Interview with Kenny Boothby of Little Kid

Noah: Alright so we are here at WKDU interviewing Kenny Boothby of Little Kid. My name is Noah.

Trent: My name is Trent.

N: Alright let’s get this started. So do you have a first question you want to ask?

T: Sure, yeah. So I guess as a good introductory question, when did you first realize that you had a knack for music?

Kenny: I I don’t know I think when I was in grade six, I started playing guitar and I don’t think I was great at it. But there I think it was probably more around grade 8 or 9 for me. I don’t know if I was thinking I was great at music from this but I went to a thing at my church about reading or how to play music by ear and the pastor taught me some stuff about the circle of fifths. In that just half hour-hour session something in that clicked in this big way and I could kind of play music or understood it in some deeper way. I have no idea- I wish I knew how he taught me that so fast but something really clicked and I got pretty obsessed with music after that or just kind of deeper into how it works and how to play it.

N: What were some early influences that you liked when you were that age?

K: At that age? Oh nothing cool, I mean not that much that was cool when I was that age. I mean I liked The Beatles when I was really young. I guess that’s pretty timeless like kids like it and it still rocks when you’re older. But I was into like Reliant K, like Christian pop punk like Christian Ska. It’s like it’s just like excruciatingly uncool music, but that was what I liked back then. I loved the Bare-Naked Ladies. That’s a Canadian rock band, I don’t think they crossed over too much to the states.

N: I know the Barenaked Ladies: you know… “If I Had a Million Dollars”

K: Yeah, of course, yeah. That was the first band I nerded out about, got all their CDs. Yeah, definitely not cool. And those were what made me want to learn guitar and those are some of the first songs I learned

N: Awesome.

T: So outside of music are there any other artistic influences that you have?

K: Yeah, in recent years I’ve been much worse at reading books. I used to read a lot of books. I think I’m addicted to my phone and I’m also burnt out from working a job so I don’t find I read as much. But I definitely think reading was helpful for, you know, words. Getting better with words or finding words I like and hearing different voices I guess. All that to say it’s not much of an influence now unfortunately. Maybe it’s purer this way. It’s just musical influences. But I feel like I read a lot of Flannery O’Connor and Cormac McCarthy was a big one. I liked JD Salinger when I was younger. Yeah so, I used to read, I like short stories, I like short story collections. I think that might be the most similar thing to albums in a way they have the kind of interconnected or feel like they have a theme or vibe.

N: Yeah no I can totally see that influence. I feel like your lyrics, especially on the new album, are very narratively driven so yeah, it’s awesome.

K: Thanks.

N: Speaking of that, how do you decide on topics for your songs and where do you pull from for these ideas?

K: I wish I could pinpoint it better cause lately I’ve been kind of struggling with writing a song or finishing a song. Just because I’m stuck at that part of like, what do I want to write about? I don’t have anything write about. Like that kind of feeling. But I have to remember that more often it’s a musical idea that kind of starts a process and you kind of chase a melodic thing. At least I do this. and then repeating that melody, playing guitar over and over again, saying nonsense words. Then I kind of start coming out of that and I start writing down words. I think for me at least. I got to remember I don’t usually know what I’m going to write about too well when I start and then the words will start to come together. Sometimes it’s not totally until the very end of the writing that you go “oh there we go,” there’s a line that can be the hook of the song. It can be the thing where I can approach this certain line a bunch of different ways and that will crack something open and connect all the verses. So yeah, I think some of it is subconscious or some of it is just following an impulse and trying stuff out. Once in a while, I have an idea for a song. My partner and I were joking around about the rapture and someone coming home and their partner’s clothes are on the ground and they think they’ve been raptured. That was kind of a joke and we thought it was funny. Then like a couple weeks later, I was like “that should be a song” and turned it into a song. So sometimes it works out that way.

N: Yeah, I do that a lot too. Sometimes when my friends say something interesting, I’m like that could be a song right there. Boom.

K: I find it hard though, I find it more difficult to do that sometimes. I have a couple ideas I’ve had for a while where I’m like that should be a song. I want to make that song and then it might take me years to actually find the right way to do that. So it’s sometimes easier coming the other way of just following some vibe and it turns into something.

N: Do you feel like this process has changed over the course of your career at all?

K: Definitely yeah. It’s more collaborative, I think. This one, just by the nature of COVID, went back to being a bit more starting with the Kenny demo for a lot of the songs. I think those have generally been written in a pretty similar way from the start. But at times, like some of the ones on the new record too, we made them in the room together. I was just at that point of just the melody, knowing there was some kind of spark I wanted to chase there and was able to build it in the room with Brody or Paul or Liam and like whoever was there. We kind of turned it into a song that felt good even though the lyrics weren’t there. Then I would write lyrics to that. Which is really hard I find. I don’t like doing it sometimes cause I don’t meet the deadline. Like we want to start recording, we have this day and I’ve got one song done but we just played around with a couple others. So that could be more difficult. It’s kind of fun, it’s like a brain teaser – you got a certain amount of syllables and you gotta build something useful out of it. But it’s a lot more difficult and less enjoyable in certain ways.

