Kim Gordon, “BYE BYE” (Matador)

Ever since Sonic Youth went on extended hiatus in 2011, bassist/vocalist Kim Gordon has gone on a creative bender. Seemingly on a mission to outdo her prolific ex-bandmate/ex-husband Thurston Moore, Gordon has expanded her musical output in the groups Body/Head (and their collabs with Aaron Dilloway and Gate), Glitterbust, and as a solo artist under her own name. With these endeavors, she's explored less accessible sounds, and on her 2019 solo debut, No Home Record, electronic music of a particularly noisy and jagged bent.

It must be tough to shake those Sonic Youth-ian elements when you've helped to establish that band as a totemic alt-rock success story, but Gordon has shown no interest in coasting on this legendary legacy. Which is one more reason to respect the heck out of her. Now 70, she's still demonstrating a restless creativity that proves getting older doesn't have to mean repeating past musical glories with diminishing returns. 

The lead single from her forthcoming album, The Collective (out March 8), "BYE BYE" broods like the hardest examples of that short-lived strain of underground hip-hop known as horrorcore (Gravediggaz). It also resembles some of the darker specimens on Crooklyn's WordSound label (Spectre, Sensational) and Kevin Richard Martin's late-'90s work as ICE.

Over earth's-core-deep bass pressure (which totally overwhelms the pipsqueak beats), a metallic facsimile of Bernard Herrmann's stabbing Psycho strings, and a massive grinding sound, Gordon recites a litany of sundry items (purse, passport, sleeping pills, toothpaste, earplugs, travel shampoo, etc.). She's as deadpan as ever, thankfully, as she prepares to make a stealthy exit from what appears to be a bad scene. The list's mundanity just adds to the track's overall ominousness. Credit should also go to producers Justin Raisen (Lil Yachty, John Cale, Yves Tumor) and Anthony Paul Lopez, who bring the noise artfully and thickly. 

Mary Timony, "The Guest" (Merge)

We might as well stay with the theme of esteemed queens of American indie rock, as Mary Timony has a fab new single ahead of a forthcoming album, Untame the Tiger (out February 23). Timony has been creating tartly beautiful and brainy rock in a variety of groups and solo since 1991, when she was playing guitar with the sainted Autoclave (whose debut single, by the way, was released by K Records). Her compelling songwriting, understatedly alluring singing, and slanted and enchanted guitar work with Helium, Wild Flag, Ex Hex, and others have made Timony a revered cult figure who's weathered the last three decades with more integrity than most from her generation. 

Her first solo release in 15 years, Untame the Tiger arose out of the grief from the end of a long-term relationship and from caring for her ailing parents, who've both passed away. Out of such intense loss, you might expect Timony to drop a collection of harrowing, cathartic tunes. But she's much too nuanced an artist to go primal scream on us. The nine songs on Untame the Tiger—five of which feature Dave Mattacks, drummer for legendary UK folk-rockers Fairport Convention—revel in Timony's keen instincts for melodic grandeur and intricate guitar playing, both electric and acoustic. She's alchemized sadness into art without bursting any blood vessels.

"No Thirds" begins the album with sublime, gently undulating rock, perfectly pitched between Fairport Convention and R.E.M. It soars with an orchestral majesty that feels liberating, as if Timony's shedding the weighted blanket of sorrow under which she'd been buried. "Dominoes" is the sort of punchy, emotionally charged indie rock that arenas-full of bands try to master, but few can match Timony's deft touch. It doesn't hurt that Mary's guitar recalls Phil Manzanera's in Roxy Music's "Prairie Rose." The spellbinding "Looking for the Sun" melds rhythmically robust rock with melodious, mystical folk—a rare combo. "Not the Only One" sends us strolling poignantly toward the sunset with a dose of hypnotic, downcast bliss-pop.

The album's latest single, "The Guest" begins as a gorgeous, melancholy ballad spiced with a slide-guitar motif that's tear-streaked yet tough. The song then gathers power and momentum as it goes, building to a depression-dissolving anthem. Odds are, you can relate to Timony's lyrics: "Hello, loneliness, you've come back home/You were the only one who never left me alone/I tried and I tried to say goodbye/But you insist, you insist... Am I driven to emptiness or does it just come to me?/When all I wanna do is feel the light shining through me/I'm tired of feeling down/Always on my own."

I generally don't get too excited by indie rock these days, but Untame the Tiger really resonates. Overcoming serious adversity, Timony's attained another peak.

Mary Timony performs March 23 at Clock-Out Lounge.