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Bug Moment's 'Bugs' is sad indie-rock at its most inventive

Bug Moment's "Bugs" opens with a song so vivid you can't help but assume the rest of the album must sound like it. "Moth" is as loud as it is downbeat, all slow, disdainful tempos and slash-and-burn guitars. It plays like somebody doused a pile of Codeine and Mazzy Star records in gasoline then lit a match.

It's a sound they could easily build an entire album around, but on "Bugs," they don't. Instead, the Milwaukee band adopts an anything-goes approach, dabbling in folky pop, sludgy indie-rock, digicore beats and Auto-Tuned scribblings as each whim strikes. The record is comprised of styles I've heard before, but the cumulative effect is something I never have: sadcore by way of hyperpop.

Bug Moment |

I'm very late to this one. Bug Moment released this album last spring, when they were still a duo of Milwaukee songwriters Jasmine Rosenblatt and Gray Edward. Since recording "Bugs," they've added a drummer (Aidan Hoppens) and started playing live shows. They're a real band now; according to their social media they've been working on a new album that should be out this year.

But on "Bugs," they don't sound quite like a band yet -- just two people with a lot of emotions, trying to find different, constructive outlets for them. Rosenblatt and Edward alternate between vocals, which combined with the hodgepodge nature of the music makes each song feel like a fresh start, creating a sense of constant renewal.

The production is just one step above a demo, yet the record's range and the intimacy these two create is mesmeric. The album that "Bugs" reminds me of the most -- spiritually, if not aesthetically -- is Damon & Naomi's "More Sad Hits," another work of two wounded souls taking turns expressing their melancholy, finding some comfort in the process. Both albums dwell on sadness not for the sake of it, but as an act of consolation.

Of course, Damon & Naomi never threw down a trap beat, as Bug Moment do on "Termites," one of several keyboard- and beat-driven tracks that bring "Bugs" into the decidedly more contemporary realm of acts like 100 Gecs and dltzk. It's that push and pull between modernity and indie-rock classicism that makes the record for me. This is music that isn't afraid of dating itself; that maybe on some level was even designed to date itself. If emotions are fleeting, shouldn't sounds be allowed to be, too?

Every track is named after an insect or some kind of insect or invertebrate. I don't know why. Maybe it's just an inside joke (this is band that also really enjoys Garfield; they don't take themselves all that seriously). But here's one theory about why they've gone all in on the bug motif: Each of these songs is, directly or indirectly, about feeling small. On a couple of songs Edward and Rosenblatt sing about being uncomfortable outside of queer spaces. On others they sing about feeling like outsiders even within intimate relationships. Even at their jokiest, there's a constant tension in these songs between wanting to belong and not belonging.

As I wrote earlier, I'm late to this album. "Bugs" is over half a year old, which is absolutely ancient in the timeline of new music releases. The band is already working on a new album that should be out this year, according to their social media. But since belatedly discovering "Bugs" last month, I've had a hard time pulling myself away from it. I've listened to it more than anything else. At times I haven't even had much desire to listen to anything else. Don't let the modest scale of this disarming little record mislead you. "Bugs" is a whole world you can get lost in.

Stream it below.