Wait, it’s July already? Damn. That was fast. I’d say time flies when you’re having fun, but I don’t know anybody who’s actually having any. But even if the world is basically a dumpster fire being towed by a clown car these days, at least we’ve got some decent music. Here are my favourite albums of 2023’s first half, listed in alphabetical order. Who knows how many of them will make the cut six months from now. Hell, who knows if any of us will be here six months from now. So carpe diem, bitches. Enjoy. And to read more about any of the albums below, click on the cover art.
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Once, when Boygenius were on a road trip in Northern California, Phoebe Bridgers asked Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus to listen to a very important song. She pushed play and got on the freeway — headed in the wrong direction. The song was Trapeze Swinger by Iron & Wine — about a dead person telling the living how he wants to be remembered. It was impossible to interrupt this 10-minute-long song. Because of how the exits were spaced, Trapeze Swinger added an hour to their travel time. Phoebe felt like an idiot. Lucy turned that drive into the song Leonard Cohen. What happens when you see an hour-long detour, not as a detour, but as part of the trip — the part where you listened to Trapeze Swinger while driving the opposite direction from your destination. Does that become the most valuable hour on the trip? Does time transform into something other than alternating “valuable” and “not valuable” hours? What if the right song can dislodge, for its duration, this piece of capitalist furniture? The humbly but honestly titled The Record started in June 2020. A week after her album Punisher came out, Phoebe sent Lucy and Julien a demo of Emily I’m Sorry and asked if they could be a band again — for the first time since those five short months in 2018, when the Boygenius EP was conceived, written, recorded, released, and toured. Nobody had wanted to be the first to ask — to make such a demand on everyone’s time. Now, Julien made a Google Drive folder named “dare I say it?” They flooded it with potential songs.”
Bass Drum Of Death
Say I Won’t
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “The point of an odyssey is to return home changed — still the same person, but deepened somehow, wiser and better, wearing your traveling scars proudly. Bass Drum Of Death’s new album Say I Won’t is the end result of a journey that took singer and bandleader John Barrett from a small town in Mississippi and sent him across the world and back home again. The music still rips, with blown-out guitars and drums that sound like bombs going off, and the melodies are catchier than ever, hollered in Barrett’s trademark yelp. But the music hits differently now, more at peace with itself, propelled by a new swagger. Say I Won’t is the record of a veteran band finding its stride and leaning into it, stripping back the excess and finding the raw core of their sound.”
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Headed by brothers Marty and Matt Bohannon, The Bohannons are one of America’s undiscovered musical treasures — a massively underappreciated band that has been doing it their way for more than 20 years. The brothers Bohannon, along with drummer Mike Gault and bassist Justin Colburn, have just released their latest studio album Night Construction. Split between Tennessee and Alabama — Chattanooga and Birmingham, specifically and respectively — the band emerge from post-Covid paranoia and doubt to claim what is rightfully theirs.”
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Cheater Slicks, the take-no-prisoners Columbus, Ohio trio, are back with the thrilling, musically diverse Ill-Fated Cusses, their first album in eight years. Like every other band on the face of the planet, Cheater Slicks saw their plans to begin recording a new album derailed by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020. Singer-guitarist Tom Shannon — who is joined in the trio by his guitarist brother David and drummer-vocalist Dana Hatch — recalls, “Things were getting shut down, and we were literally a week away from doing this, and weighing all the different things, we said, ‘Let’s not do this.’ So it got shelved. It sat for about five months. But my friend here in town, Will Foster, has worked with us. We had a recording history with him. He sent me an e-mail one day and said, ‘Hey, if you want to do this record, I’m willing to make it work one way or another. We can give it a shot and see what happens.’ And we started a process of trying to figure how we would record this record.”
Chickasaw Mudd Puppies
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Georgia’s Fall Line is a geologic boundary marking the prehistoric shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean as well as the division between the Piedmont and Coastal Plain regions of the state. Rivers below this line tend to be slower moving, larger, and easier to navigate than those above. This album was influenced by the stories, people, and sonic images from either end of the Georgia Fall Line. The coast, ancient and otherwise, is where we all grew up. It’s the crossroads. It’s where geology and geography, trade and commerce, history and the keeper of science met to discuss the mechanics of the sun lift and the sunset. Our album Fall Line is intended to navigate you deeper into these stories, people, and images seen through the lenses of The Chickasaw Mudd Puppies.”
