Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit
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Found sounds

The old music we fell in love with this year

From Yoko Ono and This Heat to Wussy and Elvis Presley, Best Fit staff and writers reveal the artists from across the last 70 years who found their way into our hearts in 2023.

Kings of Convenience

Starting point: Riot on an Empty Street (2003)
Best song:

Browsing my Spotify 'Soft Mix' looking for a soundtrack to my quiet Sunday morning, it felt strangely fitting to stumble upon "Homesick" among the playlist — a beautifully nostalgic ode to discovering similarly nostalgic songs. Although theirs were on a cassette tape. While Spotify isn't quite a cassette, it did become the venue for my exploration of Kings of Convenience's softly sung discography.

The Norwegian duo, Eirik Glambek Bøe and Erlend Øye, the latter known for his electronic-dance background surprisingly, embody a sophisticated Simon & Garfunkel simplicity. Perhaps unsurprisingly though, their debut album, Quiet is the New Loud, actually came to lend its name to a musical trend popular from 1998-2003. This 'new acoustic' movement, influenced by original folk duos, was characterised by the minimalist, delicate sounds and subjects that Kings of Convenience have always excelled at.

In 2021, after a 12-year music hiatus, Kings of Convenience returned with Peace or Love, a mature take on their usual contemplations on love, family, and nature. Their ASMR-soft voices remain a key part of their charm, thankfully, with "Love is a Lonely Thing" and "Fever" evoking echoes of their best early works without sacrificing a step into fresh territory. Hushed and honeyed, their music feels like the sun finding you on a frosted early morning — an experience as rare as the duo’s 2024 performances! - ALEX DEWING

Marianne Faithfull

Starting point: Broken English (1979)
Best song:
"Broken English"

Marianne Faithfull is a ‘take her or leave her’ type of artist — which is to say she isn’t for everyone. I first heard her debut single “As Tears Go By” in a pop music class where the instructor was focusing on the track’s songwriters: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Rolling Stones' manager Andrew Loog Oldham. They didn’t interest me, though — the woman singing did. As a folk coffeehouse singer in London who was seemingly plucked from obscurity, it took a lot of guts to stand her ground by releasing a double album as a debut — a self-titled pop record that her label pushed and Come My Way, the folk album she wanted to release.

What might turn some people away from Faithfull’s discography is the reason why I fell in love with her. Listening to her first record, released in 1965, is an entirely different listening experience from listening to her current albums. Her vocals which were once silky and melodic are now as weathered as she is — forever changed by the struggles she faced in the 70s, like drug abuse and laryngitis.

Framed as a ‘comeback’ album, Broken English became the musical counterpart to Faithfull’s years of suffering from anorexia, homelessness, and drug abuse. Gone is the girl who was only ever described as a ‘muse’ and whose name was permanently affixed with Jaggers and, instead, Broken English became her magnum opus — revered for its masterful storytelling and a melting pot of rock, punk, new wave and dance. Even if her once-pristine voice is marred by the years on the street, Broken English carries the same ethos that Faithfull first had when she contended with her record label during her debut. She refuses to go down without a fight — even if it means her vocals aren’t as palatable as they once were. – KELSEY BARNES

Stars Of The Lid

Starting point: Music for Nitrous Oxide (1995)
Best song: "Adamord"

I came across Stars Of The Lid when scrolling through one of Ethel Cain’s Spotify playlists. I was intrigued by the understated album art of, Music for Nitrous Oxide, and was completely fascinated by the length of the second song on the record. Clocking in at just under twelve minutes; to me, “Adamord”, has become completely synonymous with Stars Of The Lid’s elegantly glacial output.

Between 1995 and 2007, Stars Of The Lid released seven albums packed with songs that blend classical, ambient, and drone music. I described the band to a friend as if you could imagine what Sigur Rós’ tuning sessions must sound like: a sense of spontaneity that keeps you on your toes with every listen; owing to the disorienting time warps Brian McBride and Adam Wiltzie put the listener through, with their dusty, haunted fields of sound.

