Bully ‘Just for Love’ is an angry cry for self-love (I think?)

“I would never talk to anyone the way I talk to myself” is a line from the newest single by alt pop outfit Bully (mainly Alicia Bognanno but now and then also a few other people) and it cuts through the angsty garage anthem “Just for love”. I wonder whether it’s supposed to be a nod to “I’d do anything for love (but I won’t do that)” by the late Meat Loaf but if it is kudos to being so timely. I can’t 100% say what I think the song is about since lyrics are scarce (and riddled with question marks on Genius.com) but my initial interpretation would be someone who slowly realizes that they’re in an unhealthy relationship and need to cut ties for their own sake.  

(You’re invited to correct and discuss in the comments)

What’s to love about this song is this throwback to 90s/early 00s garage punk, the perfect combination of sneering at someone whilst also shredding a guitar and feeling all your emotions. Not that I would ever want to go back to that time of teen angst but I do like music that reminds me of it. The song was initially written as part of the sessions for the most recent album “Sugaregg” but didn’t make the track list, so here it is to give our seasonal depression a little kick. It’s appreciated.

No Party for Cao Dong ‘還願’- Dreamy post rock for dreamy post rockers

I recently watched a Lets Play of the Taiwanese game “Devotion” (partly horror, partly drama) and this song played at the end and it’s the kind of song that immediately grabs me, because it starts like dream pop, then turns into an singer/songwriter-ish guitar ditty and suddenly erupts into dizzying post rock and all this happens in 3:45 minutes but it feels like 10 seconds because it flows so easily, it’s like a perfect train journey.

The song is – as far as I could tell from the translation given within the game – about a bittersweet ending or seeing some beauty in something ending because you decide to see the light in it. According to Wikipedia, the song was specifically written for the game, so I won’t go deeper into the meaning because I don’t want to spoil it for you in case you want to look it up or play it yourself.

No Party for Cao Dong are a Taiwanese band founded in 2014 and currently being on hiatus with the remaining members Wood Lin (vocals and guitar), Sam Yang (bass) and Judy Chan (guitar).

If you want to find out more about the band, there’s a lovely article on them on asianpopweekly.com.

Sadly, the drummer of the band, Fan Tsai, died in October this year. She had been with the band since 2016 when they met at university.

Favorite Song: Findlay ‘Stoned and Alone’

So, I am watching “Working Moms” because it’s a very funny comedy and I recommend it, and suddenly there’s this tune like Grace Slick back in the 60s but lyrics that are definitely in the here and now because back then, you didn’t just say you were stoned, you made up some bullshit analogies that were kind of awful but who cares, everyone was stoned who listened to the music and when you’re stoned, EVERYTHING seems deep.

 

Oh my gosh, I LOVE this song. It has swagger from the get-go, like a smooth brighter version of the Black Angels and then there’s Natalie Rose Findlay with her voice, that voice, holy mother, this song is from 2014, how did I miss this? It found its forever home on Findlay’s debut album (and so far, only studio album) “Forgotten Pleasures”, which I guess, I have to really obsessively get into now (I took a few peaks and can just say: highly recommend for people who like very British, very loud indie music > it = me).

The song itself seems to be a patchwork of a messy on/off whirlwind romance, the kind I never had (luckily, I am not made for whirlwind) but watched a lot in indie movies and soapy dramas. The title suggests that all this takes place in the memories of the narrator who is – you guessed it – stoned and alone. Oh, to have such a life that you can look back at past romantic adventures and not cringe right back into the floor. Look, that sleazy electric guitar at the beginning alone and that epic big production politely weaving in and out in the background, like a looming storm making way for Findlay’s voice that’s like that really sharp fresh smell that the air has before all hell breaks loose and the raging sea comes down on everything. Oh, and it’s so fun, this song! It’s been a while since I’ve heard these cool, psychedelic bluesy heavy sounds, which … probably is my fault. If you like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Jefferson Airplane and the Black Angels but with a dash of cheeky cheer and pop music, this will be a gorgeous discovery (if you haven’t already, if so: good for you).

