REVIEWS

BAD ANXIETY
DEMONSTRATION II
(EARTH GIRL)

Count it in and let it rip / Power chords are the shit,” snarls Hampton Martin on “HARDCORE.” The Hattiesburg hooligan excels at lean and mean, no excess hardcore punk. Martin has built quite the reputation in the underground for thrashing bass in Hattiesburg’s Judy and the Jerks and running the excellent label Earth Girl Tapes. His solo output as Bad Anxiety has been sparse thus far but embodies his enthusiastically DIY approach to music making. On the project’s second home-recorded tape, Martin rips through six songs in under five minutes. He brags about commiting crimes and contracting radioactive mutations while commanding moshers to show their cool moves as the impassioned yet light-hearted songs flash by at a dizzying pace. While Bad Anxiety began as an antsy lockdown-era home-recording solo project in 2020, it has slowly developed into a mighty live force as well, as they wrap up a three-week European tour and will soon accompany Japanese rockers THE BREATH and DEATHRO to a few American cities in November. Whether touring the globe with the Jerks and Bad Anxiety or committing Hattiesburg bands to tape, Martin’s diligence shows that small regional punk scenes are not to be slept on. —William Archambeault

BETHANY COSENTINO
NATURAL DISASTER
(CONCORD)

Bethany Cosentino has been known as an indie rock darling for over a decade, as the founding member and singer-songwriter behind Los Angeles-based Best Coast. While Best Coast is most often associated with easy, breezy Southern California melodies and a fuzzed out vibe, in truth Cosentino’s lyrics have become more introspective over the years; she is, after all, now in her mid-30s and has wisdom to express. On Natural Disaster, her debut solo album, Cosentino leans into myriad topics such as sobriety, mortality, climate change, and (healthy, mature) romantic relationships, all in a glossy, country-tinged pop package that takes inspiration from artists such as Bonnie Raitt and Sheryl Crow. Cosentino’s vocals—often obscured slightly behind Best Coast’s fuzzy distortion—are finally showcased fully on this album, offering credence to one of its central themes: self-actualization (from “It’s Fine”: “Imagine if I handled this shit like I used to / Imagine if everyone knew the truth the way that I do / I am evolved”). The songs on Natural Disaster find a balance between the serious and the absurd, with Cosentino infusing wry humor amidst nihilistic lyrics (“Natural Disaster”: “‘Cause the world is on fire / And, hey, if we’re all dying, then what does it matter?”) as well as allowing for moments of emotional vulnerability (“Easy”: “Every time I’m scared of falling / You’re pulling for me through it all”). With this album, Cosentino has successfully carved a new path for herself, not necessarily discarding her musical past but embracing her own voice—perhaps a lesson for all of us. —Mary Beth Campbell

GENERATIONALS
HEATHERHEAD
(POLYVINYL)

With their first album release in four years, hometown favorites Generationals return with a beautiful blend of 2000s-style electro funk and mellow gold harmonies. On Heatherhead, they’re painting with a vibrant musical palette that spans the beaches of the West Coast to the Motor City, and beyond. On “Radar Man,” a saxophone melody rests beautifully in the mix. “Waking Moment” explodes with rock’n’roll rhythms in its chorus (“With every waking moment is the place where you fall”) and a juxtaposition of joy and heartbreak in its melodies, the end result sounding something like if Brian Wilson’s vocals were backed up by Beck’s rhythm section. “Elena,” featuring Sarah Jaffe, provides a lyrical texture of melancholy: “I know you’ve heard it all before Elena, I know I’m preaching to the choir.” With its warm synth sounds and experimental composition, it recalls the work of early-2000s bands like The Postal Service. Heatherhead stands tall in the band’s discography, a record that is both well-rooted and refreshingly unconventional for a pop band. —Ryan McKern

PJ HARVEY
I INSIDE THE OLD YEAR DYING
(PARTISAN)

