Home Read Features Rewinding 2019 (So Far) | The Top DIY Discoveries

Rewinding 2019 (So Far) | The Top DIY Discoveries

The best independent music that I found — or that found me — in 2019's first half.

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The DIY Discovery feature is one of my favourite components of Tinnitist. After sifting and sitting through so much mass-marketed major-label music over the decades, I really love getting independent tunes straight from the source. I love it even more when the music is as good as the entries below. Here are the five most popular DIY Discovery posts on the site so far in 2019. If you want to see and hear more of this year’s acts, just click on the DIY Discovery tag at the bottom of the page. Thanks to everyone who sent me songs or listened to any of these artists. I look forward to getting and sharing even more great independent music in 2019.


1 | y(A)pex

HOME: Des Moines, Iowa

LATEST RELEASE: The home-made album Goodnight Stories | Ph(F)aces Of a God.??

MY PITHY DESCRIPTION: Rap goes to collage.

FIVE ADJECTIVES FOR HIS MUSIC: Freewheeling, experimental, innovative, hallucinatory, audacious.

WHO HE SOUNDS LIKE: A little like Kanye minus the messiah complex — but mostly like nobody but himself.


MY REVIEW

Countless musicians spend years if not decades learning, honing and practising their talents, slowly and painfully advancing to the point where they have the skills, smarts, experience and courage to even try creating something original. Addison Parrish — who goes by y(A)pex, yApex, yepex, edgar blacken poe or blacker allan poe, depending on the moment — is not one of those musicians. Not if the incredible story behind his striking Goodnight Stories | Ph(F)aces Of a God.?? is to be believed. He says he’s a collage artist who recorded his album over the last long weekend — and the dates on his Soundcloud files support his claims. The songs themselves back him up: From the minimalist instrumentation, hallucinatory underproduction and freewheeling ambience to the typographically inventive titles and his multiple names, everything displays a rough-hewn immediacy, twisting and turning and shifting and drifting unpredictably — but in a way that draws you inward rather than pushing you away. He also says he’s not a rapper. But based on his provocatively sharp lyrics, nimble wordplay, natural flow and effortless hooks, he’s either lying or one of the most supremely gifted and fully formed talents to come straight out of nowhere in years. Whatever the truth, Goodnight Stories is an impressive achievement that displays all the confidence and craft of a seasoned performer. Hopefully, it’s just the beginning of Parrish’s epic, ever-evolving story.


IN HIS OWN WORDS

“I am an independent artist from des moines, IA. I am not a rapper, i am a collage artist. I designed, produced, and rapped this entire album in 4 days over mlk weekend using a sock mic and garage band. It is my personal reflection on racism, mental health, urban poverty cycle, and the black experience; all through the lens of blacker allan poe. Everything I do is inspired by Kanye, and I feel it is very important to recognize greatness everytime you witness it. enjoy my art. sleep tight.”


NOW HEAR THIS


2 | Quasar Wut-Wut

HOME: Chicago, their base after supposedly being blacklisted from the Detroit club scene in the ’90s.

LATEST RELEASE: Digesting Mirror, which is something like their eighth release in 30 years and their first album in 14. Unless it isn’t.

MY PITHY DESCRIPTION: Quirk, strangeness and charm.

12 ADJECTIVES FOR THEIR MUSIC: Eclectic, eccentric, mischievous, whimsical, meticulous, adventurous, clever, freewheeling, imaginative, colourful, ingenious, irreverent.

WHAT THEY SOUND LIKE: The 10 weirdest, most obscure records in your coolest music-geek friend’s vast collection, compressed into one band. Or maybe what Guided by Voices would be if Bob Pollard preferred art-pop and psychedelics over British Invasion rock and brewskis.


