Album Review: Steve Adamyk Band’s “Paradise”

Album Review: Steve Adamyk Band’s “Paradise”

Steve Adamyk Band


(Dirtnap Records)

Ottawa’s Steve Adamyk Band has been a consistent, reliable purveyor of high-octane old-school power pop for the past decade. Paradise doesn’t buck that trend in a huge way: if you’ve enjoyed their past records, there’s little here to suggest that you won’t enjoy this and, similarly, if you’ve found their direct, no-frills approach to be less than thrilling, it certainly isn’t the album to change your mind. If anything, The Steve Adamyk Band seem to be at the point Ramones were before them: the point of diminishing returns. Paradise is a fun, catchy and tight listen, but on an LP number six that does little to differentiate itself from albums one through five, these qualities have less of a positive impact.

If there’s an immediately apparent difference between this album and the ones that came before, The Steve Adamyk Band do seem to attempt an ever-so-slight shift towards the melodic sensibilities of more modern mainstream pop punk. A rhythm section that was once aggressively punchy and driving often feels content to jovially yet predictably bounce about, and the sound is notably cleaned up, for better or worse. Opener “The Letter” does little to stun more than any other serviceable pop punk song found on a soundtrack to a teen movie. It’s certainly fine, but not any more. “In Death” and title track “Paradise” are far better off recalling the forceful assertiveness of past material, with the former a blistering, jerky hurricane. The two-part “Waiting to Die” may be the most interesting case on Paradise, with part one containing its best singalong chorus “We’re all just waiting to die / We’re all just waiting to die / We’re all just waiting to die / Not me, not me!” and standing as one of the slower, simpler and more melodic entries found on the album, while part two shifts back to the trademark dynamism the band has showcased over the years. This stretch of songs is undoubtedly the strongest here, after which Paradise largely settles back into ‘fine’ territory. The melodies and hooks are far from bad, but they are also far from original. It’s easy to feel like you’ve heard much of this material before, as the band recycles song structures, a small handful of chords and canned backing vocals (“hey now”s in “When I Was Gone”, “yeah yeah yeah”s in “No Help” and “hey hey, you you”s in “Telephone”).

There’s no part of Paradise that could be called incompetent, but during the frequently blurry second half, you may wish The Steve Adamyk Band had decided to get a little stupid and ambitious and the moniker ‘seasoned’ wasn’t ironic on another level. The best thing that can be said about this album is that it’s a solid, enjoyable record that does little to stand out among its peers, which also just so happens to be the worst thing that can said about it.


Favorite track(s): “Waiting to Die”



Rating: ***


You can purchase Steve Adamyk Band’s Paradise here or here.


This review was originally written for Spectrum Culture and later adapted for Counterzine.

Album Review: Crypt Trip’s “Haze County”

Album Review: Crypt Trip’s “Haze County”

Crypt Trip

Haze County

(Heavy Psych Sounds)

When it comes to Crypt Trip’s Haze County, what you see with the album art is what you get with the music. Denim, motorcycles, a dirt country road and loads of hair: It’s all indicative of the southern retro rock sounds peddled by the San Marcos, Texas trio. Such outfits are hardly unique today, but Crypt Trip stand out from and above many of their contemporaries with a genuineness in the way they approach their sonic palette and the creativity of their songwriting. While these qualities certainly make it more likeable and interesting than any record by Wolfmother, Jet or Greta Van Fleet, inherent limits make it a struggle for the band to truly carve out its own niche in 2019. Haze County is more remarkable than it is memorable, road-tripping through the ‘70s and collecting souvenirs to build its own distinct collection. However, it ultimately ends up as an ephemeral and yes, hazy assortment of knick-knacks that recall days past.

By bassist Sam Bryant’s own admittance, Haze County is “all over the place, really”. While the album is a melting pot of influences, Allman Brothers Band seems to be the most obvious with its jam band leanings. However, while the Allmans made a point of creating memorable hooks for many of their winding compositions, Crypt Trip seems relatively unconcerned with them. Not that an album needs hooks to succeed, but without them it needs either atmosphere or technical composition to compensate.

This is where Haze County runs into problems. On the surface, every member is adept at their respective instruments and compositions are often framed like jazz pieces, but the hard rock riffs that drive these pieces frequently occupy a no-man’s land: too complex to be immediate, yet not complex enough to make one truly sink into deep listening. The album drifts from one to the next at a brisk clip, rarely building on its template in revelatory ways. It can be enjoyable to just let go and ride the cloud, so to speak, but it’s difficult to truly grasp that cloud.

