Suggested Listening ’22: Massing

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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. 

A promotional picture of the band Massing. The members of the band are laying against a blue backdrop.
[Image courtesy of the artist]
Massing is Robb Coleman and Heath Holley. They’re West Virginia’s favorite boy band. Find WOUB Culture’s prior coverage of the group here.


—– Robb’s Picks —–

“Component System with the Auto Reverse” – Open Mike Eagle

As I understand it from the caption of an Instagram post, “Component System with the Auto Reverse” is Open Mike Eagle’s sonic love letter to “blank tapes, CTA bus rides and WHPK in 1997.” I think it’s safe to say that this album has enough unfiltered, cryogenically-preserved ‘90s boom bap seasoning to keep any hip hop head listening. Early highlight “79th and Stony Island” sees Mike recounting the thrill of his own fast-paced, emotional childhood, only to compare it in the next verse with the disillusionment of becoming an adult. After reflecting on how “the world blew” in 2020, the verse concludes tenderly with Mike taking solace in his family, declaring “the cure isn’t in a test tube/it’s the sound of my son belly-laughing in the next room.”

Other cuts like “Burner Phone” see Mike deliver some energetic battle bars alongside some lovably aggressive feature verses from Armand Hammer’s billy woods and ELUCID. This album is full of gems, but if you’re already a hip hop fan, definitely at least check out “For DOOM,” a tribute song from Mike expressing his admiration for the late metal-faced villain. He dips a little further than usual into some fun DOOM-like cadences here, with a slew of reverential references as he recalls getting to make music with DOOM before he died: “I drank my Ovaltine and redeemed my decoder ring/Got two songs with you, but only spoke through the go-between.” Mike’s slick wordplay goes as far with me as his emotional transparency and beat selection, and this album happens to be the trifecta of those things. Favorite songs: “79th and Stony Island,” “Burner Account,” “For DOOM,” “I Retired Then I Changed My Mind.”

“Yoshu Fukushu” – Maximum the Hormone

An album’s first track carries the burden of setting the stage for what’s to come. “Yoshu Fukushu” accomplishes this impeccably: deceptively plucky clean guitar melodies and lullaby vocals carry out a soothing intro before careening directly into a crashing, dystopic breakdown — accompanied by your classic screeching metal vocal. Maximum the Hormone make it clear that they are not interested in sticking to any one genre, style, or mood for the next hour. In the opening song alone, the band showcases some massive guitar riffs, groove-oriented heavy drumming, anthem-worthy singalong chants, and even a frantic spoken word section.

Fans of System of a Down will pick up some familiar vibes from the guitar and drum interplay throughout the record, along with some of the more madcap metal vocals. Maximum the Hormone’s vocal duties are split up between three singers, two of which are already playing instruments. Their ability to effortlessly switch between multiple vocal styles while retaining their own distinct sound is energizing; although a language barrier could make the listening experience opaque in certain aspects, the impact of the vocal rhythms and melodies is so great that they feel just like another instrument. If you’re open to metal and you’re interested in a record that aims to surprise, slam, and delight, look no further than this my friends. My favorite tracks: “Yoshu Fukushu,” “F,” “Tsume Tsume Tsume,” “my girl.”

“Louie” – Kenny Beats

Louie sees producer Kenny Beats coming into his own with his debut album. Full of delightfully lowkey-yet-upbeat instrumental melodies, basslines that hold the key to the human soul, and those crispy ass drums that knock in that special Kenny Beats way, this album delivers everything a fan of the producer could want and more. Kenny’s sound here invokes the past with flashes of soul and G funk, shaping his sound with a contemporary production style and a few metric tons of nostalgia.

Perhaps most interesting is Kenny’s use of features that play more like cameos, relegating some massively in-demand names in the genre to bit roles. At one point, JPEGmafia pops up lively as ever to deliver about two to three and a half bars on “Still,” whereas elsewhere on “Last Words,” we’re treated to Remi Wolf singing a baby-talk refrain that’s somehow just as poignant as any soul record Kenny could have sampled in its place. Letting themselves function as textures and loops, the additional artists in the album do their part in crafting a unique atmosphere of collaboration (alchemy?) that invites you to feel the fun of creating the music. Check out “Still,” “Last Words,” “Drop 10,” “Family Tree.”