Also, if you look for Findlay, don’t confuse her with the Google search result number one which is the University of Findlay, a private university in Ohio. And also, don’t confuse her with the Music page of the university because apparently, it has a non-audition choir open for all interested students. Yeah, Findlay the artist is 28, she doesn’t have a homepage like old people, she’s on insta (that snark is not meant for her, by the way, but for old crusty people like me who still have a BLOG in the holy year of 2020).

Kindergarten ‘Iphigenia’ Re-Issue is a whole lotta 90s

1993, when I was seven years old, Thomas Dietze (vocals & guitar)l, Mike Hynes (bass) and Joe Schneider (drums) decided to be in a band together. Just as I had left mine, they created their Kindergarten. For the 25th anniversary of the debut album, Honey Puller Records puts out a re-issue which will be my 1st issue, since I never heard it before. The band, like other curiosities such as Polaris, was a nearly mythical phenomenon that bewitched only the coolest of cool people for a single album and a few summers to then disappear*.

The re-issue will release on February 21st, just in time to get your Valentine a beautifully shoddy grunge album with an old man in a horrible blazer on the cover. So, what do we know about the band? They are band number five (5) named Kindergarten on Discogs. They are impossible to google (there you are again, my music blog-nemesis, the awful-to-research-bandname!). Other than that: Thomas Dietzel might still be making music but I am kinda sure all the Myke Hynes’ and Joe Schneiders I found online are not the original band members.

So, what about “Iphigenia”? Apart from having the name that the first cat had that ever lived in my home, it’s a pretty great album. It’s loud, noisy even, with the kind of clanky, angry drums that mark the early and mid 90s. Thomas Dietzel sounds just a little like Kurt Cobain but not enough to make it annoying. There’s enough of atonal scream-singing (now and then even some female backing vocals) coupled with  a beautiful punk rock guitar, the bass the only thing that doesn’t run away but rather turns around to grab your hand and tag you along this ride. It’s hella fun. It’s super loud, it sounds like a sticky floor in a dingy club and it has just the right amount of chaos. It’s also the kind of grunge album that you really love if you love grunge but also really don’t if you don’t.

*Polaris, unbeknownst to me, when I wrote this, recently announced a US-tour in combination with some “Adventures of Pete & Pete”-nostalgia, so if you are from the US, I envy you so much that I want to punch a hole in the wall.

Favourite Song: Wye Oak ‘Fortune’ – the things we lost

I took a very long break from my Wye Oak-obsession but this new single after *checks notes* six (?!) studio albums is spellbinding. I got a little lost with “Shriek” since this new, synth-Wye Oak – despite my love for all synths – threw me a little off. I absolutely adore the heavy guitars and melancholic depth of their first albums, specifically “Civilian” (one of my albums for the island), so “Shriek” was such a big step from that … but “Fortune” is like a beautiful merge between the synths and the stormy seas of the “old” Wye Oak sounds.

 

The song is about – I guess – a broken relationship and reminiscing about the things that have been lost, that are – to put it in Lovecraftian terms – “indescribable”. “And I left you a fortune” is a beautiful way of grieving the things that stay with someone who you shared so much with. And there are things that are missing, that you never really thought would be missing. An unforeseeable emptiness in unexpected places.

At the same time, this song is not hopeless, it’s nearly pragmatic, looking at the past, acknowledging the epic proportions of all those things that are gone now, like the pale imprints on the wall when you remove furniture that has been there for a long while. The narrator is still looking ahead because “the truth is always when it’s gone, it’s gone”.

Paste Magazine compares “Fortune” to “Civilian”, so I guess there’s the reason why I got pulled back in like a scared turtle in its shell. The whole song sounds so vast, with the synth sounds being less dreamy-hazy and more like echoes of footsteps in big monuments. There’s an overall grandeur to the whole thing that gripped me immediately.

