Single Reviews: Alex G - "Bobby" / The Drums - "Blood Under My Belt"

Alex G - "Bobby // The Drums - "Blood Under My Belt"
(2017 Domino / ANTI)

As the Midwestern climate re-arranges my layers of jackets and sweaters, so too do its fluctuations scramble my listening habits as I walk from the Student Union to the concrete campus' English Studies hall. Freezing winds, channeled through a tunnel of brutalist architecture, call for a futurist rotation of Soundcloud maufacture - steely slabs of grimy techno shuffled into a deck of dark trap-rap singles. The more assertive and new the input is, the more resistant to the cold I feel.

In this exchange of data, I am the singularity - the self-driven vehicle that senses the movements its fellow commuters make but ultimately fixes its gaze on the destination: in this case the warmth of Room 316 and its adjacent vending machine, which peddles my favorite flavor of Clif Bar. I let the Yeongrak playlist sizzle to a bitcrushed silence as I slide into my seat and unwrap my purchase.


Each brief hint at spring, though, is a chance for me to tuck myself back into a sense of familiarity, which makes now the perfect time for my high-school mainstays to return to top form. I was shocked last night to find - (amidst recent releases by Los Campesinos and Beach Fossils) - that new-wave revivalists The Drums had emerged from a three-year hibernation, following up an admittedly bland third LP with the band's most solid track since "Me and the Moon", which dropped in 2010.

"Blood Under My Belt", our first peek at The Drums' upcoming record titled Abysmal Thoughts, is as primal as their early demo material, holding firmly to spartan beach-pop arrangements. The track's bleating lead guitar and steady bassline prop up a skeletal drum loop - recurring swells of violin wink at offscreen opulence. In comparison to the messy, somewhat abstract synthscapes of 2014's Encyclopedia, frontman Jonny Pierce shears his composition down to the sort of wiry simplicity that was in vogue during the early 2010s. Veiled by the sweetness of his bubblegum-pop delivery is a profound sadness - a yearning for the relative innocence of life midway through the Obama administration filtered through an 80s post-punk lens. Is this meta-nostalgia?

"i see death coming too quickly / i don't want this to end"

Alex Giannascoli also chooses to approach our shifting cultural paradigm with wistful puerility. "Bobby", released this morning in anticipation of the Pennsylvanian singer-songwriter's eighth album, Rocket, recalls the pastoral twang of Uncle Tupelo. Fiddle riffs are scraped from a dreamy acoustic progression like dirt from untrimmed fingernails: bitterly earthen. Giannascoli and a yet-to-be-credited guest vocalist contribute surreal verses to their pastoral alt-country panorama, their wavering harmonies looming like overcast clouds.

While The Drums take a peek at the rearview glass, Alex G parks the car in a roadside field for a picnic.

"the colors blue and purple start / to bleed into the endless dark"