Massing’s Heath Holley and Robb Coleman spotlight The Dead Frets, Bon Iver, Run the Jewels in their 2021 Suggested Listening

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It’s that time of year again! WOUB Culture has reached out to a variety of folks involved in various capacities with the music and arts throughout WOUB’s diverse coverage region to inquire: “what have you been listening to this year, my friend?” Find their answers on WOUB Culture all throughout the month of December. 

Massing (Submitted)

Massing is a bedroom pop/rock creative duo from Huntington, WV comprised of Heath Holley and Robb Coleman. In the live setting, Massing is a five-piece band, adding Jeffrey McClelland on drums, Corey Zornes on lead guitar, and Anthony Pino on bass.

Heath’s Selections: 

“Jaime” – Brittany Howard

As a die hard fan of Alabama Shakes, I was so excited to know that Brittany Howard was doing solo work in their absence. She’s one of my favorite vocalists alive, and has been a large influence for me in that facet of my music for the past 6 or 7 years.  Jaime is a fun, emotional, and experimental album, and if it weren’t for Howard’s distinct voice, I don’t think anyone would ever know it was adjacently linked to Alabama Shakes. These song structures, melodies, and motifs are much more atypical from what I was expecting on my first listen, and it honestly turned me off a bit initially. But it grew on me a lot over the course of the past year. There was recently an album of remixes put out for this album with renditions from other artists such as Bon Iver, BADBADNOTGOOD, Childish Gambino, and EARTHGANG, among others. Those remixes forced me to constantly go back and listen to the original versions to compare and contrast the differences, and this consequently became one of my favorite albums of the past few years. – Heath

“i,i” – Bon Iver

Bon Iver has been another large influence for me over the years. However, I got into Bon Iver a bit later than most. I became a fan towards the end, or maybe even after the rollout for his (self titled?) album, “Bon Iver, Bon Iver” and eventually got hooked on his following album “22, A Million.” That album had a very specific feeling. When it wasn’t delivering a hauntingly beautiful melody with acoustic guitars and orchestral backings, it was punching you with dark, percussive, organic emotion, which was contrasted by it being filtered through digital sounds and effects. A lot of the acoustic, organic sounds on this album felt like they were trapped behind these effects, but in a very intentional way that yielded the emotion. Bon Iver’s following album, “i,i” was arranged in such a way that it felt like an extension to “22, A Million” and made it feel like these two contrasting ideas finally stopped fighting to contain each other and cooperated instead.  -Heath

“Juno” – Remi Wolf

Remi Wolf is a new obsession for me. A few of her songs were popping up on my Spotify this past year, just in time for her to roll out some singles from her now released album, Juno. This girl’s voice is insane. Anytime I try to sing along to these songs, I get pissed off because a lot of times, you just can’t. Her range is vast, her vocal tone can shift from pure and resonant to raspy and aggressive, and she will seamlessly start rapping just as confidently as she sings. Her lyrics are this perfect blend of serious undertones wrapped up inside of a carefree goofiness, and I’m really drawn to that kind of lyricism. I like knowing an artist is having fun in a seemingly light-hearted way, while also getting something off their chest and writing something they feel is important. These songs are all so fun, so impressive, and so well written. -Heath

“Inside” – Bo Burnham

I tried to come up with a reason to not include this album, but my listening habits wouldn’t let me. I can’t deny this is probably my most listened to album this year. I’ve been listening to Bo Burnham since I was in 6th grade. I watched all of his standup specials, his YouTube videos, his Vines, and in a lot of ways that are probably not unique to my own experience, it feels like I grew up with him just a few years behind. I knew that after his last special, “Make Happy,” he had given up comedy in exchange for a career in film. When that happened, I was sad, but also happy and proud to see that he was transitioning his life to something he would enjoy more. When he announced his Netflix special “Inside,” nearly 5 years later, promoting that he had worked on it through the majority of 2020, I knew we were all in for something special. I had no idea what to expect from a comedy special filmed completely from home, but I had the utmost faith that if anyone could do it, it was him. What I didn’t realize was that he was going to make me cry. This special was one of the most technically, creatively, and emotionally inspiring pieces of content I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t feel like something that one single person should be capable of. The directing, the editing, the lighting, the songwriting, the set design, the experimentation, it was all so much to take in as a creative. Not to mention, how emotionally vulnerable he was at that time and how well he captured it and accentuated it and worked with it. This is an album of the songs performed on that Netflix special, and while it doesn’t wholly encapsulate the experience of the special, it’s still one of my favorite collections of songs from this past year. -Heath

“Love, Life, Lie” – The Dead Frets
This EP was written and recorded by some of our best friends. The Dead Frets are composed of Tyler Cooper, Sarah Cooper, Garrett Key, and Jeffrey McClelland. This EP is dynamic, driving, fuzzy, and catchy. Tyler’s got a really memorable vocal tone that stylishly swings on and off of melodies, and Jeffrey is just so good at accompanying that with harmonies. Lyrically, these songs heavily describe finding your footing in life while simultaneously becoming disillusioned with the mundanity of it. The tone of these songs seems to lightly mock this mundanity and routine, while also providing genuine insight with some very casually profound language. Some of these one-liner lyrics such as “Anything can happen, anything happens most everyday,” or “I write my will on the back of my electric bill. It’s late again” resonate and stick with me because of their simplicity, their relevance, and their ability to be analyzed and not just heard. We shared an EP release show with them a couple years ago for this EP and even after that long, I’m still listening to these songs regularly and hoping they have plans to put something else out in the near future. -Heath

