Here we are. Nope, I don’t have any clever little anecdotes, stories, etc., but as we navigate through art, pop culture, and such, I ask everyone to just consider the struggles people may be going through. So far 2020 has acted like a vindictive ex-lover we could probably all relate to but at least we all have someone we can talk to. Not everyone’s struggle is the same but just reach out to your friends.
At the GB complex, I’ve been listening to a lot of new things, like Deerhoof’s new one Future Teenage Cave Artists (Joyful Noise Recordings), and the band obviously remains like no other band. All of their contemporaries have gone the way of the dinosaur but I’ve always thought Deerhoof is simply derivative unto itself! That’s it, they are the alpha-omega of what they do. Don’t believe me? Listen to the album from beginning to end and then we can argue. See if you can change my mind. It won’t.
I wasn’t sure what to make of Nashville’s The Foxies, as they maneuver through pop culture with an unabashed, well, popness. They’ve released a number of E.P.s and the newest Growing Up Is Dead is something the kids can dance to, made for mainstream play. Yeah, they have a lot of pop sensibilities that curves along the same lines as say, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, or even “Since You’ve Been Gone” era Kelly Clarkson, but the sound rallies around a mor electronic 80s sensibilities which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. “French Boy” steps out of the pop comfort zone, revved up offering a bit of a culture clash with the rest.
Painted Zeros is the brainchild of Katie Lau who continues her journey into sobriety which she began 3 years ago. When You Found Forever (Don Giovanni) is the project’s sophomore release and the delivery of songs is varied from track to track while remaining cohesive. Catchy melodies, clever hooks, and sweet vocal melodies are what Lau does, and does well. Whether it’s more jangly tracks filled with harmonies (“Fuck My Life”), laidback deliveries that are hauntingly sweet (“Break”), or raucously thick & tasty pop songs (“Commuter Rage”), there’s something here for anyone and everyone.
It does happen often when I’ll wrap myself around music and allow myself to fall into cataclysmic sonic oblivion which does make me feel more alive at times. Watching Christina Applegate’s character on the Netflix show Dead To Me, allows everyone to see that music, no matter how abrasive to some, can be used to soothe (her character uses death metal to relax, which is pretty amazing.) Now here though, I guess I should revisit this one release by Brant Bjork which was originally slated for an April release and finally sees the light of day a month later.
It’s been almost 30 years since the release of Kyuss’ Wretch, and the group’s founding member Brant Bjork has set out on a whirlwind of releases throughout the years giving stoner rock fans a different side, a varied taste of the genre he and his fans have embraced. Recording with bands Mondo Generator, Fu Manchu, and Fatso Jetson, Bjork has kept busy, also recording & releasing over a dozen albums, remixes, and live releases under his own name. The multi-instrumentalist knows no bound. But this isn’t a fucking history lesson and it’s not what you’re here for.
Brant Bjork truly is an artist to be reckoned with and his latest self-titled release (Heavy Psych Sounds Records), is a clear example of it. From track to track, the songs aren’t forced and are sound organically birthed. There are a number of repetitive motions within verses but that just might be the appeal, as listeners are drawn into the deserty sound. Listening to “Mary (You’re Such A Lady)” is a good example, with a few notes struck over and over, it becomes hypnotic, becoming mind-numbing and addictive in its delivery. The bass booms without even trying and Bjork’s conversational vocal delivery is as enticing, that is until his vocal cadence is shifted when he sings the chorus, “You’re such a lady/A pretty lady.” A simple guitar lead is all that’s needed as well, nothing more, nothing less, to generate such subdued power. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.
“Jungle In The Sound” opens the album and that same unrestrained ease is found here as well. Bjork is masterful in his delivery, his less-is-more simplicity that allows the song to transcend without populating it with an overabundance of instrumentation or layers. After listening to the track alone, everyone can comprehend why he’s so beloved in many circles outside of the genre he commands. Who knew he could get funktified as well? “Stardust And Diamond Eyes” is just that, with guitar and bass following the same pattern, hitting the same notes as drums play in the background/foreground and the subdued congas seep in.
Was I expecting something different from Brant Bjork on this new release? Maybe something heavier but instead received the blessing of the nine-track album that’s just completely mind-melding. It’s just beautifully done.
There are moments when and where I don’t know how to begin. We can be real and discuss certain subjects and how things have been throughout the years. With rock, it’s been a male-dominated field for decades. Ok, I said it. We acknowledge it because it’s the truth. The fact that some groups have been able to sustain careers throughout those decades, it sometimes boggles the mind.