I Inside the Old Year Dying, PJ Harvey’s 10th studio album and first release since 2016, is based largely on Harvey’s narrative poem Orlam, a magical yet realistic tale set in a fictionalized West Country and written in the Dorset dialect. Harvey has been vocal about moving past her signature blues-punk sound of yore to experiment with new sounds and genres, stretching her physical and artistic voice to new limits. The result with I Inside…, as with the poem that inspired it, is an exquisite, mystical collection of songs that are not so much inspired by folklore as they are folklore in their own right. “I Inside the Old I Dying” is an ethereal and yearning song, capturing what Harvey described to Stereogum as, “a sense of sexual longing and awakening and of moving from one realm into another—from child to adult, from life to death and the eternal.” Other standouts include the title track and the haunting tones of “A Child’s Question, August,” though it should be known that this is an album whose story is meant to be listened to in full. With I Inside… Harvey has captured a magical realm in musical form, which lingers in the mind long after the final notes have ended. —Mary Beth Campbell

HORSEBITER
HIGHEST STAGE//FINAL MISERY
(SELF-RELEASE)

Horsebiter is a local doom band whose work personifies everything we love about our underground scene: a dark and in-your-face musical journey that gets your blood flowing while incorporating elements of hardcore, sustain, primal black metal vocals, and downtuned hypnotic jams. The album’s first single, “Dust,” is an assault with all the groove, feedback, and driving drums that make our scene so unique, all delivered with soul and heart. Highest Stage//Final Misery, the band’s debut album, showcases their inner horrors as artists, creating an atmospheric tone within the power riffs and bluesy, bending guitar notes. The pendulum swings on this album from Sabbath-esque euphoric riffs and graveyard volcanic bass rhythms (as heard in the track “Prophet”) to a fury of crust punk spirit and bestial thrash, prominent in “Charnel Ground” and “Rot in the Loam.” With Highest Stage//Final Misery, take the trip and be ready for their unapologetic volume. —Ryan McKern

RUTH MASCELLI
NON-STOP HEALING FREQUENCY
(DISCIPLES)

Local musician, composer, and producer Ruth Mascelli (Special Interest, Psychic Hotline) is a prolific artist known for creating textured, pulsing electronic tracks inspired by other synth-based traditions while still sounding fresh. Non-Stop Healing Frequency, their second solo album under their own name, finds Mascelli shifting from the pulsing dance-punk and bathhouse of their other efforts to create a collection of “electronic mood pieces, tender ballads, kosmische disco tracks and industrial symphonies” that explore the ways in which we, as humans, try to find meaning and truth in this world, as well as the forces that try to exploit this. Layered synths, piano, drum machines, and Mascelli’s own vocals create an atmosphere that evokes abstract thoughts and the full gamut of human emotion. With “Lopin’ Along Thru the Cosmos,” a gorgeous, mournful cover of the Judee Sill song, Mascelli achieves the fine balance of making the song their own while still maintaining its original essence. “Macrocosm,” the most upbeat, pop-infused track on the album, would be the perfect score for a person’s journey to self-fulfillment. Closing track “Psychic Surgery,” the title a nod to Mascelli’s Psychic Hotline project, is a mesmerizing, otherworldly Vangelis-esque track that feels like slipping into a spiritual realm; the accompanying video directed by Lucia Honey is an homage to the 1970 documentary Heartbeat in the Brain. Non-Stop Healing Frequency is the type of art that lingers with you, posing not only questions about how to process the harsh reality we live in but perhaps offering some respite as well. —Mary Beth Campbell

NIGHT MEDICINE
S/T
(STRANGE DAISY)

New Orleans-based Night Medicine creates music that captures the essence of yearning. Consisting of the talents of Brittany Silva (vocals/lead guitar), Ian Willson (drums—and ANTIGRAVITY’s own Dirt Nerd), Ellie Williams (guitar/backup vocals), Eric Martinez (keys), Annie Cespedes (bass guitar/backup vocals), and Lily Unless (guitar/vocals), the band’s self-titled debut, released on cassette by local label Strange Daisy, blends Americana and shoegaze seamlessly to create a gorgeous and at times heart-wrenching album. Opener “Heart In Hand,” with its intro chords reminiscent of “The House of the Rising Sun,” is a dark and sensuous plea for love to return, culminating with Silva’s powerful vocals playing off of Wilson’s drums and the many guitars in a glorious climax. Other standouts include “Slow It Down,” which sounds like it belongs on a classic Elephant 6 compilation, and the wistful yet hopeful “Storm Song.” While the rest of the album leans more in the Americana direction, the dreamy shoegaze elements still remain. Night Medicine is not just for the lovelorn but also for those who savor songs with a unique and well-crafted sound. —Mary Beth Campbell