Robb’s Selections: 

“Garbology” – Aesop Rock, Blockhead

“Garbology” is the collaborative album that fans of Aesop Rock and Blockhead have been hoping would materialize for literal decades. Blockhead’s production style fits Aesop’s vocal delivery like your favorite old T-shirt. Whether Aesop is spinning a yarn about transforming into a grotesque creature on “Oh Fudge,” or leveling with the listener about his tendencies to shut out others and rely only on himself on songs like “More Cycles” (I think that’s what he’s talking about anyway,) Blockhead’s combination of crate-dug melodies, textures, grimy drums and bass lines transport the listener to a sprawling, colorful soundscape that makes for more than an apt backdrop to compliment Aesop’s world building. Check out the lyrics on Genius if you get bored. The rhymes are so densely-crafted and esoteric that half the fun of listening is picking up on stuff you didn’t notice the first time. – Robb

“Precious Art” – Rozwell Kid

This album is kind of old at this point but I don’t care, I still listen to it all the time. Rozwell Kid is a band near and dear to my heart, and “Precious Art” is them at their best (so far.) I’ll admit that I’ve described these songs as sounding “like Weezer’s Blue Album on steroids,” but they’re really much more than that. The lyrics can turn from sincere to sarcastic to silly on a dime, mirroring the way that we realistically speak with our friends. Songs like “Wish Man” can revel in their own goofiness all they want because they’re backed up with some serious songwriting power. Quirky (not in an annoying way) bedroom rock is at its best here, with the opener “Wendy’s Trash Can” setting the stage for what’s to come. Perhaps most exciting for me, Precious Art sounds like it was written in an alternate timeline where catchy melodies and searing guitar harmonies rule the world. This is the world I live in when I close my eyes. – Robb

“LP2” – Secret Band

This is pretty crazy and fun. Secret Band is a metal band that is happy to blend subgenres and experiment with song structure and guitar effects to keep things unique. The drums and bass on the album interlock to create a super-powered skeleton for the music, but for my money, the real stars of the songs here are the guitars and the vocals. Will Swan and Martin Bianchini almost never play the same thing, letting their sinister/funky/jazz-chord riffs (you’re likely to get either at any given time) complement and enhance each other, resulting in moments and moods that are constantly evolving. Perhaps most noteworthy is vocalist Jon Mess’ lyric style: an ever-turning roulette wheel of random topics and techniques. Even his sillier material can hint at something melancholy or wistful (“I’m sick of this bald-headed baby stuff/I wanna grow up and not spill my guts,”) but we’re emotionally grounded by plenty of straightforward lyrics in small bursts throughout the album. The thing to embrace here is that there are no rules. Not in the lyrics, not in the riffs; whatever sounds good goes into the song. In one of my favorite moments, the album’s final song “Moon” ends with a reading (if you could call it that) of a particularly creepy H.P. Lovecraft excerpt over a downright cataclysmic riff. – Robb

“RTJ4” – Run the Jewels

I’ve been a big fan of Killer Mike and El-P’s collaborative project Run the Jewels since a friend showed them to me back in 2015. Last year they released their fourth album, and in my opinion, it’s their best one yet. RTJ is a group that specializes in intensity; take a listen to any given song and you’re likely to be pummelled by dense layers of hard-hitting drums, head-spinning rhyme patterns, and mesmerizingly futuristic synth textures. But the thing RTJ does equally as well as intensity is honesty. Killer Mike and El-P get vulnerable all over this album, but especially on the closer “A Few Words for the Firing Squad.” The whole thing is great, but my personal favorites include “Yankee and the Brave,” “Out of Sight,” and “Pulling the Pin” which features a hauntingly poignant vocal feature from Mavis Staples. – Robb

“The Money Pit” – The Money Pit

I wasn’t aware of Gatsby’s American Dream when they were active, but I’ve been informed that The Money Pit is something of a spiritual successor to that band. Their self-titled album has been one of my favorites for a few years, and it’s stayed in my rotation since I first heard them. The opener “I Want My Money Back” paints an upbeat, fun backdrop with some slightly melancholy, almost conversational lyrics: “This isn’t how they said it would be/I thought by now I’d have a robot serving me” is one of many one-liners from singer Nic Newsham. Newsham’s melodies and delivery are a nice peanut butter to guitarist and songwriter Bobby Darling’s jelly. One of my favorite things about this album is all the songwriting choices Darling makes, whether it’s chords, tempo, or adding extra sauce to the dish with lead guitars and effects. Check out “Big Blue Waves,” “Blackout,” and “Destroyer” for some of my most treasured jams. -Robb