The Bongoloids’ second album, The Barn, is eleven years in the making, mixed from sessions dating back to 2009. The music, stopping just shy of total noise, is too free-form and experimental to have grown stale in the interim. Each song has a clearly defined pulse, topped with everything from Appalachian banjos to warped voice samples. Side A peaks with a blistering avant jazz freakout before closing with a soothing drone. We don’t hear a human voice until side B, where found conversations move rapidly from disturbing themes to incidental studio chatter. This group presents their work as undisciplined artifacts of drug indulgence. But they manage to hit a surprising number of far-reaching outsider music corners, everything from organic drum circles to Negativland-esque collages. There are even some Tim Kinsella echoes in the posh 808 beats. The overall effect takes me back to hearing Lee “Scratch” Perry for the first time, being stoned in my friend’s car and getting jumpy as the sound effects bounced from the left to right speakers. The Bongoloids won’t say when this collection will be available online, but you can find it on vinyl at Euclid Records. —Michael Kunz


While Die Kreuzen later went on to inspire many with jarring proto-gunge releases on Touch and Go, this compilation capures the Milwaukee group during their earliest days as a hardcore punk band. These 1981 and 1982 demos feature the band doing material that later graced their Cows And Beer EP and self-titled debut. The band would’ve also been performing these same songs when they made their first New Orleans appearance in 1983 at Tupelo’s Tavern alongside DISAPpointed PARents. Musically, Die Kreuzen is riding the razor’s edge on these recordings. These are performances brimming with the youthful energy and angst that gave a sense of excitement to early 1980s hardcore punk. Most of these songs appear on both demos, albeit in much more striking fashion on the 1982 versions. The 1981 demos sound sharper because they’re digitized from the original master tape, but the 1982 recordings capture a faster and notably more relentless band. As with most demos, this release isn’t essential for casual passersby. However, it is a refreshing dosage of reckless catharsis in a time when it has become incredibly difficult for kids to get together in the same room and let their amps do the talking. —William Archambeault


Released at the end of August, Good Gamey’s debut EP ushers in autumn with gentle instrumentals and sober melodies. Near Me is a bittersweet homage to times that once were. The four-track EP consists of a series of somewhat homogenous vignettes that provide a self-directed reminder of the age-old adage that life goes on. A poignant feeling of longing resonates throughout the record, created and recreated by haunting melodies and reverberant acoustic guitar. Over the length of the record, Good Gamey’s mournful lyrics weave a palpable tale of heartbreak. The first track, “Homes,” sets the tone with a reflection on the complexities of love and navigating the line between care and self-preservation. As the EP progresses, so emerges a sense of regret with the confession, “I tried for too much longer than I should’ve and it just made it worse.” As a whole, Near Me is a vulnerable divulgence of the painful reality of heartache and the myriad emotions that accompany it. With each lyric and chord progression, Good Gamey reveals to the world another piece of himself. —Victoria Conway


The debut EP from Baltimore/New Orleans group Latitude Unknown opens with the jaunty “Pez De Spencer,” a short and sweet track which hearkens back to 1960s French pop. This sets the mood for this six-song EP, each entry a beautifully-crafted work of indie pop with a twist of bossa nova and Brazilian jazz. In a recent interview with the Jackson Free Press, Spencer Nessel and Andrew Burke spoke to their origins and the influences behind the EP. This collaboration is still fairly new, formed in March 2020 when Nessel and Burke decided they needed a creative outlet during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite their jangly, upbeat sound, the songs on this EP are influenced by both your standard issue life anxieties and the broader ones caused by the pandemic (“Sycamore”: “And everywhere that I go / I know I’ve never felt so missing”). This juxtaposition between sound and lyrics makes these songs all the more poignant and all the more relatable. Though the songs are all quality (and the EP should be listened to in its entirety), “High Dive” and “Sycamore” are tracks that stand out in particular. —Mary Beth Campbell