Also, the vocals in this song are otherworldly. There is a whole siren’s wailing-witching hour-thing going on in the last part of the song. I am quite sure that we all are soul-bound to Jenn Wasner if we listen to the song at midnight during a full moon.

By the way: I listened to “Tween” today in full and boy, did I lose out on a great record. Fortunately, when it comes to music, nothing’s gone when it’s gone if you can stream it.

TBT: John Frusciante ‘To only record water for ten days’ is a friggin’ masterpiece

I still can’t believe that I made the switch from the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ album “By the Way”* to John Frusciante’s solo albums within weeks without batting an eye lid. The cumbersome heavy melancholy that not just dribbles but is flooding throughout “To only record water for ten days” can be too much at times, especially as Frusciante – in stark contrast to a singer like Kiedis – lets his voice crack and splinter, go into all the directions that are not pretty.

It’s astounding how an album that is such an inaccessible mountain of fuzzy guitar (and vocals) and electronic dabbling, can be – at a second glance – such a welcoming, warm experience.

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Snail Mail – ‘Lush’ is beautiful indie rock for cool sad people

Lindsey Jordan released her first self-recorded EP when she was 16. I love that we nowadays have all the possibilities to make, produce and release music through the interwebs because many artists can avoid the oftentimes grueling and personality-mutating funnels of the music industry and use Bandcamp and other mediums to gather a small, dedicated fan base and then jump on better things.

Nowadays, Jordan is under the label Matador Records (Interpol, Cat Power, Fucked Up, Yo la Tengo and more). For a debut, “Lush” is absolutely gorgeous and surprising because there’s a very assured earnestness in her music (without being to serious). As a much (MUCH) older person, it’s really interesting to hear these songs about relationships and break-ups and leaving things behind because I remember those days when everything was moving so fast or not fast enough and it was impossible to get your head around whether you really wanted all these changes.

Jordan’s sound is very subdued, classic indie rock that has a clean production but is not overdone. I am quite sure, it translates beautifully on a stage because the songs are so clear-cut, with not much fuss (but a little fuzz). There’s nearly a bit of punk-simplicity in the way she structures her songs. Her guitar and voice take center stage and that’s really all you need, to be honest.
It’s like a really good recipe where few, very good ingredients come together and you can taste all of them (yes, I do like to watch cooking shows, why do you ask?). Nothing gets muddled. It’s the kind of debut album that makes you really look forward for what’s to come but also appreciate what’s already there.

Favorite Song: Marika Hackman ‚Time’s been reckless‘

Marika Hackman’s album „I’m not your man“ is a brilliant, amazing and exciting singer/songwriter adventure that – if it were by a man – would have been celebrated across all platforms. There are folk elements, there’s garage sound, there’s a little pop, a little punk, a little indie and absolutely beautiful guitar play, which brings me to my favorite song.

„Time’s been reckless“ is about aging and what age does to our bodies (and our minds). How you see in people around you (and in people you love) how cruel time can be and how our bodies will eventually fail us.

It’s lyrically a very dark and sad song but musically, it’s full of pep and sounds like a song you would listen to in your first semesters at University, to get ready for the day.

In the middle of the song, there is a gorgeous valley of calm and a sweet, short guitar solo before Marika continues whispering, accompanied with echoes in the background and then everything reverts back to the party anthem. It’s a beautiful moment, especially given the lyrics as it shows that even within the thralls of life we can’t really escape those sad moments when we are reminded how fleeting everything is. It’s a great song. And it’s one of many great songs on the album (which I really very much highly recommend).

Wax Fang ‘Victory Laps’ – how the hell do I keep missing these album releases?