Since becoming increasingly familiar with the band, I can see why Ethel Cain includes Stars Of The Lid in her sonic world. Like Cain, the band conjures this sense of utter bleakness, just staying afloat above a pool of brutal emotional turmoil. This isn’t to say that they are a depressing listen. Again; like Sigur Rós, you get the sense that they understood how to balance the desolation and the beauty of life. I find them to be an all encompassing organism, taking the shape of whatever mood the listener finds themselves in.

Sadly, McBride passed away in August of 2023; and it hasn’t gone unnoticed that the final song on the band’s last album as a duo is named, “The Funeral”. It is a perfectly painful tribute to the artist; as someone so accomplished at creating soundscapes that waft into thick fogs of despondency, I have to imagine that McBride would find humour in the ironic gloominess of this fact. - CALLUM FOULDS

Yoko Ono

Starting point: Fly (1971)
Best song: "Mind Train"

I’d learned enough about her over the years to dismiss the idea that Yoko Ono was responsible for bringing The Beatles to an end – if only she really had, maybe that stinking, reanimated corpse of a “new single” wouldn’t have materialised. I’d developed an admiration for her based on how gracefully she’d dealt with being one of popular culture’s most unfairly maligned women. I thought she seemed pretty sound, but until this year I’d never heard a whole Yoko Ono record.

Now, I’m the owner-operator of two of them, both of which I very much admire. After hearing a snippet but not catching the title of an incredible, 16-minute proto-Krautrock groove I later found out to be named “Mind Train”, I immediately felt the need to go exploring her back catalogue, and took a punt on a couple of albums that looked interesting based on a modicum of research. I got lucky and one of them, Fly, contained that phenomenal song, which I’d implore anyone with an interest in the artier end of rock’n’roll to check out – it’s one of those pieces of music that can only accurately be compared to stuff that came after it.

It also contained a hell of a lot besides. Bits of it are… kinda straight ahead blues rock. Others make Andre 3000’s experimental jazz flute album sound like Gary Barlow. The song “Don’t Worry Kyoko (Mummy’s Only Looking for Her Hand in the Snow)” is a paean to her young, estranged daughter that avoids sentimentality in favour of documenting a descent into mania. The title track is 23 minutes of vocal tics.

The other album I’d say is worth your time (though I’m sure she has many), is Season of Glass. Most famous for featuring a photo of her recently murdered husband's blood-splattered glasses on its cover, the image juxtaposes a beautiful, serene backdrop with an overwhelming amount of sadness and violence. The songs follow suit – “Goodbye Sadness” is painful to listen to knowing its context but would be genuinely sweet in any other, while “No No No No” addresses the horror of the killing in a hauntingly uncomfortable, rhythmically wonderful piece of music.

They aren’t the kind of albums you play often, but I’m glad I’ve found these poignant, angry, playful and uncompromising records for the times when they’re needed. – THOMAS HANNAN

Julie London

Starting point: Julie is Her Name (1955)
Best song: "Cry Me A River"

I always thought it was Julie London singing “The End of the World” on the end credits of a Mad Men episode but I later realised that version was the original by Skeeter Davis. Regardless, it led to me London’s 1955 debut Julie is her Name and a whole world of music dripping in sadness and lovelorn regret.

California-born London was an actress before she was a singer and dropped 30 albums in a 14 year period between 1955 and 1969. Like Chet Baker, her songs are dominated by sadness, and also like Chet Baker, she did a lot with a vocal that had a relatively limited range, and has been described as “melancholy whisper.”

Billie Eilish has admitted Julie London as an influence, which absolutely tracks - their music shares a deeply emotional core and they both go hard on the vocal husk. London’s distinct voice was shaped by a heavy smoking habit - three packets a day from the age of 16 – and would continue for half a century, effectively destroying her ability to sing and eventually taking her life at 73, following a stroke. You can trace the changes in her voice by comparing her iconic version of “Cry Me A River” to the whispered croak on a (still brilliant) take of “Louie Louie” 13 years later. - PAUL BRIDGEWATER


Starting point: Funeral Dress (2005)
Best song: "Pizza King"

In a world awash with hot takes and irony, postmodernism and polish, there can hardly be anything more refreshing, more healing than a band specialising in sincere, earthy, rootsy rock songs delivered with total conviction. When I first heard Wussy I was struck in turn by the rawness, the gluey hooks, and the caustic humour - but most importantly, how audibly they mean every word they say.

