An underrated little indie rock gem from last year was Nothing Valley from Chicago’s Melkbelly. Like the best of ’80s and ’90s, like The Pixies and Hole, as well as like Throwing Muses and their myriad offshoots, Melkbelly is scrappy yet precocious. They’re rough and rowdy, balancing melody, artfully molded yet dangerous guitar noise and some simply great rock songs.
But drummer James Wetzel tells me via email he saves his recklessness for the stage. “If I were as noisy and unhinged when hanging out as I am when playing music,” he says, “I probably wouldn’t have any friends.”
Wetzel explains a lot of his band’s on-the-verge energy comes from Melkbelly vocalist Miranda Winters. “Miranda is loud and noisy and likes to get rowdy,” he says.
On album tracks like “Cawthra,” Winters lets her voice become a force of nature over loud-quiet-loud power chords and a rhythm section finding jagged pockets in dark places. Just as the song reaches its climax, it cuts off abruptly and you’ll find yourself catching your breath.