Photo credit: Michael Herrick
AuxCordFM is proud to present the eighth installment in our ‘Best of 2018’ albums countdown. The ten albums selected by Editor James Shotwell will be announced and celebrated through a series of essays. Click here to review the full list and follow us on Twitter for additional updates.
It is the dream of every music fan to hear an album that offers them something they didn’t know was missing from their life. Like falling in love, these instances are rare and unpredictable, arriving just when you least expect it. Such albums can come from seasoned veterans, but more often than not it’s the up and comers whose unique perspective on life helps encapsulate a moment in time or culture that no one else has been able to pin down. That was the case with Hot Mulligan in 2018, and their debut album is one people will be talking about for years to come.
Featuring eleven songs about growing up and getting high to get by in the Midwest, Hot Mulligan’s Pilot came about just as internet hype for the group was at its peak. The band, having already won over the alternative underground through a series of increasingly successful EPs and nonstop touring, found a way to share their journey in such a way that it felt possible for anyone to step into their shoes. Each song took specific moments in the members’ lives and detailed them in painfully awkward fashion by airing out every bit of existentialist anxiety, and hopeful dreaming felt along the way. You didn’t have to know the members personally to feel like you knew them as people, and because of this, the band found an audience that immediately treated them like family.
Fans often point to “Deluxe Capacitor,” an early track on Pilot, as proof of Hot Mulligan’s talent. The song details the feelings of unrequited love and the fear of never being good enough through the lens of someone who copes with everything by getting high alone. It’s a downer of a premise, but it’s paired with an upbeat pop-punk sound that demands listeners dance away their pain. That idea, that you can still have a good time even when you’re feeling down, is the key to Hot Mulligan’s success and a recurring theme throughout their work.
“How Do You Know It’s Not Armadillo Shells,” a similarly happy-sad song, challenges the genre expectations placed on the band with the addition of a digital drum beat. Alternative culture purists from years past may have scoffed at such a decision, but in an era where everyone listens to a bit of everything it’s a change of pace that — if anything — makes Hot Mulligan more accessible than their peers.
By shedding the conventions of whatever genre one may place them and staying true to the people they are away from the spotlight the young men of Hot Mulligan have found a place in music entirely their own. As a result, Pilot plays with the kind of immediate infectiousness that has launched countless alternative bands toward the highest heights of music stardom. It’s not hard to imagine the album being considered a cornerstone in the foundation of alternative music’s next wave of artists. Much like Fall Out Boy’s Take This To Your Grave or Mayday Parade’s A Lesson In Romantics, every song on Pilot offers something both catchy and unforgettable. It’s everything a band in Hot Mulligan’s position could hope to create, and it gives this writer great hope in the future of alternative music as a whole.