A longtime staple of the site makes a pick for the Hidden Gems series today. From his work with Parts & Labor (where he first came to my attention), to solo work, and his recent records with Upper Wilds, Dan Friel is a master of noise pop. His latest is one of the most effervescent, vital records of the year, and in a time of dour dealings its guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Dan nabbed an overlooked record from last year, a time when lots of things got swept away from worldview, so its nice to get a second look. Check out how the new record from Slum of Legs came into his life and the impact it had.
“My hidden gem is from last year, which could maybe feel like too recent a thing to call hidden, but I’m guessing most people reading this know how shit works,” notes Dan. “Once a few months have passed (or weeks), albums sink or swim depending heavily on how much luck and capital they have to keep them afloat. Anything older than a month can be a hidden gem. Some of this is just how our brains work now. It’s certainly rare for an album to stay in my head more than a year on, but Slum of Legs’ self-titled LP is still there constantly. As a bonus, I figure celebrating a hidden gem from a band that is still active might bring them a new listener or two, which seems like the best outcome of writing something like this.”
“As I am not a music writer, and truly love this album, the inclination to say “JUST LISTEN TO THE ALBUM!!!!” and walk away is very powerful. The tunes are strong enough that I am intimidated by the idea of dissecting their magic in any way, but I’ll run down a few highlights. “I Dream of Valves Exploding” probably nails Slum of Legs’ rickety British cyberfolk the best for me, but the album is so frustratingly consistent it’s hard to say,” admits Friel. “The lyrics seem heavy on cut and paste techniques, but lefty politics come through like a sledgehammer in enough places to make the abstraction always feel brave, never lazy. The hooks are monstrous, the violin playing harsh and gorgeous, and the backup vox are gloriously generous with the woahs and aahs.”
“The thing that kills me though, is that after a few songs of nailing something in the tradition of The Raincoats and Dog Faced Hermans, they add to the equation by dropping in these big skronky synths as a kind of second lead instrument next to the big skronky violin. It works so well I’m jealous. The way these two unlikely heroes ride together through the song “Sasha Fierce” is immediately satisfying and just unlike anything I can think of. Adding anything that concrete to the rock canon is just herculean at this point. It’s the kind of album that leaves me excited to go back to the drawing board.”
“I’ve seen a scant handful of reviews, but I learned about Slum of Legs from writer/musician Zachary Lipez screaming something along the lines of “Why is nobody talking about this album” on twitter about a year ago, and now I’m that guy too. It’s worth noting that this instant hidden gem had the historically difficult release month of March 2020, but even so, it boggles my mind that a band this good and this seemingly zeitgeisty isn’t running laps around everybody else. Ok. I’m outta words. Just listen to the album.”
This is one of those moments when I’m glad that Hidden Gems brings this to my attention. A super flayed noise-pop gem that definitely didn’t get the love it deserved. Its still available via the group’s Bandcamp and Cargo, so nab it while you can. One year back is never too soon for a Hidden Gem. They hide all around us all the time and Dan’t right, why isn’t anyone talking about this album? Pick it up and pair it with the new Upper Wilds for an adrenaline jolt.
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