Hannah feels too intimate to look at head-on at times—like viewing someone else through a hall of mirrors. Hannah Read has been performing under the stage name Lomelda since 2015, and on Hannah we watch her grapple with who she is as both an artist and person. The album is both suffocating and patient. On “Hannah Sun” she sings “Hannah, do no harm / Hannah, do no harm / No harm, no harm, no harm,” a plea to herself that we as listeners are mere witnesses to. In addition to trying to define who Hannah is, she’s also trying to define who Lomelda is. On “It’s Lomelda,” she sings “It’s Low / It’s Yo La Tengo / It’s The Innocence Mission / Frank Ocean / Frankie Cosmos.” Throughout the album she juxtaposes artistry and identity, proclaiming herself many things while also speaking about herself in the third person, and speaking to herself in the second. The album’s instrumentals are equally inquisitive and restless. “Both Mode” has no lyrics and features what feels like a conversation between an acoustic and electric guitar, both being strummed aggressively. On the last song, “Hannah Please,” she sings, “Why can’t I speak? / Come on Hannah, please / Swear I try, Swear I try.” I believe her. —Marisa Clogher


MAX is the biggest pop star you don’t know. By 20, he had already been on Broadway, modeled for Dolce & Gabbana, and had a TV show and a film on Nickelodeon. His 2016 single, “Lights Down Low” went multi-platinum, and yet he’s far from being a household name. Colour Vision, his new album, could change that. The first track announces itself with blaring synths and the line: “I know what’s ahead of me and it’s beautiful / I see it all in colour.” Track after track, MAX’s voice soars in and out of octaves effortlessly. The first earworm of a single, “Love Me Less,” has already been certified Gold. His cheeky, uplifting lyrics about domestic bliss are catchy and charming. “Blueberry Eyes,” with its heavy beat under a delicate piano riff, features a romantic interlude from Suga (of BTS), spoken in Korean, and is a surprisingly strong mashup of genres. Other guest artists—Hayley Kiyoko, Quinn XCII, bbno$, and Chromeo—are equally well matched and utilized. The notable music videos that accompany the album are Wes Anderson-meets-Disney style hyper-reality short films that match the vibrancy and electronic glitchiness of the music. Now that MAX has arrived, he’ll be hard to forget. —Sabrina Stone


Michot’s Melody Makers has released a live album of forward-thinking zydeco music that draws you in from the very first note. Recorded at Saturn Bar on December 9, 2019, Louis Michot’s Cajun French can be heard rolling over electric fiddles, Cajun triangles, and a cheering crowd. The band’s mix of traditional Louisiana instrumentals and passionate drumlines makes Cosmic Cajuns from Saturn a dance-worthy album (even if the only partner you can wrangle these days is a neighborhood cat or a begrudging roommate). “La jument de Michot” is the crown jewel here, inspired by “Uncle Bobby, all the way from Bretagne,” as Michot, co-founder of Lost Bayou Ramblers, informs the audience. The album races from one song to the next, until we arrive at “Reveil Michot.” The song’s opening reveals the most experimental sounds on the album. Michot’s fiddling is manipulated to sound at times like an eerie flute, at others a violin, and finally back to fiddle. Cosmic Cajuns encompasses what it feels like to be gathered with friends around a campfire on a cold fall night, taking in the smell of pines and oaks, and reveling in the demented, beautiful way of life we embrace here in Louisiana. —Julia Engel


MJ Guider (the musical project of New Orleans’ Melissa Guion) is known for creating spacious, atmospheric dream pop that seems to transport you to another realm. The songs on Sour Cherry Bell, their second full-length, are still dreamy but darker and with a more sparse, gothic sound. While 2016’s Precious Systems played around more with layers, Sour Cherry Bell pushes the sound in a slightly different (though parallel) direction, honing in more on electronic minimalism and shoe-gaze elements. What results is a gorgeous, haunting collection of songs that, while entirely in their own world, belong in the same catalogue as gothic dream pop artists like Zola Jesus and Cocteau Twins. “FM Secure,” the first single, is a moody meditation built around the mantra “I used to live in silence / Now I make some noise.” “Petrechoria,” with its layered vocals, takes on the ambience of a religious chant, and the industrial “Quiet Time” showcases Guion’s vocal range. “Body Optics,” a slow burner, eventually evolves into a synth-heavy track, a direct descendant of Vangelis and Goblin. Sour Cherry Bell is, in the best possible sense, a heady musical escape. —Mary Beth Campbell