Hailing from Cincinnati, Ohio, Wussy have something of the bar band about them in the best possible way. Musically they tend towards the uncomplicated, muscular: country-tinged tracks to cut through the hubbub. Lyrically, they’re whip smart and witty, caustic and heartbreaking in equal measure.

They set the stall with “Airborne”, the first track on 2005 debut Funeral Dress and an all-time great break up song. Vocalists Chuck Cleaver and Lisa Walker play out the drama through beautifully observed snapshots: the split itself, the admin of dividing possessions, insisting you were never that into them to begin with. The pair became a couple and subsequently split for real; thankfully they remain keen friends and collaborators, as their voices gel too perfectly to lose. “Pretty As You Please” from the Duo mini-album may be their best showcase. He warbles, she soars; between the two of them is something rough but lovely in the going-for-brokeness of it all.

It’s hardly sexy to say, but Wussy are as reliable a band as you could hope to hear. If you enjoy one song, you’re probably going to enjoy the lot. That’s not to suggest they lack variety - they’ll have you weeping into your beer one minute, chucking it jubilantly skyward the next. They just hit the sweet spot every time, from the strung out and mournful “Don’t Leave Just Now” to the menacing grind of “She’s Killed Hundreds”. It never sounds effortless; you wouldn’t want it to. These are songs of physical exertion; for that, the end result is one of real catharsis.

As straight ahead guitar rock’s stock dwindles year upon year, Wussy can feel like a band out of time. Back-in-my-day discourse is as tedious as it gets, but it wouldn’t be right to say they don’t make ‘em like Wussy anymore, with acts like Ratboys and Wednesday sharing similar DNA. Trends come and go, but putting yourself out there will always be a worthwhile pursuit. – JOSHUA MILLS

Carly Simon

Starting point: Anticipation (1971)
Best song: "You’re So Vain"

When I first heard the cascading piano and smooth, cinematic strings of “Nobody Does It Better” floating over the front seats of my dad’s car as a child, I had no idea it was the theme to 1977’s Bond film “The Spy Who Loved Me”. I simply knew the opening thumps of the bass drum and agonised snarl at the edges of Simon’s voice made for an excellent imagined music video, and that was enough to get me hooked.

I came back to Simon after Sinéad O’Connor passed in July – they were roommates on my dad’s iPod – and remembered the sheer expanse of her work. The now eighty-year-old New York singer has been prolific since her self-titled debut in 1971: 23 studio albums (Including 2002’s Christmas Is Almost Here), two live albums, and most of the Piglet’s Big Movie soundtrack. Of her four albums of standards, it’s her reworking of The Flamingos’ “I Only Have Eyes For You” on 2005’s Moonlight Serenade that stands out, a gorgeous example of her vocal and stylistic range.

Happily (though not inevitably) Simon’s most famous song is undeniably her best. At the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony in 2022, Taylor dubbed “You’re So Vain” the “best song that’s ever been written”, almost a decade after bringing Simon out to perform it as a duet at the Red tour’s Foxborough, Massachusetts show. - CAITLIN CHATTERTON

This Heat

Starting point: Deceit (1981)
Best song: "Sleep"

As an insomniac just north of Tyler Durden and an inconvenience away from a similar trajectory, This Heat has the incredible ability to lull me into stasis with the sounds of imagined nightmares. Their 1981 masterpiece Deceit is first introduced by the collaged scream adorning the cover, a surreal portrait that averted me from sending the opener “Sleep” to my wife; it was late at night and less frightening subjects have kept us up longer. While the other resident 38 minutes of the record are the expected No-Wave mishmash of audio clips, atonal distortion, and petrifying rhythms one would interpret from the cover, the first track is the only good reason I would ever have for sending that John Denver lover something entitled ‘No-Wave.’ It’s a repository for soon-to-be-withheld beauty in the vein of the Velvet’s “Sunday Morning,” but decidedly set during the beginning of an arduous night. Even though its mix of Bonnie Prince Billy styled vocals and incomparable harmony has less than nothing to do with This Heat’s established genre leanings, to understand this dark house of the scene is to factor that beauty back in.

