We’re told that “there’s always room for Jello.” For me, there’s always room for unapologetic, righteous indignation screamed over loud, fast and out-of-control punk music. Luckily, there’s War on Women, a self-described “co-ed feminist punk band” straight outta Baltimore. Their new self-titled album was recorded with J. Robbins (of Gov't Issue and Jawbox, among others), whose production credits also include Against Me! and Lemuria. “Blistering” doesn’t even begin to describe these 11 songs. From the punishing opening beats of “Servilia,” War on Women grabs you by the throat and squeezes tight with songs that address rape (“Say It”), reproductive justice (“Roe V. World,” “Pro-Life?”), internet trolls (“YouTube Comments”) and even the counterproductive in-fighting that plagues contemporary feminism (“Second Wave Goodbye”). With the group’s ferocious sound—particularly Shawna Potter’s vocals—I am reminded of lesser-known but still phenomenal grrrl groups like Huggy Bear, Tribe 8, 7 Year Bitch and Silverfish, as well as bigger names like L7 and The Distillers.
There’s a scene in The Big Lebowski when The Dude (Jeff Bridges) celebrates scoring a rug from (the wealthy) Lebowski by listening to a cassette of knocked-down bowling pins on repeat. If one filmic moment could act as an analogy for Bridges’ album Sleeping Tapes, it would be that one; it’s a collection of sounds that are comforting to a specific kind of ear. A pay-as-you-like release with 100 percent of proceeds benefiting No Kid Hungry, Sleeping Tapes is a collaboration with composer Keefus Ciancia (“True Detective”). Here, we’re privy to Bridges as less an actor and more an idiosyncratic person. “Temescal Canyon” finds Bridges leading listeners on an 11-minute virtual hike, complete with strangers, dogs and hang gliders. “Feeling Good” is a list of unique affirmations like “You have strong hands, capable of woodworking” and “You are very good at guessing when a traffic light will turn green.” Meanwhile, “Seeing with My Eyes Closed” sounds like Bridges babbling while passing out in a sensory deprivation tank. Overall, it’s a sweet, ambient drone album that’s both charming and weird.
Six albums in, noise-rock band Screaming Females continues giving it everything they’ve got on Rose Mountain. This New Brunswick, N.J. trio—bandleader Marissa Paternoster (guitar, vocals), bassist Michael Abbate and drummer Jarrett Dougherty—blends equal parts punk and dirty garage rock with hefty helpings of surfy riffs and girl-group harmonies throughout these 10 songs. There is one female screaming here (Paternoster), but goddamn, does her scream carry the power of a thousand women! With tracks like “Empty Head,” “Broken Neck” and “Triumph,” she can be courageous, sharp-witted, even vulnerable—sometimes all at once. “Ripe” commands us to “peel the skin raw, pinch til the feeling’s gone,” while the title song asks that we “speak of my legacy on Rose Mountain.” Despite her emotional versatility, there are times when Paternoster’s voice can start sounding a little samey, especially as Rose Mountain winds down. Still a mighty fine record, though.