It’s our Bandcamp Picks of the Week, featuring the pop punk thrills of Jail Socks’ COMING DOWN and the chunky post-punk of Motorists’ SURROUNDED!
Jail Socks – COMING DOWN
Genre: Pop Punk
Favorite Tracks: “Spinning,” “Caving In,” “Sick Weather”
Two weeks ago, I pressed play on Jail Socks’ COMING DOWN in my office. After a few songs, an older coworker took his headphones off, prairie dogged up from behind the partition that separates our desks, took the music in for a moment before saying out loud to no one in particular: “this sounds like middle school.” He then promptly put his headphones back on and went about his day.
That interaction has been seared in my brain when considering COMING DOWN. The fact that this coworker doesn’t seem like the type that ever listened to pop punk, let alone the bands that are historically informing Jail Socks, speaks volumes about how universally entrenched the sound is for millennials (he’s in his late 30s). But it also says something that “this sounds like middle school” as a reaction means everything and nothing all at the same time, a million different adolescent outcomes and retrospects all awkwardly captured in five words.
Yet somehow, the more I think about the moment, the more I find it perfectly captures Jail Socks. COMING DOWN isn’t a particularly complex album; Aidan Yoh lyrically expresses a range of emotional experiences, but the sound of the record is defiantly exploring a singularity—if that was middle school for you, so be it. The textures on COMING DOWN vary slightly; the tempo slows down or speeds up, Yoh’s voice fluctuates between satisfying pop punk whines, alt-rock defiance, and the occasional ballading cry, but the tone remains fixated and steady. There is a refreshing workmanlike quality to Jail Socks’ focus, 40 minutes ebbing and flowing within largely the same sonic palette to the point that this is either an extremely enjoyable album or probably something you’ll hate, but that will be made apparent from the jump. Short of the distant acoustic strumming on “More Than This,” it’s variations on a theme, and fortunately it’s a theme Jail Socks orchestrate nicely. For whatever it might be worth, I fondly remember my middle school experience, and maybe that plays into my experience. You can check out Jail Socks’ COMING DOWN, out now on Counter Intuitive Records, over on Bandcamp! [CJ Simonson]
Motorists – SURROUNDED
Favorite Tracks: “Surrounded,” “Hidden Hands,” “Latent Space,” “The Door”
Toronto’s Motorists make urgent post-punk that blurs the lines between the beered-out rock of The Modern Lovers and the stark minimalism of Lithics. Drawing inspiration from the rush of the open road, the band’s latest record, SURROUNDED, came to life over lockdown. Inspired by the claustrophobia of isolation, the title track is a meaty, motorik banger. “I left the city / Too many cars / Too many creeps / Too many bars,” front person Craig Fahner drawls over chunky-but-sparse instrumentation. “Hidden Hands” is similarly dense, with cloudy chords, angular riffing, and a churning bassline. On “The Door,” a rowdy hook rides atop an intricate instrumental, fueled by Jesse Locke’s propulsive percussion.
SURROUNDED isn’t all leathery Television energy, though. It often veers towards psych rock, with a subtle hint of patchouli that wafts through the background of tracks like “Latent Space” and the bubbly “Through To You.” As a whole, the record feels like it should soundtrack a leather-clad night spent playing darts and drinking cheap beer in a wood paneled basement. It’s subtly unruly, like the best releases in its niche, and fits comfortably alongside output from the band’s peers like Ducks Ltd. and PACKS. “Go back / It’s too late to start anew / Go back / There’s still time to see it through,” Fahner sings on “Go Back.” Pulling from turbulence and chaos, SURROUNDED can be a bit serious, but it somehow always remains fun. Check it out on Bandcamp. [Ted Davis]