The Rutabega

Each week the CMJ staff sifts through thousands of radio playlists that contribute to our weekly charts. In the Chart Discovery column, we highlight exciting artists, albums and songs brought to our attention by the charts of our reporting panel of college and non-commercial radio stations. This week’s favorites come from KSUA in Fairbanks, AK and WPRB in Princeton, NJ.


KSUA’s No. 3 pick this week is Middle School Swag from bedroom musician FTHRSN (pronounced “father son.”) The low-fi pop is built of ’80s synth-pop and electronic beats merging with a tropical easiness. The vocals are far-away, breezy and charming tales of middle school loneliness, love and figuring it all out. The album creates a sense hazy nostalgia and images of braces and awkward slow dances in a darkened gym.

The Rutabega on WPRB

Joshua Hensley has been recording under The Rutabega moniker since 2002, but in 2011 he joined forces with Garth Mason. Thus Brother The Lights Don’t Work, No. 13 on the station’s top thirty this week, was born. Continuing the tradition of Hensley’s self-described “quirky sad-bastard songs,” the new record features distant almost dream-like vocals against handclaps, the odd train whistle, and often pretty powerful drumming. Guitar arrangements are sparse without feeling like there are too many empty spaces in the instrumentation. Sometimes sonically huge and distorted, other times a mere whisper of a song, the record is slightly creepy but mostly lovely.