New Music Friday: Siergio- Complicated

Full-disclosure, I first met Siergio as a freshmen in high school. Fairly quickly, he established himself as a personality due to his singing, and what I recall as a vehement defense of superstar singer Monica’s vocal prowess.

It’s been a joy to hear him pursue his art these last few years. He seems poised to release another excellent set of tunes, if his latest single, a classic R&B slow burner, “Complicated,” is any indication of what else will show up on forthcoming LP, “Before it’s too Late” (available for pre-order here).

Listening through the song, you can hear his appreciation of Monica shine, albeit, through the prism of a variety of other influences. This allows Siergio to do something that strikes me as fairly unique within the world of modern R&B: call to what’s inspired him, but not so loudly, that his influences overwhelm the specifics of his persistent truth as a vocalist. 

In a musical landscape in which it can be increasingly hard to tell singers apart, Siergio has found something that is uniquely his own within his voice.

This has come about as a result of pursuing craft with steadfast dedication.

Outside of gorgeous production that manages to create a sense of cavernous depth, the song is marked by Siergio’s control of his voice. His singing reminds of a guitar player who understands that he’s in the business of handling business, but doesn’t feel like he has to let everyone know all the time. Throughout the song’s run, Siergio pulls off a variety of vocal flexes that on their surface, might appear to be light, but speak to careful consideration, and/or restraint on his part. Where he could easily, pop an octave or hit a run, he instead chooses to make his voice swell or fall accordingly.

It’s an incredibly admirable set of choices and keeps a certain amount on tension in play. When release finally arrives, it shows up in the form of a contemplative, three-guitar over/under interplay that sounds like the R&B equivalent of what you mind find on an 80s King Crimson record.

It’s an inspired choice that adds a nice additional flavor to the song, allowing it to fade out with a blissful release that feels earned.

If you haven’t already done so, head back up to the top of the page, and hit play on the YouTube link.

THE MOMENT YOU ALL HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR: Sunday Monday Tuesday George’s 21 Best Songs of 2021

I know there has been some concern within the hallways of the venerated Indie Pong office about my lack of… contribution as of late.

Fear not though, because I’ve returned with my BEST write-up of the year: one in which I lace your Spotify with my top 21 songs of 2021.

This is a challenge every year, and I had to make some hard calls here…

No Between the Buried and Me representation? Nothing from Adele, or… Drake?

Drake will actually NEVER make my end of the year list, so let’s just shut that shit down right now.

In any case, after careful consideration, I’ve arrived with my list. There’s no order here, I’ve simply sequenced things below in a way that made for the most enjoyable listening experience. I’d encourage not shuffling.

1. Passage- Rafael Seyfried

Did I stumble across a more delightful winter anthem this year?

I don’t think so.

I spent many nights at my drafting table, writing or drawing to this piece of music, and I can’t compliment it highly enough.

Effortlessly beautiful, if not melancholy, there is both whimsy and hope creeping out from under the rug here— something that ultimately speaks to optimism, and a sincere belief that things will get better.

It’s wonderful.

2. Sandman- ASAP Rocky

When it comes to ASAP Rocky rapping, I can take it or leave it. That said, I have no doubt in my mind that we will look back upon Clams Casino as one of the early 21st centuries great sonic architects, and here, his work is in very fine form. 

What can be said about this beat that hasn’t been said already? Here, Rocky may well have been so in awe of the production, that he blessed the track with the patented* “Get em Girls,”-era, Cam’Ron Harlem flow. 


3. Lord I Need You- Kanye West

Truthfully, there are four or five cuts from Donda that could have graced this spot, but as the song’s last 40-some odd seconds rank amongst the greatest thing Kanye has ever given us, I think it needs to be this one.

The closing section of this tune reveals Kanye at perhaps his most vulnerable? Bringing nuanced, delicate communication to life in a song, is a tricky thing to do well, and Kanye’s note choices, combined with his delivery make for an incredible masterful statement.

This is heartfelt shit.

4. Pyrocene- Genghis Tron

Man, this is just like the best thing that’s ever come down the pipe.

Apparently, non-electronic drums are new to the proceedings for Genghis Tron, and the way in which they situate themselves amongst an army of synthesizers is nothing short of glorious.

Truth be told, I’ve been afraid to listen to anything else from this album because this song is so damn good. I know I should, and I will soon, but I’m fearful that the other songs will fall short of this tune’s brilliance.

5. GERONIMO- Trippie Redd and Travis Barker featuring Chino Moreno

I believe my brother might have initially refused to listen to this on principle, due to Trippie Redd’s involvement. I’m hoping he eventually relented, but this is an A-1 slice of widescreen, shoegaze bliss.

Can you hear all of my favorite colors from a desert sunset?

I can.

There’s pink, off-brand orange, deep purple, blue blue, ore, sand, and a flash of white.

If this song was embalming fluid, I’m trying to smoke, and that’s probably the nicest thing I can say about a piece of music.

6. Sad Mezcalita- Xiu Xiu & Sharon Van Etten

I feel like this is the soundtrack that wasn’t for one of Gomez and Morticia’s tango dance routines circa the 1990s Adams Family movies.

You can hear it, can’t you?

This is both spooky, and gorgeous. It’s a perplexing piece, taking into consideration the specifics of its switches, but I’ll be damned if it’s not a hypnotic, sublime piece of music.

7. Xiu- Yu Su

Me and Mates have been cool in 2021, after some beef involving— uh… Timber Ridge?

Look, I still don’t know what a Timber Ridge is. Sounds like all the trees got cut down to line the pockets of some fat cats.

Strange, considering the school didn’t even have a locker room?

Like really? The board couldn’t pony up for that?

Perhaps that’s what led to the Bessie Rhoads rebrand?

In any case, Mates put me on to this song, and it’s a monster.

In our conversation, he said it was an early song of the year contender, and it’s on this list for that reason.

Do you need the greatest song in existence for your next kitchen dance party?

Look no further, because this is it.

8. Marie- Lost Horizons featuring Marissa Nadler

No disrespect to the blonde-haired women (actually, all the disrespect to the blonde-haired women, cuz you all keep losing 😂😂) but dark-haired songstresses RULED THE ROOST this year, with Ms. Marissa Nadler and Ms. Chelsea Wolfe leading the pack, for the spooky summoning ritual set.

If you put this on Cocteau Twin’s, “Treasure,” back in 1984, it wouldn’t be out of place.


And this is not to say that Ms. Nadler seeks to emulate Ms. Fraser either. She simply understands the lane in which she’s cruising, and brings the most glorious of aspects of her ethereal voice to this: the perfect soundtrack for a nostalgic morning walk along a foggy beach.

9. Happy Birthday- Hospital Bracelet

This song has some SWAG and some MATH.

That might sound weird, because math can’t (or shouldn’t?) factor into swag, but that’s the best I have.

There’s probably a time signature in here that I can’t count, but there’s also some LEAN behind the drum kit, and some DOOM in those power chords.

This song changes up on a dime, and it’s all the more delightful for it. I hear shades of The Beths, and also Sleepy Sun, wrapped up in something that’s unique and fully comfortable being it’s own thing.

I can’t wait to dig into further into this band’s discography.

10. Straight Lines- VOLA

Folks, sometimes the Youtube algorithm throws you some bullshit.

But sometimes, it blesses you with a JEWEL.

This is an example of the latter.

A djent-y opening gives way to a key-change, proggy grandeur, and a MEAN, MEAN synth solo from this band who I’d heard nothing of until just a few short months ago.

It’s very rare that I have an, “oh, wow,” moment the first time I hear a song, but when that first chorus drops in here, I about lost it.

I can’t recommend this highly enough. Listen to it loud, and listen to it often.

11. Lonely- Sofia Valdes

I believe it was Karl who put me on to this one, so thank you Karl.

It’s not easy to make delicate sound effortless, but here, Ms. Valdes does so.

There’s a warmth about this song that makes me wonder about where it was recorded. If there was a fireplace crackling in a dimmed room, accented by saturated earth tones as Ms. Valdes sang, I wouldn’t be surprised.

There’s a nostalgia about this song that I appreciate as well. I’m not sure where that comes from, but it almost makes you long for a very particular loneliness one might encounter in the winter— something with a light at the end of the tunnel, that will arrive with spring.

In any instance, this is wonderful.

12. Easy- Pale Waves

THE Interlude/breakdown of 2021?

Found within the confines of this song.

From 2:06 to 2:16, we are treated to one of the year’s flat out MASTERSTROKES. A song that has previously been marked by its candy-coated bombast is stripped down to simply guitar and voice, recalling every great thing about the summer of 1999 that you’d forgotten until now.

You can literally HEAR the fireflies, vividly recall how gangster the final lightsaber fight in Episode I was, the specifics of playing Final Fight on the TV in your Cedar Point hotel room, AND…

Well, the list would get too long.

To be clear, this is just a great pop song too, but man— that ten-second stretch?

A monster.

13. Jitterbug Perfume- Sam Birchall

At 34, I find it more and more unlikely that anyone’s guitar playing is going to really blow me out of the water because— I’ve just heard it all at this point?

