Lala Lala Finds Purpose and Beauty in Transformative New Record "The Lamb"

The most fitting way to describe Lala Lala’s second record, The Lamb, is that it’s intentional. Intentional in its songwriting. Intentional in its instrumentation. Intentional in its production.

The Lamb reveals itself song by song to be a mature and beautifully crafted record. Songwriter and guitarist Lillie West was emboldened by a vision to create a meaningful work that reflects how her life has changed since Lala Lala’s debut. The 12 tracks represent an opportunity to absolve prior transgressions and meditate on how to truly live from here on out.

“It was intentional writing in a way that I had never done before,” West says. “I had never written in that way before, so it was interesting to see that I could do it.”

It’s a radical shift from the Chicago-based band’s first album, Sleepyhead, released in 2016.

“I was writing emotionally only, but I didn’t consider the recording process,” West says. “It just happened.”

The Lamb is different, mainly because West, 24, is different. She’s becoming sober, which she describes as a decision that she has to make every single day.

“In some ways it was challenging,” West explains of the process of going sober. “In some ways it will always be challenging. It was easy in that I didn’t have a choice anymore.”

West artfully sifts through these changes in “Water Over Sex.” Her ethereal voice glides over the words, “You think I’m good / Well I want to be gooder,” and she rejoices in the fact that she is “suddenly full / here is belonging.” Guiding the pulsing guitar, West traces her continuing transformation and finds comfort in progressing from her self-destructive past to her honest present.

It would be a disservice to reduce West’s path to sobriety and wellness to simply black and white. There will still be days where she struggles with addiction and times where she becomes even more paranoid than before.

“It’s not pretty or absolute,” she says.

Now, West is able siphon out her soul to explore the nuances of her sprawling feelings. She feels loneliness. She feels surprise. She feels love. Acutely self-aware, she connects and deciphers these intense emotions throughout the album to explore how far she has come and how much more she has to go.

But despite her resolve to make herself better, West grapples with being able to extend that wish onto those she loves. The driving chorus of “When You Die” is in essence a mantra: “Keep my friends safe night and day / Keep my friends safe now and always.” West simultaneously recognizes the security of a deep-seated desire to save one’s friends from harm but also the futility of it.

The album is bound by introspection such as this and is dotted with animal imagery, as if West has stitched together her own book of nursery rhymes.

One such song, “Dove,” is tender yet chilling to the bone.  West’s voice climbs from a low murmur to raspy angelic heights as she sings: “I did the right thing, / And for what? / For some prettiness / That I don’t believe.” After experiencing heartbreaking loss, West manifests her pain in “Dove” to make it the most emotionally devastating yet undeniably the most beautiful song on the record.  

The most distinct symbol, though, comes from the succinct album title itself: the lamb. The title ties together the storied strings of loss, love and, perhaps most importantly, metamorphosis.

“The album is about me relearning how to be a person after becoming sober,” West says. “I’m a lamb. I’m a baby sheep discovering other things for the first time.”

PREMIERE: John Cyrus’ Pop Fantasy ‘Party’s Over’


by Scout Kelly

John Cyrus, a dream pop project from Nashville, is ready to share some new music in 2018 with a two track release, I Know I Know I Know, that will render you both melancholic and ready to dance. John Cyrus have often found their way onto my playlists for this exact reason. Their single, “Playin” from last year drew me in with an upbeat spin on the process of watching a love unwind right in front of your eyes when there’s nothing you can do about it.

The trio, made up of Nathan Klages, Darin Rajabian, and Madeline Privott, have a knack for making songs that don’t shy away from the part of the heart where anxiety and desire meet. Each song is something like a fantasy, where the musician and the listener both enter a world with fog machines and confetti. You want to dance with someone across from you, but you’re too scared to ask, so you wind up dancing alone.

“Party’s Over” is a lovely pop track that that details that paralyzing nature of emotions, how easily you can go through an entire story in your head before making a move, but before you know it- the party is over and everyone has to go home, even if you aren’t ready.

What I love about each John Cyrus track is the music often contradicts the mood. They offer a glimmer of consolation, hope, and an opportunity to dance out whatever gloom might befall the broken-hearted or emotionally-hungover.

Click here to pre-save the tracks and follow John Cyrus on Spotify

PREMIERE: Dilly Dally's New Music Video "Doom"

interview by Anna White

Dilly Dally are back from the dead. After the touring cycle preceding their 2015 release, Sore, the Toronto based four piece nearly dissolved. Heaven is the band’s first new material in three years, a powerful return to form—lead singer Katie Monk’s signature raspy vocals are ever-present, but the sonic backdrop is more refined, mixing in ambient influences and elements of doom metal.

Today we’re premiering the video for “Doom,” a track off of this new album. Monks alternates between angelic and possessed, the video a medley of performative live footage, what appears to be Monks mid-exorcism, and the band wandering through the woods by torchlight like Brother’s Grimm protagonists. I caught up with Monks last Wednesday and chatted about moving past depression, making music for your friends, and her new Flying V guitar.

We’re premiering the video for “Doom” off your new album, Heaven. What was the inspiration behind the video?

Basically the inspiration for that video came from when the album stopped being a dream and started becoming real, and I started becoming very romantic about the live show and what that experience was going to turn into.

So is the video your ideal live show?

No, it’s kind of a dreamy fantasy version of that.

It feels very ritualistic.

Yeah. I just had a vison about it, I want it to be just kind of a trance.

I love that. What is the song itself about?

When I wrote it was at a time in my life when a lot of people around me were struggling with depression and so was I, and it’s one of those moments where you don’t really have a friend to cheer you back up, because everyone was feeling down. The song is about digging really deep inside yourself, and finding something to hold onto, some piece of hope and happiness.

When did you begin writing your new album, Heaven?

Essentially at the beginning of 2017, which was when we were all exhausted with the whole thing. There were a lot of question marks going on as to how we were going to move forward, and what that would look like, what configuration of the band it was going to be—it was a hairy time. I think it was hard as well for my bandmates to see what the next step was going to be, because they hadn’t heard any new material. So they were kind of like, we’ll see what happens.

Were you having a hard time writing new material?

I think at first. At first I was certainly blocked, everyone was just tired.

How did you move past that?

I started treating it like it was a 9 to 5 job. I just woke up every day and I would write in my journal and meditate, and I bought some new pieces of gear to kind of mark a new chapter. The Flying V guitar was a huge part of that. It was like a middle finger to anyone who told me what was a cool guitar and what was not. I was like, it’s art and I can do what feels good and be myself, despite what’s trendy or cool right now, and I just thought it was pretty and it felt good to play.

And I got a looping station – I was playing around with making new sounds. I made an ambient album with my brother, I was kind of exploring, it was back to the beginning, like when you’re a teenager—to explore again and have it feel like a new thing.

I can definitely see how the ambient inspiration works its way in.

Yeah, in little ways. There’s a freedom to it, and I think that’s what we felt when we were making this album, we felt like this freedom about it because we all felt like this might not have happened. So, fuck it. I don’t think anyone cares about how people were going to perceive it, it wasn’t like “this will be a good next step for the band”. It was like, let’s make some art, and it was just really free. There were no rules.

 By Anna White

By Anna White

That’s great! It’s so important to be evolving.

Yeah, if it comes naturally. I’m a very complicated person I think, there are a lot of different sides to me. I like being a bit of a chameleon, I’m very dramatic.

Do you think Heaven shows a lot of your different sides?

Yeah, there’s a lot of new sides to the band, that we didn’t even know we had. And there were definitely moments of fear! Like, oh shit, this is pretty different, I hope the punks are gonna like this one! When I say the punks, I just mean all my friends. That’s the only audience we care about, our friends.

PREMIERE: Chicago-Based Experimental Band Ze'ev Releases New Record

Interview by Rivka Yeker

Ze'ev is comprised of Balto, Clyde, and Zack. The band deliberately bends genre and defies expectation of direction and influence. They are one of Chicago's most innovative bands, and GTP is filled with both chaotic twists & turns and smooth comedowns. Hooligan was able to sit and discuss the record itself and Ze'ev's overall sound / intention. 

 photo by Kelly Butler

photo by Kelly Butler


In what ways is this record different than your previous releases?

Clyde: Kismet, and our previous EPs were very much in the vein of longer drawn out instrumentals and a bit of what I was writing at the time as a small foundation. We were really just starting as a band and building our sound and still are. GTP is a result of what happens when everyone is involved in the writing process as a complete unit.

What message(s) do you want Ze'ev to give to your listeners? 

Balto: We literally tolerate no bullshit. We’ve had our fair share of experiences that have made us so tired. This is an album for a marginalized group made by a marginalized group and we hope for those who are struggling, you feel the love and support we have for each other in this album and take those positive vibes with you.

There is a lot of genre-bending in this record, which is so sick. How did you choose what kind of artists you wanted to be featured on the album since there is no one direction its going in?

Zack: Thank you. Our collaborators were all fellow artists who we've been lucky enough to meet and meld minds with over the years. While creating the record, we knew we wanted to have a full collection of voices driving home the themes on this record, not just our own, and we started contacting people who we knew would be able to take our concept and add their own perspectives, strengthening the overall message.

What makes something "Experimental"?

Zack: Experimental is a hard term to define in an overall sense, but I know Ze'ev uses this term as a description to rid ourselves of boundaries. All three of us bring so many disparate influences and experiences to this project and we never want an arbitrary genre label to hold us back. Saying we're an "experimental band" is a way for us to leave every idea we have on the table and never to be afraid to explore anything, musically or otherwise, that we vibe with. It's always been a goal of ours to shapeshift strictly based on our collective intuition, and in my humble opinion, you keep that communication open by allowing it to stay abstract and unlabeled.

I know your tastes vary. The album feels like a mix of skramz, post-rock, sludge, jazz, and twinkly emo. Who and what inspired the record?

Clyde: GTP stems from so many things. Inside jokes within the band, personal struggles, etc. We could talk forever about musical influences but Funkadelic, Kamasi Washington, Thundercat, Unwound, Charles Mingus, and of course, Lil B the Based God are deeply rooted in this album.

What do you hope people feel after listening to GTP?

Balto: I hope people feel love, peace, and patience while listening to this album and what I mean by Patience in particular is that I urge you to really hear what everyone has to say throughout GTP.