N: Yeah, I feel the same way because I write in a full band context and also personally. It’s definitely very different in that sense.

T: Yeah definitely writing is like poetry for me. I find when I read poetry more, I tend to get better at writing music.

K: It makes a lot of sense. I love lyrics and I’m pretty turned off by music if the lyrics are bad like pretty quickly. I mean there’s major exceptions to that. I like stuff sometimes just because it’s fun or whatever. But for me, I don’t really enjoy reading poetry. I’ve had trouble kind of getting into it. I really like rhymes, like very much I’m excited by rhymes. But I don’t like perfect rhymes or stuff that feels too nursery rhyme. And so, with poetry, it’s either not going to rhyme and I’m going to have trouble accessing it for that reason or it’s going to rhyme and it’s going to feel corny more easily for some reason if it’s not to a melody. But I’d like to dabble more with reading. Dan Riggins from Friendship has talked to me about poetry in some interesting ways. I think he taught some course up at University of Iowa and he was saying poetry is like instrumental music which would sound very counterintuitive to me but I tried to maybe keep that in mind when I was reading some of his stuff after. It was an interesting way to think about it, just kind of more of a washing over you than trying to analyze it.

N: Right yeah, I feel like when I want to read poems I lose concentration easily because it’s not part of a larger story or anything. It’s just kind of like containing itself and – especially if it’s long – it’s just hard for me because I feel like I have to really analyze every phrase. But maybe, I should take that approach as well. I’m in a poetry class right now…

T: Oh really?

N: Yeah, in the winter – I was stuck in a lyrical rut, and now I’m stuck in like a musical rut, so I’m hoping to use my poems as actual lyrics at some point.

K: That’s great, it could be cool.

T: It’s funny because for me poetry is like music, like when I read it, I just love how the sounds of the words flow over my tongue when I say it. I don’t know, it’s interesting.

N: Want to ask the next question?

T: For sure. So why do you make music at all? I mean what motivates you to make music? Is it fun? Is it therapeutic?

K: Good question. I think I’m also at the weird spot post-album release, wanting to make new stuff where you also wonder about that. Or like if you’re in that rut, like I’m not writing a lot, well why am I trying? If nothing’s coming out what’s the point? What am I after by making a new song you know? It’s hard to say. I mean, I love music. I have since I was young. I love albums. I love that sort of form of making a bunch of songs and finding a way to fit them together. I don’t know, the stuff I’ve enjoyed the most in my life has been listening to albums or getting to know albums so I guess it’s just rewarding to be like “I can make those sometimes.” So I don’t know, does that mean it’s like vanity or pride or something? Probably, but everybody who’s ever made an album is kind of doing that. So I guess it’s fine, I don’t know. I wish I had a better answer…

N: I think it’s valid

K: Obviously it’s a therapeutic process, or you can put a story to your life or something that helps you make sense of it. That can be really powerful. But when I’m actually just playing the guitar and thinking I want to make something, it’s usually not such a nice reason. It’s hard to articulate.

N: For sure, yeah. Do you feel like mental health and using music as a therapeutic tool affects your creative process at all? And in turn, do you think your creative process and your creative output affects your mental health at all?

K: Yeah I think so. That might be an interesting thing in the last few years. I’ve gone to therapy since like 2018? I want to say… maybe 2019? I just had a couple albums since then. But I think before going to therapy and just also being younger person on the first album, I’m not sure how healthy it was to process stuff that was so intense for me. I was writing about my whole faith crisis in songs, and stuff that I hadn’t really talked about with my friends or talked about with people that were close to me. I was just putting it into a song. And where I was at in my growth as a person, maybe that was all I was able to do, and it was a way to process it and it was helpful. But maybe I could’ve talked to my friend about it, you know? It might have been nice. Rather than this weird thing where I have a really intense performance of this song and I’m feeling kind of screwed up because I’m singing with this stuff and feeling very strange. Now hopefully I’m processing these things that are intense in therapy and that is also helping me improve my own communication with my loved ones and my own identification of what’s going on with myself. I think I’m just a bit better at doing that kind of work. So hopefully that’s not happening with songs the same way. But maybe there’s a plus side of that kind of clarity? I definitely have written songs now about stuff that I worked out in therapy or already kind of processed I’ve actually got insight or more of a big picture look at stuff. That might help with the writing being more mature or more of a different perspective. I think just an older person’s perspective helps. The person who’s done a little more work on themselves and a little more emotionally healthy.

