While it’s true that I prefer reviewing full EPs/albums, the digital age of streaming playlists and Bandcamp Fridays have returned us to the Age of the Single™. Thus what I tend to find in my emails and trawling are standalone tracks, and I would probably lose sleep if I didn’t bring some of them to your attention. Therefore, here’s a list of 5 tunes, either released singularly or standing out from their respective albums, that I’m labeling “don’t miss” for March.
With their new album My Last Party, Dark Narrows proves the post-punk revival won’t stop in 2023. I’m calling it: “Second Hand Tears” is going to be the breakout hit from this release. The Maryland outfit assembles everything needed for a pop-goth dance floor banger, from punchy bass and dreamy guitars to the perfect sing-along hook with unexpected, descriptive imagery. I’ve been playing this on repeat for the past four days.
Oh my stars and garters! Martin Bowes and Julia Waller have joined up together again for the first time in 20 years and I couldn’t be happier. Neither have lost their talent for spooky, atmospheric music that chills the spine, but I’m also tapping my feet to this lively production. A lesser act would simply recreate the sound of yesteryear for a quick nostalgia trip, but Attrition instead compounds a lifetime of experience into an expertly constructed romp through the darkest parts of electronic music, leaving me breathless by the end of the recording and desperately looking forward to the upcoming Black Maria.
Last year I appeared on Space Couch and tackled the monolithic task of naming the best up-and-coming industrial acts. Thing is, mentioning Josie Pace as one of them came easily, and sure enough, she found herself performing on TV and opening for an extensive tour with Aesthetic Perfection, gaining a whole new following in the process. She capitalizes on that momentum now with a destructive single that pounds its listeners into dust. Pace continues to prove guitars are optional for industrial, delivering the concussive force of a hard rock power anthem with keyboard alone. Easily-chanted lyrics slowly dissolve into disturbing visions, a catharsis the heavy music gladly delivers.
Wilmington’s Johnny and Angela Yeagher excel at producing efficient, classic-sounding synthpop, and now they try their hands at making a sing-along anthem for all the weird ones in the world. These club hymns often pose a challenge because the lyrics need to be all-encompassing without being meaningless. Dead Cool takes a unique path by transforming a silly joke we’ve all spoken to our fellow black-clad friends and crafting it into the hook over a foreboding synth line. The earnestly sung, “Don’t let the sun blind your eyes,” transforms into the perfect rallying cry, combining the introspection and self-mocking humor that are both cornerstones of the goth/industrial aesthetic.
Despite the fact that I totally look the part, I’m not a huge anime nerd, so I haven’t seen the animation this song references. Furthermore, I’m not usually a fan of songs that try to tell a story someone else has already told, so “A Song of Your Name” had a high mountain to climb before I even listened to it. Luckily, this is Baltes & Zäyn, whose “Apocalyptech,” recounting scenes from Neon Genesis Evangelion, gripped me last year and never let go. Lucian Zäyn delicately weaves the story into a relatable, exposed melody that’s almost heartbreaking, exemplified by Steve Baltes’s cinematic score underneath. I didn’t have “synthpop power ballad about kami-manipulated young love” on my Bingo card for March singles, but apparently I should have.
What about you? What’s on your playlist for March?
Back in the ancient past (2010 or so), a young, devilishly handsome DJ interviewed William Faith and asked if he had any advice for up-and-coming artists. Faith recounted the difficulty of crafting a truly original sound and suggested focusing on combining influences in hitherto unseen ways—the more disparate the inspirations, the better. After all, a smoothie can taste wholly different from its ingredients; the blending creates something new.
This conversation played on repeat in my head as I dug into Trippy, the latest release from New York’s Sapphira Vee. Already known for experimenting with a variety of goth/industrial subgenres, Vee tries on trip hop for her new EP. She admits the four songs might not be “pure” trip hop, and I agree; while Vee wears the Massive Attack, Sneaker Pimps, and Tricky influences on her sleeve, these inspirations cling to her goth/industrial roots, forming a unique growth for her most distinctive release yet.
