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New Music Review

Marissa Nadler Wraps Listeners in Ghostly Embrace on ‘The Wrath of the Clouds’ EP

Marissa Nadler officially staked her claim among the greats in 2014 with her sixth studio album July, where she made a strong departure from her indie folk roots and showcased an ability to juxtapose the sinister and surreal with the mundanities of everyday life.

Today Nadler unveils her new EP, Wrath of the Clouds via Sacred Bones and Bella Union. A companion project to her 2021 album Path of the Clouds, Wrath of the Clouds consists of of three songs from the vaults Nadler had written during her last album cycle and two covers. Throughout the EP, Nadler continues to make waves with her distinctive spectral acoustic compositions and ghostly croons evocative of a David Lynch dream sequence.

Photo by Nick Fancher

The opening track “Guns on the Sundeck,” is an ominous six-minute epic written from the perspective of the historic RMS Queen Mary, a British transatlantic ship that carried military personnel in World War II. The ship was purchased by Long Beach in 1967 and has served as a paranormal hotspot for California tourists ever since. Over sparse acoustic strumming and ambient strings, Nadler’s delivery is controlled and unwinding all at once as she laments, “Fall ’67 was her last hurrah, then they painted her like a movie star.” Then comes the knife-twisting refrain: “‘I miss the ocean,’ she said, ‘It’s nice in the sun, but I need a break from the dead people.'”

“Some Secret Existence,” chronicles the disappearance of Dottie Caylor, an agoraphobic woman who was dropped off by her controlling husband at the Pleasant Hill BART station in Walnut Creek and was never seen again. “Dottie never went outside/She hadn’t since that terrible July/Did she do it for revenge, or did she have some secret existence,” Nadler ponders over an uncoiling tunnel of ghostly synths and a simple finger-picked acoustic arrangement.

“All the Eclipses,” is a bone-chilling dream pop duet with Amber Webber from Black Mountain. While Nadler’s cover of the Alessi Brothers’ “Seabird” remains faithful to the original, her take on Sammi Smith’s “Saunders Ferry Lane” trades the Western twang and spare country drumming of the original for Nadler’s unearthly cadence and a piercing drum machine that could cut glass.

A self-confessed lover of true crime, Nadler urges the subjects of these stories to become agents of their own freedom, whether that be an old haunted vessel or a woman who vanished in 1985. In the great country tradition of women like Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton infusing stories of helplessness with agency and control, Nadler’s sympathetic songwriting and penchant for experimental ambience is what truly makes this EP shine.


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New Music

Premiere: DIY Artists Pay Tribute to a Pop Icon on ‘Now That’s What I Call Britney, Bitch’

Regardless of music preferences, we can all agree that Britney Spears has left an indelible mark on pop culture that will be remembered for decades to come. Britney is one of the few pop stars who exists in a realm outside the rigid structures of genre. Everybody loves Britney, from classic rock dads to indie kids, hip hop heads, and even K-pop stans. As the author of Being Britney Jennifer Otter Bickerdike said, “There is no other artist who has had the same cultural impact as Britney, except maybe Elvis and The Beatles. Britney transcends presidents and she transcends the progression from brick and mortar music stores to the digital age.”

As a celebration of Britney’s freedom from her conservatorship and a tribute to her legacy, a collective of DIY artists from Boston and Canada have banned together to render a genre-bending collection of Spears covers in a compilation titled Now That’s What I Call Britney, Bitch.

This labor of love was organized by Andrea Neuenfeldt of Boston-based DIY bands Birdwatching, Fake Rays, and Pismo Beach Disaster. “As the Britney Spears conservatorship news and the grassroots rallying cry for her freedom became a front-page mainstream issue, I started rediscovering her as an artist, and as a formative part of my musical coming of age,” Neuenfeldt tells me. “Like so many fans, I saw a tiny bit of myself in her as someone who has struggled with mental health. I decided after watching a few docs on her and listening to her early albums on repeat that this could be a cool little project, and a way to honor a pop icon.”

The track list consists of nine reinterpretations of Britney hits, from Al Z’s lo-fi slowcore take on “(You Drive Me) Crazy,” to Phased Approach’s bubblegum glitch version of “Till the World Ends,” and a post-punk noir cover of “Toxic” by Daphne Blue Underworld with skittering drum patterns and zany guitar licks.

“It’s really impressive to see what people are capable of, especially given time and technology constraints,” Neuenfeldt continues. “Another aspect of covering an artist is the chance to try new instruments, and being adventurous with choices that we don’t always make when we’re writing our own music. I love being surprised with the end result. This has been such a gratifying project to organize, to see DIY musicians in a new light and to witness the depths of their abilities.”

A Grrrl’s Two Sound Cents is thrilled to premiere this eclectic tribute to the pop icon, which is available exclusively on Bandcamp. The proceeds will go to It Starts With Us, a community database documenting missing and murdered Indigenous Two-Spirit, trans, non-binary, and femme individuals in Canada.

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Artist Feature Interview

Scrounge: Making As Much Noise as Humanly Possible

Hailing from the South of London, frenzied post-punk outfit Scrounge is the gruesome twosome of Lucy Alexander (guitar, vocals) and Luke Cartledge (percussion). The duo have mastered the art of crafting arresting tunes driven by shrewdly compelling riffs and percussion so immediate that it’s physically impossible to ignore.

Scrounge – Left to Right: Lucy Alexander (guitar, vocals), Luke Cartledge (percussion)

Calling Scrounge a “band” doesn’t exactly do them justice. A more apt description would be a clamoring two-piece wrecking crew with a serious knack for rhythm and melody. Lucy’s dynamic riffs and Luke’s thrashing percussion on songs like “Purpose,” and “Badoom,” craft a distinctly stirring soundscape that draws from an array of influences, from Sonic Youth to Warpaint.

Their most recent single “Leaking Drains,” which closely followed the release of their 2019 EP Ideal, ruminates on the decaying state of society with slashing guitars, primal lead vocals, and whiplash percussion.

I spoke to Scrounge frontwoman Lucy Alexander about the origins of the band, her love of Tyler, the Creator, and teaching the history of punk to primary school kids.

How are you today?

Good! I just finished teaching. I’m a music teacher, so it’s very Jack Black. My class has been making zines this afternoon. The kids are ages 10-11 and I gave them a project to make zines on radical forms of art and why music matters to them. They came up with some really cool stuff, actually.

How would you describe Scrounge to new listeners?

We’re a noisy two-piece post punk band from South London.

What was your first favorite band?