N: Yeah that’s always been kind of interesting to me. Because I do the same thing. Like I write songs about stuff that I don’t talk to my friends about. These are things that are going to be released for everyone to hear at some point. I think it’s just because writing music is a very- especially if you’re doing it by yourself – singularly focused process that it creates a zone for you to do that.

T: Yeah for me there’s some things where I try writing music about it, and it does nothing and I realize I just gotta talk to people about it. And then there’s some things where I talk to people about it and it does nothing, and I’m like I just gotta write this down and do music. So I’m always bouncing between talking to people and writing music for a lot of things that I’m going through.

K: Yeah hopefully now, at least, there’s an order to it for me of like, I want to talk about it with the person before and have approval for it being a song, or like, you know, that kind of thing. A little more like where am I in this, this careful with that then when I was younger.

N: What’s the divide between songs you write that are based on like real events and feelings, and more fictional?

K: I think all of them are kind of both. I don’t know if I’ve had any that are that are fully one or the other. I don’t know if I’ve had any that are not fictionalized at least a little bit, is probably what I should say. I think there have been some that are probably pretty purely fiction, but even those are often an image or a theme or something that’s still connected to something in my life. But I don’t know, I guess the most narrative ones are Raptured or Two Invitations as well. Two Invitations has some autobiographical things stuck in there but it’s also just a totally made-up story.

N: that’s a good answer for sure. Inevitably, every song is going to have a bit of yourself in it, even if it’s completely fictional, because it’s just coming from you.

K: Yeah

T: You mentioned the way you’d write music when you were younger versus now. What are some ways that you think you’ve grown as a musician? And perhaps more broadly as a human being, since you first started Little Kid?

K: As a musician I think I’ve always wrote pretty repetitive songs. I like repetition, I think that’s something I’ve just embraced. It’s a barrier for me to listen to music that doesn’t repeat a lot. If I like the melody, I like to hear it a bunch. So that’s always been pretty constant, but I think there was a point maybe where we first were like “oh we can put some weird chords and it’s kind of fun.” For some reason, I really don’t think were any accidentals on the first 3 albums. Everything was in the in the key. I don’t write the wackiest music that way, but we did start thinking to put some weird chords in there. I don’t know if I described them, we have a way we describe these chords sometimes.

N: I know what you mean.

K: But anyways, I think we dabbled in more musically complex stuff. It’s not very complex still because that stuff doesn’t excite me too much, but I think I’m prouder of some of the chord progressions or some of the ways we snuck in some weird little chords and harmonic stuff. That would be the musical growth kind of thing. Lyrically, I’ve challenged myself to kind of just write better. Try to make every line something I work at a little bit more. I think there was a long time where I’d have songs that I mostly felt pretty good about but I’d maybe still be like “I wish I fixed that line.” I try to be a little more focused to make the whole thing something I’m proud of. But yeah, as a person, that piece around therapy or just trying to try to be better at identifying what my emotions are and why I’m feeling this way, and not leaving that up to someone else to discover that for me and tell me you’re behaving this way. I just think that’s maturity and I think it’s also doing some work around figuring yourself out so you’re not hurting somebody else. I don’t know if that comes through in the music, but in terms of my own, maybe try and just be better at communicating and better at identifying what I want or what I should do.

N: I think that’s a valuable thing to have and that’s something that everyone could work on for sure. And I’m glad that you feel like you’re a place where that’s something you’re good at.

K: better at.

N: Yeah better at. Alright so for this new record what were some of your biggest influences during the creation process?

K: I think it’s died off a little bit now, but I was definitely riding this “Bob Dylan at his most intensely productive” era. I just love the classics by him like Blonde on Blonde and Highway 61. Just that pace of writing and the ambition of these long form songs was pretty inspiring, and I think we were trying to make records really fast, partially inspired by that and by some other bands and projects. That looseness and that pushing forward. It’s still kind of there, but I think by nature of the pandemic and all of a sudden not being able to record together, I was forced to not try to have that energy anymore because it wasn’t possible. I guess that’s been a shift. If anything, the Bob Dylan influence might be more present in other ways just because of the length of the songs and playing with folk forms. Obviously I’m sure the music I listen to is influencing the stuff. I feel like we now have a big discography and for live shows we’ll play a lot of our stuff from older albums. I feel like we weirdly can be like “I’m making this song that is a Little Kid song.” I’m not so much thinking “I really want to do a Leonard Cohen type song.” So for better or for worse, I feel we’re sometimes just reacting to or being influenced by them before and being “let’s try to do something like this but better,” or try to pursue what we liked about this thing. But yeah, I don’t know if I could point to many musical influences. I think also because it was such a long span of time. It’s what was I listening to in the period of 2019 through 2003? I don’t know, a bunch of different things, bunch of different phases, yeah maybe more rap music to be honest. I think that’s exciting me in certain ways with the lyrics.

