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Songwriters





Half Gringa "Sevenwater"

Half Gringa has released a new single called "Sevenwater". This is the first new music from Half Gringa (aka Isabel "Izzy" Olive) since the release of her 2020 album Force to Reckon.

You can catch Halg Gringa at Lincoln Hall on September 25th with Andrew Sa and Niika.

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Petite League teach old dog "New Tricks" in music video premiere

I’m not usually one to quote other critics here but since I’m feeling a little lazy, and because there’s some provocative opinions on the latest album by Petite League out there, I’ll just share a couple quick ones here. Like the quote from the Americana Highways writer who says there’s no hyperbole at all in calling Joyrider “a lo-fi Pet Sounds” or prematurely naming it “the best album of the year” because “it’s just hard to image [sic] something topping this.” Congrats with that pull quote gentlemen! And over at The Family Reviews, in describing the overall vibe of the album, another writer observed that “the dominant force on this album [is being] blissful in the moment even with the knowledge that when the high wears off the hangover is going to be psychically shattering.” Which sounds a lot like Brian Wilson while making Pet Sounds so I think we have a running theme here. 

When it comes to the song “New Tricks” off the album and it’s newly released music video, Petite League demonstrate their considerable talent for making loneliness and regret and daydreams and succeeding-against-all-the-odds sound transcendent in a low-key/lo-fi kinda way, luxuriating in sharp, sweet suffering like teasing a loose tooth with your tongue. And while I can’t help but think of Rob Gordon at the beginning of High Fidelity when he wonders aloud whether the music or the misery came first, finally you gotta say “who cares!” when you can simply bask in the winsome strains of Petite League and the heart-rending tale of an old dog trying to learn “new tricks" in the parallel realms of romance and roulette.

Now that I think about it, this song’s scrappy shaggy-dog story is straight out of a hardcore country song--talk about a genre that knows how to confront everyday forms of sadness or at least it once did--about a gambler who definitely does not know when to hold ‘em or when to fold 'em as evidenced by all-night booze and baccarat filled bender at the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City spent “betting it all on the wrong dog” and returning dejectedly on the 4AM bus back to the city smelling like ashtray butts and “the bottle I was sleeping in” and then showing up on your doorstep unannounced declaring “I’ve made a terrible mistake please consider loving me like you once did” and boy does this kind of stuff pull at your heartstrings, especially given the dogged optimism of the narrator holding out hope for “one more lucky strike / one more lucky hand / one more lucky night” a lot like the tragic protagonist of nearly every movie ever made about doomed dreamers and gamblers.

And when you’re this hard up you can sometimes find a perverse succor in being a sucker, that is, in giving yourself so entirely over to something or someone so that no matter how hopeless the reality of it you at least manage to escape yourself--like our narrator drawn to pretty faces that “always drinks for free...like sugar and wine in my veins,” providing comfort to “a broken, broken man,” not unlike “the comforting heat from the warmth of a gun” or some other metaphor about being inextricably-drawn-to-what’s-worst-for-you in a way that's “hard to explain and harder to change” but hey just raise your hand if you haven’t been there before. (Yeah, I thought so!) Then if you dress up the quasi-story-song with gently shimmering Andy Summers guitar chording and bounding basslines and in-the-pocket timekeeping (courtesy of drummer Henry Schoonmaker) and blankly blissful vocals (courtesy of songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Lorenzo Gillis Cook) all wrapped up in the warm glow of the record's lo-fi production, and you’re likely to experience a slowly spreading sense of deep contentment whatever your current circumstances in life.

And speaking of being bathed in a warm glow, the music video only amplifies this sense of womb-like comfort and warmth with the band’s members ensconced in colorful mall-walker windbreakers kind of like oversized Members Only jackets as they wander around and lounge on a city rooftop decorated with pin-striped partitions and it certainly looks like a pleasant way to spend a day--especially with all the magic tricks and money flaunting and dice playing happening up there. This warm nostalgic aesthetic is only heightened by the video being filmed on Super 8 and 16mm film by band ally and video director KD Sampaio (Good Relation Records) with the resulting visual full of artifacts and vertical hold issues evoking the hazy, sentimental vibe of unearthed home movies discovered in the attic. 

And so the moral of the story may be "why not bet all your chips and shoot for the big jackpot, perhaps followed by a joyride in the Mojave Desert, because what else have you got to lose?" or at least that's my takeaway. At worst, you’ll experience a psychically-shattering hangover and then write a great song about it like this one. (Jason Lee)





Reinvention or Reimagination: Sho Humphries Urges Us to "Dream Again"

Before embarking on his next great adventure, Austin ukulele sensation Sho Humphries made sure to bestow his loving local community with a parting gift. Sho’s debut EP Dream Again is a triumph of creativity, an exploration of sound and style from a young musician whose bravery surpasses even his immense talents.