Ryan Lee’s vocals also have some issues adapting to the new aesthetic. On previous records, Crypt Trip were perhaps more compositionally restrained but made more clever use of their toolkit. Lee’s voice is soft, clean, steady and even a bit reserved. But the last two qualities stifle his ability to achieve an effective soaring ramble and are more effective within the context of the band’s preceding soulful stoner rock, such as Rootstock’s “Natural Child”.

This isn’t to say Haze County is a bust. While most of the first two thirds fails to leave a lasting impact, this could be seen as a strong point. It may not be the first record you think to put on because you want to hear “that song” you already know by heart, but when you do put it on, it’s a good time. Beyond that, the last three songs do make more of an impression. “16 Ounce Blues” is a tight jaunty tune with beautiful steel pedal and Lee’s most confident vocal performance, likely aided by the song’s simplicity: he sounds less self-conscious of riding a complex instrumental. Next comes “Pastures,” an instrumental track led by acoustic guitar and once again steel pedal. The album ends on its strongest track, “Gotta Get Away”. Easily the most innovative song on the album, its successful merging of country rock, krautrock, stoner rock and jazz through its ambitious yet smart solo placements and re-visitations feels like the culmination of an album’s worth of idea work-shopping.

Haze County isn’t Crypt Trip’s best offering to date. Not enough of its material is sticky enough to make that claim, but it may be the most promising. This feels like a transitional effort where the aim was to really just find the target. To that end, it’s a success. “Gotta Get Away” is an excellent place to expound from, and the road to get there is full of intriguing twists and turns. It’ll be interesting to see where the band goes from here, but in the meantime, you could do worse for a jam rock throwback.


Favorite track: “Gotta Get Away”



Rating: ***


You can listen to Crypt Trip’s Haze County here and purchase here.


This review was originally written for Spectrum Culture and later adapted for Counterzine.

Album Review: Van Goose’s “Habitual Eater”

van goose

Van Goose

Habitual Eater

(Cardboard Queen Records)

Van Goose is largely promoted as “Marcy Playground member” Shlomi Lavie’s solo project, which is true but certainly not indicative of what you’re getting with Habitual Eater. Rather, from the opening drum machine and bass on “Last Bus”, the album quickly draws comparison with the works of another prominent Brooklyn artist: James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem and The DFA fame. In many ways, this album (especially the first half) splits the difference between those two Murphy projects, injecting a healthy dose of The DFA’s more outwardly ebullient electro-disco beats into the framework of original, eccentric, jittery and humorous indietronica/dance-punk tunes.

There’s an argument to be made that there’s no greater weapon for a pop songwriter to wield than ADD, and Lavie makes it exceedingly well on the A-side of Habitual Eater. Tracks generally start minimal but quickly build into towering monuments to hip New York clubs as Lavie ceaselessly stacks rhythms on top of one another like a child curious to see how high he can go before it all comes tumbling down. He’s an imaginative architect, but not an unrealistic one. He crafts polyrhythms from such conventional instrumentation as drums, guitar, bass and synths to more peculiar choices such as Wurli, Synare and Omnichord. These constructions get about as busy as possible without becoming overwhelming or overcrowded, giving the listener an abundance of disparate patterns to follow and compulsively jerk about the brain and body whilst still giving each individual part plenty of room to breathe within the mix.

As a drummer first and foremost, it’d be reasonable to expect that Lavie would have a firm handle on the percussive elements of his music. What’s more surprising is his gift for quirky, endlessly quotable vocal hooks. From “I have no feeling in my upper jaw / I should have taken the last bus” (“Last Bus”) to “ I laid an egg / On Mike Myers ” (“Mike Myers”), Lavie demonstrates an uncanny knack for getting a listener to shout clever absurdities along with him. His humor also has a tendency to venture into black territory: “She’s No Pressure” was inspired by the real life story of a woman crashing her own funeral after her husband put out a hit on her and she faked her death, disturbed and subversive subject matter for such a bouncy, radio-ready tune.