N: What’s your taste in rap?

K: I really like Billy woods lately. I think that’s the best writing I’ve ever heard in my life. Like just in terms of the rhyme schemes and the humor mixed with really biting social stuff and mind-blowingly intense rhymes going on in there. The way that he sneaks in these syllables and stuff is super inspiring but also super embarrassing. You’re just like “oh man I thought I was getting pretty good at this, but this is this is a whole other thing.” How does someone do that kind of vibe you know? I also just like more carefree summertime drive stuff. I honestly like Drake. Vince Staples is one. I really liked Vince Staples’ more recent albums. Really low-key ones like Self-Titled. It’s like 20 minutes long. That one I listened to a lot that one summer. But I mean not very deep cut stuff though. I really like those artists I mentioned but I don’t have my ear to the ground very much.

N: I’m always curious to see what artists listen to like outside of the genre that they make themselves. So I’m glad you shared that with us. How long does it take you to write a song? And do you consider the recording process part of the writing process or is that a separate thing?

K: In the past honestly, I’ve written almost every song that I’ve released in a day, like the lyrics, in a session.

N: That’s crazy

K: I’ll be excited enough about an idea to sit down and do it. It will be like maybe 8 hours or something. Sometimes I have the whole day to do something. I’m usually recording with the four track or I’m listening through the four track with headphones while I’m singing. I picture how it’s going to sound recorded a little better. I’m usually demoing actively on the four track while I’m writing. I make the song, do a rough recording with the four track, maybe do a couple counter melodies on the piano or on a little keyboard or whatever and I have that version that I send to the band and we will restart it, generally. Sometimes we’ll keep a little piece from the demo and mix it into the intro of the song or something. But usually we redo it, and in that time between, I might tweak a couple lyrics if I’m like “that line is not sitting great with me.” Usually it’s like that and then otherwise it’s the flip side where we write it together and I have to then build the lyrics. And that process can take forever, like months and months because I don’t have that same spark of like “I’ve had the idea.” But yeah, this thing has happened where I find the right hook for the song and not necessarily a hook like a melodic banger of a melody, but just what the verses can come back to at the end. That’s what the chorus could be about, and then something will click then things fall into place. So yeah, generally, the actual writing process is in a many hour window but sometimes just doing that on an idea can be months and months. And honestly, I maybe just have to give up on those ones that take that long. I’m learning I don’t usually finish them, so I think it’s got to be that hot in the moment thing.

N: Do you write a lot of songs that never see release at all?

K: Not that many. On the last few albums, we maybe had one or two B-sides that we finished. I start writing a lot of songs. I got a lot of notepads that have a few lines or something, or just a couple of words I realized had a pattern to them or something that don’t ever quite turn into a song. So yeah, I guess when I’m talking about that 8 hour span it’s like when I realize this song’s going to work. I think that there are lots of little starts of things that don’t end up finding the hook and just will stay that way but if we finish it, we usually release it. There’s a really small amount of songs being fully recorded that we didn’t end up wanting to put out.

T: How comfortable are you with people hearing your music while you’re still working on it? Would you ever think of releasing those demos on Bandcamp or something?

K: Yeah I think now I’m pretty ok with putting demos up for the people who want to hear it. The people who don’t want to hear it won’t listen to it and that’s fine. But there will be a few people who might dig it. We have released demos once in a while. I surely will do more of that whenever it’s the good time. But I think for something I’m currently working on I don’t generally post it publicly. My friend Aaron from Fog Lake, he’s always hearing stuff that’s partially done. I’m always sending him stuff. Anybody who’s my closer friend, especially musicians. I value their opinion. I generally like to send them stuff. He will send me some stuff sometimes. He’s a little more personal about it or protective. But I think honestly, getting a bit of validation earlier in the process can be helpful. I want to know I’m kind of onto something. So sending it to someone whose opinion I value and being like “hey this is great, I would I listen to that a bunch of times,” you’re like “ok, if Aaron likes it, it must be pretty good.” So yeah that can be nice.

N: Awesome, you know, Trent’s a big Fog Lake fan

T: Yeah, I saw Aaron in concert at Philamoca.

K: That’s great, yeah.

N: Have you ever played in Philly before?

K: No. I was just saying to Trent though, we’re planning a tour for August and we’re going to come to Philadelphia. We got to figure out the venue and all that. But we are just kind of finalizing our routing with the other band.

N: Awesome

K: We’re just starting to let people know and whatnot so I’m pretty certain I’ll be there. I’ve never been to Philadelphia. It’s been on my list for a while as a place to visit so I’m excited to see it at least for a day. And there’s lots of good music there so hopefully we’ll play with cool band or something.

N: Yeah make sure you get a cheesesteak. Don’t bother with the liberty bell, its just a bell.

