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8 Tracks: Post-hardcore band Thursday returns, plus glammy metal and skate-punk

Thursday's first song in 13 years, "Application for Release From the Dream," is a soaring, searing return.
Stephen J. Cohen
Getty Images
Thursday's first song in 13 years, "Application for Release From the Dream," is a soaring, searing return.

8 Tracks is your antidote to the algorithm. Each week, NPR Music producer Lars Gotrich, with the help of his colleagues, makes connections between sounds across time.

For the past few years, I've found my people on an Alabama field. Punks and hardcore kids — of varying ages, but many elders of the scene, sometimes with children in tow — communing in a pit... or at least at a safe distance to bathe in heavy riffs and Southern sweat. Furnace Fest is curated with a mix of classic and current bands — the former often cult favorites enjoying a second, third or fourth wind; the latter showing us where hardcore is and can be. I'm going back this fall not only to see Coalesce, Mindforce and Snapcase, but also to spend time with a crew of folks that I have quickly called friends.

Even though the barrage of heavy can tire my ears and limbs, Furnace Fest's secret weapon is serendipity: witnessing a teen girl's first stage dive, a 60-something gray hair in the pit smiling his heart out, unexpectedly giving into notalgia to remember what made a ska-punk band so formative. So, in 2023, when I sat on the grass far from the main stage to see the last half of Thursday's front-to-back performance of War All The Time — then celebrating 20 years since its release — I was struck by the tenderness of "Steps Ascending." It's a song about saying goodbye to someone who's died, quite tragically and violently, someone with whom you didn't leave on good terms. The post-hardcore band didn't perform "Steps Ascending" much back in the day, so that night, you could see the wounds on Geoff Rickly's face and in the soul of his voice. Even in an audience of a thousand or more, there was an intense communication on a personal level in those moments.

Thursday's been through cycles of formation: break up, reunite, repeat. This current era feels sturdy, due in no small part to sobriety and the wisdom that comes with age. The band's new song leads off this edition of 8 Tracks, which we'll have to call 10 Tracks because I couldn't help myself — there was just too much goodness this past week!

Thursday, "Application for Release From the Dream"

At its best, Thursday's songs are a catapult of emotion: a simmering tension builds as Geoff Rickly sweetly croons his fears and memories, then an ecstatic release of screams and riffs puncture the sky. The post-hardcore band's first song in 13 years does exactly that, but with a hard-earned perspective. "Application for Release From the Dream" largely favors the cinematic rock of 2011's No Devolución, but energizes the atmosphere with a brief-but-satisfying breakdown. A soaring, searing return.

Thou, "I Feel Nothing When You Cry"

I celebrate Thou's entire catalog; the metal band's vinyl literally takes up a full slot of my record shelves. "But Lars," you ask, "how do you differentiate between one eight-minute slog of metallic sludge from another?" Halfway through my lengthy monologue, you black out from boredom. But, see, this is where "I Feel Nothing When You Cry" feels like an oddly accessible entry point into Thou's caustic doom: it's rough, rowdy and hooky. There's riff density, but nothing is wasted in these four short minutes. The band drops out for a split second, barely a moment to catch your breath, then lunges back with glee. This song is built to destroy some punk basement in small-town America.

Sonja, "Discretion for the Generous"

A bar with go-go dancers is not generally my scene, but there I was last year, in Baltimore, as tattooed women in fishnets gyrated to Sonja's glammy and gothic metal as we threw back beers and pumped our fists... it was perfect. Vocalist and guitarist Melissa Moore's songs balance sleaze and sophistication with an economic sense of melody that bursts at just the right moment — she invites you into her world of lust and danger, but on her terms.

BbyMutha, "go!"