Wild Billy Childish & CTMF
Failure Not Success
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Failure Not Sucess is the new studio album from Wild Billy Childish and CTMF. It captures Billy at his songwriting best, along with excellent covers of Richard Hell and Jimi Hendrix songs, plus a newly recorded version of Bob Dylan’s Got A Lot To Answer For.”
This Is Crime Wave
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Fat Mike (NOFX), Sam King (Get Dead) and independent hip-hop artist Ceschi Ramos aka Codefendants recently released their debut album This Is Crime Wave on Mike’s Fat Wreck Chords imprint Bottles To The Ground. Codefendants are the breath of fresh air and the steel-toe-cap kick in the nuts music has needed for too long. It all started when King’s graffiti crew were giving tattoos and making flash art to raise money to help rapper Ramos when he was incarcerated. Months later, they met at the Gilman Street Project in Berkeley. They bonded, talking about their love of hip-hop and punk rock over a bottle of Jameson. They didn’t know it yet, but they had just started Codefendants.”
Watch my interview with Fat Mike HERE.
Boom! Dynamite (An Introduction To The Fabulous Courettes)
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “The Courettes (singer-guitarist Flavia Couri and drummer Martin Couri) are an explosive husband-and-wife rock duo from Denmark and Brazil who have been touring nonstop throughout Europe since 2015, bringing their perfect blend of garage-rock, ’60s girl groups, Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, surf music and doo-wop to the delight of any audience even remotely interested in rock ’n’ roll. Now, the “hardest-working band in showbiz” are thrilled to tour the U.S.A. for the first time. Expect excitement, danger, sweat, explosive performances, and most importantly, GREAT tunes! To coincide with their first North American shows, and as an introduction to the band, they have released the compilation Boom! Dynamite (An Introduction To The Fabulous Courettes). The duo have released four fantastic albums on the legendary label Damaged Goods Records, each one praised far and wide, most notably the Back In Mono album in 2021, a true milestone in their career and featured in countless Best Albums of 2021 lists.”
Watch my interview with The Courettes HERE.
The Chicago Sessions
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Rodney Crowell’s latest album The Chicago Sessions was produced by Jeff Tweedy and recorded by Tom Schick at Wilco’s Loft in Chicago. The masterful, cross-generational collaboration follows Crowell’s acclaimed 2021 album Triage and finds the Nashville veteran delivering an incisive, engaging collection that balances careful craftsmanship with joyful liberation at every turn. Sounding both fresh and familiar, it’s among Crowell’s very best work. As Tweedy puts it, “The way that Rodney writes is deeply connected to a classic era of country songwriters that I’ve always loved. In my estimation, it’s as close as I can get to working with Townes Van Zandt or Felice and Boudleaux Bryant — people who crafted songs with a very specific sensibility. And I like being near that.” While looking at the cover of The Chicago Sessions, listeners might recognize a familiar callback to Crowell’s 1978 debut, Ain’t Living Long Like This. “In a lot of ways, this album feels like that very first record to me,” Crowell reflects. “When my daughter suggested we lay the artwork out similarly, the connection made perfect sense. There’s something very simple, very innocent about it. It’s just me and the band in a room together, loose and live and having fun.”
Daddy Long Legs
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Street Sermons is the fourth album from Daddy Long Legs, New York City’s most diabolical blues-punk street gang — and the unleashing of a wellspring of bottled-up emotions that need to be taken to the streets. Produced by Oakley Munson of The Black Lips at Old Soul Studios in Catskill, N.Y., the band expand upon a sound that’s all their own, with the help of guest appearances from U.K. new wave legend Wreckless Eric providing backing vocals on Nightmare and Silver Satin, and The Lovin’ Spoonful’s iconic frontman John Sebastian joining in on Ding-Ding Man. Over the last decade, these gentlemen have burned down houses the world over with their explosive fire ceremony, amassing a cult-like following with a tough-to-beat reputation for being one of the finest live acts on the road today. In these dark times, Daddy Long Legs continue to shine their light everywhere they go, leaving a piece of themselves on stage every night because it’s in them and it’s got to come out. Written and recorded against a backdrop of political tension, riots in the streets and a deeply uncertain future, Street Sermons is a testament to triumph over adversity.”