Found in between their file-shredder guitar lines and aversion to playing a solitary minute of their music straight, there is a necessary gentleness This Heat coheres their sound with. It could be an entire track to siren-song the listener into a nightmarish landscape, or it could be the hum of a radio track playing distantly and dissonantly through their interludes; it’s the No-Wave sound, yet recrafted in gentle, wigged-out hands. For as ear-piercingly brittle as their production runs, there is a deeper fallibility to their tracks that create abysses out of potholes. The shape-shifting nature of their song structures forfeits any solid ground from being held too dearly, ideas and moments shift as they arrive mid recording, all captive to gratifying endpoints and segues. Yet, what gives me respite during those nights where This Heat is my new ocean sounds is that one track pinpointing their place in the universe. It’s a command, and it’s a career-defining moment of brilliance: “Sleep, sleep. Go to sleep.” – NOAH THOMAS

Transvision Vamp

Starting point: Velveteen (1989)
Best song: "Baby I Don't Care"

For the last few years I’ve been really enjoying on BBC iPlayer how madcap the old episodes of Top Of The Pops were. One block I saw had Killing Joke, Let Loose, and The Three Tenors on it. I can’t imagine what it must have felt like pre-internet to tune in for your band of the week and be confronted with such an eclectic mix of artists without a skip function. Nothing like it exists today in that way of non-algorithmic music discovery. Nor would it have an audience. One episode I watched over too many whiskeys featured Transvision Vamp performing “Baby I Don’t Care” - a missed (pre) riot grrrl masterpiece.

Wendy James’ Transvision Vamp were a dynamic force within the British rock scene for a short period. Their bubblegum rebellious spirit feels in retrospect like a blueprint for the likes of iconic Britpop acts The Primitives, Garbage, and Shampoo, through to their influential crescendo Charli XCX. James’ vocals are an equally melodic powerhouse, up there with Pat Benatar or The GoGos with the band instinctively dovetailing guitars into unimaginably approachable pop structure and timeless afterparty allure.

Transvision Vamp only released three albums over four years, one of which scored a respectful number 1, but you just don’t hear about them any more. Perhaps because outside of “Baby I Don’t Care” they didn’t exactly storm the singles chart, at a time when the single format was the thing. Taking a deep breath streaming their tracks on Spotify though, you have to wonder how such a jubilantly consistent band could have slipped through the generational cracks. Especially when there’s emotional authenticity to the catalogue, alongside its cutesy power ballad energy. Up there somewhere between Meat Loaf, and the Grease 2 soundtrack in all its unapologetic kitsch. It all works in hindsight, and is oddly so modern in its tongue-in-cheek honesty. The forthright grooves and hooks of it all are what any contemporary artist is reaching for.

They effortlessly straddled the glam pop of T-Rex in songs like “Revolution Baby,” anthemic gnarl of The Cranberries in “Velveteen,” and otherworldly downbeat psychedelia of Tommy James & The Shondells in “Twangy Wigout” which borrows candidly from Serge Gainsbourge’s “Je t'aime moi non plus.” Not to mention its otherwise uncanny similarities to Lou Reed, The Ramones, or The Kingsmen. This while miraculously also sounding like All Saints and the 90’s girl group pop machine that printed so many CDs in the years that followed. Which is no slight.

Transvision Vamp’s entire, albeit short, discography is instantly likeable. That’s what killed me when I jumped in after seeing that Top Of The Pops performance this year. Unimaginable how such incredible songwriting could have bobbed under my radar until this year. Wendy James went on to release some solo records and she still performs now under her own name, with some Transvision Vamp songs in the set. It’s probably a very fun night. But she never seems to have enjoyed the kudos she held between 1988 and 1989.

