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New Music Review

Notable Releases of 2022 (So Far)

As artists continue to reassemble themselves after being perpetually shut inside for over a year and a half–many of them refusing to release music until they’re able to tour again–new records in 2022 are continuing to illuminate what each artist’s process of self re-examination looks like in light of the pandemic.

Here is a list of some my favorite records of the year so far by womxn and non-binary artists.

Guerilla Toss: Famously Alive

This is the sound of Guerilla Toss at their euphoric peak. Lead singer Kassie Carlson has spoken at length about taking an active role in her self-healing in the midst of 2020 lockdown, and that sense of peace is apparent on the album in the most quintessential Guerilla Toss way, complete with driving percussion, schizophrenic synths distorted to high heaven, and lyrics about treating the body as a sanctuary rather than a prison.

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Sunflower Bean: Headful of Sugar

Just in the last few weeks, Sunflower Bean has gained legions of new followers since their song “Moment in the Sun” was featured in the viral web-comic-turned-Netflix-series Heartstopper–a therapeutic gift to the LGBTQIA+ community if there ever was one–just in time for their album release, too! And for people already familiar with the band’s work, this record is an undeniable breakthrough. I got to hear Headful of Sugar in advance of the release, and I was utterly floored by every artistic decision, from Julia Cumming’s euphoric melodies on the breezy dancefloor paean “Post Love,” to Nick Kivlen’s starry Marquee Moon-esque guitar solos on “Who Put You Up to This,” and the immediate, clashing orchestrations on the dystopian “Roll the Dice.” This album is an entirely new introduction to the trio who’ve been proclaimed “the hardest working band in New York City,” and they deserve every ounce of meteoric success that’s headed their way.

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Wet Leg: Wet Leg

Consider my muffin buttered. Ever since their 2021 debut single “Chaise Longue” went viral, Isle of Wight post punk duo Wet Leg have been touted one of the most promising new bands of the decade by nearly every music publication in existence. Lead singer Rhian Teasdale’s trademark sardonic and hilarious lyrics (“Suck the life from my eyes/It feels nice, I’m scrolling, I’m scrolling, ahhhhh”) paired with Hester Chambers’ accented downstrokes make for a potent elixir, combining all the driving musical elements of our favorite garage rock revival bands (The Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs) with the introspective, belly laugh-inducing lyrics of their whip-smart ’80s forbears (Delta 5, Gang of Four).

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Warpaint: Radiate Like This

Recorded and pieced together from separate locations in the midst of lockdown, Radiate Like This is a wholly different Warpaint experience. Each dreamy track is sparse and ethereal with eerie, warm tones. Each band member’s respective parts are layered together masterfully in equal measure. Hearing Emily Kokal’s soft and inviting croons on the lead single “Stevie” feels like the most warm and enveloping hug from a dear friend I haven’t seen in ages. It is the perfect reintroduction to the band after their six-year hiatus.

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Chelsea Jade: Soft Spot

When Chelsea Jade isn’t writing songs for global pop stars, dancing in Lorde’s music videos, or creating graphic designs for bands like Deafheaven, she’s building an immersive world of buzzing and intelligent pop. Whether she’s musing on vulnerability and desire on “Optimist,” waxing philosophical about the concept of idol worship on “Superfan,” or bringing listeners to the dance floor on “Best Behavior,” it’s obvious that in addition to knowing exactly what she’s talking about, Jade has also had a blast making this album.

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SASAMI: Squeeze

Squeeze opens with “Skin a Rat,” a violent sludge metal polemic on the perils of late capitalism with Megadeth’s Dirk Verbeuren on drums. If that alone isn’t enough to get listeners onboard with this project, I don’t know what is. SASAMI is an agent of pure chaos on several cuts on this album. But she balances the chaos superbly with a capacity for restraint, as can be heard on sparser cuts like “Call Me Home,” and “Not a Love Song.” But my favorite has got to be “The Greatest,” which achieves a perfect middle ground between both extremes. If this album doesn’t get to the top of everybody’s “Best Of” lists by the end of the year, I will riot. That’s a promise.