If Habitual Eater could be likened to an aerobics tape, its A-side is a briskly paced warm-up and frenetic, challenging early-middle workout. The B-side is the cool-down. “Right Wave” is the closest in form to the opening four and works as a solid pop song on its own, but it lacks much of the infectious charm, inventive assembly and sheer kinetic energy that make “She’s No Pressure” and “Where’s My Guy” such addictive ear candy. “On My Hand” rounds out the tracks that could reasonably be called dance music, but adapts a notably different aura as a cold, brooding sci-fi shuffle: The tempo is knocked down several notches and Lavie’s vocals are sparse, stoic and modulated to make him sound robotic as ray gun-like synths light up the atmosphere. An interesting experiment, but also one that works against Lavie’s natural charisma.

The two songs that end Habitual Eater are even more substantial departures, one a resounding success, the other considerably less so. “On My Hand” and “Right Wave” are good songs that fall victim to the context created by their stellar brethren: such is not the case for “Relax Your Face”, a stiff, awkward, groove-less track that stands as Devil’s Advocate against the argument for attention deficit made earlier. Where “Last Bus” and “Mike Myers” would shift and layer the fringe ideas borne of being unable to settle in thought and then compile them into a focused package, “Relax Your Face” aggressively and stiltedly marches through its runtime without much care. On the other hand, “Wildstar” is phenomenal, easily the crown jewel of the second half, with its breathtaking production and space rock/neo-psych overtones.

Habitual Eater ends up a remarkable debut, positively oozing fun from its every pore through its first half. While the B-side is more of a mixed bag, it still largely consists of relatively well written material and “Wildstar” is a gem. It’s more than worthy of your attention, and more than worthy of dropping “Marcy Playground member” from its future press materials: Van Goose stands firmly on its own.


Favorite track: “Last Bus”



Rating: Recommended


You can purchase Van Goose’s Habitual Eater here.


This review was originally written for Spectrum Culture and later adapted for Counterzine.

Album Review: Townes Van Zandt’s “Sky Blue”


Townes Van Zandt

Sky Blue

(Fat Possum / TVZ Records)

Sky Blue is a full-fledged archival album, not a collection of demos or outtakes or some slapdash assembly of cutting room floor recordings scattered about Townes Van Zandt’s career. Of its 11 songs, two are never-before released, six are alternate versions of previously released songs and three are covers. The material was all recorded during early 1973 with Van Zandt’s close friend Bill Hedgepeth. If those ratios don’t persuade you, consider the high frequency of alternate recordings across Van Zandt’s early discography: Our Mother the Mountain, the self-titled album, and The Late Great Townes Van Zandt, his three most popular studio albums, all feature alternate versions of songs from his debut, For the Sake of the Song. This new collection is as legitimate as any album the man released in the ’70s–perhaps even more so.

For all his immense talents as a singer, guitarist and especially as a songwriter, Van Zandt’s studio catalog has been historically marked by inconsistent production, often of the excessive, ornate variety. The man’s best recordings, 1969’s self-titled album and the legendary live double LP Live at The Old Quarter, Houston, Texas (also recorded in 1973) were also his most bare. Sky Blue pushes this even further, not just production-wise, but emotionally.

Label Fat Possum describes the version of “Pancho and Lefty” found here to be an “early draft” of the song, but that makes little sense. The famous, ‘fully realized’ original was released in 1972, the year before this version was recorded, and that was a solid, matter-of-fact rendition of one of the greatest songs ever written. The version recorded on Live at The Old Quarter, Houston, Texas five years later upped its potency. More than four decades later, this so-called “early draft” feels like the definitive recording of the song. The performance is raw and inward, humming and ringing like a lonely hangover in a room with no light. The Eggers studio production found on other albums, frequently characterized by large, sweeping arrangements and dramatic flourishes, often seemed to act like a layer of armor for Townes. Even with his live recordings, there was always a level of guarded poise when communicating directly with his audience, always willing to share himself, but not fully.

All that is stripped away here. Van Zandt’s voice, normally somber, yet clean and stable, strains and cracks as he tells the tale of “two Mexican bandits [he] saw on the TV two weeks after [he] wrote the song.” In interviews, the song’s meaning was described literally, but in retrospect it’s a symbolic fable of self-sabotage: Pancho is the part of himself born for greatness, and Lefty the saboteur bent on killing it. The theory of this reading is given more credence with the Sky Blue version: Townes is connecting on a more personal level with the song than ever before.