Bury Me at Mitski's Rodeo

by Katie Burke

In a dark bar, clutching a phone to my ear, is where I decide that Mitski has a catalog of my sins. Someone has pulled up Lonesome Love and it’s my first time hearing it. When she sings, Nobody butters me up like you do and nobody fucks me like me, I feel an immediate urge to call a lyft. To go home to my apartment, light a candle for myself and put my ass to bed.

The first thing I do when I listen to a new Mitski album is think about myself.

Listen. I do the thing we all do. I beg to relate to whatever it is that I find beautiful or interesting. I assign a relationship or an experience to each song, and then I make it mine. Mitski makes this, not necessarily easy, but wonderfully possible. Like honesty. Like shifting weight.

There is more of a pop aspect to this album than there ever has been in Mitski’s music. There are bops like, “Why Didn’t You Stop Me” interspersed between the expected guitar-heavy ballads like, “Geyser” or “Pink in The Night”. Songs to scream-cry to.

I want to talk about the bops. Get in your car, or get on the train, or the bus while you listen to “Why Didn’t You Stop Me”. Look out the window and feel how everything can move as quickly as your heart does. How buildings can turn to blur as quickly as you begin to feel the twinge of shame from the lyrics I know I ended it, but why didn’t you chase after me? You know me better than I do. So why didn’t you stop me?

Put your hands on your head. What you’re feeling is whiplash.

There are multiple songs that function like breaks between paragraphs. A breather. Songs under two minutes that allow your heart to relax, to mend from all her honesty. Like the line in “A Horse Named Cold Air”,

I thought I had traveled a long way
but I had circled
the same old sin

I need a week in bed.

The first time I heard Mitski was in 2014 when Bury Me at Makeout Creek was released. I wrote a review of it. I had never felt compelled to review anything before. I wrote that it made me feel young, like a teenager. I wrote that I felt thankful that I was no longer in my teens, but my twenties. How did I imagine this being easier? I don’t want to assign an age to this album. But there is definitely a clarity to the sadness. Imagine a light getting turned on inside a room which darkness’ you have already adjusted to. Everyone is always getting older.

We should be thankful that Mitski has let her art become this kind of time capsule. A museum of what she was feeling at the time, with enough room for everyone else to engage. Space to say, I have felt this way, I have placed my hand on something marked OPEN FLAME and felt satisfaction. I have made the same mistake. Again. And again.

This album says here is what your desperation can sound like; beautiful. Here is how you are alone, and that is how you are always winning.


Stream Be the Cowboy below

REVIEW: House of Vans brings together Lala Lala, Torres, Wolf Parade


Photos by Cody Corrall

by Genevieve Kane

There are three words that have been on the lips of every DIY kid and concert junkie this summer and those words are: House of Vans. For those of you who are not familiar with the House of Vans, I’ll set the record straight. No, it is not a warehouse filled with boxes of old checkered sneakers and abandoned beanies.

The venue is actually held in an indoor skatepark in the West Loop which is repurposed as a concert venue equipped with a photo booth, luxurious beanbag chairs, a bar with complimentary beer, and wonderfully wacky art covering the walls. The great reputation House of Vans has earned is so pervasive that people will line up one to two hours before doors even open just to ensure that they won’t miss out on the concert experience of a lifetime. I also found myself waiting in that massive line to see Lala Lala, Torres, and Wolf Parade, who would all be the last to perform at House of Vans this summer.

The moment I set foot inside the venue I knew that the wait had been more than worth it. Lala Lala was the first band to perform, and they were who I was most looking forward to seeing. Lala Lala is Lillie West’s Chicago-based project and possibly the most slept on band to come out of Chicago’s music scene, which is not just my opinion but was the consensus of everyone I spoke with at the show. If a garage band and a grunge band had a musical lovechild it would be Lala Lala.


Their songs have a reverberant quality that will ring throughout your body and steal your soul. When they performed the song “Okie Dokie Doggy Daddy,” off of their album Sleepyhead, I witnessed a bunch of bearded men succumb to the power of West’s deep and resounding vocals which resulted in some pretty vivacious head bobbing. The band also debuted a song off of their upcoming album The Lamb (out September 28th on Hardly Art), which promises only great things.

Overall, Lala Lala’s performance not only lived up to the hype, but blew any expectation I had out of the water. Watching West command the stage was so inspiring and I think I may have to dye my hair pink now.

The next performance of the night came from singer-songwriter Mackenzie Scott, also known as Torres. The way Torres began their set was the definition of iconic. Scott’s back was turned to the audience as she began moving her shoulder up and down. Picture that one vine where the girl with frizzy hair and athletic sunglasses is dancing to A-ha and whips around as the song begins, but imagine it in slow motion and with more allure than hilarity. Basically, it was riveting. Scott was in motion for more or less the entire set.


Her spooky dance moves were heightened by dramatic lights that bathed the entire stage in crimson. The lighting and dancing combination was particularly powerful when Scott sang “Righteous Woman” these lyrics echoing throughout the warehouse: “Next time you're in the city/ Should you decide to call me/ Just know that I am dealing/ With a flesh that's far too willing.”

Torres finished strong with the song, “Helen in the Woods” off of the album Three Futures, which was incredibly raw and reminiscent of gothic new wave music. I was extremely jazzed after seeing back-to-back stellar performances from female-fronted groups. Throughout the whole concert I couldn’t help but think to myself, “This is why I am queer.”

The Canadian band Wolf Parade took everyone home with a power hour curated of classics and deep cuts. They opened with the song, “You Are a Runner and I Am My Father's Son” which is the first track on their 2005 album Apologies to the Queen Mary. Wolf Parade was beckoned back to the stage to play a 3 song encore, closing the night out on a song from their 2008 album At Mount Zoomer, “Kissing the Beehive.”


One would think that after watching Wolf Parade perform a song that clocks in at a whopping 10 minutes and 52 seconds, I would be ready to call it a night and head home to my Hulu. However, I was genuinely disappointed to see the night come to an end. I was fully prepared to pound free water and jam out to some Canadian indie rock until the sun came up but unfortunately, this was not the case. Like all great things, the show came to an end, forcing us to vacate the building and kiss the sweet House of Vans goodbye. 

PREMIERE: Jessica Mindrum Releases Debut EP "Flickering"

Interview by Rivka Yeker

A lot of your songs resemble the innocence of childhood and how difficult it is to leave it. Is writing / creating music a way for you to be connected to nostalgia, or is it more of a way for you to cope with growing older?

I think it’s a little bit of both. Though, to be honest, I’d never entirely noticed that as the common theme in these songs. I suppose I’m dealing with it more than I consciously know. Growing up for me was a hard process in that I consistently feared it--I never wanted to leave the safety of my home. I didn’t even leave home for more than a weekend until I was 15. Later on in my teens, though, there were events that happened in my life that shifted my perspective on home and my childhood--as a result, that feeling of safety and almost escapism that those things had given me nearly went away. I think since that happened, and also just as a result of graduating college and attempting to create my life, I’m trying to regain a feeling of security that I used to have, and realizing that I can’t entirely find it in the places I used to. 

When I listen to your music, I want to curl up in a blanket and stare at a burning fire. Which artists make you feel that way?

That’s good news -- my goal is to get everyone to recreate the last shot in Call Me By Your Name at least once. For me though, there are specific songs that come to mind when I think of that feeling. A few that get me there are "Smoke Signals" by Phoebe Bridgers, "The Last Time I Saw Richard" by Joni Mitchell, "Carissa" by Sun Kil Moon, and there are a lot of songs on Soccer Mommy’s latest album like "Clean", "Scorpio Rising", and "Wildflowers" that have really given me some face time with some fires. 

Is where you are now where you thought you'd be as a kid?

I guess it depends on what aspect of my life I’m looking at. Professionally, I think I am. As a kid I had that sort of delusional confidence where I believed everything I wanted would come true (that I’m sure is bolstered by growing up as a white, cis, hetero, middle class kid, but……...I digress).  I haven’t checked all of my boxes, but I’m pretty close. I wanted to work in music, and right now I do. I have a job that I love and it allows me to pursue the art that I love, and I’m consistently grateful and feel so lucky to be where I am. Personally, though, I think I still have some growing up to do. I thought I’d be further along in my development as a human person. I thought I’d feel a lot more like a capital A Adult than I do. Though I suppose that’s just the human condition? Who’s to say. 


What direction do you want to head in as an artist?

I want to continue becoming a better songwriter. I’d like to write a happy or upbeat song that feels genuine. I’d like to bring some songs to life with a full band, and explore areas that for a long time I thought weren’t in my wheelhouse--like louder arrangements, songs using my electric guitar. This really feels like the beginning for me, even though I’ve been writing for the better part of a decade. I’m excited to see what can happen when I add more people to songs that have always been entirely mine. 

The singer-songwriter genre has always been very confessional. Would you say that you're most vulnerable in your music? 

At first I was going to say no because I can be pretty vulnerable with people if the moment feels right, but then I thought a little harder and realized that the answer is a hearty yes. I recently had a conversation with someone about something I’ve written about and can sing about on a stage, but I couldn’t find the words or the courage when it came to a face to face discussion. It’s easier to write and sing into the ether than confront some things with an immediate response and an immediate audience. 

On your bad days, what are the things you think about to feel better?

Well, I will admit that on my bad days I initially wallow in it. After that’s over though, I suppose I think about physical places that have made me feel calm and good. There’s this creek in Williamsburg, Virginia that is hidden in the colonial area, away from all the tourists and behind an old house. I used to walk there on the weekends and sit for a while. I miss it. But thinking about it, knowing that it’s out there, is a good feeling. 

The Internet’s Hive Mind Reestablishes Why They’re a Force to be Reckoned With


Hive Mind is both a recorded antithesis to a potential career of following groupthought and a titular nod to the increasing sonic cohesion the collective has formed in their almost decade tenure of producing full-length projects for public consumption; The Internet has proven in the extent of that time to have moved immeasurable strides away from being the Los Angeles-based outfit known for its tangentiality to Odd Future. Syd Bennett remains the primary vocalist, lulling the 13-track LP into a melodic, neo-soul fantasy replete with Steve Lacy’s funk-oriented bass, backup vocals, Martians’ contributing synths and drums, in addition to Paige and Smith serving as multi-instrumentalists; this is by no means an exhaustive list of the sum of all their parts flowing together on this album.