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Mitski: Laurel Hell

Named after the dense laurel bush thickets in the Southern Appalachian mountains, emotional entanglement is the most prescient theme on Laurel Hell. Mitski reflects on her turbulent, co-dependent relationship to music on tracks like “Everyone,” and “Working for the Knife.” Laurel Hell is also her most sonically expansive record yet, from the warm synth pads to the clashing pianos, clanging percussion, and soaring guitar feedback that is at times dissonant and overwhelming. Mitski knows that her painstaking self-awareness is both a strength and a hindrance. She’s not yet comfortable fitting into that liminal space between the two, but she’s working on it. And isn’t that all we really can do?

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Live Music Review

Live Review: Guerilla Toss at TV Eye

Raw, uninhibited chaos has always been a hallmark of the live experience for neo-psych noise pioneers Guerilla Toss, and their April 29 show at TV Eye was no exception. Their openers LLVX and Operator Music Band served as excellent primers for the audience with minimal ambient, jazzy grooves. But as soon as Guerilla Toss took to the stage, all bets were off. Frontwoman Kassie Carlson emerged with the rest of the band in tow, gently swaying from side to side with her hair flowing in the wind machine, awash in hallucinogenic fever-dream visuals that decorated the projector behind her.

The audience was immediately immersed and awestruck within the first three minutes of their set as Carlson led the band through the opening number, “Famously Alive,” a slow-building vocoder-laden track off their latest album of the same name. This was then followed by the slithering synth groove, “Cannibal Capital.” But the minute the band launched into their unhinged post-punk ode to aliens, “Betty Dreams of Green Men,” they blew the lid off the place. Carlson inched closer to the crowd and gave one of the audience members upfront a nudge and a shove as if to say, “Let the riotous moshing ensue!”

Specific highlights of the night were getting to hear Carlson’s doomsday cheerleader dance polemic “Meteorological” live, in addition to watching bassist Zach Lewellyn rock from side to side as he played like he was David Byrne doing the shaky knees in Stop Making Sense. The energy in the room was vibrantly positive as the band made their way through several of their beloved hits and deep cuts, the audience alternating between high-energy thrashing, friendly body-slamming, and belting their hearts out along with the band on songs like “Famously Alive,” “Wild Fantasy,” and their immediate, cacophonous cover of The Velvet Underground’s “All Tomorrow’s Parties” that closed out their set.

So here’s the takeaway: If you go to a Guerilla Toss show, there are two guarantees. One: It doesn’t matter how many basement punk gigs you’ve been to; here you’re going to perspire like you never have before in your life. And two: if you’re upfront, the venue platform is low, and there is a mosh pit behind you, be prepared to get shoved onstage ass-backward… a lot. It’s a proper punk frenzy with schizophrenic disco synths and an overload of sleek bass grooves with wah-wah effects. And it’s heaven.


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Interview

Dropper: Screaming Internally with a Smile Upon Your Face

Brooklyn indie rock stalwart Andrea Scanniello has experienced all sides of the Big Apple’s gritty underbelly. After nearly a decade of working in the service industry and participating in the local Brooklyn DIY scene as a multi-instrumentalist in bands like Russian Baths, TVOD, and High Waisted, Scanniello began journaling about her many grievances with adult life on a regular basis. She gradually transformed these ruminations into songs, which she shared with her brother Larry and her drummer in High Waisted, Jono Bernstein. In 2019, the three of them formed a group with Scanniello on lead vocals, her brother on lead guitar, and Bernstein on drums. They later recruited Yukary Morishima on bass, and Dropper was born.

Photo by Cirsty Burton
Photo by Cirsty Burton

Dropper released their debut album Don’t Talk To Me via the band’s own label Dirt Dog Records in February of 2022. The band has called the record an album for “People who have worked in the service industry too long, and become curmudgeons at the ripe old age of 26. People who are lonely yet want to be left alone. People who drink because they are sad but also sad because they drink. Bisexuals with crumbs in their bed. Optimistic pessimists. Those with seasonal allergies. But overwhelmingly for people who, in lieu of being crushed by the eternal weight of existence, choose to scream internally with a smile upon their face.”