For the most part, yes, but then a player like Sam Birchall comes along, and flips everything on his head.

In my listening experience, devastating technical proficiency, unfettered expression, and pure joy are a tri-pronged unicorn: it’s uncommon that you’ll find all three within a lead player’s lines.

You can probably have two of them working for you if you’re really good, and most of people get by on one, or, perhaps, one and a half.

Mr. Birchall hits the hat trick though, managing to somehow fuse bluegrass, post-djent (did I just make that a thing?) jazz, and math into a blinding, beautiful concoction that’s 100 percent his.

His sense of melody is wildly adventurous, and the composition here has life that’s uncommon within such technically dazzling music.

This was one of my favorite things that I just happened to stumble across this year. I can’t wait to hear what he does next.

14. Crimson Stone- Converge & Chelsea Wolfe

Y’all— when this song explodes, it BLOWS UP.

The march to 3:58 is a murky, eerie trek in which Ms. Wolfe’s voice is in tip-top shape, with her collaborator Stephen Brodsky more than up to the task of both supporting, and responding to her words.

When Jacob Bannon enters the mix though, his howls offer the perfect launching pad for perhaps the most haunting vocal harmonies of the year, as Wolfe and Brodsky elaborate on his shouted statement(s).

This song is six minutes and 47 seconds long, and there’s a part of me that wants the whole song to encompass what we get from 3:58-4:45. 

I fully expect Ms. Wolfe is at least a sorceress part-time, and she’s found some very able-bodied collaborators in the legendary Converge.

As this comes from an album called “Bloodmoon: I,” I’m very anxiously awaiting what comes next from these folks.

15. X- Bicep featuring Clara La San

As I noted earlier in the year, I feel like this song has finally answered a long burning question of mine: “What might it have sounded like if Autechre continued forging the sound they established on, “Garbage,” and, “Tri Repetae,” as opposed to discarding it?”

The answer is, perfection, and this song can’t get enough spins.

16. Outside (Better Days)- MO3 and OG Bobby Billions

MO3 was tragically, murdered in late 2020, so this piece of music is all the more chilling and sorrowful in light of that.

Perhaps the most startling and powerful part of the song comes in the form of a short saxophone solo that closes the song out. Haunting and pleading, it leaves you feeling shaken, after the final note sounds.

17. Ritchie Sacramento- Mogwai

This was another tough one, because there are four or five other songs on this album that could have also made the cut, but we’re going with Ritchie.

Mates is the reason I gave this one a second chance, actually. When I first heard it, I didn’t really think much of it. Upon further listens though, I became more and more enamored with the fact that it was able to split the difference between sounding crystalline and warm with such little effort, to say nothing of the bulldozer bassline that pops up in the chorus.

Vocals are not a regularly occurrence in the band’s music, and here, they’re very, very, strong. It’s not the happiest piece of music perhaps, but there’s a particular kind of peace that I feel while listening to it, and I appreciate that.

18. Skyfall- SION

I’ll admit, I was skeptical of this collaboration, when I first heard about it.

A quote-unquote, “YouTube musician,” partnering with one of the greatest vocalists across ANY genre, for the last 20 years?

I just didn’t know.

Needless to say, when I heard the first single, I was sold hook, line, and sinker.

Jared Dines has done a tremendous job with the music on this album, managing to call to Jones-era Killswitch, while keeping things fresh within the formula.

And there is a formula— the verses tend to be rugged and raw, giving way to an explosion in the chorus that encompasses everything great about a 1,000,000 gigawatt sunburst. It works for the entirety of the album, and I’m here for it.

Jones voice is arguably at its most raw, and devastatingly beautiful here, and while pretty much any song from this album could have made the list, I think this one deserves a spot the most.

I’ll be playing this album well into next year, and I’m glad I gave it a chance.

19. Save Your Tears (Remix)- The Weeknd & Ariana Grande

I can’t stand the Weeknd, but here, he has Mrs. Grande in tow, so it’s all good. She’s hitting some of the best songbird notes of her career, and coming with some gorgeous vocal harmonies, so I’m all in.

20. Traitor- Olivia Rodrigo

I’ll admit, I was (wrongly) clowning this when I first heard about it.

One of my cousins who’s flag is planted firmly within camp Gen Z was breaking down this album, and I just couldn’t take the idea seriously.

An 18-year old, making a thoughtful, well-put-together album about a failed relationship?

I had JOKES, but as it turns out, the joke was on me, because this is a masterful piece of work.

What Ms. Rodrigo sings about on here is likely, universal. We all have probably had an ex who moved on a little too quick for our liking after the breakup, and there’s a very particular kind of pain and distrust that pops up, when it happens.

Ms. Rodrigo comes across as truthful and sincere here, and her performance left me feeling humbled.

I’m very much looking forward to seeing what she does next.

21. Mombasa- Deafheaven

Ooh, boy.

Closing out the playlist with what may well be the best song Deafheaven ever releases?

It’s the only way to go.

Found within here are some of the most beautiful vocal melodies and harmonies of 2021. The song’s bridge, one that leads to the catharsis of SCORCHED EARTH and blast beats, has no business being as beautiful as it is.

It’s something that leads you to believe all is safe, beautiful, and warm, before yanking the rug out from under you, and plunging you headfirst towards the planet’s molten core.

And the lyrics, when Mr. George Clarke finally begins to scream?

Worthy of a reflective essay penned by anyone who dedicated themselves to pursuing a creatives life during their 20s, I think:

“Travel now,

Where they can’t let you down,

Where you can’t fail them now,”

This song is a masterful movement, and I’m truly not sure if the band can eclipse what they’ve done here.

When the decade ends, this will most certainly be in the conversation for the top 10, and I’m looking forward to continuing to appreciate its brilliance.

2 + 2 Reviews: Summer Scorcher Edition

August is here!!! With summer’s swan song, comes a new batch of scorchers for your listening pleasure. This week, we’re taking a look at top-tier offerings from Rivers of Nihil, Leprous, Sam Birchall, and Gunship & Tyler Bates featuring Dave Lombardo.

Read on to see what we thought!

Rivers of Nihil – Clean

BH: I first got introduced to this group when I was hearing how good their last album “Where Owls Know My Name” was.  I picked up the album after hearing a few tracks and was blown away by the mix of tech death, prog and sax (!).  One of their strengths is they don’t let the tech or prog get in the way of the songwriting.

Their new single, Clean, is probably the best example of this.

I haven’t been able to stop listening to this song since it dropped this week.  I love the slower chug buildup that wraps its tentacles around you and then explodes into a massive maelstrom of riffs.

Jared Klein’s drumming is once again on top-form here.  I also want to mention that the production on the drums is really great on this single.  

I actually prefer the production on this over the last album.  Jake Dieffenbach’s vocals still crush and if anything his vocals sound better than ever.  I also have to mention Brody Uttley’s lead riff rules and the solo section is tasteful and fits perfectly in the song.  

I have to say that at least based on this single, Rivers of Nihil’s new album may be the one that really takes the band to next level heights.  I think they may soon be in a similar category as Gojira is and deservedly so.     

George, is this your first introduction to Rivers of Nihil?  If so, hell of a time to get into them.  What influences do you hear in their sound?  What’s your favorite part of the song?   

GF: This is indeed my first introduction to them! As far as first introductions go, this one was very particular too. I was a bit hesitant for the opening segments, but I came to find myself more and more on board with what I was hearing, as the song progressed.

At first blush, Dieffenbach’s were just a tad too much for me, but now, I kinda love them. The backup he gets from the rest of the band, when they’re actually singing, makes for a really nice compliment too.

You mention the tech and proggy aspects of the band’s sound, and I think that’s what made me really get on board with this. The second half of the song is definitely my favorite part of the tune, as it sounds like the soundtrack for some sort of summoning ritual inside an ice cave lit with very particular blues and greens.

Also, the guitar solo is indeed a cooker– one that features a really slick build, and some really considered, melodic playing.

I’m glad you put me on to the band’s music. I’ll definitely be checking out the album when it drops

Pre-order their new album “The Work” here:

Catch Rivers of Nihil on tour with The Black Dahlia Murder this fall!

Leprous – The Silent Revelation

BH: Now THIS is Leprous.  I’ll admit the previous single, Running Low, left me unsure on what we would be getting on this new album. It’s a solid song but The Silent Revelation is more in line with what I love about this band.

If you’re not familiar with Leprous yet, now’s a great time to dig in.  They started out as the backing band for Ihsahn (who is also amazing) and branched out with their own albums.  

“Aphelion” is their seventh album to date.  If this track is any indication, this album might hit the highs of “Malina”, which is my favorite album from the band.  The textures at play here are very reminiscent of that album, mixed with a little of what made their previous album “Pitfalls” tick.  

Einar’s vocals of course soar as usual here.  I also really appreciate the quieter portions of the song, particularly when the strings come in at around the halfway point. 

This is a STUNNING track by everyone in the band though. It’s dynamic, catchy and just beautifully written.  Can’t wait to hear the full album.

Pre-order their new album “Aphelion” here:

Sam Birchall- Jitterbug Perfume

GF: I’m not quite sure how to describe Sam Birchall’s music, but I fell in love with his guitar playing after hearing him play just a handful of notes.