Oh god. I was listening to really terrible stuff at an early age. But as soon as I started seriously getting into music and saw Warpaint play live for the first time, I was sold. That made me realize this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.

What made you and Luke initially click when you first met?

We met at Goldsmiths where we played together intermittently. Luke originally played the guitar, and I thought he was the best guitar player I’d ever seen. After we first played together we had a chat about music we both liked and we started going to gigs together. We were in loads of different bands together before we formed Scrounge. We didn’t really know what we were doing and we originally wanted to call ourselves Mint, which is British slang for dope or cool. We eventually stumbled into Scrounge because it was snappy and quick.

As soon as I started seriously getting into music and saw Warpaint play live for the first time, I was sold. That made me realize this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.

Lucy Alexander, Scrounge
Photo by Tony Jupp

What attracted you to the post-punk realm?

It’s so immediate. I love the urgency of the sound and how it demands the listener’s attention. A lot of our favorite bands do that, and we’re just in awe of how effortlessly they attract attention with the sounds they produce. There aren’t many rules in post-punk, which was also a great way to express ourselves and work out where we fit into the world after leaving University.

I was out of breath just listening to “Leaking Drains.” What’s it like to play that song live?

We actually start all our sets with it now, cause it’s such a quick song and it’s a great way for us to get in the zone, especially when it’s just the two of us. It really propels us forward to keep going.

What song are you most proud of?

I would say “Purpose.” That was the first song of ours that was played on the radio. That song allowed us to go from recording in a shed to acquiring studio space and putting hours into our work. Another one I’m particularly proud of is “Starve.” That was the second song we wrote together and it’s the one moment where we actually get to relax and center ourselves in our sets.

How on earth did Luke come up with those cacophonous drum breaks on “Purpose?” That might be the most jarring sound I’ve ever heard.

Luke has a really great ear. He wanted to create the sound of two bin lids crashing together and eventually found some midi keyboard with that specific sound and just went off the wall.

What is a band you’ve been compared to that’s either surprised or flattered you?

Well, because there’s two of us people are really quick to put us in a box. One that we get compared to quite a bit because we’re a two-piece is The White Stripes, which is nice. But we’re nowhere near their level, and our sound is nothing like theirs. I wouldn’t put the White Stripes in the category of post-punk at all. It’s definitely more straight blues rock. I find it nicer to be compared to individuals rather than to other bands, because that’s how we operate. We don’t come in a package. But one publication recently compared us to Sonic Youth, which was a huge compliment.

I write from my own personal experience quite a lot… At this point in time with so much going on in the world it’s almost impossible for that not to filter into our work.

– Lucy Alexander, Scrounge
Photo by Don Blandford

You’ve said that your guitar playing is inspired by the likes of Sleater-Kinney and Warpaint. What is it about their particular guitar parts that draws you in?

Watching someone like Carrie Brownstein play, her guitar style is so dynamic. The sounds she manages to wrangle out of her guitar is just phenomenal. When I first saw Warpaint play, they made these incredible melodic sounds with their guitars that I’m just mesmerized by. If I could make anything as good as that I would be quite pleased with myself. Whenever Luke and I are in the studio we’re able to lay different parts down that meld together so well because our brains work completely differently.

Are you a big consumer of music-based media and/or books?

Definitely. I loved reading Kim Gordon and Carrie Brownstein’s autobiographies. I’m a big fan of music-based podcasts as well. There’s really geeky ones like “Switched on Pop” and “Song Exploder” that I’m just obsessed with. Mark Ronson’s podcast is great as well. He recently had Japanese Breakfast on and I’ve been dying to read her book.

How does personal identity and the culture around you pour into your work?

I write from my own experience quite a lot, whereas Luke writes a lot about the social and cultural stuff. At this point in time with so much going on in the world it’s almost impossible for that not to filter into our work. This past year for everyone has been incredibly tough. That experience has filtered into our upcoming projects as well and I hope we’re able to convey our own experiences in a substantial way.

How does the way you listen to music filter into your work?

When I first started performing I was really focused on sounding a certain way, but it’s really about trying different things until we come up with something cohesive. Luke will listen to various drum patterns and find ways to articulate them in his own way, whereas I always draw from live experiences. I just saw Róisín Murphy at Brixton Academy, and she’s renowned for being an incredible performer. The one thing that blew my mind seeing her was that her guitar player played the same loop for almost five minutes, and I was just mesmerized.

I love Róisín! How was that show?

It was absolutely mad. I had actually never seen her before, but my girlfriend had seen her loads. The last time my girlfriend saw her she had the costume department on stage so she could wear whatever she wanted and would dress as different Shakespeare characters. When I saw her she started out backstage on the screen, giving the audience a tour and doing her quick changes with all these elaborate wigs and suits. It was a very cleverly structured performance and she ended her set in the corridors of the venue which was just amazing to watch. If I ever decide to put on a massive spectacle in a live performance I’m definitely going to have to take a page out of her book. If you ever get the chance to see her you definitely should take the opportunity. I’m not sure what touring in the U.S. is like n0w but it seems like it’s up and running again.

For sure. But after what’s happened with Astroworld in Texas, I’m not so sure how I feel about going to the pit at festivals anymore.

That was so awful. Horrible. I actually watched the Travis Scott documentary on Netflix last year, and from what I saw of those live shows I remember thinking, Someone’s gonna get seriously hurt. I went through a serious Odd Future phase when I was younger. I still love Tyler, the Creator dearly, but that was the most chaotic environment I’d ever been in. I could never handle that atmosphere with a bunch of entitled white boys at hip hop shows again. Looking back, that was just extremely toxic. The men there were just… ooooof. Not good. It was really claustrophobic. I remember all the men shoving to the front and a man next to me put his arm up for five minutes and my face was literally right up in his armpit. I went to the Igor tour a year and a half ago, and that environment was on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. There were less bros and more of a mix of people from different backgrounds, which was nice to see.

When you’re experiencing stress what is the first song you put on to relieve yourself?

I’ve been listening to so much Self Esteem. She has this amazing song called “The Best,” so she’s my number 1 at the moment. She just released an album called Prioritise Pleasure that’s topping all the best album lists. She used to be in an indie band, and this album is purely intelligent pop. It’s very feel-good but it also speaks to the female experience in a very sincere and honest way.

We’re all about discovering new music here. What should we be listening to right now?

Like I said, if you’re looking for relief, Self Esteem. And if you want some bangers to smash around to, Special Interest.

