BIG STIR RECORDS is proud to announce the final installment in the current series of CDs collecting our celebrated weekly singles. BIG STIR SINGLES: THE TENTH WAVE is out June 12 and available for preorder at www.bigstirrecords.com/store
and everywhere now. It's a powerful compilation of the A- and B-sides issued in October and November of 2020, and the final run curated by Rex Broome (who also provides line notes and art design), and while it's the sterling example of the best music on the global pop rock scene that listeners expect, it's also an essential document of the turbulent times of its making. This is top flight musicianship in the service of radio-ready tunes, but it also tells us a great deal about the world as it is today, as seen by some of our favorite songwriters and performers. Put briefly: it resonates.
Hooks and harmony abound as always, but it's telling that the first words heard on the disc, from Will Harris of MYLITTLEBROTHER on the brightly anthemic “Howl”, are “I, I thought you were ill... so I gave all the blood I could spare, all the blood I could spill.” THE TENTH WAVE is simply full of material that was either crafted specifically in response to the pandemic and the intertwining sociopolitical crises that defined Autumn of 2020, or anticipated them with eerie prescience. The sly sunny pop of NICK FRATER's “California Waits” provides an escape before OCTOBER SURPRISE – one of two artists here who were actually THE ARMOIRES in disguise launching their INCOGNITO singles project – launch into a cheerily menacing art-rock take on John Cale's classic “Paris 1919”. Then things get real, as Detroit's THE INCURABLES invite us on Stooges-tinged tour through a “Funhouse” where “nothing is real, it's just all make-believe / You can try to run but you can never leave”. Yep, that's just about what things felt like at the time of the track's release and this is what musical catharsis is all about.
The marriage of rock and relevance continues as WHELLIGAN delivers the swirling “Rabid Hole”, an aptly psychedelic rumination on the surreal prevalence of online conspiracy theories, and D.F.E. (actually THE ARMOIRES again) takes up the thread of the “uninformed and unaware” populating what they deem “antisocial media” on the thunderous “I Say We Take Off And Nuke The Site From Orbit”. NPFO STRATAGEM, a supergroup of sorts engineered by Steven Wilson of PLASTICSOUL and Peter Watts of SPYGENIUS specifically for this dark season, pointedly turns a lighthearted Ringo Starr tune, “Back Off Boogaloo”, into a communal anti-racism anthem aimed at the White Supremacist groups appropriating the term. Don't worry, though, it's still jubilant enough to sound terrific next to POPDUDES' pitch-perfect cover of The Five Stairsteps' “O-o-h Child”, with its relevant message of hope – “things are gonna get brighter” – and Australian favorites ICECREAM HANDS with their chiming suggestion that “No Weapon But Love” will get the job done in these challenging times. In between, the UK's THE SPEED OF SOUND take aim at the bland monolith of big media on “Radio Safe”, and ALLYSON SECONDS & ANTON BARBEAU offer up the lovely but unsettling idyll of “Tie My Laces”. It all adds up to a befittingly befuddling but tuneful and impassioned take on the cultural chaos of the waning months of 2020.
THE TENTH WAVE's latter half, collecting the B-sides to the first eleven tracks, is just as visceral and perhaps even more appropriately off-kilter. MYLITTLEBROTHER's “Song About Amsterdam” addresses mortality with dark humor, and it's aptly followed by FRATER's somber “The Afterparty”. OCTOBER SURPRISE's portrait of a doomed relationship, “(Just Can't See) The Attraction”, pairs well with THE SPEED OF SOUND's thematically similar (and even darker) “No Kicks”. And WHELLIGAN captures the tenor of the times again on “Anyone Who Never Had A Heart”, anticipating election denialism with almost frightening precision: “We take exception to the evidence we find / Concerning incidents as yet unclarified”.
The B-sides also include a dazzling array of covers, including THE INCURABLES' irresistible pop-punk take on “Muskrat Love,” which is as much fun as one might imagine. But there are also reminders of times when activism and pop collided. There are THE ARMOIRES and POPDUDES again, with the Vietnam-era “Yellow River” and “Share The Land” respectively, both full-throated and passionate takes on the originals. The most timely and drastic reimagining is surely NPFO STRATAGEM turning the Dead Kennedys classic “Nazi Punks F*** Off” into a “Lounge Hallucination Version” that is just what it claims to be and must be heard (probably not on the radio) to be believed. Meanwhile, ANTON BARBEAU covers himself, with ALLYSON SECONDS joining in, on a gorgeous version of his song “Octagon”, leaving ICECREAM EYES to close things out with the appropriate plea “Can You Feel My Love”. On THE TENTH WAVE, as in reality, there is hope amongst the confusion, and beauty in bravery.
REX BROOME's liner notes acknowledge this all in a look back at the experience of curating the BSR Singles Series to this point of culmination. As the series continues to chart new and exciting waters under IRENE PEÑA's stewardship, THE TENTH WAVE and its companion volumes offer a look back at its first two years and stand as a testament to the fact that “the single” has lost neither its relevance nor its magic ability to thrill with musical craft and unparalleled immediacy. Let this wave crash over you and we believe you'll agree: they do make 'em like they used to, if you know where to look. And you can start right here.