In Sho’s nimble hands, the ukulele is transformed. Empowered. Liberated. He embraces the instrument as something far beyond its simplistic representation in public perception—more than a toy, more than an instrument for beachside celebration and casual singalongs, the ukulele is an embodiment of possibility itself. In Sho’s hands, the ukulele seems infinite, irrepressible. It breathes water and whispers fire and sings of a bright tomorrow.

The growth showcased between earlier releases and this new EP are striking. Sho’s 2017 instrumental album Making Summer Memories flirted with musical expressionism, pushing and pulling at the boundaries of expectation while staying firmly rooted in a larger framework for what ukulele music is and can be. Opening track “It’s Shotime!” is a notable exception, its near-frantic urgency and rock-and-roll aesthetic harbingers of both Sho’s sonic fearlessness and profound, near-brooding pensiveness. The rest of the album tends toward bright and buoyant, though the assertive percussiveness of each strike sometimes seem to belie an underlying (and typically teenage) impatience.

2020 single Love You! was the virtuoso’s first foray into electronic looping, his airy, math rock-y riffs given ample room to breathe and, in turn, breathing life into a lo-fi trend threatening to sedate swaths of the younger generation. The track showcases a young musician at peace with the process of finding peace — more patient, perhaps in love with the simple joy of making music. The chorus is endearingly heartfelt, and all the more powerful for it: “Breathe in, breathe in/Love out, love in.”

 With the Dream Again EP, Sho emerges more confident, more hopeful, that familiar sense of urgency appearing again but tempered now by faith in himself and the future. He is more accomplished than ever on the ukulele itself — every finger-picked run impeccable, every strum irresistible. But the sentiment underlying each song feels more profound, more mature, more complex. What might once have felt like emotional reactions are transformed into careful reflections and reimaginations.

The echoing, atmospheric emptiness of the title track slowly evolves, swelling with elegantly amplified ukulele riffs that complement, rather than overpower, Sho’s stirring baritone (on debut!). Tight songwriting and a deep appreciation for the power of empty space cultivate in a wonderfully distorted crescendo, with Sho’s direct poeticism lending a sense of urgency to Sho’s pleas for the world to “dream again,” to build a better future and to avoid our own mutually assured destruction.

A return to Sho’s sonic roots — hopeful, determined, vibrant — “Rising Hope” builds on that momentum. It is the song of rebirth and reimagination, the sound of grass beginning to grow again as a new sun shines a light on far-off horizons. There is a sadness of sorts underpinning it all, a recognition that new beginnings demand their own sacrifices — what once might have been innocent idealism is tempered by an acceptance of reality that makes Sho’s resolute optimism all the more impactful.

Vision and imagination, determination and dynamism — these are traits we desperately need in our younger generations, who we have collectively burdened with so much responsibility and expectation. Armed with his ukulele and a searching spirit, Sho Humphries is stepping into the world ready to make a change.

 — Adam Wood





Single premiere: Nihiloceros preps for imminent self-destruction with "Dirty Homes"

It’s one thing to know that the end will come one day (easy enough to ignore) but it’s another to know when that day will come (not so easy to ignore). The new single put out today by Brooklyn-based three-piece Nihiloceros (“Dirty Homes”) is based around the latter condition which Dr. Nessa Coyle, co-editor of The Nature of Suffering and The Oxford Textbook of Palliative Care Nursing, both of which make for excellent beach reads, has termed the “existential slap” i.e. the very moment where a soon-to-arrive demise is realized and internalized alongside the attendant trauma likely to follow a time-stamped death sentence.

Despite being something best-avoided in real life, the “existential slap” is a popular plot device in the movies like in all those ticking-clock-countdown-to-a-life-or-death-deadline type films, even if many of them cop out and allow the hero to live at the last minute. Existential slap movies also tap into our curiosity of how we’d react if we learned we’ve got only one year or maybe just 24 hours left to live, just like Ethan Hawke in that movie from a few years ago called (*ahem*) 24 Hours To Live. But my personal fave in this genre is Miracle Mile, an obscure 1988 film that’s grown a cult following over the years due to what Black Mirror sicko-satirist Charlie Brooker once labelled “the biggest lurch of tone” of any movie ever.  

Basically (warning: skip this paragraph if you hate tangents and/or spoilers) the movie starts off as a quirky “meet cute” rom-com that’s just about as Totally ‘80s as they come. And then it ends with our nerdy-adorable couple slowly sinking into the La Brea Tar Pits in a crashed helicopter as nuclear bombs rain down on Los Angeles (a surprisingly tender scene believe it or not). But most of the movie revolves around the existential bitchslap that arrives about 30 minutes in when Anthony Edwards first finds out (before anyone else) that nuclear armageddon is on its way in about an hour or so, and all the batshit crazy shit that transpires as a result.