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Mitski Battles Insomnia on New Single “Heat Lightning”

Forgiveness is uneasy ground to tread. How do we forgive without giving the transgressor a pass? Perhaps we’ll manage to convince ourselves that the purpose in forgiving is for self-preservation and we really aren’t co-signing what happened to us. But why is it always more difficult to forgive ourselves?

Mitski ponders this invariable question on her forthcoming album, Laurel Hell. “I needed songs that could help me forgive both others and myself,” she confessed. “I needed to create this space mostly for myself where I sat in that gray area.”

Yesterday, Mitski unearthed the album’s spellbinding third single, “Heat Lightning,” which was preceded by the equally arresting “Working for the Knife” and “The Only Heartbreaker.”

“Heat Lightning” is a blossoming rumination on guilt-induced insomnia. “And there’s nothing I can do / Not much I can change / Can I give it up to you / Would that be okay?” she muses over pulsing synths, orchestral string swells, and dynamic reverb-drenched piano melodies. The song closely echoes the Velvet Underground’s “Venus in Furs” with its screeching guitar parts and Moe Tucker-like drum arrangements.

When asked what her intentions were on her upcoming album, Mitski answered, “I wrote what I needed to hear, as I’ve always done.” And the unrestrained urgency on “Heat Lightning” only further cements her uncanny ability to transform affliction into exaltation.

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A Chat with Razor Braids About Their Latest Album and The Healing Power of Female Friendship

The formation of Brooklyn-based shredders Razor Braids is an inspiring story of triumph in the wake of trauma. Shortly after experiencing a fall and a subsequent head injury that left her temporarily incapacitated, bandleader Hollye Bynum (vocals, bass), decided to pick up a bass and start a band. Shortly after being joined by Janie Peacock (guitar), Hanna Nichols (drums), and Jilly Karande (rhythm guitar, vocals), Razor Braids swiftly picked up speed and became mainstays at legendary New York venues including The Mercury Lounge, Rough Trade, and Baby’s All Right.

Much like their name, Razor Braids’ gritty and eclectic sound is unapologetically feminine and sharp as a tack. It is the quintessential sound of New York. And no, not New York as an aspirational touchpoint for voyeuristic cultural tourism, but a city saturated with over-stimulation, where people in all five boroughs are forced to scrounge for crumbs and develop a backbone of steel just to survive. The place where artists can find camaraderie and solace in community, despite the flawed environmental circumstances around them.

“Here [in New York] there’s a very straightforward, rough-around-the-edges sort of ‘fuck you’ attitude that rises to the surface in our sound,” frontwoman Hollye Bynum tells me. “So I would say that our music is absolutely tethered to our experience living in Brooklyn.”

Razor Braids – Left to Right: Jilly Karande (rhythm guitar, vocals), Hannah Nichols (drums), Hollye Bynum (lead vocals, bass), Janie Peacock (lead guitar)

Finding strength during hard times is the hallmark of Razor Braids’ output. This is expanded on the band’s debut record out tomorrow, I Could Cry Right Now If You Wanted Me To, a dynamic ten-track album that cobbles together pastiches of genres including shoegaze, post-hardcore, folk, psych, 90s riot grrrl, and abrasive indie rock. The percussive immediacy paired with Peacock and Karande’s rippling riffs and fuzzy guitar tones, all bond like a magnet to the push-and-pull of tension and release in Bynum’s unrestrained lead vocals. “No I’m not dead, no not quite yet,” she sneers defiantly on the opening track against the stomping renegade of Nichols’ drumming. The album also contains spiky high-energy thrashers like “Don’t Stop!” which is strongly reminiscent of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Date with The Night.”

But it’s the slower cuts like “I’m a Blackhole (and you’ll never get out),” “White Noise Machine,” and “42,” that hit the hardest. “Blackhole” culminates in the entire band singing together in four-part harmonies, each one of their voices on equal footing. The grand finale, “42,” is a six-minute epic slow burn with an almost operatic quality. Bynum’s warbling lead vocals and Peacock’s weeping slide guitars are guaranteed to have an undeniable emotional pull on the listener.

I sat down with Razor Braids for a chat about how their unbreakable bond as a band strengthened over lockdown, the spiritual awakenings they’ve had when performing on stage, harnessing their vulnerability in songwriting, and the evolution of guitar music on the East Coast.

How would you describe Razor Braids to a stranger?

Hollye Bynum: Our sound and our vibe is very eclectic. Jilly came up with a great short and concise description the other day that I really liked!

Jilly Karande: Well, I would say that first and foremost that we’re a rock band. But we like to combine indie rock vulnerability with a punk rock energy tied up in a little 90s DIY package.

Hollye, would you be comfortable talking a little about your backstory and how that led to starting a band?

Bynum: After five and a half years of running a dance company in New York, I started shifting my focus back to music after learning that a woman I worked with played the drums and we started a band together.

Around November 17th of 2017 I was visiting my parents for Thanksgiving when I slipped and got a pretty serious head injury. After six months of not being able to do any physical activity, I took one of my last paychecks from a music video I choreographed and said “Fuck it, I’m gonna buy a bass!” I would say learning bass absolutely helped me get the wheels turning again in my brain as I went through rehabilitation. I got connected to Janie through a mutual friend who knew I was looking for a guitarist, and I already knew Jilly from an acting class we had taken together. Once Jilly joined the band we played Punk Island, where we saw a band called Space Bitch and their drummer was Hannah. So I messaged her totally fangirling over her skills and asked if she wanted to join the band. We had just let our former drummer go, so everything ended up falling into place at exactly the right time.

You guys were playing legendary New York venues like Rough Trade and Brooklyn Bowl before the big shutdown. What was it like having to constantly re-adjust through different phases of the pandemic? 

Bynum: It was a little bit of a bummer for me at first. It was extremely scary for everyone because nobody knew what was going to happen next. We had all spent so much time prepping for this release and we were so close to touring outside of New York. When the shutdown ended up becoming more permanent than we initially realized, we had to adjust our expectations a lot. I don’t want to speak for everybody but I feel like the silver lining of one of the biggest errors of humanity was that we were forced to slow down and consider what mattered the most to us.

When we finally reunited physically as a band it was incredible because of all the time we had to reflect and reconnect through songwriting. But it really gave us a lot of time and space to record. Recording became such an intensive and emotional process for us and we got so much closer. We never had that time to emotionally connect until the big shutdown, so I’m very grateful for that.

Janie Peacock: I’ll tell you, it definitely made me appreciate the act of performing live a lot more. I now perform every show as if it’s my last. There’s a new sense of energy I can unleash whenever we perform, because at this point we never know when that could be taken away from us.