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “At last! The Darts return from their Bat Cave / Covid lair with Snake Oil — by far their best album to date. Snake Oil is their most accomplished full-length recording to date, with a much fuller sound than any Darts disc before — courtesy of their longtime collaborator Bob Hoag and some remote control co-production wizardry from Jello Biafra himself. Featuring the return of Nicole Laurnne on vocals, Farfisa and Hammond organs, Christina Nunez on bass and vocals, and Meliza Jackson on guitars and vocals, Snake Oil also marks the debut of new drummer Mary Rose Gonzales. The result? Snake Oil comes out smoking as if this band has been in a pressure cooker throughout the pandemic. Expect the wider sound and sparkle of Nicole and Cristina’s previous band The Love Me Nots (also recorded by the brilliant Bob Hoag) but with way more raunch. And Nicole’s voice has never sounded better. Snake Oil is for fans of agile, sultry vocals and beefy vintage rhythm sections paired with razor-tone guitars. This Snake Oil was concocted to remedy the most unaffected and stiff-legged garage rockers out there!”
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Did you know that miracles happen every day? We don’t always see it that way. We look at the state of the world and think, ‘It’ll be a miracle if we make it out alive.’ But miracles are what humans do. We’re Earth’s most inventive and unpredictable species, when we’re allowed to be. Also the most destructive. Miracle-Level is Deerhoof’s mystical manifesto on creativity and trust. It celebrates the infinite small wonders of existence that spontaneously present themselves, when not obstructed by our death-driven masters. Musically, Miracle-Level is vulnerable, brave, and brimming with spicy surprises. Deerhoof’s 19th album is also their first to be recorded and mixed in a recording studio. Production was entrusted to Mike Bridavsky at No Fun Club in Winnipeg. This is also their first album written entirely in Satomi’s native language. Deerhoof once again speak in a secret code that only their fans understand, in which hooks abound, and genre is nonexistent.”
Ben de la Cour
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “With songs that explore life’s murky corners and shadowy characters, Ben de la Cour‘s music occupies the intersection between gothic Americana and dark, gritty folk. It’s a sound fueled by the stories and struggles of its creator, a lifelong explorer who’s never been afraid to shine a light on his own demons. “Folk music has a long tradition of darkness,” he explains, “and darkness is something I know a lot about.” That darkness takes on new dimensions with his fifth record Sweet Anhedonia, a gripping collection of Americana noir songwriting, heartland rockers, and folk ballads. He recorded the album with Jim White, a cult folksinger celebrated for his own Southern gothic sound. “Jim’s album Wrong-Eyed Jesus! helped me through a terrible time in my life,” says Ben. “I’ve always been such a big fan of his music. We worked together in Athens and Nashville, taking alternative approaches to my songs by building soundscapes and percussive patterns. The goal was to make an art record — something that was expansive but not bombastic.”
Watch my interview with Ben de la Cour HERE.
Gord Downie & Bob Rock
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Lustre Parfait, the long-mythologized collaboration between Gord Downie, the iconic frontman of The Tragically Hip, and Bob Rock, the legendary producer perhaps best known for Metallica’s Black Album, has finally arrived after more than a decade in the making. Inspired by their brotherhood in rock ’n’ roll, the 14 songs that make up this album are electrified and resplendent, a deep dedication of reverence to the magnitude of music itself. Downie and Rock’s collaboration began when they first worked together on The Tragically Hip’s World Container (2006) and We Are The Same (2009). It was after the second outing that Downie asked if Rock had music he could write lyrics for. The sonic spaces that Rock would provide led Downie into the depths of his notebooks, armed with the musical clues to find the brilliance mapped therein. On Lustre Parfait, charged with the full strength of his spirit and the magic of collaboration, Gord tugs on the heartstrings of the mind, with such perfection: ‘All I want / All I wish / Is for a heart I can give/ First word / To final wish / A heart I can give.’ ”
Watch my interview with Bob Rock HERE.