But hey we’re here to talk about music, right? (thanks for the reminder!) While not on the same level as movies there are at least a few well-known albums (concept albums, natch) that deal with this very same theme—notable examples being Megadeth’s Countdown To Extinction, the Del/Dan/Kid underground hip hop classic Deltron 3030, and of course David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars which opens with the conceit of being down to “five years left to cry in” before the end.

But a “concept EP” that takes the existential slap as its central conceit, well this is breaking new ground. And Nihiloceros have done just that with Self Destroy (released digitally on 9/17 and then physically on 10/1 from Totally Real Records) perhaps the world’s first “existential slap EP” (make that “ESEP”) and there’s no bisexual rock aliens falling to Earth to spread moorage daydreams before the inevitable rock ’n’ roll suicide in the Nihiloceros's rendition. Instead, we have a six-song self-described meditation on “the imminent evolutionary unraveling of the human condition and the absurdity of the end of the world” which obviously should make for good beach listening.

And guess what “Dirty Homes” is the lead-off track on the EP so we got a sneak preview now of how it all begins. Eschewing any “meet cute” gambits, the song instead charges into your earholes with a needle drop straight into a rush of Superchunky distorted intertwining bass and guitar and propulsive beating of skins (Chris Gilroy on the skins as well as production/engineering/mixing duties, whereas Siberian transplant German Sent handles current live drumming duties, got it?) and an eerie high-register melody. Meanwhile, right off the bat the narrator faces “youth erod[ing]” and “ages torn down” and the impending demise of humanity (difficult to imagine, no?) and just like Anthony Edwards in the phone booth scene above, humanity’s first reaction is flat out denial. When we talked the other day guitarist/lyricist Mike Borchardt called the song a “fairy tale vs. reality” type fableand that seems about right because the cognitive dissonance is palpable in both the lyrics and music.

Contrasting the titular “dirty homes” with pristine “white cathedrals” it seems humanity may have miscalculated in not taking better care of the places where we actually live (the dirty homes in question) instead tending to ritual spaces where we imagine our ideal selves as looked after by a beneficent god (this could be any type of “god” or "gods" take your pick). As further described in the lyrics through snatches of arresting imagery, we’ve travelled to the point of no return on “the yellow bricks [that] lead to Rome” and well now I’m picturing Dorothy hooking up with Caligula and bringing the whole gang along to a gladiator match (you know the Cowardly Lion is freaking the fuck out) followed by an imperial orgy (every tried to have sex with a scarecrow?) which all ends in chaos of course. 

Likewise on the musical side of the things the song swings between extremes—the bouyant melodies of the verses masking apocalyptical imagery of locked jaws and rusted suns and “cities built on your cries” that is until the song gets stuck in its own groove with our narrator repeating “YOU! YOU! YOU! YOU!” in the chorus in an echo of the egotism and individualism and freedom-to-be-stupid-but-fully-satiated-at-all-times-at-all-costs that got us into this end times mess in the first place. Then later there’s a breakdown section (talk about literal!) and finally an outro that opens with a nice crunchy ’n’ catchy guitar solo that soon unravels into swelling sonic murk and doomsday countdown-clock rhythms before glitching out and ending on a bass and guitar single-note that hisses and crackles like a burnt out element. 

And if this all sounds a little on the dismal side it’s not so much really because much like Miracle Mile the songs on Self Destroy are the musical equivalent of action set pieces, adrenalized and strangly exhilarated by impending doom (thought don’t get me wrong “the shit goes down”) and plus the band creates such a powerful slab-of-sound that you’ll likely be mesmerized anyway—at times I still can’t tell which parts are bass or guitar, nevermind theremin or effects-laden Rhodes piano—which could be down in part to bassist/co-vocalist Alex Hoffman designing a custom line of pedals for the record (!) that’ll be available to the buying public at some point (plus an entire line of tie-in hot sauces, I shit you not) so check out “Dirty Homes” for now and then clean up your pig-sty why don'tcha and then get ready to blast off when Self Destroy drops because, well, it’s gonna be “a thrill ride into oblivion” (potential pull quote!) and you may as well sit back and enjoy the sights and sounds as it goes down. (Jason Lee)





Elizabeth Moen "Is Heaven Just A Waiting Room?"

Elizabeth Moen released her latest single, "Is Heaven Just A Waiting Room?", this week.

The track finds Moen enlisting the help of Nick Levine, VV Lightbody, Tristan Huygen, and Abby Black.

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