MY REVIEW

Kenny Rogers was right: You gotta know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em. This is one of those times when the smartest thing I could do is heed my inner Gambler and back away from the table. So that’s what I’m going to do. Oh sure, I could get up on my high horse and jabber on about how long-running Chicago freaks Quasar Wut-Wut are one of the greatest bands you’ve never heard, and how their wild ’n’ woolly songs not only draw on virtually every musical style you can imagine but also manage somehow to fuse them into a coherent stylistic whole, and how their lyrics are hilariously and brilliantly skewed but still remarkably articulate, and how they would be indie-pop darlings if the music gods weren’t a bunch of fickle little bitches, and how they blabbity blabbity blah blah blah. But here’s the crux of the biscuit: Ultimately, I can’t say anything about this band or this album that could top what they have to say themselves below. And every word they say is the dog’s honest. So I’m gonna shut up and let them sell themselves — after I say this one last thing: Listen to Digesting Mirror from front to back and tell me it ain’t the ginchiest. I dare you. I double-dog dare you. Hold ’em or fold ’em, chump.


IN THEIR OWN WORDS

“Like a neanderthal evolving in its own cave system, Quasar Wut-Wut has fully embraced its outsider perspective and relative anonymity. Their new release, Digesting Mirror, is a miniature world of their own construction where familiar classic pop and rock elements are warped, sped up, and misappropriated: a guitar line moans a musty melody from the 1800s over what sounds like a deconstructed Bill Withers song; a rambling Dylanesque ballad of a suicidal 93-year-old nymphomaniac is revved up to ludicrous speed until the wings are ready to fly off. The springy art pop of songs like Dark Love and Ms. Brown blur into the slithering dirge soul of Mandatory Days, displaying Quasar Wut-Wut’s deft hand at creating a cohesive mixture of influences from 60s psyche and Motown — to 70s art rock and folk — to 80s post-punk. There’s a little bit of something for everybody, unless you’re some kind of asshole.”


NOW HEAR THIS


NOW SEE HERE


Photo by Raph Nogal / www.raphnogal.com

3 | Pterodactyl Problems

HOME: Toronto

LATEST RELEASE: The debut album Esoteric Hobbies.

MY PITHY DESCRIPTION: The best bits of Weezer, Van Halen, Primus, The Killers, The Smiths, Foo Fighters, Queen and System of a Down — mixed with steroids and snorted.

SIX ADJECTIVES FOR THEIR SOUND: Audacious, eclectic, daring, intense, complex, idiosyncratic.


MY REVIEW

Fortune favours the bold. That also holds true for the different. The dangerous. And the just plain weird. Most bands like to think all of those adjectives apply to them. But they’re just kidding themselves. Young Toronto quartet Pterodactyl Problems — whose video Paresthesia premiered here a while back — are the exception that proves the rule. These guys clearly are unafraid to let their freak flags fly. And not just because frontman performs in drag. That’s definitely ballsy for a young rock band, even in these more tolerant times. But really, that’s window dressing; listen to their just-released full-length Esoteric Hobbies and you’ll hear what they’re really selling. Although firmly anchored in crunching indie-rock and pounding alt-metal, these songs colour way outside the lines, embracing and utilizing a vast array of sonic and stylistic influences to establish their individuality — and provide a musical breadth and depth to match their singer’s uncompromising dark-night-of-the-soul lyrics. In a world of cookie-cutter bands, Pterodactyl Problems are bringing something different, dangerous and just plain weird to the table. For my money, that’s reason enough to check them out.


IN THEIR OWN WORDS

Pterodactyl Problems have risen to save rock from extinction — and not a moment too soon. These fiercely original Torontonians are a gender-bending, genre-defiling hybrid gene-spliced from four distinct personalities: An outrageous frontman who probes dark emotional truths while clad in full drag; two unrepentant metalheads underpinning his devastating messages with crushing intensity; and a meticulous musical mad scientist sprinkling jazz, blues, classical and more into their alt-metal DNA. It aligns in their debut album Esoteric Hobbies — a dynamic, diverse disc that heralds the next stage in the evolution of rock. Those lucky enough to witness their high-energy performances know the awesome power of this four-headed, fire-breathing beast. The world won’t be far behind. It’s evolution, baby. Just in the nick of time.”


NOW HEAR THIS


NOW SEE HERE


4 | мʌvʌ

HOME: Slovakia

LATEST RELEASE: The sophomore album Enklávy bezlesia — which he says translates to Forest-free Enclaves.

SIX ADJECTIVES FOR HIS MUSIC: Unsettling, dissonant, experimental, unstructured, haunting, primitive.