The album sets off with “Come Together,” Syd stating, “They gon’ get us to come together / I forgot my pride / Stronger than your lies / Wanna get so high / Wanna live my life.” This could be an ode to the perservance warranted in many existential crises, but most obviously is an anthemic proclamation to the band’s return from a 3-year hiatus, each member taking time to release solo material in between their departure and Hive Mind. The return is polished, confident and reaffirming of their 2016 Grammy-nod for best Urban Contemporary album; and, in contrast with their respectively nominated, Ego Death, Hive Mind is stripped of the plentiful, attention-drawing features, the group holding itself together as a primarily self-sustaining project with the support of rapper Kauri Faux on percussion for “Hold On,” and Atlanta-native Big Rube providing spoken-word on “It Gets Better (With Time).”

The Internet still impressively stitches a multi-genre sound together of jazz, funk, hip-hop and more that pleases the heart and soul without necessarily needing to reinvent their own wheel; the collective has found a model that serves them perfectly and has spent time fine-tuning that sound over the years, through losing and gaining membership, that offers a maturation in structure that long and first time supporters can appreciate in unison.

Hive Mind’s second single, “Come Over” is a measured response to the trepidatious, modern-day, “Will they or won’t they?” led by Bennett in the first act, ushering Lacy into the second. Syd croons to a disaffected love interest, “I’ll bring the champagne / Don’t turn me down, babe / We can play Simon Says / Or watch TV in bed / Wake with the sunrise / Sleep in it’s all right / We ain’t even gotta sex.” This laidback single is interspered between songs like their third single “La Di Da,” which gives Lacy the driverseat and dives further into Funk, establishing a tracklist of high and low energy appropriate for any setting you find yourself listening to this project.

Dismantling Toxic Masculinity through Vulnerability: An Interview with little bear

 Photos by  Andy Lajara

Photos by Andy Lajara

So first of all, how are you doing?

I’m doing good. I woke up about ten minutes ago, so [laughs]. No but I’m doing good. This time in Chicago has been pretty amazing so far and revitalizing, so that’s been nice.

And you’re coming right off of Pitchfork Sunday, how was that?

Yo, that was one of the most inspiring days of my life. Sometimes you need to be reminded what you’re doing and why you do what you do as an artist. Especially because I’ve been wrestling with feeling my own worth. And you know, this project, it’s a crazy thing to put art in the world, and so yesterday was just the most inspiring shit. I mean, I was literally taking notes on my phone the whole day. On performance, on band leading, The lineup that I saw was Nnamdi Ogbonnaya, Kweku Collins, Rayvn Lenae, Smino, Noname, Chaka Khan, and a little bit of DRAM, and then Lauryn Hill. And Lauryn Hill’s performance was like, oh my god. Like, fucking incredible.

I wasn’t there, but it was fun seeing Twitter get excited when she finally stepped on stage.

Yeah, and last night was the twentieth anniversary [of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill], of that project that has been such a complicated but amazing thing for her, and she talked a lot about it. She said some beautiful words at the end, like just about how she felt this urgency to make this project because it was bigger than her. She called it the people’s music, and how it bridged generations, and talking about the lineage. She talked about music as an endless continuum, so that’s been getting me to ask a lot of questions of myself, you know, like what legacy am I a part of, which I think is a really crucial question to ask. And like, what am I doing this for?

Because I don’t know, the last couple of weeks I’ve been wrestling with know, I’m not blowing up or whatever. I mean, these are all steps, it’s all growth. A friend of mine said something really inspiring to me, which was “There are two ways to climb a mountain. You can climb it to be seen at the top, or you can climb it to see everything at the top.” And I realized like, yeah, I’m climbing this to see everything, and then I’m climbing it to see how I can go back down and help all my people get up to the top. So hearing Lauryn Hill speak and sing last night was really solidifying

The mountain metaphor sounds like a really great way to redirect the way we think about success.

Exactly, and you know, music for me is all about community.I mean, Needs is one piece of the music that I make. I also play a lot of brass band music, I’ve always sang a lot, I played in big bands and stuff like that, and it’s all about community.

On the opening track to Needs, “Start”, you say “I can’t roll solo any more / so I need all my friends”. Who’s worked on this project with you, and what has that collaboration looked like?

The last project I put out, Open Season, was basically just me working completely by myself. There were a bunch of key collaborators for this. First off was the engineer I worked with--I recorded and produced the whole thing, but then I spent 50 hours mixing and mastering it with a very close friend of mine named Nicky Young, and he’s a brilliant engineer. He’s a key piece of this, he made it sound really really good. I’ll walk through the people who were key on it: my best friend Mobey, who goes by Xango Suave, they play violin on “Home”, Yomí played harp on “Home”, Burns Twins did a little bit of production on that. Sol Patches is one of my dear, dear, dear friends, I’m actually going to go shoot a music video with them for “Airplane Mode” after this. Being able to catch Patches on that track was a gift, because they’re a beautiful artist and human being and wonderful friend.

But “Airplane Mode” was hard, because I asked a couple different people to collaborate until I found something that felt right. Patches’ verse felt really right. I had asked Christian JaLon to do a verse on it, and it just wasn’t what I was looking for. But she’s brilliant, so I felt tension around that because I wanted to include her on the project. So I kept her background vocals under Patches’ verse. Those are really the main collaborators. On the next project I’m working on, which I’m kind of just starting to work on now, I really want to work with as many of my talented friends as possible. So we’ll see what happens with that. And my brother was very helpful, very key on the management side of things, and the emotional processing side of things.

What do you think making music is like in the Bronx vs. Chicago?

There’s a lot of different circles for me, musically. Also what the Bronx means for me is different for a lot of people and I’m hesitant about how I use the brand of the Bronx, because I don’t want to encourage gentrification of that burrough. I’m actually from a part of it that is not really wrestling with the realities of gentrification because it’s one of the pockets of wealth in the whole burrough. And now when I go back what it means to be home is a very different thing than when I was growing up. My dad plays Balkan brass band music from Serbia and Macedonia. That was the world I grew up playing music in, with him in the middle of this twelve-piece brass band that now I play with. I used to be in the center of the band as a toddler, like, watching them all play and sitting on his drum at parades and shit, so it’s always been in me.

I think the music that i’m making has really changed as I’ve gotten older. Drums were my first instrument, and then I played keys, and I played a lot of rock, I played a lot of different things. And then I think coming to Chicago...I don’t know, I think both cities have a distinct sound, right? I think the there’s a New York sound, and I think there’s a grittiness to music from New York, and I think there is in Chicago too, but I think there’s more of an acceptance of softness here, an acceptance of vulnerability. In New York people are always trying to act like they’re super hard, which I’m not. I’m critical of things like hypermasculinity, things like white supremacy, all this bullshit that I think should be deconstructed, both in myself and in the world. But it creates a tension when I go back to those places.

Thinking about the way that you’re trying to merge those two sounds, you’ve coined a genre called “electrabrasspop”. Can you tell us about that style and who’s influenced it?

Yeah, I didn’t coin that on any me being smart shit, I coined it on just not knowing what the fuck to call my music. It’s kind of just a way for me to merge the worlds of what I care about. Horn playing, electronic production, and poetry. In terms of the people who have gone into that sound, I do think it’s been shaped a lot by Chicago artists. I put out this playlist on my Spotify called “Ingredients”, that’s just a lot of the inspirations that went into making Needs, and I think it’s really important to pay homage to the people that’ve shaped that sound. Especially as a white artist making this music, I think it’s crucial to recognize where a lot of the roots of this music are. I'm deeply inspired by producers like Pharrell, by writers/producers like Missy Elliot, by Beyoncé (especially B-day era), by early Black Eyed Peas, by legends like Celia Cruz and Willie Colón, by current innovators, and by New Orleans/Second Line Brass Band Music - the album Hot Venom by Rebirth Brass band is one of the greatest pieces of music ever made. Chance and the Social Experiment have played a big role for me, which sounds corny to say when I’m in Chicago, but I think it’s true. Paul Simon too, just in terms of songwriting and on some pop music shit. I was trying to talk to my brother about whose legacy I continue, in terms of bringing things together. It’s a complicated thing to make music that doesn’t sound like other people’s.

 Photo by  Andy Lajara

Photo by Andy Lajara

Going off of that softness that you’re trying to tap into with your music, on the song “Private Parts” you take a look at what we consider to be intimate. How do you think about the role of intimacy in your position as an artist?

Yeah, this music is very intimate. Like it’s very personal. I think it’s really important for artists to be vulnerable. I think vulnerability is not weakness, that’s something my father taught me. Vulnerability is strength. I’m hoping to inspire people to not be afraid of their feelings, even though shit can be scary, because we’re all fucking wild. I think intimacy also takes a lot of forms. This album is me--I put this album out right at the end of a very long-term relationship that I had, so I think that played a role in this music and helping me process it. I had also gone through a lot of traumatic shit in the fall, just being surrounded by a lot of death, and so I think I put a lot of pressure on this music to help me process that. So that’s part of why it’s so vulnerable. But yeah, for “Private Parts”, that’s exactly what it’s about. It’s not about the physicality.

“Need” s my favorite track off the album, and in it you sing about the importance of acknowledging both big and small needs. Now that this project is done after starting in 2016, what do you find yourself needing these days?

Hm. This is a question about me as a person and not me as an artist so it goes deeper [laughs]. I find myself needing, in a way I have never before, validation. Which is just shitty, because I don’t want to depend on external validation. But I do. A lot of this project is about self acceptance, so I need to accept myself wholly, which is a process. I need my family and friends. I need routines, my rituals that keep me grounded. Meditation, stretching, practicing, exercising. I don’t know, I’ve been wrestling with feeling like...I have this thing where no matter what I’m doing I feel like it’s not enough, and so when I’m alone I feel like I should be with other people, when I’m with other people I feel like I should be working by myself, which makes it so I’m never content with what I’m doing. So it’s part of the self-acceptance piece, I need to just be okay and content with what I’m doing in that moment because I know it’s enough.