K: I guess as a Canadian I don’t really know the significance of that.

N: Alright I think Trent has one more question.

T: Yeah this question is probably as personal as you want to make it, but this is something that I’m pretty interested in. I mean maybe the context helps: I was a Christian for over 10 years and I listened to some of your earlier stuff while I was still a Christian. Maybe about like a year or so ago, I kind of fell out of the faith so I don’t know, your music has always helped me while I was a Christian and sort of after I was a Christian, so I’m interested to know, are you religious? And if so, how does the interplay between the music you make and your faith work? Like does one support the other?

K: A lot of people will ask about it. Obviously it’s very present in the music so it makes sense. I think my path has kind of been that I grew up very Christian. I would have identified as a Christian still for the first couple little kid albums, even though I was going through stuff, kind of questioning things on the record itself. I think the path was kind of confusing and kind of sad and that turned into kind of angry and very much rejecting the whole thing. I think that probably comes throughout some of those albums too but in more recent years I value some aspects of growing up with those stories and with some of the values. I wouldn’t identify as a Christian now at all. I don’t go to church, I don’t have really a spiritual life to be honest, hopefully that’s not disappointing. But obviously, I’m thinking about it still a lot. I think there’s some beautiful stuff in the stories and there’s some beautiful stuff in the ideal kind of life that you could live with some of those teachings. I don’t really see that happening very much so it is definitely a turnoff to the idea of using the title of Christian or being involved in the church. But yeah, I think the overall journey has been to push away from it really hard and be like “no way” and very angry. But in more recent years I appreciate that part of my life and I would enjoy any time I have crossed paths with going back to church with somebody or going to a service. I’ve enjoyed the comfort of it in certain ways and there are certain things about the music and other communal stuff. There are some things that are just so beautiful you can’t explain them, about existence and about just like I don’t know, music and for me math and things that blow my mind and excite me. And I can see how you want to explain it with something like God. I feel like that makes sense and I respect it and I kind of agree with it in a way. I just don’t super know that the Bible is really true or want to participate in that culture really actively. But yeah, it’s clearly made a real impression on me. I find that stuff pretty inescapable to write about and I frame stuff through some of those images or some of those kinds of ways to think about the world. So yeah culturally, I’m definitely Christian. I can’t really help it now. But just in terms of the deeper practice, it’s not really present. I would definitely not be like “I’m an atheist” or I don’t want to be one of those… what’s the name from the office… Ricky Gervais like that kind of “I’m smarter than everybody because of logic or whatever.” That stuff totally repulsed me too. So yeah it’s a complex answer complex question. I’m sure for everybody I would hope it’s a complex answer

N: Yeah so you’re a big math guy as well?

K: Yeah I’m a math teacher. math and music. Just started teaching music but yeah I’ve been a math person forever. I love it.

T: Oh wow! I’m a math major actually.

K: That’s great yeah, I have a math minor. My math knowledge only goes to like second year calculus. I loved it and my appreciation of math has grown in teaching the stuff we do in grade 9/10/11 of high school. I know that stuff. It’s not very useful math, but I enjoy it very much.

T: As a math major, I can confirm that the higher up you go in math it really isn’t that useful but it’s really cool.

K: Yeah it blows your mind in a great way.

N: Do you ever use math in your songwriting or do you, Trent, ever use math?

T: I don’t, no.

K: We do. We say we got to do some math sometimes when we’re working on something. Often, it’s that we’re going to slow down a tape and transpose a note to match the key. It’s like very strange, specific math. It’s like we want to make the drums sound slow on this song so we’re going to record them fast and slow the tape down, but the bassline was there in C now it’s in A so we got to do transposition. My student today was realizing on the guitar. We were talking about semitones and tones and the student was moving a rift up and realizing “oh you can play the riff here” and that same student was in my math class that day and I was like it’s just like the K value on the on the parabola and it’s moving it up one.” It excites me that the student was like “they’re almost the same thing right?” And they’re both beautiful in a kind of spiritual way to be honest. Music is obviously more. It’s more apparent to everybody that their music is beautiful and spiritual but I think there’s something that happened that it gets out the same thing if you don’t have your walls up.

T: I did not expect to talk about math today during this interview.

N: I think we might be I think we’re done with the questions but, anything else you want to say to the people who might be listening to this?

K: I guess well to you two thanks for having me. I know I posted that I want to be on podcasts. You can tell like I could be chatty if I have the chance so yeah thanks for the chance to be chatty with the music itself. I appreciate it.

N: Of course! this was a really insightful conversation. I’ll definitely be listening to a lot of Little Kid after this interview.

K: Try to catch the math.