Four different artists join Vee—one for each song—yet the choice to use trip hop as a springboard creates a singular style despite each performer’s varying backgrounds. Cis Machina and Dogtablet both favor slower hip hop beats mixed with stringed instruments straight out of a Portishead single, while 2Bit Heroes delivers a Massive Attack-inspired synth wave and John D Norten relies on traditional bass, guitar, and strings. Yet in all cases, the mood reminds me of early 2000s goth rock or, in the case of “Tangential,” industrial. Maybe it’s the droning strings, minimalist staccato riffs blended with held guitar, or the delicate use of spooky piano that jogs my memory, but to combine this atmosphere with a more traditional trip-hop backbone results in a sound both familiar and breathtakingly fresh. In the post-punk revival of the past 5 years, any act that can reshape history in a way that inspires new possibilities with sounds that came before rather than simply rehashing them deserves recognition. Vee and all her co-conspirators on Trippy:consider yourself recognized.
The biggest lesson Vee gains from trip hop, however, is how to do more with less. Goth and industrial prefer bombastic deliveries, with melodramatic melancholy defining the former while the latter prefers explosive anger. Yet even Trippy’s cover image implies a muted efficiency: a simple picture of Vee in a hoodie subtly morphs into a mind-bending waterscape easily missed at first glance. In the same light, no screamed or crooned theatrics are on display here; Vee’s lyrics are sung half-hushed, bordering on whispers or spoken word. She mostly abandons overwrought metaphors; while some staple tropes such as “what goes around comes around” and the tried-and-true comparison to bait fishing pop up, Vee spends most of her time musing on personal issues rather than aiming for some wide, universal circumstance. Thus, Trippy stands as possibly her most vulnerable release: no extra flash or flair, just a woman and her friends making music they love about themselves.
Standout Track – “Blindsight”: The most obvious trip hop song on the EP, Dogtablet’s collaboration results in a short, potent jam showcasing Vee’s reserved but effective lyrics. There’s just enough left vague to allow for opposed interpretations; either Vee sings about a desperate—though terrifying—need for vulnerable openness or she uses the illusion of exposure to safely manipulate any she might fear. Leaving the song on loop results in introspection that will eat away more of your day than you might realize.
The modern Darkscene has always been a place to push the boundaries of standard definitions of gender and self concept. Exploration of what society has subscribed is called into question through self discovery. Much like the umbrella that is goth and the genres within the artists who create the music form a broad and complex spectrum. I don’t want to dive deeply or speak for those that make up this rich tapestry. Instead I will focus on shining a light on some of the great non binary artists I have discovered.
Mystic Priestess – Oakland California dark punk band brings a cobweb lace batcave chaos full of elder goth tones and floor shaking intensity. The percussion is a non stop primal assault. The effective use of time change and intensity make each song dynamic and captivating. The instrumentation used shows a range and craft to the rough and passionate style. Eternal Resurrection features a muted saxophone that perfectly contrasts and shows a depth beyond standard 4/4 punk. The vocals carry a chanting energy teeming with life and prowling danger. A creature from a buzzing bog moving with jerking purpose ready to strike out at anyone who makes eye contact. I love that no matter how deep I dove into this album, I never found the floor. There was always another layer.
Favorite Track: Christian Lies – This opening tom fill makes my heart beat fast. It’s one of those recorded tracks you can’t help but picture live. The energy is infectious and the breakdown at 1:40 just collapses the floor and leaves you in a free fall ready for the trap to spring. A politically charged flame thrower that holds the spirit of what punk was always suppose to mean. I want to hear this song as I charge up the hill to burn post world capitalism from the landscape.
Sister Sarin – I first became aware of this Baltimore artist when they played percussion for Steven Archer with his Stoneburner project. Hemlock has one of those terrifying and remarkable energies you can’t help but spot from across a room. The sound is immersive and textual. A carefully orchestrated journey that makes the abstract realm of emotion take on shape through tone and hook. I’ve always been fascinated with chimes. That place where percussion and melody meet. Hemlock has an amazing talent for creating a dance of these aspects that seem to always strike a cohesive picture in my mind. Right Where I Belong is one of the few tracks that feature vocals and they are gorgeous. A sort of David Gahan’s ghost calling from beyond the veil. This EP is my soundtrack to a steamy ivory bathhouse lit with candles. It’s a challenge, it’s a comfort, it’s real.
Favorite track: Tripwire – Here those amazing chimes are on display. The percussion is complex and in the front. It’s a mystery of anticipation I’m drawn to because I want to be surprised.
