Dead of Winter Singles Mixer
by Kevin J. Elliott

Thank goodness for the mailman. Given the weather conditions the US Postal Service has faced, each piece of vinyl that arrives in my mailbox is a small miracle. But as February arrived, the miracles became as frequent as the avalanche outside. Maybe I need an intern? Probably not. But Primitive Futures does have to cut back on the comprehensive surveys of each of our favorite labels’ release schedules and focus on those miracles that get continuous play in the rec-room. So as a diversion, this week I offer up three of my favorite singles this month. In the meantime, I’ll try to find some space for everything that comes our way.

Rot Shit, “Dead I” b/w “Hipster Grandma” and “Local Band Forever” (Columbus Discount)
If Pittsburgh’s Rot Shit wants to be the last punk band on earth, then so be it. They may end up like the proverbial tree falling in the woods. But if they want to portray Mike “Blank Dog” Sniper as the man who shot punk “right in the head,” be my guest. I couldn’t stop laughing. Despite the vitriol that spews throughout “Dead I,” Rot Shit’s punk eulogy, surely one of these lads has a Vivian Girls 7-inch tucked under his pillow. And if Mr. Sniper is a snake-oil salesman, consider me guzzler of said snake-oil (just read below). Let’s be honest, you could replace his name with a long list of others and each would be punk’s alleged assassin.

In the past, I considered Rot Shit’s angle a bit juvenile, but on their debut for Columbus Discount, it’s pretty blatant and effective. Cheap shots fueled by cheap shots, or perhaps the best three minutes of collector scum comedy money can buy these days. When peak oil hits will we melt down vinyl like this or use it as black market currency? Dead serious or immaterial boner-punk rants? I sort of enjoy sitting on the ledge with a numb tongue, not exactly sure which way to fall. As it stands, this single has it all. “Dead I” is biting and epic, like something that could have come from C/Z or AmRep and still not have been filed away around the turn of the century. “Hipster Grandma” is thrashy and dunderheaded, and “Local Band Forever” lands right on the mark, even if it’s a worn-out punchline, proving Rot Shit live up to their self-indulgent, sometimes message board-exclusive, hype.

Cosmetics, “Soft Skin” b/w “Black Leather Gloves” (Captured Tracks)
To be fair, Sniper and his Captured Tracks aren’t exactly dealing in “punk” all that much anymore. Just in the last few months his curatorial palette has explored gauze-covered dream-pop (Wild Nothings) to femme-fatigued post-rock (Wetdog) and many endearingly precious points in between (Hanoi Janes). But my favorite move by Sniper has been his continued championing of the NYC minimal wave label, Weird Records. Vancouver duo, Cosmetics, find the fine line between Captured Tracks’ cooed, submerged affectations and Weird’s sinister synth deep freeze, in turn making them the glowing highlight of the former label’s recent slate of releases. “Soft Skin,” puffing up a gloom cloud similar in scope to Cold Cave or pre-glamour Human League, percolates in buzzing black neon. Meanwhile, the leader of the pack, Aja Emma, waifs in gothic drapes befitting Siouxie Sioux. The combination is hypnotic in its simplicity, the band never once showing their cards. Perhaps I find it so enthralling because I prefer my dark wave in short, somatic doses, rather than over the span of a full-length. The B-side, “Black Leather Gloves,” continues with the dominatrix waiting room pipe-in, which might not bode well for a full-length. Should they go for the Spector-meets-Juju vibe on an album, I’d like to hear that.

Jerusalem and the Starbaskets, “Room 8B” b/w “Swingin’ Vine” (De Stijl)
Believe it or not, I’ve continually been hearing about the hometown charm of Columbia, Missouri. I’m certainly not moving there any time soon, but if ever that happens, I’ll have peace of mind knowing a band like Jerusalem and the Starbaskets is stalking the same streets. I doubt the duo is out on the town all the much, as it seems like they’re constantly whittling away at their own version of corrosive folk. “Room 8B” is the encapsulation of the Starbaskets’ Velvets-in-the-gymnasium ramble, recorded with a mic hanging high in the rafters, getting all of the rising soul and refuge. Imagine the Sic Alps in an amorphous Midwestern bender and you’re getting close. It’s remarkable for its earnestness, its slight hick drawl, and the bombardment of stinging guitar solos towards the end. The much catchier “Swingin’ Vine” solidifies my infinite love for the Starbaskets, furthering their reverb-laden revival into a massive wave of oscillations and wheatfield drone. That this single is being released by the venerable De Stijl makes the most sense, as this once green act has lurched their way into a wonderful abstract of rusted jangle and spiritual noise.