Up until now, BbyMutha's flow — a versatile, Southern drawl drawn from her Chattanooga, Tenn., roots — was comfortably set in slinky trap. On the forthcoming sleep paralysis, however, the rapper was inspired by U.K. garage and '90s dance music, raising the BPM significantly. Rocky Floyd's beat for "go!" begins in familiar territory, but slides a frenzied four-on-the-floor on top of the subdivided trap beat and synth squiggles. BbyMutha's coy and crass come-hither taunts, then becomes an over-caffeinated tizzy in this unexpected concoction.

Nia Archives, "Cards on the Table"

Speaking of somewhat contradictory mashups, Nia Archives achieves a similar fast-forward-slo-mo energy on this standout from her new album, Silence is Loud. Co-producers Ethan P. Flynn and Nia Archives pair a jungle breakbeat with the sunny strum of an acoustic guitar, twisting the alt-rock sweetness of Sixpence None the Richer into a rave.

Th Blisks, "Enchancity"

Th Blisks' music is lo-fi in both the classic sense (scrappy songs recorded in a DIY fashion) and the newer playlist-y way (beats to relax/study to). In its drippy tape-loop production — not to mention melodica — there are also lumbering echoes of The Slits' dubby post-punk. It's a strange space to occupy, but assuming that "Enchancity" is a portmanteau, this Australian trio has built an enchanted city all on its own.

Unwed Sailor, "Dusty"

In the last five years, Unwed Sailor has put out five albums. And, as someone who has followed Johnathon Ford's instrumental rock band for two decades, his tonal shift toward nostalgia — in particular, his love for New Order, Pale Saints, U2 — has resulted in some of his most engaged work. With his freewheeling bass out front and a propulsive drum beat, "Dusty" imagines a skate-punk ripper for dream-pop crate diggers, replete with Ford's first-ever skate video.

Alan Braufman, "Brooklyn"

For all of the action that the flute's getting in 2024, it's important to remember that the wind instrument not only captures meditative moods but also flights of fancy. Alan Braufman, an OG of the 1970s NYC loft jazz scene, has enjoyed a resurgence — his recent music remembers the fires of free jazz, but forges deeper grooves. On "Brooklyn," however, Braufman is all smiles. Switching from alto sax, his flute's breezy melody sets sail over Chad Taylor and Michael Wimberly's polyrhythmic romp, Ken Filiano's sinuous bass and Patricia Brennan's immaculate vibes (quite literally, a vibraphone). James Brandon Lewis, on tenor sax, hangs back in the countermelody. To me, the West African highlife and Afro Caribbean fusion calls back to some of Martin Denny's most successful experiments in exotica — playful and light, yet texturally dense.

Stephanie Lambring, "Hospital Parking"

Pass the tissues; this one's a tearjerker. Nashville's Stephanie Lambring knows how to frame the little things that slowly crush your spirit, yet doesn't turn away from whatever truths bloom or wilt from them. In the stream-of-consciousness ballad "Hospital Parking," Lambring turns parking receipts into daily reminders of life and love's fragility — how spiraling thoughts can cloud (or even shockingly clarify) our feelings for family and friends in a state of emergency. "Step out for a minute to get some air," she sings over a plodding piano by Wilco's Pat Sansone. "Breathe in someone else's nightmare." A brave song that doesn't want to be.

Daniel Bachman, "Quaker Run Wildfire (10/24/23/-11/17/23) for Fiddle and Guitar"

Daniel Bachman's on his own level these days. He can still whip out his singular fingerstyle guitar, but has spent a better part of the last few years not only interrogating his own music but also his sense of self and duty to the land and its caretakers. "Quaker Run Wildfire (10/24/23/-11/17/23) for Fiddle and Guitar" is a 25-minute piece for the Longform Editions label, which features field recordings from the fires that ravaged near and inside Shenandoah National Park, where he lives: You hear birds shriek through smoke, military helicopters drop gallons of water, leaf blowers attempting to combat the flames. Fiddle drones and glitched guitar mimic the violent flickers of devastation and the helplessness that follows. A haunting and sometimes harrowing meditation on human-caused climate change.

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