Album Premiere/Review: Unicorns at Heart’s ‘Aurora’

Album Premiere/Review: Unicorns at Heart’s ‘Aurora’

Unicorns at Heart


(Z Tapes)

Today, we’re thrilled to premiere Aurora, the new album on Z Tapes from lo-fi rockers Unicorns at Heart.

Our own introduction to California’s Unicorns at Heart was with the 2019 single “Yr Mind”, which finds itself on Aurora among nine other tracks, approximately half previous singles and compilation tracks and half brand new material. “Yr Mind” strikes as a tight, concentrated, singularly-focused march of noise rock reminiscent of Bakesale-era Sebadoh, but while a similar lo-fi aesthetic is found throughout much of the album, Aurora, finally unlocked from the vault more than year after completion, proves ultimately more eclectic than first anticipated, and a more fascinating listen for it.


Unicorns at Heart

Take opener “Any Day”, which immediately caught us off guard with its charming ramshackle breeziness that melds loose, shuffling acoustic guitar with a vocal smoothness and polish akin to contemporary R&B, all while sounding as though it were recorded on a boombox. “Nothing” and “Private Reserve” are probably the most “pop” tracks on Aurora along with “Yr Mind”, though all three take on distinct attitudes from each other: “Yr Mind”, while determined, also carries with it a weary and downtrodden disposition. Conversely, “Nothing” rides a bouncy yet quietly sad melody with a lyric that points to the narrator embracing resignation and nihilism to cope with pain and disappointment, whereas “Private Reserve” contains a spastic, excitable energy which propels it forth.

Elsewhere, however, is where Aurora‘s more strange tendencies shine through. “Good Smoke”‘s drifting haziness is accentuated by warped synthesizers that dangle the listener over the precipice of of a psychedelic abyss. Taking into account tracks such as these as well as the infectious melodies of songs such as “Nothing”, the closest analogue to Unicorns at Heart becomes clearer: The Olivia Tremor Control. At times, Aurora really does come across as something a fuzzier, more compact take on Dusk at Cubist Castle, which we mean in the most flattering of ways. The album’s greatest highlight is “February Sky”, a fragile ballad in the truest sense of the word: the strings sound as though they’re on the brink of snapping right off of the guitar, piercing through the soft, melancholic atmosphere.

Aurora is strikingly beautiful, colorful, and layered for a modern indie rock record. The rollout might have been a long time coming, but it was worth the wait as Unicorns at Heart further establish themselves as rare, special creatures within the scene they occupy.


You can stream Unicorns at Heart’s Aurora below:


Favorite tracks: “Any Day”, “February Sky”


Rating: Strongly Recommended


Unicorns at Heart’s ‘Aurora’ is out tomorrow, August 3rd, on digital and cassette via Z Tapes and is available to pre-order here now. Be sure to go to the band’s linktree to find them on social media and check out their other work.

Album Premiere/Review: Cardinality’s s/t

Album Premiere/Review: Cardinality’s s/t



(Grimalkin Records)

Today, we’re honored to share Cardinality, the debut LP from the newly formed duo of RVA artist Ty Sorrell and singer AG Himself.

Spirituality, soul, and connection are at the forefront of Cardinality’s first outing, which will likely stand as little surprise to those familiar with the past work of Ty Sorrell, whether it be last year’s At God’s House or other Tribe Ninety Five-affiliated projects. A strong rapper, Sorrell’s biggest asset is still their signature production, which often sees them tweak a blend of soul, gospel, trap, and trip hop that seeks to merge the earthly and ethereal planes. Partnering with fellow Tribe Ninety Five member AG Himself leads Sorrell to shift even further into the realms of trip hop on Cardinality‘s sound in effort to support and accentuate AG’s classic, sultry vocals on what amounts to an impressive introduction.


