Chasing Fridays: TAGABOW, Cold Gawd, Charli XCX's 'Brat' songs ranked, and more

I review some good and bad shoegaze, recommend some post-rock and electroclash, and then rank every song on Charli XCX's new album.

Chasing Fridays: TAGABOW, Cold Gawd, Charli XCX's 'Brat' songs ranked, and more

Hello and welcome back to Chasing Fridays — my weekly round-up of music criticism and (sometimes) gig reviews. The only show I saw since last week's dispatch was Kim Gordon, and I wrote extensively about that experience for an article earlier this week. So today's newsletter is all about recorded sounds.

I reviewed a "new" album from Philly shoegaze visionaries They Are Gutting a Body of Water, dissected a single from Cali 'gazers Cold Gawd, and recommended a couple other new(er) releases I've been enjoying. Then, I ranked every song on Charli XCX's summer smash, Brat, which would've cracked my Favorite Albums of 2024 (so far) list had I heard the record before publishing. So it goes.

In non-Chasing Sundays related matters, I contributed an essay – "A Literary Ode to Hardcore Dancing" – to my friend and co-host Miranda Reinert's new music magazine, Portable Model. The mags are shipping now and everyone on the timeline is freaking about how awesome they look. So pick that up to read not just my writing, but pieces by many of my friends and p​​​​​eers as well. I'm very stoked to be a part of it.

If you like what I wrote down below, or anything else I've ever published 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.

They Are Gutting a Body of Water - swanlike (loosies 2020-2023)

Whether you think They Are Gutting a Body of Water are the vanguards of modern shoegaze or that the Philly band's hype is overblown, if you care about contemporary shoegaze at all, then you need to give this your time. Longer than both of their latest full-lengths combined, swanlike is a data dump of archived B-sides, demos, and rarities that was living on Soundcloud for a while, but just hit streaming services this week. It includes some of the band's best material thus far, and plays like a mixtape of where the genre sits in 2024.

In the era of shoegaze that TAGABOW have had such a heavy sonic and aesthetic influence on, pitched-up vocal chirps and drum 'n' bass skitters are more common than glide-guitar riffs. Chorus pedals are more prominent than delay. The mood isn't innocently wistful like how Slowdive and Ride were, but road-weary and burdened by the existential bleakness of modern America. And its neighboring genres aren't dulcet dream-pop or stoney space-rock, but bleary lo-fi pop (of the Alex G variety, of course), digitally mutilated slowcore, elysian breakbeat, and voided noise-pop.

All of those sounds are represented on swanlike, which underscores the vast range primary composer/vocalist Doug Dulgarian possesses, and therefore points to any number of fascinating directions the band could explore on future albums. Many cuts are reminiscent of Dulgarian's electronic side projects, Echotracer and god of war, who both released great 2023 projects that any TAGABOW fan should know. But the most exciting swanlike tracks are ones like "Gravewax," a shoegaze song that sounds both blown-out and quiet; Dulgarian's auto-tuned voice is buried by the staticky guitar fuzz, and the whole thing sounds like listening to shoegaze while underwater.

Another standout is "a construct in the as god is dreaming," which was recorded just last year. It's the most My Bloody Valentine TAGABOW have ever sounded, with warbly vocals that oscillate between the right and left channels, a surge of glided fuzz, and Caribbean drums that sound like Toro y Moi trying to riff on MBV's "Swallow." If this is a hint at what their next full-length will sound like, then I couldn't be more excited. But really, if it sounds like any of the avenues they tread on swanlike then I'll be pleased. This band are on a remarkable run right now. I pity those who aren't onboard.

Cold Gawd - "All My Life, My Heart Has Yearned for a Thing I Cannot Name"

When I did an email interview with Cold Gawd frontman Matthew Wainwright in 2022, he dubbed his band "the Ja Morant of shoegaze" and boasted that their 2022 LP, God Get Me the Fuck Out of Here, was "museum worthy." I love that energy, I just wish their music lived up to the way he speaks about it. Cold Gawd are devout zealots of Whirr and Nothing, who are at this point two of the most replicated bands in all of shoegaze history; in the 2020s, they're more frequently ripped-off than My Bloody Valentine. God Get Me... was little more than a competent homage to those bands that felt almost indistinguishable from the gazillion other groups who're currently aping the same sounds (heavy grunge rhythms, droopy-eyed Loren Rivera coos, chunky power chords in place of disembodied glide-guitar squalls).