I need to value myself outside of the things that I make. And to wholly and completely love myself and accept myself no matter what. I need to communicate with people and consider other people, and prioritize myself, but not neglect other people. Yo, I just need to be in the sunshine mostly. And I just need to perform this shit. I have a show coming up in New York on July 31st at Trans Pecos, and I need to keep performing this music and sharing it in the world. That was some shit at Pitchfork that was so inspiring, just seeing how people perform their music. It’s a whole other art, and I’ve never been the front person to a project before. I need to keep expanding and working on what I’m learning, I feel like I get a little bit trapped within the ideas and the knowledge that I have, and I want to keep collaborating with people who push me.

What was your general goal in releasing this EP? What do you want your audience to be left with after listening to it?

I want people to be thinking about themselves in honest ways, and not not be afraid to ask themselves hard questions. I want people to be able to do all the things I can never do [laughs] so I’m just projecting that onto the listener. But no, for real, I want people to be vulnerable, to be true. I also want people to walk away from this thinking like “Damn, this is a lot of creativity and maybe I can create things as well.” Or maybe just “What I create is valid,” or “I’m valid.” Like, that’s really what I want the takeaway to be, and that it’s valid to have needs because everyone does. You can prioritize yourself, you can love yourself. I don’t think you can underestimate the importance of bringing light into the world. So I just want to people to finish listening while smiling. And also a little bit confused, like what the fuck was that?

Kimaya Diggs on Her New Record, Family, Catharsis in Healing, & More

By Carrie Kaufman

Breastfed, the debut album from Kimaya Diggs, is available for download via Bandcamp. In November, we spoke with the artist about lifetime of making music. This month, we talked again with Kimaya Diggs about the album recording process, writing, caring for self and family, plus some of her own favorite tracks. The vibe is thick and dreamy heart-filled songs, showcasing Diggs' vocal range and style. There are rich instrumentals and feels of jazz, folk and rock singing support poetic and tender lyrics.

This album is really beautiful. I love how it takes things from a lot of different places & influences but also feels like it’s very uniquely You.  Can you say anything about your muses for this album?

Thank you! When I first started writing for the album, I was very inspired by my husband’s writing. He’s a proficient songwriter, and his solo work was really inspiring to me, as were many other artists who prioritize narrative—Joni Mitchell, India.Arie, and Lianne LaHavas, for example.

All of those influences definitely come through. Your songs are strong and introspective. What kind of setting or space do you like for writing?

I usually write [at] home, on my bed! I’ve been journaling daily for 20 years, usually at the end of the day, so writing in bed is very comfortable and familiar to me. I like to write in private, with no one else nearby. 

You’ve been making music for your whole life. Was there anything unexpected or challenging that came up as you were making your first album?

Going into it, I knew very little about the steps that came after recording. I didn’t really know what went into mixing and mastering.  I took some missteps during the recording process. There are definitely things I would change next time, knowing what can and cannot be changed or altered in the editing process. 

You do almost everything on this album: Songwriting, singing, playing  many different instruments. Is there any part of the process that you love the most? Or anything that you particularly struggle with? 

I love singing more than anything! Getting to close my eyes, wave my arms around the way I like to when I’m alone, and just sing along with a track [that] I created was complete bliss. 

My biggest struggle was that we tracked every instrument one at a time — and since I usually accompany myself on guitar live, it was tricky for me to play guitar without singing. But it did free me up to really lean into the decadence of the vocals. 

I love that image of you singing alone. Your voice is definitely beautifully showcased.  Can you say more about the decadence and bliss of the vocals?

As a vocalist, I love to improvise. My primary goal in singing is to have a dialogue of some sort. Sometimes that means I’m in conversation with an instrumentalist, but often it just means that I’m in dialogue with the text that I’m singing. When I’m really communicating, I feel swept along almost involuntarily by the dialogue, and I finally really let loose -- I feel free to explore my whole range, to interrogate my own expectations about how the story goes, and let the natural limitations or expansions of my instrument dictate the story being told. There is no. better. feeling. in the entire world. 
Do you have a favorite song(s)? What is it about?

It changes — for a long time it was “Phobia No. 9,” because when I perform it live, it’s the one moment that I feel really connected to my audience — we wind up the tension together, and it really feels like storytelling. Since the release party, however, I’m really loving “Sweet Pea” and “Baby Isn’t Home.” I performed “Sweet Pea” with my sisters on vocals, including a part that’s not on the recording, and there’s nothing that feels as good as sister-sister-sister harmonies. My backing band for the show plays together regularly in LuxDeluxe, and they have unbelievable intuition when it comes to building a song — when we played “Baby Isn’t Home,” I was blown away by the powerful support that rose up underneath me and carried the song to the same kind of breathless release that you can hear in the recorded version. 

Do you perform with your sisters a lot?  What is that like?

I used to! My first professional work as a musician was as a workshop leader at age 11, when my sisters and I went on tour as teaching artists. We’re spread out now, but we try to sing together as often as possible. It’s a wonderful feeling. We have strong intuition with one another, often using hand gestures to negotiate parts or arrangements as we improvise our way through a song, and we have our own language to describe how songs and parts work. 

All of the string backing you use make these songs feel very rich. I am already singing along with your melodies, which are sometimes minor and also sweet. It feels like there's a lot of emotion in these songs. Does that feel true for you?

The strings were fun to do! I had envisioned having violin, viola, and cello, but I ended up playing all the string tracks on cello, which has a really plaintive sound in the higher registers. For me, music comes down to the story that’s being told, and as a writer, I think that great stories build not only to a climax, but to a pivot or hinge point, when suddenly you look back on everything you just heard from a new perspective. Emotion is definitely at the center of my music, and I envision my voice as a thread that weaves between the elements of the story before twisting them in a new direction. 

I think a lot about how my melodies interact with the narrative of the song—whether they are in tension and conflict with the narrative, or in harmony with it. I look for ways to create a melodic subtext to the narrative. 

I saw that this album was recorded in your husband’s studio with the help of his band. Was this your first time working with them and what was that experience like?

LuxDeluxe hired me and my sisters in 2013 to play strings on their record, and since then, we have sung backing vocals for them every now and then. I have known all of them for about eleven years, though, because we all went to the same high school. Having them learn my songs for the release show was a wonderful and strange experience! I have never played my own music with a full band before, and they learn, adapt, improvise, and adjust with such deftness, it was so easy for me to slip into comfort playing with them. It’s also a real godsend to have so much support in summoning the energy needed to bring a song to its peak and carry a show through its arc. 

You also said that you & your husband played all the instruments. Were there instruments/parts in particular that you personally focused on for this album?

I did most of the guitar tracks, and all but two of the backing vocals. Jacob was really instrumental (hah) in terms of bringing keyboards into the songs, and I put a lot of time and energy into writing string parts, all of which I played on cello. 

The cello is gorgeous. Can you talk a little bit more about how you ended up playing all of the string parts on cello? And how that ended up changing or not changing things? 

Thank you! I ended up playing all the parts simply because I didn’t have time to get other players in the studio, but it was an emotional challenge getting back to playing cello after a long bout of tendinitis-like issues. Being forced to explore my instrument for the first time in a while, and also playing parts that a cello usually wouldn’t, was special 

How have the shows on your tour been going? Has there been a favorite so far?

The shows leading up to the release party were fun! We did a duo show at a sweet little brewery last weekend, and this weekend I’ll be headed up to St. Lawrence college, and then playing in MA again at a show featuring all women-fronted bands! The release party has been the best-ever, though. It was very magical playing through the album and beyond, surrounded by an intergenerational crowd of friends, family, coworkers, children, elders, and strangers!

These songs are very personal and very tender.  In “Baby isn’t Home“ for example, you seem to be talking about a struggle with balance, and about self-care and this complicated idea of independence. Can you talk about your connection to some of those themes on this album?

The themes of the album really started to make themselves known through the recording process. We recorded “Breastfed” with one set of lyrics, and then after listening back to it, I sat there in the studio and rewrote the whole thing on my phone because I had suddenly realized what it was really about. The whole album circles around a moment of serious illness in my family, a moment when the role of caregiver expanded so suddenly that its boundaries became diffuse. When you don’t know who is supposed to be taking care of whom, there’s a shift in the power balance of a family, there are serious growing pains, there’s an acute, painful awareness of previously-unknown weakness, there’s posturing, crippling uncertainty, and most of the time, against all odds, you survive. This album is an ode to survival. It feels so monumental and special, but at the same time, it’s just a rite of passage everyone endures while growing towards the sun.

Sometimes you need a first draft that you completely scrap just to get to the actual thing. I love that you just rewrote the whole thing on your phone. Illness and care dynamics really can teach us a lot. Did you learn about any new ways that you can take care of people or yourself?

I have been working recently as a hospice volunteer, and stepping into the midst of a family in crisis and meeting them exactly where they were gave me a new perspective on illness, death, and the directions of dependency within a family. The biggest lesson I have learned in terms of caring for myself and others is simply to work with what you’re given--to commit to adapting to physical and mental changes, to embrace the newness of a changed person and a changed relationship, to make room for grief and discomfort, but always to evolve towards the new.

Your songs really resonate with a journey of learning and love.  Was making this album cathartic or healing in any way?

It really was cathartic, in a couple of ways. First, it was a special experience writing my thoughts on paper and building tension around them with melody. It was special watching the perspective of the stories change over time, as I gained distance. Secondly, the album was being made for almost two and a half years. The day we started recording, I was ready for it all to be done, and yet, I had to wait. Revolving around these songs for so long as they slowly grew into what they are today taught me so much about myself as a writer and as a performer. It also reinforced the idea that closure is a myth—there’s nothing that can happen that will seal an experience or trauma permanently into the past. Time passes, you grow, or you shrink, and then maybe you grow again. Thinking that finishing the album would close something seemed more and more dangerous as the album neared completion, and I’m grateful that the experience took as long as it did, because I was given enough time to point myself in the direction I needed to grow in instead of waiting for a moment where I could get back on track exactly where I thought I deserved to be.  

You mentioned that your parents are responsible for getting you hooked on performing when you were only 3. A lot of the themes in this album have to do with family and care. What is the role that your family plays in your life & music making today?

My parents have always been so supportive of me as a performer, and as a writer. They place so much value on creators, which was a gift growing up. Today, my sisters and I still sing together, and just recorded our third trio album in January, and my parents are always pushing me towards a more business-minded approach to my music, which is helpful because I’m usually just frowning over a notebook, not thinking about my website. 