This extends to every previously heard Van Zandt original included on Sky Blue. The poetic, beautifully sad “Rex’s Blues” and anti-war epic “Silver Ships of Andilar” already had solid recordings, but removing the polish and the instrumental accompaniment adds even further weight to the words, the phrasing and the picking. In the case of “Snake Song,” this new version salvages a song that was once known for its goofy, over-the-top desert rattlesnake samples and transforms it into the serious self-loathing it should’ve always been. The new ‘smoky’ version of “Blue Ridge Mountain Blues”? Well, okay, it’s still not a stellar song, but it’s better than it was on High, Low and in Between.

The selection of covers are strong as well. Van Zandt’s interpretations of Richard Dobson’s “Forever for Always for Certain” and Tom Paxton’s “The Last Thing on My Mind” aren’t drastic deviations, but they do justice to the originals. “Hills of Roane County” is the real standout among this batch. Far removed from the bright bluegrass version popularized by Tony Rice, Townes’ take is cold, ruthless, and calamitous, just as a murder ballad should be.

Finally, both new originals are gorgeous: It’s a complete shock they’ve been buried more than 40 years. “All I Need” feels like something of a weary, long-lost brother to “Rex’s Blues”, characterized by a strong longing for true freedom: “Tried everything to set me free / But my chains keep playing tricks on me.” The title track almost feels closer to Nick Drake than to Townes, with its winding, gentle yet active guitar melody and depressive, nature-linked lyricism. It features some of the best verses the legend has ever penned, both darkly witty (“To me, living’s / To be laughing / In satisfaction’s face“) and just nakedly dark (“No good reason / To be living / Been looking high and low”). “Sky Blue” is so completely clear, one has to wonder if the only reason we hadn’t heard it until now is because he couldn’t bring himself to be quite that open.

Why are we just hearing this material now? Did Van Zandt want to release it, only to be turned down due to the raw sound? Did it not turn out the way he wanted it? Was it intended as an emotional, therapeutic exercise meant only for himself and Hedgepeth? It almost feels invasive to hear, but it’s a powerful listen, and our understanding of the haunted genius is better off for it. It just misses out on being Van Zandt’s definitive statement–the self-titled album is stronger song-for-song–but it feels like this is how the man was always supposed to sound. Sky Blue is a revelation, and essential.


Favorite tracks: “All I Need”, “Sky Blue”, “Pancho and Lefty”




Rating: Essential


You can purchase Townes Van Zandt’s Sky Blue here.


This review was originally written for Spectrum Culture and later adapted for Counterzine.

Album Premiere/Review: Swim Camp’s “Barlow Hill”

Album Premiere/Review: Swim Camp’s “Barlow Hill”

Swim Camp

Barlow Hill

(Z Tapes)

Today, we’re honored to premiere Barlow Hill, the latest album from Philadelphia singer/songwriter Tom Morris aka Swim Camp.

The follow-up to the 2017 debut SCUBABarlow Hill is both a lush record with a dramatic bent and a warm, performatively subdued effort of intimate emo chamber folk. The songs are slow and gorgeous with the ethereal plane and grounded reality tugging on each end. Opener “Flood” starts with loud unaccompanied acoustic guitar before being joined by shuffling, thunderous drums, bright, floating electric leads, and sober vocals that blend angst and maturity. Towards the end, swirling synths emerge and amplify the song’s soaring, nostalgic power. While Barlow Hill is largely tonally consistent, its apparent immediately that this is a more focused, deliberate, and purposeful work than SCUBA. Whether it be the frequently featured swelling violin contributions from Molly Germer (who also notably played on Alex G’s Rocket), the pitched-up harmonized vocals at the end of “Windshield Wiper”, the creaking piano balladry and rattling ambient post-rock of interludes “Herder” and “Grain” respectively, or the spacy synths on songs such as “Mighty Son” and “Pickup” (the latter of which also possess the slightest hints of a country twang), Barlow Hill effortlessly pulls together a number of disparate musical ideas that form a seamless, cohesive whole.


swim camp press kit cool 4

The humble, yet deep and clear recordings and mixes (credit to the production from Mark Watter and mastering from Matt Poirier) along with the abundant emotional frankness is the stitching that holds it all together. The conceptualization for Barlow Hill began in a cabin in North Carolina, its location the album’s namesake, where Morris simply wrote and hiked in solitude for a week. While closer “Bug Spray” is the only demo to make the final cut (the album was largely recorded later at Headroom Studios in February 2018), that time is preserved through these recordings. Barlow Hill is a self-reflective stroll through a forest of lucid dreams.