Vortex Empath Xen, Moira Scar – Another Oakland California talent. A very experimental and raw sound with a minimalist efficiency. Sometimes with something this raw in production it might have a hard time capturing me, the more i listened the more it grew on me. It feels like being invited into an underground lair of where a secret society is preforming Kaos majick with thick smoke and hundreds of flickering candles. The guitars growl firing around the room like a demon summoned by Raw Power. This was never intended to be an easy hook driven listen. I feel the intention is to be unnerving. The vocals are delivered with power and unity like a flung spell taking shape from the void. I found myself constantly wondering if a cleaner production would clarify or ruin the vibrating hunger. This is an album you need to be in the right place for, however if you are in this place, it’s staggering and emotive.
Vinsantos – I first witnessed NOLA artist Vinsantos opening for Peter Murphy in a Chicago church and my heart stood still. It was as though they grabbed ahold of the center of their rib cage, tore themselves open, and 1000 ravens and doves flew out. The entire catalog is masterful in a way that makes the hairs on my arms stand up. This single in particular is a blend of the conceptual story telling of Robyn Hitchcock and the effortless emotion of Q Lazzarus. This song builds, it delivers, it places it’s hands on the side of your head and makes you stare into the windows of it’s soul. You need this, everyone needs this.
HIDE – If there is something more intense, powerful, and visceral in the modern scene than HIDE, I am hard pressed to say what it is. The Chicago based duo play slow meatgrinder machinery sounds that roll towards your body and you watch yourself chewed away by the awesome, unstoppable force of the lyrics and soul splitting delivery. There is nothing fun or happy go lucky about this phycological assault on the senses. This is true high art delivered with a morning star to the face instead of a paint brush. Sometimes when you hear an album, you are changed forever and terrified to keep listening. This is one of those records. You need to summon your courage, you need to listen, you need to be changed.
Favorite track: Daddy Issues – Holy shit, a brutal and unapologetic judgement on modern society and rape culture and Brock Turner. The fury and delivery of his fathers quote is staggering in it’s force. They hold a mirror up to society and then smash society over the fucking head with it.
Synth Witch – An artist from Portland Oregon that does lovely slow creeping interstellar travel sounds. Gorgeous textured bleeps and bloops I want to fill my ears while constructing high risk plans in the dangerous far reaches of space. One of those artists that truly captures a visual wavelength without the use of lyrics to paint the picture. Set the controls for the heart of the sun and sail away.
Favorite Track:Dangerous – This immersive soundtrack for a space heist is effortlessly cool. Perfectly tailored leather jackets in dirty space.
Arden and the Wolves – Wonderful talent from Los Angeles that also does a podcast about magic and art(I linked it below) . They have a voice that absolutely drips with power. A look and sonic energy that resonates with every step. I found myself struck by the theatrical delivery and spiritual passion. It almost feels like the goth version of modern secular music delivered by a soloist in front of a choir . Shadowed by the mystical roots to make a contrast. This is a teaching sound, each time i listen I feel like I am unraveling a story.
DORIAN ELECTRA – Artist from LA doing a blood pumping spicy trip hop. I love the way they spray the sexuality around like a firehouse. The vocal timber has a really unique feel and the energy is pure darkpop adrenochrome pumped right in the vein. The album brims with guest artist which adds a lot of flavors and complexity. This has such glorious relatable pop sensibility but delivered with razor edge and soul.
Favorite Track:My Agenda (Feat: Village People and Pussy Riot) – This has such a slinky beat and a real fire in the vocal delivery while holding a smoldering flame of pop beauty.
Darkswoon – Portland artist with singer Jana Cushman who also has done soundtrack work for the film “My Summer As A Goth”. Smokey driving shoegaze flavor. I really love how the music has a wall of sound shoegaze feel but the vocals are very forward and ring clear like a bell. Andrew Michael really puts on a clinic with the movement of a fuzzy swelling bass tone.
Favorite Song:The Flesh – Huge 10,000 maniacs meets Kevin Shields vibes. This song is a twisting mechanical snake with Jane pouring visceral soul from their mouth. Chefs Kiss.
Sawtooth – New England EDM artist Lillian Edith Martin that does a body shaking synth heavy dance drive. I love the labyrinth of staircases and moving paths. It’s glorious to hear dance music take on such a fantasy tone. It’s like listening to imagination. Some great collaboration with Juliet Brownell-Lee (Gorgeous vocals) and John Greene (Makes my arm hairs stand up). I have gotten lost in each of these tracks in different moments for different reasons.