Cardinality by Connor Barrett promo 4
Cardinality (left to right: Ty Sorrell, AG Himself; photo credit: Connor Barrett)

Lead single “At the Dinner Table” retains an element of the album’s overall dreaminess, but aside from perhaps the aggressive pitch climbing southern rap of “Back N’ Forth” is the most urgent of the tracks found on Cardinality. Anxious may be the best way to describe it: the clattering beat moves forward at a stutter step, supplementing the song’s primary mantra “All these people love me / I don’t feel it always / How am I alone / When I’ve been with you all day”, speaking to those who feel the most alone when surrounded with the people they ‘should’ be able to form meaningful connections with. The harmonies of Sorrell and Himself are just ever so slightly out of step with each other here, symbolic of the emotional solitude experienced in these disconnected relationships. As the pitch shifts down leading into the fade, it’s as if the duo are drowning in a pool of downers, trying to reaching each out to each other but just grazing fingertips as they sink lower: a beautiful tragedy.

While Sorrell seems to be plotting the course on Cardinality, it’s very much informed by the abilities of AG Himself, with the vast majority of the beats seemingly designed to fit his vocal stylings like a glove while Sorrell reasonably understands they can ride them well enough (a true producer’s mindset).

The aforementioned “Back N’ Forth” is the sole instance in which Sorrell seems to prioritize their ability to ride the beat. The first half of the track allows them to flex their rapping ability in a more direct fashion than much of Cardinality, but while AG Himself does get the second half to himself, there seems to be just a bit of a struggle to truly establish himself within its tense, escalating rhythm. Conversely, the following track “Party of One” may be the most perfect meeting point for both of them to shine alongside “At the Dinner Table”, with a looseness that allows Sorrell to play around with the dynamics of their flow while still being reigned in enough so that Himself can dig his heels in and deliver a stunning vocal. “Eden” closes the album on a note on gatekeeping within the realms of spirituality, rejecting the notion that the path to paradise is dictated by the warped interpretations of the weak, fearful, and intolerant.

If the primary goal was to make Himself’s performances pop, consider Cardinality a rousing success: the relaxed, lush soundscapes of Sorrell allow Himself to milk every word for what its worth in a heavenly combo that persists for the vast majority of the record. There’s an uplifting glow that radiates from Cardinality, through its tones and messages, and it’s one we’re more than happy to bask in.


You can stream Cardinality below:


Favorite tracks: “At the Dinner Table”, “Patterns”, “Party of One”


Rating: Strongly Recommended


‘Cardinality’ is out now on digital, lathe cut vinyl, and cassette and is available to purchase here via Grimalkin Records. Digital proceeds go to the artists, cassette proceeds go to the label, and lathe proceeds go to the Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project (RRFP). The Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project (RRFP) seeks to further Reproductive Justice by providing practical and financial support for abortion services in Virginia and surrounding communities. RRFP strives to be a resource to the community by engaging in grassroots advocacy for the full spectrum of reproductive rights. Be sure to follow Cardinality on Twitter and Instagram to keep up-to-date with their work.

Album Premiere/Review: LIT. MAJOR’s ‘Generosity’

Album Premiere/Review: LIT. MAJOR’s ‘Generosity’



(Community Radio Tapes)

Today, we’re excited to premiere the newest album from Connecticut-based singer-songwriter LIT. MAJOR, Generosity.

The third album released under the LIT. MAJOR moniker, Generosity is pitched simply as “an album of new songs written & recorded in isolation during the spring of 2020”, which might seem innocuous enough if you were reading this 10 years from now. Having recently lived through whatever the hell the spring of 2020 was, however, this roughly translates to “quarantine album”. In a sense, all albums coming out now are quarantine albums, though we can rather easily sort out what happens to be released now from what has been deeply characterized and formed by the fear, depression, regret, frustration, and loneliness the circumstances of the world today have created in some and amplified in many others. Generosity is an example of the latter: a set of stark folk pop with focuses on self-reflection, the sad realities of the world we live in, and the points of intersection between the two.