As hinted at before, while Swim Camp is still very much the brainchild of Morris, Barlow Hill sees him invite more musicians in to help realize his vision. In addition to Germer, Max Kulicke and Brian Hurlow of Carroll offer their talents with guitar and vocal contributions respectively. This still leaves the lion’s share of instrumentation to Morris, from strings to keys to percussion, all of which have taken notable strides forward.


Originally premiered via Various Small Flames, the music video for Swim Camp’s “Pretty Bird”, directed and edited by Bob Sweeney, is a grainy home movie of Tom hiking through the forest to bury a box, potentially/presumably a time capsule symbolically representative of a past he wishes to relinquish: at least until a time where he has distanced himself from it and can eventually appreciate its role in his growth.


tom kat rogers

You can stream Barlow Hill in its entirety below:


Favorite tracks: “Pretty Bird”, “Mighty Son, “Bug Spray”

Rating: Essential


Barlow Hill officially releases tomorrow (April 19) digital and cassette via Z Tapes. The cassette release is limited to 70 copies and includes traditional Slovakian sweets, a Z Tapes sticker, and a thank-you note along with the tape. The album is available for pre-order here right now.

Further reading from Various Small Flames and The Key.

Follow Swim Camp on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Bandcamp, SoundCloud, and Spotify.

Tape Review: William Lyon of Rosycross’ “Alter in der Fülle”

Tape Review: William Lyon of Rosycross’ “Alter in der Fülle”

William Lyon of Rosycross

Alter in der Fülle

(Cudighi Records)

Referring back to our recent review of Monsoon’s Now Became Never, we declared that “the chances of anything outstripping [it] in sheer lunacy this year are slim”. We stand by that, though now that William Lyon of Rosycross’ Alter in der Fülle is the topic of discussion, an addendum must be made: its lunacy has been matched, albeit in a vastly different form.

Alter in der Fülle is a pop album. By “the world’s only demi-crossdressing Christian goth synthpop artist”. William Lyon of Rosycross’ debut plays like Jarvis Cocker, having been raised on a steady diet of Sparks and New Order records, writing a satirical opera from the perspective of a deeply bizarre, pathetic, and conflicted individual doomed to constantly be jerked around by their opposing beliefs and personality traits.

Lyon’s lyrics are obscenely witty, from the internal crossdressing conflict in “Double Life” (“Late at night / When some slut / Has the nerve / To call me up / I struggle / And I fight / And I despise her / And I hide”), to the curmudgeonly “Rock and Roll Starbucks” (“Rock and roll Starbucks / Is 21 and over / You can smoke inside and they’re open all night / They wear black and white like the corporation likes / But they do it right like Siouxsie and the Banshees / And they’ve got busted dreams just like me”). Similar to another modern day musical satirist adopting a caricaturesque throwback aesthetic in Alex Cameron (who subverts American heartland rock), Chicago’s Lyon has made a very British record here. If Lyon himself is not originally from England, his faux-accent is convincing and at the same time, hilariously over-the-top, characterized by dramatic, echoed breathiness and the cheap, overt sleaziness and arrogance that defined subsets of glam-tinged 90s Britpop. Combining this fully committal, chameleon actor performance with the insane, unwittingly self-deprecating lyrics makes this the funniest album of the year.

Beyond that, it’s also one of the best pop albums you’ll hear all year. Every vocal hook is smartly positioned and endlessly quotable, and while Lyon refers to the sound of Alter in der Fülle as “the inimitable sound of 2004 poseur electronica (for instance, that super weak Postal Service record)”, he births some disgustingly sinister earworms with it.

Alter in der Fülle is the type of record that will always be hard to sell on words alone. It’s difficult to explain just what an absolute blast it is when nearly every characteristic it adopts individually is on some level unflattering. Like any satire, you’ll get and appreciate it, or you won’t. Regardless, this is one of the most individualistic takes on synthpop in recent memory. With a strong pop songwriting base and quirkiness abound, this is an absolute must-listen.


Favorite tracks: “Double Life”, “Protestant Body and a Catholic Mind”, “Lifeforce (Johnny, It’s Not Too Late to Call Off the Wedding)”




Rating: Essential


You can purchase William Lyon of Rosycross’ Alter in der Fülle here.

