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Hello Mary "Take Something"

For the Tripartite Challenge on this one (this one being Hello Mary's new single "Take Something") I’m gonna go with shoegaze/dreampop pioneers Lush crossed with a pre-“These Dreams” Heart in psych-folk mode crossed with the fuzzed out garage rock of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. But whatever the mix it’s a heady one that’s why the kids like to call this “head music” it’s a known fact.

Writhing Squares have a Chart For The Solution

Imagine if Electric Mayhem sax man Floyd Pepper and bandmate/electric bassist Zoot took a break from Jim Henson's house band and got a hold of some vintage drum machines and synths and an array of effects pedals and then fed their heads full of James Chance and the Contortions, Steve and Andy Mackay (no relation), the Sun Ra Arkestra, Kraftwerk, Lemmy-era Hawkwind, and The Comet Is Coming when it comes to their contemporaries, and then moved to South Philly to add more layers of grit and vigor to their sound and you’d probably end up with something like Writhing Squares and something like their third and latest LP Chart For The Solution.

In reality, Writhing Squares is comprised of Kevin Nickles and Daniel Provenzano who in addition to their respective sax and bass duties both play synths and contribute vocals, with Daniel pulling extra duty on percussion and programming, and Kevin filling in some flute and oboe parts. Chart For The Solution came out a couple months ago and it's been in my rotation ever since so I can vouch for the album's durability and its high quotient of electric mayhem.

The first track is called “Rogue Moon” and it picks up in a way from where the last track of their previous album left off, namely “A Whole New Jupiter” which took up the last 19 minutes of 2019’s Out of the Ether--a heavy psych rewrite of A Love Supreme transformed into triple time and with rhapsodic skronk saxophone played over overdriven bass it all comes off something like a No Wave Coltrane. 

Likewise, “Rogue Moon” rides a loping riff into the psychedelic sunset except here the foundation is a burbling analog synth arpeggiation with NEU!ish interlocking rhythms that shift the downbeat around in your head and then right in the middle the song turns itself inside out and stays that way for the rest of its eleven-minute duration--a dreamy coda that's like the soft underbelly to the first half's gleaming steel exterior.

Aside from any overlaps, Chart For The Solution stakes out new terrain for the Squares with a newly cinematic production on some of the tracks and ever more adventurous playing and arrangements. But it never veers too far from their lo-fi ethos roots either--whether in the swirling sonic vortex of “Geisterwaltz” or the post-punky surf rock party of “Ganymede” or the back masked ambient interlude of “A Chorus of Electrons” or the Stooge-worthy rave-up of “NFU.” It all culminates in the 18-minute headtrip “The Pillars” which begins by sounding like a UFO landing and then turns into a bleep-bloopy coldwave number with Alan Vega verbal outbursts before taking a turn in the final part with the duo seemingly inhabited by the ghost of Lou Reed trying to get out of another record contract.

In the end it all speaks to the band's enigmatic name, a name suggesting the cohabitation of opposite forces, such as rigid geometric “squares” that can somehow kinesthetically “writhe” because on one side you’re got regimentation and repetition and on the other side looseness and grooviness.  It's a dynamic heard in the Writhing Squares' conjoining of trance-like repetition and wild sonic freeness, punk and prog in equal measure, maxed-out minimalistic music for the select masses. (Jason Lee)

Elizabeth Wyld breaks silence on Quiet Year

Bobbie Gentry pops into my head occasoinally (and she's always welcome there) while listening to Elizabeth Wyld’s Quiet Year, the seven-song debut album she released earlier this month, whether in terms of vocal cadence or country twang or plain-spoken storytelling. Except on this record instead of stories about living a hardscrabble life in Chickasaw County, Mississippi and bridge jumpers and familial indifference, you get songs about leaving behind rural Virginia for the big city and dealing with vocal paralysis and romantic infatuation. But still if any marketing person wants to use “Elizabeth Wyld is the indie Bobbie Gentry this world needs” as a pull quote I’m not going to stop them.

