Sunday, December 31, 2023

Hole Dweller and Dungeon Synth

Despite my love of angry and abrasive music, I have started to become more and more interested in somber and reflective music as a respite from the harshness of my normal listening regime. This interest arose from my discovery of experimental drone metal bands like Locrian, who were mixing echoing drones with melodic post-rock guitar lines, all supplemented with crackling noise, guitar feedback, and sparse percussion. Locrian, along with other minimalistic drone bands like Earth, helped show me that there was a whole world of compelling music outside of more conventional, vocally-orientated music. This discovery had me scouring music blogs and websites for similar work and the forerunners of the style, and somewhere in those searches I learned about the genre of ambient music. 

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Song Highlight: Dead Moon - Parchment Farm

The world of rock and roll music is filled with great bands that never quite got the recognition that they deserved. Portland, Oregon’s three-piece garage rock band Dead Moon is a prime example. Formed in 1987 by singer/guitarist Fred Cole, singer/bassist Kathleen "Toody" Cole (Fred Cole’s wife), and drummer Andrew Loomis, Dead Moon forged a fiercely independent path through the music industry for more than 20 years. Musically, they combined the jangly guitar sound of the 13th Floor Elevators, the downtrodden sadness of country, and the urgency of punk rock into a musical construct that always felt like it was on the verge of falling apart. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Camping in Alaska - why can't i be snowing?

Anyone who has stuck around here long enough will know that I have a soft spot for Midwestern Emo, a subgenre of emo music that does not necessarily hail from the midwest. The genre revels more in the melodic guitar lines of indie rock than the unrestrained anger of the emo’s forefathers in the hardcore punk scene. YouTube’s algorithms have done a great job of helping me find Midwestern Emo, with the band Camping in Alaska being one of the highlights. 

Saturday, September 30, 2023

Song Highlight: The National - Smoke Detector

“Music for people on the verge of a midlife crisis” is how I would describe the music of The National, the Brooklyn-by-way-of-Cincinnati rock band. They are not a band portraying the wistfulness of youth and young romances, rather they plumb the depths of adult life from unfulfilling jobs to stagnant relationships. They write songs about the banalities of a normal life, something that not many bands succeed in writing compelling songs about, or even try to do, for that matter. 

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Spanish Love Songs - Bellyache

Anger and sadness are the emotional states that I am most drawn to in music. But of these two, if I was forced to pick a favorite, I would have to choose sadness. It is an emotion that we are all forced to grapple with during our lifetimes, so it is something that everyone can resonate with in some capacity.  Maybe it is the stage of my life that I am in, or my music snobbery, but happy music does not sound genuine to me. Fortunately, there is no shortage of sad music. The Los Angeles, California-based pop punk band Spanish Love Songs has been an ample supplier of sad music since I discovered them in 2018, shortly before the release of their second album, Schmaltz. Any devotee of melodic punk music will liken their sound to that of the early Menzingers' releases, back when the Menzingers still had some gruffness to them, and dwelt in unhappy places. 

Monday, July 31, 2023

Song Highlight: Left Lane Cruiser - Overtaken

As I had mentioned in a post about Junior Kimbrough, I did not grow up listening to the blues. When I considered the blues, my mind sprang to middling and unexciting Eric Clapton songs. My true love was guitar-driven rock and roll music, and while I intellectually knew that rock and roll came from the blues, nothing that I had heard really sold me on that notion (other than maybe Led Zeppelin's cover of "When the Levee Breaks”). I have come to see the error of my ways, and it was from hearing bands like Left Lane Cruiser, an electrifying two piece blues rock band from Fort Wayne, Indiana. The band consists of Freddie “Joe” Evans IV on slide guitar and vocals and Brenn Beck on percussion (ranging from the traditional drum kit to a washboard). Left Lane Cruiser takes the hypnotic groove of the North Mississippi hill country blues, like the aforementioned Junior Kimbrough, and injects it with the frenetic energy of punk rock. Joe’s vocal style is a gruff and unrefined bark that sounds like it was raised on a little too much Jim Beam and Miller Lite, which is appropriate given his description of the music as “dirty drinkin’ blues”.