“Slippery People” – Scuare & Sow

Texas-based rapper Scuare’s newest album is a collaboration with production duo sow. As far as Sow’s contributions to “Slippery People,” the group concocts a uniquely colorful backdrop for Scuare to vocalize over, marbled with prismatic synths and lively hi hats. Cannonball kicks and cracking snares are tempered by woozy, dazzling (sometimes ghostly) melody lines and soulful chord choices everywhere you turn. sow’s songwriting skill is on full display here, between the off-kilter dance bangers like “Skin Deep,” the slyly imposing swagger of the bassline that dominates “The Grift,” and what sounds like someone blasting RZA beats inside a house of mirrors on “Open Wounds.”

It’s hard to imagine what another rapper would have done over these beats, but I’m glad we live in a world where we got Scuare’s version. While his relaxed, charismatic vocal tone perfectly complements his introspective and observational lyrics, a lot of the fun of the project is anchored to Scuare’s versatility as a vocalist and writer. Equally as likely to serve some harmony-laced hooks as he is a densely layered rhyme pattern, there is never a dull moment when it comes to the vocal arrangement. Medical authorities recommend listening with caution, as Scuare possesses over four thousand different flows, each deadlier than the last. Favorite songs: “Open Wounds,” “Runnin Man,” “Fall Away,” “The Cost.”

“Absolute” – Kublai Khan TX

Released in 2019, this album has remained in my rotation fairly consistently since. Kublai Khan TX is a hardcore/metalcore band whose longevity as a touring and recording act has earned them a favorable reputation among fans of the genre. The appeal of Kublai Khan TX lies in their expressions of anger; the sheer hateful savagery of their caveman riffs is enough to kill anybody’s grandma on sight (God forbid,) and the power and energy of the guitars is matched to a tee by the drums and bass.

“Absolute” is punctuated by vocalist Matt Honeycutt’s frantic, husky screams and visceral lyrical style (despite my description of the guitar riffs, this isn’t death metal horror movie territory.) The lyrics can touch on harsh life realities as easily as general trash talk (both welcome staples for the genre,) but Honeycutt sets himself apart as a vocalist by being able to deliver his lines with equal parts brain and brawn. A line like “no weapon of heaven or man could sever me/from the primal need to live and die beside my species” already looks great on paper, but will have you making the stink face when it actually hits your ears. Favorite songs: “The Truest Love,” “Self-Destruct,” “Us & Them,” “Boomslang.”


 —–  Heath’s Picks —–

“DECIDE” – Djo

I’ve been following Djo pretty loosely since his first album, Twenty Twenty. I had been fascinated by Joe Keery (made famous by his role as Steve Harrington in Netflix’s Stranger Things) formerly being a member of the band Post Animal, which at the time, was a pretty up and coming indie psych band that I had already listened to a bit here and there. By the time I realized he was ever a member of the band, I believe he had left due to acting commitments and eventually started this solo project.

I gave this album a listen on a drive out of town, just looking for something to pass the time, not expecting to be as fully captivated as I became. From the very first track, “Runner,” you become enveloped in pulsing arpeggio synths juxtaposed by the sound of Joe’s ominously staccato croon. The sounds eventually swell and surround you until you’re seamlessly met with a fuzzy, anthemic chorus driven by some absolutely enthralling drum fills. From that point, listening to the rest of the album no longer feels like an option. It’s a great culmination of ’80s influences, synth tones, and techniques melded with modern songwriting in a similar vein as Daft Punk and Tame Impala.

My favorite tracks are “Is That All It Takes” and “Go For It” which transition into one another, but I also have to recommend “Half Life.”

“Barn” – The Long Lost Somethins

Barn is a warm, almost autumnal indie rock album tinged with grunge and a thin coating of shoegaze. Lyrically, it’s one of my favorite local releases in a long time. Their frontman and main songwriter, Jake Wheeler, uses a lot of modern metaphors to express otherwise inexplicable emotions and ideas. My favorite song on this album is “Factory Reset,” with a chorus that has been perpetually stuck in my head since the first time I heard it. “Factory Reset, maybe I’d forget that I was your device to be disposed. And every regret was only conflict that wasn’t killing me, but it was close.” It’s also a great example of how perfectly suited Josh Dyer and Jake’s voices are together in harmony. These harmonies, the subtle addition of transitional banjo parts, and the dynamic fluctuation of Jake’s raspy vocals from an almost bottomed out scratching whisper to a grit ripping belt, are just a few things about this album that I think help place it in a unique area of the scene, if not the sound of the genre as a whole.