Don’t Talk to Me is a schizophrenic menagerie of shimmering psychedelic garage rock, krautrock, and shoegaze arrangements layered with Scanniello’s ethereal, Loretta Lynn style polemics about the trials and tribulations of facing down existential fear in the haze of a post-9/11 millennial fog. “I’m sorry to my dad and mom/They worked so hard, said to get a job/But the van’s got 300,000 miles so I’ll be sleeping on strangers’ couches for a while,” she reflects on “Waste of Time.” 

A Grrrl’s Two Sound Cents caught up with Scanniello to discuss the art of optimistic pessimism, looking on the bright side of the death of New York’s rock scene, and wanting to write a theme song for an Andy Samberg movie.

Is there a certain point in your early life where you can pinpoint the exact moment when you fell in love with music or has music always been a way of life for you? 

It’s kind of always been a way of life. My dad was a musician, he was a keyboard player who played in wedding and bar bands. Both my brother and I started playing music at a very early age. I studied classical piano when I was younger and then taught myself how to play guitar and have been singing forever, but Dropper is the first band I’ve ever been the front-person for, so it’s definitely different from what I was used to. 

Since Dropper is your first project front and center as the lead singer, what is the biggest challenge that comes with this shift in roles? 

A LOT of emailing. It’s mostly all of the other random responsibilities that come with being in a band, which is trying to book shows, organizing merch, marketing new material. It really is its own full-time job. And it’s such an important part of making things happen, and it can feel like a bit of a drag at times, but it’s worth it to get to write and play music. Hopefully in the future I won’t have to do as much of the other stuff. 

When it comes to writing music, I always start with the lyrics, which might sound incredibly strange to anyone else who’s in a band because the process is normally the other way around.

– Andrea Scanniello

I hear you. But it seems like these new skills you’ve acquired on your own have been extremely valuable. Would you agree? 

I think so. I’m definitely learning and getting better. I’m really lucky that my bandmates are willing to help with a lot of that. But I’m super excited to see how I’ve progressed as a songwriter. With the new record, it’s pretty clear which songs I wrote first because they have a very similar sound to my older bands, whereas the newer stuff is more chilled out. 

How did the band initially come to form? 

Myself and Jono, my drummer, were playing in a band together called High Waisted. I was playing bass and he was playing drums. When I started writing songs on my own, I was very self-conscious and wouldn’t show them to anyone. So he and my brother Larry, who’s also in the band, were the first people I shared them with. Me and Jono started jamming over my lyrics with guitar and drums while my brother, who lives in LA, was helping us demo the songs. Then Yukary, who plays bass, joined and that became our current lineup. 

I understand that Dropper initially stemmed from you writing down your many gripes with adult life. Can you describe to me the moment the idea came to you to turn these reflections into songs? 

I don’t think it was ever a conscious decision, I think I’m just a person who complains a lot [laughs]. So I think it was only natural for me to write about things that frustrated me. It was very therapeutic to turn them into songs, because it’s an easier way for people to relate. But really I’m just a whiner. That’s honestly what it comes down to. 

I feel like there’s not much of a scene anymore. I don’t know whether it’s because it’s fallen apart or it doesn’t really matter as much, but it feels less like a cohesive thing and more like there’s pockets of everything depending on where you go.

– Andrea Scanniello

You’ve described yourself as an “optimistic pessimist.” Do you feel like that mindset functions as a form of protecting yourself? 

The pessimistic side of me really comes down to being realistic about life. But at the same time I can’t be feeling depressed or down on myself about everything, because then it becomes impossible to survive. Even when things are trash, you’ve still got to hope for the best. It’s really hard to be objective with myself, but I guess that comes with making art in general, trying to see yourself from the outside. It’s a real mindfuck and the band still feels super new even though we formed three years ago, because we didn’t actually start touring until this past year. 

