The 1992 educational video The Gay Man’s Guide to Safer Sex was revolutionary in its day for such frank discussion of the AIDS pandemic, even if the X-rated documentary had more things besides “education” on its mind. Likewise, the soundtrack by Coil has more things on its mind than blending into the background. Released in full in 2019, the six-track album is one of the legendary post-industrial band’s best recordings, bookended by two versions of the lush, Robert Johnson-sampling title cut and filled with some of their most mind-twisting music.
No Live ‘til Leather ‘98 is allegedly a rare archival recording of an unknown punk band called Leather Rats playing a show in Japan in 1998—never mind the fact that it sounds more like dub reggae overlaid with dark-Elvis vocals. Even if the incongruously huge swells of crowd noise weren’t a giveaway, it’d be obvious that this was just a bedroom producer with a taste for mythology and misdirection. But it’s one of the canniest genre fusions of the year, a combination so seamless yet so counterintuitive it’ll make a lot of punk bands wonder why they didn’t think of it first.
Movie Star, the new album from Eugene four-piece Laundry, is a song cycle set in neon capitalist hell. The band’s three singers are an implicit rebuke to the exceptionalism and hero worship suggested in the album title, but instead of crowing at us about how we’re all slaves to the system, they portray themselves as victims of the grind who find that making art is the best way to stick together. Plenty of psych-rock bands poke fun at advertising, capitalism and celebrity culture. Few do it with such a light touch, or over such likable music.
Baby Dee is one of the most idiosyncratic artists working in the American folk underground right now, and it’s not just because she’s been known to busk in Central Park in a bear suit. Her tremulous voice seems drawn from musical theater, her arrangements from archaic European art songs, and her attitude from punk rock. Love’s Small Song is the best showcase for how lovely her singing and harp playing can be, but if you want to hear her go absolutely buck, check out Regifted Light, produced by her equal in goofiness Andrew W.K.