There’s no denying that, over the past decade and a half, music has opened up. The internet’s made way for genre explorations and collaborations that, before, might have never seemed possible; it’s obliterated regionalism (and perhaps territorialism), given global music acolytes access to the micro-est of genres, exposed artists and fans to new sounds. But within that, it’s also created a more specific desire for locality—the preservation of the embattled homegrown music scene that can operate and thrive, reflecting the specificities of the community that creates it. Since the tragedy at Oakland’s Ghost Ship, and the subsequent and related shuttering of long-running independent arts venues in Denver (Rhinoceropolis), Los Angeles (Purple 33) and Baltimore (Bell Foundry), tensions between municipalities and creatives have become even more heightened.
And nowhere in the United States is tenser than Washington DC, the city with a long history of a hyper-local political music scene that encapsulates, iconically, the stark disconnect between citizens and the state. “I pee, and I see the Capitol building, and the Washington monument,” said G.L. Jaguar, guitarist for the beloved D.C. punk band Priests, when the band came by Jezebel’s office for a chat in December. “It’s outside my bathroom window. It’s in the water.” Given their environment—and the writ-large symbolism of that environment—it’s easy to assume that Nothing Feels Natural, Priests’ debut album full of personal-is-political polemic and dissonant urgency, is an especially relevant album we need now, considering the political climate and, you know, the way its title is a great summation of our current mood! But in so many other ways, it’s the kind of album that we always need—one that, like Priests’ other work, is personal and specific but relatable, rousing and cynical but not prescriptive, intelligent and questioning but not alienating (except for when it means to be, via jagged guitar stabs). It’s also deeply beautiful, chopped in half with a string section interlude that feels like release and a reminder to, if you can, chill out once in awhile.