When asked about The Ends, the latest album from Toronto garage punkers The OBGMs, lead vocalist/guitarist Densil McFarlane described it as “This is rock music that hits differently. It’s Kurt Cobain shit. It’s Jimi Hendrix shit. It’s the Steve Jobs of this rock shit.” Written during a particularly dark time in McFarlane’s life, The Ends is a bold collection of snarling punk rock songs dipped in hardcore and hip-hop. These are songs that make you want to scream at the top of your lungs and jump in a mosh pit. The ‘90s and early ‘00s influences are apparent without seeming derivative (the guitar intro to Fight Song is a nod to Nirvana). The poppy anthem “All My Friends” is the punk rock singalong that we have been missing. Most of the tracks, though, confront McFarlane’s internal and external struggles (“Triggered,To Death”), while “Cash” delves into the band’s own issues: “It don’t make no dollars baby / That don’t make no sense.” Even in its more light-hearted moments, The Ends is an album that delves into the dark—these are songs meant not to numb, but to agitate. —Mary Beth Campbell

LIVE IN SEATTLE 05.28.2018

Power Trip singer Riley Gale’s untimely passing shook the metal and hardcore worlds in late August. Power Trip had grown from a small local band in Dallas to become one of the great rising forces in metal. In the process, they broke thrash away from its distant 1980s origins and transformed it into something meaningful for today’s kids. After two highly praised albums, the band was on the verge of a major breakthrough that could have taken them into the mainstream. This live album, released in June to help offset the burden of COVID-era tour cancellations, now stands tall as a lasting document of the group’s live tour de force. This 2018 show captures their explosive metal assault at its very peak. Power Trip doesn’t let up for a single second and Gale is front and center as one of the genre’s best frontmen. The sheer power of their live performance brings to mind Donald “Duck” Dunn’s infamous quote in The Blues Brothers: “We had a band powerful enough to turn goat piss into gasoline.” Live in Seattle has unexpectedly become a testament to Gale and proves unequivocally that Power Trip took no prisoners when they hit the stage. —William Archambeault


Alex Brownstein-Carter and David Sigler are making music that exists in a universe apart from anything else out there. This was true in 2016 when they released their debut, The Best Thing to Get to Do is to Learn to Inspire You, an art-punk record heavily influenced by polarizing figures (Mark E. Smith, Captain Beefheart, Frank Zappa, Ben Wallers of Country Teasers) but eschewing the awful politics some of those groups indulged in. The album often wears its influences on its sleeve, but it also feels entirely original, with lyrics pulled from Brownstein-Carter’s warped imagination and dense guitar counterpoint drawn from Sigler’s classical background. Goodbye Marines is on another plane entirely. Backing off from the familiar touchstones of their first album, they’ve done their homework this time. There are covers and interpretations of Ethiopian and Iraqi music, looped song bank tunes from toy keyboards, field recordings of New Orleans’ cicada population, and myriad samples—from viral Azerbaijani wedding DJ Cavad Recebov to Barbie commercials, and exorcisms performed at a Nigerian megachurch. All this may sound overwrought in print. But on wax, it somehow flows together without a hitch, merging sounds from across time and space to create a maelstrom unlike anything you’ve heard before. —Raphael Helfand


Three months ago, the mysterious London-based SAULT released Untitled (Black Is) with little fanfare. Centered around the Black experience, it has already been touted as the album for this moment and as one of the best albums of the year. In September, once again out of nowhere, they released Untitled (Rise). Like Untitled (Black Is), the songs on this album are unapologetically political, not shying away from raw emotion or uncomfortable truths, as on “You Know It Ain’t”: “Yeah, I see your little post, talking ’bout ‘BLM is my motto’ / But you know it ain’t”. Untitled (Rise) is not just a follow-up, but a masterpiece in its own right, placing particular focus upon the reclamation of Black joy and Black power (“The Beginning & The End”: “We shall reclaim our joy… Bathed in the tears of a thousand ancestors, we shall rise”). Fitting with this, the music leans more heavily on funk, jazz, and soul. Untitled (Rise) is both a joyful protest and a somber celebration. Start from the beginning and listen to the album’s story unfold, as SAULT intended. Music such as this does not only reflect movements, it fuels them. —Mary Beth Campbell