Falling under the general rubric of indie-folk and alt-Americana closely associated with artists like Phoebe Bridgers, Angel Olson, and Kacey Musgraves, Quiet Year spans the stylistic gamut from its open-hearted, full-throated opener “I Still Believe In Ghosts" which depicts a road trip in terms equally brash and vulnerable (“pull over I’m taking it in / how’d I get here and where have I been?”) to the closer “Hudson” that moves with a slow, steady flow like its namesake river in tandem with lyrics about lovelorn enervation and resignation to the extent that it could lead one to spurn the advances of a foxy artistic type at a Brooklyn apartment party for no other reason than to go back home and wait on one’s errant, absentee lover.

Bigger picture-wise this appears to be an album about losing and re-locating (and remaking) one’s own voice in various metaphorical and literal senses—whether by speaking up for sexual self-determination via a set of Sapphic-themed Southern Gothic-tinged love songs, or seeking one’s voice by moving from the country to New York City, or recovering and retraining the literal voice after a year long struggle with a rare vocal cord condition.

Soon after completing a six-month engagement in Europe with a touring company of the Broadway revival of Hair, Elizabeth Wyld lost the ability to speak above a whisper and was diagnosed with unilateral vocal fold paralysis. No longer able to sing in any capacity much less to belt out tunes on stage, the self-described theater kid refocused her energy onto writing poetry and playing guitar which culminated in the songs heard on this record--a solitary creation made public after vocal cord surgery and rehabilitation, and turned into a record at Greenpoint's Studio G with the audio production/multi-instrumentalist assistance of Brooklyn-based Oscar Albis Rodriguez and Zach Jones who between them brought a range of experience reaching from extreme and nü-metal production to playing guitar in the pit band for the Spongebob Squarepants stage musical. So maybe change that pull quote to "Elizabeth Wyld is the new indie Squidward-meets-Degrader sonstress that this world needs". (Jason Lee)

Johnny Dynamite & the Bloodsuckers: New single and exclusive interview

When I recently got the chance to ask Johnny Dynamite¹ what old movie he’d like to see his new single “Bats in the Woods” magically and retroactively inserted into, he replied Lost Boys without hesitation (well, if an email can be sent “without hesitation”) and damn if isn’t an astute choice because A) there’s actual bats in the movie (not to mention actual bloodsuckiers) or at least they're strongly implied and these teenage vampire bats like to party in the woods; B) the song would be a perfect fit sonically for the Lost Boys soundtrack and it’d fit seamlessly in between tracks by INXS, Echo & the Bunnymen, and Lou Graham of Foreigner fame; C) just like that scene in the movie featuring the ripped, oiled-up saxophone guy thrusting his hips while singing about how he “still believes” in front of a burning trash bin and a coterie of screaming fans, Johnny Dynamite is likewise willing to go shirtless and to sport a mullet for his art and also to sing a heartfelt appeal to casting aside negative forces and getting “so outta here, so f*cking out of here” like Bonnie and Clyde on a motorcycle built for two.

“Bats in the Woods” is the third single and the opening track from Mr. Dynamite’s soon to be released LP titled Sleeveless (Born Losers Records) and I can see why he'd choose it to open the album because it establishes a really vibey <vibe> right off the bat with chiming guitar harmonics and gated snare and an insistent single-note bass line followed by an equally vibey melodic hook and that’s all before Johnny declaims the opening line “your bath is warm / I want to step in” and fair warning you may find your own hair suddenly forming into a mullet just from listening to this song—though I’m guessing less a Fabio style mullet and more like a cool Ric Ocasek mullet that'll have supermodels groveling at your feet and critics praising your musical creations.

