Chasing Fridays: Luster, Peel Dream Magazine, Sex Week, and more

Three varieties of shoegaze, some unexpectedly great Alex G-core, and a wickedly heavy hardcore EP filled out my week.

Chasing Fridays: Luster, Peel Dream Magazine, Sex Week, and more

Heyoooo, it's another Chasing Fridays column — my weekly roundup of new music criticism and (sometimes) gig reviews.

I saw four live shows since last week's column, but you know what? I just didn't feel like writing about them. Do ya'll want live review capsules from me? I think it's a fun way to write about music outside of the recorded music review format, but if the Chasing Sundays readership prefers my album/EP/single reviews in this weekly column, then I'll stick to those. If you have an opinion either way, please let me know in the comments down below, or shoot me an email here: I'd genuinely be curious to know! Thanks :-)

Anyways, for this week's Chasing Fridays edition I wrote up my thoughts on five new slabs of music: Some shoegaze, some indie-rock, some hardcore. Bing, bang, boom. In case you missed it, I published a big-ass article yesterday about the bizarre convergence of nu-metal and shoegaze. That was a lot of fun to write, and I appreciate everyone who shared it around. Check it out if you haven't yet, I'm proud of how it came out.

If you enjoyed what I wrote in that piece, or down below, or any other article you've read on this blog, then I'd appreciate it if you subscribed to Chasing Sundays at the $5/month tier. My paid subscribers (thank you!) help me dedicate the time to tackling larger stories like this onethis onethis one, and this one, so know that your money is going to a good place. Thank you for supporting the type of independent music journalism that's getting harder and harder to fund.

Luster - "Like I Do"

I'm wincing while I write this but I do think it's accurate: Luster are your favorite shoegaze band's favorite shoegaze band. Everyone from Nothing to Wisp have big-upped the L.A. group, and Whirr guitarist-songwriter Nick Bassett has co-produced, mixed, and/or mastered most of their music, which is a pretty crucial endorsement. I don't live in L.A., but from what I gather, Luster are largely spearheading that city's 'gaze scene right now, and they're a go-to support band when groups like Glixen and Glare come through town.

I liked Luster's 2020 debut, Turbulence, quite a bit when it came out, and I've sporadically kept up with their discography in the years since. "Like I Do," their new song out today, is as good a starting point as any in their catalog. Within the first 10 seconds, you'll hear that Luster's adoration of My Bloody Valentine is unabashed, and sometimes, as is often the case with MBV worship bands, that can work to their detriment. Weighing the decision to just flip Luster off and listen to the source material (that would be 2013's m b v, specifically) is not an uncommon impulse, but I suggest you stick with this song.

Three quarters of the way through "Like I Do," the sparse kickdrum is overtaken by a clattering breakbeat that jolts your dozing ear awake like an alarm clock. The frisky hi-hats pitter and patter at the front of the mix, and then borough down into the river of glide-guitar, where the beat pulses beneath the lapping waves until the song fades away. Luster's incorporation of trip-hop percussion is one of their defining attributes, and I think "Like I Do" is a pretty effective showcase of their talents. If you like this, I recommend their 2023 EP, Dopamine Loop, as well as their early 2024 single "Missing You," which I actually think is a better song than "Like I Do." Maybe Luster will be your favorite shoegaze band, too.

Peel Dream Magazine - "Lie in the Gutter"

Peel Dream Magazine's 2020 album, Agitprop Alterna, is one of my favorite shoegaze albums of the last few years. It imagines a world where Britpop and grunge never snuffed out shoegaze, and we were instead treated to an abundance of regal albums where Stereolab-y krautrock mingled freely with the Creation Records roster. I could easily listen to a dozen more albums that sound exactly like Agitprop Alterna, so I was disappointed when the L.A. band dropped the shoegaze elements entirely on their forgettable 2022 LP, Pad. The shoegaze hasn't fully returned on Peel Dream Magazine's new song "Lie in the Gutter," but what I enjoy out of their sound has.