Shamir is a self-proclaimed accidental pop star, and on his new self-titled album, he’s a pop star intentionally. He has shied away from the mainstream since his debut album, Ratchet, but is now working his way back to the pop zeitgeist to show his range and make space for Black, queer, non-binary musicians in pop music. Shamir is a pop album, but it keeps in line with Shamir’s formal curiosity. “Paranoia’‘ has some heavier electric guitar, while “Other Side” is more pop country. The album’s multiple interludes keep it playful, featuring people joking around during production. On “I Wonder” he sings, “And I wonder / If you’ll be the death of me,” longingly holding the last note as the music builds behind him. The beat then drops, and he proclaims, “And soon I’ll be the neon shining moon” with a dance beat surrounding him. The last song, “In This Hole,” begins with Shamir’s signature, piercing falsetto immediately cracking as he sings “Leave me in this hole.” His falsetto has always set him apart, and here he utilizes the aching his voice is naturally capable of. Shamir feels like a formal announcement, a proclamation that the artist has arrived for pop stardom. Marisa Clogher


Half of local garage fuzz fiends Bottomfeeders have gotten in touch with their mellower side. Silver Synthetic features Feeders guitarist/singer Chris Lyons and drummer Lucas Bogner, augmented by bassist Pete Campanelli and guitarist Kunal Prakash, known for his work with the likes of JEFF the Brotherhood and Weather Warlock. Silver Synthetic has notably less teeth than its sister band, but their relatively laidback take on late 1960s rock‘n’roll works quite well. The band doesn’t sound like anyone but themselves but does venture into territory similar to T. Rex, The Kinks, and The Rolling Stones. The band tapped Video Age’s Ross Farbe, who also knows a thing or two about throwback rock, to record the sessions at Lyons’ home. As a result, these tunes showcase a band that sounds sharp yet comfortable. “Out of the Darkness” takes listeners on a krautrock-leaning psychedelic pop journey, closing the EP on a high note that leaves me wanting more. The band clearly chose it as the title track for a reason. If this release is any indication, Silver Synthetic’s upcoming full-length, also on Third Man, will be something to look forward to. —William Archambeault


Released at the end of August, Toots and the Maytals’ first original project in more than a decade certainly made a timely debut. With lead singer and father of reggae Frederick ‘Toots’ Hibbert’s passing on September 10, Got To Be Tough will be the group’s last album. Fortunately, it’s certainly a high note to leave on. Got To Be Tough expands upon the Maytals’ mastery of the reggae genre that so many New Orleans artists have praised. It explores reggae’s interaction with rock’n’roll and funk styles in opening songs “Drop Off Head” and “Just Brutal.” “Freedom Train” possesses a heavy gospel undertone where trumpet lines, electric guitar, and synthesizers create a revamped and stirring cover of “Three Little Birds,” featuring Ziggy Marley. Though at times the number of intersecting inspirations here is overwhelming, the album maintains a steady stream of upbeat horns and guitar solos throughout, carrying the band’s 60-year legacy of island music all the way through to the end. Got To Be Tough makes the quintessential reggae message of resistance and optimism in the face of adversity clear: the founding father of reggae has spoken one last time, and his legacy will live on. —Julia Engel


In 1998, Mike Park led the Ska Against Racism tour right to Tipitina’s. Park wanted to use music as a means of addressing one of America’s most fundamental problems. Two decades later, his label Asian Man Records has teamed up with up-and-coming ska label Bad Time Records and ska news site Ska Punk Daily to tackle this issue yet again. Ska Against Racism features contributions from most of the notable and currently active ska bands. Established names like Less Than Jake and MU330, both veterans of the original 1998 tour, stand alongside new names like Catbite and Bite Me Bambi. Kill Lincoln, a driving force in today’s underground ska scene, offers an adrenaline-fueled version of Skankin’ Pickles’ “David Duke Is Running For President,” an early-90s tune that feels far too timely as Trump approaches a potential second term. Jeremy Hunter, best known for turning non-ska tunes into ska anthems as Skatune Network, debuts his new project JER. His contribution “Breaking News! Local Punk Denies Existence of Systematic Racism” has a hellishly long title, but offers a powerful critique of punks who scream about concepts like unity without standing for those disenfranchised by systemic oppression. Ska Against Racism joins an ever growing list of recent underground compilations raising funds for Black Lives Matter related causes. While some punks continue to deny the existence of systemic racism, many of the musicians they look up to are taking a hard stance. —William Archambeault


