The most exciting new release of the week isn’t from a chart-topping pop act, but rather a Los Angeles punk trio with stories to tell.

Here’s something that happens every to the Substream staff every single day: We wake up, make coffee, and find our inboxes flooded with requests for coverage from artists of all sizes. Of those emails, up and coming talent makes up at least 50% of the messages. On our best day we can maybe cover 1% of that talent on the site, and even less than that in print. To say the competition is fierce would be an understatement, but every now and then we find an act that stands out in a way no one can deny. This week that band is TEST, a West Coast based trio whose new album was released earlier today (November 10).

Finding the words to describe TEST is a bit difficult. Their PR will tell you the band toes the line between rock and punk, but between you and me that’s just an edgy way of calling someone or some group alternative (usually because the band and/or their team thinks ‘alternative’ is too generic, which it is). In reality TEST is a band that creates loud and catchy music that largely defies simple classification. They will likely never be a number one band on the Billboard charts, nor will they be taking terrestrial radio by storm, but when you hear the material that makes up BRAIN IN / BRAIN OUT you will know as the Substream staff already does that this group is special. They have stumbled upon some kind of magic, and their new album shares that discovery with the world at large. Take a listen:

BRAIN IN / BRAIN OUT has quickly become one of our favorite releases of 2017. So much so, in fact, that we’ve partnered with TEST to offer a track-by-track rundown of the album and the stories that inspired it. Here’s what vocalist Blake Stokes had to say:

7th Street Metro

Written really quickly. Full on. Lighting in a bottle, just came to us. The original idea is 95% of what ended up being the final song. One of those moments you hope for as a band.

Entertainment Tonight

I was trying to ripoff this particular oasis song but in the process came up with this. Sounds like this Scottish band I like called the 1990s mixed with some pixies. Morgan added the drum solo and the lyrics are total stream of consciousness but touched on my career as a child actor and my love of getting fucked up in the 00s.

Isolation Ritual

This is absolutely a 50/50 collaboration between myself and wayne. I wanted to just drone on the first note for the entire song, he suggested we add a chorus. Verses are mine, chorus is all wayne. Lyrically it sets the tone for the album, or at least where I started mentally when we began the album process.

Living Fossil

Started live as a two note riff, that see saw thing. I’d play it at soundchecks. Wrote the chorus as a nice big, open counterpoint to the harsher verses. I’d say it’s one of the more dynamic songs on the album.

Know Your Servant

Last song written for the album. Points the way towards where we are headed creatively. It has passages that are open to noise and improvisation. I wanted something simple, but unrelenting. I also wanted to fuck around with song structure and ride that riff longer than your brain tells you you should. Lyrics done on the spot, touching on class, power, desperation and lack of humanity.

Bleached Hands

Suede, Ride, Smashing Pumpkins mixed with some Bowie and some Cure. Tons of chorus and whammy, swirling, spaced out, striving for transcendence and redemption. Inspired by a visit to the Rothko Chapel.


Street, drug paranoia music. Soundtrack of me riding public transport around LA, stinking, fucked up and alone. Touches on those people that only tell you they were worried about you only after you got your shit together without their help. Sound of LA a lotta people don’t see. Shout out to the metro Blue Line.

You Are Painful

My favorite song on the album. Written late in the game. More noise passages. The chord progression sounds ugly in just the right way. Inspired equally by traffic, The Fall and pea brains.

Ripoff Boss

Me doing a bit of Guided By Voices. All about showbiz, networking and false promises and incorrect expectations. Most pop thing on the record.

Museum Piece

Most hopeful and vulnerable song on the album. Good way to end things. Light at the end of the tunnel, is it daylight or is it the train? Written in one go, at home, waking up. Heavily influence by Lizzy Goodman’s book “meet me in the bathroom”. Bit of Springsteen in there too.