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Indie Rock





Track-by-track: Ok Cowgirl's "Not My First Rodeo"

When I first heard the band name "OK Cowgirl" it made me think oh cool sounds like if you crossed Patsy Cline (the O.G. Cowgirl and Queen of Country Heartbreak) with Thom Yorke and Radiohead (because “OK Computer” natch) but really what are the odds of this actually being the case?

As it turns out, pretty darn good. Because “Patsy Cline meets Radiohead” isn’t the worst description for OK Cowgirl’s music—given how well lead singer/lyricist/guitarist Leah Lavigne excels at writing songs about romantic longing and heartbreak, and from the perspective of a queer-identifying person to boot (worth noting here: in the years since her passing, Patsy Cline has gained a major LGBTQ+ following setting the course for “queer country” artists like k.d. lang and the Reclines) and with a voice capturing a similar mix of raw vulnerability and raw power. And then on the Radiohead side of things, the band’s music (Leah is joined by Jase, Jake, and Matt on record and on stage) spans the indie rock spectrum with a strong knack for chiming yearning melodies, not to mention that Leah knows her way around a keening falsetto and is prone to existential musings in the lyrical department.

Which is all brought to bear on OK Cowgirl’s new record (it's called Not My First Rodeo but it *is* their first EP) and as a public service, dear reader, I’ve provided an off-the-cuff Hot Take™ track-by-track listening guide below, keeping it relatively brief because hot takes don’t stay hot for too long.

TRACK ONE: “Unlost” starts off quiet and intense but soon builds to a pleasant mid-tempo chug with lyrics describing what it’s like to unexpectedly find the person who centers you (“I stopped rowing and the river disappeared”) a pleasant sensation that really comes across during the song’s extended outro which floats off in a dreamlike haze with a swirling emotive undertow and a wordless celestial falsetto but then it all kinda implodes at the end which is maybe a sign of things to come.

TRACK TWO: “Her Eyes” strikes me as the “I Fall To Pieces” of this EP, a straight up adoring ode to, well, her eyes and to the potential they hold for banishing loneliness. 

TRACK THREE: “Across the Room” is where things finally go romantically right for our narrator, and then just as suddenly go horribly wrong, all in the space of about half of a verse (“it was only a few months / ‘til we ended so suddenly”) which for my money is simply good songwriting technique because nothing kills a listener’s buzz like a dull descriptions of domestic bliss with most-likely dull music to match. (note to songwriters: contentment kills!) Instead, we get a song describing the awkward moment where you spot a recent ex across the room at a party, which leads to Leah repeating the phrase “sit and think” a dozen times or so in an ever-more ragged voice, pretty accurately conveying the self-contained-circling-the-drain mental-cul-de-sac headspace of the recently jilted (who hasn't been there ammirite?!?) all reflected by the intensifying musical backing as the song progresses, ending with a neat little off-kilter country-ish guitar lick.

TRACK FOUR: “Deer in the Headlights” opens with the lines “I’ve been going to the bar alone / order myself a well whiskey and Coke” so clearly we're back in Patsy Cline-ish territory here. Or maybe more like Sharon Von Etten-ish territory but you get the idea. And just listen to how Leah sings the phrase deer in the headlights and the entire chorus really, and how she bounces back-and-forth between normal vocal range and falsetto range which is something like yodeling in slow motion, which really captures the state of disorientation that an actual deer in the headlights must feel (or so I'd guess I've never been in the head of a deer) not to mention there’s something inherently queer about this approach to singing (in the best sense) in refusing to adhere to any one single vocal range or pre-conceived category of being. 

TRACK FIVE: OK Cowgirl ain't gonna just leave you hanging, satnding out there in the middle of the road staring blankly ahead like a doomed deer in the headlights, so instead they conclude the EP by taking you on a "Roadtrip (Till the End of Time)" which is a lovely redemptive number (though bittersweet natch) with the sweet parting thought (though bittersweet natch) that they'd gladly "give it up in a heartbeat all for you." (Jason Lee)





Frank Okay "Vacation Forever"

Multimedia artist Frank Okay has released a series of singles over the last few months, but the stand out is the instant earworm "Vacation Forever".