Karande: For me switching the gears from performing live to only recording in the studio was an adjustment at first but it was exciting to really dive into these songs and pick them apart. It was really cool to spend more time in the studio, and since live shows are back it’s been cool to find that happy medium of making the songs performable and finding a balance between recording and the live experience.

We never had that time to emotionally connect until the big shutdown, so I’m very grateful for that.

– Hollye Bynum, Razor Braids
Razor Braids – Left to Right: Jilly Karande (rhythm guitar, vocals), Janie Peacock (lead guitar), Hollye Bynum (lead vocals, bass), Hannah Nichols (drums)

For each of you, what is the one record that made you a full-time music fan?

Hanna Nichols: I would say Penis Envy by Crass. Growing up I was a huge fan of that album and its anarcho-feminist ethos. I actually got to stay at Dial House during my first trip to Europe and I had tea time with the people who still live there, which was fucking rad.

Karande: This is a bit of a joke answer but the 1999 Grammy-nominated compilation was definitely life-changing for me. I remember being three years old at the time and thinking ‘The Goo Goo Dolls? What’s that? This is so much better than my Barney music.’ The serious answer would be Lorde’s Melodrama. That album was really cool because it was nice to see a pop album that centered young female feelings actually get taken seriously.

Bynum: I remember being obsessed with Jessica Lea Mayfield’s Make My Head Sing. I always come back to that album like it’s my first time listening to it and wear the hell out of it. The first track on the album opens with the most distorted and booming bass I’ve ever heard and then Jessica Lea Mayfield comes in with her delicate, twangy, falsetto country voice and it’s so badass. That was the first time I realized I didn’t have to make pretty singer-songwriter music all the time. I realized I could think about tone and be eclectic in my approach to my own songs. She has a song called “Party Drugs” about being strung out and making bad choices, and I’m just obsessed with it.

Peacock: The first one that comes to mind for me is Icky Thump by the White Stripes. I used to own this little iPod and I would go to sleep and wake up listening to that album. When I was ten years old I would just lie down, listen to that album, and imagine that I was Jack White. I didn’t know that was a possibility until I joined Razor Braids.

I love that! What are some of the most memorable out-of-body experiences you’ve had onstage?

Peacock: There are certain moments we’ll have onstage as a band where we’ll all make eye contact and feel this unspeakable connection. Whenever we all feel the stimulation of the lights, noise, and adrenaline, we’ll experience these [moments of synchronicity] where it feels like a higher power has overtaken us, and there’s no other feeling like that.

Bynum: There will be times when Janie will rip up her fingers and bleed all over the place without even noticing. Those are times where I can tell she’s just connected with some higher fucking power on the stage. I feel like she’s living the Jack White experience every time she’s onstage, especially after lockdown because none of us are holding back anymore.

Nichols: I feel like Janie is a cross between Jack White and Jack Black.

There are certain moments we’ll have onstage as a band where we’ll all make eye contact and feel this unspeakable connection. Whenever we all feel the stimulation of the lights, noise, and adrenaline, we’ll experience these [moments of synchronicity] where it feels like a higher power has overtaken us, and there’s no other feeling like that.

– Janie Peacock, Razor Braids

What are some of the most memorable experiences you had recording the album?

Bynum: Recording the album was great because we were no longer withholding anything and were really able to be present and open up to one another. I’ve never felt more connected to anybody up to that point. It really felt like everything was on the line and we were all showing up equally. There was a magnifying glass on us and we brought everything from within to the forefront. I could not be more proud of how each one of us showed up for each other and for ourselves. The level of skill and talent that each of us brought to the table as individuals was one of the most inspiring experiences that I’ll take to my grave. There was one point where Janie got electrocuted and continued to shred like nobody’s business, it was insane.

Nichols: I remember when we recorded “42,” the final track on the album. Hollye was laying on the floor and we all started crying at the end. It was one of those really precious moments that I’ll cherish forever.

Bynum: “42” definitely turned us all into a wreck. I remember us all huddled around the computer and clutching at each other.

Karande: Janie got into the booth and laid down that entire guitar part in one take. That was truly mesmerizing.

Bynum: Yeah, that was a spiritual experience. But please don’t get electrocuted again!

Peacock: It was definitely a spiritual experience because I had never felt that way while playing before we recorded that song. It was an out-of-body experience.

I definitely hear what you’re saying because listening to that song really made me sit down and reflect on a lot.

I also wanted to ask you guys about the current state of being a guitar band in New York. Do you ever feel the weight of such a heavy legacy?

Bynum: When I started the band I had just read Meet Me in the Bathroom [an oral history of New York garage rock and electronic music in the 2000s]. That book is pretty much the reason why I’m in a band now. I grew up loving those groups. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs living in Williamsburg in the early 2000s and playing loft shows was such a vibe. Then you had the communities on the Lower East Side with The Strokes and Interpol. And The East Village was booming in the 70s with CBGB and the punk scene. After becoming so aware of the cyclical phases of guitar music in New York where these incredible scenes rise and then die out for a little bit before shortly rising again has always fascinated me. I would have loved to be alive when CBGB was still going.

Exactly. It’s pretty wild that at that time CBGB was considered one of the most undesirable bars in the neighborhood, but the environment and the music was so incredible.

Bynum: Exactly, and the atmosphere often doesn’t matter. What matters is the music, the community, and how great it feels to be present, hanging out, playing shows, and just being around each other no matter the location.

That was what really bummed me out about Covid, because it felt like–just barely–we were finally inching back to building a sustainable community and scene in Brooklyn. Fortunately, we’re back there again, we didn’t completely lose it. There’s a very specific voice and community of musicians that’s being cultivated here. I think it’s so interesting to listen to an artist’s discography and then read a book where they go into how things were at the time and everything that transpired, especially since I was a big fan of The Strokes growing up.

Same here. Been Stellar said something in an interview about how guitar bands in New York should never cover The Strokes. It’s incredible how New York today is still reeling from the massive bomb they dropped when Is This It? came out twenty years ago.

Bynum: Yeah. There are certain artists that are just off limits. Because The Strokes were just so purely who they were. So much of it was about attitude and an image that could never be authentically replicated. That’s why all of the bands trying to capitalize off of copying the Strokes failed. There will never be another Strokes. Trying to emulate that is doing yourself a disservice. I wouldn’t say I necessarily agree with not being allowed to cover certain bands, but it’s definitely a heavy legacy to take on.

