If I’m being honest, I have not listened to a single new release in the past couple of weeks because of midterms … and because of my commitment to going to the gym. In fact, I have gone to the gym so much this past year that it has become a thoughtless instinct to plan out my day with an hour or so set aside for a workout. In lieu of me talking about new music, why not hash out some of my favorite certified bangers to grind to in the gym? Try them, then thank me later.
“Survive” by Show Me the Body
The way this song starts is so incredibly awesome that I play it at the beginning of almost all of my workouts for a much-needed adrenaline boost. It commands the listener’s attention with a few shuddering jabs from the most brittle, ugly-sounding electric guitar before picking up its pace, morphing into a monster of a track. Frontman Julian Cashwan Pratt delivers completely frenzied vocals, detailing his hatred for police, who he coldly refers to as “pigs,” as a Latino gang member: “The big bad cholo know what it is / Fuck the pig war, bury the pigs.” The song’s blunt message of speaking out against police brutality and its relentlessly pounding walls of sound make for an invigorating listen.
“New Girl” by Suicide Machines
I’m not really sure what Suicide Machines put into this song, but I have not been able to stop listening to it ever since I found it on a random band’s Spotify playlist. A frenzied fusion of ska and hardcore punk, “New Girl” sounds fresh despite being released in 1996, and I always put it on when running late to class or heading to the gym to put a little pep in my step. The song has an unshakably infectious personality — the playful background vocals (“He can’t wait to tell you ‘bout his new girl!”), the dizzying and frenetic shots of snare and hi-hats peppered throughout the track, the goading lyrics sung with so much swagger. No other song has had quite the hold on me this year like this one.
“To Fix the Gash in Your Head” by A Place to Bury Strangers
A Place to Bury Strangers, cited as “The Loudest Band in New York” by many music publication outlets, definitely lives up to its name. This harrowing, brain-crushing track pummels its listener with a vicious drum machine beat overlaid with metallic synths that feel like staring into a flashing strobe light. Surprisingly enough, the beat is just bouncy and catchy enough to give this noisy shoegaze track a pop flare to tap your foot to. The lyrics are just as menacing as the production: “I want to beat you up / I don’t care, ’cause I won’t feel sorry.” Perfect for some serious lifting.
“The Company Man” by Lee Bains + The Glory Fires
“The Company Man” is a country rock song, and usually, I’m not a big country music fan. The only other song on my workout playlist that is country-adjacent is Sturgill Simpson’s “Sing Along” (a damn great song); however, “The Company Man” has undeniably been one of my most played songs of the year. The best part about this song is the epic earworm of a chorus, fueled by scuzzy, rollicking guitar riffs and lead singer Lee Bains’s husky, captivating vocal ability on display, belting at the top of his lungs: “Don’t ever trust the company man!”
“Countin’ Up” by Rico Nasty
I used to work out to Noreaga’s 1998 hit “Superthug,” at least until I heard punk rapper Rico Nasty’s interpolated version that blew it out of the water. Nasty’s version brings her voice closer to the forefront of the mix, matching with the big, bassy beats that producer Kenny Beats added to the track, switching out the softer, sandier percussion laid on “Superthug.” Compared to Noreaga, Nasty takes this beat and runs with it, making for a punchier version. I cannot get over the insanely catchy melody, with a hard-edged, squawking synth mirroring the beat and Nasty’s staccato flow amazingly. Rico Nasty rarely misses.
“Terminal” by AFK
I’ve been following the rap trio AFK, ever since they released their Network EP back in 2020, and I have always admired their creativity compared to other acts in the punk rap and horrorcore canons such as $uicideboy$ and City Morgue. Less poppy and sample-driven than $uicideboy$ and more boldly experimental than City Morgue, AFK manages to carve out a niche for their sound, and “terminal” is a perfect example. This song is pure workout fuel. It begins with bustling wooden knocks and hi-hats before being swamped in murky bass. “I feel the boot come down, come down on the back of my neck!” is cried out with urgency, grabbing its listener by the throat. Suddenly we’re plunged into a nightmarish, claustrophobic sea of chants and heavy thuds of bass, though the plunge is not uncomfortable so much as it is cathartic. This track does everything right in its short 2:33 runtime.
“Devils Haircut” by Beck
One of my favorite songs from the ’90s, “Devils Haircut” (oddly and annoyingly spelled without an apostrophe) is the first track off of Beck’s critically-acclaimed 1996 album Odelay. Surprisingly enough, the song is composed almost entirely out of samples, yet Beck somehow molds them into his own. As an album opener, it’s an immediate ear-grabber, starting with a booming four-note electric guitar melody that becomes the engine of the entire song. The percussion samples continuously switch, driving the track from verse to chorus and back again, while Beck’s low-pitched delivery full of swagger effortlessly rides over the top, commanding the chaos. The amalgamation of samples makes for a captivating, energizing experience, and Beck’s smooth, cool demeanor gives me a sense of confidence when strutting around the gym. My favorite part, however, is when Beck turns up the feedback during the last 15-or-so seconds of the song and screeches, “Devil’s haircut in my mind!” It’s so ear-splittingly, obnoxiously loud that I still get frightened by it despite having listened to the track hundreds of times.
“Roses” by zZz
If I was in a horror movie running through a dark forest, this would be the song playing. “Roses” is a culmination of so many sounds and genres: The chugging percussion recalls early ’80’s post-punk; the throttling, screeching, scuzzed-out organ and the eerie murder story told in the lyrics add a rustic, country rock flare, reminiscent of an old Western. The shrieks heard on the chorus are reminiscent of hardcore, followed by a tornado of whirring effects and organ. I have never been quite sure of what to make of this track. One thing I know for sure, however, is that it rapidly increases my heart rate, perfect for pushing my limits at the gym during a heavy lifting set.
Daily Arts Contributor Zachary Taglia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.