Much like the band Kissing The Pink, you can’t help but assume Transvision Vamp were only one fortuitously poignant film sync away from more long standing legendary status. But here we are. You’ve maybe not heard of them, but you’re definitely going to put them on for the next two hours. Have fun. – ALEX LEE THOMSON

Frou Frou

Starting point: Details (2002)
Best song:
"It’s Good To Be In Love"

Frou Frou’s name comes from the Rimbaud poem “Ma Bohème”, in which the author uses the onomatopoeia to describe the sound of women’s swishing skirts. This whimsical origin might have beget a less serious band in the hands of two collaborators less interested in careful innovation as Guy Sigsworth and Imogen Heap. Instead, they created something radically contemporary, a blueprint for the electronic pop renaissance of the 2020s.

In 2001, Imogen Heap had finished writing her seminal sophomore record Speak for Yourself (2005), but had no label to record or distribute it. On the cusp of the career-defining era of her work that would cement her position as a trailblazer of popular music, her collaboration with Sigsworth proved to be fruitful, showcasing her songwriting within more rigorous constraints of genre. Frou Frou pushed her toward invention within classic structures and lyrical tropes; he conditioned their first cowrite on her use of the word “love.” Frou Frou would go on to write for Britney Spears, a collaboration whose dark, guitar-based style is foreshadowed in “Must Be Dreaming.”

The band didn’t find the commercial success they sought when they released their only album in 2002, but Frou Frou was incredibly ahead of its time. Details sounds like it could have been made yesterday by any of synth-pop’s critical darlings–Grace Ives, Sylvan Esso, Samia, or Caroline Polachek, who seems to have a particular affinity for Imogen Heap’s vocal and production style. Frou Frou’s genius is in their active embrace of pop, unearthing something alien and ethereal in 2002 that would go on to inspire the modern iteration of the genre. – AMAYA LIN


Starting point: 24 Hour Revenge Therapy (1994)
Best song:

The rise and fall of Jawbreaker is perhaps the quintessential sell-out story; from a point in history when ‘selling out’ was still a thing. Initially active in the late 80s and early 90s, and critical to the hardcore and punk scenes of the Bay area, the band's music was everything to a small set of devoted fans. A crushing chaos with a sweet melodic overbite, the three piece were even described by Billie Joe Armstrong himself as being the band to “bridge the gap between Green Day and Nirvana.”

Frontman Blake Schwarzenbachs voice sounds like torn pages from a magazine, as a tuneful anguish cloaks songs that capture the excruciating melodrama of youth. At a time when authenticity was held in as high regard as the music you were making, the DIY heroes' repeated claims that they would never sign to a major were taken to heart, making it all the more shocking when they did just that for the release of their fourth album Dear You. Fans were less than impressed, dismissing the record - a commercial flop at the time - and even going as far as paying money to go to shows just to turn their backs when new material was played.

Ethos aside, the strength of the album is undeniable, and Dear You can be viewed with hindsight as a band moving faster than their fanbase could keep pace with. It was an impressive and ambitious leap, that sadly hastened the band's demise as the pressures surrounding its reception only compounded the already fractured relationships in the group.

Thankfully history has been kind to the record and - along with 24 Hour Revenge Therapy - it is now seen as a staple of both the punk and emo genres.

I’d only ever had a passing knowledge of Jawbreaker, having heard and liked some tracks without digging any deeper. It was a chance encounter with a cover of “Boxcar” by the Mountain Goats that pulled me in, and I quickly realised their influence had been infiltrating my ears for well over two decades.

The group reunited to headline Riot Fest in 2017, a show that was widely rumoured to have been watched from the wings by a slew of awe struck bands who may not have existed but for their influence. An incredible, incendiary talent; Jawbreaker are still as influential on the alternative scene today as they ever have been; only now to a generation with no concept, and little care, for the notion of selling out. – CRAIG HOWIESON

Elvis Presley

Starting point: '68 Comeback Special (1968)
Best song:
"Can't Help Falling in Love With You"

Before Taylor Swift put on a tour performing for 70,000 fans a night, before the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, moonwalked across a single stage, and before Beatlemania took hold of the World - Elvis Presley was The King. From his first hit in 1956, "Heartbreak Hotel" - Presley was shot out of a cannon to a level of stardom that no one had ever seen.