lit major

The album’s opening title track introduces the listener to the slow burn approach of LIT. MAJOR, as well as the subtle yet peculiar blend of intimacy and theatrics he frequently delivers on Generosity. The song addresses a search for the titular generosity amidst all the reasons to “stay down” during a bout of insomnia implied to either be instigated or made worse by his brain’s inability to stop churning on the bad, looking for even the smallest positive distractions such as TV or podcasts to fend off hopelessness. There are threads throughout Generosity that suggest LIT. MAJOR holds views akin to optimistic existential nihilism, where he hasn’t found ‘meaning’ and isn’t particularly confident he ever will, but still actively seeks it out or tries to craft it for himself, and this track is one of those stronger threads. The composition is sparse and eased gently along by acoustic guitar, while LIT. MAJOR’s vocals do a lot of heavy lifting in defining his sound, with clarity and strength of his voice and vibrato sounding near Disney prince musical-like while tonally carrying a weariness that those characters would never hit upon.

“Mothers”, meanwhile, is one of a small handful of tracks that looks back, seemingly referring to a childhood boyfriend and an acceptance of sexuality. There are some striking swells that intermittently pop up in what is again a largely subdued and skeletal composition, but that minimalism highlights the impact of those moments. Another track laden with bitter nostalgia is perhaps the strongest on the record: “Tough One”. Featuring banjo by Luke Janke (who also contributes to “Beth”, one of the more brightly toned and animated pieces) and ‘atmospheres’ by Daniel Bernas, “Tough One” is both one of the most full-sounding songs on the record as well as its most heartbreaking, recalling an instance in which a friend at “Seven or eight  / Maybe we were nine” confided in him about abuse. When he eventually told and it got out, his friend said they lied, but he still wonders (“But I fear you told the truth / I think of you, and of him sometimes / And I wonder what he might be getting up to”).

There’s a lot of sad singer-songwriter music being passed around right now, perhaps more than ever, but Generosity does well differentiating itself due to how plain spoken and naked its presentation is in a sea of similar content that struggles to reach similar levels of honestly, and a voice that just hits the ears better than most others. If you’re looking for vulnerable folk music to help spur on your own episode of existential self-reflection, this one is definitely a good pick.


You can listen to LIT. MAJOR’s Generosity below:


Lyric video for “The Weather Here”:


Favorite tracks: “Mothers”, “Tough One”


Rating: Recommended


LIT. MAJOR’s ‘Generosity’ is out tomorrow, July 3rd, on Community Radio Tapes and is available to pre-order now digital and cassette. You can follow LIT. MAJOR on Twitter and Instagram to keep up with his work.

lit cassette
Cassette of LIT. MAJOR’s ‘Generosity’

EP Review: ‘Noise Pollution’

EP Review: ‘Noise Pollution’

Various Artists

Noise Pollution

(It’s Trash! Records)

So I got this cool little 7″ four song multi-artist compilation from It’s Trash! Records the other day (along with some others) exclusively featuring punk bands from Hamilton, ON. On the A-side we have tracks from Flesh Rag as well as Jimmy and the Jerks, and on the B-side we’ve got Get off the Cop and Noble Savages.

Flesh Rag’s song “I Gotta Go” is a bouncy garage rock number just leaning into punk territory characterized by simple, loud drumming and a jagged guitar riff. The groove’s pretty good on this one.

Jimmy and the Jerks’ track “Critical Mass Critical Trash” is my least favorite here. I’m usually not much of a fan of vocals being mixed as loud as they are here when it comes to the garage and/or hardcore varieties of punk, and the drumming’s pretty plain. The bass is definitely on point though.

The real winners are on the B-side. “Joy Device” by Get off the Cop has a sick cowpunk jaunt of a riff driving it and the vocals are real gross, just like I like ’em. It moves along with that swagger, then explodes into cacophony, then retreads back. Dynamics and the mix of styles on this one are awesome and I can’t say I’ve heard much quite like it.

“She’s So Serious” is Noble Savages’ contribution. It’s pretty straightforward punk, but the “She’s so so so so so so serious” chorus gets me shouting along, and guitar tone is raw, like stripping metal. Good stuff.