Hearing you sing these almost old-style country songs over these chaotic instrumentals is such an amazing contrast. How did you and the band initially come to form your signature sound? 

Well I have ADD, so that’s the first thing. When it comes to writing music, I always start with the lyrics, which might sound incredibly strange to anyone else who’s in a band because the process is normally the other way around. I think it’s more of a dude thing to be like “I wrote the riff, and then I constructed the drum part and the bass, and then I wrote the lyrics last.” I always start with the lyrics and melody first and then work outward from there. Maybe later I’ll add a riff or a keyboard line. Then I’ll meet up with the rest of the band to jam and see where it goes. I personally love psychedelic rock and krautrock but I also love old country and classic rock. I try not to sound so singular and try to find that space in between all of the things I like. 

How do you feel about today’s scene in New York compared to the previous phases of musical booms—like CBGB punk, garage rock revival, Brooklyn indie hipster time—that have happened here in the past? 

I feel like there’s not much of a scene anymore. I don’t know whether it’s because it’s fallen apart or it doesn’t really matter as much, but it feels less like a cohesive thing and more like there’s pockets of everything depending on where you go. There are so many different bands and artists everywhere. You could go to one venue and see the same old punk bands over and over again, but then you could go somewhere else and see amazing jazz, amazing pop music, amazing hip hop, and it’s actually pretty sick when you step away from the “scene” mentality and get more of the bigger picture, because there’s so much more to offer. The most recent one I can remember from when I was younger was the massive revival with The Strokes, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Interpol. With the internet I think the idea of looking back at certain pockets of music with rose colored glasses might no longer be a thing in the future, but maybe it still will. Who knows.

Oh man, don’t even get me started. This will turn into a whole conversation about The Strokes. 

I don’t listen to them a ton anymore, but I’ve always loved them. Every so often when I put them back on it’s a real treat and I’m like “Oh yeah! This band fucking slaps!” I saw them live a few years ago in London and had the most fun ever. Is This It… That whole record is fucking perfect. Everything about that band just fits together so perfectly. They’re the type of band you listen to and think, “Nobody else could have made this.” Julian Casablancas’ lazy singing fits those guitar parts so perfectly. It was only those four people together who could have made that type of record. 

I started teaching myself guitar because I wanted to learn Bright Eyes songs. So Phoebe Bridgers is basically living my dream life. 

– Andrea Scanniello

On “Memoirs of Working in a Bowling Alley,” you describe the physical and emotional labor of working in the service industry, and on “Waste of Time,” you describe the pitfalls of touring as an indie band. What gives you hope in the face of these adversities? 

I’ve been living in New York for almost ten years and have worked in the service industry for the same amount of time. You end up meeting a lot of people and having very odd experiences. In terms of hope, I think every little success is a reminder that it’s worthwhile. A good example is Habibi bringing us on a brief round of tour stops in November. The response was great and seeing other people who aren’t local appreciate our work really helps me feel validated. Being in a band is dealing with so much rejection and rarely ever getting what you want, which makes it feel all the more rewarding when it happens. This is what I’m good at, and it feels nice to have that validated. 

If you could write a theme song for a movie, what movie would you choose and what would it sound like? 

Oh man. I have no idea what it would sound like, but it would probably be something really dumb, like an old Andy Samberg movie like Hot Rod or some shit, because I can’t take myself too seriously. 

Who are some of your favorite bands of all time? They don’t have to be influences, just music you genuinely enjoy. 