El Michels Affair & Black Thought
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “When Leon Michels and El Michels Affair released their first record Sounding Out The City, in 2005, it was hard to guess what was next for the multi-instrumentalist and his then-introduced, now-patented “cinematic soul” sound. Now, four EMA studio albums and scores of tribute and remix projects later — all while producing for and working with some of the biggest names in the industry — Michels has trademarked his sound, with each project taking audiences somewhere new and pushing the boundaries of what he is known for. The man is a river, not a lake and this time he takes his golden touch into the realm of hip-hop laying down a musical bed for one of the greatest to ever rhyme into a microphone: Black Thought of The Roots crew.”
Fall Out Boy
So Much (For) Stardust
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “To record So Much (For) Stardust — their eighth studio album and first release since 2018’s Mania — Fall Out Boy reunited with producer Neil Avron, who worked on their iconic three-record run of From Under the Cork Tree, Infinity on High and Folie à Deux. Unsurprisingly, So Much (For) Stardust finds the Chicago veterans returning to a more guitar-driven, rockier soundscape, with vocalist Patrick Stump’s smooth vocals soaring atop energetic pop-punk fare and seriously danceable rhythms. Speaking about the creation of So Much (For) Stardust, Stump confirms that Fall Out Boy took a bit of a throwback approach. “Technology has made it really easy to make records much more quickly these days. There’s nothing wrong with that, and that spontaneity can be exciting, but we wanted to get back to the way we used to work. We wanted to make a record that was really lovingly crafted and deliberate and patiently guided — like someone cooked you a delicate meal. I’m not a very proud guy, but I’m pretty proud of this record.”
Samantha Fish & Jesse Dayton
Death Wish Blues
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “The first collaborative album from Samantha Fish and Jesse Dayton, Death Wish Blues is a body of work born from a shared passion for pushing the limits of blues music. As one of the most dynamic forces in the blues world, Fish has made her name as a multi-award-winning festival headliner who captivates crowds with her explosive yet elegant guitar work, delivering an unbridled form of blues-rock that defies all genre boundaries. Dayton, meanwhile, boasts an extraordinary background that includes recording with the likes of Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings, touring as a guitarist for seminal punk band X, working with Rob Zombie on the soundtracks for his iconic horror films, and releasing a series of acclaimed solo albums. Produced by the legendary Jon Spencer of Blues Explosion, Death Wish Blues ultimately melds their eclectic sensibilities into a batch of songs both emotionally potent and wildly combustible.”
Watch my interview with Samantha Fish & Jesse Dayton HERE.
But Here We Are
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Following a year of staggering losses, personal introspection and bittersweet remembrances, Foo Fighters return with But Here We Are. A brutally honest and emotionally raw response to everything Dave Grohl and co. have endured over the last year, But Here We Are is a testament to the healing powers of music, friendship and family. Courageous, damaged and unflinchingly authentic, But Here We Are opens with the single Rescued, the first of 10 songs that run the emotional gamut from rage and sorrow to serenity and acceptance, and myriad points in between. Produced by Greg Kurstin and the band, But Here We Are is in nearly equal measure the 11th Foo Fighters album and the first chapter of their new life. Sonically channeling the naiveté of Foo Fighters’ 1995 debut, informed by decades of maturity and depth, But Here We Are is the sound of brothers finding refuge in the music that brought them together in the first place 28 years ago, a process that was as therapeutic as it was about a continuation of life.”
Irregularis (The Great Hiatus)
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “The undisputed kings of garage-rock are back! It’s been 22 years since the last Headcoats album, but now Billy Childish, Bruce Brand and Johnny Johnson are back with a brand-new studio album! Yes, you read that correctly! Irregularis (The Great Hiatus) was recorded last year at Ranscombe Studios in Rochester.”
The Hold Steady
The Price Of Progress
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Formed in 2003, The Hold Steady have released eight albums, numerous singles and played over 1000 shows. The Price Of Progress is the ninth studio album from the band, released on the band’s Positive Jams label. The Price Of Progress arrives as The Hold Steady mark the 20th anniversary of their foundation bringing new ideas, sounds, and textures to a still-evolving canon of studio album releases that began with 2004’s Almost Killed Me. The album was produced by longtime collaborator Josh Kaufman at The Clubhouse in Rhinebeck, N.Y., and mixed by D. James Goodwin. The Price Of Progress stands as their most sonically expansive record thus far, while also remaining unmistakably The Hold Steady, showcasing narrative rock ’n’ roll tales of ordinary people struggling and surviving in a modern world. The front and back of the album cover feature photographs by renowned Minneapolis based photographer Alec Soth.”
Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “A Jason Isbell record always lands like a decoder ring in the ears and hearts of his audience, a soundtrack to his world and magically to theirs, too. Weathervanes carries the same revelatory power. This is a storyteller at the peak of his craft, observing his fellow wanderers, looking inside and trying to understand, reducing a universe to four minutes. He shrinks life small enough to name the fear and then strip it away, helping his listeners make sense of how two plus two stops equaling four once you reach a certain age — and carry a certain amount of scars. “There is something about boundaries on this record,” Isbell says. “As you mature, you still attempt to keep the ability to love somebody fully and completely while you’re growing into an adult and learning how to love yourself.”
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
Petrodragonic Apocalypse; Or, Dawn Of Eternal Night: An Annihilation Of Planet Earth And The Beginning Of Merciless Damnation
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard rock out on their 24th album, PetroDragonic Apocalypse; or, Dawn of Eternal Night: An Annihilation of Planet Earth and the Beginning of Merciless Damnation. It is the group’s second full-length album excursion into thrash — following 2019’s Infest The Rats’ Nest — though, as you might expect, PetroDragonic Apocalypse… is no mere retread of Rats’ Nest’s gory glories, but rather a full evolutionary step all of its own. This one is for all the people out there who wanna watch the world burn.”
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “In Everything Harmony, the fourth full-length studio release from New York’s The Lemon Twigs, the prodigiously talented brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario offer 13 original servings of beauty that showcase an emotional depth and musical sophistication far beyond their years as a band, let alone as young men. While they eagerly devour musical influences from everything and everywhere, they have somehow arrived at a cohesive and dynamic sound that speaks to our troubled times. Having bounded onto the music scene with their precocious 2016 debut Do Hollywood, they threw caution to the wind two years later on their followup Go To School. By the time of their third album, Songs For The General Public (2020), The Lemon Twigs had begun to pull from a wide range of multigenerational inspirations, expertly darting from twee chamber pop balladry to full on glam punk, mixing plaintive singer-songwriter confessionals with an almost-Syd Barrett-level sense of outré pop. In an interview from the time, they expressed an interest in creating “something really beautiful sounding” based on vocal harmonies and developing their combined melodic sensibilities into a setting where “the sounds were as important as the songs.”
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Joy’All, the fifth solo album from Jenny Lewis and the followup to 2019’s critically acclaimed On The Line, finds the singer-songwriter embarking on a new era in a new town — and on a new label, as she joins the iconic roster of Blue Note/Capitol Records. “I started writing some of these songs on the road, pre-pandemic,” Lewis recalls, “and then put them aside as the world shut down. Then, from my home in Nashville in early 2021, I joined a week-long virtual songwriting workshop with a handful of amazing artists, hosted by Beck. The challenge was to write one song every day for seven days, with guidelines from Beck. The guidelines would be prompts like ‘write a song with 1-4-5 chord progression,’ ‘write a song with only cliches,’ or ‘write in free-form style.’ The first song I submitted to the group was Puppy And A Truck.” As the days progressed, the assignments kept coming in and Jenny ended up writing a good portion of Joy’All.”
The Lords Of Altamont
To Hell With Tomorrow The Lords Are Now!
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “To Hell With Tomorrow The Lords Are Now! is The Lords Of Altamont’s first live album — recorded not from the stage but in the studio, with every mic and preamp in the house peaking in the red. This isn’t another vague, distant-sounding live album with senseless stage banter and songs doctored up in post-production — this is more like an episode of Live At The BBC or a Peel Session. The band carefully chose songs that show who they are today, as well as where they have been for the last 23 years. Preproduction took a day, recording took a day — and then it was done. The result: An album that captures the true feeling of a Lords live recording with a no-nonsense approach. Sorry, kids — there are no stickers, no fake tattoos, and no autographs, just raw, live rock ’n’ roll.”