What have you been listening to lately?
My friend Sen Morimoto droped a new album in May, and I have been loving his single “People Watching,” [ you can find it on spotify ] I have also been listening to Solange’s “A Seat at the Table” and this newly-released live Ella Fitzgerald recording, “Ella at Zardi’s,” which has changed my life!

God Gave Her No Name: Lingua Ignota on Secrecy, Violence, and Reclaiming god

By Hayley Jane-Blackstone

In the often damp & dark New England underground experimental music landscape, the cult of personality is not just a distant concept. Men can hold varying positions of power, extricable from their intimate & romantic behavior. Considering this, it seems incongruous to describe the first time I heard Lingua Ignota’s 2017 opus ALL BITCHES DIE as a “breath of fresh air” because the record feels more like a coughing fit. Re-released as an LP earlier this month on legacy metal label Profound Lore, the colossal work deals with sexual violence without obscuring any of the profound pain, cruelty, and emptiness. Borrowing practices from power electronics, devotional music, and industrial noise, Lingua Ignota’s oeuvre transcends collage.

After her set on the floor of the Empty Bottle, I spoke with the artist, musician & neoclassical vocalist behind the project, Kristen Hayter, about the concepts that drive her work and what’s next as her month long cross-country tour supporting Providence transplants The Body was reaching the halfway mark in Chicago.

 Photo by Henry Hernandez at The Empty Bottle // Chicago 

Photo by Henry Hernandez at The Empty Bottle // Chicago 

There’s some debate over whether or not Lingua Ignota was intended as a secret language or a universal one. Thinking about music as a language, does the amalgamation of extreme disciplines & craft in your work create a secret or universal one?

I think it’s closer to secret. When we hear people in conversation, we understand language as language. In a similar way, music is music in that we’re cognizant of the aural stimulation, but just like language, music has separate vernaculars understood in different ways by different people.

For instance there might be a microtonal dialect that has sacred meaning that is specific to where the dialect comes from. My sacred is different from your sacred, and what was sacred to Hildegard, which informs her ecstatic language (the Lingua Ignota) should be specific to her understanding of god, which takes a different form than any of our understandings of god. So yes, the amalgam of influences in my work is processed in a very particular way, through my particular lens, to craft something that sounds hopefully unlike other things (secret) but hopefully strikes truth somewhere (universal).

There is an overarching theme in your work of the vengeful and merciless God. Does that perspective come from growing up religious, or is it more informed by trauma? Does liturgy/liturgical music have the potential to be cathartic, healing, or bright?

I was raised to believe that God was fearsome and ubiquitous but then in my life, I came to find that perhaps God, if that entity existed at all, was not merciful. Then I abandoned the idea of god and then returned to god, having no other place to put pain other than god. It returns to the secret vs. universal: my understanding of god has been constantly shifting alongside my experiences. So liturgical music or worship can heal depending on what god might mean at any particular time; if God does not exist, liturgical music might be simply decorative or a demonstration of style, and if God is merciful, music written for him might provide release and lightness, and if God is wrathful, it may be an act of violence to make work in his name. Does vengeance heal? I don’t know.

 Photo by  A.F. Cortes  at St. Vitus // NYC

Photo by A.F. Cortes at St. Vitus // NYC

ALL BITCHES DIE effectively exists outside of a specific feminist body politic while still engaging with feminist themes. Does critical theory obfuscate or distract from the work, or do you think there can be a relationship between theory & ritual? Can they serve the same function?

I think that if my work existed within any feminist school of thought it would not be nearly as arresting. It’s the distinctly un-theoretical approach that gives it strength. Weighed down by dogma it would be just like anything else: stale and dry. That goes for the stylistic/aesthetic/sound approach as well. I really want to re-organize how I think about violence, trauma, pain to stand outside of theory, so the ritualistic aspect is far more important at this point.

How does your gear setup change on the road, if at all? Does the performance change as a result?

I am always self-conscious about the fact that I use a laptop, and that I use some degree of playback. I wish I could play everything and perform and sing at once but alas ergonomics wins, so laptop it is. Wherever I can I try to play or incorporate elements outside the screen. The computer allows me to focus on the performance, the voice, the body moving around. For this tour I wanted to try some different things performatively, so I started playing on the floor noise-set style, disavowing the stage, being there on the ground with everyone else.

I incorporate work lights/clamp lamps to be in control of my own lighting, to light the audience, to be another sound source, and then to be an instrument of self-flagellation, violence, indeterminacy. I get wrapped and tangled in the cabling, I knock everything over, beat the shit out of myself, and I never know what’s going to happen or what will be unplugged or how I’m going to recover; it’s like, the cords determine what’s going to happen, and then at the end it’s just a mess of bruises and trash and broken lightbulbs that I throw in a cardboard box. It’s not very hi-fi but it’s fairly effective.

Yeah, I feel like sticking so strictly to analogue definitely runs the risk of being too ‘”precious” or overly-nostalgic for something you’ve never experienced.

I’m a former gearhead so I understand the obsession with analogue but I agree it can be very precious, and for me it doesn’t make sense, or the lofi, digital, ‘everything I use is trash and gets destroyed’ approach doesn’t lend itself to having beautiful modular equipment that takes hours to set up. I plug in, freak out, and limp away with a cardboard box full of literal garbage.

God Gave Me No Name (Nothing Can Hide From My Flame) is a new track on the record that came out on Profound Lore. Was it recorded during the same sessions?

That was a song that I had been working with for a certain amount of time but had never recorded for BITCHES, and when deciding how to make the reissue work for vinyl we had to work with vinyl’s time constraints. The record as it had originally been released digitally was too long so I decided to make some edits to longer tracks and add this track to the A Side. Stylistically it’s a little different than anything else on the record but everything on the record is different from the thing that came before it so I think it works nicely.

Who are the key-player influencers on your forthcoming full-length?

The new record is about betrayal, tyranny, psychotic madness, gratuitous violence, defeat. I can’t give too much away but there are a lot of historical influences and deep cut references, and the song-writing is better than BITCHES, and the instrumentation is more expansive, and it’s very cinematic so far. People who were confused about what genre of music I make ain’t heard nothing yet.


VIDEO PREMIERE: Little Crown // "Melancholy"

I often find myself in a state of melancholy as way to feel sad when I have nothing to be sad about. Surrounding myself with thoughts, people or things that remind me of what I should be happy about or proud of snaps me out of that melancholic state & brings me back into reality.

A place of self expression and honesty, Little Crown has become a place for Southern Louisiana Native, Phoenix, to express her voice in a comforting way. Struggling with ways to express struggle, experience, and emotions mixed with a background in jazz and french horn, Little Crown has broken away from the ukelele songs from her first release to a new lighter, pop-centric style. With the change in style, Phoenix still sees Little Crown as her outlet, a place to speak freely about the tough-stuff- but also a place where everyone can remember to celebrate personal victories and emotional up-turns. This new single “Melancholy” touches on the mindset of understanding yourself and understanding your personal emotions. 

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PREMIERE: Beach Bunny’s ‘painkiller’ Lets You Dance Away the Heartbreak


beach bunny, 'painkiller'

Stream the single off their upcoming EP Prom Queen now.

Alternative pop music has had a reawakening. From Paramore’s 2017 release ‘After Laughter’ to Mitski’s newest single ‘Nobody,’ artists have learned to craft upbeat, dance-y tracks to underscore feelings that are often hard to deal with.

‘painkiller,’ the newest single from Beach Bunny, is the latest addition to the dance-away-the-heartbreak genre that’s taking over alt-pop. Beach Bunny is the project of Chicago native Lili Trifilio, whose lyrics over surf rock inspired grooves enchanted audiences with her 2017 release ‘Crybaby.’

‘painkiller’ is the first single off of Beach Bunny’s upcoming EP Prom QueenThe music video, which was surprise released on Thursday, features Trifilio alone in a poofy pink dress, looking dejected as she watches people couple up and take prom pictures. In efforts to console her, Trifilio’s mom comes up to her and says that “boys will be boys.”

The single perfectly encapsulates all of the feelings of a nasty breakup through medical motifs. She starts with a comparison to pulling teeth and gets more macabre as the song goes on: lyrics like “all of your apologies are only empty calories” and “is it reconstructive surgery? / can’t fix my anxiety” are contrasted by a sparklingly infectious dance track.

Halfway through, the song breaks down musically and lyrically. Bandmates Matt Henkels on guitar, Jon Alvarado on drums and Aidan Cada on bass show off their talents in a irresistible riff reminiscent of dancing by yourself on that perfect summer day. When joined by by Trifilio’s repetitive and melancholy lyrics, it quickly turns into a haunting trance you can’t help but dance to. “Take me to the hospital / I need pair of setamol / tramadol, ketamine / I just need some pain relief.”

Dancing to a list of painkillers seems odd on the surface, but Beach Bunny makes it effortless. Their enchanting musical style can make the most heartbreaking lyrics sound like candy – and it’s what makes them so special. They don’t compromise emotion for pop melodies, or vice versa. This has been a staple for the band from the beginning, but is especially prominent in their newer tracks: it’s going to get a little sad, but we’re still going to have a good time.

Historically, pop music has been pretty surface level. The burden of being a commercially viable genre is the limitations on what is allowed to be written about. Many artists have found them confining to music that’s widely relatable but still not a total bummer, resulting in songs that are overly repetitive and even emotionless. Beach Bunny, among many other acts, are challenging that standard by putting difficult emotions at the forefront without sacrificing great upbeat pop sensibilities.

Breakups and heartbreak are normal. It’s okay to sit with your emotions and understand them, even if they’re sad or hard to deal with. Sometimes processing those feelings is seen as unattractive, or results in dramatic metaphors and exaggerations – but it’s easier when someone, or something, understands it in the same way you do. And sometimes the only thing you can do is dance away the pain.

