lyricist/guitarist Leah Lavigne excels at writing songs about romantic longing and heartbreak, and from the perspective of a queer-identifying person to boot (worth noting here: in the years since her passing, Patsy Cline has gained a major LGBTQ+ following setting the course for “queer country” artists like k.d. lang and the Reclines) and with a voice capturing a similar mix of raw vulnerability and raw power. And then on the Radiohead side of things, the band’s music (Leah is joined by Jase, Jake, and Matt on record and on stage) spans the indie rock spectrum with a strong knack for chiming yearning melodies, not to mention that Leah knows her way around a keening falsetto and is prone to existential musings in the lyrical department.

Which is all brought to bear on OK Cowgirl’s new record (it's called Not My First Rodeo but it *is* their first EP) and as a public service, dear reader, I’ve provided an off-the-cuff Hot Take™ track-by-track listening guide below, keeping it relatively brief because hot takes don’t stay hot for too long.

TRACK ONE: “Unlost” starts off quiet and intense but soon builds to a pleasant mid-tempo chug with lyrics describing what it’s like to unexpectedly find the person who centers you (“I stopped rowing and the river disappeared”) a pleasant sensation that really comes across during the song’s extended outro which floats off in a dreamlike haze with a swirling emotive undertow and a wordless celestial falsetto but then it all kinda implodes at the end which is maybe a sign of things to come.

TRACK TWO: “Her Eyes” strikes me as the “I Fall To Pieces” of this EP, a straight up adoring ode to, well, her eyes and to the potential they hold for banishing loneliness. 

TRACK THREE: “Across the Room” is where things finally go romantically right for our narrator, and then just as suddenly go horribly wrong, all in the space of about half of a verse (“it was only a few months / ‘til we ended so suddenly”) which for my money is simply good songwriting technique because nothing kills a listener’s buzz like a dull descriptions of domestic bliss with most-likely dull music to match. (note to songwriters: contentment kills!) Instead, we get a song describing the awkward moment where you spot a recent ex across the room at a party, which leads to Leah repeating the phrase “sit and think” a dozen times or so in an ever-more ragged voice, pretty accurately conveying the self-contained-circling-the-drain mental-cul-de-sac headspace of the recently jilted (who hasn't been there ammirite?!?) all reflected by the intensifying musical backing as the song progresses, ending with a neat little off-kilter country-ish guitar lick.

TRACK FOUR: “Deer in the Headlights” opens with the lines “I’ve been going to the bar alone / order myself a well whiskey and Coke” so clearly we're back in Patsy Cline-ish territory here. Or maybe more like Sharon Von Etten-ish territory but you get the idea. And just listen to how Leah sings the phrase deer in the headlights and the entire chorus really, and how she bounces back-and-forth between normal vocal range and falsetto range which is something like yodeling in slow motion, which really captures the state of disorientation that an actual deer in the headlights must feel (or so I'd guess I've never been in the head of a deer) not to mention there’s something inherently queer about this approach to singing (in the best sense) in refusing to adhere to any one single vocal range or pre-conceived category of being. 

TRACK FIVE: OK Cowgirl ain't gonna just leave you hanging, satnding out there in the middle of the road staring blankly ahead like a doomed deer in the headlights, so instead they conclude the EP by taking you on a "Roadtrip (Till the End of Time)" which is a lovely redemptive number (though bittersweet natch) with the sweet parting thought (though bittersweet natch) that they'd gladly "give it up in a heartbeat all for you." (Jason Lee)





Hot tracks/Hot takes: The Down & Outs

HOT TRACKS/HOT TAKES: The Down & Outs released three singles in 2021, a triptych that pretty well summed up the experience of living through 2021 or they did for me at least (see "Free Assocation" section below). These three songs, self-described as the beginning, middle, and end of D&O Chapter Two, mark a transitional, exploratory phase for the post-punky power trio—and who doesn’t identify with the whole “transitional phase” thing these days ammirite?—a triptych which taken together makes for an attractive mantelpiece display or stocking stuffer for Grandma!

FREE ASSOCIATION: The sound of pent-up energy released. Then pent-up again. Then dissected and stitched back together Ed Gein style. Then revivified via electrical-current Bride of Frankenstein style. (“She’s alive! She’s alive!”) White knuckle fight-or-flight response. Frantic. Volcanic. A danceable panic attack. Built up by deconstruction. Minimalist maximalism. Intimacy from a distance. A remote Zoom call broadcast from the inside of someone’s skull to the inside of your skull. (see Brainstorm trailer below)

SONG ONE: “Last Party On Duke Street”
Release date: 16 April 2021
Duration: 2:58
Lead-in: the sound of muted guitar string scraping like someone trying to dig out of a Turkish prison cell
Groove: mid-tempo strut
Freak out begins at: 0:41
Breakdown and/or breakthrough section begins at: 1:57
Lyrical daily affirmation: “You’re so cool and everybody loves you / loves the way you make the feel”

SONG TWO: “Jealous//Unreal”
Release date: 10 September 2021
Duration: 5:57
Lead-in: the sound of New Order’s drum machine after a rough night out
Groove: looping loping Krautrock
Freak out begins at: 0:39
Breakdown and/or breakthrough section begins at: 1:54
Lyrical daily affirmation: “If you love me so / why don’t you show it?”

SONG THREE: “White Hot Heat”
Release date: 12 November 2021
Duration: 2:43
Lead-in: Jimi Hendrix joins Death Grips
Groove: Jah Wobble circa PiL
Freak out begins at: 0:01
Breakdown and/or breakthrough section begins at: 1:34
Lyrical daily affirmation: “No thoughts, no pain, no dreams in here”

FiNAL PRESCRIPTION: Take two (or all three!) songs on an empty stomach, washed down with a shot or two of ouzo, and don’t call me in the morning. Because you’ll be out cold for most of the day, most likely dreaming about Christopher Walken crawing inside of your mind, which is really just exactly what you need innit? (Jason Lee)

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