Should’ve Learned By Now
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “The search for one’s identity is a lifelong process that every individual must go through. Who someone is today is not the person they were yesterday nor who they may be tomorrow. Despite those changes, there is a general idea of a defined sense of self. No matter what happens, it is that small yet solid and grounding definition of self that continues to drive us forward in our search for identity and whatever may come with it. It would be difficult to find any artist who understands that better than the band Lucero. Since forming in Memphis in the late ’90s, Lucero’s base musical hallmarks have remained similar to the band’s initial sound established with their first record The Attic Tapes. In the history of their expansive discography, Lucero have evolved and embraced everything from southern rock to Stax-inspired Memphis soul, whilst simultaneously maintaining their distinctive sonic foundations. Over 20 years later, dedicated fans of the group still flock to hear the band’s punchy driving rhythms, punk-rooted guitar licks, and lyrics that evoke the whiskey-drenched sentimentality of Americana singer-songwriters. As expected of any band built to survive, Lucero have welcomed change over the course of their career, but it has always been on their terms.”
A Dizzying Lust
If there’s a word that sums up Eamon McGrath’s musical output, it’s dizzying. The Alberta-raised, Windsor-based artist’s eighth (yes, eighth!) album of 2023 is a collection of minimalist acoustic folk tracks written and composed while on the road during his 10-month world tour in support of his other 2022 release, the critically acclaimed Bells Of Hope. Many songs from the record were written aboard the high-speed Shinkansen bullet train during an autumn 2022 visit to Japan. While en route to the northern island of Hokkaido, McGrath chronicled the feeling of being thousands of miles from home, being an outsider in a foreign land, and the sensation of always being in a state of coming and going while enduring the perpetuity of touring for a living. McGrath is no stranger to these emotions, having been on the road non-stop since 2007, and having released seven albums this year alone in what is becoming an increasingly staggering and body of work. Tracked by McGrath alone in Windsor, A Dizzying Lust finds him channeling the frontier spirit of a folk singer alone on the road with an acoustic guitar. His trademark notoriety as a savage rocker is put to the test here as he opts instead for a rare subtle minimalism, focusing his attention on the lyrics and songs.”
Watch my interview with Eamon McGrath (and hear him play songs from A Dizzying Lust) HERE.
Miesha & The Spanks
Unconditional Love In Hi-Fi
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Calgary garage-rock duo Miesha & The Spanks are back with their punk-fueled album Unconditional Love In Hi-Fi. The album was recorded at the world-renowned National Music Centre in Alberta under the capable ears of producers Daniel Farrant (The Buzzcocks) and Paul Rawson. Miesha Louie is a mixed-Secwépemc artist living in Treaty 7 Territory, and The Spanks are the many drummers who’ve stood beside her (well, sat behind her) on stage. Sean Hamilton is her latest and longest musical partner, and they’ve spent the last five years building and embellishing their garage-rock sound into something almost too big for two people to contain. Deeply influenced by proto-punk classics like The Runaways, MC5, Stooges, and ’90s riot grrrl/grunge like L7 and The Gits, Miesha & The Spanks conjure an energy that hits you in the face, throwing you into a world of killer riffs and sweaty gigs. And it’s in those sweaty spaces that Miesha & The Spanks thrive, fresh off the highway, out of the van, and onto the stage.”
Warch my interview with Miesha Louie HERE.
Life Under The Gun
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Militarie Gun are a truly uncategorizable band. Led by vocalist Ian Shelton, the band’s debut full-length Life Under The Gun is almost impossible to describe without bouncing between contradictions. Is it abnormally aggressive pop music or is it unusually catchy hardcore? Is it deeply intellectual or is it satisfyingly primal? Is it a vulnerable attempt to unpack lifelong cycles of hurt, or is it a collection of world-beating, absurdist punk anthems? In the end, the answer is obvious: it’s all of it. It’s Militarie Gun. Since forming in 2020, the group have been releasing music and touring at a startling rate, and while Life Under The Gun feels like a culmination of this recent hard-earned momentum, the record is inextricably linked to Shelton’s past. “I grew up in a household with family members struggling with addiction,” he explains. “It was an oppressive force. We were always wondering, ‘Is it going to be a good day or a bad day? Are the cops going to come today? What am I going to come home to after school?’ You could only escape it for so many hours at a time.” The challenges of his homelife were only exacerbated by living in Enumclaw, WA, a sparsely populated rural suburb where Shelton spent his formative years longing for a way out. In this difficult and stifling environment, the roots of Life Under The Gun began to grow. As he began to pick up instruments, play in bands, and write his own songs, music quickly became a vital outlet for self-expression, but Shelton couldn’t shake the idea that it was also a literal escape route.”