Stream painkiller Below:

 by John Tuanqui

by John Tuanqui

WHO TO SEE: The non-men who rule this year's Pitchfork Music Festival


Celebrating its 13th year, Pitchfork Music Festival makes Chicago's Union Park its home again for the weekend of July 20th. With less than a month left, Hooligan writers have come together to highlight some of this year's non-men playing the festival who have undeniably proved to be music's emerging artists right now and forever - with performances by legendary talents like Chaka Khan, Ms. Lauryn Hill and Courtney Barnett, to rising artists like Syd, Ravyn Lenae, and Lucy Dacus, we've put together the perfect list of must-see sets throughout the weekend, our favorite lyrics, and why you're gonna dig them. 




red stage

by Tim Crisp

An unforgiving early afternoon sun is an ideal set piece for experiencing the relentless attack of Chicago rockers Melkbelly. The quartet plays a brand of Breeders-influenced grunge, with squealing guitars that beat down on your ears, while vocalist Miranda Winters seeks to give you nightmares with her all-seeing command. Crunchy low down guitars center the songs while everyone works to add to the fury. It’s the product of DIY veterans from several subsets of your host city’s music community, with members’ previous projects spanning from dark folk to jazz to noise. The music of Melkbelly is chaotic and deliberate, foaming at the mouth to insight discomfort while you, the listener, can’t help but ask for more.

Favorite lyrics: “Concrete is raw, concrete is cold / This slouch is weighted too” - “R.O.R.O.B”
You’ll dig it if: You came for feedback and paranoia


lucy dacus

green stage

by Rosie Accola

Lucy Dacus’ sophomore release, Historian, is one of the most well-crafted records of 2018. The tracks move seamlessly between upbeat laments (“Addictions”) and gritty, rock ‘n’ roll treatsies (“TimeFighter”). Dacus’ is a master lyricist, incorporating a sense of narrative that mirrors the structure of a short story rather than a song. In “Nonbeliever” she sings, “You threw your books into the river/ told your mom that you’re a nonbeliever./ She said she wasn’t surprised/ but that doesn’t make it okay.” Other songs like “The Shell” contemplate the merits of making art, a good old existential crisis accompanied by some killer riffs. What’s not to love?

You’ll dig it if: You’re in the middle of a compelling short story collection or a break up, you know the merit of a good air guitar solo, you’re enraptured by the vast unending beauty of the south.
Favorite lyrics: “Freeze frame, tidal wave in the passenger side/I'm still a nervous kid/after all this time” - "Addictions"


julie byrne

blue stage

by Rivka Yeker

Singer-songwriter Julie Byrne takes you back to quiet memories we reflect on during train commutes and long car drives. Her humble voice, while filled with power, rests as a lullaby, quietly soothing and calming the nervous system. She sings of an arms-width loneliness, a songwriting trademark, riddled with the vastness of emotion and physical distance. Her most recent record Not Even Happiness resembles the strange discomfort we feel when we find love, after spending so long being alone.

Favorite lyrics:  “Couldn’t hold my misery down, not even for you / It bore me on all the places I ever gone /I grew so accustomed to that kind of solitude /But I long for you now even when you just leave the room” - “Sleepwalker”
You’ll dig it if: You like Mazzy Star but folkier, poetry, falling into a deep self-reflexive trance



red stage

by Owé 

The former sultry and sexy R&B singer from The Internet recently wowed us with her Solo album Fin. Syd has a slick, sexy, and confident sound that immediately puts you into her trance. You might know her from any of the three albums she put out with The Internet and is now truly finding and defining her own sound. Fin, while a hot album, is especially exciting for queer listeners as Syd explores some sensual moments in tracks like “Drown in it “ or “Body”. Her decision to go solo is an important moment for queer visibility in rap and it will be exciting to see how she continues to wow us with her talent. This is definitely the show to pull up with a boo or crush. The romantic and intimate energy of this album is sure to promise a vibey time.

Favorite lyrics: “The bed is your stage/Take it away/Put on a show/Put on a play/Don't ask babe/know I'm your number one fan babe “ - “Body”
You’ll dig if : You like sexy and sensual music, you liked The Internet, if you appreciate all the nuances of  R&B.


julien baker

blue stage

by Caitlin Wolper

The deeply affecting Julien Baker combines her raw, yearning vocals with ruminations on faith, sobriety, and mental illness. Her journey of self-reckoning, revealed both on sparser first album Sprained Ankle and the lush follow-up Turn Out the Lights, expound upon mental illness and an ever-changing sense of self-worth. But despite the oft-heavy lyrics and subject matter, Baker’s folk-tinged music has a certain warmth to it, inflected with hope: beyond the vulnerable tracks, on Turn Out the Lights’ final song “Claws in Your Back,” she tells us: “I take it all back, I change my mind / I wanted to stay.”  

You'll dig this if: You want to hear intimacy


big thief

blue stage

by Sara McCall

With their debut LP Masterpiece (2016), the four-piece Brooklyn band showed up with powerful guitars and punchy drums, pandering to both folk and alt-rock audiences. However, it’s Big Thief’s most recent release Capacity, which shows off a kind of control and composition that bolsters the band as serious musicians, changing the landscape of folk music. Listening to either album, Masterpiece or Capacity, entirely through bears with it a catharsis— between guitars soft and harsh, lyrics that hide and reveal, vocals that whisper and yell these songs sweat with an intensity and depth. Singer-guitarist Adrianne Lenker sings heavy-heartedly of family dynamics, love, trauma, beauty, and corporeality whilst co-writer and guitarist Buck Meek creates an unassuming but complex musical backdrop for Lenker’s alluring voice, offering a gorgeous new folk, a new representation of the midwest — an almost myth-y one that lives in shrapnel, headlights, oak trees, boyfriends knives, blood and long stretches of highway, oh and lots of reverb.

Favorite Lyrics:  “There is a child inside you/ who is trying to raise a child in me/if you want to leave/ you just have to say/ you’re all caught up inside” – "Mythological Beauty"
You’ll dig Big Thief if you party to Frankie Cosmos but wake up to Sharon Van Etten —specifically Tramp at 7:30 am. 


courtney barnett

red stage

by Cody Corrall

Courtney Barnett’s sophomore studio album Tell Me How You Really Feel provides a rambling retrospective on her personal evolution as well as her identity as a songwriter. Barnett cemented her cult following with her often monologue-like lyricism in her debut album Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit as well as well as her two EP’s: I’ve Got A Friend Called Emily Ferris and How To Carve A Carrot Into A Rose. Barnett’s strengths lie in her lyrics, which are equally poignant as they are nonsensical, and are underscored by strong psychedelic and rock sensibilities throughout the album. Tell Me How You Really Feel discusses the complexities of rape culture, relationships and what it means to be at a loss for the right words - even when there are so many bubbling at the top of your tongue.

Favorite lyrics: “I wanna walk through the park in the dark / Men are scared that women will laugh at them / I wanna walk through the park in the dark / Women are scared that men will kill them / I hold my keys / Between my fingers” - “Nameless, Faceless”
You’ll dig it if: You like the folksy lyricism of Angel Olsen’s Sister, the tender rock’n’roll of The Cranberries’ Tomorrow, the guitar stylings of Margaret Glaspy’s Emotions and Math and the emotional retrospective of Lucy Dacus’ Night Shift.



zola jesus

green stage

by Rivka Yeker

I said, “I want something powerful, dark, and feminine,” and someone dropped Zola Jesus onto my lap. Her music is a wall of sound, a climactic crescendo all rooted in a goth influenced pop foundation. Her is the combination of Lana Del Ray and Chelsea Wolfe, which allows for a cryptic yet bold sensation. I envision an intricate and intense dance number choreographed to all her records, especially when the strings and choir paired with electronics all create a full body listening experience.

Favorite lyrics: “Take me to the water / I am not free but I am sorry, I am stone /
You should know I would never let you down” - “Soak”
You’ll dig it if: you loved Evanescence, goth shit, you love feeling your body entirely moved by sound.


nilüfer yanya

red stage

by Charia Rose

British born and bred, Nilüfer Yanya has made guitar centric music sexy again. A delicious smoothie of jazz, pop and indie-rock, Nilüfer has created a world all her own with her EP’s Plant Based and most recently, Do You Like Pain? The music feels like a dream; sounds that would play softly out of a 10th floor apartment on a breezy summer evening, t-shirts sticking to sweaty skin after a long, joyful day. Her lyrics take on a storytelling quality, making that cool, loose vibe all the more vivid. There is a infallible confidence in the music, her self-taught guitar style leading the way with slick riffs taking center stage.. Her vocals remind you of the void Amy Winehouse has left; that jazzy alto timbre creating a sense of raw passion. Nilüfer takes the notions that guitar music is dead, gives a hearty “fuck you” and creates something all her own.

Favorite Lyrics: “You just watch that coming tide / We won't even have to shout / 'Cause not even words can find a way out / You just relax and I'll kill the time” - “Keep on Calling”
You’ll Dig it If: Your favorite Amy Winehouse tracks are the stripped down demo versions, indie-rock with soul, music that takes you on a journey.

Bops to Get You Started: “Golden Cage”, “Baby Luv”, “The Florist”


circuit des yeux

blue stage

by Rosie Accola

There is something about Hayley Fohr a.k.a Circut Des Yeux’s voice that reaches into your bones -- it’s rich and raw, born to tell a story. I first saw Fohr two years ago at Thalia Hall when she opened for everyone’s goth-rock Godfather, Peter Murphy. From the moment Fohr picked up a guitar and started to sing, I was enthralled. I’d never seen someone command their voice as a vocal instrument with as much strength and precision, it reverberated through the venue from the rafters to the historied floorboards. Fohr worked with a pedal board and guitar to create a multifaceted sound piling seemingly endless layers onto reverb and vocals with a thoughtful intensity. I imagined that this was how audiences felt watching Patti Smith get her start in the ‘70s, as if they were witnessing someone experiencing a revelation onstage, letting their voice and their guitar take them wherever they needed to go.

Favorite Lyrics: “There is something deep/ inside of you/ something that’s worth reaching into” -- “Do the Dishes”
You’ll Dig it If: You’re into artists with an alt. Country vibe, “Horses” is still one of your “Top 10 Greatest Albums”, You like your narratives and your pedal boards to be stacked.



blue stage

by Violet Foulk

LA-born indie rock duo Girlpool, comprised of Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad, released their sophomore LP Powerplant last spring. The record is chock-full of delicate vocals churning out poetic lyrics, paired with steady, powerful guitar chords. The band’s sound has become fuller since their debut track, ‘Ideal World’ in 2015, which had no drums, singing “Put me on a food stamp / And a Hallmark card / Tranquilize me with your ideal world.” Powerplant is home to more genius songwriting, beginning with the ethereal first verse of ‘123’ that quickly builds into a powerful introduction to the band’s completed new sound. The record includes a total of twelve cohesive tracks; highlights include pretty title track, ‘Powerplant,’ and the steady drumbeat-driven closer, ‘Static Somewhere.’