DUSTY SANTAMARIA
VOICE OF THE FIRE
(SELF-RELEASE)

Symbols, images, surrealist dreams—Dusty Santamaria confesses that their mind is “a junkyard of all of these things” on Voice of the Fire’s penultimate track, “Shivering, Moaning, Shaking, Stoned.” Over the course of their recently-released EP’s five tracks (over 20 minutes), Santamaria offers listeners a tour through said junkyard. Indeed, there are shrines and temples, angels and devils in what feels at times like a fever dream of devotion and self-loathing. “Slit my throat and sing me a lullaby,” and “blow my brain out on your dick” are among instructions Santamaria leaves for ghostly lovers (from “Living in a Midnight Movie” and “The Story,” respectively). But these graphic vignettes are also effectively tempered by more mundane accounts of anguish—is there a more relatable expression of desperation than, “Everywhere I walk alone I look for your name on my stupid phone” (from “Living in a Midnight Movie”)? Having seen Santamaria play solo around town a few times over the years, I enjoyed hearing their signature “rock noir” fleshed out with full instrumentation from their band The Decision on this EP—Dreaux Gerard LeBourgeois Jr joined Santamaria on guitar, with Reese Douglas on bass and David Turnbull on drums. It was locally recorded and mixed by David Maclay and mastered by Mick Boggis. The sound itself is the sort of sinister, brooding desert rock that would be at home in a Kill Bill installment, a sign that something thrilling but terrible is about to happen. But despite these Western trappings it is a distinctly New Orleans work, as Santamaria details debauchery in the St. Roch Cemetery and tossing the bones of Pedro Almodóvar into the river along with Mardi Gras beads. (Dusty Santamaria will be performing for BRENT FEST at Zony Mash Beer Project on September 15, and at Siberia on September 19.) —Angela Calonder

$UICIDEBOY$
YIN YANG TAPES: WINTER SEASON (1989-1990)
(G59 RECORDS)

The New Orleans rap duo $uicideboy$ has ascended the rising tide of their dark flows to become a household name worldwide. Winter Season is the fourth installment of the band’s YIN YANG TAPES (1989-1990) EPs, a series of releases built around each season of the year. Produced by “Budd Dwyer,” Winter Season kicks off not in a frozen realm, but one reminiscent of the blazing heat that is early-’90s Memphis hip-hop. G-funk style synths and gritty boom-bap paint a portrait of inner anguish, isolation, and addiction, woven throughout with lyrical misanthropy. The production on these series of EPs is both nostalgic and innovative. The spirit of punk rock is heard in the song “Didn’t They Give You Percocet?” a tale of conviction told through brutal street poetry, sub bass, and lo-fi distortion. The closing track, “I Deleted Facebook a Long Time Ago,” urges the listener to unplug and live in the moment. This series of EPs delivers on the foundation of the duo’s sound while pointing to a dynamic future. —Ryan McKern

HUGH HODGES
THE FASCIST GROOVE THING: A HISTORY OF THATCHER'S BRITAIN IN 21 MIXTAPES
(PM PRESS)