Noise Pollution is a fun little sampler of what Hamilton’s punk scene has to offer. It probably won’t change your life, but it’s definitely worth a listen. Nothing offensive, two good songs, and a real gem in “Joy Device”.


Favorite track: “Joy Device”


Rating: Recommended


You can purchase Noise Pollution here.


This review was originally published on Some Weird Sin on June 18th, 2016 and has since been adapted for COUNTERZINE.

Album Review: Super FM’s ‘Fuckbird Barnacle’

Album Review: Super FM’s ‘Fuckbird Barnacle’

Super FM

Fuckbird Barnacle

(King Pizza Records)

How much analysis does an album called Fuckbird Barnacle demand? I doubt Super FM would want me to over analyze this. The album cover is a cartoon style drawing with a naked man with a soft, shitty body (much like mine) staring in a mirror with a dripping crystal formation on it. I don’t know if the crystals originated from the mirror, or if the man puked them onto the mirror. Maybe it means the man is crystals? What does that mean? Fuckbird Barnacle is loony fucking nonsense, and I’m into loony fucking nonsense.

It’s a garage punk album. No innovation in sound, really, but the guitars sound fat, the tone is great and manages to distinguish the band from many of their contemporaries. Also, the guitarist occasionally likes to go “fuck this song, I’m gonna do a weird lil alien riff”, and then he does, and it’s cool. He probably listens to Mr. Bungle. Actually, all these guys probably really dig Mike Patton. And the Dead Milkmen.

Lyrics range from “TV set is broken, fuck you” in “Dad Clone” to the intro of “Nullo”, which is “Okay, super, this is a song about cutting off your dick and your balls“. I could take the time picking these lines apart bit by bit, trying to explain what they mean, but I don’t know that I could truly understand what deep philosophical truths Super FM is trying to bestow upon our consciousnesses.

This is a really stupid album. In a good way. It’s a little short on hooks, and if you’re lame and don’t like dumb fun, you’ll hate this because dumb fun is the name of the game. But as someone who really wishes more stupid bands would throw themselves into the art of dumbness, this is pretty refreshing.


Favorite tracks: “Worms”, “Dad Clone”


Rating: Recommended


You can purchase Super FM’s Fuckbird Barnacle here.


This review was originally published on Some Weird Sin on June 23rd, 2016 and has since been adapted for COUNTERZINE.

EP Review: Johnny Otis Dávila’s ‘P.I.F.F.’

EP Review: Johnny Otis Dávila’s ‘P.I.F.F.’

Johnny Otis Dávila


(Discos Diaspora)

For those who don’t already know, Johnny Otis Dávila is probably best known for his work on guitar in the now defunct Dávila 666, probably the biggest band in Puerto Rican garage rock the past decade. Since Dávila 666, Johnny’s been part of Terror Amor (still playing with AJ), and now we have this, where Johnny takes front and center. If Dávila 666 was akin to Radio Birdman with smatterings of bubblegum influence, Johnny’s four song EP P.I.F.F. is akin to Greg Cartwright’s loud rockin’ days with Compulsive Gamblers and Reigning Sound during the first half of the 2000s.

This is loud, loud guitar driven rock ‘n’ roll. Not as loud as Too Much Guitar, but not too far behind. Opener “Calle de Susto” is probably the best original here. It’s the highest in energy and features soaring backing vocals, some nice pounding tambourine, a great, brief, efficient guitar solo, and Johnny’s most dynamic lead vocal performance. “Mi nena” is good as well, and “¡Ay Dioj!”, while probably the weakest thing here, is still solid. What might be most surprising though is that Johnny covers one of my all-time favorite songs in Compulsive Gamblers’ “Stop & Think It Over” (called “Stop” here), and manages to do justice to what I pretty much already considered to be perfect. It’s very faithful to the original, as it should be, but there are enough differences to warrant its existence. Johnny’s vocals are more clean during the choruses as opposed to the gruff vocals of Greg, there’s some tasteful use of acoustic guitar, and the rhythm during the chorus is different, swinging where the original pounds, courtesy of the drumming shift.