The duo just dropped a new single, ‘Picturesong’ - an unexpected collaboration with Dev Hynes of Blood Orange. Beginning slowly, the track is a slow-building melodic dream featuring the classic vocals known of Girlpool, with a climax of hazy guitar chords at the bridge.

Favorite lyrics: “You say you'll cut your bangs / I'm calling your bluff / When you lie to me it's in the small stuff” - “Cut Your Bangs”
You’ll dig it if: you love driving with the windows down, blasting spunky indie artists like Adult Mom and Diet Cig.



blue stage

by Charia Rose

With the voice of a whispering angel, Kelela (pronounced Kuh-luh-lah) has set the r&b world on fire with her EP Hallucinogen, and now, her debut studio LP Take Me Apart. Her vocals slip through lyrics of redemption and heartbreak with an ease so stunning it may leave you in awe, whispering, “what the hell” to yourself over and over (maybe it’s just me!).  In a renewed era of whisper queen r&b, Kelela has a depth to the softness of her voice. It’s a bird calling you awake, harmonies filling you like a warm broth on a cool day; her voice is comfort. She sings with a brutal honesty, songs like “All the Way Down” take on the rollercoaster of overthinking a relationship before leaning in and no longer “giving a fuck”.

“Altadena” serves as a love letter to the often forgotten black and queer folks hustling to get by.

Deciding at 29 to quit her corporate job to pursue music, Kelela embodies the notion that following the things that uplift and embolden you can turn into something beautiful, healing and completely you.

You’ll Dig it if: You like crying, soft bops, Solange, stacks on stacks of harmonies, queer black women laying their hearts open so that, we too, feel seen.
Favorite lyrics: “That other thing is you keep holding back / All the light you keep brings out the darkness in me / You're so bottled up inside / Spell it out before we divide” - “Turn to Dust”

Bops to Get You Started: “All the Way Down”, “Take Me Apart”, “LMK”, “A Message”



kelly lee owens

blue stage

by Genevieve Kane

As any well versed Pitchfork goer knows, making it for the artists earlier on in the day can be a difficult feat; however, you will seriously regret not making it for Kelly Lee Owens’ set. Owens is a producer, songwriter, and singer from Wales who got her start working with artists like Daniel Avery. Her first EP Oleic, which dropped in 2016, features songs governed by a strong beat and impressive synth-work, reminiscent of old-school garage. Her first self titled album came out in 2017 which takes dreamy synths and layers Owens’ eerie voice on top of it all. The album itself shows great range, tracks like “Bird” are bops which instantly turn my bedroom into a club dance floor; whereas, tracks like “S.O” are so moody and captivating that they put me in a semi-meditative trance. Kelly Lee Owens helps me embrace my inner club kid.

Favorite lyrics: from the track Anxi. (feat. Jenny Hval) “I have come to believe family and reality/Keeping it together, keeping it together/This is the narrative of reality”
You’ll dig it if: You really liked the movie “Party Monster” and spend your free time watching old videos of illegal raves


ravyn lenae

red stage

by Cody Corrall

Chicago native Ravyn Lenae echoes disjointed poetry over bubbly, dizzy and colorful instrumentals. At just 19 years old, Lenae is already making a name for herself with three EP’s and has spent the last year opening for Noname’s Telefone tour and SZA’s CTRL tour. Her most recent EP, Crush, is a dreamy collaboration with 20-year-old producer Steve Lacy that questions intimacy and romance in the digital era. Lenae’s vocals are ephemeral: they seem to float over Lacy’s guitar grooves as they explore their various musical styles and find harmony. In 5 songs, Lenae is able to encapsulate a longing for closeness that has been lost in an online age of romance and the expectations that come along with it.

Favorite lyrics: I get jealous / When you don't wanna give this a chance / But then you wanna hold hands (what do you want?) / I get jealous / When you can move around how you please (Ooo, you never thinking of me) - “4 Leaf Clover”
You’ll dig it if: You like the android soul of Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer, the groove of Steve Lacy and The Internet’s single Come Over and the disconnected dystopian romance of Rina Sawayama’s EP Rina.


japanese breakfast

blue stage

by Rosie Accola

Japanese Breakfast’s sophomore release is aptly titled Soft Sounds from Another Planet. Singer/ guitarist Michelle Zauner creates lush soundscapes that ooze extraterrestrial synth that calms and elevates your consciousness. If aliens had a five star spa, they’d pipe Japanese Breakfast through speakers in the lobby. Rather than ambient, I’d pose that Zauner’s songs have the capacity to transport the listener, these songs don’t just create a mood, they take  the listener to another astral plane. As a lyricist, Zauner has a talent for exploring the most intimate nooks of a weathered partnership, several of the songs on this record deal with themes of , domesticy and what it takes to really stick around. On “12 Steps” Zauner sings, “So tell me, "I can’t blame you, we let love run its course/And it's a little bit lonelier/I don’t blame you / It's just our love ran its course/ and that's a little bit hard." Yet, rather than succumb to a bout of cynicism over the tenuous nature of human connection, Zauner uses the innately fragile nature of relationships as a source of strength, reminding us all that it’s incredibly brave to just… show up.

Favorite lyrics: “We aren't bound by law/We aren't bound by anything at all/Just you/If you decide to show/Just if you decide to show up on time” -- “Jimmy Fallon Big!”
You’ll Dig it If: You’re directing your own queer rom-com in your head, “Stranger Things” makes you wish synths accompanied your every waking moment, you like it when your rock ‘n’ roll feels a little celestial, you have big dreams and thoughts about how everything’s cosmically connected.


red stage

by Owé

This is a performance you really won’t want to miss. It’s been two years since the release of her debut album Telefone, yet I still find myself constantly returning to this masterpiece. Noname’s raps, like poetry put to music, are weary yet hopeful. She tells tragedy and beauty together in a way that draws you in and really resonates in the soul. With features from Chicago locals like Akenya, Saba, and the Mind, Telefone is a deeply intimate project that captures and narrates the energy of Chicago and in a very important way. With the announcement of a new album Room 25 this performance is sure to be a magical one.

Favorite lyrics:  “I used to have a name that look like butterflies and Hennessy/ I’ll trade it up for happiness but joyful don’t remember me” - “Sunny Duet”
You’ll dig it if:  You love rap and the Chicago sound and appreciate music that finds itself at the intersection of art and the political. If Smino, Saba, Chance the Rapper and Tierra Whack are your sounds then you’ll definitely bop to Noname


chaka khan

red stage

by Charia Rose

With a career spanning over 40 years, Chaka Khan is a name that, if you were raised in a home filled with an appreciation for funk and simply good music, you know. A vocal powerhouse who has worked with Stevie Wonder, Prince, Quincy Jones, and other artists that we can only classify as legends, Chaka has reinvented herself throughout the many years and changes in the industry. She has transcended funk to rock to jazz to dance as easy as the deep breaths she takes before a well supported note. There is no denying her influence on the industry, her ability to fuse multiple genres into timeless bops and tear jerkers that artists are still sampling today (“Through the Wire” by Pre-Kardashian-Slavery-Was-A-Choice Kanye West may come to mind). Seriously, she is responsible for one of the longest running “who did it better” arguments between music lovers: Chaka or Whitney’s “I’m Every Woman”?

Even if you don’t know her catalogue, there is no better history lesson than experiencing one of the original Divas live.

Favorite lyrics: “And without me you'd stumble / And without you I'd fall / Without each other we would not be at all” - ”I Know You, I Live You”
You’ll dig it if: You appreciate legends, want to hear vocals that will blow your wig back, love funk and find yourself saying “man, they don’t make em like this anymore!”

Bops to get you started: “I’m Every Woman”, “Tell Me Something Good”, “Through the Fire”, “And the Memory Still Lingers On (A Night in Tunisia)”

ms. lauryn hill

green stage

by Charia Rosie

Ms. Lauryn Hill is another level of iconic. She released one solo album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill exactly 20 years ago, and the world has been turning differently ever since. Her life has been one worthy of a biopic; baby daddy drama, tax evasion and taking fashionably late to an extreme that makes Mariah Carey look like Father Time. Regardless of all that, Ms. Lauryn crafted some of the most memorable moments in r&b and hip-hop (she was rapping and singing her own hooks before the men could figure out autotune). Songs like “Doo-Wop [That Thing]” tackle the conversation of how both men and women can damage each other in relationships. Her songwriting ability has never ran from brutal honesty and consistently questions society and how we exist within it. Her life is her own, and her decision to leave music at the apex of her career because she wanted to live a new life is empowering beyond measure. Being the sole female member of the hip-hop trio the Fugees, her contributions of thoughtful and rock hard bars have made her one of the most respected female MC’s of all time, and in my humble opinion, one of the best to ever do it regardless of gender identity. Her voice is so deep and rich it’s like drinking a good cup of coffee, with just a dash of Bailey’s. She may not be on the stage at the exact start time, but stick around and you might hear a live mash-up of her hit “Ex-Factor” with the song of the summer, Drake’s “Nice For What”. You will realize that even after all these years, she needs no introduction and has always been worth the wait.

Favorite Lyrics: “Woe this crazy circumstance / I knew his life deserved a chance / But everybody told me to be smart / Look at your career they said, / ‘Lauryn, baby, use your head.’ / But instead I chose to use my heart” - “To Zion”
You’ll Dig It If: You appreciate 90’s hip-hop neo soul, respect legends, believe that music can be healing and uplifting


REVIEW: RUINS - Self-titled EP



self-titled EP

Released June 17th on Dumpster Tapes.

by Colin Smith

Given local band Cafe Racer’s affinity for melodic noise, ambience, and krautrock rhythms, I was excited to hear one of their members, Adam Schubert, decided to launch a solo project.

Ruins started during a brief period between moving from a relationship to another three-flat with his Cafe Racer bandmates. In turn, Schubert’s songs carry the sound of impermanence and isolation.

The songs aren’t breakup blues, though. They sound more sorrowful and lonely on a deeper level.

