My Listening Week: The Goin' Nowheres, Fountains of Wayne, a Worm show, and more

Some thoughts on power-pop, a longer album review, and a recap of a blood-gulping metal gig.

My Listening Week: The Goin' Nowheres, Fountains of Wayne, a Worm show, and more

This was a bit of a weird week for me. I was traveling all of last weekend and basically only listened to power-pop, Kanye West, and comfort-food rock music during my 10 hours of car time. I didn't get a chance to check out too many new releases this week, because once I returned home I was deep in the throes of a long-ass writing assignment for a few days, hence the influx of ambient (Aphex Twin) and ambient-house (Alpe Lusia and Chicane) on the above grid.

I'll be traveling once again next weekend as I head down to LDB Fest in Louisville for two 10-hour days of hardcore, but when I return I'll be kicking this blog into high-gear, so please have faith in me when I say, "big things comin'." Meanwhile, I did throw down some thoughts on a couple of my power-pop munchies, a new record from one of my favorite songwriters, and a show review of a metal gig I saw this week. Check it.

Fountains of Wayne - Utopia Parkway

Fountains of Wayne are the kind of band where if I'm listening to Fountains of Wayne, then I think that I'm listening to the greatest band of all time. That's how I feel every time I throw on Utopia Parkway, and that's how I felt while bashing the wheel and singing along while I careened down the interstate last weekend blasting this record and loving every minute of it (besides "Laser Show." I think that song's obnoxious and one of their few skips).

In terms of highs, I think Welcome to Interstate Managers just barely eeks out Utopia on the strength of "Mexican Wine," "Hackensack," "Fire Island," and "Little Red Light." But Utopia has the god-tier run that is "Red Dragon Tattoo," "Denise" and "Hat and Feet." It has "Go, Hippie" and "Lost in Space," which are both better hippie odes than "Peace and Love." And it has fucking "Prom Theme" and "It Must Be Summer," two of the greatest Fountains of Wayne songs.

I don't know if it's better than Interstate Managers but I don't think that matters. What matters is that I couldn't imagine feeling any better about anything than I do while I'm listening to Utopia Parkway. That's music, baby.

The Goin' Nowheres - Hot Moonlight Record

For the uninitiated, The Goin' Nowheres is the newest project from singer-songwriter-producer Mat Cothran, best known for Elvis Depressedly, Coma Cinema, and the stuff he releases under his birth name. This "band" (they are a band that're distinct from his other groups, but I qualify with quotes because it doesn't sound any less Cothran-driven than any other his other projects) released their debut, Curse Rotted Record, in 2020, and it's one of few Cothran projects that left no impression on me. I don't even know if I listened to the EP that followed a year later.

But this new album, Hot Moonlight Record, feels like a reset. It follows Elvis Depressedly's sprawling 2023 swan-song (supposedly) Who Owns the Graveyard?, a 56-minute not-quite-epic that I wrote a lengthy review of last year. There were some brilliant songs on it, but two of Cothran's greatest songwriting assets are his concision and his directness, and too much of Graveyard was bogged down by frivolous studio fuckery that obscured Cothran's strengths rather than flexing them. Hot Moonlight Record isn't an Elvis Depressedly album, but it sounds like one.

To me, this is the natural follow-up to 2020's Depressedelica, which stands as one of Cothran's greatest rock-based works. Fuzzy opener "Adam Walsh on Expired Milk" finds Cothran ruminating on America's barbaric death culture with his signature strain of black humor, imagining a lunch date with OJ Simpson and a mass shooter killing the Brady Bunch. "Yeah yeah that is so American," he chirps, his voice multiplied into his familiar three-part harmonies and drenched in bleary reverb that evokes the feeling of being in a living room filled with blunt smoke.

"Jam the World Receiver" is another lo-fi jangle, where Cothran's sharp keyboard-strings slice through a simple chord progression while he casually sings, "I was born to be alone, to self annihilate." The plunking piano of "Living Dangerously" throws it back to Blue Suicide-era Coma Cinema, and he sings with a rueful falsetto that reinforces how much his melodies draw from sixties Brit-pop, a source material that arms Cothran with a weapon his fellow Bandcamp-era lo-fi lovers scarcely wield.

