Between APHRA’s solemn plea for “Love & Affection” and Control Top’s wildly cathartic “Office Rage,” this week’s new releases in Philly music seem to span completely opposite facets of human emotion. That may be an exaggeration, but you’d be hard-pressed to find two new music videos that are as different from each other as these two are. At the same time, though, these songs share a particularly similar sincerity and urgency. Through APHRA’s soulful, somber pop and Control Top’s anti-capitalist punk rage, these Philadelphia-based musicians each beg us to remember that we must take care of ourselves, because if we don’t, no one else will.
APHRA – “Love & Affection”
APHRA, the solo project of multi-instrumentalist Rebecca Waychunas, released the full-length record Sadness is a Gesture in 2017. Now, the native Philadelphian is back with “Love & Affection,” a stand-alone single and video directed by Pollyanna Highgloss.
Like any APHRA song, Waychunas hooks you with her deep, expansive vocals, hypnotizing when layered over electropop guitar riffs. The video itself is nostalgic, echoing the intimacy of a childhood VHS recording. Waychunas skateboards through some faceless, suburban streets and sits at a coffee table among a sea of condolence flowers as she wails, “The thought of losing you/and your love and affection/It’s all I need.” However, after the song ends and the video credits roll, APHRA pulls us in deeper, sharing a voicemail from an unidentified family member. The message is supportive, yet somber: “If you feel you’re being coerced, Rebecca, in any way, by guilt, or a feeling of duty… My suggestion to you is put yourself first, honey.”
APHRA isn’t shy to share details of her personal life: her parents, both musicians from Philadelphia, died in 2017. In this light, it’s hard not to read Waychunas’ own grief into the video and voicemail – but, no matter how personal APHRA’s music may be (or not be) to her own experiences, her soothing, yet haunting songs retain a certain ambiguity that invites the listener in to project their own feelings into APHRA’s dreamy world.
CONTROL TOP – “Office Rage”
Kristen Stewart made SNL relevant again this weekend as she dressed up like Paramore’s Hayley Williams and raged against corporate America. The punchline of the short is that punks need jobs too, and who would pass up a promotion to the twelfth floor sales team?
But “Office Rage,” which comes from Control Top’s first LP Covert Contracts (2019), tackles more serious issues than being bored in a cubicle. It’s passé to whine about “working for the man” when we all have to pay our bills somehow, but Control Top isn’t arguing against having a job – they’re arguing against having a job where you’re treated as sub-human. Vocalist and bassist Ali Carter tells Kerrang: “In a society driven by profits over people, it’s increasingly rebellious to say, ‘My well-being matters.’”
With its brightly contrasting primary colors and wailing guitar riffs, the video is reminiscent of The White Stripes – the three-piece begins in a bland, black and white studio, only to emerge into a vibrant red and blue room where they can rest. Among Carter’s shouts to “Quit your job today,” guitarist Al Creedon grounds the anthemic punk song in the melodies of his boundless guitar riffs.
“Office Rage” is, of course, about the workplace, but its message holds true beyond break room politics: we deserve to prioritize our sanity.