New Music | Friday Roll Out: Loveletter, Man Man, Pedro The Lion, Angélica Garcia

I’m listening. I’m trying to get an idea of what’s going on here with the latest Man Man release Carrot On Strings (Sub Pop). Now while I do need to stress there’s nothing wrong with the album and songs are good, constructed well and everything seems on point, something is missing. Don’t get me wrong, with the band’s last offering Dream Hunting In The Valley Of The In-Between, was an amazing display of songwriting and was captivating, the new album, while interesting and well written, doesn’t capture that same excitement. We all know what Man Man is capable of, and I just wish the new release drew me in like the music has done in the past because I love this band.

Ever feel like you’re stuck in a time warp? You know, you’re thrown back into the past and reminisce of better days? New York’s Loveletter just released its debut with the Testament EP and yeah, that nostalgia flows right above troubled waters. Well, it’s more like the sludge coming from the depths of the East River. If there were ever a trio that owed much to the indie noise of the East Coast city, it would be Loveletter. The band wears its influences on its proverbial sleeve so comparisons might be warranted. But it doesn’t happen right out of the gate though. The band is sometimes bass-heavy, rhythmically, while dropping in alluring vocal melodies on “Bully.” The band fills it with sensuality and dissonance as the lone guitar delivers repetitive notes & chords alongside that bassline that work to the group’s benefit. “Dead Weight” may just be calling on the spirited antics of Ranaldo & Moore, filling it with more dissonance & melody, normally running concurrently, as Gabriella Zappia’s sung/spoken vocals capitalize off the bass rhythm much like Kim Gordon would. There are a couple of moments when the inflection in her delivery is derivative unto itself, showing us there’s more to Loveletter. The band takes a different approach with “Prophets” though, as the ghost of the Riot Grrrl aesthetic seems to take over and makes me want to burn down the patriarchy. “Burn Up On Reentry” holds onto the same aesthetic while allowing things to open up a bit, holding tight to its own experimentation through noise. This isn’t a bad release, not in the slightest. The band does ride its influences but it also allows its own identity to permeate through Testament.


There’s something to be said about conceptualized ideas, and albums for that matter, but you have to be able to pull it off in the most interesting of ways possible. Some things shouldn’t take stutter-steps instead, offer up an array of sound & subject matter. It may even take time to ingest, forcing you to move backward into previous works of art. Yes, art. There are several artists who can stitch together multiple releases through the evocative music they’re able to weave together. Moments like this eventually make sense in the end.

Pedro The Lion is the project created by David Bazan back in 1995 and released its first album It’s Hard To Find A Friend in 1998, handling vocals, guitar, and drums with Johnathon Ford (Roadside Monument/Unwed Sailor) on bass. Bazan has had a rotating group of musicians joining him throughout the years and after an 11-year hiatus brought it back in 2017. In 2019 Pedro The Lion released Phoenix which was followed up by 2022’s Havasu. Today the band releases Santa Cruz (Polyvinyl) and here, things seem to come together. While the last couple of albums have explored Bazan’s past, the new one continues to touch on aspects of his life, as he wraps his words around powerful rhythms and strong catchy melodies. It’s always easy to get lost in the music; this time around it’s not much different as Bazan and the band piece their instruments together for something quite intriguing. From the beginning though, with the morose opener “It’ll All Work Out” Pedro The Lion has us believing this is going to be a sad journey through his tales but this is where it ends, picking up the beat and guitars, as his words are juxtaposed against upbeat guitar-driven melodies. On the title track, Bazan dives into his pre-teen years leading into them, coupled with bible verses and religion, and we understand how everything intertwined into the man he was expected to be. There’s no reason or way anyone could hate the song as the melody is almost hypnotic as he moves through his youth in just one song. “Little Help” follows and it’s themed again around his youth, and Bazan paints pictures through his words so clearly that you can imagine being there. The music slowly builds around it before exploding through the collision of instruments. But friendship and how a little help does go a long way when you’re lonely. Bazan can take these stories and weave them together so well, it’s like reading the details in a book. “Tall Pines” offers much of the same, and you just don’t get tired of listening to him share those tales, especially the way he winds through his melodies.