Friday, June 30, 2023

Nightlands Festival

Anyone who has been to shows will be able to recall a handful of formative events in their lives, ones that astounded them and set the standard to which they measure all other experiences. I can safely add the Nightlands Festival to my own list of formative experiences. Nightlands is a festival dedicated to celebrating supernatural horror in literature through live spoken word readings of weird fiction, all set to music composed specifically for the stories and performed live. 

Monday, May 29, 2023

Song Highlight: Chained to the Bottom of the Ocean - The Chalice

The prolific Louisiana sludge metal band Thou have a song on their first full length album called "Fucking chained to the bottom of the ocean". The song does an excellent job of giving a sound to the bleak oppressiveness of confinement. There is something extremely evocative in the song title alone, conjuring images of someone eternally shackled in the icy darkness below the ocean’s lapping waves. The Massachusetts sludge metal band Chained to the Bottom of the Ocean must have thought as much, as they most certainly took their name from the song. If we needed any more evidence that Chained to the Bottom of the Ocean are fans of Thou, they recorded a cover of “The Chain” which Thou and The Body performed at the KEXP studio in 2015, which is a cover of Fleetwood Mac's classic "The Chain".

Sunday, April 30, 2023

Song Highlight: The Birthday Party - Junkyard

One of the first bands that showed me that a band could be aggressive without resorting to death metal growls and down-tuned guitars was Big Black, Steve Albini's punk rock band from the early to mid 1980s. The clanging and screeching guitars coupled with the monolithic pounding of their Roland TR-606 drum machine created an intense listening experience the likes of which I had never heard before (I discovered Big Black after graduating college in 2009, while reading Michael Azerrad’s book about the American underground music scene in the 1980s, Our Band Could Be Your Life). That discovery helped introduce me to the world of noise rock, specifically to the band The Jesus Lizard, with the unmatched vocals of David Yow,  his stuttering yelps and wails ornamenting the muscular power of the band’s rhythm section and the minimalistic metallic sheen of Duane Denison’s guitar playing.

Friday, March 31, 2023

Song Highlight: The Goddamn Gallows - In League with Satan

A few months ago, I wrote about IV and The Strange Band, and their ability to combine a host of disparate sounds to make compelling music. The Goddamn Gallows from Detroit, Michigan are another band that are able to do this with aplomb. In the simplest sense, the Goddamn Gallows are a folk punk band, but they take their sound well beyond those confines by adding bluegrass and metal, all with a sort of rollicking mania. They have released seven albums since their formation in 2004, with their style gradually evolving from the rockabilly (self-described as gutterbilly) of their earlier albums to the darker and doomier sounds of their newest records. All of these sounds have been tested and perfected on the road with a relentless touring schedule (I was lucky enough to see them open for Weedeater in Baltimore in 2020).

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Song Highlight: The Mountain Goats - Autoclave


Last month, I wrote about John Darnielle of the folk rock band the Mountain Goats. Now a full month later, I am still listening to his music on a regular rotation, so I want to talk about another of his songs. He is an excellent lyricist, often coming up with clever analogies to help sell his stories. This is on display in the song “Autoclave” from Heretic Pride, where he describes his heart as an autoclave. For those unaware, an autoclave is a device that uses pressurized steam to sterilize glassware and surgical implements for medical and scientific purposes. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Song Highlight: The Mountain Goats - Lovecraft in Brooklyn

When considering prolific songwriters, John Darnielle of the folk rock band the Mountain Goats quickly comes to mind. Since the Mountain Goats’ inception in the early 90s they have 21 studio albums and countless other releases, ranging from their early recordings that were largely just Darnielle, an acoustic guitar, and a Panasonic RX-FT500 cassette deck Boombox, to more refined recordings with a full band. Darnielle has a talent for painting flawed and realistic characters in his songs, whether that is him putting his own demons on display or crafting a character to fit the story he wants to tell.