Our Spilt Milk looks at our favorite things this week, which also include Jianna Justice and the One Band One Week tumblr.
Death Grips have earned themselves a sizable helping of notoriety over the past few years. Known for their unorthodox live performances (and unorthodox performance cancellations), elusive public personas, and racey cover art, the Sacramento-based experimental hip-hop group has amassed an impressive cult following. They're more than just a gimmick, though. Their sound rides a thin line between hip-hop and screamo punk/noise rock, driven by MC Ride's jarring flow and spastic production from Zach Hill and Andy Morin. While they've spawned quite a few sound-alikes since their 2010 beginnings, they are undoubtedly still the masters of their own unpredictable aesthetic.
Less is known, however, about Hill and Morin's side project, The I.L.Y's. Their obscurity is intentional. They've never played (or at least publicized) a live show, they don't have a social media presence, and both their albums have been released solely online without promotion. The first of these, I've Always Been Good At True Love(2015), sounds a lot like what you'd expect from a Death Grips project minus MC ride. It's pretty standard punk, full of angry power chords, uncomfortably dissonant distortion, and vocals slathered in reverb.
They released their second project, Scum With Boundaries, on Sunday via Death Grips' Soundcloud, and it's refreshingly different. At some points in the album, the duo falls into Death Grips form (not that that's such a bad thing), yelling and pounding their way through tracks like "Stop Yelling In The Museum." But there are other moments where The I.L.Y's break new ground. "Starts With A C Ends With A U", for instance, plays like a sea shanty from the year 3000, reminiscent of Tom Waits or "King Rat"-era Modest Mouse, and the title track could be the theme song from a movie about an ice cream truck driver who kills his customers. The I.L.Y's are doing exactly what a good side project should do: taking an established group's core sound and expanding it in a new direction, even if it's only a slight turn. (Raphael Helfand)
Shura’s chilled-out, airy, melancholy pop has me lost in my feelings. It’s been a while since I’ve heard a pop release so unabashedly emotional, well-produced in a way that feels organic, like it’s coming from the heart of a person rather than the mind of a hitmaker. Her debut album, Nothing’s Real, feels intentional and diverse, with pop songs you could dance to mixed in with more gentle ones about two people too shy to admit feelings for each other, or about the aftermath of a failed relationship.
Nothing’s Real feels like a beautiful rendition of the Craigslist Missed Connections section, dissecting past brushes with love and intimacy, ruminating on the could-have and should-have-beens with writing as a mode of processing. (Nicole Cohen)
The 33 1/3 book series presents short, often provocative takes on well-known albums, and the combination of good, personal writing and manageable lengths make the books the sort of thing that you plow through like a bag of Lays. The online equivalent is the tumblr page One Week One Band, which delivers exactly what the title promises. One writer—professional or driven fan—posts a piece a day on the band of the week, frequently breaking down a song a day. Vineeta Bhatia’s exceedingly deep dive into John Mayer didn’t make me care about him, but it made me believe that deep passion for Mayer was possible. Heidi Gillstrom’s focus on late period Sparks makes the case for a period of the band’s music that I’ve always considered trivial.
The breadth of the site’s coverage is part of the fun, with artists you’d expect—Ty Segall, Sufjan Stevens, St. Vincent, Tegan and Sara, Vampire Weekend and Sharon Van Etten (just to pick a few)—but you also get people I didn’t expect for a variety of reasons. Yelle, Shania Twain, and Townes Van Zandt, for example. Typical of the best of One Week One Band is Michaela Drapes’ writing on 10,000 Maniacs, not because I like the band but because like the best 33 1/3 books, Drapes writes about more than just the band. Her affection for 10,000 Maniacs is inextricably linked to her 12-year-old self falling in love with rock ’n’ roll. It’s pretty clear that she’s more in love with discovering the magic of rock ’n’ roll than passionate about the band, but the way the two are intertwined made her week compelling. (Alex Rawls)
For Jianna Justice, change is always on the horizon. The singer/songwriter based in Athens, Georgia has undergone name changes (Penny Lame to Gal Pal to Jianna Justice) and band changes (from solo to backed.) While these are more typical steps in the artist’s process, it’s her changes in writing style that I connect to. Her earlier work in her Penny Lame days started out almost like a musical diary of her life as a young college student, recording her thoughts intertwined with daily events. The songs were sweet and a little obvious, so "Slushies in the Target Parking Lot” was about exactly that. As Penny Lame, she narrated personal, specific stories about her life and living in her first house. Now she’s grown, and it seems like those stories no longer resonate with her.
After a transition to Gal Pal and then into Jianna Justice, she added a band. Now, she collaborates lyrically to involve the others’ stories too, and her music no longer simply backs the lyrics. The band’s newest song, “Plant Growth,” is more mysterious, lacking an obvious storyline. Justice’s storyline is that identity is fluid, influenced by the experiences and people you surround yourself with. Change identities; change styles. (Jessie Rubini)