Hovvdy Sets the Bar for Modern Indie Folk at an Insane Height

By Lukas Da Silva

Folk rock has become a mainstay within the indie scene and it’s become bittersweet in a way. The fact that there are so many people enjoying the genre and looking for artists within this field of music makes me so happy. However the overabundance of artists working in the genre has led to a lower standard of quality within the genre of music. Many acts feel paper thin and can feel lifeless within their music. But Hovvdy proves that the standard we should be striving for is higher than I could have anticipated.

While I was originally introduced to Hovvdy on their album Heavy Weight, it took me till their record True Love to begin to fall in love with the folk group. The lush vocals, soothing guitars, and steady drumming made the music from this band reverberate inside of me. It’s this feeling of resonance that is something unique I believe in the folk genre and this album proves that my experience with the band wasn’t a fluke.

Displaying in tracks like “Shell”, there’s a sense of steadiness in how the band leads us through their music that you can’t help but admire. The band loves to build multilayered instrumentals that crescendo to a point of finality when a track ends. It’s this and their ability to effortlessly weave nostalgia and longing into the core of their vocals and songwriting. Every track feels like an ode to a memory from a distant past that the band is trying to reclaim.

On tracks like “Make Ya Proud”, the lack of deeply long-winded lyrics lets the listener obtain their sense of meaning from the track. For me, the track sounds like a letter to the grandparents of the band but someone could glean a completely different meaning from this track. This is a sign of carefully thought-out songwriting. The ability to know when enough is said to get a point across is a difficult thing to do and it only becomes more difficult in musical form.

But don’t think that just because the band is a folk group, they can’t experiment with their sound. Tracks like “Meant” and “Bubba ” stand out due to their use of drum machines, vocal effects, and production techniques. These forays into what folk music can be stand out as highlights because of how strong the band’s core foundation is. If the band didn’t have such a handle on their current genre’s sound, they wouldn’t be able to travel to these uniquely untapped styles.

Overall, Hovvdy proves that the folk genre still has so much more in store for us. While it may be a genre with many artists attempting the same sound, it’s the few acts that show the drive to push the genre forward that will live on in our memory.

Fav Track: Meant

Body Farm by The Angies

by Emily Fedon

The Angies, a local Philly alternative band, released yet another amazing EP this year, titled “Body Farm.” This is their second EP, following 2021’s “Civil Dusk.” At only fourteen minutes, it’s a quick yet potent listen that leaves you with a strong desire to seek out more of their work. It’s unknown when they’ll release their first album, but their current catalog of music makes it a highly anticipated announcement. However, we’re not there yet, so let’s get into “Body Farm.”

The EP starts off with their single “Killing is a Bore” that gives a punchy intro to “Body Farm.” The singing style reminded me of some of the heavier Mannequin Pussy songs, and the constant and fast drums give you a rush as you listen. There’s also a sick guitar solo in the middle with fast shreds that match the quick pace of the song. The next song, “Squeal,” follows with a similar sound and features cathartic yelling reminiscent of 90’s riot grrrl and classic punk acts, which act as clear influences on the band.

“Full Time Sex Machine,” the third track, is a song that was also featured on their 2022 “Bloodhound” single. The two versions are pretty similar, with lyrics that match each release, but the sound is still different in this version. The singing is a little more raw in the “Bloodhound” release, with the newer version sounding a bit more crisp. The instrumentals also sound like they’ve evolved since the 2022 single. It’s really cool to compare the two versions of the same song and see the way that the band has grown in just 1.5 years. For this reason I think I prefer the 2024 “Body Farm” version of “Full Time Sex Machine.”

“Bed of Thorns” slows the quick pace just a bit with a catchy guitar riff and gives the vocalist Tara a chance to show off her skills as a singer. This is my favorite from the EP, bringing to mind comparisons to various female-led 90’s alternative bands such as Hole. However, these comparisons aren’t to say that this band is creating carbon copies of previous sounds. They do a good job of building upon their influences while still adding their own twist, and this skill only improves the longer that the band works together on music. The final single of the EP is “She Takes the Guts.” It’s a terrific end to “Body Farm,” bringing back the quick pace of the earlier songs while taking the time to pause and repeat lines for emphasis as the guitar rings in the background. Overall, this is a no-skip EP that shows off a few of the many talented musicians Philly has to offer.

Only God Was Above Us by Vampire Weekend

by Noah Kossowsky

Photo by Michael Schmelling, Instagram @Michael_Schmelling

It’s been five years since NYC indie golden boys Vampire Weekend released their fourth album, Father of The Bride. FOTB deviated a bit in the sound and atmosphere fans and critics were used to and wound up being received with the most mixed reception of their careers so far. While it was mostly positive, part of me thinks Ezra Koenig and Co. missed the near-unanimous praise their original trilogy was lauded with when making their fifth record, Only God Was Above Us.