Favorite Track:Crawling Towards the Light Feat: Juliet Brownell-Lee – Such a perfect homage to fantasy and nostalgia with modern dance flavor and perfect movement. This song is such a journey.
grabyourface – Marie does the most amazing sad industrial hybrid music. Tortured soul bearing poetry poured over a beat like blood down a fountain. Hearing the courage with which they reveal the most intimate aspects of their soul in every song fills me with strength every time I hear it.
Favorite Track: Shore – From the album Sea in 2020. When you think of a song as haunting and revealing. Every time I hear this is leaves me shook. The imagery, the self reflection, the tone.
Shadows Beloved – My dear friend Adrian Auchrome from Maine does such an amazing job of resurrecting old school traditional goth like Rossetta Stone and seasoning it with anguished vocal delivery. What really hits my heart every time is the guitar tone perfection that blisters to the front to take center stage. This album is so under appreciated in the discussion of the modern goth renaissance. Emotional abstracts and artisan crafting in perfect blend.
Favorite Track:All We Want – Adrian is at their best when letting their beautiful voice be itself and ring forth. This song captures that. The guitar solo is a powerful masterclass in modern traditional goth.
Sloar&Mordor – Wisconsin artists Matt Florence andSvea Tiberius Trzebiatowski bring their love of Science fiction and pop culture into this dungeon synth art house explosion of Easter eggs and shake that ass beats. I love the spoken word delivery and raindrop synth sounds.
Kali Ra – Oakland California artist does amazing offbeat driving guitar slather that I want to be my entrance music when I walk into a party. It’s dark and has it’s own saunter. David Goad has a 30’s phonograph sex appeal on their voice. It’s breathy, beckoning, and full of temptation. The album “The Monarch” leaps around between tone and style ranging from 90s goth pop to 70s Glam rock. Their voice is the one thing that ties together all these colorful threads stretching out on a loom of sound.
Favorite Track:Gaslight – The spirit of Brian Eno has been summoned and infused with youth to entertain me in the modern age. I also love what a contrast this is to the other tracks.
Dea Decay – Florida Dj/Artist Dea does this lovely candy sweet synthpop full of magic and color. If I had to choose a word to describe their sound it would be vibrant. It features samples and head bopping energy.
Favorite Track : Catronica – Look I love the new She-Ra and in particular Katra. Feel good adorable energy and breakneck fun pacing. Yes please.
WINGTIPS – Chicago synthdriven apocalyptical dreampop which captured my heart a few years back and continue to impress. Gorgeous flowing imagery turned into sound and fired out of a smoke machine to create a shimmering wave of deeper dreaming. One of the truly exceptional performances to see live in the modern scene. One of those bands that continues to evolve in complexity with every passing year.
Favorite Track:Last Minute – They have had so many amazing songs since, but you never forget your first love. When I heard this track I was instantly transported to the post apocolyptic John Hughes prom and I never wanted to leave. It’s unforgettable beauty.
Since I have come this far 🙂 I also want to give a shoutout to three Djs very near and dear to my heart that help make this scene what it is 🙂 Pat Allen, Kate Mior, and Azy Bats. All of them are great ways to hear the best in new music and keep your finger on the pulse of the modern scene. Pat 626, Darkness Forever, and Obscura Undead.
I can’t sugar coat this. The world is frightening and hard right now. People are scared for their financial future, their health and safety. Usually in times like these I turn to music more than ever. Even that has not been enough to inspire me. Tonight is the first time I am taking a stab at writing in a few weeks. Looking at the enormous wealth of material piled up in my inbox seems a daunting task. Tonight though, I felt that glimmer again. That need to share with you what is making me shine and feel connected in these dark times. Artists need to feel our love more than ever. Reach out and tell them you are listening. Show them you support them by buying their merchandise. Let them know culture still matters and the beauty of the world is still alive. Here is what touched me lately.
Attrition – The Great Derailer , This EP single from Martin Bowes Feat: Emese Árvai-Illés of Black Nail Cabernet is nothing short of breathtaking. I’m an enormous fan of her voice and style. This razor wire blend of Martin’s sandpaper and her silk to Industrial post modern jazz sounds is so fresh and so nostalgic. I have played this so many times in the last two weeks. Also the video is a must see piece of art on it’s own.