Oh wow. I hyperfixate on things for such brief periods of time where I listen to the same album for three months straight and then move on. But I think the one that’s stuck with me the most is My Chemical Romance. They were my favorite band ever growing up and I still love them. I also really love Weyes Blood, her music is so devastating and beautiful, and same with Julia Jacklin. I’m big into sad girl shit. But I don’t think I’d ever have the patience to write like that, which is why I admire it so much. With regards to MCR, I’ve always loved Gerard Way’s progression from accidentally becoming a global rock star and then a nerdy dad who writes best-selling comic books. It’s just so wholesome. It had such an impact when I was younger. My two biggest influences were My Chemical Romance and Bright Eyes. MCR made me want to be in a band and I started teaching myself guitar because I wanted to learn Bright Eyes songs. So Phoebe Bridgers is basically living my dream life. 

I’ve been living in New York for almost ten years and have worked in the service industry for the same amount of time. You end up meeting a lot of people and having very odd experiences.

– Andrea Scanniello

What was the best learning experience you had working with Andrija Tokic as a producer on this album? 

He was great. He’s like a mad scientist in the studio, which was really great energy for me to feed off of. I’ve had so many experiences working in studios with men who were so condescending and would never listen to what I have to say about mixing and engineering. Andrija was the opposite, just so chill and totally down for anything. He would throw out suggestions and say, “Why not try this? We don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do, but here are my ideas.” What was so cool is that we recorded it all to analog tape, and I really loved the idea of making it sound good in the room, so we wouldn’t have to add on too much later. 

What song on the album was the most gratifying to hear back after it was finished? 

“Telephone” was the most gratifying, because when we demoed it, all I had on it was my voice and an omnichord. We ended up doing a full arrangement in the studio and transforming the song completely, so it was definitely the most gratifying. 

What other exciting prospects have you got coming up? 

We have another show in May at TV Eye and hopefully another tour is in the works soon. Thanks for having me! 


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Live Music Review

Live Review: Colleen Green at The Sultan Room

When it comes to crafting irresistibly catchy guitar pop with serious character, nobody weaves sardonic lyrical humor with ruminations on emotional detachment quite like Colleen Green. After a six-year hiatus following the critical success of her 2015 sophomore album I Want to Grow Up, Green tapped indie producer extraordinaire Gordon Raphael (The Strokes, Hinds) to help bring to life her long-awaited third album Cool, a collection of fuzzy earworms that touch on isolation, adult responsibilities, and troubles with modern day communication.

Now on her long-anticipated North American tour supporting the album, Green played an intimate set at the Sultan Room in Bushwick last night on a bill with Dropper, Shred Flintstone, and Ben Katzman’s DeGreaser, three extraordinarily charismatic and rambunctious acts who served as excellent hypemen for the audience before the main act. When the time came for Green to grace the stage, she emerged wearing a simple white top and black shorts to match her signature black Strat with “Happy Birfday Jeff” scrawled on the front.

Long known for DIY minimalism and playing solo sets with a drum machine, this tour marks Green’s first time ever playing with a full live band, which includes Mike Hunchback on rhythm guitar, Michelle Tucker on drums, and Jay McGuire on bass. Green maintained a hilarious rapport with the band, and was unafraid to correct mistakes. At one point Tucker started to rip into a drum solo on “Grow Up,” until Green abruptly yelled “STOP!” and the entire band laughed it off before quickly restarting the song.

A few specific highlights of the night were “You Don’t Exist,” and “I Wanna Be a Dog,” two pop-rock ragers off the new album with twangy guitar tones and irresistible hooks, the latter interpolating the refrain from the Stooges classic “Now I Wanna Be Your Dog.”

Before the band launched into the final song on the setlist, “TV,” Green announced that it would be their “last song” with a wink and air quotes, indicating that there would indeed be an encore. She later re-emerged by herself to play one final song with her drum machine, popping on her signature Wayfarer-style sunglasses that have now become an unmistakable marker of her aesthetic.

Green isn’t necessarily a “showy” performer, and being showy is rarely ever necessary when you have a palpable stage presence. What makes Green such a convincing performer is the fact that she plays to her strengths. Her impassioned belting, charming charisma, and emotional bliss was firing on all cylinders last night, making her performance truly memorable. To borrow a humorous quote made by Dropper’s Andrea Scanniello earlier that night: “Colleen Green fuckin’ rips!”


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