Nostalgia x Infinity

Nostalgia x Infinity
Photo by the author on 02/08/23.

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"'I don't trust anybody's nostalgia but my own. Nostalgia is a product of dissatisfaction and rage. It's a settling of grievances between the present and the past. The more powerful the nostalgia, the closer you come to violence. War is the form nostalgia takes when men are hard-pressed to say something good about their country.'" - Don Delillo, via the character Murray Siskind in his novel White Noise

I'm currently sitting on a couch in my childhood home, where my parents have lived since August 2000. It's my first time on the West Coast since moving back to New York from Portland, Oregon this May. It doesn't feel nearly as weird as it did when I came back the first time from college (also in New York) in December 2009, when my whole hometown felt like a dream state I'd wandered back into.

That first afternoon back home in 2009, I did what has become my ritual whenever I come back to visit my parents: put on my headphones, leash up their dog(s), and walk a half-mile to the trails near their house (a view from said trails is pictured above). Aiming to heighten the trippy Pleasantville vibe I was experiencing, I cued up what had been my go-to soundtrack to running on that exact same trail the past summer: M83's Saturdays = Youth. It worked. The same way that scents have been proven to trigger memories, the combination of the album and setting flung me backwards in time (the album's focus on teenagedom probably helped).

I loved that Delillo quote when I first read it almost six years ago. In its most base form—Things were better back then—nostalgia is the bane of cultural criticism. I very much enjoy writing and reading entries in Stereogum's The Anniversary series and Pitchfork's Sunday Reviews (I still need to write one of those!), both of which reexamine albums with years of added distance, but thoughtful writing like that is a rarity in the larger sphere of nostalgic journalism/criticism/commentary.

I also think nostalgia can be unhealthy on a personal level. Wishing I could go back and re-live highlights of my life is a trap I often fall into, which robs the present of the opportunity to become one of those memorable moments. Musically speaking, I've never been in danger of becoming a person who listens to music from their youth over and over again—if anything, I'm too restless of a listener and wish I spent more time with my favorites before plowing ahead to the next thing. But just like that day in the park in 2009, I still do love triggering memories with music, allowing myself to simultaneously bask in the past and the present.

When I was driving around with my parents this morning, I found myself connecting specific places to specific songs without even hearing them in the moment: the hill where I cued up Clipse's "Mr. Me Too" in a car for the first time and finally heard the bass tones that my headphones couldn't provide; the secret spot my friends and I used to smoke weed and play the nine parts of Pink Floyd's "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" back-to-back; the road where I drove home from work on an unseasonably cold March night and put The-Dream's Love Vs. Money on for the first time.

This year I've found myself more nostalgic than ever, an obvious product of leaving one place I love and returning to another, and I'm still figuring out the delicate balancing act between wallowing in those feelings and letting them uplift me. This newsletter's main goal is musical discovery, and I've already found it so fulfilling. Maybe I needed more of that in my life, but I still think that saving a little bit of room for music-aided reminiscence provides a cathartic outlet unlike any other I've ever experienced.

So while you're listening to the nine new songs I've compiled below, I'll be out hiking and listening to Girl Talk's Night Ripper, just like I did every day for three months straight at age 16.

Plug Two

I didn't publish anything this week, but I did very much enjoy Paul Thompson's piece on the 20th anniversary of Outkast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below for the Ringer. I feel like that album's (those albums'?) faults have been discussed to death—Paul does an admirable job approaching that from a new angle—so it's the deep background he gives on the duo's split that makes this incredibly worth your time.

BOI (Best of Inbox) #2

Carnal Tomb - "Defiled Flesh"

Even within a genre known for its putrid band names, "Carnal Tomb" is stomach-turning. Thankfully, the Berlin-based four-piece's old school death metal is disgusting enough to back it up. "Defiled Flesh," the second single from their upcoming album Embalmed in Decay, marries buzzsaw riffs, blastbeats, and doomy funeral breakdowns to thrilling effect. If you get down with Entombed or early Gorguts, this tomb's for you. Embalmed in Decay is out 11/03.

Cécile Seraud - "You & I"

If that last song wasn't heavy enough for you, try this!! I doubt you'll be seeing much more neo-classical music in this newsletter, but this solo piano composition really moved me. The single art for Cécile Seraud's "You & I" features the blurry outline of a whale, and fittingly it moves along with the grace and gravity of those gentle behemoths of the deep. The way the Brittany-based composer traverses melodies, subtly shifts tempos, and builds momentum within the track's minimal confines is something to behold, but on first listen all I could focus on was melancholy but oddly uplifting mood throughout. This one's from Seraud's upcoming album XAOS, out 11/17.

