School is hard. Midterms suck. And the hardest part of it all is finding the willpower to continue. Luckily for you, I have the one true answer: Music! Which is what this column is about. Sometimes you need to be stressed and listen to stressful music. Get it out of your system. Do that when you’re not studying. When studying, listening to music can also be great, but you’ve gotta pick the right stuff. No singing along, nothing too loud, but also it needs to be stimulating and get you stoked to study. I’ve got some music for both occasions, the stressful and the studyful, so let’s check it out.
Melkbelly have really got me excited. Someone told me that they sound like The Breeders and Lightning Bolt combined, and I agree. Brash guitars and sugary sweet vocals create something magical, overdriven but just melodic enough to keep you mesmerized by the thunderous hurricane that is “Nothing Valley.” The first official record from the Chicago quartet, it’s darker, and much fuller than their previous EP, “Pennsylvania.” While they experimented with noise in the past, chaos is the face of this record. Low and driving bass tones dominate while the loose, sonorous rumble of drums and jarring guitars launch into anthemic, songful moments filtered through layers of smog and distortion. A ’90s rock feeling shines through, comparable to contemporaries Charly Bliss, Speedy Ortiz or Great Grandpa. Check out “Off the Lot,” “Greedy Gull” and “Twin Looking Motherfucker,” all of which happen to have more of the noisy, Lightning Bolt-reminiscent sound in addition to their general indie-punk feeling. Melkbelly’s music is stressful but in an addictive, treasure-hunt kind of way. Your brain digs through the noise to discover some incredibly melodic and catchy sub-layers, all of which are an extremely rewarding find.
Women and John Maus are two common artists on my study playlist. I actually love both of the artists very much outside of studying, which is rare. Like I said earlier, it’s necessary to find stuff that doesn’t distract you, and liking something might be the most distracting feature of a song. But Women and John Maus have found a sweet spot where their nuanced melodies and unobtrusive vocals — or distorted in the case of Maus — create highly technical but unoffensive soundscapes.
Women craft precise, churning rhythms that you can latch onto, allowing them to propel you through the impossible sludge of midterm studying. Both of their albums are ingenious, but if I had to recommend one to start, “Public Strain” is pretty dang close to a perfect album. It’s surface has a sharp, rocky texture laden with psychedelic-tinged nuggets of gold and pockets of echo-y, spacey vocal delight.
John Maus has had a fairly prolific career so far. In addition to his solo work, he’s worked alongside Animal Collective and Haunted Graffiti. Of all his stuff, 2011’s “We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves” is my favorite, in addition to being a mouthful to say. Reverberations of Joy Division, Bauhaus, Nick Cave and Suicide rattle through Maus’ music while still remaining entirely his own. Ethereal synths jump back and forth from a classic ’80s sound to something more experimental all the while being accented by a slow-motion kind of singing. Give both of these a listen. I hope they can add something bearable to your homework experience.
You know the drill: 1190 AM, 98.9 FM in Boulder or online at radio1190.org.
Klefeker is Radio 1190’s music director. Read more reviews: coloradodaily.com/columnists