"My Angel's Grown Wise to Where the Lightning Will Strike" feels like a spiritual follow-up to the Elvis Depressedly classic "Angel Cum Clean." Except whereas the elder track found Cothran "taking Xanax while listening to Morphine" and getting a tingle that "something's been wearing me down," "My Angel's Grown Wise..." is located several leagues deeper into the abyss of self-destruction. "I've been out of my mind/I have been cast aside," he sings during the refrain, and then uses that detachment to justify a total unmooring from civil society. "We should burn down a bank/We should start skipping class/No one's tied to the mast anymore/Free at last."

As the world continues to sink into a irredeemable hellhole of war, famine, and late-capitalist civic rot, Cothran's unhinged surrealism is only growing more realist. There're few songwriters who I'd rather hear plucking their strings on the Titanic deck than him, and I'm glad that Hot Moonlight Record adds another handful of heaters to his arsenal of world-burning fuck-it pop.

The Apples in Stereo - New Magnetic Wonder

As I've mentioned in these pages before, I've been going through a big Apples in Stereo phase lately. Released in 2007, this is their sixth album and it's a pretty stark swerve from the lo-fi Yo La Tengo-an noise-pop of 2002's underrated Velocity in Sound. New Magnetic Wonder is when Robert Schneider really started to lean into ELO maximalism, which he'd fully embrace on their 2010 swan-song Travelers in Space and Time, to mixed results.

Not every song on this record works, which is something that can't be said of the Apples records that come before it. But "Energy" is so ridiculously jubilant and catchy that it should have a warning label on it that says, "DO NOT LISTEN if you're trying to brood, sneer, or maintain an otherwise glum outlook on life. This song will ruin your stewing and make you believe in the world again. BE WARNED."

Shows I Saw

Hulder, Devil Master, Worm, Necrofier

On Tuesday night I went and saw the Decibel Magazine Tour at Preserving Underground, a venue 20 minutes outside of Pittsburgh where many of the city's hardcore shows go down these days. I had seen some punk stuff at this venue before, and a good bit of metalcore and deathcore, but never a true-blue metal show like this one.

The headliner, black-metal hypesters Hulder, were flanked by lit candleabras and smothered in so much fog machine smoke that I genuinely had trouble breathing at some points. Every band throughout the night had at least one member donning corpse paint, but every player in Worm had it on their faces, and they leaned alllll the way into the gimmick. The band's enigmatic frontman put on a whole spectacle that included lifting up a human skull that was carved into a bowl, slurping down a bunch of fake blood, and letting it run down his chin before clasping the mic and continuing his vampiric howls. Worm's death-doom incantations never clicked with me on recording, but they blew my fucking mind live and were easily the highlight of the night, even though I mostly showed up for Hulder, who were solid yet predictable after the first two songs.

Necrofier had people fist-pumping and throwing up the devil horns, but I found their vocalist's hissy growls so painfully unimpressive that I couldn't find a way in to their groovy, melodic black metal scourges. I like the idea of Devil Master, a crusty black 'n' roll band who look like Mayhem and Motörhead got into one of those Scooby-Doo chase scenes where the gang and the villains get all mixed together after running in and out of doors in a long hallway. But I don't think the songs are really there, and what little charm they had paled in comparison to the aesthetic genius of Worm, who wiped the floor before them both musically and visually.

I hadn't been to a straight-up metal show like this in a long time and I enjoyed it quite a bit. It always feels like a necessary reset to be in a crowd of people who aren't self-consciously cool like indie-rockers and hardcore kids are, and are just there to be stupid and bang their heads. That's what it's all about.

Slide Away Festival: Nothing, Swirlies, Lovesliescrushing, TAGABOW, Mint Field, Knifeplay, Astrobrite, Glixen

I traveled to Philly last weekend to witness the first-ever Slide Away shoegaze fest, which was also a 10-year-anniversary performance of Nothing's Guilty of Everything. Afterward, I wrote a long report of this show for the good folks at Stereogum, in which I interviewed members of Nothing, Lovesliescrushing, and TAGABOW, and went in on how this Philly shoegaze mecca speaks to the remarkable genre peak we're currently living through. It was one of my favorite musical events in a long time, and I don't think there's anything more I can add that I didn't already include in that 4,000-word review. So if you enjoy it when I go long on shoegaze, check out the article right 'chere.