Tape Review: Wizard Apprentice’s “I Am Invisible”

Tape Review: Wizard Apprentice’s “I Am Invisible”

Wizard Apprentice

I Am Invisible

(Ratskin Records)

There seems to be a general misconception that electronic music must, on some level, be cold, precise, and alienating. On I Am Invisible, California’s Wizard Apprentice dismantles that concept, taking the bedroom singer/songwriter approach to the genre to craft stark, beautiful, and emotionally bare compositions that act as an introvert’s best invitation for connection.

The opening title track starts with bright, cascading synths before fading to give way to Wizard Apprentice’s vocals, delivered a cappella in a sweet yet somber sung-spoke fashion before the synths come back to marry with them. Following track “Sensuality” takes the form of a simple shuffling post-punk tune not far removed from Joy Division, while A-side closer “A Debt” is a sprawling ambient pop piece with powerful, matter-of-fact lyrics that touch on being able to forgive those who have hurt you now that you’ve hurt someone, shifting into a swarm of skittering electronics after the four-and-a-half-minute mark.

On the B-side, “Our Head Is Not Our House” is a short piece featuring some of the more experimental techniques on the album. Wizard Apprentice’s vocals are bit more ‘acrobatic’ here, and there’s haunting effect that comes in and out during the duration of the song that sounds like wailing ghost. “Research Stage of Love” is a warm and vulnerable song that balances swirling electronics and picked acoustic guitar over lyrics weighing the pros and cons of opening up your heart to others. Finally, I Am Invisible closes with “As If”, a gorgeous, watery, glitched-out love ballad.

A fascinating listen for a multitude of reasons, including its blunt, philosophical lyrics, soft, cracked vocals, effective use of auditory white space, and quiet artistic ambition facilitated by a lack of attachment to technique, I Am Invisible is music for the intimate, futuristic setting of Replicant-owned cafés.


Favorite tracks: “A Debt”, “Research Stage of Love”



Rating: Strongly Recommended


You can purchase Wizard Apprentice’s I Am Invisible here.

Tape Review: B.A. Johnston’s “The Skid Is Hot Tonight”

Tape Review: B.A. Johnston’s “The Skid Is Hot Tonight”

B.A. Johnston

The Skid Is Hot Tonight

(Transistor 66 Record Co.)

For the uninitiated, B.A. Johnston is something of legend in Hamilton, Ontario. Regularly posting triple-digit gig numbers each year, peddling his brand of ‘skid’ music year-round to any town that’ll have him. With his eighth album The Skid Is Hot Tonight, Johnston’s crafted yet another brilliant and uniquely Canadian soundtrack to day-to-day, middle-aged man-child life.

As per usual, Johnston stylistically flips between simple, absurd, Wesley Willis-esque synth pop-punk and equally simple and absurd, but more subdued and emotional material in the form of his acoustic folk punk songs. With the former, he tells tales of a mushroom trip at Van Halen in Toronto (“We’re All Going to Jail (Except Pete, He’s Gonna Die)”), compares himself and his Dodge Caravan to pieces of shit doomed to endless circle the toilet bowl (“Circle the Bowl”), and waxes philosophical about the emptiness of existence via a bouncy veil of a tune that drops references to Froot Loops and Young Sheldon (“I Stare Into the Void”). With the latter, “Flintstones Vitamins and Jamesons” describes an unhealthy post-breakup diet (“Eat Flintstones vitamins / For the strength to carry on”), and “Discounted Bacon” recalls how Johnston used to be skinny, but cheap, unhealthy food became a comfort when he didn’t have money.

As mentioned before, Johnston music is un-apologetically Canadian, with several songs referencing old local bars like The Pig’s Ear Tavern, Canadian deep discount supermarket chains (No Frills), and Canadian cheese curl brands (Hawkins Cheezies). While such specifications could risk isolating those not from B.A.’s homeland, they’re generally simple enough to grasp and aid in making the music feel much more personal and intimate than the vast majority of ‘novelty’ artists.

The Skid Is Hot Tonight doesn’t revolutionize the sound of B.A. Johnston and it doesn’t have to. It feels like the gimmick should’ve gotten old a decade and a half ago, but Johnston remains reliably fun and charming all this time later. Another great project from a Canadian independent music icon.


Favorite tracks: “We’re All Going to Jail (Except Pete, He’s Gonna Die)”, “Circle the Bowl”



Rating: Strongly Recommended


You can purchase B.A. Johnston’s The Skid Is Hot Tonight here.