If you’re a fan of guitar rock, you should check this out. This thing’s a nine minute good time, and I hope more’s coming.


Favorite tracks: “Calle de Susto”, “Stop”


Rating: Recommended


You can download Johnny Otis Dávila’s P.I.F.F. for free here.


This review was originally published on Some Weird Sin on July 4th, 2016 and has since been adapted for COUNTERZINE.

Album Review: VCR’s ‘R.I.P. Sportsboy’

Album Review: VCR’s ‘R.I.P. Sportsboy’


R.I.P. Sportsboy

(Barf Bag Records)

Do you remember Wacky Races? You know, that crazy ass cartoon where every episode was a race with a bunch of crazy ass people/creatures in crazy ass cars trying to take each other out (in kid-friendly ways, of course). You know Superjail? That crazy ass cartoon where every episode the crazy ass Warden concocts some half-baked scheme that ends up taking all his crazy ass prisoners out (in not kid-friendly ways)? Well, VCR’s R.I.P. Sportsboy is what you might get if Black Francis and John Zorn hung out, did a buttload of shrooms and crack, ditched the horns for synths, and sound-tracked a Wacky Races/Superjail crossover episode.

Yes, it’s as awesome as that sounds.

This is one of the most spastic records probably in existence, definitely one of the most spastic punk records. It’s synth punk to the naked ear, sure, but these guys are playing some fucked up no wave jazz grindcore shit, it’s just way too catchy and way too brightly toned to be thought of in such a heavy and grimy context. This record is brutal as all get out, but it’s cartoon violence.

R.I.P. Sportsboy is a concept album, I guess. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust Sportsboy, or whatever. The “story” (what little you can make out from low-mixed shrieks of vague lyrics and bizarre samples) is completely insane. The grooves and their constant shifting, re-implementation, and modification are what makes this special. This isn’t an album of songs, rather each track is a movement that implants a visual scene in your brain of animated chaos, a rebellion of stupidity breeding violence and coming full circle. It’s structured almost like a a classical piece, taken to its zany and immature extremes.

At only 17 minutes, R.I.P. Sportsboy demands to be heard start to finish each time you listen.  It’s a punk rock epic that flips genre tropes on their heads, successfully marries accessibility and complexity, and it’s unlike anything in your record collection.



Favorite tracks: Best listened to as a whole


Music videos for “Murder City Rules”, “Scream Again”, “One Trick Dog”, and “Shut Up”:





Rating: Essential


You can purchase VCR’s R.I.P. Sportsboy here or here.


This review was originally published on Some Weird Sin on June 24th, 2016 and has since been adapted for COUNTERZINE.

Album Review: Howie Moonlight’s ‘On the Run (From Love)’

Album Review: Howie Moonlight’s ‘On the Run (From Love)’

Howie Moonlight

On the Run (From Love)

(Brain Tape)

Sudbury is likely one of the most overlooked locations for music modern day, and Howie Moonlight’s debut mini-album is a prime example of why.  Their music has lingered in my mind and in my music library long before this release through audio rips of their performance videos on YouTube of pop gems such as “Shanghai” and “On the Run (From Love)”, and their lone studio recorded single (re-recorded for this release) “Fear and Loathing in Space”.  As luck would have it, they release this, and Howie’s crew disbands almost immediately after.  But, at least we have this.

This thing is made up of seven songs and three audio “logs”: all killer, no filler.  The version of “Fear and Loathing in Space”, while perhaps slightly less successful of a pop mix when compared to the original, is actually more interesting.  It’s off-kilter and there’s more depth to the mix.  “Shanghai” and the title track are predictably fantastic, but I’m finding myself listening to “She’s a Working Man” and “Shut Up and Love Me” even more.  The former has a brilliant and brightly toned synth lead, a chugging guitar riff, and drumming like thunderous claps, sweeping the listener up in a wave of infectious cheese.  “Shut Up and Love Me” just breezes by so quick.  It’s the simplest, most direct track, and the somewhat loungy vocals are at their most charming here. “Planetoid//Continuum” could be swapped into a Miami Vice soundtrack and your only question would be “how did I miss these guys 30 years ago?”.