First published in 1958, reissued by the Library of America Women Crime Writers series, Dolores Hitchens’ Fools’ Gold is a story of wayward youth that morphs into a heist novel. At its center is Skip, a sociopath who recalls Pinky from Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock. Newly released from prison, Skip meets Karen, an orphaned teenager raised by a wealthy widow, in a typing class. When Skip learns that the widow’s son-in-law is hiding a large sum of cash in the house, he plans to steal the money, but he makes the mistake of involving his uncle, a compulsive thief with criminal connections. A clear forerunner to Megan Abbott, Tana French, and other women currently doing some of the best work in the crime genre, Hitchens nevertheless anchors her book not in Karen’s experience, but in the friendship between Skip and his vulnerable accomplice, Eddie. Demonstrating a virtuosic range, as well as an understanding of the lingering effects of even a brief time in prison, the novel reflects the optimism that is still part of California culture before skewering it and moving into something darker, making it a book for our time, too. —Tom Andes


When the Breaux sisters win $204 million in the lottery, it seems to fix everything. Lexi can impress her future mother-in-law by planning the world’s best wedding. Callie finds romance and starts to wonder if she can’t do better than her Podunk newspaper job. Hanna enrolls her kids in private school, buys her dream house, and tries to ingratiate herself with the upper crust in the small Louisiana town where they live. But if the fairy tale seems too good to be true, is it? The moral that money causes as many problems as it solves might land weirdly during a recession, but the novel doesn’t endorse its protagonists’ aspirations. The wish fulfillment fantasy unmasks parts of the sisters they’d rather not face, and Pennell sees clearly how they betray themselves. The novel affirms the value of family, common decency, and love—everything its protagonists had before they hit the jackpot, when they were still enjoying Franzia wine and Popeye’s chicken on their regular sisters’ nights. Even in the hell we’re living through, some of us need to believe in fairy tales. This is a charming, moving one. —Tom Andes


The threat of violence looms near. It is unrelenting. It diminishes you. It forces you into a state of constant vanishing, used as a metaphysical mode for evading the truest act of disappearance: death itself. This is the sensation that Rebecca Solnit explores in her new book, Recollections of My Nonexistence. Though self-proclaimed as such, her 24th work can hardly be called a memoir. Rather, it is a detailed feminist essay quipped with anecdotes of the happenings of Solnit’s mind and body at different points and places of her life, including San Francisco and New Orleans. These are used as markers in her argument, though she often derails entirely from her personal experiences with male-inflicted violence to focus on the issue at hand. It is not so much a look into the life of the woman behind such canonized works as Men Explain Things to Me, as it is a continuation of the critical conversations seen in Solnit’s previous writing. The book definitively illustrates that there is still much to be done to change our culture and the femicide it produces. That being said, Solnit’s brand of feminism is decidedly limited. Her argument rarely ventures into the issues that BIPOC women face. For a memoir, Solnit could have used the power of storytelling far more to her advantage; as a feminist essay, this piece could have expanded further on Solnit’s large body of work to better include non-white voices. —Julia Engel


Chris Frantz retraces the founding of one of America’s most formative bands, Talking Heads, in his honest memoir Remain in Love: Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club, Tina. Frantz, his long-time partner Tina Weymouth, and David Bryne performed as Talking Heads (formerly The Artistics) alongside artists such as the B-52s and Lou Reed in the height of their era. Amongst massive success, Frantz recalls frank details of a fractured infrastructure, specifically from the direction of David Bryne. For someone stomping around the CBGB scene in the mid-70s, Frantz has a remarkably vivid memory, capable of transporting the reader alongside heartthrob Debbie Harry ordering a drink at the bar or recounting Johnny Ramone acting like an asshole in the green room. The writing is amateur, but the stories behind some of the most significant records in new wave are worth sticking with. Overall, it’s written with the bright nostalgia of an enthusiastic rock‘n’roll dad with just enough unexpected stories to keep momentum up (did you know Arthur Russell played cello on “Psycho Killer?”) —Danielle Dietze

Verified by MonsterInsights