It’s a strange time to be an alternative music fan right now. blink-182 is releasing a new album with their (almost) original lineup, Death Cab For Cutie and the Postal Service are playing their landmark records in full on a nationwide tour, and the Mars Volta are somehow more relevant now than they have been in years. Because of this, you might be feeling like it’s the early aughts all over again. Why even bother upgrading your musical tastes at all, right? Wrong. Someday soon this nostalgia train will run its course. When it does, you’ll be left at the station rambling incoherently about the fact that ‘From Under The Cork Tree’ turns twenty in less than two years or some shit. ‘Feel old yet? Feel old yet?’ you’ll repeat ad nauseam as the world moves on without you.
It’s not too late to change your trajectory, though. There are literally dozens of great new songs released each day, allowing you to simultaneously reminisce about the past while charging fearlessly into the future. We can’t promise to fix you completely, but here are a handful of new tracks our staff have been spinning that will hopefully point you in the right direction.
Al Menne “Freak Accident”
It’s certainly no accident that Los Angeles singer-songwriter Al Menne’s solo debut album is one of the best indie releases of the year. Initially making waves with Seattle-based rock outfit Great Grandpa, Menne has gained a steady and building reputation for their thoughtful lyricism and inimitable vocal stylings. Fans of the previous band have a lot to hang onto here as Menne’s signature motifs paint the entire record. What sets it apart as a solo effort is a dialed-back and more vulnerable sound. This is aided by production and engineering from indie veterans Christian Lee Hutchinson and Melina Duterte (Jay Som). Album highlight and title track ‘Freak Accident’ blends each contributor’s best sensibilities – as well as backing vocals from comedian and collaborator Whitmer Thomas – into a lush and satisfying alt-country twinged indie meditation on outsiderism. A theme you might strongly relate to if you fail to immediately hop on the tail of Menne’s rising star.
Soul Glo “If I Speak (Shut the Fuck Up)”
Our managing editor has been trying to tell us about this track since it came out a couple weeks ago. When she would mention the title, however, we kind of thought she was just yelling at us again. Instead of her typical scorn, it would appear that Philadephia’s Soul Glo is fucking shit up again. Apparently when artists take the time to empower their work and hone their crafts, they can achieve stunning results. Maybe if you spent more time mixing your EP and less time spamming multiple comments sections, people would actually listen to it. That’s the general thesis of “If I Speak,” at least. Building over a brooding intro before slamming your head into the brick wall that serves as its hook, Soul Glo’s latest is an anthemic ode to taking pride in yourself while purging the incessant and time-consuming trappings of modern digital life.
Joe Camerlengo “Words For Goodbye”
Columbus, Ohio native and noise-wizard Joe Camerlengo holds an impressive resume. From fronting cult legends This Is My Suitcase and Van Dale to providing guitar work for Justin Courtney Pierre’s ‘The Price of Salt’ EP, there is seemingly no project the songwriter and producer can’t manage. Serving as an electric reimagination of their sparse solo debut, which was a collection of songs inspired by the birth of their first child, ‘New New Things’ features some of Camerlengo’s most enduring soundscapes to date. Notable highlight, ‘Words For Goodbye,’ is a touching ode to unconditional love that carries on through a lifetime. A vulnerable slice of freak-pop that would make you want to call your parents if you didn’t already live in their basement.
Baroness “Last Word”
Baroness is currently celebrating their twentieth year as a band, which modern events tell us is quite a milestone. While your band is already starting to show its age even in its infancy, the Savannah, Georgia quartet only seems to be getting started on their recently released sixth LP, ‘Stone.’ If you need any evidence that these guys are still capable of ripping your face off while defending their regal namesake, look no further than the epic ‘Last Word.’ While the staff has been thoroughly enjoying the album, we have had to institute a moratorium on playing it until we can get our office put back together. That shouldn’t stop you from trashing your living room while listening, though.
The National “Laugh Track ft. Phoebe Bridgers”
At their widely beloved Homecoming Festival in Cincinnati, Ohio last weekend, The National not only announced that a new album, ‘Laugh Track’ – their second this calendar year – was on the way, but that it would be released just two days after their headlining set. This caused a massive waiting list for therapist appointments as divorced dads across the nation scrambled to be seen in time to process the record. The aptly named title track, which features Phoebe Bridgers in her third collaboration with the band, carries on the subdued nature of the preceding ‘First Two Pages of Frankenstein’, but is significantly less of a dirge thanks to more vibrant percussion and catchier hooks.
Blink-182 “ONE MORE TIME” and “MORE THAN YOU KNOW”
Time to bust out a pair of Dickies shorts, high top Vans, and a box of Kleenex (for crying, grow up), because Blink-182 is back again, baby! This time, it’s a family affair. After releasing a four-minute trailer for their upcoming album that halted production at HT HQ due to every single person in the office sobbing for 48 hours straight, Blink has released not just their promised single “ONE MORE TIME,” but also the bombastic “MORE THAN YOU KNOW.” The former questions why it always seems to take a tragedy to bring estranged loved ones back on the same page. You didn’t need another reason to feel shitty about not talking to your friend Greg since his emergency surgery five years ago, but now you have it. The latter seems to feature Mark and Tom airing their grievances with one another while admitting their own faults which led to the previously fractured state of their relationship. We don’t think we’re being hyperbolic by stating that nothing has ever had the power to heal our troubled and divided nation quite like watching two rich white men publicly set aside their differences for the sake of pop-punk and friendship. Leaders, please take note.
New music is important, but ensuring you have a well-rounded taste that will impress anyone who dares to question your prowess means having a well-stocked arsenal of classics to lord over everyone. We here at The Hard Times have those covered in spades too! Here’s a few of our handpicked blasts from the past to add to your collection if you’re trying to avoid looking like a total dweeb.
Mitski just released her excellent album “The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We” last week, which has fully launched one of our writers into their ‘annual end-of-summer sadboi phase’. When he’s not playing her entire discography at full volume from his desk, he can be found dramatically sitting in a window ledge with a cup of tea. Many have asked when he’ll be himself again and have been met with a pensive and wistful, ‘when it stops hurting.’ At least when “Townie” comes on, he gets so jazzed that he writes a few paragraphs before going back to his brooding.
Manchester Orchestra “100 Dollars”
Two of our writers this week faced weirdly large bills from their veterinarians. For some inexplicable reason, they both on separate occasions found solace in this hidden gem from Manchester Orchestra. For the life of us, we cannot figure out why. Yes, the lyrics mention a dog, but we’re not convinced any of the other lyrics refer to emergency pet care. In fact, we’re pretty sure it’s a breakup song, or at least a poetic admission of Andy Hull’s secret gambling problem. Regardless, we’re pretty sure most people can relate to needing $100 at any given time.
Nada Surf “Popular”
Though one of our writers said we probably don’t need to hear this song again in his ranking of the band’s studio albums, we know for a fact that he was listening to it on repeat while penning the article. Frankly, we don’t know why he’s hiding it. Sure, it’s not their best track by a mile, but it’s still kind of wild that it was a mainstream hit for a second in the late 90’s. Best to get this one on your playlist so you can tell everyone you knew the song before it inevitably got turned into a nostalgia-biting TikTok trend.