Album Premiere/Tape Review: Monsoon’s “Now Became Never”

Album Premiere/Tape Review: Monsoon’s “Now Became Never”


Now Became Never

(Not on Label)

The musical pairing of Revson Gourley-Rice (theremin, pedals, drum machine, guitar) and Gregory Bry (drums) is not a young one: Now Became Never marks their tenth anniversary making music together as Monsoon and at the same time, their first ever project to receive a physical release in the form of the beautiful sapphire cassette you see above. It’s long overdue, but if any Monsoon album is worthy of being the first (and so far, only), it’s this one: Now Became Never is a massive, furious, violent storm of improvised psychedelic noise jazz, filled with thunderous, destructive percussion, crushing waves of pedal effects, and warped, psychotic ramblings.

By the album’s own standards, opener “Gasmik Whrstmeh” seems quite tame in retrospect, though for someone whose never heard Monsoon before, the first rising tides of spiraling pedal sludge that ascend amidst the thick stoner rock will quickly destroy any sense of comfort you may have misguidedly felt. Things get a little more fucked up on the brief Beefhart-esque “Love Seats From HeLL” before spiraling into a full-blown Category 5 hurricane of insanity.

“GriT PoP/SNaggle Tooth Blues” engulfs the listener in a tsunami of noise comprised of harsh distortion, crashing cymbals, and wild, primal drumming. Centerpiece “DID Daddy Die{}B00P LAZY” is utterly horrific, with Revson sounding like a heavily intoxicated escaped asylum patient cackling madly as he flees and slaughters all witnesses he encounters as reality twists around him. On B-side opener “The Thang”, the duo form their take on a laid-back, jazzy lounge number with the drums at a shuffle step: that is, before Revson comes in with pitched up vocals like some sort of demented treasure chest imp.

Now Became Never is ceaselessly mad. Like the Residents, the Magic Band, Comets on Fire, King Tears Bat Trip and Sunn O))) gang-banging each other on angel dust mad. The chances of anything outstripping this in sheer lunacy this year are slim.

Recorded in a single day and fully improvised, Now Became Never is nonetheless the culmination of a decade of creativity, frustration, and most importantly, trust.

And it’s absolutely thrilling.


Favorite tracks: “GriT PoP/SNaggle Tooth Blues”, “DID Daddy Die{}B00P LAZY”, “The Thang”


Rating: Essential


Monsoon’s Now Became Never is available to download free here right now. Tapes are also available to order and ship March 15.

Tape Review: True Blossom’s “Heater”

Tape Review: True Blossom’s “Heater”

True Blossom


(Citrus City Records)

The debut cassette from Atlanta pop quintet True Blossom, Heater is a tight half-hour masterclass in pristine, nostalgia-soaked disco pop.

Fans of Citrus City label-mates Video Age should find much to enjoy in True Blossom’s brand of throwback synth pop as well, but whereas Video Age are something of an anachronistic hypnogogic lo-fi Hall & Oates, True Blossom’s syrupy sentimentality manifests itself as a tender blend of Fleetwood Mac, ABBA, and ’80s city pop. “Flu Punks” in particular sounds much like an Americanized take on the romantic coming-of-age anime ED, with its beaming vintage synths, sugary sweet singing, and carefree funk groove. Elsewhere, the lilting harmony-driven balladry of “Grave Robbers” evokes the filmography of John Hughes, the title-track serves up a tight, lockstep shuffle and charming conversational vocals, and closer “What I Want I Can Never Have” wraps its heart-wrenching, youth-reminiscent lyrics in a package of innocent euphoria long since lost.

Heater is an awfully appropriate name for the album, with warmth in its many forms its calling card: the warmth of the bass tone, the warmth of young love, the warmth of fluorescent lights, the warmth of the sun beating down on you as you drive through the city on a beautiful day. Even Sophie Cox’s vocals are soft, gentle, and cozy, just like a warm blanket.

Heater is one of those albums where it’s hard to imagine anyone disliking it. Cleanly produced with rich, intimate mixes, accessibly written yet packed with little details to latch onto, pure and adorable without being cloying in a way very few manage, it’s capable of softening the most callous and icy of hearts and transporting the listener back to the simpler, magical days of youth when every color seemed brighter and your childhood crush was the axis on which the world turned. An absolutely lovely debut.


Favorite tracks: “Flu Punks”, “What I Want I Can Never Have”




Rating: Strongly Recommended


You can purchase True Blossom’s “Heater” here.