Every now and then, you fall in love with a rock band that leaves you scratching your head and wondering, How is that group not bigger than it is?
At least for now, Asylums is one of those bands.
The British indie rockers – who describe their music as “art rock” and “agitpop” (a blend of agitation and pop; sure, OK) – debuted in 2016 with the fantastic record, “Killer Brain Waves,” which was among my favorite records of that year. They’ve followed up with the equally strong “Alien Human Emotions,” which was my favorite record of July and will almost certainly be listed in my Top 10 of 2018.
“Alien Human Emotions” is a bit more polished, and perhaps ever so slightly more reserved than the debut record, but maintains the same frantic, frenetic guitar rock filled with ridiculously hummable choruses.
The record opens with the airy, measured “Day Release to the Moon” and closes with the ballad “The Company You Keep.” They are bookends to 10 tracks that move at a blistering pace and range from perhaps the best power pop song of the year, “When We Wake Up,” to flat out rippers like “Napalm Bubblegum,” to bouncy sing-a-longs like “Homeowners Guilt.”
Even better is that the record is released on the band’s own label, Cool Thing Records.
Another band to watch is Thin Lips, which released its second record last month, “Chosen Family,” which also is among July’s best. Emerging from Philadelphia’s impressive alt rock scene, Thin Lips plays an interesting mix of punk and math rock.
Its debut, “Riff Hard” was equal parts grungy and catchy. “Chosen Family” adds a dose or two of anthemic rock to the mix and is significant step forward for the band.
The three-song stretch of “Gaslight Anthem (The Song Not The Band),” “A Song For Those Who Miss You All The Time” and “Smoking’s For Quitters” is as good as any you’ll find on a 2018 record.
“Chosen Family” will also be toward the top of my 2018 list.
So, with those two records alone, July would have been a good month for indie rock. But there were a few other Grade-A releases last month. Among them were “Composure” from Real Friends, Rayland Baxter’s “Wide Awake,” “Yolk in the Fur” from Wild Pink, “Old Youth” from Former Member, “Delivery” from Mikaela Davis, Valley Queen’s “Supergiant,” and the “Launch” EP from Dreamers.
That’s a lot of good stuff, from a number of bands just starting out or still trying to gain a foothold in the industry. You can sample songs from all of those records, along with good new stuff from Rock Eupora (you’ll be reading more about them in my Best of August writing, I predict), We Were Promised Jetpacks (still one of my favorite band names) and others on a setlist that’s linked in this story online.
On a sour note, July also brought news that a great guitar rock group with, undoubtedly, the best name ever – Diarrhea Planet – is disbanding and playing two farewell shows in its hometown of Nashville next month. Bummer.