Elvis had it all - an unrelenting charisma, a fearlessness, an ability to connect with multiple generations at a crucial musical junction. Destroying cultural barriers built up over decades, he was the first musical mega-icon, and with a relatively young music industry to support his career, no one knew what to do with him.

Each time Elvis' music appeared in front of me, it sounded old. It is old. There were times I instinctively flinched at its moldy oldie aesthetic. And despite its still raw, underproduced, wonky rockabilly sound, the deep catalog of Presley filled with songs like "Jailhouse Rock" and "Hound Dog" still instantly gets you out of your chair some 65 years later.

His music stuck to me. Eventually, after appearing in some of my playlists, I felt I had an obligation to learn more, and as I dove deeper into understanding the man - Baz Luhrman coincidentally released his film examining the tragic life of how Presley got swallowed up by his own fame.

Rediscovering Elvis reminds us that great art has connected us for hundreds of years. Just as standing in front of a Van Gogh can create a mutual thread of emotion, or listening to Beethoven 200 years after his death can still make you feel how he felt, Elvis's music has an intrinsic power over all of us. His music might sound old. His music wasn't "way ahead of its time," and his success transformed his life into merely a character of himself, but Elvis Presley was the original rockstar.

Despite his own battle with addiction and fame, ultimately ending with him playing out his final years in Vegas, Elvis felt he had a responsibility to continue playing for the World. His final live performance of "Unchained Melody" just days before his last breath is the definition of a powerhouse performance - he didn't miss a note.

In 1956, Elvis was The King. When he returned to capture the World's attention in 1968 for his Comeback Special, the World remembered why he was The King. 46 years after his death, his classic ballad "Can't Help Falling In Love" and its 800 million Spotify plays will still give you goosebumps and remind you that Elvis is still King. – SAM EECKHOUT

Adam Schlesinger

Starting point: Welcome Interstate Managers (2003)
Best song: "Mexican Wine"

In July of 2005, Nike held a 5k race through downtown Portland, Oregon, titled the Run Hit Wonder. Throughout the course, one-hit-wonder bands (including The Donnas, Chingy, and Joan Jett) performed for runners. Fountains of Wayne were subjected every five minutes to new runners arriving at their set and chanting “Play ‘Stacy’s Mom!’” to which frontman Chris Collingwood would reply each time, dejectedly, “we already did.”

I’ve never met a person who hasn’t heard Fountains of Wayne’s 2003 hit “Stacy’s Mom.” The tri-state area quartet bridged the 90s and 2000s with six power pop LPs, and yet only a particular cult following has indulged in a deep-dive of their catalog. Thankfully, my dad was a part of that following, and I quickly joined the club and started sneaking his CDs into my room.

Frontman Chris Collingwood and bassist Adam Schlesinger’s songwriting chemistry yielded music and lyrics with wry stories of nostalgia, heartbreak, angst, and light at the end of the tunnel, yet they never take themselves too seriously. “Stacy’s Mom” is a great example of such songwriting, as is “Someone To Love,” a story about two lonely people who cross paths (but Beth McKenzie intercepts Seth Shapiro’s cab, leaving him for dead in the pouring rain). “Bright Future In Sales” oozes satire from the moment we meet our hungover protagonist after “seven scotch-and-sodas at the office party.” “All Kinds of Time” is a four-minute ballad describing the precious final seconds of an American football game.

Mingled with their power pop tales of missed meet-cutes and milf hunting are cozy, folk-tinged, acoustic numbers like “Valley Winter Song,” “Hackensack,” and “I-95.” These heartfelt odes to New England and the tri-state area convince the listener that these places are home in a way that only Collingwood and Schlesinger can, with clever and unexpected lyricism, approachable melodies and catchy hooks.