Along comes Mrs. Piss. There’s nothing new about Mrs. Piss, as one half of the group is renowned songstress Chelsea Wolfe. This group is her collaboration with multi-instrumentalist Jess Gowrie, who she once played with, in their first band Red Host. They began working on what would become Mrs. Piss back in 2017 and the fruition of new material Self-Surgery (Sargent House) is released today. To say this is what we’ve all been waiting for is probably an understatement and that’s just because these artists are capable of writing and recording material that goes sonically farther than many of their male contemporaries.
Listening to Self-Surgery multiple times is a necessity, both for its brevity and its beauty. The album only has eight songs and the total running time doesn’t even clock in up to 20 minutes BUT the songs composed here a completely fucking badass, as Mrs. Piss pieces together sonically challenging melodies and dynamics. They open with “To Crawl Inside,” a 44 second delivery of dissonance and spoken/whispered lyricism that could lead anyone to believe that yes, this is an art project. But Mrs. Piss eschews those ideals, opting for something more abrasive and melodic at the same time. Dissonant notes fill “Downer Surrounded By Uppers” as the duo moves at a frantic pace but never letting up on the punk-fueled rhythm. “Knelt,” the lengthiest number of the songs here is a slower rhythm-heavy dirge that would make the Melvins proud but the melody and harmonies are prevalent and never let up!
No one will be able to get enough of the piss, Mrs. Piss to be exact. “Nobody Wants To Party With Us” slowly builds before it’s dynamic explosiveness and Chelsea Wolfe’s vocals are unbelievable & uncanny opening the track. The song itself, in every way, is captivating down to its essence just as “M.B.O.T.W.O.” is. They deliver power in short spurts at times, never leaving it encumbered with any added filler just to lengthen the track. Over the top guitars, distortion, powerful rhythms, and then they’re out! Mrs. Piss may take an idea here and there from those that came before, but they expand on it and take it further than a gaggle of guys would. “You Took Everything” is a clear example. They get heady, again fucking with dynamics and leaving wreckage behind them.
Literally, there is no other artist like Mrs. Piss. Everyone, male/female/other, should aspire to follow the path they’ve laid out. Given, they’d have to walk carefully over the rubble Mrs. Piss has left in its wake but it would be well worth it. Self-Surgery is required listening.
It seems days of the week have pretty much become interchangeable and whenever I turn around, there’s a new release by someone I thought just released something the other day. That’s a general feeling although it’s never actually the case.
MC Homeless’ last proper release came in 2019 with Sex and Death: The Remixes, a dissonant affair that was pretty captivating. This time around he joins forces with HaplogroupX (emcee Bernicus and beat wizard Transplant). Now, all three artists share similar tastes and with friendship bonds made throughout the better part of almost 10 years, a decision was made for a collaborative effort. The Duress E.P. (MilledPavement Records) is the fruit of their conjoined labor and is rife with, rhymes galore, catchy hooks and fresh beats. Where scribes and detractors are likely in attempting to point out missteps and stumbles, there are none found on Duress.
From the opening thickness of “Disarray,” Transplant’s production showcases his technical skill and soulful influence, allowing it to permeate through the entire track while Homeless and Bernichus share lyrical volleys with clear and concise wording, tossing similes and metaphors back and forth. The emcees juxtapose lyrics against an upbeat rhythm, horns, and guitar, but it works. Too well! It’s that track that you just won’t be able to get enough of. The track is followed by “Poison,” and the Jim Jones referencing allows both emcees to direct lyrical dexterity and focus words in relation to natural and corporate toxins – and then some – destroying without acknowledgement. It’s beautifully pieced together over music with a laidback temperament that’s easily addictive.
But it’s “Harbor (feat. Anthony Maintain” that I’m drawn to here. It’s the vocal cuts, provided by Ben Buck, that quietly get the most attention here, fitted where necessary, but that’s not to diminish everyone else’s contribution to the track where a nautical theme is prevalent. Clever wordplay abounds, with lyrics like “Raindrops keep falling on my head / made of lead / in the harbor waters where the coral tears your flesh to shreds” clearly(!) allow explicit imagery. It’s direct as all three lyricists share the same clear-cut deliveries.
I’m really left confused here, probably because of the release’s brevity. At only five tracks, Duress leaves me wanting more. Much more. There are nuances here that shouldn’t be overlooked but rather, listened to over and over again because this right here, it’s just that fucking good.