Essential Tracks This Week: Mega Bog, Bully, and more
There’s a lot happening this weekend: Coachella weekend two, Record Store Day, and of course a whole new batch of Essential Tracks to dive into. This week, our picks include the latest from Mega Bog, as well as some grungy and shoegazey Britpop (from America), anthemic post-hardcore, a late-night pop groove and more. Check out our picks for this week’s Essential Tracks.
Mega Bog – “Cactus People”
Next month, Erin Birgy will release her seventh album as Mega Bog, End of Everything, which is her first for the well curated indie-psych label Mexican Summer. The singles she’s released thus far have showcased an expanded palette and even richer production, and “Cactus People” sounds like her strongest yet. Driven by heavy layers of arpeggiated, ’80s-influenced synthesizers, “Cactus People” might immediately tug at the nostalgia strings, but this isn’t pastiche so much as a song that captures what so many of the best songs from the ’80s did: An emotionally charged experience, made all the more sublime through Birgy’s gorgeous vocals and an immaculate overall production. I know there’s a transcendent, affecting cinematic scene out there somewhere, just waiting for this as its needle drop.
From End of Everything, out May 19 via Mexican Summer.
Bully – “Hard to Love”
Few bands right now combine big hooks and grungy guitars as effortlessly as Bully does. (See 2020’s SUGAREGG for further evidence.) With “Hard to Love,” the latest single from upcoming album Lucky for You, Alicia Bognanno takes a slight detour from that approach with a song that nods to a very-British early ’90s triangle of baggy beats, Britpop melodies and layers of shoegaze guitars, amid lyrics that speak to an affirmation about learning to love yourself, despite how the outside world might see you. It’s a fun sonic detour for Bully, but one that pays off handsomely, if in part because that foundation of big hooks and distorted guitars remains intact.
From Lucky for You, out June 2 via Sub Pop.
Militarie Gun – “Very High”
It’s perhaps a missed opportunity that Militarie Gun released their latest single a couple days early for 4/20, but then again, they’re not a band that goes for the obvious. “Very High” is reflective of the band’s uniquely accessible and aggressive sensibility, juxtaposing power pop hooks with their signature post-hardcore urgency as Ian Shelton sings of the need for chemical escape when life becomes a little too demoralizing. But in its scrape and jangle, the group pull off an anthem that feels as massive as any great ’90s grunge or alternative rock group, only much more economical. It zips by in a lean two minutes, so replay it as many times as you need to.
From Life Under the Gun, out June 23 via Loma Vista
Arlo Parks – “Blades”
In writing and recording the third single from My Soft Machine, Arlo Parks’ follow-up to the Mercury Prize-winning Collapsed in Sunbeams, the UK singer/songwriter took inspiration from the likes of ESG, Kaytranada and Zambian psych-rock. Not all of which is immediately obvious on “Blades,” but the end result is something with life and momentum, accomplishing the objective she set for herself: Making a song you can dance to. It’s rich in atmosphere and groove, a late-night anthem that, in addition to the influences mentioned above, feels a bit like vintage M83 with a little more reserve and reflection. It’s a rich production to soak in via a good pair of headphones. Or, perhaps, you can dance to it.
From My Soft Machine, out May 26 via Transgressive
KEN Mode – “I Cannot”
KEN Mode wrote and recorded a lot more music than what they released on last year’s excellent NULL, and we most certainly haven’t heard the last of it. This week, however, they shared a new single, “I Cannot,” which sounds upon first listen like one of their heaviest songs in recent memory. It’s massive, crushing, slow and menacing, exactly the sort of thing we love to hear from one of the best noise rock bands of the past 20 years. But it’s also strangely melodic in its sinister way, with eerie arpeggios cascading over the low-end churn. Oh, and of course there’s some gnarly saxophone near the end, lending the song a coup de grace, hold the grace.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.