Last semester felt so chaotic. When discussing the Fall 2019 with my friends, we remember nothing but a blur of moving in, tailgating football games we never attended, taking midterms we didn’t have time to study for and getting through all the messy personal drama that filled in the gaps between those. It seems the stress I felt at the time was shared (and, I’ll admit, the retrospective solidarity is nice).
In the midst of fall’s whirlwind, I fell out of touch with new music. My listening habits fell into a bit of a rut, relying on artists or albums I already knew. Of course, I sought out new music my favorite artists dropped. But when I’m not discovering new artists or genres that excite me with their innovation or novelty, I feel like my music taste is stagnant. So many talented people exist in the world, and I know they’re always out there making new stuff. I was frustrated that I couldn’t find it. Perhaps I just wasn’t doing a good job digging.
Luckily, this semester has been treating me far better. I have a better grip on my personal, artistic and career goals. Music-wise, I’ve experienced a similar upswing: I’ve discovered so many new, incredible artists. I’m excited about music again. And it all started with Rosie Tucker.
I was lost in a hole of Spotify playlists when I stumbled upon one dedicated to indie music: “Fresh Finds: Index.” At the time, Tucker’s song “Ambrosia” was the first song on the list. I pressed play and continued mindlessly scrolling through the app until Tucker started to sing.
Tucker’s singing is strong and smooth, almost ringing like a bell. An electric guitar echoes behind them, Tucker’s voice floating above the even strumming. As the verse turns to the pre-chorus, the melody escalates, growing with tension. When the chorus begins, I feel like I am passing through a tunnel, snapping out of the darkness into a calm, embracing light.
“Ambrosia, dish of the gods,” Tucker sings angelically, describing the dessert pictured on the single’s cover art. I played that song over and over for weeks. I showed it to my friends every chance I got, often quieting the conversation for them to ask, “What song is this?” or “Who is this?” As time passed, I would still ask, “Have I showed you Rosie Tucker?” To which they would reply, “Yeah, you already did.” I must have sounded like a broken record but I really was obsessed with that track.
Hooked, I started to look up Tucker online. I learned that they are based in Los Angeles, once held a residency at the Bootleg Theater and have performed with the likes of Soccer Mommy and Remo Drive.
[Their next concert is with Citizen and Wicca Phase Spring Eternal (emos, let me hear you!), and I could not be more upset about the fact that it is sold out. Consider this a shout into the world asking if anyone has a spare ticket.]
My research continued, leading me to Tucker’s record label, New Professor Music. The label claims to be “The World’s Greatest Record Company,” a superlative that makes me smile with its innocent confidence. Based in L.A., the label includes artists like Cheekface, Ramonda Hammer and other artists that have not released music or toured recently.
Cheekface was the second artist from New Professor that I thoroughly explored. Its doodle-y album art features speech bubbles, obsolete technology and junk food. This quirkiness is also present in the indie-rock trio’s music itself, complete with talk-singing and the perfect amount of cowbell.
My favorite track of theirs is “‘Listen to Your Heart.’ ‘No.’.” The chorus is a conversation, as insinuated by the title, bouncing between good advice and complete dismissal of said advice. “Listen to your heart (no) / Keep on keeping on (no) / Just say ‘no’ to drugs (no) / Eat a healthy lunch (no)” is just the beginning of this back-and-forth. I find the playful pessimism self-aware and endearing.
After diving into Cheekface’s discography, I continued my journey through New Professor’s artist roster with the band Ramonda Hammer. Like what I have experienced with Hayley Williams from Paramore and Emily Haines from Metric, this group inspires me to wear thick black eyeliner, stomp on hearts and whip my hair while playing the electric guitar.
Their lyrics are not shallow, not just about sex, drugs and power like much of rock ‘n’ roll. Frontwoman Devin Davis sings, “I never wanted company / Then welcomed almost anything / I always wanted empathy / I feel it now” in “Empathy,” one of my favorite tracks by the band showcasing the emotional depth that coexists with their harder sound.
The band’s name reminds me of Ramona Flowers, a character from “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” which reminds me of the movie’s soundtrack that could very well feature the songs by Ramonda Hammer. The band’s female-fronted rock sound fits the movie’s tone perfectly.
I’m grateful that I was ushered back into the world of discovering amazing, up-and-coming musicians by a local, consistently solid record label like New Professor. Its artist roster represents a variety of identities and musical genres, and it provides a platform for otherwise underrepresented people. I also appreciate New Professor’s dedication to the local L.A. art scene, signing smaller artists because the label believes in their music. And New Professor never skimps on quality; I haven’t listened to an artist from the label that I haven’t liked.
This semester really is looking up.
Fiona Pestana is a junior writing about Los Angeles’ local music scene. Her column,“The Scene Kid,” runs every other Thursday.