Everything here is absurdly fun and that’s what matters.  Imagine if Star Trek was a teen romantic comedy series set in the ’90s, back when the hip thing was to have bands on the show.  Howie Moonlight would be the band playing a residency at the space club.  The deep, naturally produced mixes put the listener right there, and who honestly wouldn’t rather be in a space club right now?


Favorite tracks: “She’s a Working Man”, “Shanghai”, “Shut Up and Love Me”


Music video for “On the Run (From Love)”:


Rating: Strongly Recommended


You can purchase Howie Moonlight’s On the Run (From Love) here.


This review was originally published on Some Weird Sin on June 16th, 2016 and has since been adapted for COUNTERZINE.

Album Review: Backxwash’s ‘God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out of It’

Album Review: Backxwash’s ‘God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out of It’


God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out of It

(Grimalkin Records)

The human experience, by its very nature, is personal and often painful, and yet institutionally, those with power and/or influence have seen it fit to allow additional, crushingly heavy layers of pain to be heaped upon individuals who don’t fit into the narrow mold of what they deem to be acceptable. This can be race, gender identity, sexual orientation, or a multitude of other things. Often it’s many. This occurs through bigoted law, socialization via government and corporate institutions (often working in tandem), and religion. It infects the working class, the regular people we see every day as innocent individuals are warped in the minds of others as objects of fear or hatred. It infects families. These people will project their insecurities on many things, but the go-to is often God. They will blame their failure to accept individuals outside of the assigned heteronormative binary on the supposed word of the Lord Almighty. They use God as a moral scapegoat.

The brutality we encounter aimed towards minority groups of all kinds is often visibly shocking, particularly in 2020 amidst the proliferation of social media and under an administration who openly emboldens those who would seek to inflict harm on those who aren’t like them. It’s physical violence. It’s horrific. It’s a big part of the picture. What seems to receive less attention, however, are the mental and emotional tolls: the suicidal ideations, the misplaced guilt, the understandable social paranoia. Zambian rapper/producer Backxwash’s God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out of It is an autobiographical account of her experiences as a black transwoman regarding mental health struggles, societal fear, and in particular, a family’s moral scapegoating of God when faced with their own’s true identity.

Backxwash’s music is often labeled as horrorcore, which is some ways accurate but also something of a misnomer as well. There is horror here, but it’s often of the self and psychological in nature, rather than aimed outwards and physical. The opening title track is as explicitly violent as she gets and it only goes as far as “Cross my heart and hope to die, I wish blood on my enemies” and “Mama keep telling me, ask the lord for forgiveness / I want war with these bitches, I want corpses and weapons“, approached with the broadness of someone very much reluctant to engage in violent acts, though delivered convincingly enough to allow an examination of the mask many black individuals put on so as not to show weakness to said enemies. In the same song, she makes reference to a drug-induced suicide attempt in more detail. What’s most telling about how it’s approached is that she’s understandably reluctant to fully re-engage with that moment, but still more willing to do so than clarify specific enemies or how she believes they should suffer for making her feel this way, even theoretically. It’s more vulnerable and heartbreaking than any soft sadboi hip-hop you’re likely to here these days, but the anger that propels it forward also gives it far more weight.

Following the opener are singles “Black Magic” and “Spells”, featuring Ada Rook and Devi McCallion both of Black Dresses, respectively. God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out of It is wisely not riddled with features given its insular subject material, but each contribution is meaningful and effective. Rook’s guitar on “Black Magic” gives the track a density, grind, and industrial heaviness that perfectly compliments Backxwash’s dark composition and seething vocals. McCallion meanwhile provides the hook for “Spells”, properly fey, drained, and ghostly given the occult-flavored beat. It’s probably a good time to note that unlike previous projects, God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out of It is fully self-produced (outside of the Hell and Heaven interludes from fatherfake and SKIN respectively). Following Deviancy and the news that Backxwash would take the reigns this time around, while “concern” is not the appropriate word, there was a personal acknowledgement that production-wise Flying Fisher and Sugeryhead’s beats for tracks such as “Devil In a Mosh Pit” and that album’s title track were more compelling than “Burn Me at the Stake”‘s. Any pre-conceived notions have been dismantled: as excellent as Deviancy was, God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out of It is a much more focused effort due to its consistent voice on production, which has been refined leaps as she seamlessly melds the heavier and more aggressive aspects of her past collaborators’ beats into her own witchy brew. Metal samples are prominent (Black Sabbath on the opener, for example), and fans of Lynchian psychological horror will be pleased to catch a clever call to Eraserhead.