I remember when we recorded “42,” the final track on the album. Hollye was laying on the floor and we all started crying at the end. It was one of those really precious moments that I’ll cherish forever.

– Hannah Nichols, Razor Braids
Razor Braids – Left to Right: Janie Peacock (lead guitar), Hollye Bynum (lead vocals, bass), Hannah Nichols (drums), Jilly Karande (rhythm guitar, vocals)

As instrumentalists, are there any specific musicians who have influenced the ways each of you play?

Peacock: I’d say Ty Segall was the biggest influence for me tone-wise. I really aimed to replicate that fuzzy, distorted sound similar to what Billy Corgan did in the Smashing Pumpkins. Riff-wise, I always return to Jack White because so much of his guitar work is so straightforward and simple but so catchy. I love a head-banging riff! Harnessing that power and energy is what I aim for.

Nichols: Definitely Bill Ward, the drummer from Black Sabbath. Jon Bonham too. I know every rock drummer says that, but how can you not? Ginger Baker is another one. I feel like those three really set the groundwork for rock drumming.

Karande: I played a lot of folky acoustic guitar growing up, so when I started it was a lot of Elliott Smith and the Tallest Man on Earth. I really studied a lot of the intricate finger-picking and I think it’s been really fun to translate that into our sound. I feel like Mitski walks that line really well. And I’m also obsessed with Sleater-Kinney’s guitar tones because they’re just insane.

Bynum: I started out as a vocalist and didn’t start playing bass until later to support my voice. I feel like starting out when I did gave me a lot more freedom to not follow any specific formula or emulate other people. There’s a lot of great bass lines in soul music and standup bass in bluegrass music. But tone-wise, I really dig the work that Adam Devonshire from IDLES does on bass. I’m a sucker for really thick bass lines.

How has it been prepping for the album release so far?

Bynum: I was actually lying down the other night and wondering if anything else needed to be changed and Janie really forced me to take a step back. We’ve listened to this album and performed these songs so many times, and I’ve realized after all this buildup, the release finally being here is just surreal. We basically already have enough material to put on our next record. This is only the beginning for us, so it’s such a nostalgic feeling to be back here and finally be sharing all the work we’ve put into this album. There are some songs we’ve never played live that we’re playing at our release show, and I’m ready for the loud, wild, New York energy baby!

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Artist Feature Interview Music

Been Stellar Plunge Into an Uncertain Future on “Kids 1995”

From Protomartyr to black midi, Dehd, Dry Cleaning, and Iceage, an exciting barrage of guitar rock bands are finally making their way through the sludge. There’s still debate over whether the Strokes opened up a new world for indie rock or if they simply put a collective curse on guitar music after 2001. But New York-based indie outfit Been Stellar can certainly feel the weight of that legacy looming over them. “You should never cover a Strokes song if you’re in a guitar band from New York City. Never,” they told Monster Children in September. “Word gets out that you do a Strokes cover and that’s what you do.”

Crawling out of the crevices of New York’s DIY art scene, Been Stellar was first formed by high school friends Sam Slocum (Vocals) and Skyler St. Marx (Guitar). Slocum and St. Marx later attended NYU where they would be joined by Nando Dale (Guitar), Laila Wayans (Drums), and Nico Brunstein (Bass). The gritty and enticing post punk five-piece emerged last year with their initial singles, “Fear of Heights,” “The Poets,” and “Louis XIV.” The three aforementioned songs are melodic and confrontational indie rock psalms that unravel the harsh realities of growing up in a city where culture is eclipsed by corporate commercialism and American tourism.

Been Stellar’s latest single, “Kids 1995,” is an emotional unfurling of self-reflection against washed out guitars and a semi-detached delivery reminiscent of Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation. Inspired by the controversial Larry Clark and Harmony Korine film Kids, the song directly references the movie in the lyrics, with lead singer Sam Slocum reciting dialogue from the end of the film as well as the soundtrack (“‘What the hell happened?’ And then the credits rolled/’Spoiled,’ Sebadoh”). The song evokes moving images of young students smoking and waxing poetic outside at a party on the eve of their college graduation, marking the end of youth and the start of an uncertain adult life (“It’s up to you/But it’s also up to you”).

A Grrrl’s Two Sound Cents sat down with Been Stellar for a chat about growing up, their favorite albums, and the the undesirable parts of living in New York in your early twenties.

Congrats on the new single! How’s the release cycle been treating you?

Skyler St. Marx: Pretty good. Can’t complain!

Sam Slocum: It feels pretty weird to put it out now. We wrote it around two and a half years ago, so we have a [totally different] connection with it at this point. It was also a lot of fun making the music video. We did a showing the other night and people seem to really like the song, which is awesome.

Laila Wayans: Yeah, we did write it a while ago. I would say we definitely altered the song to make it more aligned with what we’re doing now.

That’s interesting. How do you feel your relationship with the song has changed since you wrote it?

Slocum: Well we definitely connect with it, cause we wouldn’t ever put out a song we didn’t like. But it’s always a little weird to revisit an older part of yourself, especially since the world has changed so much since we wrote the song. It almost feels like I’m watching a movie of my past self whenever I hear the song. People seem to really connect with it, though.

You open the song recalling a first-time viewing of the movie Kids. Was watching that film the catalyst for the song in real life or was it something else that transpired that inspired the actual song?

Slocum: No, that was it. I watched the movie Kids in my sophomore year of college and it made me really reflect on my own life. To be honest, the song doesn’t really have much to do with the actual movie, it’s more about the internal thoughts I had after watching it.

What kind of internal thoughts?

Slocum: I guess it’s a sort of self-examination by way of another person. It has a lot to do with my own personal experience witnessing a person I was close with grow into a different person and using that as a foil to examine my own internal struggles. A lot of it has to do with the loss of innocence, which is displayed in the film — the idea of being robbed of this sort of protection [from an unforgiving world] that shelters you as a child.

It definitely strikes me as hopeful. To me it sounds a lot like the narrator is giving their friend some really sound advice, and hoping that the friend will take their advice to heart and do the right thing.

– Been Stellar

I could definitely sense that, but the song also seems to contain a degree of hope. Would you agree?

Slocum: There’s one lyric in the song that goes, “It’s up to you, but it’s also up to you.” I think it can go either way because on one hand it sounds optimistic and on the other hand it’s kind of sad. I feel like you can place the emphasis of hope on either side. I don’t know if we thought about it that deeply while we were writing it, though.