Each chapter in The Fascist Groove Thing focuses on a facet of 1980s Britain under Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher—unemployment, police violence, consumerism, and the 1984-1985 coal miners’ strike, for instance—and a corresponding playlist of music that addressed it. It’s an interesting approach, and Hugh Hodges deftly and often wittily interweaves his analysis of the lyrics with the events of the day. Musical selections are heavy on punk and post-punk, and the author clearly assumes readers will have familiarity with those genres; but they do certainly go beyond rock, and beyond music by white artists. It’s easy to find plenty that’s interesting to listen to, though some mixtape topics—the Falklands War, the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the threat of nuclear annihilation—make for dreary listening, and the chapter-and-playlist formula can get a bit repetitive over time. While Hodges credits protest music with helping to cure him of some of his youthful biases, he’s realistic about its ultimate limited effectiveness at combating Thatcher and neoliberalism. A more thorough analysis of what musical protest achieved might have better tied the book together, but it’s still worth a read, and the playlists (which can also be found on Spotify) are certainly worth a listen. —Steven Melendez

HUGH HODGES
THE FASCIST GROOVE THING: A HISTORY OF THATCHER'S BRITAIN IN 21 MIXTAPES
(PM PRESS)

Each chapter in The Fascist Groove Thing focuses on a facet of 1980s Britain under Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher—unemployment, police violence, consumerism, and the 1984-1985 coal miners’ strike, for instance—and a corresponding playlist of music that addressed it. It’s an interesting approach, and Hugh Hodges deftly and often wittily interweaves his analysis of the lyrics with the events of the day. Musical selections are heavy on punk and post-punk, and the author clearly assumes readers will have familiarity with those genres; but they do certainly go beyond rock, and beyond music by white artists. It’s easy to find plenty that’s interesting to listen to, though some mixtape topics—the Falklands War, the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the threat of nuclear annihilation—make for dreary listening, and the chapter-and-playlist formula can get a bit repetitive over time. While Hodges credits protest music with helping to cure him of some of his youthful biases, he’s realistic about its ultimate limited effectiveness at combating Thatcher and neoliberalism. A more thorough analysis of what musical protest achieved might have better tied the book together, but it’s still worth a read, and the playlists (which can also be found on Spotify) are certainly worth a listen. —Steven Melendez

JOSH TRUJILLO / ADRIAN GUTIERREZ / WIL QUINTANA
BLUE BEETLE: GRADUATION DAY #1
(DC COMICS)

Before the launch of Blue Beetle’s first movie this year, writer Josh Trujillo made huge efforts in this miniseries to push the character’s narrative thematically forward for old fans. Jaime Reyes’ stories as the Blue Beetle have always felt similar to the high school days of Spider-Man, but with the addition of a talking alien scarab that has permanently bonded with our Latino main character. The start of this miniseries throws twist after twist, starting with less focus on the back-and-forth banter dynamic of Reyes and the scarab Khaji Da. The balance between familial obligations, community, and Reyes’ relationship with his superhero partner are taking its toll, as the hero finds himself graduating from high school with no certain plan for what to do next. The narrative combines bombastic colored pages with panels of precise shading and lighting. Kinetic action pairs with genuine analysis about Reyes’ future post-graduation. The shifts in the story genuinely make you want to know more, since the stakes are raised in a cohesive way. The comic book excels for presenting a page-turner story about the Blue Beetle facing an inner battle of unraveling that both new and old readers can enjoy. Jamal Melancon

JOHN EARLY
JOHN EARLY: NOW MORE THAN EVER
(ABSO LUTELY PRODUCTIONS)

In John Early: Now More Than Ever, Early invokes the greats and situates himself comfortably among them. This is Early’s first HBO comedy special, and it’s structured as a fake band documentary, where Early’s backstage antics paint him as a difficult rockstar personality to work with, one who eventually finds himself in hot water with H.R. The special switches between stand-up, singing, and fictionalized snippets of behind-the-scenes looks at the production of the special. As the stand-up portion begins, Early lets the audience know that his parents are in attendance, explaining their humble nature while flashing a spotlight on them and launching into a joke about anal sex. Throughout, Early performs songs by Britney Spears, Neil Young, Dolly Parton, and Donna Summer; and while his voice is not one of a trained singer, they are straightforward performances. There is ardor in them.

