ICWMI: In case we missed it
As the first installment of Scene’s end of the year wrap-up, ICWMI touches on those albums which didn’t quite make our top 20 list — due on Monday — but deserved their praises sung in the pages of Scene nevertheless, at least in the opinion of these writers. The albums below are those “under the radar” records which we’ve pushed on friends, family and other Scene writers, and because none of them would give the music a listen, we decided to write about it in hopes that one of you might.
“Heaven To A Tortured Mind” — Yves Tumor
By Ryan Israel, Scene Editor
Yves Tumor has arrived as the next great rock star, and if you haven’t been paying attention, you might have missed their arrival. What began as a shadowy electronic act has, on 2018’s “Safe In The Hands of Love” and now “Heaven To A Tortured Mind,” morphed into an experimental, art and pop rock phenom, a redefiner of rock stardom producing anthems which reverberate off the ever-rising ceiling of general f—eduppedness. And nothing seems more fitting than the name of the person behind Yves Tumor, Sean Bowie.
“Heaven To A Tortured Mind” is Yves Tumor’s most accessible album to date, but it’s by no means easy listening. Vociferous psychedelia and maximalist glam rock mix and melt into the project’s 12 songs, filling each to the brim. Lead track “Gospel For A New Century” is appropriately titled, a sing-your-heart-out hymn complete with triumphant horns and blistering guitar. “Kerosene!” begins as a blissed-out piece of pop before a guitar solo pierces the veil and elevates the track into a wonderfully euphoric space. The two songs are some of the best pop rock of the year.
“Shore” — Fleet Foxes
By Matthew Kellenberg, Scene Writer
“Shore” is the fall we missed this year. Released on the autumnal equinox — because of course it was — the latest Fleet Foxes album rounds out the band’s seasonal oeuvre with some of their brightest songs to date. Frontman Robin Pecknold is not blind to our global situation. “Some rush of red fear,” he laments the news cycle, “And my worst old times look fine from here.” But his vocals sweep across a rich tapestry of strings, brass, and percussion. Chamber pop has rarely sounded so idyllic. As one meditation on fate and community drifts into the next, it is easy to lose track of the tracklist. Yet on “Shore,” that feels like a strength. My mind can be a stressful place to get lost these days. “Shore,” on the other hand, is a train of thought I will gladly ride.
“1000 gecs and The Tree of Clues” — 100 gecs and featured artists
By Jim Moster, Scene Writer
100 gecs exploded onto the music scene with the release of their debut album “1000 gecs” in 2019. Although they had already gained a cult following, “1000 gecs” put the hyperpop duo in the spotlight with standout songs like “money machine” and “stupid horse.” This year, 100 gecs took a victory lap by releasing “1000 gecs and The Tree of Clues,” a remix album which includes 14 renditions of “1000 gecs” songs from beloved artists such as A. G. Cook, Rico Nasty, Charli XCX, Fall Out Boy and Dorian Electra.
Gecs fans tend to be split on “The Tree of Clues.” Despite the all-star roster of featured artists, the album can feel oversaturated and excessive at times. However, it was inevitable that a few remixes would fall flat when their source content was already so avant-garde. Hyperpop aficionados will still find plenty to appreciate in the 51-minute album. I recommend starting with Dorian Electra’s “gec 2 ü” and Fall Out Boy’s “hand crushed by a mallet,” both of which add a high-energy flair to the original songs. In addition, take time to appreciate “The Tree of Clues” as a concept — the album is more enjoyable when one sees it as a tapestry of creative visions from some of the most bold and cutting-edge artists in pop.
“Speed Kills” — Chubby and the Gang
By Jake Winningham, Associate Scene Editor
The year’s finest punk album doesn’t start with a riff or crashing cymbals — instead, “Speed Kills,” the debut album from London castoffs Chubby and the Gang, opens with a speech decrying the evils of rock and roll. “I believe with all of my heart that it is a contributing factor to our juvenile delinquency of today,” early-rocker-turned-Bible-thumper Jimmie Rodgers Snow says in a recording from his 1950s heyday. “I know how it feels when you sing it. I know what it does to you … if you talk to the average teenager and ask them what it is about rock and roll music that they like, the first thing that they’ll say is ‘the beat, the beat, the beat.’” To Snow, that was an indictment; to Chubby Charles — née Charlie Manning Walker — and his band of misfits, it is proof of concept and inspiration wrapped up into one neat package.
“Speed Kills” fits 13 songs and about as many different styles of punk into 28 minutes, effortlessly moving from 200 bpm hardcore to The Damned-style ramshackle classicism and back again. Chubby and the Gang are perhaps at their best when stepping out of their comfort zone; album highlight “Trouble (You Were Always On My Mind)” features Buddy Holly guitars and roller-rink organs giving way to a mosh-pit hook. The resulting track is a deceptively heartwarming would-be slow dance mainstay, as if the Ramones wrote a prom staple for their “Rock and Roll High School.” Throughout it all, Chubby and the Gang don’t lose sight of what Jimmie Rodgers Snow claimed gives rock music its seductive power: the beat, the beat, the beat.