Bazan waxes poetically with “If I Don’t Cry Now” and he also references biblical passages (Luke 19:40) when he sings “If I don’t cry now, the rocks will insist.” There’s an obvious melancholy but you won’t feel that sadness, instead turning towards empathy. It’s “Remembering” though that initially draws you in with just a couple of notes and chords and a melody where again, Bazan knits together his story. He reminisces about a guitar and music in his home. He sings “I hear piano, from my sister’s room / dad wonders if I know how to / he doesn’t really play guitar, but he showed me several chords / so I can use them to write a song of my own.” He couples that with “Remembering a good friend, from a couple towns ago / I sat trying to strum the chords, he started humming along.” His early music days are some of the most memorable times of his life and damn it, he rocks that shit out here. I realize I’m just moving from one song to the next but it’s difficult not to. “Teacher’s Pet” follows and musically it’s more of the same: another Pedro The Lion song that easily infectious and alluring. Of course, his words again tell another story that we can all sit through again and again.

Yes, Bazan has always had a way with music and words, and at this point in his life, he’s become a master craftsman as Santa Cruz shows. Now as I place his last three record covers together, things seem…clearer. Uncertain if it was planned but from one cover to the next, an image clearly surfaces. Is it a point of clarity? Possibly. The band is at its peak right now with Santa Cruz and you can’t help but fall in love with Pedro The Lion.


When being biased comes easy, you simply know someone is doing something right. Personally, I probably have two handfuls of artists that I know are set in their ways, to the point where I always expect some creatively out-of-the-box thinking when it comes to musical releases. We all have those that we vibe with, without question. We remain hopeful that mediocrity never infiltrates its way into the art itself.

Gemelo (Partisan Records) is Angélica Garcia’s third release and follow-up to her stunning 2020 Cha Cha Palace. Musically, Garcia took chances on Cha Cha Palace, with winding melodies, the likes of which we haven’t heard before. The album, which was mostly in English but also included a few songs in Spanish, with some occasionally spilling into Spanglish but always delighting with cooing background voices and cascading vocal deliveries. With Gemelo, the four years in between albums have proven time well spent. While there are a couple of songs where verses may be sung in English, for the most part, this is a Spanish-language affair. Y claro que si, that’s fine by me. The music throughout Gemelo is widely spacious, and hauntingly beautiful creating a musical landscape suited for someone of Garcia’s range. It’s with “Color De Dolor” that we truly find that exploration. When she asks “cual es el color de dolor,” it probably wouldn’t hit in the same way in English but in Spanish we imagine in our own minds what the color of pain might be. Singing in Spanish she’s able to convey a deeper amount of imagery and when she sings “Vivo en nuevo color,” it’s understood she’s living a new life. It’s romanticized much more this way.

Garcia’s words are delicately poetic on the captivatingly infectious “Juanita,” which is led through the slinking bassline, layered with her vocal harmonies throughout, as she wraps her words around it. It’s insanely captivating as she draws us in with an aching heart. But this isn’t the moment you might find yourself utterly drawn in, it’s probably on “Ángel (eterna)” where you feel the emotion emanating from the song itself. This is a love song and the music could probably just be an afterthought because it’s Garcia’s voice that’s the vocal point of this tense and loose ballad. Her words are captivating from start to finish. The insurmountable emotions Garcia can convey is astounding. The backing vocals and harmonies also play an intricate role, adding additional vocal parts. And just like that, she’s allowed us into her range while also letting us know she can still rock with the best of them…probably better. “Y Grito” is hard-hitting, without wailing guitars, instead utilizing Garcia’s voice, much like Robert Plant once did. Mind you, this is far from a comparison, but when Led Zeppelin kicked off “Immigrant Song,” he used his voice to create a unique and captivating melody. Garcia does the same thing here, as the imagery becomes darker. At just over a minute and a half though, the passion is evocative and her delivery may be over-the-top but it’s welcomed.

While there have been releases so far this year that are contenders for the top spot, I’d be hard-pressed not to mention Gemelo here as one of them. The thing is though, Angélica Garcia may have just released the best album of the year itself! Yeah, I’m biased.