Inbox Infinity

A music writer's attempt to recapture excitement via his Gmail inbox.

Inbox Infinity
"This is the life that I chose, or rather, the life that chose me" - Jay-Z

Even if you're not currently practicing it, most of you are probably familiar with the "inbox zero" strategy of email management. It's a spartan approach that places value on having as few unread/superfluous emails as possible littering your inbox. Its proponents have really taken the bait on Apple's whole "we made the notification bubbles that appear on your apps look like acne so you'll have an instinctive urge to pop them" design.

That's not me. As you can see from the crude collage above, I notoriously never delete emails and rarely unsubscribe from anything less noxious than a furniture company's rewards program's listserv. January 2024 will mark my 10th anniversary as a professional (read: paid) music writer, and somewhere in the interim I've reached point where the vast majority of the hundreds* of emails I receive daily are people sending me music.

(* If you're thinking, 'Hundreds of emails a day for 10 years? But the image above only shows 45,679 unread emails! This doesn't add up,' I'll note that the emails confined to Gmail's "promotions" section do not show up in that total, and that those comprise the vast majority of music promo emails I receive.)

Boo hoo, I know. This poor schmuck used to have to pore over blogs to find music to write about and now he gets it gift-wrapped and delivered to his door. As a freelancer, it's a major leg-up to get private streams of upcoming albums weeks—or even months—before their release, and honestly, not getting those emails is a massive barrier of entry for younger, less established writers. That sucks. But here's the thing: I barely read any of those emails, and that sucks too.

It sucks because people, whether PR reps or artists themselves, have taken the time to draft some soul-sucking promo in hopes that I'll take a minute or two out of my day to click three buttons and hear their music. It sucks because I'm lazy, and have missed out on countless would-be favorites. It sucks because I'll immediately open anything by an artist I already know, and often disregard the discovery of new music, which used to excite the hell out of me. It sucks because it's so hard to land a pitch at most publications that I end up hedging my bets on popular artists, rather than spending a few days cooking up a pitch about an unknown artist and risking indifference from an editor. It. Suuuuucks.

With Inbox Infinity, I'm trying to do better. The idea hit me earlier this week, and after spending a couple of hours before my bartending shift sifting through a few days' worth of promos, and then the walk to and from work listening to the cream of the crop, I felt like I'd recaptured something that's been missing from my professional life for far too long. I'm lucky enough to have reached the point where I now write for some of my favorite publications on the planet, ones that I've been reading since I was a teenager, and I try not to take that for granted. But as a listener and appreciator of music, I feel like I've turned inward as I've tried to hone my skills as a writer—improving my skills of observation and sharpening my expertise, but losing the unbound freedom of discovering music on blogs.

Every Thursday, I'm going to highlight up to 10 songs that I've found specifically via my inbox. As of this week, most of those songs were sent by publicists and/or PR firms (no shots in the slightest towards artists who hire them), but I'd love to get more submissions from artists without those resources who are doing it all on their own. There will be higher-profile artists along with more under-the-radar ones, but I'm going to try to steer clear of stuff I'd usually cover. This is important, so I'm gonna bold it: I'm posting music that I like, not music I was paid to post. If you do want to pay me, you can support this newsletter in the upper right corner of the screen.

These lists of songs will be accompanied by brief writeups, as well as an introductory essay like this (but hopefully, never again as navel-gazey and self-pitying). Beyond that, I don't have much of a plan. Maybe I'll write about the book that I'm reading (Crystal Zevon's biography of her late ex-husband, Warren) once I finish it. Maybe I'll write about the goddamn zeitgeist. Maybe I'll do an interview instead of an essay sometime. I've very much enjoyed newsletters like Listen Up, Nerds, step one of a plan, and No Expectations that other music writing peers run, so I figured I'd give it a whirl.

You can email your music to me here. RIP to my inbox.

Plug One

Oh yeah, I'm also gonna plug any work I've published within the past week.

Last Friday, I ran an interview with two members of the epic veteran post-rock band Explosions In The Sky about their new album End. Unfortunately, SPIN published it, and just as I was preparing this newsletter, that publication showed its whole ass by publishing a tone-deaf defense of recently disgraced Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner. I'm not gonna link to it here, but if you're interested in reading it, it's still up on my personal website.

Plug Two

Here's where I plug something I read and enjoyed this week that someone else wrote.

Anytime anyone goes out of their way to put respect on Project Pat's name, I have no choice but to stan. This time it was Lawrence Burney (who also reviewed the hell out of one of my all-time favorite albums, Gil Scott-Heron's Pieces of a Man, a few years back), who went to bat for Pat in GQ after the millionth rapper released a track featuring a prominent Pat interpolation. Raise your thumbs up.

BOI (Best of Inbox) #1

Animal Hospital - "Fuselage"

Real ramshackle, held-together-by-chewing-gum-and-twine feel to this one. Animal Hospital, active since the mid-2000s, is Kevin Micka, who builds songs live with an array of instruments and loop pedals. "Fuselage" showcases the linear thrill of that process, slowly rising from a lovely, Dodos-esque lope into a hypnotic peak. Animal Hospital's four-track LP Shelf Life is out 11/03.