I Ya Toyah – Released Code Blue Reloaded: The one woman sonic army has uncorked this series of remixes from industry leaders like Skold, Joy Thieves, Adoration Destroyed, and Xentrifuge to bring re imaginings of 2018 emotional explosion Code Blue. Ania is currently shooting like a rocket to the top of the EDM /Electroclash world with her fearless emotional style. If you don’t know about I Ya Toyah know that your world could be brighter.
Joy Thieves – A Blue Girl : New release from the Chicago Industrial superband The Joy Thieves. Led by Dan Milligan and featuring industrial titans like Chris Connelly, John Fryer, Ania Tarnowska, Gordon Young, and many more. This album is that seamless place where 90’s electronic industrial meets hard rock and organic excitement to find a blistering percussion express train to shake that assville.
ELZ and the Cult – Horrified: The Turkish electronic heartthrob is back with this creeping storm of broken glass and velvet vocals. This song oozes sex appeal and sinister intention. Dance hard and scrawl ancient runes upon thine wall.
Caroline Blind – The Spell Between : The first new album from Caroline Blind of Sunshine Blind is about to drop and although too long a wait is well worth it. She has assembled a who’s who of the goth scene from The Wake, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, Switchblade Symphony, Pretentious Moi, Bellwether Syndicate, Muse. Do I have your attention yet. The record has covers and several new songs so full of passion and emotion I got misty several times listening. This is one of the all time powerhouse voices in goth spewing forth decades of ideas in one offering. It runs the range of dance hall burner, to soul baring acoustic Stevie Nicks tear jerker. If you never spent your formative years listening to Liquid, drinking black coffee and smoking cloves you need to embrace this release of all that made goth great. This record stands on the shoulders of it’s own giants.
Sopor Aeternus – Island of the Dead : Honestly this is one of those bands I am embarrassed I didn’t already know about. I heard this on the Pat 626 show and I fell instantly in love. It’s dark, quirky, and utterly unique. It has a mystical and theatrical quality full of poetry and intensity. Brooding and whip crack sharp with hammer dulcimers and vocal deliver as sharp as a dagger. Music like this is my dark secret passion.
Antipole – Perspectives II : Another album of steller remixes from Karl and Antipole. This one featuring Actors, Crying Vessel, SYZYGYX, ect. You may think, how does Karl manage to continue getting such incredible artists to remix his songs? Because they are so fracking good. I am hard pressed to think of anyone who has more of a scholars approach to taking the concepts of the past like Joy Division/New Order/Cure then holding that concept and breathing it forth as a new idea. So when you have that dedication to sonic texture, the line of people willing to take those building blocks and mix them into something that inspires them is endless. Prepare for another amazing offering. Starting with the first single by Actors.
Black Angel – The Widow: LA is doing a very bringing rock back to dark music thing at the moment. I hear a very psychedelic lizard king vibe happening here in this giant 16 song offering. Lots of steady movement and venom dripping from reverb laced retro amplifiers. I like the concept of a modern goth rock, but going back before Sisters of Mercy or Mission to a 60’s/70’s vide in dark music.
Panic Priest – Nighthunter: A very different feel for Chicago darkwave Panic Priest on Negative Gain. Jack has a deep resonant voice dripping with sex appeal and introspective energy. This new single evokes a very 80’s Depeche Mode stack and build feel. I can’t wait to see what turns this new direction takes.
Ash Code – 1981 – Ash Code has released a new video and it is aesthetic and sonic glory. I always feel when i listen to them this ultra sleek coolness full of retro advent guard beauty and slithering excess that transports me and gives you a glimpse into an ultra hip life just beyond my pedestrian fingers. Just listening to this song makes me feel like a part of something more awesome than i am.
Goth Covered – Oskar Terramortis the goth father of Europe has put together this stunning compilation of modern goth rock bands doing old school goth covers. My favorite is Sonsombre doing Nosferatu Dark Angel . The whole thing is magnificent as always. I’m just bummed it didn’t include our Peter Murphy cover
I have no shame, I’ll include it now. This is Amaranth‘s cover of Peter Murphy‘s I’ll Fall With Your Knife Feat: Lorelei Dreaming. DON’T YOU FUKING JUDGE ME
Listen Darklings, the world is cruel and promises get broken. That doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Band together, look out for each other, and keep sharing music that inspires you. We will get through this together.