Three Underground Acts You Should Really Check Out Right Now

Navigating the world of music in the 21st century
can be terrifying: there is simply too much of, well, everything. I usually find
myself going through four or five new releases per day just to keep up with
blogs and critics. With the endless stream of podcasts, mixes, album
previews, and Bandcamp gems, one may often feel that trying to pin it all
down is just not worth it. 

Fortunately, that’s where this column comes in. Throughout the semester, I’ll give you updates on albums and mix tapes that aren’t being shoved down your throat
by the indie-hype machine and cover underground concerts in the Los Angeles area. To start, here are some of my favorite acts that are blowing up our headphones over at your favorite 5C
radio station, KSPC. (If you dig them, be sure to tune in to 88.7 FM!)

First up is San Francisco outfit Happy Diving’s self-titled
EP on Father/Daughter Records. These guys deal in the same kind of massive
riffs that Weezer did at their most angsty and that Nirvana did at their most
chaotic. While it might be tempting to write them off as a group of dudes who
listened to Pinkerton a few too many
times, the whole ends up being way greater than the sum of its parts. Rarely do
I hear young bands with this much confidence in their ability to write a rock
hook, and when you have the chops to bang out a song like “Sincere,” you
deserve it. And it’s not just that the songs are good; they sound good, too. Every riff on here
explodes with feedback and noise, the vocals are buried just the right amount,
and the drum fills feel crisp and loose. Without a doubt one of the best new
acts I’ve heard this year — keep your eyes on these guys.

British solo artist East India Youth’s debut album Total Strife Forever strikes a very
different chord, trading in guitars for synthesizers and drum machines. The
closest comparison I can come up with here might be David Bowie in his Berlin trilogy
(meaning Low, Heroes, and Lodger). This is complex music
masquerading as pop, and it’s just great. The album’s centerpiece, “Heaven, How
Long,” is breathtaking, starting as a simple and meditative piece of
introspection and finally building up into the craziest
new-wave-meets-krautrock explosion you’ll hear this year as he asks the titular
question. The other vocal tracks, like “Looking For Someone” and “Dripping
Down” are definitely highlights, but that’s not to dismiss the incredible synth
programming present on other cuts, like the four-part “Total Strife Forever”
suite. If you’re looking for a new take on synthpop, this one’s for you.

Finally, in the ever-moving world of rap mixtapes, we were
given a treat this month in the form of Black
the new collaborative project from eccentric Atlanta rappers
Young Thug and Bloody Jay. This marks Jay’s first big project, so it’s given a serious
boost in hype by the presence of Thug, whose 1017 Thug tape was easily one of 2013’s greatest. The two work
remarkably well together. Thug’s mind-blowing flow, full of yelps and gasps, sounds like he was riding a roller coaster when he was recording, and it’s
given a great counterpoint by Jay’s more straightforward delivery. Future even
shows up for a track (“Nothing But Some Pain”), making this an essential 2014
ATL rap release. Highlights include Young Thug’s comically great hook on “4 Eva
Bloody” and “Danny Glover,” which has already been destroying clubs the world
over. This tape just bangs, and it’s free, so come on — you owe it to yourself.

That wraps up the debut of this column. Tune
in next week for a review of Oneohtrix Point Never and a reflection on
some of his music.

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