BlakeIANA Feat. Sexyy Red - "BING BONG" Remix

This is my first time hearing BlakeIANA, but her fellow St. Louis native Sexyy Red's Hood Hoottest Princess has been on repeat all summer. They both skate on a classically menacing beat that's got a bunch of Memphis in its DNA—particularly BlakeIANA with her calm, blasé demeanor. I can't get over the simple beauty of her refrain, "Pulled a him on him."

Bill Ryder-Jones - "This Can't Go On"

Never heard of this dude in my life, but upon examination of his Wiki, I do vaguely remember the 2000s psych-pop band he co-founded, The Coral. NME and The Guardian love this guy. This is where I start to wonder where the hell all of these emails come from. Doesn't seem like something that would be up my alley, which is confirmed by the few other tracks of Ryder-Jones' that I've now sampled. But "This Can't Go On" is a gorgeous, grandiose number. According to the PR blast, it features "strings from a 1978 Flashlight song," which means nothing to me. Oddly enough though, Parliament's classic song "Flash Light" was released in... you guessed it, 1978. No relation.

Day Aches - "Wait"

Now this was infrared-targeted at me. A grungegaze band coming out of a hardcore scene? I have some experience in that realm. The DMV's Day Aches incorporate that punk DNA a little more readily than their stylistic peers—"Leave" has a straight-up breakdown—but most importantly, they write hooky, dynamic songs. I could've picked half of tracks on their just-released debut album, One Last Dream Before Dying, but I went with "Wait" because it cycles between the band's two dominant modes—dreamy and heavy—with the most ease. "Arreis" is almost too brazen in its "Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)" aspirations, but it simply goes too hard to deny. Those three songs appear consecutively on the album. That's fucking impressive, and so is the whole LP.

Eliza McLamb - "Glitter"

Normally musicians pivot to being podcasters, not the other way around. McLamb co-hosts a popular show called Binchtopia and also has a Substack with many, many more subscribers than I can ever hope to amass. That she also excels at music is downright unfair. "Glitter" is the alternately crunchy and dreamy second single from her upcoming debut album, Going Through It, and on it, she achieves something like a West Coast Waxahatchee vibe mixed with the minivan rock stylings of Bully's recent album. The preceding single, "Mythologize Me," might be even catchier. Going Through It is out 1/19/2024.

Gravesend - "Even a Worm Will Turn"

This shit is downright caustic. New York's Gravesend sit at the intersection of death metal, black metal, and hardcore, and in these two minutes and 30 seconds, they barrel through an array grooves, each nastier than the last. "Even a Worm Will Turn" is taken from their upcoming second album, the impeccably named Gowanus Death Stomp (how could I not click on this?), set for release on the impeccable metal label 20 Buck Spin on 10/27.

Joseph Shabason - "Zero/Donny Barley"

This Toronto-based saxophonist contributed to two of my favorite albums of the 2010s, Destroyer's Kaputt and The War on Drugs' Lost in the Dream, and his latest solo project has an intriguing conceptual bent. Welcome To Hell shares its name with a skate video from 1996 that was apparently "seminal" in that community (forgive my lack of skateboarding knowledge), and in fact, the album is a re-scoring of the video. Jazz and skateboarding may seem like odd bedfellows, especially when the music's as languid as "Zero/Donny Barley," but trust me, it works. Welcome To Hell is out on 10/20.

Peezy Feat. Money Man & Larry June - "Fashion Week"

Any time a beat sounds like Outkast's eerie "Jazzy Belle," I'm in. The fact that "Fashion Week" is an all-star Detroit/Atlanta/Bay Area team-up is just icing on the cake. Peezy's "Double cup shawty, RIP to DJ Screw/Sip promethazine, nah this ain't no Absolut" is a great line. Also, If you haven't heard The Great Escape, Larry June's full-length Alchemist collab from earlier this year, fix that now. Peezy's got a new one called Ghetto out 9/26.

Truth Club - "Uh Oh"

North Carolina stand up! The state's already produced one my favorite indie rock albums of the year in Wednesday's Rat Saw God, and here comes Truth Club out of Raleigh with some more bangers. The four-piece operate in a slacker-y realm and sound like they're not aware of how drop-dead gorgeous their music actually is, but in an "ok, whatever" way rather than an "aw shucks" way. "Uh Oh" starts out morose and ends up sublime, thanks to some stellar harmonies and very sharp production. Truth Club's album Running From the Chase is out 10/6.

untitled (halo) - "Spiral"

The oddly named untitled (halo) are an L.A. three-piece who only have three songs to their name, but (after a Twitter search) already seem to have a very online fanbase. They do the "shoegaze with breakbeats" thing but slow things down to achieve a druggy, enchanting sound. I kind of get a "Lazy Eye" vibe from "Spiral" but with a 100th of the production budget and even less of an interest in guitar solos. Very interested to hear more from this band, and with their debut EP, Towncryer, out tomorrow (9/22), I'll be able to quite soon.

All Inbox Infinity picks are available on a playlist via Apple Music and Spotify.

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Jamie Larson