Beyond the great importance of its pure conceptual material, the way its presented and delivered is what truly elevates God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out of It from a therapeutic writing exercise to a universally powerful classic that has the rare potential to actually help a wide array of listeners in profound ways. Backxwash is overflowing with charisma, but it’s not performative charisma: it’s relatability. While analogues can and will be drawn between tracks such as “Black Magic” and “Into the Void” and the work of Death Grips (especially considering both have received large base boosts via coverage from The Needle Drop) when hearing hooks like “I FUCK WITH BLACK MAGIC / YAH” and “I GO INTO THE VOID / FUCK!“, it’s important to remember that Death Grips are more performative and calculated than Backxwash, who puts forth a more grounded and potent picture of her experiences. If Death Grips makes pulp fiction, Backxwash makes biopics, but she doesn’t use that distinction as a “realism” crutch: she enforces it through her delivery. While “Into the Void” features the best hook on the album, it almost pales in comparison to the manic, confident verses which mix strength and fear until they’re indistinguishable, her voice a trembling yet immensely powerful force (“I’m paranoid that everyone is out to try and get me / I’m looking over shoulders as I’m passing through through the deli / Maybe cause my skin or maybe it’s the way I dress / I’m tearing out my limbs, I won’t make it till the next / I’m walking down the street, I’m anticipating death“). It never comes across “put on” in the way an MC Ride performance often does, crafting wild portraits of insane occurrences with blunt, crazed delivery yet complex prose that creates a disconnect. Backxwash is more inclined to call upon her own history and process it in real time and then magnify the voice of quieter traumas that go overlooked. There are some spots where it seems as though she’s trying to piece the words together as she says them, but it never veers into awkwardness or sloppiness. It’s just the relatable struggle to appropriately summarize emotions that are so twisted up, and sometimes connecting to that is more affecting than being presented with all the answers.

Though it’s often centered around difficult subject matter such as familial strain or misplaced guilt (not being able to be a big sister to her brother due to rejection from other family on “Adolescence”), paranoia (“Into the Void”), and drug use (“Black Sheep”), Backxwash still manages to squeeze in the very occasional spot of humor, such as the allusion to having a crush on Serge Ibaka on “Black Sheep”, without it being jarring. And while calling “Amen” anything resembling “levity” is quite a stretch, it can feel comparably so simply because it’s not anecdotal and instead a savage takedown of the opulence and hypocrisy of religious organizations donation-begging from poor folk so they can enrich themselves. The album closes on “Redemption”, which signifies a new clarity and self-acceptance, with Backxwash concluding that her redemption isn’t for the eyes of those who would reject her, but for herself, and it begins with relinquishing misplaced guilt over being herself (“Spend your whole life regretting this shit is pathetic / I wish I started sooner“).

It’s difficult to overstate just how vital this album is, and that’s not said lightly. It’s a time where art can feel frivolous as the world falls apart. Very rarely, however, there’s art that transcends being a great listen and ascends to being something that is or should be culturally significant. God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out of It feels like that rare art: devastatingly honest, creatively crafted, and hauntingly beautiful, it’s the type of thing that could save a life on the intersection of identity, and save the minds of those who’ve closed theirs to the plight of others before.


Favorite tracks: (All of them, but especially) “God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out of It”, “Black Magic”, “Spells”, “Into the Void”, “Amen”


Rating: Masterpiece


You can buy Backxwash’s God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out of It here or here.