MY REVIEW

A little mystery is a good thing. And that’s exactly what you get from this enigmatic outsider artist from Slovakia. The first riddle: His real name. His 2016 debut album and a 2017 EP were released under the handle MAVA (stylized as мʌvʌ) — which stands for My Audio-Visual Art and is apparently an acronym for his real name. The music of his second disc Enklávy bezlesia is equally personal, symbolic and idiosyncratic: Meandering, sometimes atonal soundscapes that flow between twisted folk, avant-garde experiments, traditional Slovakian sounds and more. Sometimes he sounds like an Eastern European Jandek. Sometimes he sounds like Beck on heavy narcotics. And sometimes he sounds like he’s just noodling. But I suspect there’s method to his madness, since the album also serves as the soundtrack to an epic (and surprisingly professional) 54-minute video that finds him wandering the countryside (and various abandoned buildings), donning various masks and outfits in what I presume is some sort of metaphorical narrative about man and nature that goes with the music. It’s either the most impenetrable foreign film you’ve ever seen, the most cinematically ambitious music video you’ve ever seen, or both. Or neither. To be honest, the first few times I tried to watch it, the molasses pacing and unstructured rambling turned me off after a couple of minutes. But the tantalizing peculiarity of it kept bringing me back. By the third or fourth time I got acclimated to the eerie, eccentric vibe. And then I was strangely transfixed by it. Which is a long way of saying: Give it some time. It might grow on you. Of course, as always, your mileage may vary. But if you wind up finding it as fascinating as I did, by all means download the album for free. And don’t sleep on that old EP — it has some equally bizarre covers of Ring of Fire, La Bamba and Summertime Blues. The mystery deepens.


IN HIS OWN WORDS

“I am solo artist from the heart of Europe, writing and producing songs. I like experimenting with various sounds and song structures. I self-released my debut album Sinusoidal under artistic name мʌvʌ. Enklávy bezlesia could be freely translated into English as Forest-free Enclaves, which is a geological term referring to specific deforested places within an actual forest where some endemic species live and they are protected, too. I saw this image as a great metaphor for the songs I was about to write and the visuals are with the similar symbolism.”


NOW SEE HERE


NOW HEAR THIS


5 | Nat Myers

HOME: New York City via Kentucky.

LATEST RELEASE: His matter-of-factly (and humbly) titled debut album Songs.

MY PITHY DESCRIPTION: Making 78s for the digital age.

10 ADJECTIVES FOR HIS MUSIC: Nostalgic, authentic, rustic, honest, earthy, homespun, handmade, organic, playful, worldly.

WHAT HE SOUNDS LIKE: The Anthology of American Folk Music, the Smithsonian Folkways catalogue & The Rise & Fall of Paramount Records box sets mixed with a shot of corn liquor.


MY REVIEW

Nat Myers wasn’t made for these times. The Brooklyn-based singer-guitarist belongs to the era of itinerant folk-blues troubadours who rode the rails, busked on streetcorners behind an upturned fedora, raised hell on Saturday nights at the juke joint, and cut their songs straight to a lathe in tiny makeshift studios and died before their time. Of course, if he had lived back then, we might never have been lucky enough to hear The Possums in My Head, Hollywood Blues, Tomorrow Night and other unvarnished throwbacks on his debut full-length Songs (which comes out April 1 but can be heard almost in its entirety — and pre-ordered for the princely sum of $2 — at his Bandcamp page). So, all things considered, it’s probably better for all of us (and him) that he’s around these days.


IN HIS OWN WORDS

“Hailing from Kenton County, Ky., Nat is a songster of traditional and original American musics. The son of a revenue man, he reinvents and preserves the prewar styles he was raised on and loves. A self-taught guitarist and singer, Nat keeps rambling as a traveling musician. He is currently working on a new project with Kentucky instrumentalist Jake Mahaffey, called Swamprat Rimbauds, out of New York, New York.”


NOW HEAR THIS


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YOUR TURN

If you’d like to be a DIY Discovery, no problemo: Just go to the Submit Music page, fill out the form and hit send. Or email me directly here. I can’t promise I’ll feature you, but if you’re as awesome as you think you are, it could happen. You never know.