I hoped their new single, "All My Life, My Heart Yearned for a Thing I Cannot Name," was a step forward, but it's merely a scoot of the toe. I like the auto-tune that Wainwright placed on his voice; I think there's potentially some interesting crossovers to be made between the "digital" side of shoegaze (TAGABOW, Parannoul, quannnic, etc.) and the "FFO: Deftones, Nothing" bloc. But other than the effect he's using, Wainwright's vocal lines are completely unmemorable throughout this song, and the instrumentation is once again a re-tread of the Whirr/Nothing paradigm. It's stuck in that liminal space between kind of heavy and kind of pretty, but it doesn't actually bang or incite emotional tingles, and the flat production certainly doesn't help its cause.

I'm not giving up on Cold Gawd. I want to like this band, and maybe there's something else on their forthcoming record, I'll Drown on This Earth, that'll catch my ear. But as I've stated in many previous articles, I am beyond exhausted by bands who're trying to remake Whirr's Sway (a record I don't even like to begin with) or copy/paste what Nothing did 10 years ago, which cannot be duplicated. If "All My Life..." came out eight or even five years back, then it would've sounded inoffensively relatable to a prominent yet still somewhat marginalized segment of the shoegaze landscape. In 2024, bands with the same influences as Cold Gawd have taken over the genre like an invasive species, and I find almost all of them as formulaic and boring as any of the groups who flavorlessly ripped MBV in the 2000s. We'll see if Cold Gawd become one of my exceptions to the "no more heavy shoegaze, pls" rule. Right now, they're not.

samlrc - A Lonely Sinner

I was poking around Rate Your Music last week and saw that this is one of the highest-rated albums of 2024, so I figured I'd check it out. samlrc is a 19-year-old Brazilian post-rock musician whose fourth album, A Lonely Sinner, offers a fresh, if not radical, take on Y2K-era "crescendo-core." Yes, like Godspeed! You Black Emperor and Mogwai, but not regal and cinematic like Sigur Rós or Explosions in the Sky. The album samples Low, Bjork, Swans, Yves Tumor and a bunch of other artists that clearly reveal samlrc's familiarity with the RYM canon.

It's not going change the lives of anyone who already went through their post-rock phase, but I've been really enjoying it for what it is. The builds are glorious, the vocals are pretty, and there's a pastoral quaintness to the whole presentation that I find cozily appealing. If you want your post-rock made by someone who probably loves Weatherday as much as they love early Kranky releases (I do!), then check this out.

cleo walks through glass - raindrop massacre vol. 2

I've been really fascinated by this duo cleo walks through glass who make witch-housey electroclash that makes me want to open and close the disc drive on a Windows XP-era PC tower just to feel something. They put out an EP from earlier this year that treads too closely to Black Dresses without any of the singular bite that make Black Dresses so riveting. However, raindrop massacre vol. 2, their second of two 2023 albums, occupies a really interesting space between FFO: Crystal Castles and Teen Suicide-ish lo-fi. It's kind of disjointed and all over the place, but the whole mix is coated in sludgy distortion and has a melodramatic chicness that I find really appealing.

Every song on Charli XCX's Brat ranked, from "meh" to "slay"

Charli XCX released her new album, Brat, a couple weeks ago. You probably know this already, unless you're so tunnel-visioned on the genres I usually cover here at Chasing Sundays that you didn't notice the lime green takeover of the timeline. My Endless Scroll co-hosts and I (plus special guest Patrick Lyons) went deep on the record for our latest episode, but I decided to do a little low-stakes ranking of the whole tracklist down below. #justbloggerthings

15) "Talk talk"

There isn't a bad song on this record — and I think there's at least one bad song on every Charli record, so that's saying something. But "Talk talk" is the "meh" one. It's just...meh.

14) "365"

"365" is basically a remix of "360," and if she was going to put a remix of "360" on the record, she should've just added the one with Yung Lean 🤷‍♂️

13) "Everything is romantic"

This has the most outlandish production on the whole album, and I really like how the repeated line, "fall in love again and again," sounds like it's spiraling down one of those toilet bowl tube slides at a waterpark. But as a song? It's just "good."