It’s remarkable how Vampire Weekend has managed to recapture the sound of their best work. They even find the time to make call backs to the classics (catch the “Mansard Roof” groove on “Connect”). They’ve always had one of the more unconventional and creative combinations of pop genres and elements from across music so I’m glad to see them return to and continue to expand upon it here. Cycling, busy drum grooves, winding guitar riffs and intricate layers of pianos and strings underscore pristine pop melodies in a display that shows the band’s understanding and mastery over their unique sound.

If I were to describe this record metaphorically, I’d say it’s like walking through an art museum. Each track is so perfectly arranged and placed behind a layer of bright reverb like a glass frame. Choices feel very deliberate and meticulously crafted. This extends to the lyrics as well, which range from observational and narratively-driven to vaguely philosophical, but always descriptive and vivid.

At this point in their careers, you aren’t going to hear Vampire Weekend making anything as simple as “Campus,” nor as frantically energetic as “Cousins.” Even on songs with flashier, fast-paced moments, the band takes the time to breathe and flesh out more intricate song structures. This isn’t necessarily a negative. I appreciate a chill listen, but in the case of Only God Was Above Us, it leaves the slower tracks feeling lethargic by comparison. This is especially true in the case of the lengthy and tedious closer “Hope,” as well as “The Surfer,” which you can find in the dictionary definition of the word schmaltzy.

This record is certainly a return to form for the Ivy League legends. The tracklist may have a slower pace, but this leaves the band time to flesh out each song with gorgeous arrangements and uncommon structures. It reflects a group of songwriters with the patience and willingness to continue mining into the mountain of their own creativity. On Only God Was Above Us, they’ve struck gold once again.

Favorite track: Classical

Essential Albums: Q1 2024

Hello everyone! After a 2 year hiatus, we’re finally bringing Communiqué back. YAY!!! For our first entry, we’ve asked a few of our DJs to share their favorite albums of Q1 of 2024. Keep reading to see what DJs Noah, Leah, and Lukas have been loving 🙂

Noah’s Picks

100% Prod I.V. by Lucy (Cooper B. Handy) 

Massachusetts-based artist Lucy drunkenly delivers consistently catchy hooks over quirky, minimal and unconventional plugg and trap style beats. His very matter-of-fact lyrical style ranges from cutesy to achingly honest. Some might be thrown off by the whiny, mumbled vocals but if you can appreciate their uniqueness, you’ll be rewarded by a record that shines in its simplicity and boyish charm. 

Recommended track: Substance 

Mirage by Hooky 

Philly band Hooky is on the cutting edge with their dreamy combinations of glitchy electronics, soft noise and tender indie songcraft. This is a record that’s as indebted to Nintendo soundtracks as it is to Alex G. For just 33 minutes, it’s an expansive listen that covers a wide range of sounds while still remaining cohesive. These guys have captured something creative, emotionally affecting and beautiful. 

Recommended track: Shrinkmaster 

The Pilgrim, Their God & The King Of My Decrepit Mountain by Tapir! 

Tapir! out of London comes through with a lush and conceptual record that blends an array of influences from indie folk and art rock past and present. The welcome touches of electronic drum kits juxtapose the otherwise organic instrumentation to create effective, unique arrangements. Fantastical lyricism accentuates the majestic melodies. It’s a serene and soothing listen with a lightly dramatic atmosphere that you don’t want to miss. 

Recommended track: My God 

Two Star & The Dream Police by mk.gee 

There’s a really unique atmosphere coming from mk.gee’s blend of alternative R&B and bedroom pop. He takes these influences and works them into his surreal, underwater-sounding production style. Despite the obscured nature of these soundscapes, the songwriting shines through. This record has hooks for days as mk.gee can’t help but bring the catchy melodies even on the record’s most indirect moments. You’ll catch some really sick guitar licks all over this thing as well. Just a very cool and original album. 

Recommended track: Rylee & I 

A Million Easy Payments by Little Kid 

For some of the most emotionally devastating indie folk of the year thus far, look no further than this record from Toronto band Little Kid. Songwriter Kenny Boothby delivers a masterclass in excellent storytelling. He knows how to keep the listener engaged even on songs as long as 10 minutes. Rustic arrangements and organic production allow these tracks to sprawl outward and slowly build without ever feeling stiff or repetitive. Overall, a really beautiful listening experience that will be sure to put you in your feels. 

Recommended track: Bad Energy 

Bright Future by Adrianne Lenker

On Bright Future, Lenker continues to cement herself as one of the songwriting greats. She consistently finds new ways to write gorgeous music with near-infinite emotional depth. While it’s a bit less cohesive than some of her previous solo efforts, this record sees her branching out into piano-based songs and denser arrangements. That being said, it still finds the room to deliver those devastatingly simple guitar and vocal singer/songwriter tunes that remain unmatched in quality. 