The single is accompanied by the highly stylized video below.

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Hot tracks/Hot takes: The Down & Outs

HOT TRACKS/HOT TAKES: The Down & Outs released three singles in 2021, a triptych that pretty well summed up the experience of living through 2021 or they did for me at least (see "Free Assocation" section below). These three songs, self-described as the beginning, middle, and end of D&O Chapter Two, mark a transitional, exploratory phase for the post-punky power trio—and who doesn’t identify with the whole “transitional phase” thing these days ammirite?—a triptych which taken together makes for an attractive mantelpiece display or stocking stuffer for Grandma!

FREE ASSOCIATION: The sound of pent-up energy released. Then pent-up again. Then dissected and stitched back together Ed Gein style. Then revivified via electrical-current Bride of Frankenstein style. (“She’s alive! She’s alive!”) White knuckle fight-or-flight response. Frantic. Volcanic. A danceable panic attack. Built up by deconstruction. Minimalist maximalism. Intimacy from a distance. A remote Zoom call broadcast from the inside of someone’s skull to the inside of your skull. (see Brainstorm trailer below)

SONG ONE: “Last Party On Duke Street”
Release date: 16 April 2021
Duration: 2:58
Lead-in: the sound of muted guitar string scraping like someone trying to dig out of a Turkish prison cell
Groove: mid-tempo strut
Freak out begins at: 0:41
Breakdown and/or breakthrough section begins at: 1:57
Lyrical daily affirmation: “You’re so cool and everybody loves you / loves the way you make the feel”

SONG TWO: “Jealous//Unreal”
Release date: 10 September 2021
Duration: 5:57
Lead-in: the sound of New Order’s drum machine after a rough night out
Groove: looping loping Krautrock
Freak out begins at: 0:39
Breakdown and/or breakthrough section begins at: 1:54
Lyrical daily affirmation: “If you love me so / why don’t you show it?”

SONG THREE: “White Hot Heat”
Release date: 12 November 2021
Duration: 2:43
Lead-in: Jimi Hendrix joins Death Grips
Groove: Jah Wobble circa PiL
Freak out begins at: 0:01
Breakdown and/or breakthrough section begins at: 1:34
Lyrical daily affirmation: “No thoughts, no pain, no dreams in here”

FiNAL PRESCRIPTION: Take two (or all three!) songs on an empty stomach, washed down with a shot or two of ouzo, and don’t call me in the morning. Because you’ll be out cold for most of the day, most likely dreaming about Christopher Walken crawing inside of your mind, which is really just exactly what you need innit? (Jason Lee)





Josh Caterer "At Last"

Josh Caterer (Smoking Popes) has released a live album he recorded earlier this month at The SPACE via Pravada Records. The setlist that night included an array of standards including the Bee Gee's "I Started A Joke" and the Frank & Nancy Sinatra song “Somethin’ Stupid” which finds Josh teaming up with his daughter Phoebe. For this set Caterer performed with John San Juan (Hushdrops) on bass, drummer John Perrin (NRBQ) and Total Pro Horns, Max Crawford, Paul Von Mertens, Henry Carpender.

The album's lead single is the fantastic arrangement of the Etta James classic "At Last". This album is the follow-up to The Hideout Sessions which was released back in March.

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Shredded Sun "SOS Phantoms"

Shredded Sun have released a new EP called "SOS Phantoms". This is the first new music we have from the trio of Nick Ammerman, Sarah Ammerman, and Ben Bilow since the release of Land Lines back in 2016.

The three formed Fake Fictions in the mid-2000's and released their debut album, Raw Yang, in 2006. They played their farewell show in 2009 and surprisingly reemerged as Shredded Sun in 2016.

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