The song nestles into the cozy pocket between Stereolab and mid-nineties Yo La Tengo, and songwriter Joseph Stevens is an exquisite producer who knows exactly how this type of music should sound. Every svelte murmur leaving Olivia Bubaka Black's lips sounds like she's whispering at you from the other side of the couch. Every glockenspiel (xylophone?) plink is meticulously granted its own split-second to gently reverberate. The rest of the mix is dead silent. Not one sound bleeds or slurs into another, giving the arrangement an uncanny stillness that's as neatly coiffed as a Wes Anderson interior shot. You're unlikely to hear a shoegaze-ish song that sounds this luxurious until Peel Dream Magazine release another one.

Pinky Lemon - Pinky Hell

Every day, bands email me their music in hopes that I'll write about it. Usually, what they send is just fine. Sometimes, it's downright bad. Occasionally, it's actually really fucking cool. Pinky Lemon's new EP, Pinky Hell, is really fucking cool. Friend of the blog Jacqueline Codiga compared these songs to Spirit of the Beehive's Entertainment, Death, and I completely agree. Pinky Lemon are making that style of fragmented psych-pop, though with more prevalent shoegaze guitarwork than SOTB's recent material.

It's a style of non-linear, digitally manipulated shoegaze that I'd compare to the new Draag EP, except I think Pinky Lemon's approach works better. There's more to grab on to melodically. The glorious, Full Body 2-esque synths on "Floodgate" fall over the song like an arena-sized curtain drop. The ragged screamo yelps in the background of "i died/nvm" provide a sharp, unexpected flavor to the creamy pour of breathy croons and cozy guitar fuzz. I could do without the interludes on this EP only because I want to hear more full-length songs from Pinky Lemon. They're really fucking cool.

Sex Week - "Cockpit"

A thought that's been bouncing around my head for a couple years now is that Alex G is one of the most influential indie artists of the 21st century. It's a pretty bold assertion that I know would require a boatload of evidence to back up, hence why I'm burying it in this article instead of farting it out on Twitter. I'm still working out the thesis in my head, and waiting to see what the next couple year's worth of indie music sounds like before I attempt to prove G's unassailable impact on the last decade. Sex Week's "Cockpit" is the type of evidence I need to be collecting.

Sex Week are the Brooklyn duo of Pearl Dickson and Richard Orofino. Dickson is also an actress who briefly appeared in Yellowjackets, one of those seemingly popular shows I've never heard any of my friends mention. Their name is Sex Week and they look like the type of people who might party with The Dare on weekends. I didn't think I'd like this at all and I expected it to sound like that awful band cumgirl8. I was wrong. "Cockpit," along with their other singles, "Angel Blessings" and "Toad Mode," sound like Alex G. Dark, smokey, semi-acoustic indie that's both haunting and silly, coldly unsettling and warmly inviting. The Alex G sound.

I love Alex G. He's my favorite artist. I usually don't like artists who sound extremely similar to him because I'd rather just listen to Alex G. But I like "Cockpit." I like Sex Week. I don't like that I have to type out the phrase, "I like Sex Week." But I like this song, and I like the others that I've heard from their forthcoming debut EP, Sex Week. Maybe one day I'll watch Yellowjackets, though probably not.

Cross of Disbelief - Hands Bound in Absent Prayer

I've been slacking on keeping up with new hardcore over the last few weeks. It is a Brat summer, after all. Cross of Disbelief's new joint is shaking me out of my funk. The Hudson Valley band dropped an EP at the top of this year that the Daze Records social club instantly big-upped, but I thought it was just OK. The three songs on Hands Bound in Absent Prayer have left more of a bruise on my ear canals. It's hard to imagine hardcore getting much heavier than what bands like Cross of Disbelief, Final Resting Place, and even Missing Link are doing these days. Except I like this EP better than those other bands.

These songs are just completely insane. "Beatdown" doesn't even feel like the proper term for it since the guitars are so death-metally, and the vocalist sounds more like an ogre than a dude with a snapback on. It's evil music with only one purpose: To make people break each other's bones on the dancefloor. Basically every heavy hardcore band these days has to compete with the level of sonic heft that Cross of Disbelief are pumping out here. I don't envy their peers. I certainly wouldn't know how to make hardcore sound meaner, scarier, more sinister than this.