Recommended track: Sadness as a Gift

Leah’s Picks

Plastic death by glass beach

Glass Beach have been touted as pioneers of fifth wave emo, and 5 years after their debut the group returned in full force with plastic death. A complete sonic overhaul from the previous record, plastic death refuses to lose your attention for its full hour runtime. The intricate and unpredictable instrumentals soar over abstract lyrics from J McClendon about existentialism and life as a trans woman. The DNA of rock greats are all over this record, as J cites Nirvana, Pixies, and The Beatles as some of their inspirations for the album. It’s a truly maximalist album, but in a way that doesn’t overwhelm.

Favorite track: coelacanth 

Where We’ve Been, Where We Go From Here by FRIKO

Chicago indie rock duo Friko released their debut this February, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. Their style harkens back to the heavy hitters of 00s indie rock like Arcade Fire and Japandroids with its well earned musical bravado and heartfelt lyrics. They strike a great balance between rockers like “Chemical” and “Get Numb To It!” and tender ballads like “For Ella” and “Until I’m With You Again.”  Friko have already seemed to carve out their sonic identity with this record, and I won’t be surprised if we’re talking about Friko as one of the best breakout bands of the decade. 

Favorite track: Crimson to Chrome

I Got Heaven by Mannequin Pussy

Missy Dabice wants to be heard. Newly single and extra feral, I Got Heaven sees Mannequin Pussy at peak confidence both musically and lyrically. The hometown heroes continue to cement themselves as a quintessential modern punk band with range to span from Port Richmond to Walnut Hill, as they seamlessly weave glitzy indie pop jams like “I Don’t Know You” with absolute hog crankers like “OK? OK! OK? OK!”

Favorite Track: Loud Bark

QWERTY II by Saya Gray

If I had to choose a single artist to invest all of my hypothetical life savings into, it’d be Saya Gray. After coming across her debut, 19 MASTERS a couple months ago, I was immediately drawn in by her one-of-a-kind sound. Gray’s music is structurally ambiguous, refuses to adhere to a genre, and proves to be the kind of music with such clear artistic direction that it simply has to be made without collaboration. The writing on this album is simultaneously confessional and artful, and its pairing with Saya’s innovative style allows you to visit a new mental island for its succinct 30 minute runtime.

Favorite track: 2 2 BOOTLEG

Lukas’s Picks

Wall of Eyes by The Smile 

Thom Yorke shows yet again that he has what it takes to create a successor to the Radiohead moniker. Subtle and methodical with their instrumentals and use of vocals, this band feels like the concept of OK Computer taken to the natural extreme. From filling the empty space with synths and wind instrumentals to meaningful yet obscure lyrics, the album feels like an alternate timeline that Radiohead would have gotten to if Kid A wasn’t created. I know it might seem unfair to compare this band to Radiohead but when it comes to finding music this polished, it’s hard to find another example

Favorite Track: Friend Of A Friend

Theodore & Andre [EP] by Hit-Boy & Alchemist

Nobody could have seen it coming. The Alchemist and Hit-Boy are two of the best rap producers right now. These are people who had exclusively made a career out of making beats for other people. Yet they’ve teamed up and dropped one of the best rap collaborations I have heard. Short and powerful, this EP manages to not only to highlight each producers surprising skill at rapping but also show off what they are capable of with their own beats. It’s insane to think this duo managed to hide this talent for so long and still manage to remain humble around so many rappers. Now that the cat’s out of the bag, I can only hope we can hear more in the future. 

Favorite Track: DON’T BE GONE

What Now by Brittany Howard

I’ve never deeply followed Brittany Howard’s career with the Alabama Shakes but when she began to perform by herself, I couldn’t help but be captivated. Translating a strong stage presence through her recorded music and managing to meld genres such as funk, rock, and soul, Brittany Howard has really blown me away with how much she has evolved. Whatever expectations I had for her after her amazing debut solo album, they were shattered by Howard’s commanding presence and ability to work around any instruments in her presence. Few artists manage to land a successful solo career and fewer manage to surpass the works of the band they were previously a part of but Brittany Howard has done just that.

Favorite Track: What Now

Loss of Life by MGMT

After the incredible marvel that was Little Dark Age, we waited many years for MGMT to follow up that record with something that would push the boundary of indie pop even more. Little did we know that MGMT was preparing for a more reserved and contemplative record. One that tackles the idea of loss and the slow deterioration of the mind. From tracks like “Mother Nature” to “Nothing to Declare”, we hear the group question their place in this world and what makes life even worth living. It’s these deep philosophical questions that makes this record different from Little Dark Age. If their previous album was the outburst from learning the harsh reality of life, this album is the growth and slow realization that we are the ones that need to create meaning and love in our lives. 

Favorite Track: Nothing to Declare

If you read this far, thank you and we appreciate you <3 Stay tuned for more blog posts!