I find this song to be particularly wonderful, as his playing manages to be both wildly expressive and full of joy, whilst maintaining a high degree of technical proficiency.

This is a very, very, difficult balance to maintain. Here, his lines zig and zag with reckless abandon, but never in a way that’s outwardly show-y, or superfluous. To my ears, he’s managing to effortlessly channel the stylistic tendencies of Pete Cosey, Allan Holdsworth, and maybe, Omar Rodriguez Lopez, creating something that is uniquely his own.

I feel like this is a perfect song for a summer afternoon, while you sip lemonade, or a cold beer. It’s something to play while you sit in the shade and smile, thankful for the fact that it’s 72 and breezy outside.

I can’t recommend this highly enough, and I’m super thankful to have come across his music.

Gunship & Tyler Bates- Berserker (featuring Dave Lombardo)

GF: I’m not gonna lie, I came here for Dave Lombardo.

My favorite drummer from the big 4 of thrash, Mr. Lombardo’s presence on a song will get me to listen, no matter what, as his playing is never short of magic.

While he’s not the star of the show here, he still manages to bring some muscle to the song, in addition to a few of his signature drum fills.

As someone who was not familiar with Gunship’s music, I was very pleasantly surprised to encounter their particular brand of NIN meets Perturbator.

If this track doesn’t go full-on synth-pop here in a couple of spots, it gets REALLY, REALLY, close, and I’m kind of all for it.

While pure metal is cool, I’m more and more fascinated as of late by when the genre butts up against other things, or, wholly incorporates disparate genres or stylistic things into the mix. 

The song isn’t afraid to wear a lot of hats, and even sound… happy?

Going into it, I was expecting something wildly different than what I got, and I’m very thankful for that. There have been a number of strong songs that have come from the Death Metal soundtrack, but this or Chelsea Wolfe’s offering might be the top dogs.

Brandon, I know you’re more familiar with Gunship’s work, so how did this strike you in comparison to their other material? Are you familiar with any of Lombardo’s work outside of Slayer, like Fantomas? How does this rank for you amongst the offerings from the Death Metal soundtrack?

BH: Well this is a good bit different than what we usually get with Gunship in terms of the metal riffage and acoustic kit we have on this track.  

That said, similarly to other synthwave groups like Perturbator and Carpenter Brut, there is a tendency to toe the line of metal and this song certainly crosses over.

Though, it still has that big, hooky chorus that Gunship is known for.

And yeah Dave Lombardo is a great addition.  Would love to hear him collaborate more with Gunship actually.  To answer your question George, I’ve actually never ventured outside of Lombardo’s Slayer albums but am curious to check out other projects he’s been a part of.  I agree with you that Lombardo is one of if not the best drummer from the Big 4 (though Nick Menza is up there too). 

I liked several cuts off the Death Metal soundtrack and I’d say this one fits comfortably at the top.  I’m a fan of the Mastodon, Chelsea Wolfe, HEALTH and Greg Puciato tracks particularly but I could see myself coming back to this track more often in the years to come.

2+2 Reviews: Summer Kickoff Edition

Welcome to the Summer Kickoff edition of 2+2. We have an A1-batch of tunes for you this week, and couldn’t be more excited to review the latest from Deafheaven, Scale the Summit, Light the Torch featuring Courtney LaPlante, and White Ward.

Deafheaven- Great Mass of Color

GF: Wednesday morning of this week, I listened to this song about four minutes after waking up.

Brandon had sent me the link in the wee hours of the morning, asking for my thoughts. Seeing his message upon rolling out of bed, I couldn’t contain my excitement, as I plugged my headphones in.

I loved this song the first time that I heard it, and that love has only grown upon repeated listens.

Off the rip, it’s clear that Deafheaven is switching lanes, and doing so with confidence.

This was something I expected, based on the interviews that I’d read with them over the last couple of years. I was excited to hear what it sounded like when they were making music from a generally, happier place in life, and what would carry over from their old sound.

I feel like Deafheaven’s appreciation for Cocteau Twins music has always been fairly upfront, but here, they marry that with some Duran, Duran, flavors, and it’s a magnificent thing.

George Clarke has a legitimately wonderful singing voice, and while that’s unsurprising, as we heard it on the last album, it’s especially cool to hear him fully lean into that here. His backing vocals are incredible too– tasteful, and ethereal.

Listening to this for the first time, I found myself thinking, “alright, when is this going to explode, and when is he going to scream?”

When that moment comes, it’s one of the most powerful moments in Deafheaven’s catalogue thus far: the guitars go full-sledge hammer, oozing molten tone, below Clarke’s stereo-panning howls. This leads to the song’s closing moment, a repeated vocal figure that calls to mind, Glenn Danzig’s vocals from, “Mother.” This section has brought me chills in a couple of instances– it’s just that powerful.

Brandon, I know you were a little unsure of this at first, so I’m curious to better understand the trajectory of your appreciation. Were you expecting the band to shift gears like this? What was most jarring for you upon your first listen, and now that you’re on board with it, what do you like most?

BH: I have now given this song about 6 listens since it dropped and I’ve got to say it has grown on me a lot.

I think initially I was kind of not sure what to make of it because this wasn’t a little shift into a new direction. This is a massive change and I definitely found it shocking.

I mentioned this earlier to you but for me this shift is along the lines of what Ulver did back in the 90’s. They went from an incredibly raw black metal album called Nattens Madrigal to the very experimental and electronic album Themes from William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. And they never looked back, continually evolving over the years. Actually, the sound of Deafheaven 2.0 could fit nicely on a tour bill with the latest incarnation of Ulver.

Anyhow, I digress but yes there are still “Deafheaven”-isms throughout, though if I didn’t already know this was Deafheaven, I honestly wouldn’t have realized it off first listen.

I think the opening of “Great Mass of Color” is really hooky and the song has a kind of dream-like 80’s new wave vibe to it. There’s also a really beautiful moment that hits just before the two minute mark. I love hearing the acoustic drums and haunting vocals from George. The fascinating thing is even though there’s some darkness here, the song does feel genuinely happy in places.

I also have to mention the final minute, which is just incredible. This is where I’m fully engaged and think Deafheaven has really knocked it out of the park. The build up to the quiet screams from George is unreal and one of the best moments on any song I’ve heard this year.

I wasn’t expecting quite this big of a change BUT this is the band that gave us the pink Sunbather cover on a shoe-gaze black metal album, so I guess anything goes. And I’m here for it.

Scale the Summit featuring Courtney LaPlante- The Land of Nod

BH: It seems this is the week of songs from bands that are in the middle of evolving their sound.

Scale the Summit has been doing their brand of majestic instrumental music for awhile now and with the new release, they’ve decided to add a new component: vocals.

And not just any vocals but some of the best vocalists around that include Ross Jennings from Haken, Joseph Secchiaroli from The Reign of Kendo and Courtney Laplante from Spiritbox.

Courtney is featured on the “Land of Nod” and I’ve got to say I really dig her vocals here. I’m familiar with Spiritbox but just wasn’t sure how vocals would work on top of Chris’ riffage. Turns out they work quite well.

At about the two minute mark, there’s a really gorgeous passage where Courtney takes center stage and Chris plays an airy riff underneath. The interplay is top-notch.

Scale the Summit is also releasing an instrumental version of the album so fans can have their cake and eat it too. I listened to both versions of this track and both are as epic as I had hoped.

Also, how cool is this new LED guitar that Chris is playing in the music video?? Can’t wait to see him jam on this live.

Light the Torch- Let me Fall Apart

GF: Oh, man.

Can we get sainthood for Howard Jones yet?

We must protect him at all costs.

While this is a group effort, Mr. Jones is running the show here, treating us to both his nigh-operatic vocals and signature screams, and we just might not be worthy.

More so than perhaps any of his peers, Jones knows how to throw down an epic chorus, and make it sound sincere, as opposed to silly.

He sings with every ounce of enthusiasm, conviction, and joy in his bones, and listening to that come to life is just such a delight.

This reminds me of a late-era Iron Maiden effort, and I mean that as a compliment. While Maiden has slowed down their tempos in recent years, their music is just as epic as it was back in the 80s.

I feel like I’m going to run out of superlatives to throw at this, so I’d encourage your simply to listen. Here’s hoping the rest of the album from these fellows is just as good!

White Ward- Debemur Morti

BH: Kind of love that we have new tunes from both Deafheaven and White Ward to explore this week. I discovered White Ward when they released “Love Exchange Failure” in 2019 and the first thing that sprang to mind is how much I wanted to hear them on a tour with Deafheaven.

They share some similarities, or at least did before the massive change in sound for Deafheaven. Anyhow, White Ward has been hard at work on their third album and decided to release a new EP and titular song dedicated to their badass label, Debemur Morti.

What continues to impress me with this group is how they meld saxophone into their socially conscious black metal. It works so damn well every single time.

With their latest song, they’ve also added some really great clean vocals. The clean vocals actually caught me off guard simply because it was so unexpected but they work seamlessly within this track. I’m curious if they’ll continue to explore clean vox on the upcoming full length too.

In any case, I really appreciate how many different roads White Ward travels on during the span of nine minutes. There’s a slow build for about a minute before the song erupts into beautifully controlled chaos.

Beyond the clean vocals sections, I think my absolute favorite section might be the gang vocals bit which just works so well here.

I’d be remiss to not mention how damn good the drumming from Yevhenii Karamushko is. Great fills and dynamism.

George, I know you’re new to the White Ward camp. What are your first impressions of the band and what’s your take on this song? Did any particular section stand out for you?

GF: I was super stoked when you sent this to me. There’s so much to love here, and I think you’ve highlighted most all of what I also enjoy.

The saxophone found within is truly inspired, and I didn’t know how much I needed to hear that instrument over a blast beat, until I actually did. That last bit of blasting towards the end of the song let me both impressed and humbled. I want more sax solos in a black metal context.

As a whole, I feel like the band has created something fairly epic here, without overdoing it.

There’s intensity and energy to spare here, but even in the balls-to-the-wall segments, there’s control– their playing strikes me as intentional.

The clean vocals did throw me a bit, but once I came to understand their place in the music, I was with it.

I’m really glad you put me on to this song, and I can’t wait to dig into the rest of the EP.

Tuesday Time Machine: May 2020

Hello and welcome!

For those reading my column for the first time, these monthly playlists which I’m re-visiting (and continuing to create) came about as a result of an idea I had back in January of 2010: an idea that woud see me create one 80 minute playlist a month.

The reason for doing this was two-fold: I wanted to create and re-enforce very specific lived experiences and memories tied to music, and I wanted a rather consistent set of songs to propel me each month as I created my art.

In creating these playlists, I tried to make things flow— I wanted songs to segue very effortlessly (or abrasively) creating a sense of narrative.

Going forward, bi-weekly, I’m going to update the Spotify playlist that you can find below. 

I’d recommend not shuffling the songs, as they were sequenced the way that they were for a reason. To get the full experience, listen to them in the way in which I’ve arranged things.

Included below is a short description of the tune I’ve included, and/or a description of the specifics memory associated with it. If you’re not trying to read all of that, just hit play on the link above!

May 2020

1. Different World- Iron Maiden

This number kicks off Iron Maiden’s 2006 album, “A Matter of Life and Death,” and what an opening salvo it is.

For an album fully of slower and proggy (albeit excellent) songs, this is the only tune that harkens back to Maiden’s glory days in the 80s. Its highlight is its triumphant, panicked chorus, one that make you want to attempt hit the notes Mr. Dickson is hitting.

2. You Make it Easy- Jason Aldean

I have it on good authority from my friend who really, really, likes country music, that this is, “superficial small-worldview trash pop,” but I can’t help but love this song.

It’s easily digested, and doesn’t require a lot of attention, but sometimes, when you’re out chilling by a body of water with a drink in hand, that’s all you need.

3. Falls Apart- Sugar Ray

I think I’m gonna get run off of this blog for putting this on here, but hear me out…

If you play this for someone whose childhood included the late 90s, see if it doesn’t get a reaction out of them.

Within seconds of hearing those opening chords, they’ll laugh, or they’ll smile, I guarantee you.

The summer of 1999? This shit OWNED pop radio, and when I hear it, I think only of sunshine, and being too young to understand just how great those childhoods summers were.

This will always be a winner.

4. Teenage Dirtbag- Wheatus

When I first heard this, circa 7th gradeish, I thought it was an unfathomably stupid piece of music.

That chorus? 


Thankfully, I’ve grown to realize the error of my eyes, and now recognize this as a slice of pop perfection.

The turntable scratches might not have aged too well, but the rest of it is pure gold.

Hate on it at your own risk, because it’s nothing short of a classic.

5. My Time- Zoey Dollaz featuring Gashi

Zoey Dollaz makes some solid tunes. Modern Miami rappers both confound and fascinate me, as some of them can really, really, rap, and some of them… can’t.

Mr. Dollaz is thankfully in the former camp, and this is a solid showcase for his storytelling abilities. I dig it.

6. Girl of my Dreams- Rod Wave

We all know that I believe Rod Wave will to save music for Gen Z, or something, right?

iTunes says I’ve played this song over 100 times in the last year, and I’m surprised that that number is not higher. This is prime, deep-concentration drawing music, and I love it.

7. Thingamajig- Miya Flock

Mates put me on to this one, folks.

He was PREACHING too.

And you know what?

This was worthy of his sermon.

This is one the most tremendous vocal performances I’ve ever heard, and probably the best vocal performance I heard in 2020 (even though this is from 2018).

This is a truly astonishing piece of music, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

8. In a Yard Somewhere- Bosse-de-Nage

This is a really uncomfortable/borderline-terrifying piece of music that you kind of have to be in the mood for.

That said, when you’re in the required mood, there’s actually nothing better in the world.

The section that kicks off at 4:22?

There has been nothing more perfect recorded in the last 10 years, for people who are going through it. 

If you’re ever in a place where you really want to allow yourself to be crushed just listen to that, and let it flatten you.

You might cry, but it’ll be great.

9. Embers- Elder

Did you miss Elder’s album from last year?

It was a towering, incredible achievement, that should probably be a part of your life.

This was probably my favorite song on the album? It fuses At-The-Drive-In and Thursday with early 70s Weather Report, and 80s King Crimson, which is essentially all that I want out of life.

10. I Have Nothing- Whitney Houston

I’ve gone on the record about how Whitney Houston’s music showed up throughout the earliest years of my childhood, so I won’t re-tread that.

I will say that this is my second or third favorite song from the soundtrack to, “The Bodyguard,” and it features a vocal performance that’s nothing short of top-tier.

11. Teenage Dirtbag- Sega Bodega & Dorian Electra

So, this is a lo-fi (Skype duet?) cover of the Wheetus song from earlier in the playlist.

And it’s great, right!?

Seriously, when I heard this for the first time, I thought it was genius. Full of bold decision-making, and two weirdo vocal performances, it’s a winner, through and through.

12. Fade Into you- Sega Bodega & Eartheater

Hate to say it, but this might be more successful than Mazzy Star’s original, in certain places?

It’s quite the achievement. I challenge you to not like it.

13. Limelight- Rush

This is kind of a classic, so I’m not sure that I need to go on at length about it.

For the uninitiated, Rush became superstars around this time, and this song got radio rotation and a music video.

The song is incredible as a whole, but the real showstopper is Alex Lifeson’s guitar solo— a wildly original cruise through the lane that Eddie Van Halen reigned over at the time. Here, Lifeson’s whammy bar, and harmonic work here at the very least rivals Sir Edward’s, and it’s a tremendous thing to hear.

14. Just Like Heaven- The Cure

Everyone loves The Cure’s unabashed pop songs, right?

If you don’t, check your pulse.

I feel like this is the perfect song for the beginning of summer— emblematic of the coming three month’s joy and sunshine.

Play it on Memorial Day Weekend, or else.

15. Won’t Back Down- Fuel

I’m not sure if you all are ready for this…

This is a song about Daredevil.

To be specific, Ben Affleck as Daredevil.

It was recorded SPECIFICALLY, for the movie’s soundtrack.

And man— if you could bottle everything that made early 2000s hard rock what it was for better or worse, it’s RIGHT HERE, in ALL of it’s glory.

If you want to hate on this, you can leave, because I’m not hearing it.

16. Raindrops- John Paesano

I liked season 2 of, “Daredevil,” on Netflix.

I know that’s an unpopular opinion, but I thought it was pretty solid.

Early on in the show, there’s a scene that’s soundtracked by this, and it’s kind of incredible.

Love it, and it will love you back.

17. Porcelain- Red Hot Chili Peppers

It pains me to pay Anthony Kiedis a compliment, but this is as good as he ever got.

This might be the best song from, “Californication”?

I think?

This will chill you out, and think heavy thoughts. In a beautiful way, but yes— something for the quiet moments.

18./19. Conveyor/boxes- Moses Sumney

I kind of refuse to discuss these songs in detail, because I really just want you to listen to them, and be 100% floored by how EFFING good they are.

Seriously. Just listen, and let yourself be bowled over.

20. Helter Skelter- The Beatles

There are days where I believe this to be The Beatles greatest achievement.

I’ll fight people on that one, too.

Let’s talk about Paul McCartney’s bass guitar tone on here.

He’s playing like he was trying to put Jack Bruce out of WORK.

Let’s run that back…

Jack Bruce.

Out of WORK.

It’s like his mantra for all 4 minutes and thirty seconds of this song were, “I’m only into bow-legged women these days.”

For the record, bow-legged women, you all run the show, so don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.

Anyways, if you ever hand me the aux cord, and say you want to hear The Beatles, don’t get mad when this comes on, because I already told you what time it was, RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW.

2+2 Reviews: Mother’s Day Weekend Edition (The Night Flight Orchestra, At the Gates, Kataan, Book of Wyrms)

Welcome to the Mother’s Day Weekend Edition of 2 + 2. I think every track here is PERFECT for every mom out there. At bare minimum, I expect every mom to jam hard to “White Jeans” from The Night Flight Orchestra, our first track to cover today. Stay tuned for tracks from Book of Wyrms, Kataan and At the Gates.

The Night Flight Orchestra – White Jeans

BH: If this song doesn’t make you want to put on a neon leotard for a workout, followed by a quick change into your finest pair of, well, white jeans for the evening, I don’t know what will.

I’ve been following The Night Flight Orchestra for a little while now, primarily because they have a terrific roster of metal musicians including Björn Strid of Soilwork and Sharlee D’Angelo of Arch Enemy. Check out my discussion of their album, Aeromantic, here:

They also have some of the catchiest AOR songs since Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger”, Asia’s “Heat of the Moment” and Devo’s “Whip It”.

Tongue is firmly in cheek with this group.

It’s really a blast to see these musicians clearly having so much fun both in the songwriting and the music video they’ve made during the pandemic. It’s also clear they really enjoy this particular subgenre.

Even lyrically, this song in particular, fits perfectly for the time period they’re inspired by.

Here’s an excerpt of the chorus:

She wore white jeans
On the cover of a magazine
Now she’s standing here in front of me
White jeans, white jeans, white jeans

All I’m saying is this could have easily been in the film, WEIRD SCIENCE.

Anyhow, George, I’m curious what your take is on TNFO and their song “White Jeans”. Are you a fan of AOR or any of the synth-driven 80’s rock groups? Does this track remind you of any other songs?

GF: It’s funny, because as I was listening to this, I feel like it DID remind me of something very particular, but I just couldn’t recall it. They’re painting with a very particular set of 80s brushes for sure, and as you said in your comments, their tongue is firmly in their cheek.

That’s what I enjoyed most about this, actually: the fact that it allowed itself to be silly.

I love metal, and I always will, but when it allows itself to detour into something like this, something that’s self-aware, and fun, I’m all for it.

Re: 80s AOR and synth driven rock, that’s not necessarily something I’ve really made a great effort to explore. I’ve heard all of the standards that pop up on the radio, but I feel like the 80s stuff I enjoy tends to lean heavier towards the weird, or the new wave? When it comes to metal from that decade, Van Halen is great, I love Iron Maiden, those few first Slayer, Metallica, and Megadeth albums, but outside of that, I’m more in the lane of Talking Heads and King Crimson.

I’d not heard of these dudes at all, and I’m appreciative of you putting me on to them. Hearing this reminded me of how I felt when I first heard The Darkness, all those years ago. I expect I’ll be diving into their last album, later this week.

At the Gates – Spectre of Extinction

BH: At The Gates. What hasn’t already been said about this classic melo-death band? They can do no wrong in my book.

Their new song, “Spectre of Extinction” has just been unleashed and I’m an instant fan of this song. I’ve dug the band’s last two albums since reforming but if this song is any indication, we may be in for their best album since Slaughter of the Soul.

The intro reels us in with a softer, acoustic section and then hits you like a sledgehammer with that nasty lead guitar hook. This is very “Blinded by Fear” and that is a very good thing.

Also, Tomas is now in his 50’s (!) and his vocals sound as ferocious as ever.

“Spectre of Extinction” is one hellish, towering inferno of a song and will be a perfect live show opener when the band can tour again.

Kataan- Erase

GF: This song sounds evil.

And I love it for that.

Singer Nicholas Thornbury singers like he’s screaming into the most terrifying, rigid, scorched-earth canyon known to man. He’s in hell, and we’re right there with him.

It’s exciting.

Who do I hear in this song— shades of Scott Kelly, Wolves in the Throne Room, Deafheaven, and maybe a little Slayer too?

I don’t know. What I do know, is that I love it.

While it’s a somewhat understated part of the song, there are some clean vocals that crop up in a couple of sections that sound straight out of a monastery— a very particular contrast to the hellscape visuals that the rest of the song conjures.

Brandon, I know that you’re familiar with Brett Boland’s work outside of this collaboration, as you mentioned Astronoid, when last we spoke. Was this release on your radar at all? How does it stack up in comparison? Was there anything in particular about the song that stuck out to you, or if you felt like the music was painting a picture for you, what did you see in your mind’s eye?

BH: Yes! Love Astronoid and Brett’s work in general. I actually heard about Kataan just recently because Brett had posted about it on Facebook. Honestly, Kataan and Astronoid are really different and if I hadn’t known the connection already, I wouldn’t have likely figured it out from a first listen.

Whereas Astronoid is more airy and progressive in the riffs and songwriting, Kataan is more intense, darker and oppressive. Both are very atmospheric but on different sides of the fence.

I have to agree that this track is pretty evil. Not sure if it’s evil in a lyrical sense but certainly in the mood that it conveys.

Also, I have to say the second half of the song is where I really got hooked in. The meaty lead riff is great but man that break after the second round of clean vocals is insane. It makes me want to run into a stack of Macaroni boxes at the grocery store and not apologize for it. You know, something real nuts.

Anyhow, I can’t wait to hear the other songs on this EP and it’s great to see Brett trying something different.

Book of Wyrms- Albironlilly

GF: Okay, okay— I know it’s a little weird to highlight an interlude off an LP for a column like this, but this song has to get some shine.

As someone whose formal metal education involved a lot of early Black Sabbath, I feel some kind of way about acoustic numbers finding their way onto old school-sounding metal releases.

Outside of being sonically fascinating, considering how heavy everything else is, they can serve as a really cool warm-up (or, follow-up) to whatever was just heard, or, is coming next.

For example, on, “Master of Reality,” would, “Into the Void,” hit as hard as it did, were you not lulled into a false sense of security by, “Solitude,” beforehand?

The answer is 100% no.

For the most part, Book of Wryms is riding in the lane of contemporaries Pallbearer and Elder. They’re making some old school metal with stoner flavors, and maybe a little synth and or prog stuff thrown in for good measure.

That makes a song like this stick out like a sore thumb.

The music found here is completely instrumental, and effortlessly gorgeous— like a forgotten medieval tune, that could probably lull a baby to sleep, or conjure up memories of your greatest heartbreak.

At only two minutes, I wish it went on for another 5, but so it is.

I expect I’ll be putting this on playlists for many years to come. It’s wonderful.

(Friday) Tuesday Time Machine: April 2021 (Also, April’s Worst Indie Pong Staff Writer)


Worst blogger of the month award?

That award certainly goes to this guy right here– please accept my humblest apologies, ye IndiePong faithful.

I wish I had good reasoning for my absence, but I don’t.

In any case, as penance, I’m offering up a particularly EXCELLENT playlist this month, so please, read on!

Also, for those who are reading for the first time, welcome.

These playlists which I’m re-visiting (and continuing to create) came about as a result of an idea I had back in January of 2010: an idea that woud see me create one 80 minute playlist a month.

The reason for doing this was two-fold: I wanted to create and re-enforce very specific lived experiences and memories tied to music, and I wanted a rather consistent set of songs to propel me each month as I created my art.

In creating these playlists, I tried to make things flow— I wanted songs to segue very effortlessly (or abrasively) creating a sense of narrative.

Going forward, once a week, I’m going to update the Spotify playlist that you can find below.

I’d recommend not shuffling the songs, as they were sequenced the way that they were for a reason. To get the full experience, listen to them in the way in which I’ve arranged things.

Included below is a short description of the tune I’ve included, and/or a description of the specifics memory associated with it. If you’re not trying to read all of that, just hit play on the link above!

April 2021

1. Shine- Meek Mill

On one of his podcasts, as he was listening to Meek Mill’s music, I believe Joe Budden said something to the effect of, “Ooh, I love it— he’s making me feel like I’m struggling!”

One of the few modern mainstream rappers who holds my attention, Meek Mill’s lyricism and persistent truth is so brilliant that he has that rare ability— to make someone feel like they have a point of reference for what he’s talking about, even when they absolutely do not.

His delivery is effortless here— bordering on straight-up cocky. The beat is a masterwork, and as it’s so strong by itself, that Meek is really able to do whatever he wants over it, and still sound great.

I love this song. 

2. Fantasia on Greensleeves- London Symphony Orchestra

This month got off to a ROUGH start for me, so I would listen to this, in an attempt to find myself in a better place.

Supremely relaxing, and beautiful to a fault, it’s a magnificent piece of classical music.

3. Ceiling Granny- Mogwai

This is some bow-legged ass shit, that’s probably knocked a few old folks’ dentures out.

I need its energy every single day of the week.

The basslines in here are mean, and the drummer most certainly played all of these parts with a little bit of a lean in his posture. 

It’s swaggy, it’s tough, and it’s oh-so-delightful.

Give it full-volume.

4. Pyrocene- Genghis Tron

BPMHill and I wrote about this, as part of our column, and man… what a magnificent piece of music. An early contender for my 2021 top 10 list. Read our thoughts about it here.

5. Sad Mezcalita- Xiu Xiu & Sharon Van Etten

This is another barn-burner that I gave some shine to a couple of weeks back. You can read my thoughts here.

6. When we- Tank

This is some raunchy shit.

Favorite sub-basslines of 2017?

Found right here, folks.

7. Dogs Out- DMX

Very sadly, we lost one of the all-time greats this month.

I wrote a lengthy appreciation of, “Flesh of my Flesh, Blood of my Blood,” just over a year ago, and it was so sad to see DMX pass the way that he did.

In light of his death, I went back through some of his songs, including this one, produced by College Dropout-era Kanye West.

Yes, you read that right, THE DOG and a young Kanye.

This is a low-key gem, and it makes me sad that there weren’t more collaborations between the two.

Both parties are fully in their bags here, and it’s a beautiful thing.

8. Voyage to Atlantis- The Isley Brothers

I’m here for Ernie Isley.

The most-criminally underrated of R&B guitar players?

I think so.

To be clear, Ron Isley’s vocal work, particular in the chorus, is a cut above anything else that was coming out at the time, but Ernie is really the star of the show here, with his pan-seared leads.

Verzuz reminded me of some great songs all throughout this month, and this was one of those. 

9. Nothing Even Matters- Lauryn Hill and D’Angelo

Two of the greatest voices of their generation at the height of their respective powers?

Sign me up forever.

Shortly before, “Voodoo,” D’Angelo did this duet with Ms. Lauryn Hill, and it’s a breezy, effortless stunner.

10. All That- Tray Jack

I don’t know if Tray Jack ever had another hit after this, but man… I don’t know how I missed this, and how it didn’t blow up into something more.

There’s something very endearing to me about these kind of hype-up songs— I hear what Tray Jack is talking about, and I can’t help but be inspired to go out and get it. 

Adding to the inspiration is the beat, which will make you start feeling the best parts of your energy, the minute it goes through your headphones.

I have nothing but positive things to say about this. It’s a winner, through, and through.

11. Higher Love- Kygo & Whitney Houston

When I was a pre-schooler/kindergartner, if my mom had control over the home audio, she’d put on Bonnie Raitt, or Whitney Houston.

My siblings and I (unfairly) teased her mercilessly for enjoying Bonnie Raitt, so that meant that we’d mostly, just listen to Whitney.

When I found out a week or two ago that, “Higher Love,” was a Whitney Houston song, I kind of lost it, because I had no idea.

I then lost it again, because this remix works really, really, well.

Mashing up a modern-day electronic artist with an oldie is not always a recipe for success. In some instances, it’s quite the opposite. Thankfully, this is a cut above everything else, and also, a really great song to draw to.

12. Ooh La- The Kooks

Were The Kooks hot for a minute?

When I found out they were the band behind this one, I vaguely recalled them for senior year of high school/freshmen year of college times, but I couldn’t tell you a single song of theirs.

This is one of those songs that’s just a lot of fun. 

The chorus here is as magnificent an ear-worm as I’ve heard in recent memory, and it’ll put a little swagger in your step. The blend of acoustic and electric guitars is also really top-tier, particular during the last chorus.

13. Night Time- The xx

You know how you’ll be out sometimes, and a song will come on that’s so striking, you just have to Shazam it?

This was one of those songs for me.

It’s a moody little number— perhaps, bordering on melancholic? Idk, it’s not something you’d necessarily think would be on inside of a bar, but, so it went for me.

In any case, it’s a sharp number with a nice build, and a breathy vocal performance. I’m with it.

14. God be With You- The Cranberries

Recently, I’ve been obsessed with half-remembered movies from my childhood, that I wasn’t old enough to see, when they came out.

Whenever I come across them on Netflix, Stars, etc. I develop this kind of obsession with them for a day or two, and I just have to sit down and watch them.

A week ago, it was, “The Devil’s Own,” starring Brad Pitt, and Harrison Ford.

Not at all a good movie, BUT it did contain this heater from The Cranberries.

For those who don’t know, original movie specific tie-in songs were THE THING back in the 90s, and because of a not-so-good, late-career, Alan J. Pakula effort, we got this jewel.

I’m calling it a win.

15. True Colors- Cyndi Lauper

As sad as I am to say this, I did not know this was a Cyndi Lauper song, until this past weekend.

Horrible, I know.

As someone who was 10 years old, when the Phil Collins version came out, I suppose I just assumed that his was the OG version, and that Cyndi had covered it?

Irregardless, here, the original is certainly the better song.

I like Lauper’s voice better than Collins’, and the instrumentation is better too.

16. When I’m Small- Phantogram

I like this song a lot, because it strikes me as a mix between mid-90s Beck and Portishead— two winners.

The boom-bap drumbeat, and the ethereally vocal performance from Sarah Barthel come together effortlessly to create a tune that’s equally great for low-key lounging, and grooving.

The closing moments that build to the climax manage to sound both epic and understated, which might be physically impossible, but that’s what I hear.

17. 4,3,2,1- LL Cool J, featuring Method Man, Redman, DMX & Cannibus

This song is so famous, that I don’t feel like I need to speak on it.

It came to my attention again, due to the Verzuz battle between Method Man and Redman on 4/20.

In addition to being just an all-out, awesome performance, I feel like it justified my belief that Redman is really the best that we have.

If you’ve not yet seen the show, look it up and marvel at someone who just turned 50 blowing the doors off of anyone who ever though they had it.

The man is a legend.

18. Conversation in the Dark- John Legend and David Guetta

I’m not gonna lie, when this came across my radar, I was HIGHLY skeptical. 

I’m not someone who would pair these two, and considering the musical stylings of Mr. Guetta, I was worried his contribution would thoroughly overwhelm what John Legend brought to the table.

Thankfully, I was wrong.

The chorus is a lot, and for a split second, it made me pause to be like, “really?” but I got over that really quickly, and just let myself love it.

This is also, an excellent song to draw to. I’m with it.

2+2 Reviews: Late April 2021 (Perturbator, Epica, Spirit of the Beehive, Dry Cleaning)

Perturbator – Dethroned Under a Funeral Haze

BH: Perturbator’s first full length album in five years, Lustful Sacraments, is dropping in June.  The two singles that have hit so far have been some of his bleakest and darkest synthwave tracks to date.  

I was first introduced to James Kent AKA Perturbator with a super cool remix he did for Cult of Luna.  

His style contains notes of John Carpenter meets Vangelis a la Blade Runner.  You know, think pitch black sky, neon signs, big city synth-y vibes.

“Dethroned Under a Funeral Haze” feels like an expedition through the dreary, rain soaked streets of LA in 2040.  It feels futuristic but not too far away.    

The vocals used sparingly here remind me of Robert Smith’s on a particularly depressing day.  

The songwriting overall on this track is still very much in line with what Perturbator has been doing on his other releases, but also injects a bit of what makes some of the post metal groups like Cult of Luna tick.

I do think this is a grower of a song but I’ve given it probably fifteen spins so far and it has only continued to become more interesting on each listen.  I can’t wait to hear the full album.

George, are you familiar with Perturbator’s work?  Are you a fan of dark synthwave in general?

GF: You were actually the person who put me on to them! I think it was March, or February of this year that you sent me their music? 

In any case, you hit the nail on the head with your descriptor of, “John Carpenter meets Vangelis a la Blade Runner.”

This is not especially uplifting, or happy music, but that’s okay, because ooh, boy– the atmosphere, the atmosphere, the atmosphere.

I can appreciate the Robert Smith comparison too. Strangely enough, when I first heard this, it kind of struck me as like a very dark detour for the James Bond theme song, “The Living Daylights,” that 80s superstars A-ha, did?

I’m sure absolutely no one else is going to feel that way, but yeah… if Morten Harket was having a real bummer of a day, I feel like he’d be singing something along the lines of this.

Regarding dark synthwave, I can’t say that it’s a genre I’m super familiar with. We might have to have a sidebar conversation where I get some recommendations from you, because both of the tunes that you’ve shown me from Mr. Kent hit nicely for me.

Epica – The Skeleton Key

Epica is a band I’ve known of for years and despite loving Nightwish, Blind Guardian and others in the symphonic metal scene, I just haven’t ever given them a proper chance.

Enter “The Skeleton Key”.  

This track really puts the epic in the band’s name.  This is a super catchy, well written and orchestrated track.  

It does bring to mind a song like “Nemo” from Nightwish but with some harsh vocals, mixed in with the beautiful operatic vocals from Simone Simons.  I really like her vocal lines here and she has terrific range.  

The piano intro is strong and a great way to start off the song.  Really beautiful stuff.

There’s also some solid riffage in here too, especially towards the back half of the song.  It’s a nice balance of both light and heavy.  

If I chose one song to listen to while slaying some orcs in a forest, this might be it.  In all seriousness though, the chorus in particular has a way of staying in my head for days and I’ll definitely be returning for some more Epica.     

Spirit of the Beehive – There’s Nothing you Can’t do

GF: Full-disclosure, I was fully ignorant to this band’s music until a day ago or so, but I’m pretty much 100% on board now that I’ve discovered them.

This doesn’t fall into the confines of what we usually write about over here as it’s ostensibly a pop song, but I’m inclined to include it, because of how experimental and outright… WEIRD it is?

It also, low-key, shifts into an almost NIN-type dirge for the last third of the proceedings– one that includes some shouted vocals, so I feel like it gets some credit in that department.

In any case, what drew me to the song outside of its generally experimental nature is the fact that it flirts with, and perhaps, outrights LEANS into dissonance in some of its melodies.

A guitar figure that runs through about the first two thirds of the song has a few chromatic notes in it that plays against the really pleasant vocal leads in an mildly uncomfortable, but delightful way. 

It’s like an appetizer to the full-on chaos and terror that defines the song’s home stretch, and I appreciate the subtle nature of that build.

Brandon, I know you hadn’t heard of these folks either, so I’m curious to hear what your knee-jerk reaction was to hearing their music. What elements immediately stuck out to you, upon first listen? In terms of the song’s structure, do you think the payoff of the closing section was earned? What were your favorite moments or elements?

BH: I think right out of the gate I appreciated just how weird this song is.  

As you mentioned, it’s pop but only kinda.  It’s not really structured in a traditional way and there are some experimental almost avante-garde touches here.  

I didn’t quite know what to make of it all initially but I dig what they’re doing.  After several spins, it started opening up a bit more to me.

Regarding your question on the payoff, I do think it was earned and like you, I greatly appreciated the subtle build and the shift right at the end.  The song is unsettling throughout but as it gets towards the climax, it gets damn near terrifying.  

As in, I could totally see this being a jam for Buffalo Bill.

The songwriting actually reminds me a little of what Greg Puciato is doing at the moment with some of his solo work.  There are some abstract pieces in here and it can feel a bit uncomfortable at times, but it comes together in a satisfying way. 

Dry Cleaning – New Long Leg

GF: So, this is the title cut from, “Dry Cleaning’s,” debut album, released by legendary label 4AD. Previously, I’d not heard of them, but I’ve liked what I’ve heard.

The band’s sound occupies a lane that seems inspired equally by Blondie, Talking Heads, and 80s King Crimson. The guitars here sound almost exactly like Adrian Belew’s and Robert Fripp’s work circa 1981-ish, and you’ll find no complaints from me.

Structurally, some of the riffs flirt with what those gentlemen were doing too, but not in a way that’s derivative. The rhythms don’t ever get knotty in the way that some of those King Crimson songs did, and they’re propulsive in a way that makes me want to cook something?

I feel like that probably sounds strange, but hearing this, I feel like it’s kinda what I want to have playing in the kitchen if I’m trying to groove while I chef.

The vocals, courtesy of Florence Shaw, are delivered without any real sort of enthusiasm, but that strikes me as very intentional. To be clear, it’s tremendous, as she’s able to make droll delivery gel so successfully with the rest of what’s going on. It kinda reminds me of some of what Lou Reed used to do, the difference being that Shaw is British, so you get that accent in there too, which gives things a nice added bit of dimension.

Bottom line, it’s a great tune, and I can’t wait to dive further into the rest of their album.

Tuesday Time Machine: April 2014

Hello and welcome!

For those reading my column for the first time, these monthly playlists which I’m re-visiting (and continuing to create) came about as a result of an idea I had back in January of 2010: an idea that woud see me create one 80 minute playlist a month.

The reason for doing this was two-fold: I wanted to create and re-enforce very specific lived experiences and memories tied to music, and I wanted a rather consistent set of songs to propel me each month as I created my art.

In creating these playlists, I tried to make things flow— I wanted songs to segue very effortlessly (or abrasively) creating a sense of narrative.

Going forward, once a week, I’m going to update the Spotify playlist that you can find below. 

I’d recommend not shuffling the songs, as they were sequenced the way that they were for a reason. To get the full experience, listen to them in the way in which I’ve arranged things.

Included below is a short description of the tune I’ve included, and/or a description of the specifics memory associated with it. If you’re not trying to read all of that, just hit play on the link above!

April 2014

1. To the World- Kanye West, R. Kelly, Teyana Taylor

Yow. Starting off with an R. Kelly feature?

We can pretend it’s Tank singing instead?

Tank is a better singer than R. Kelly, let’s go with that.

2. Get Closer- Moonstone Continuum

This was the closing song from the second album of one of my favorite Minneapolis bands.

Sean, one of my best friends I made in college, plays keyboards and contributes background vocals on here, and I love almost everything about this song. I’m particularly fond of the guitar solo towards the end of the song— an effortlessly beautiful, simple, and frame-able statement.

Jon Nielsen is the man who played said solo, and I actually got to have drinks with he and Sean, shortly before I left Minneapolis for good.

Mr. Nielsen was certainly my local guitar hero while I was living up there, and I was very thankful for the opportunity to compliment him on his playing, before I left.

3. Wrathchild- Iron Maiden

I think this is the song that made me re-asses whether my boycott of Pre-Bruce Dickinson Iron Maiden was actually a reasonable thing.

This is a smoking piece of music all around, but let’s give a special round of applause to Mr. Clive Burr whose drum kit brings to mind a particular vicious, slithering snake. 

I’m here for it all day, along with the slash-and-burn guitar work that we’re treated to in the chorus.

4. Bronchusevenmx- Autechre

Is Garbage my favorite Autechre release?

It might be.

Idk— this was a go-to cut during my days of doing super serious meditation in my attempt to beat panic disorder.

It certainly helped. Listening to this with your eyes closed, you can’t help but imagine yourself in some small Japanese studio apartment, alternately blinded and humbled by the neon lights outside, illuminating your room.

The percussive aspects are raindrops, of course, striking against the window in a way that’s both random and consistent. 

This is deep trance music, and I can assure you that if you get through all 9+ minutes of this without opening your eyes, you will feel leveled out, and almost fully at peace.

It’s a powerful thing when music is able to do something like that, and I’m both in admiration and appreciation of this.

5. Scarface- Freddie Gibbs and Madlib

As I said a few weeks ago, I’m not really a fan of, “Piñata.”

I think it’s just okay.

This is FAR AND AWAY the greatest song on the album. It’s the first real song for a reason.

It’s 100% a monster.

Both Madlib and Freddie Gibbs are very comfortable in their lanes here, and… yeah, even though what Freddie Gibbs is rapping about is pretty terrifying, you can’t help but be entranced by the persistence of his truth and performance.

6. Africa- D’Angelo

This is the prettiest song off of, “Voodoo?”

“Untitled,” is more famous, but I feel like I’m probably going to listen to this more often.

The closing number from the album, this is like the ultimate wind-down at the end of a perfect day. This is a very beautiful piece of music, but there’s a playfulness about it too. 

I find it similar to Prince’s, “Adore.” There are a couple of very Purple one-like inflections sprinkled throughout it, and I think this is the song that finally made me understand the specifics of D’Angelo’s appreciation of his heroes music.

7. Hold On- Pusha T, Kanye West, and Rick Ross

Strange as it may sound, this is the song that helped me navigate the day of my grandfather’s death with perhaps, more grace than I might have otherwise.

I received a phone call, early in the morning with the news, and after taking that in, I got to work, because that seemed like the right thing to do. 

I don’t think I listened to anything else that day, and it’s difficult for me to speak about this song otherwise, because I can only really think about how it helped me get through that day.

8/9. Smokin and Leanin/No Way Out- DJ Screw & Botany Boyz, Al-D

The Winter of 2014 was BRUTAL in Minneapolis, and I feel like it probably made leaving the city a lot easier for me.

I slept in a bedroom that was quite spacious, but also had no heat.

This meant that I sat at my drafting table wearing 2 or 3 layers, and the same when I slept.

Add in the panic disorder I was working with at the time, and it was… challenging.

DJ Screw’s music threw me a lifeline though. It would send me somewhere else when I listened to it, and almost make me forget about JUST HOW COLD that winter was.

These are probably my two favorite songs from, “3 ’N the Mornin (Part Two),” and as they segue so effortlessly into each other, I’ve included both of them in here.

10. Holding my own- The Darkness

That first album by The Darkness may be an all-time great.

I know, I know— they’re not breaking the mold, and perhaps it’s just, “pastiche,” but it’s a masterful piece of work that I can’t help but enjoy start to finish.

This is one of the heavier ballads on the album, and I definitely used to throw it on, when I was in some kind of mood. 

The guitar solos on here are some of my favorite from the album, and this is just an all-around great tune.

11. March to the Sea (BBC Live Version)- Baroness

Summer of 2012, I got to see this played live at First Avenue in Minneapolis.

It was just before Yellow and Green was released, so it was my first time hearing the song, and I’ll never forget it.

While the studio version of this song is magnificent, this live version is probably the way to go at the end of the day.

There’s a forcefulness present here that just… perhaps got lost when the band recorded this in the studio. The break with the twin leads a la Thin Lizzy also sounds positively MOLTEN in this version, and I delight in imagining a creaky cauldron overflowing, setting fire to straw below it.

This is one that is best played loud.

12. Forty Six & 2- Tool

I’m not a Tool expert, but I feel like this is the song that established the blueprint they’d follow on, “Lateralus,” a few years later?

The exotic rhythm and melody work found within the opening passage is as pretty as anything that Tool has ever done, and the chorus is a real bone-crusher. There’s a bit of swag in there too, which I always appreciate within the confines of modern metal.

My buddy Dave pointed out late last summer that 70s metal was more about groove than outright speed, and I think that’s both a fair an astute observation. Tool is unafraid to embrace some of that history here, and I think that’s cool.

In any case, this is a top-tier entry for them, and it features some especially wild drum work from Danny Carey towards the end– perhaps the highlight of the song.

This is also best played loud.

13. Murder to Excellence- Kanye West & Jay-Z

The second half of this song is possibly one of my favorite things that Kanye every produced.

Sonically, it’s just full-on astonishing.

He and Jay-Z’s verses are fine, but I feel like they’re overshadowed by just how incredible Kanye’s work behind the boards is.

14. Back at One- Brian McKnight

I’ll go to bat for this song.


If you disagree, you’re wrong.

Or, perhaps, you just weren’t at the right age in the 90s when this came out.

But come on, folks— what’s not to love here?

I seem to recall reading that Brian McKnight was inspired to write this after going through the step by step process of programming his VCR?

I think that’s kind of great.

Also, the late 90s– can we just have them back already?

If time stopped December 31st of 1998, and we just didn’t really go forward from there, I’d probably be alright with it.

15. The Will to Death- John Frusciante

When it comes to the quiet songs that John Frusciante has written, I think this one takes the cake as his greatest achievement.

It’s a dead simple piece of music, defined by how naked and vulnerable it is.

It’s not a happy tune, but it manages to exude an optimism of sorts, which I find curious. I feel like it’s a song for sunrise or sunset— though probably the latter.

It also features a really lyrical, albeit understated, double-tracked guitar solo to close things out. I deeply appreciate the simplicity, and almost child-like nature of it. It’s something that strikes me as just so very honest.

We need more of that honesty in music.

Tuesday Time Machine: March 2021

Hello and welcome!

For those reading my column for the first time, these monthly playlists which I’m re-visiting (and continuing to create) came about as a result of an idea I had back in January of 2010: an idea that woud see me create one 80 minute playlist a month.

The reason for doing this was two-fold: I wanted to create and re-enforce very specific lived experiences and memories tied to music, and I wanted a rather consistent set of songs to propel me each month as I created my art.

In creating these playlists, I tried to make things flow— I wanted songs to segue very effortlessly (or abrasively) creating a sense of narrative.

Going forward, once a week, I’m going to update the Spotify playlist that you can find below. 

I’d recommend not shuffling the songs, as they were sequenced the way that they were for a reason. To get the full experience, listen to them in the way in which I’ve arranged things.

Included below is a short description of the tune I’ve included, and/or a description of the specifics memory associated with it. If you’re not trying to read all of that, just hit play on the link above!

March 2021

1. Passage- Raffael Seyfried

March is becoming my least favorite month of all time, so I’m thinking that’s why I have to make sure my playlist is extra good for the month.

This is beautifully calming, and relaxing. I feel very fortunate that it found its way onto my radar, and I have to give jpeg a shoutout, because I found this via his Instagram.

I’m appreciative of folks like Mr. Seyfried who record things like this, to soothe our nerves. It makes all the difference in the world.

2. The Conjurer- Insomnium

I wrote about this last week as a part of the column that BPMHill and I co-curate, so I’d urge you to read that, if you’re curious to hear my thoughts.

3. Born for One Thing- Gojira

This was also a song that BPMHill and I wrote about earlier in the month, so you can read my thoughts about it here.

4. Beam Ahhh- Dj Chipman

This powered many a drawing session this month.

Apparently, this is something that everyone from Miami knows about, but if you’re not from there, you might not.

In any instance it’s a joyful piece of music.

It brings to mind unrepentant sunlight, and the smell of the ocean that you can only really experience, down in Florida.

I’ve needed a vacation for several months now, and this allowed me to take several, within the confines of my mind.

5. Chemical Plant: Act 1- SEGA/Naofumi Hataya

Look— if you grew up with a Sega Genesis, you probably played Sonic 2.

If you played Sonic 2, you’d most likely agree that this was hands-down, THE most clutch piece of music that you’d hear, playing the game.

I’m not necessarily a video game music person, but I’m also not going to say that there weren’t JEWELS dropped back in the day of 16-bit glory.

Play this loud enough so that your neighbors are also forced to remember the glory of the early 90s too.

6. Diamond Veins (feat. Sarah Rebecca)- French 79

One day, a dark-haired, brown-eyed woman will enter a room while this song is playing, and it’ll be a wrap for Mr. George.


Maybe she’ll have green eyes– just not blue eyes, because they make me uncomfortable.

7. Stop in Time- Psychic Twin

Did you all know that Mates has been on an absolute ROLL this year, with regards to his music recommendations?

It’s true. Check out the Indie Pong playlist for 2021— you will be pleased.

This song is not technically from this year, but Mates made me aware of it this year.

It’s like Bjork by way of Stevie Nicks, and Grimes?

That might sound like a bit much, but it’s really wonderful. 

The synthesizers exude a magnificent warmth, and the vocal performance is both confident and commanding.

I really love it.

8. Ritchie Sacramento- Mogwai

I was not feeling this when I first heard it, but Mates saved the day, y’all.

He sent it along, and after giving it a second listen, I became obsessed.

The bass tone in the chorus is amongst my favorite things I’ve ever heard the band record.

This is saying something, considering how much real estate the basslines get within the band’s music.

In any case, the bassline manages to both strut, and bulldoze, which strikes me as uncommon. The melodies and the rest of the music are great too, but man, when that chorus hits, it’s like the Stay Puft Marshmallow man plowing through Manhattan— watch out.

9. Silent Restraint- Svalbard

I wrote about this is one of the latest column’s that I did with BPMHill, so you can read my thoughts here.

10. Sing for the Damage We’ve Done- Harakiri for the Sky featuring Neige

BPMHill put me onto this, and I expect one or both of us will talk it up in our next column.

In short, It’s a monster.

Check back in a week or two for a more detailed run-down.

11. All That I got is you- Ghostface Killah featuring Mary J. Blige

I’ll admit, “Ironman,” is one of the Ghostface solo albums that I hard a hard time getting into as a whole.

It has some INCREDIBLE songs on it, but I was always more of a “Supreme Clientele,” and “Fishscale,” guy.

As that’s so, I never really gave this song a fair shot, but after seeing it performed on the latest Versuz, I’m a convert.

If you’re in a mood, this song will bring tears to your eyes. The painterly, uncommon attention to detail that would become Ghostface’s calling card, is on full display here.

Even if you have no point of reference for the specifics of the struggle that he’s speaking to here, you feel his pain.

It’s an all-timer, and I’m glad that I got to have it in rotation this month.

12. City on the Map- Griselda featuring 50 Cent

I’m not gonna lie, I tuned into this the first time, mostly curious to hear how 50 would fare against the wordsmiths in the Griselda camp.

I was pleasantly surprised.

His verse isn’t necessarily the better of the two, but he sells it with his delivery, and the sheer force of his presence.

His voice seems to have changed a bit too, more gruff than it was in the past.

The beat sounds like something RZA would have cobbled together in 1995, and I mean that as a tremendous compliment.

Off-kilter, spooky, and foreboding, it’s one of my favorite pieces of production that I’ve come across in recent memory— a perfect sonic compliment to the rhymes being spoken.

13. All I Got- Rod Wave

I’ve said it once, and I’ve said it again.

Rod Wave is the man.

He makes his contemporaries look like small children, effortlessly spinning very believable tales of pain and misery.

And he makes both of those undesirable things sound great.

His formula doesn’t necessarily vary too much, but that also doesn’t bother me.

He’s like Slayer— what he creates isn’t broken, so he doesn’t fix it.

Here, he throws his voice around like a rag-doll, and indulges some pretty solid guitar ad-libs in the background.

I’m all for it, and I’m all for him having a very long and storied career.

14. The Blade- SION

Okay— this is the last one that BPMHill and I talked about, I promise!

It’s incredible though. I really hope that we get a full album from these two gentleman, if this is any indication of the overall quality we’d be treated to.

15. Lay Me Down- Zakk Wylde

For whatever reason, Zakk Wylde guitar playing has been helping me get through some of the more difficult spots of the pandemic.

I’ve always liked him as a guitar player, ever since I was in high school, but something about revisiting his work as an adult has made me have a greater appreciation for him.

I also feel like I’m somewhat fascinated by his humility considering how much skill he has. I’m sure he’s Ozzy’s longest tenured guitar player at this point, and his technical abilities are beyond astonishing.

He really stretches out on the solo here too, even managing to sneak in a very brief lick from a standard, which I find to be just wonderful.

In any case, long may he reign. Here’s hoping we get Book of Shadows III.

16. Hot Summer Nights- RynoFish

This is another one that jpeg put me on to, so big ups to him!

Sonically, this is a curious piece of music. If you told me that a band splitting the difference between blink 182 and Led Zeppelin would sound awesome, I’m not sure I’d believe you.

I feel like that’s what this reminds me of though— blink for the verses, bridge and break, and Zepp for the chorus.

The song effortlessly evokes its title, and while this is my playlist for March, I expect I’ll be giving this many spins, once the weather gets nicer.