Quick Hits Volume V: The Features, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Screaming Females

Quick Hits is a column where I share my occasionally coherent thoughts on (relatively) new releases.

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The Features – “Two Hearts”

I had never heard of this band just a couple of weeks ago. I still know almost nothing about them, other than that they’ve released a handful of albums, are from Tennessee, and sound like the glorious fusion of Spoon and Talking Heads that I’ve apparently been subconsciously pining for my whole life. If Talking Heads formed 3 years ago and Spoon dedicated a career to perfecting “Turn My Camera On”. There’s also that melodica that I don’t think I’ve heard in a song since “Clint Eastwood” subverting the entire robotic two step groove. It also features what’s instantly become a recent favorite of an opening line, “I get a little bit nervous, I get a little bit shy”. Can’t wait for the album.

The Features – “This Disorder”

This one is not new, and it’s the same band as above, but damnit I want to write about them twice. Another robotic groove and an ace vocal delivery ruminating on not being able to put your phone down (and instructions for an alternative) make for a hell of an introduction to a very good band.

Catfish and the Bottlemen – “Kathleen”

I have an insatiable soft spot for this kind of stuff. Strokes-indebted, mainstream-ish indie rock with chord changes that pull my (admittedly easily pulled) cathartic heart strings in all the right ways even when the lyrics are inscrutable or sound like the ramblings of a self-obsessed nihilistic drunk. I know I’m susceptible, I just don’t care. This is a particularly effective entry in the budding mini genre of pop-minded Strokes descendants (who would have thought that a decade later, First Impressions of Earth and not Is This It would be such an influence) , and when they slam into that chorus, it doesn’t matter that he’s over-emoting what’s essentially a drunken complaint about being blue-balled. Critical objectivity can fuck off, I need to blast the volume and sit on someone’s living room floor pounding Yuenglings.

Screaming Females – Empty Head

The narrative to just about every Screaming Females record is that they’re finally shedding their punk clothes and writing catchy songs. Which isn’t quite true, because this band has always been catchy as hell. Sure, Marissa was prone to do things like scream “YOU ARE ALWAYS TALKING AND YOU NEVER STOP!” repeatedly and with tenacity, but she did so tunefully, damnit.  Unsurprisingly “Empty Head” from their upcoming Rose Mountain is no different, sturdy hooks fearsomely constructed, buffeted by a band whose playing has improved leaps and bounds on every record. It’s rare to see a group that can lock into each other’s every move this well, so that the outpouring is not only well constructed, but wholly singular. When Screaming Females lay into a riff it never sounds like three people playing their instruments, it’s a single being, charging headlong into your skull. But, you know, tunefully.

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