St. Marx: It definitely strikes me as hopeful. To me it sounds a lot like the narrator is giving their friend some really sound advice, and hoping that the friend will take their advice to heart and do the right thing. The end of the song seems to demonstrate a sort of restored faith [in humanity] and self-assurance.

What is one album that changed the way each of you listen to music?

St. Marx: For me the first album that really made me fall in love with the intricacies of music is probably Turn on the Bright Lights by Interpol or The Velvet Underground & Nico. The Velvet Underground really taught me how lyrics can really be integral to a song without seeming too complimentary to the instruments.

Slocum: For me it’s probably Kid A by Radiohead. That was the first time I listened to something outside of the pop realm and it really changed the way I thought popular music could sound.

Nando Dale: I would say Loveless by My Bloody Valentine. Hearing the guitar tones and the way it’s produced really made me reconsider the formula of a rock song. I definitely carry that influence with me today.

Wayans: I’m torn between two polar opposite albums. The first is Product by SOPHIE because I’d never heard sounds like that in my life. That album shook my whole world.

The other one would be [Siamese Dream] by Smashing Pumpkins, because I’ve listened to that album since I was a kid but didn’t have the wherewithal to understand the lyrics. Listening to “Today” in my early-twenties really made me reconsider the weight of these lyrics that had previously gone over my head as a child.

Nico Brunstein: I would say Let It Be (The Naked Version) by The Beatles, because it was so interesting hearing how that record got from point A to point B — what the band wanted the album to sound like versus what the producer made it sound like. I thought that was a really interesting way to look at how music can change based on who is at the wheel.

Returning to the city in the middle of the pandemic to create really enhanced our sound, so that time away was actually good for us.

– Been Stellar

What drew you to the realm of sound you embody in your music?

St. Marx: Well we all come from a very diverse background of influences. There’s definitely some core records that we all really like, but we all bring something different to the table. Our songwriting process is very collaborative and we tend to write as a unit, rather than one person writing everything. We’ve gone through a few different evolutions of trying stuff out that we aren’t super stoked on in retrospect. We’ve found over the years that we like the lyrics to be really clear and at the forefront with guitars that are also transparent but simultaneously washed over with sound like the Sonic Youth/shoegaze type of sound. What got us there was a lot of hacking away at different ideas. In the middle of the pandemic we got a practice space of our own, which was new because before the pandemic we would only practice at NYU facilities, which didn’t really give us the tools to thrive creatively because it wasn’t our space. Having a space of our own has helped us out a lot.

Dale: Returning to the city in the middle of the pandemic to create really enhanced our sound, so that time away was actually good for us.

St. Marx: Absolutely. Especially the point New York City’s at now. To be our age in New York at this time is just very strange. There’s a lot of stuff about the city that we really don’t like, but there’s also a lot of stuff we’re hopeful for. We’re all really drawn to the idea of song lyrics being tethered to one place. You can always tell on certain albums that were made at certain locations that they couldn’t have been made anywhere else. That’s something that we’re very conscious of, but New York as a whole has always been confusing to us.

What was it like to go on your first national tour after everything that’s happened in the past year?

Wayans: It was absolutely crazy.

Dale: Yeah, it was definitely at the right time too. Everything was starting to open back up and we were all so eager to experience life and see the country. It was definitely the most tired we’ve ever been in our lives.

St. Marx: Yeah. For our first tour to be really DIY was weird. We were supporting Catcher at really interesting venues around the country, but the logistics of everything were in our own hands.

Dale: There were certain points where we couldn’t even hang out or have a drink cause we had to drive for seventeen hours to get to the next stop.

Wayans: Definitely. But in the same token after being stuck in one place for so long, being on the road sort of kept us sane. We were finally able to experience life after lockdown and see the country.

Slocum: We came back and for a good five days and we were really out of it. It took a minute to adjust to being in one place again.

We’re all really drawn to the idea of song lyrics being tethered to one place. You can always tell on certain albums that were made at certain locations that they couldn’t have been made anywhere else.

– Been Stellar

What was the most interesting stop you made on tour?

St. Marx: Definitely Texas. Going to Texas is like going to another planet. We also really enjoyed Birmingham, Alabama and Seattle. San Diego was also cool. Not to sound like a coastal elite, but we had a very cursory experience of each city, and I still can’t see myself living anywhere other than New York.

Do you have anything else to plug?

St. Marx: We’re playing a show at Elsewhere on November 21.

Dale: We also have a music video for the B-side coming out soon, so stay tuned for that.

Tickets to Been Stellar and Sub*T at Elsewhere, November 21.

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Mae Krell Wades the Waters of Recovery with “phantom limb”

After a two-year hiatus from music, queer folk singer-songwriter Mae Krell returned this year to continue tugging on the collective heartstrings of their devoted listeners and fans with the singles “are you sure,” “colorblind,” “rest stop,” and “snow.” Their newest single “phantom limb,” was released last week.

“phantom limb” swells with crisp acoustic plucking and echoing walls of reverberating piano. The soft instrumental accompaniment and melancholy tonalities of Krell’s voice evokes the style of Big Thief and Phoebe Bridgers.

Throughout the song, Krell unravels their shortcomings in the process of recovering from addiction. “You’re still here like a phantom limb/An itch I can’t scratch cause I’ll tear off my skin,” they sigh in a sorrowful lilting vocal delivery over scintillating production.

“People often expect me to be ‘healed’ now that I’m sober, not realizing that my disease will continue to trail behind me for the rest of my life,” Mae revealed. “‘phantom limb’ speaks to my recovery, and what it’s like to choose to carry something difficult with you instead of letting it go untreated.” 

I know what it’s like to love someone who struggles with addiction, and this song is a stab-in-the-heart reminder that no matter what a person does to help their recovering loved ones, there really is no way to understand a person’s relationship to substance abuse unless you’ve lived through addiction yourself. Krell has lived that experience, and their transparency in “phantom limb” is honest without diminishing the struggle nor overstating it.


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Artist Feature New Music

Chatting with Sub*T About Their Debut EP ‘So Green’

Despite not releasing a full-length project yet, bi-coastal duo Sub*T has already captivated a sizable audience around the world, with heaps of praise from Atwood Magazine and an Alt. Press feature to boot. Their debut EP So Green is slated to come out on November 19th. Produced and mixed by Bully’s Alicia Bognanno, So Green is a buzzing and infectiously melodic body of work that unapologetically tackles relationship naiveté, vulnerability, and the act of looking at the past through rose-colored glasses.

Pulling from alternative rock staples of the ’90s like Liz Phair, Tiger Trap, and Sleater-Kinney, bandleaders Jade Alcantara and Grace Bennett’s cutting lyrical humor and deft poetic zingers perfectly meld together with their charming lo-fi soundscapes and hair-raising riffs.