Colored Lights - "Wondering Woods"

The best power-pop nuggets come in small packages. Listening to "Wondering Woods," a richly satisfying track from Colored Lights' debut album, feels like breaking into a studio at the moment a band reaches the climax of a much longer, more boring song, and finally reaches transcendence. In all of 82 seconds, the song packs in about four heartstring-tugging melodies—more than many artists manage across entire albums. The whole self-titled album, which is the latest output from veteran Norwegian songwriter Frode Strømstad, is worth your time, chock full of pristinely arranged psych-pop that alternately recalls Guided By Voices, Elephant 6, and every single artist that ever influenced them.

Department - "Dreams of Youth"

On the debut release of his solo project, Department, Melbourne's Adam Kyriakou says he's "finally been able to take all the stuff [he loves] (60’s pop, wall of sound production, girl groups, rap production, underground electronic, and r&b) and make something original." With aims that grandiose, I clicked on Dumb Angel expecting something sloppy and overambitious, only to find the exact opposite. "Dreams of Youth," a shapeshifting highlight, contains elements of all the influences listed above, plus a heavenly coda that sounds like the Spiritualized/Polow Da Don collaboration I never knew I needed until now. "Dreams of Youth," and Department as a whole, is a feat and a half.

Fielded feat. E L U C I D - "Waves"

If you're a fan of left-of-center hip hop in any way, shape, or form, and you aren't keeping tabs on everything that Backwoodz Studioz is putting out, what the hell are you doing? Plus One is Brooklyn-based psych-R&B artist Fielded's third release on the label, and by far her most collaboration-heavy, with a whole host of Backwoodz' stacked roster showing up for vocal appearances. The album is bookended by billy woods verses (he also EP'd the thing), which are both great, but the track that really knocked me off my feet is "Waves," which co-stars woods' Armand Hammer co-conspirator E L U C I D. Over a woozy, un-quantized stagger of a beat, he and Fielded duet in a way that's equal parts hypnotic and poetic.

Harms Way feat. King Woman - "Undertow"

Another duet! This one, the final pre-release single from versatile heavy music veterans Harms Way's upcoming album, is a few weeks old, but with Common Suffering arriving tomorrow, I figured I'd post it anyway. "Undertow" is a meeting of two titans, one being meme-famous HW vocalist James Pligge and the other being Kris Esfandiari, frontperson of the great Bay Area doomers King Woman. In the best way possible, the song is exactly what you'd expect: a sludgy respite from Harms Way's hardcore pacing that sacrifices nothing in the way of heaviness.

House of Feelings - "Husbands"

We love a dance track that starts with a spoken word sample then incorporates a bit of that sample into the beat (see: Mr. Fingers' "Can You Feel It," Disclosure's "When a Fire Starts To Burn," etc.), don't we folks? "Husbands," the latest single from NYC electronic duo House of Feelings begins with what sounds like a home recording, its resounding cry of "Go!" spurring a playful-yet-wistful composition that reminds me of the Delorean/John Talabot/Tanlines era of indie house. HoF's last album, 2019's New Lows, is a similarly catchy collection of tracks, a couple of which contain vocal features from indie chameleon Shamir and former Perfect Pussy frontperson/MTV News correspondent Meredith Graves.

Vyva Melinkolya - "I65"

Louisville-based sludgegazer Vyva Melinkolya already has one great project to her name this year, the Orbweaving collaboration with the similarly focused artist Midwife, and now her solo follow-up is on the way. "I65" is a classic ode to a simultaneously beloved and hated hometown, filtered through Melinkolya's signature murky, slo-mo lens. Her new album, Unbecoming, is due out 10/26.

Year of the Knife feat. Dylan Walker - "Last Laugh"

Shouts the fuck out to Year of the Knife. The Delaware-based hardcore outfit has gone through hell this summer, getting in a terrible car wreck in June that resulted in broken bones, concussions, and bassist Madi Watkins being left in critical condition. In a statement this past week, the band says that releasing a new album wasn't an easy decision, but announced the Kurt Ballou-produced No Love Lost and shared two new tracks. "Last Laugh" is a 47-second burst that features Full of Hell's Dylan Walker on vocals, and it absolutely rips. The band also shared a video of Watkins, still hospitalized, singing along to "Wish," the other new track. Preorder No Love Lost (out 10/27) or any other YOTK merch/albums to help with their medical bills.

All Inbox Infinity picks are available in playlist form via Apple Music and Spotify.

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Jamie Larson