 

The show kicks into a higher frequency during the monologue in the back half where Early laments the most trivial, annoying, and regressive characteristics of millennials’ generational contributions, set against light instrumentals by his accompanying band. He protests the lack of quality education millennials received, the forced and feigned badassery of the generation, and the “fire emoji death pact” we willingly subject ourselves to. Much of Early’s effectiveness in these descriptions comes from his physical performance. His crafted skepticism is tightly wound, even when he’s demonstrating the “millennial affect” with fart noises and by exaggeratedly falling over himself. As the monologue continues, he rails against our contributions to advertising, and describes a Postmates ad that included a billboard which reads, “Hate people? We get it.” He looks to the audience in horrified silence before finally asking “Are we like that?”

 

It’s clear that Early is not here to condescend to us. He isn’t here to make himself seem smarter or better, but regularly incriminates himself in the behaviors he’s so adamantly denouncing. He is here out of desperation, here with frustration and fear that we are losing our rigor, discernment, care, and curiosity for both the art we consume and the world at large. When bemoaning millennials’ reliance on hyperbole, he tells us it’s not our fault, saying, “We lean on hyperbole to compensate for the utter emptiness of being alive right now.” But despite it not being our fault, it does become our problem. As a writer, reader, editor, and artist this commitment to rigor is paramount, but it is something that, without concerted refocusing, will dull around the edges at the hands of the perpetual onslaught of artistic mediocrity and tedium. Not only can we reject the powers-that-be that feed us our slop and tell us to like it, but it is our obligation to do so. This doesn’t have to be all that there is. As he nears the end of his monologue, Early pleads with us: “We have to get serious, you guys. We have to get serious before it’s too late.” —Marisa Clogher

JOHN EARLY
JOHN EARLY: NOW MORE THAN EVER
(ABSO LUTELY PRODUCTIONS)

In John Early: Now More Than Ever, Early invokes the greats and situates himself comfortably among them. This is Early’s first HBO comedy special, and it’s structured as a fake band documentary, where Early’s backstage antics paint him as a difficult rockstar personality to work with, one who eventually finds himself in hot water with H.R. The special switches between stand-up, singing, and fictionalized snippets of behind-the-scenes looks at the production of the special. As the stand-up portion begins, Early lets the audience know that his parents are in attendance, explaining their humble nature while flashing a spotlight on them and launching into a joke about anal sex. Throughout, Early performs songs by Britney Spears, Neil Young, Dolly Parton, and Donna Summer; and while his voice is not one of a trained singer, they are straightforward performances. There is ardor in them.

The show kicks into a higher frequency during the monologue in the back half where Early laments the most trivial, annoying, and regressive characteristics of millennials’ generational contributions, set against light instrumentals by his accompanying band. He protests the lack of quality education millennials received, the forced and feigned badassery of the generation, and the “fire emoji death pact” we willingly subject ourselves to. Much of Early’s effectiveness in these descriptions comes from his physical performance. His crafted skepticism is tightly wound, even when he’s demonstrating the “millennial affect” with fart noises and by exaggeratedly falling over himself. As the monologue continues, he rails against our contributions to advertising, and describes a Postmates ad that included a billboard which reads, “Hate people? We get it.” He looks to the audience in horrified silence before finally asking “Are we like that?”

It’s clear that Early is not here to condescend to us. He isn’t here to make himself seem smarter or better, but regularly incriminates himself in the behaviors he’s so adamantly denouncing. He is here out of desperation, here with frustration and fear that we are losing our rigor, discernment, care, and curiosity for both the art we consume and the world at large. When bemoaning millennials’ reliance on hyperbole, he tells us it’s not our fault, saying, “We lean on hyperbole to compensate for the utter emptiness of being alive right now.” But despite it not being our fault, it does become our problem. As a writer, reader, editor, and artist this commitment to rigor is paramount, but it is something that, without concerted refocusing, will dull around the edges at the hands of the perpetual onslaught of artistic mediocrity and tedium. Not only can we reject the powers-that-be that feed us our slop and tell us to like it, but it is our obligation to do so. This doesn’t have to be all that there is. As he nears the end of his monologue, Early pleads with us: “We have to get serious, you guys. We have to get serious before it’s too late.” —Marisa Clogher

Verified by MonsterInsights