I sat down with Alcantara and Bennett to talk about their self-taught/DIY grassroots approach to music-making, writing songs with found words in Marvel comic books, and prioritizing safe environments at their shows.

How did the two of you initially meet?

Bennett: We were internet friends and we met IRL at a 1975 show at MSG four years ago.

What’s it like making music on opposite sides of the country?

Bennett: A lot of voice memos and texting back and forth. We sometimes do a zoom meeting, but that isn’t always effective in sessions. We’ve seen what can happen with the echoes and the lagging feedback, so that would not be ideal.

Alcantara: Yeah, definitely. That said, writing apart is definitely not as challenging as you would imagine.

What were some of the most memorable parts of writing the EP?

Bennett: I think we need to talk about “Bruce Banner.”

Alcantara: Oh absolutely! The first song on our EP [“Bruce Banner”] was a classic case of me being bored at work and coming up with lyrics or a melody. In this case it turned into a song based on Bruce Banner [aka the Incredible Hulk]. I’m a huge fan of Marvel so I have all these superhero comic books in my house. We sort of threw ourselves into a writing session where we set a timer and started blowing through all the books to find ideas for lyrics. We do a lot of songwriting when we’re apart, but that was a cool way to work on writer’s block and engage in a creative activity together.

Being “green” [is] a metaphor for the naive childlike perspective. When we wrote “Bruce Banner,” we brought in our personal experiences with first relationships, where we misunderstood the ways we were being treated in those relationships.

– Sub*T

What were the first songs each of you learned on guitar?

Bennett: The first one I learned was “Octopus’s Garden” by The Beatles. That was the song that my teacher gave me to learn when I was eighteen, so it wasn’t really my choice, but that was my first.

Alcantara: Probably some adapted form of “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys.”

How did each of you initially become fully devoted to music?

Bennett: My mom used to take me to shows as a kid. I would always get so mad cause she would take me to see like, Norah Jones and I would be so bored. But looking back, I think that was what made me a genuine fan of the live experience. When I was thirteen I started going to concerts by myself. I was fully obsessed with One Direction at the time.

Alcantara: Oh yeah, me too. That was the first time I got on an airplane to go to a show. When you become old enough to travel and create your own experiences through music and the internet, it totally consumes your life in the best way imaginable.

Your sound strongly reminds me of Rose Melberg and the work she did with Gaze and Tiger Trap. What would you say influences the sonic architecture you craft in each of your songs?

Alcantara: I think we’re very inspired by a lot of the music from that era, but we also strive to make something different from what we’re used to hearing in popular music now. Even when you look at what’s classified as “alternative rock” there are a lot of similarities. And we wanted to have those undertones but also make sure it sounded fresh and new. We are also very inexperienced with making music, so we’ve never felt like we’ve had to follow certain rules. We just like to experiment with our sound and see what sounds good to us. For the most part, we’ve formed our sound by sharing sonic and visual influences with each other. We don’t necessarily [emulate bands from the past] intentionally, but it often shows up when we sit down to write and record it. And it’s really nice to hear [the Tiger Trap] comparison, so thank you.

I would say we focus way more on [sonic elements] in the music. I’m much more drawn to emulating the sound rather than the lyrics.

– Sub*T

Was the color green a symbolic choice for the project, and if yes, what does it signify?

Alcantara: When used in a song being “green” [is] a metaphor for the naive childlike perspective. When we wrote “Bruce Banner,” we brought in our personal experiences with first relationships where we misunderstood the ways we were being treated in those relationships. But it’s more about the newness and the freshness. We don’t feel like everything we’re doing has been done with certainty, but sometimes it’s fun to have no idea what you’re doing. So we’re talking about being “green” not just as a metaphor for being inexperienced, but also being able to enjoy the process of growth.

What are your thoughts on the riot grrrl revival?

Bennett: In my experience [riot grrrl] never really went away. Only those who don’t look for it would know that the movement was always around and [it’s constantly being updated]. I think what frustrates me is that in the last 5-10 years, I’ve seen feminism get commodified just to sell products, and unfortunately the riot grrrl aesthetic seems to have fallen victim to that as well. Regardless, it’s still an incredibly powerful way for women to express themselves and unleash their anger. It’s a very raw and personal form of expression and that’s what makes it so attractive to young women who have no other outlet to express themselves or have that type of urgency in their emotions. I think it’s awesome to see, and whoever wants to take part in it should.

Alcantara: Definitely. It’s really cool to be included in something like that, but that mentality is just a way of life for us. We’ve had to live with it our entire lives and we will continue to do so as we move forward. We always want to make sure all of our shows are creating a safe environment and we always strive to work [in parity] with other women.

What would you say are the most important themes on the EP?

Bennett: In these songs there’s a desperate form of escapism and wanting to get unstuck from the physical and mental places that we’re in. On the second song “Cozad,” we sing about the physical aspect of movement. With the third song “Fur on Porcelain,” we sing about being stuck in one place mentally. “Table for Four,” which closes out the EP, is about remembering. In each song we reconsider our identities and find new ways of looking at personal memories, which is a common thread among most of the songs on the EP.

Alcantara: Overall, it’s about escapism but also adventure. It’s about coming to terms with reality, moving forward, and not running from the past, but being at peace with it as we move on to the next chapter in our lives.

I found “Cozad” to be the most interesting part of the EP because it sounded very bright and fun, but the lyrics had certain undertones of rage. What can you tell me about that song?

Bennett: I was on a roadtrip with Kenzie, our manager. We drove from the East Coast to Oakland to be with Jade. That song was written in the car in the town of Cozad in Nebraska. We finished it at Jade’s house.

Alcantara: We thought that “Cozad” was such an interesting-sounding word, so we looked into the name of the town and found out that it was named after a man [John J. Cozad] who murdered someone [and was never tried for it]. I think the song stems from our newfound freedom to do exactly what we want, but there’s also layers of rage that speak to what it’s like to be a woman, where we often feel unprotected and unsafe on a roadtrip, so we end up having to protect each other. Overall the song is a buildup of raw emotions related to adventure, independence, and tongue-in-cheek ways of expressing our anger.

In these songs there’s a desperate form of escapism and wanting to get unstuck from the physical and mental places that we’re in.

– Sub*T

What predominantly inspires your lyric writing?

Bennett: I would say we focus way more on [sonic elements] in the music. I’m much more drawn to emulating the sound rather than the lyrics.