The Age Of Pleasure
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “On the heels of her showstopping Met Gala appearance and the release of the single Lipstick Lover, Janelle Monáe announced her hugely anticipated fourth album The Age Of Pleasure. The Age of Pleasure also includes the acclaimed single Float (ft. Seun Kuti + Egypt 80). Monáe is without question one of the most celebrated artists of the modern era, an eight-time Grammy-nominated singer, songwriter, producer, performer, and fashion icon known worldwide for her inimitable style and visionary sound. With multiple celebrated albums — The Archandroid (2010), The Electric Lady (2013) and Dirty Computer (2018) — numerous critically acclaimed theatrical and television performances, and her unwavering activism for social justice and the LGBTQIA+ community, Monáe continues to be one of the most compelling and important artists of this generation.”
Moving On Skiffle
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “It should come as no surprise that Van Morrison has made another album inspired by skiffle. Or that it takes a homemade style that exploded across Britain in the mid-1950s and brings to it a level of sophistication and soulfulness it didn’t always possess first time round. Skiffle has its roots in the African-American jug bands of 1920s New Orleans, who got around a lack of funds for proper musical instruments by using washboards, tea chests, jugs and tubs to appropriate their own take on the country blues. By the time it reached the U.K., largely thanks to enthusiasts such as Ken Colyer, Chris Barber and Lonnie Donegan — who scored a massive hit in 1955 with his skiffle take on blues legend Lead Belly’s Rock Island Line — it became an entry point for a generation of callow British youth into the endlessly absorbing world of American blues, folk, jazz and country music. And nobody has inhabited that music, over an entire lifetime, as much as Morrison.”
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “The world is filling up with trash. Humanity remains addicted to pollution despite the planet getting hotter by the minute. People are downing horse dewormer because some goober on television told them it cured COVID. Tom Herman of pioneering avant garage band Pere Ubu still doesn’t have his own Wikipedia article. The apocalypse, it seems, is stupider than anyone could’ve predicted. Fortunately, the absurdities of modern life have always been prime subject matter for Seattle’s Mudhoney. The foursome take aim at all of them with barbed humor and muck-encrusted riffs on Plastic Eternity, their 11th album. Mudhoney (vocalist Mark Arm, guitarist Steve Turner, bassist Guy Maddison and drummer Dan Peters) remain the ur underground group, their gnarly primordial punk stew and Arm’s sharply funny lyrics as potent a combination as they’ve been since the band’s formation in the late 1980s. From taking on climate change from the perspective of the climate — if the climate tried to play guitar like Jimi Hendrix (Cry Me An Atmospheric River) — to a driving rock song about taking drugs meant for livestock (Here Comes the Flood) to a classic punk attack on treating humans like livestock (Human Stock Capital), Plastic Eternity is a heady run through all the proto-genres of guitar rock with a keen eye on the inanities of the world in the 2020s.”
Calm Ya Farm
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Spiked with their signature breed of sharply crafted garage-punk — and with lead vocalist, guitarist and harmonica triple threat Ambrose Kenny-Smith’s surrealist musings on the ever-turbulent world around him — Calm Ya Farm, the new collection from Melbourne’s Murlocs, twists country-rock convention into a free-flowing album fully in touch with the frenetic energy of modern life. The band’s most collaborative work to date, Calm Ya Farm unfolds in more elaborate and sophisticated arrangements and achieves new sonic depths largely by creating space for all five members to pursue their most eccentric impulses. “With this record we tried to steer away from all the distortion and dirt and grit, or at least let the grit come off a bit more clean-sounding,” says Kenny-Smith, who — when he isn’t making music with guitarist Callum Shortal (Orb), drummer Matt Blach (Beans) and Tim Karmouche (Crepes) — also plays with bassist Cook Craig (Pipe-Eye) in the globally beloved psych-rock powerhouse King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard. Over the course of its 12 wildly catchy tracks, Calm Ya Farm touches on everything from the vicious tone of political discourse to the brain-addling effect of conspiracy theories, adorned with such unexpected flourishes as lush flute melodies, potent flamenco-guitar riffs, and dreamlike Farfisa tones.
Watch my 2022 interview with Ambrose Kenny-Smith HERE.