Twenty years later, the band members have pursued solo endeavors, but this article will focus on Schlesinger’s career. He co-founded the bands Ivy and Tinted Windows, but also won awards for his production and songwriting work in film. He is responsible for the song that an aging pop star (Hugh Grant) and quirky lyricist (Drew Barrymore) create together in “Music and Lyrics.” He wrote the Wonders’ 1960’s-esque hit “That Thing You Do!” for Tom Hanks’ film “That Thing You Do!,” which was nominated for an Academy Award. But Schlesinger’s expansive career was cut short when he died of Covid on April 1st, 2020, at age 52.

In November of 2023, Fountains of Wayne’s “Hey Julie” came on while I was at a dive bar. While I listened to Collingwood bemoan his overbearing boss with a “bad toupee and a soup-stained tie,” I was reminded of all the stories that Schlesinger helped to tell, in both music and film. Decades may have passed, but I’m sure somewhere out there, a seven-year-old is getting into their dad’s CDs, and discovering the Fountains of Wayne discography for the very first time. – Maria Bocci


Starting point: Jersey’s Best Dancers (1997)
Best song: "25 Cent Giraffes"

I should have found Lifetime before now. Every punk-via-pop act on the planet has uttered the name at one time or another. New Found Glory covered “Cut the Tension.” Taking Back Sunday’s Adam Lazzarasaid, “Lifetime influences everything I do.” Saves The Day’s first record, jokingly dubbed a Lifetime covers album, imitated their driving double-time beats and yowling heart-on-sleeveisms. If that wasn’t enough, Lifetime covered a Hüsker Dü track, giving me two roads in, both of which I hitherto ignored.

The first day of the rest of my life(time) arrived in December while I was hunting for get-up-and-go tunes to prepare me for a dentist visit. Lifetime anaesthetised my anxiety, their firebrand melodic hardcore so confidence-inspiring that I could have performed the procedure myself. They’ve stuck in my earphones (and heart) since.

Erupting out of the New Jersey basement scene in 1990, Lifetime refracted the brash brevity of bands like Gorilla Biscuits through a melodic lens, their thickly distorted guitars and unceasing rhythms simultaneously working with and against frontman Ari Katz’s cryptic, lovelorn ruminations. The apex of the band’s catalogue, the twenty-something-minutes-long Jersey’s Best Dancers heralded their breakup only a few months later. But its emotional, high-energy punk sound endured, almost single-handedly defining the template that tomorrow’s poster people would adopt and carry forth through to today. There’s a reason they were called Lifetime. – HAYDEN MERRICK

Violent Femmes

Starting point: Violent Femmes (1983)
Best song: "Please Do Not Go"

The Violent Femmes are a band that have spent near a half a decade swimming around in the background of my Spotify, first introduced by a college psychology teacher who wanted to establish himself as the “cool” member of staff who knew about music, and started a lesson doting on the discography of the Violent Femmes. It’s not often I take music recommendations, but out of some urgent curiosity it wasn’t long before I was delving into the insistent guitars and gritty vocals that dominate the fan-favourite “Blister In The Sun”.

They find themselves included in the company of bands such as The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Cramps, and even the dystopian sounds of The Cure, yet are rarely uttered in the same breath when discussing seminal pre-00’s rockers. The Wisconsin quartet somehow ended up falling to the wayside and becoming part of the forgotten bands of the 1980’s, despite still performing reunion tours, and having an impressively active social media presence.

I recently rediscovered the power of the folk meets punk outfit when doing my annual sort through of my Spotify (aka deleting any short lived hyperfixations from my library, or clearing out old playlists that didn’t quite stick).

Their debut album holds tantamount power, from “Blister In The Sun” that boasts Johnny Rotten-esque vocals, and “Please Do Not Go” which sits eerily similar to The Grateful Dead soundscapes, the band tried it all, before settling on their dark neurotic sound that carries all the way through to Hotel Last Resort (2019).

No matter what mood I’m in, I can always take comfort in knowing that the Violent Femmes are always reliably there, it might not be often that I choose to let them poke their heads out of the mountain of music slowly but surely taking over my phone’s storage, but when I do, it’s a decision I never regret. – LANA WILLIAMS

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