Alcantara: I agree. But if I had to pick a person who I strongly relate to lyrically, it would definitely be Kim Gordon. Other than that we’ve never followed a pre-determined formula in our lyrics.

Bennett: I remember when we started out we thought we had to follow a formula, but once we started caring less and stopped taking ourselves so seriously we had a lot more fun with it.

What are some of the most memorable shows you’ve been to in recent years?

Bennett: I had the most amazing time at a Hinds show in New York pre-covid. I also saw Dehd at the Market Hotel and I thought the floor was gonna collapse, it was insane.

Alcantara: I did Hinds’ makeup on the road for a while, and that was a lot of fun cause their fans are so cool. I also had a lot of fun at a Twin Peaks show in Chicago. The Bikini Kill reunion show was also incredible.

How did you end up getting that Hinds gig?

Alcantara: I went to most of their U.S. shows and we became fast friends. I did some Florida shows with them and all of their California shows and it was a lot of fun. I’ve always loved their energy. They’re so down-to-earth and their fans are incredible. This was at a time when a lot of people were anxious about the current political climate and there was a lot of talk about really shitty environments at shows with stumbling drunk dudes harassing women and mosh pits getting out of hand. Carlotta started crying at one of the shows because she couldn’t believe how incredible it was to tour America and see all of their amazing female fans who drove for 6 hours just to see them. And that’s exactly what we aim to do as a band. We want to create that type of environment at our shows where it feels cathartic and we have the upper hand in controlling the situation and making it as safe as possible.

What was it like to work with Alicia Bognanno on this EP?

Bennett: It was the best. I don’t think I can put into words how awesome she is as a person and an artist. She was an incredibly supportive mentor and collaborator, and it came from a place of genuine love for the music that we had sent her. She was really invested in what we wanted to do, which made for a super awesome and productive environment in Nashville. It was the best experience we could have possibly had. It was extremely validating.

Alcantara: She knows a lot about engineering and mixing, so she instantly understood the kinds of tones we wanted on our songs, not just from her personal background as a musician, but because our tastes align very closely with hers. I’m still in disbelief that she made time for us even though her schedule was packed. It was pretty insane to get to work with someone I’d looked up to for so long, and now she’s like our sister. She really understood our vision from the beginning and believed in it.

What else would you like to plug?

Bennett: We’re playing two Brooklyn shows, one one on November 21st at Elsewhere in Brooklyn with Been Stellar and another one on December 3rd with Razor Braids.

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So Green will be available on streaming platforms November 19.

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New Music Review

Anne Bennett Ascends with “Hell Couldn’t Keep Me”

Combining downtrodden bluesy lyrics with western gothic acoustics, Salem-bred singer-songwriter Anne Bennett’s new single “Hell Couldn’t Keep Me,” was released on October 28th, closely following her previous singles “Heavy Hand,” “Deep in the Shadows,” and “Highway Boys.” Despite being new to the game, Bennett has already managed to carve out a distinctly unique musical identity inspired by her roots in Witch City.

Inspired by Bennett’s ongoing fight to rise above her opponents, the song came just off the heels of Bennett being forced to rebuild her online presence from scratch after her Instagram account was targeted and hacked by online scammers.

“I wrote ‘Hell Couldn’t Keep Me’ because I was tired of being knocked down by certain people in my life. This song is my way of giving them the middle finger. No matter how hard you try to push me down, I will push through, because I never give up. I am more relentless than Satan himself. So powerful that Hell can’t even keep me underground,” Bennet explained.

As the song progresses, Bennett’s towering vocals glide over menacing acoustic strumming, tunnels of ominous feedback, and rattling percussion. Her domineering vocals strongly emulate PJ Harvey (who is one of her definitive influences), specifically To Bring You My Love and Is This Desire.

The way the release of this song aligns with Bennet’s fight to regain what she lost after being taken advantage of only makes the calculated anger in her breathy vocal delivery almost prophetic. But if anything’s certain, messing with Bennett will not bode well for anybody.


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War Honey Release Critically-Acclaimed EP ‘Shard to Shatter’ on Vinyl

War Honey, the multi-hyphenate five-piece band from Brooklyn, have blown every other promising young band out of the water with their debut EP Shard to Shatter, and their most recent single “Skinless,” a rumination on the past, present, and future blurring together as a result of the mind-numbing monotony of the pandemic.

Shard to Shatter was digitally released in December 2020 and was physically released on vinyl today via Handstand Records. I gave it a listen for the first time this past week and all I can say is Man. Was I late to the party.

This EP is an unpredictable amalgamation of sprawling ambient slowcore jams and bluesy existential shoegaze psalms that were recorded during the most stringent Covid lockdown periods of 2020. The titular opening track immediately draws the listener in with its spaced-out echoing soundscapes. Frontwoman Gabrielle Dana’s haunting melodies evoke the soulful passion of Ella Fitzgerald and the darkly desperate warbles of Chelsea Wolfe, enveloping the listener in a ghostly rapture as she croons and belts the lyrics “Not one more inch of my skin/Not one more piece of dream/Not one more shard to shatter.” Ben Fitts’ weeping guitar solo at the end sounds like it’s been submerged under water, heavily drenched in reverb.

“Even Sleep is Exhausting,” equally showcases Dana’s unrelenting passion and fury on the lingering traumas of sexual assault (“Invaders raging around my fortress/I don’t notice, I don’t notice.”) Her elongated vocal runs evoke the well-trodden vocal traditions of American soul against distinctly Western Gothic instrumentation by the band. Her ability to unwaveringly hold on to each note for an extended period of time is extraordinary.

The instrumental interlude “Psychopathic Performance Art,” is a terrifying intermission with cavernous psychedelic walls of sound. It sounds like the band is playing at a drug party in a lavish mansion shortly before descending into hell, ending with a sample of Tennessee reverend Jimmy Snow’s 1950s sermon where he claimed that rock ‘n roll was part of the devil’s plot to corrupt America’s youth.

On the final track “Landmine,” the vocal harmonies and guitar feedback cross-pollinate to create an almost suffocating sonic atmosphere. Rife with existential pandemic-wrought anxiety, Dana laments the gutted futures of generations to come whose oppressors use religion rationalize their behavior (“Oh what a cruel game/We all seem to hold to religion/It’s all just a scrimmage.”) It’s the perfect eulogy for a slowly decaying earth, an equally unsettling yet strangely comforting reminder of the impermanence of all forms of life.

Shard to Shatter is now available on vinyl via Handstand Records.


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