I recently lugged a stack of records to a new friend's house for an intimate listening party, one of those let's-get-to-know-each-other-better-through-music things that happens far too infrequently in this parched and disconcertingly friendless stretch of adulthood I find myself limping through. I brought a carefully curated selection bearing this important message: "I contain multitudes and you should like me." I unleashed the heavy artillery—Man is the Bastard, Angel Hair, Clikatat Ikatowi, Noisegate, Dystopia—and proceeded to make the case, via music, that beneath my outward appearance ("indie" or "lame") and conversational tendencies ("affected" or "pretentious") lived a pretty complicated and kinda dark dude deeply invested in somewhat obscure and brutal sounds.
This was a really stupid way to approach a listening party. I was far too concerned with the impression I was making. My friend's pleasure? Not so much on my mind, to be honest. And so I came across as a guy who likes '90s punk and hates people. Which may be too true for now, I'll give you that, but I don't want to be that guy.
Allow me, then, to practice on you. Pretend we're getting to know each other. Pretend you invited me over to hang out and drink beer and listen to records. Pretend I brought the following four records. They are either brand new or close enough to brand new that you probably haven't heard them yet. I'm super excited about them, because they are all fantastic, and if you like them then there's a good chance you might like me. What do you think? How did I do? Wanna be friends?
The Steve Adamyk Band, Forever Won't Wait (Dirtnap Records)
Yeah, I know I talk about Dirtnap Records damn near incessantly, but come on--this label is having a banner year. I'm not sure pop-punk has had a better or more consistent champion since Lookout Records circa 1992. The Steve Adamyk Band's second full-length (and first for Dirtnap) is the cherry on top of Dirtnap's perfect 2011. I didn't think Adamyk and company would top last year's self-titled gem, but Forever Won't Wait manages that tricky feat, with 22 frenzied minutes (11 short songs) of antsy pop-punk. Adamyk balances hyperactive hooks and melancholic melodies better than most anything I've heard since Scared of Chaka's masterpiece, Masonic Youth. Throw a dart at this album and you'll hit something that'll break your glass heart and get you dancing on the shards. "Bored of Love" will be forever caught between Screeching Weasel's "Celena" and the Exploding Hearts' "Rumours in Town" on my mental mixtape of songs that make me so wonderfully sad I swing on over into happiness again.
Organized Sports, I'm So Proud of Him (Bulkhead Records)
Seems like everyone is pretty stoked on Sessions 1981-83, Dischord's recent mummification of early Void recordings, and I suppose it is a pretty neat and possibly necessary preservation project, but demos and rarities just don't do it for me, especially right now, when there are so many great hardcore revivalists making new noises. Organized Sports (note the Void reference) is probably Portland's premiere hardcore hardliner: the songs are short, simple and pissed, bringing to mind the sounds that must have been bouncing around in Mr. Henry Garfield's head on the Greyhound taking him from D.C. to L.A. Most impressively, I'm So Proud of Him is the rare hardcore record that gets more intense as it nears its end, as the EP's ferocity somehow scatters and grows stronger simultaneously, in the dangerous way of prime Born Against. If a full-length ever happens, it's gonna be nuts.
Company, Die on This Island (Bulkhead Records)
I was looking for more information about Organized Sports (ages, names, occupations, fetishes) when Bulkhead Records' Facebook page suggested I pay a visit to Company, whose Die on This Island dropped this summer to what appears to me to have been very little fanfare—Google turns up next to nothing on this Portland quartet, which is a damn shame. Company's rough-hewn anthems sound like Cometbus (the mag, not the man) looks, and yet Company doesn't sound like Crimpshrine so much as the Replacements being covered by Crimpshrine, which is to say that this is exhilarating heartbreak music for dumpster-diving mama's boys, crying-in-your-beer solace for forty-ounce connoisseurs planning to skate the pain away.
Sex Church, Growing Over (Load Records)
I have listened to Sex Church's Growing Over about a dozen times in the past twenty-four hours, and I still can't quite put my finger on how or why it has me so intoxicated. A strange, shapeshifting hybrid of psych and post-punk and goth and whatever chthonic audio might lurk in the fog between genres, Growing Over breathes and bleeds dirty sex and dreadful longing. Contemporary analogues that came to mind: Iceage aged to perfection; Total Control if they were totally out of control; and Crystal Antlers coming down off crystal. But those comparisons only suffice to illuminate corners of this huge, teeming album. "Treading Water," which you can hear below, comes closest to distilling the magic down to three tight, sinister minutes of punk rock going off the rails. I only wish Sex Church hadn't stolen my nickname for my office. Oh well. It suits them.