Album Review: Pink Siifu’s ‘NEGRO’

Album Review: Pink Siifu’s ‘NEGRO’

Pink Siifu


(Not on Label)

There are some albums that we wish we didn’t still need. For every gay punk band, riot grrrl band, and many others, the music they make, the messages that they deliver is one that they shouldn’t have to repeat twice or more, if only the status quo was less oppressive to those they claim to love, respect and serve. NEGRO, like many punk albums, is one whose message is still vital due to what’s happening now. White-passing people express false oppression at black people showing literally as much pride in themselves and our art as they do in themselves, black kids are getting roughed up and thrown into jail by school policemen, black people still get shot, black women still get disrespected… and the same people who have oppressed us gleefully are the same one calling it disrespectful for crying out at the bullshit. NEGRO is one of those primal screams that came right when we needed it the most.

Those who have kept up with Pink Siifu’s sprawling discography knows that the last thing to do is box him in. He has released jazz records (referring to both his albums as iiye and as VCR@aol.jazz), punk records (more on that later), he raps over soul-sampling beats and also does avant-garde electronic albums (take a listen to his EP year 19803711967, for example). Pink Siifu’s projects all teach you to NEVER have expectations on what a black artist can do now. Hence, if you go into this NEGRO album expecting ensley part 2, you will be a massive fool for it.

Hell, this very fact can be proven by the orchestral blast of horns and free jazz drums in “BlackisGod,A Ghetto-sci-fi tribute”, which is a tribute to known Sun Ra-disciple and LA afrofuturist beatmaker/composer Ras G. Distorted screams of horns and manic drumming ushers the album in what is sure to clue you in on the fact that there will not be a single moment of rest and reprieve. What follows is Siifu taking on blown-out hardcore punk in a way that is not just angry, but passionate about what it is angry about. “SMD” and “FK”, two tracks from his FUCK DEMO sticks a middlefinger directly at white supremacy and its commitment to stealing from the have-nots that don’t share their color. “You wanna fuck with a nigga?“, Siifu screams on “FK” before eventually taking a breather to continue condemning police brutality.

Just when you think you got him pegged, Siifu trips out with “we need mo color”. Through NEGRO, what matters more than the music is the message: fuck white supremacy, fuck 12, know your roots and realize that your pride surrounding being black comes with having to navigate the hell of being black in a country that shows limited to no real respect for you as a human being.

For example of the far latter, news clips of police shootings compound on “ameriKKKa, try no pork” before eventually giving way to the frantic spoken word performance “run pig run” and all before he gives a little shout-out on “DEADMEAT” to Chris Dorner, a policeman who was murdered after being famous for killing other policemen and their families. The entire quadrifecta could easily be summed up in “Deadmeat”: “You treat me like I ain’t shit / Fuck y’all pieces of shit” and “I feel like eating ribs“. Yes, ribs.

To say that NEGRO is an album that explores black anger would be putting it too vaguely. It’s a cathartic scream after the maddening laughter for black people who have to deal with death anxiety, trauma, self-hatred and continued insults of their intelligence in America and a punch in the face to those who just want to hear him rhyme without truly hearing the point of his rhymes. NEGRO is an album that we wouldn’t need if overall situations were less like a predatory hellscape waiting to happen to all of us. If the lyrics “Pigs try to follow me / They tried to kill my family” weren’t a very likely reality. Not only among police, but the white person “joking” about calling the police on you for existing among them.

Considering the social landscape in America, we shouldn’t still need albums like NEGRO, but here we are, and to say we should be glad something like it exists at all feels like an understatement.


Favorite tracks: “SMD”, “FK”, “bebe’s kids,APOLLO (feat. Moor Mother)”


Rating: Strongly Recommended


You can buy Pink Siifu’s NEGRO here.


mynameisblueskye (all lowercase) is a bloggermusicmaker, poet, aspie, and an All-American original. When I tell you that you won’t find Nother one like me, I would really suggest that you take my word for it.