So, Wax Fang and I have a running gag going: I will listen to their albums and look them up and follow them on all social media accounts and wait for news of a new album and then roughly a year later I will do the same and realize that they have released a new album ages ago, like, seconds after I last checked them. I suspect that they do this in a weird time bubble that only special people get invited to and I am not one of them (maybe because I think that Szechuan McDonalds sauce is gross?).

Anyways, so back in 2017, Wax Fang released “Victory Laps” which starts with the spacey electro beat monster “Pusher”. It starts like you should be disappointed because it sounds so normal and then, as usual, it turns into the theatrical extravaganza that all of their songs and albums do so well (and do so differently each time). I guess, if you don’t like Scott Carney’s voice, you will be lost with basically all Wax Fang-albums because his vocals are so present (and desperately close) on all of them but I personally love this weirdo and amazing voice since the first time I heard it on “American Dad” (of all the places …).

Whereas their previous album “Astronaut” was a nearly claustrophobic psychedelic prog monster so intense that I once had to stop and listen to something else whilst on a plane, “Victory Laps” goes more into the pop/disco/rock’n’roll direction with the usual pizzazz of Carney’s vocals and the long, winding instrumental solos that always leave you somewhere completely different than the initial starting point. Every Wax Fang album, so far, has been like “Alice in Wonderland”, you just really never know what the hell will happen but it’s all so fascinating and quite charming if you don’t think too much about the head-chopping.

Maybe, Wax Fang is the closest we could get to a 21st century Sparks, if Sparks weren’t still releasing albums.

“Victory Laps” is less conceptual weirdo rock opera like “Astronaut” or “La La Land” but still beautiful. Songs like “Do the Math” are such a gorgeous break from the high-tempo, breathless predecessors. Weirdly enough, this could appear just as ironic and detached, dare I say “phony” as the Arctic Monkeys wearing weird beards now, but with Wax Fang, the humor always goes along with so much love to the pathos, that their music never sounds like a sneer towards the more emotional side of rock.

The only song that I really could live without because it’s full-on parody 80s sci-fi teen comedy is “Mystery Girl” which has a ridiculous chorus. But even that song turns into the weirdest space instrumental in the second half, so that you can’t even get mad at them. By the end of the 6:15 (one of the longest songs on the album), it’s like the annoying camp song you hated at the beginning but that now reminds you of all the good times, looking for that serial killer’s secret brother you fell in love with during musical rehearsals.

Oh, and that last song? My kinda song. Actually, I did hear that song when it was released but apparently still missed the memo about the album. Still, “Exit Strategy” is the kind of dark, desperate scream into the void that really speaks to me late at night shortly before I remember all the horrible things I’ve ever done. It’s disturbing and gorgeous and oh so sinister. Also, Carney’s duet with the guitar is beautiful.

Blackwater Holylight: holy shit you guys, this rocks!

Blackwater Holylight just released their album (you can hear it on Bandcamp) and it is so delicious, I can’t even!

It starts out in this 80s wave-length that I generally get drawn to but then, OMG, they suddenly drift into this heavy doomy bass-ridden Stonegaze as if True Widow were asked to do the soundtrack for “Stranger Things” and it is absolutely marvelous.

“Willow” is the first song on the album and it packs a punch. I mean, listening to this I kinda wish they would remake “The Craft” and only use Blackwater Holylight for the soundtrack.

For one, it’s such an awesome combination to have the melody-happy 80s mixed with the heaviest guitar walls and pretty much move you into dark and fuzzy psychedelia. Their song “Sunrise” is so gorgeous because it’s cool, retro but also old, dangerous and stares at you way too long. Fronted by vocalist and bass monster Allison Farris, the band also consists of Laura Hopkins (vocalist and guitar dragon), Cat Hoch (drumming machine) and Sarah McKenna (official 80s synth siren).

It’s the greatest kind of fusion, especially when you thought you know what they’re about and suddenly a song turns around the corner to do a gitarrero bit or sludge its way to your heart.

Look, if you want to get way too hard into a band this year and shout at everyone who doesn’t know them, this is the band to beat.