12) "Rewind"

The fat synths and hand-clappy drums make this one of the most Pop 2 sounding cuts on Brat. There's no reason why the fundamentally clunky lyric, "“I used to never think about Billboard/But, now, I've started thinking again," should work in the context of a dance-pop song. But it does.

11) "Mean Girls"

A Charli XCX song fawning over Dasha from Red Scare should be the most "meh" track on this record. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Unfortunately, the chorus of this song utterly fucking bangs. Unfortunately, I would never voluntarily turn this song off if it started playing on shuffle. Unfortunate indeed.

10) "I think about it all the time"

Every woman on my timeline between the ages of 24 and 29 seems to be feeling heard by this song. And I'm happy for them. You don't often hear pop singers confront the topic of "should I have a baby?" with the degree of candidness and nuance that Charli does here. It's a good song. I'm also thankful that the most important woman in my life between the ages of 24 and 29 (my girlfriend) does not relate to this song.

9) "Club classics"

It's fun! I think it'll be a live staple of hers going forward. There're better songs on the album.

8) "Von dutch"

This is one of the only tracks on Brat where Charli leans into her "I'm iconic!" schtick. Thematically, it doesn't really fit neatly into Brat's self-critical narrative, but that doesn't matter because it's got a big, dumb synth that wobbles like an inflatable tube man in a hurricane. Its hook rules even though I don't know what the fuck she's singing. It already feels like it's immortalized into Charli's pantheon of "hits."

7) "So I"

This is her ode to her late producer Sophie. I think it probably would've been powerful no matter what, but it hits especially hard because it's not just a saccharine "I miss you" slow jam. It's filled with the messy, conflicting dimensions of grief; the regret of not being a more active friend, and how her nightly onstage tributes sometimes feel canned. You can hear it in her voice on here. She means everything she's singing.

6) "360"

The consensus on this song seems to be that it's the crown jewel of Brat and one of the best pure pop songs Charli has ever made. I don't necessarily disagree on the latter point, but I think there're stronger Brat highlights that are both more interestingly arranged, and also synthesize what Charli has always done well (this kind of pop song) with a newfound lyrical ability that, to me, elevates Brat from "great!" to "incredible!"

5) "Apple"

This song deserves a Muppets-style music video where Charli's seated behind the dashboard childishly bopping her head from side to side and twisting the wheel while the cardboard cityscape around her provides all sorts of cartoonish follies during her journey to the airport. It also deserves to be heralded as one of the best songs on Brat.

4) "B2b"

The way people talk about "360" is how I talk about "B2b." The throbbing beat. That simmering noise hanging in the top right corner of the mix that ultimately reveals itself to be part of the buildup. The fucking thrill I feel when the beat drops and Charli sings, "Took a long time/Breaking myself down/Building myself up, repeating it." So fucking satisfying. It doesn't have the conventional pop structure of "360," but I think it's catchier and more gratifying to hear at a loud volume.

3) "I might say something stupid"

The brand of "I'm famous but I'm sad :(" meta-melancholy that Charli performs here could easily fall so flat on its face. Instead, her auto-tuned quivering is both artful and emotionally convincing, and the imagery in her lyrics (snagging her tights on the lawn chair, nervously sipping wine, mirror pep talks) goes beyond tell-not-show diary scribbles. I imagine this song taking place in that scene in The Curse where Emma Stone visits the rich art dealer's house, except Charli's "character" possesses the human ability to feel shame. Spectacular song.

2) "Sympathy is a knife"

There're two songs on Brat that provide juicy helpings of tabloid lore for the stans. Both of them are, as songs, far more interesting than the speculative salaciousness of their subject matter. "Sympathy is a knife," the song where Charli admits to feeling inferior in the shadow of Taylor Swift, is one of them. I like the lyrical writing style here, but I love how she belts that hook. Easyfun's production sounds absolutely fucking huge. This song is like a giant, chain-adorned boot that stomps down and lays claim to Brat's A-side.

1) "Girl, so confusing"

This is the other Brat song that includes a thinly veiled reference to another pop star Charli feels awkward around, this being (as confirmed by today's surprise remix) about Lorde. Take away the celebrity subject and you still have my favorite instrumental on Brat, the album's most viscerally gripping verse melodies, and an underratedly playful hook (the ping-ponging "girl!"'s are masterful). This is a knockout. It's the best song on Brat. It's the "slay" of slays.