The Long Lost Somethins came into the Huntington scene pretty hot over the course of these past couple of years and just recently released their debut album “Barn” after a rollout of great singles. This band is full of friends of ours from Huntington, comprised of Jake Wheeler, Josh Dyer, Kris Adkins, and Tyler Rice (aka Lil Droopy, who also has some great music worth checking out). The album was produced by our drummer, Jeffrey McClelland, who also plays keys and does background vocals on a good bit of the record. I had the honor of being asked to put some background vocals and trumpet on the tail end of the song “Holy Sunday” as well. I’m really proud of those guys, and I really love this album.

“11:11” – Pinegrove

Pinegrove is a band I never seem to get tired of. I watch a lot of live videos of them, because no matter what sound quality or mixing style their performance is subjected to, they somehow seem to always fittingly play into it, giving every video its own unique reasons to be watched and listened to. Not to mention how often they rearrange their songs for the live setting. One of my favorite live performances of them is their punchy four-piece performance from Audiotree, which feels much more electric than a lot of their more somber, folk-leaning performances. I loved this sound and wore it out wishing more of their studio work sounded like it.

The album “11:11” sort of met me in the middle with that wish and brought a whole lot more to the table to supplement. This album, more than their past releases, is driven by warm, cozy, yet crunchy electric guitar grooves, with just enough of that telecaster twang to put you in the pocket of folk that Pinegrove always delivers. This album also has a healthy amount of upbeat indie-rock songs, such as “Alaska,” “So What,” and “Cyclone,” that are well complimented by this more rock-centric instrumentation. But even a lot of the more mellow songs are pushed in that direction by slightly overdriven rolling guitar grooves layered underneath, or even transitional moments in choruses, bridges, or on the tail ends of verses swelling out of nothing into the sound of something huge. The song “Habitat” is a rollercoaster-esque example of this.

“The Shackletons” – The Shackletons

The Shackletons are a band I stumbled upon online and immediately gravitated to their sound, but more specifically, their vocals. They sound like what would happen if My Chemical Romance, Panic! at the Disco, and The Front Bottoms had a little indie rock baby band, but I’d also be comfortable comparing them to The Glorious Sons, with less southern rock influence. They have that super satisfying angsty garage rock kind of instrumentation backing these expressive, almost theatrical vocals that rip into that rasp I love in the higher register. Pair all of this with some blues-rock-rooted guitar solos and songwriting that allows for some really special moments to keep everything moving, and you end up with a really good album and a unique, lasting sound that deserves to be heard by more people. Give this record a spin, because when I first found them, I couldn’t believe each song didn’t have hundreds of thousands of streams. My favorites are “Exactly What it Looks Like,” “Wall Socket,” and “Hearts of Gold.”

“Folie à Deux” – Fall Out Boy

This album came out in 2008, but we’ve never stopped listening to it. It’s one of the few albums that Robb and I will put on during a long drive and sing every word to. I feel like it’s one of the first albums that Robb and I deeply bonded over, because while a lot of people love Fall Out Boy, not many people give a sh*t about this album. But to me, this album was a a perfect step away from their previous, much more successful album, “Infinity on High.” I believe “Folie à Deux” was carving its own lane into a new pocket of pop punk/alt rock music, but due to poor reception, what felt like a newly developing branch of the genre, was unfortunately clipped.

It doesn’t feel like anything has really followed or continued on a path too similar to the one that this album was paving. I do like to imagine that maybe Massing crosses that path every now and then, though. For me, this album came out while I was going into middle school. It was one of the first CDs I ever owned. I listened to it relentlessly, and when I revisit it now, I hear a lot of subconscious similarities in my own writing and in my own voice and vocal style. If you’ve never listened to this album or haven’t revisited it in a while, please do. My favorite tracks are “I Don’t Care,” “She’s My Winona” and “w.a.m.s.”