The self-titled EP echoes the likes of Atlas Sound, Kurt Vile, and a bit of lo-fi Elliot Smith. “Watch It Go” in particular borrows from Atlas Sound and Deerhunter with its minimal guitar playing and a tambourine washed in reverb. The record, and this song especially, uses textures masterfully.

As Schubert recorded the songs off an iPhone (“with just about every delay plug-in”), the bedroom songs have a bit of distance in the production that feeds into the record’s muddled mood.

Because of the lo-fi recording process and format, there’s also an intimacy to the songs. “Going Blind,” which features an acoustic guitar and a banjo, you can hear Schubert’s hands hitting and strumming the instruments. 

At its core, the songs are still written mostly in the familiar, pop format, even if they’re masqueraded under a veil of artful noise. Still, both a strength and a weakness of the songs is the heavy use of repetition. Schubert builds a large space with minimal instruments but the atmospheric music may require a listener to be in a particular mood.

On its best moments, the songs off of the EP hit deep, emotional space. The harmonica at the end of “So Long” sounds like a one long goodbye. And it’s impressive what moods Schubert can sculpt with just a guitar, as the tracks only include two or three instruments.

Ruins’ self-titled EP is music to listen to while on the train and noticing all the people hooked to their devices.

PREMIERE: little bear's new single "Home"

Home Cover.jpg

little bear is bringing an entirely new sound to what seems to be a genre-fluid scene. little bear's upcoming EP features some of Chicago's own (Burns Twins, Yomi, and Sol Patches) and they have performed with Ric Wilson. Their music is a blend of sounds, instruments, and rhythms all defying any sort of expectation people may place on them. There is only Aaron Kisslinger's voice, which is a melody in itself, horns, synth, and poetry. 

listen to the debut single below:

REVIEW: Cosmic Johnny, 'Good Grief'


cosmic johnny

"good grief"

Now available via Bandcamp.

Cosmic Johnny has created an existential crisis you can dance to. The Boston four piece has a firm grasp on penning hooky melodies and mathy guitar riffs that stay in your mind all day.

Their latest album, Good Grief, is a visceral embodiment of the early twenties itch of suburban youth. Ironically, the album is a joyous tribute to life. Despite the focus on fear and anxiety, it finds a way to be brave in the face of it all. The lyrics are gritty and honest, openly discussing mental health in ways that are remarkably unafraid.

Standout tracks: “Theme from Good Grief,” “Hell is a Basement,” “Resentment,” and “Houston”

The first track, “Theme from Good Grief,” acts as the perfect introduction to the album. It’s like an opening paragraph of sorts, covering reclusive tendencies, lack of social connection, and the inability to open up. In what feels like a discussion within one’s head, Mike Suh goes back and forth between ideas. The guitars play complimentary broken chords leading into fuzzy stabs that answer one another. The recurring themes taking the place of recursive thoughts.

“And you never had a good time hanging out with the party kids/ But you never had a good time on your own.”

Hell as a concept first appears in the album’s third track, “Hell is a Basement.” The song immediately drew me in, with an intro reminiscent of Minus the Bear’s “Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey.” What follows is an achingly clever comparison of basement parties to the pits of hell. Suh describes their awareness of the mortality of everyone in the room. But even with such morbid themes, the song is lively and practically begging to be danced to.

“Resentment” recounts the unwanted downward trajectory of a relationship, overlaid with a relationship with regret and drinking as reactionary escapism. The song feels drowned in guilt, with the arms of hindsight keeping them submerged. “It might be my fault/ for not knowing how to look at you/ without this sinking feeling.”

The song takes an incredibly powerful turn in its refusal to continue living with crippling self-doubt. Suh indignantly states that “the back of the mind is not a nourishing place to live.” Finishing with the repeated refrain “I just want to live.”

The main riff in “Houston” climbs up in a series of arpeggiated notes only to rise and fall a half step at the end. It’s a theme mirrored in the lyrics’ exploration of the bounds of knowledge within ourselves and the universe. An exploration of how understanding is in some ways unattainable. Even in moments of clarity and bouts of productivity, there will always be unanswerable questions.

In a period of sleeplessness, Suh describes their lack of connection to the world and people around them. Picking apart individual personhood, they give in to the dread of meaninglessness and dissociation.

Yet in the repetition of the words “we’re all alone,” I can’t help but feel a sense of connection. Even in the prospect of our lives being inconsequential, there is beauty found in being together through the mess of it all.

Perhaps the best part of this album is the way the band presents opposing concepts, both musically and through lyrics. The sense of joy is placed side by side with dread, memory with loss, meaninglessness with purpose. It is in these comparisons that Good Grief is able to raise the subject of existence in a way that is still hopeful.

Stream Good Grief Below:

REVIEW: GRLwood, "Daddy"



Now available on sonaBLAST! Records.

Many have described the Louisville duo GRLWood in terms of riot grrrl, and certainly guitarist Rej Forester’s singsong-to-scream vocal stylings against dissonance surf rock riffs lend to that comparison, it would sell their incredibly unique sound short to pigeonhole them into a certain sound or the aesthetic trappings that come with the riot grrrl name. Daddy, their debut album, invokes the B-52s as much as Bratmobile — a sardonic quality you can dance to as much as you can scream along with.

What stood out to me throughout Daddy were the ways GRLWood plays with tone and tempo in their songs. “I’m Yer Dad” leads off with a soft repeating of the phrase, while the drums and staccato guitar build the tension until the vocals reach a frenzy, bouncing from a scream back to the initial singsong cadence. The lyrics play off masculine tropes, mocking man caves and muscle cars alike from the perspective of the dad in question. The following track, “Nice Guy,” follows this pattern of parody as well. In this way, Forester embodies these incredibly loathsome kinds of men, and turns their catchphrases “all of the bad guys get all of the good girls / and I just don’t understand why they won’t fuck me” into weapons against them, skewering them on their own rhetoric.

On “Clean,” Forester begs the questions “who you gettin’ clean for?” She repeats it several times over before the track comes to a head in an earth-movingly volatile chorus, before dropping back to the gentler tempo of the first verse with a soft “woah oh". All of the songs seem to follow some variation on this; vacillating wildly between softer dissonant moments and then escalating all at once into something explosive, almost manic, and undeniably powerful.

There’s an overall hectic feeling to Daddy. The frenzied energy of trying to capture the anger and frustration of existing as a queer person is palpable in not only every scream, but in all of the subtle tongue in cheek quips as well.

Whether the frustration expressed is from trying to get a girl you’re pining over to dump her loser boyfriend (“Bisexual”), or a sarcastic response to the ignorance we’re bombarded with every day from those outside the community (“Vaccines Made Me Gay”), GRLWood delivers rage in a way that is attractive without seeming pandering or too polished up. It’s not contrived anger, it’s so deeply real and deeply felt. Listening to this album, it’s easy to forget that this band only has two members — they deliver an all encompassing sound, larger than life in order to best express all of the intricacies dealt with in the subject matter.

Daddy is an incredible album for someone who wants more rage in their pop music, or who doesn’t want to compromise melody or fun when they seek out heavier queer musicians. As a debut, it’s explosive, it simply does not sound like anything else right now and there’s no doubt that GRLWood is on the precipice of something truly great.

Stream Daddy Below:

REVIEW: Petal's Beautifully Cohesive 'Magic Gone'

"magic gone"

Now available through
Run For Cover.

Kiley Lotz, under her moniker Petal, dropped the beautifully cohesive record, Magic Gone today via Run For Cover Records.

Lotz, who spent most of her life as a closeted queer person, has become very open the last few years about her sexuality and the accompanying mental health struggles she has been facing. Taking three years to write and perfect Magic Gone, taking a break to benefit her mental health by returning home to Pennsylvania for therapy, Lotz has grown immensely and tackles so many difficulties of adulthood within this record.

Overcoming these lows, as well as experiencing high points such as touring with Julien Baker and Kevin Devine this past year, helped inspire two distinct sides of Magic Gone that fit together perfectly. Precisely, Side A (titled Tightrope Walker) includes songs she wrote before entering treatment, with Side B (Miracle Clinger) featuring songs she wrote in recovery.

The record begins with Lotz’s catchy anthem and first released single, ‘Better Than You,’ in which she sings with a sense of urgency, naming the daily struggles artists face while trying to “succeed” in the music industry. The beautifully melodic ‘Tightrope’ follows, detailing a light Lotz actually saw in the sky while driving one night, prompting an analyzation of the wiggle room in which she gives herself to succeed or fail. “The truth is just a piece of coal dressed as gold,” she sings softly, but defiantly.

I was delighted to discover the return of the track that made me fall in love with Petal’s music years ago - ‘I’m Sorry,’ from her debut EP Scout, released in 2013. I challenge you all to listen to ‘I’m Sorry,’ especially in the context of the new record, and not admire Lotz and the journey she’s embarked upon as a musician. Although a slightly more polished rendition, the ballad and its lyrics remain as beautifully sorrowful as the first day I heard them. “When did it get so personal? / I can’t remember, even though I try,” she sings delicately over faded, steady guitar strokes. “Just like a black hole / We collapsed and all / Of our friends stayed in orbit / Because we lied.”

Magic Gone also welcomes the return of ‘Comfort,’ the heartbreaking title track from Lotz’s Comfort EP, released this past September. Title track, ‘Magic Gone’ is also a standout, “The magic gone, and that solemn look upon your face / That says, ‘we’re finally growing up,’” she sings earnestly. The harrowing truth is, right now we’re all growing up, slowly but surely feeling the magic slip from our fingers.

Closing track, ‘Stardust’ has stuck with me in a different way since the first time I played it. Building up slowly from a delicate piano ballad, the track grows to an emotional new height, guitars exploding under Lotz’s desperate singing, “Now we’re living in shitty apartments with mismatched dishes, unlike our parents / Maybe we’d make good parents? / Maybe not, I can’t say / I can’t say I didn’t love you,” she calls out cathartically.

Sonically perfect in every way, while encapsulating Lotz’s own personal journey facing many of her demons, Magic Gone has set the bar high for us all to let ourselves feel and learn.

“Really feeling what it’s like to be completely heartbroken, instead of just pushing it down so deeply, allowed me to see the true strength in vulnerability. That acknowledging pain, struggle, loss and heartbreak, is strong. That being out is strong. That being ill takes strength all it’s own.” - Kiley Lotz

Stream Magic Gone Below: