Feature: Best Songs of 2020 (Excerpt)

14. The Chicks: “Gaslighter” [Sony Music] Election years breed proselytizing – and, yes, a fair bit of preaching to the choir. And 2020, in terms of its reelection High Noon-ery, mirrored 2004, that once-quagmired cycle in which The Chicks, nee Dixie, offered some side-handed shade about George W. Bush and his “coalition of the willing”…

Review: Calexico – “Seasonal Shift”

The song is hushed, even by Calexico standards, self-conscious and even a little timid in its presentation. It unfurls with carefully finger-picked guitars and the occasional accompaniment of bowed upright bass and marimba. On some bridges, there are backing vocals – on others, none. The canvas is more bare than cluttered with sound; it features…

Feature: Rediscover “The For Carnation”

“Now when I fall to earth, I hear applause/ I love to hear applause,” Brian McMahan sings, suggesting various readings, on “Emp. Man’s Blues,” the slack-jawed bass and brushed snare lulled and sleepy-eyed behind him. “I am the new gods/ You’ve seen my face around the block/ But now I’m here/ My time has come.”…

Review: Killer Be Killed – “Reluctant Hero”

Expectations suck. So, leave it to an alt-metal supergroup to find a way to fuck with what you crave and anticipate from its latest mighty work. Six years after its much-lauded self-titled debut, the apocalyptic Killer Be Killed is back with Reluctant Hero, a sophomore effort initiated, written and recorded almost entirely in secrecy. In an…

Profile: Radon Chong (2020)

Radon Chong swears up and down that it’s not a – patent pending – Thinking Man’s Band, despite lots of mounting evidence to the contrary. “I think people take Radon Chong seriously,” said Sasha Weisfeld, the band’s frontman, a healthcare worker “on Sabbatical” who came to Pittsburgh and fell into the band’s ranks by way…

Review: The Nels Cline Singers – “Share The Wealth”

The acoustic guitar, in somewhat off-tempo 4/4, nestles a saxophone that pensively wails. In the distance, the jingle-jangle of incidental percussion provide a kind of sonic frame, the measures kept tidy and within their respective places. And, about two minutes in, the finger-picked acoustic shuffle of a verse demurs and listeners are greeted by jazzy,…

Review: The Casket Lottery – “Short Songs for End Times”

At 6:27, the album-closing “Sad Dream” is by far the longest, most ambitious and most uncharacteristic song on Short Songs for End Times, the second post-hiatus full-length LP from early-aughts Kansas City punk/emo outfit The Casket Lottery. It starts with swirling synths and unfurls with more than its share of Cracker Jack distorted guitars. The real gems,…

Review: David Grubbs – “October 19, 2017”

6 April 2020, “The Quarantine Concerts”: This is the first time I remember hearing David Grubbs like this, and I was unmoored by the presentation and the humble kind of luminosity to it all. Grubbs doesn’t break his poker face or fully tip his hand and foreshadow the content of the proceedings that night. But the video…

Review: Mr. Bungle – “The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo”

Talk about being locked and loaded with enough context and rotting fruit to fill a stadium. The core members of once- (and future-?) postmodern superheroes Mr. Bungle – that’s Mike Patton, Trey Spruance and Trevor Dunn – have reunited 21 years after the group’s last LP to reproduce via Patton’s Ipecac Recordings their interesting but…

Review: Bad Wires – “Politics of Attraction”

Politics of Attraction, the full-length debut from Louisville power trio Bad Wires, is a Frankenstein’s monster of a rock record. The group, technically adept but still engaging in guttural and primal ways, are well-studied pupils and make the proceeds unfurl easily. The LP’s seven tracks offer punk attitude, 1990s New York City noise posturing, a touch…