Speaking of a fondness for warm baths you may be wondering about Johnny Dynamite’s other personal preferences and peccadillos and his personal history and fortunately this music journalist dug deep into the mystery and the results may surprise you. And so appearing here, for the very first time, we introduce to you our new “Vital Stats” column in which a profiled artist spills the beans on their favorite hobbies, turn-ons and turn-offs, and other intimate fun facts. And as you‘ll see below it turns out Mr. Dynamite is a pretty down to earth guy especially for someone named after an eyepatch-wearing, criminal-killing and ladykilling private detective who starred in his own series of hard-boiled, pre-code comic books from the early 1950s drawn and (in later issues) authored by Johnny’s own grandfather Pete Morisi



Current home: I live in a tiny bedroom in Ridgewood, Queens where I record all my tunes

Previous home: I grew up in Staten Island then lived in New Paltz for 5 years. After deciding to move back to the city, I lived in the East Village projects illegally for a year before my credit score was good enough to get a real apartment

Profession: I work in the art department for film when the jobs come in, otherwise I’m just a bike messenger who eats on food stamps

Hobbies: I love to ride my bike through the city really fast and I love to play Mario Kart & Sonic Racing. I think I have the need for speed

Last book read: kind of funny, but this past year my grandpa's comic Johnny Dynamite came out as a graphic novel and my pops got it for me for Christmas, that’s what I’ve been reading lol

Last accomplishment: I quit smoking weed

Favorite quote: "stay gold ponyboy, stay gold"

Turn-on: driving a fast car

Turn-off: driving a fast boat

Place you’d like to visit most: Tokyo... I love anime, I love sushi, I love the music, and I love a big city


¹ The Bloodsuckers were unavailable for comment.

² But unlike that other “Morrissey,” when Johnny Dynamite implores you to “take me out tonight” you can bet he won’t let you to get run over by a double-decker bus.

(Jason Lee)

Bubble Tea and Cigarettes take road trip to "Santa Monica"

In keeping with their name, Bubble Tea and Cigarettes capture the enduring pleasures of the most fleeting of pleasures. On the two singles they released in 2020 the bedroom pop combo were just as likely to be found in the kitchen unpacking their latest comestibles with dreamy elegies dedicated to eating empanadas at 5am or about ordering fried chicken from the takeout joint downstairs in the middle of the night and the inevitable reflections upon one’s own mortality (“people all die soon”) provoked by such activities. 

Newly signed to Madrid-based Elefant Records, the duo’s latest single ventures a bit further afield from their local bodega for inspiration, namely all the way to the Left Coast and ocean-adjacent “Santa Monica” in particular where the song and the sumptuous shot-on-location video (dir: Shicong Zhu) depict an amorous yet hesitant couple cruising down the “violet street” of a purple-hued Pacific Coast Highway shooting home movies and sucking on candy ring pops and smoking cigarettes while pondering the question “is this love ended or it never started?” before ending up at an sparsely populated amusement park straight out of Carnival of Souls and cavorting together in slo-mo illuminated only by the lights of the ferris wheel and the colored flames of hand-held sparklers before our narrator is finally left “lost in love” waking up alone in a parking lot as her partner speeds off on a motorcycle.

The languid longing and overall slowcore/sadcore/dreampop vibes of "Santa Monica" are ably assisted by twangy “Duane Eddy on Xanax” guitar, lugubrious strings and mournful castanets (two words you won't see together elsewhere) with vocals that sound as if they’re emanating from a wormhole to another dimension more than from a human body and it all exerts an appropriate gravitational pull. BT&C is comprised of Andi Wang and Ruinan Zhang and while I’m not sure which one of them is “Bubble Tea” and which one is “Cigarettes” it's no matter because together they capture the sugar-and-nicotine rush and subsequent comedown inherent in the combo and I’m guessing that they only left “weed gummies” off from their name because it got to be too long. So grab a jumbo straw and suck down some taro covered tapioca globules in musical form in between drags on a Pall Mall assuming this is up your alley. (Jason Lee)


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