Bottled Up’s Video For “Punish” is a Visceral Visual Metaphor for a Deeply Dysfunctional Relationship

“Punish” begins as musical fever dream as depicted as analog in the music video for the song as singer Nikhil Rao of Bottled Up wakes up to a room with faceless nurses administering to him a mysterious treatment. The surreal sound is reminiscent of an odd mixture of the rhythm of Joy Division’s “Colony” and a particularly funky Talking Heads song. Or like a sanguine Parquet Courts. The song gives voice to the anxieties of a dysfunctional and even abuse relationship that began as they often do with passion and a willingness from one partner to overlook all the warning signs. The clinical setting of the video is perfect for a situation in which one is dissected and being under the enforced mercy of someone you should be able to trust but who violates that trust constantly until it’s too late. Mid-song the synth work and syncopation of the music seems like a nod to Blondie’s “Rapture” before dropping back into the song’s irresistible groove straight to the conclusion where in the music video the faceless nurses high five each other for nefarious work well done. Watch the video on YouTube and follow Bottled Up at the links below. The group’s latest album, the colorful and aptly titled Grand Bizarre released 5/27 on Misra,

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Child Seat’s Glam Synth Pop Single “Burning” is Like a Tribute to Living in Your Feelings Like You’re a Character in a 1980s Science Fiction Action Epic

Child Seat, photo courtesy the artists

If Bonnie Tyler had a current career as a writer and director of science fiction movies you’d hope she’d tap the likes of Child Seat to do music for her various films. The “Burning” single and its music video festooned with imagery of interstellar objects while Madeleine Matthews dances and sings in the foreground with wind sweeping through her feathered hair as Josiah Mazzaschi unleashes fiery and tasty guitar licks with an all but stoic calm. It’s a personal dynamic not unlike that of Sparks with Russel Mael delivering the physical melodrama in the performance while his brother Ron in his own quasi-stoic way helps to orchestrate the music that gives the vocals their context. Toward the end of the video Jeff Schroeder comes into view with a guitar solo worthy of Joe Satriani or Steve Stevens circa 1986 and seals the aesthetic. But the energy of the song doesn’t feel throwback, it feels very present and visceral. Watch the video for “Burning” on YouTube, follow Child Seat on Instagram and look out for Child Seat’s debut album out in Fall 2022.

Giant Waste of Man Charts the Path of Existential Despair to Tentative and Pragmatic Hope on “Summer, after”

Giant Waste of Man, photo by Robin Laananen

Giant Waste of Man is plugged into the existential despair of the world today and in 2021 and 2022 spinning that into thoughtful and gentle songs about sorting through the deluge of feelings and panning for nuggets of truth in the floodstream of experiences and information that are definitely trending bleak and perilous. In the video for “Summer, after” we see a landscape in near sepia tones that depict perhaps the Los Angeles skyline in the background and immediately taking you back, if you remember the imagery or if you were there, when the Bay Area looked like Blade Runner 2049. The lonely piano figure, the ominous drones, the delicate brush of acoustic guitar riffs and hushed vocals in warm harmony make this song seemingly about all the desperate and dramatic gestures, all the bravado, all the surefire plans of rescue and renewal, the talk of returning to normal is just the conditioning of culture flexing in your heart all while you know it amounts to zero and that we are living in a time when bolder and quicker action are called for not fueled by the corrosive ideas and ideologies that have guided civilization for hundreds of years down a path of destruction and fascism. But we were never prepared for this, we were told all kinds of lies about how things are, how obeying this rule and that rule and working hard and all that nonsense about meritocracy and institutions and the rule of law preserving a just way of life—the way it has played out has hollowed out our lives and our civilization while we do pretty much nothing in the face of authoritarian rule barreling down in reaction to a weak “moderate” government serving almost entirely narrow moneyed interests and warping all collective effort in service to a profit that won’t matter if billions die in climate/ecological disaster or nuclear war. This song humanizes this backdrop of the thinking of anyone with a real awareness of what’s going on in the world and has any sense of things. When you hear the lyrics at the end of the song “Never was a man OK with a lie/When the truth was right in front of me” it just makes it simple to dispense with the chaff compromised public discourse and take life and the world on its own terms which may be one of the only paths through the rough times ahead. Musically it might be reminiscent for some of Broken Social Scene minus the dense electronic component but tonally of Low in the twenty-first century with its combination of vulnerability and emotional truth. Watch the video of “Summer, after” on YouTube and connect with Giant Waste of Man at the links below. The group’s new LP Biographer is due out August 26 on Chain Letter Collective.

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Pine Barons Pay Tribute to the Weird and Wonderful World of Fishmans on the Psychedelic Video for “ナイトクルージング (Night Cruising)”

Pine Barons, photo courtesy the artists

Pine Barons hail from the pitch pines of southern New Jersey, an area that includes the infamous Pine Barrens where The New Jersey Devil is said to frolic in the area of The Blue Hole and the ghost of Captain Kidd among other spirits roam. So the decision to do an entire tribute album to the influential Japanese psych band Fishmans seems like an interesting and odd choice for I LOVE FISH due out July 8 including an ambitious cover of the entire 1996 album Long Season which is five tracks comprising a single song akin to Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick but driven by hypnotic piano and the late Shinji Sato’s idiosyncratic and compelling vocals. The lead single from the album is the introspective and moody “ナイトクルージング (Night Cruising)” and its shimmery tonal dynamic. The video features indeed a night drive but one that seems to simultaneously take place in the water and on a road with the color palette being one of distorted hues emphasized like something from a clumsy late 90s filmed to VHS production that is perfect for the song and its woozy pace swirls of rhythm and dub-like iterations of melody. At times reminiscent of something Candy Claws/Sound of Ceres might do but also a fascinating recreation of the truly unique original that one has to assume influenced indirectly if not directly the likes of Black Moth Super Rainbow and The Stargazer Lilies—gently trippy and mysterious, qualities we need more of in music these days. Watch the video for “Night Cruising” on YouTube and follow Pine Barons at the links provided.

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Bad Flamingo Adopts a Zen-like Composure in the Face of Everyday Chaos on “Rolling Around In It”

Bad Flamingo, photo courtesy the artists

There’s something about Bad Flamingo’s “Rolling Around In It” that sounds like something you’d hear in the opening sequence of an animated film version of a Daniel Clowes graphic novel. The eccentric elements of sound from the use of instrumentation in the guitar and bass and almost Bossa Nova rhythms in minimalist arrangements coming together in peak moments and quickly dissolving into the background to accent and frame a series of images in the lyrics that seem to follow a symbolic dream logic. Words about how a cold glass of water will turn someone into mud, the chorus of “a seven a seven a cherry a cherry a cherry a pit” suggesting the outcome on an unusual slot machine, a lighting rod that can actually be surprised it got struck. Is that really what we’re hearing? What does it all mean? That everyone and everything has unexpected vulnerabilities and outcomes and best to take a Zen approach to this built in element of chaos in a world of complex dynamic intersections? Who can say but this song that comes off like one of Suzanne Vega’s more idiosyncratic and meditative pop compositions but even weirder has an undeniable hook like much of the output of Bad Flamingo. Listen to “Rolling Around In It” on Spotify and follow Bad Flamingo at the links below.

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Cabin’s Lushly Epic “Whatever You Have” Taps Into a Deep Sense of Melancholic Nostalgia

Cabin, photo courtesy the artist

Cabin’s lush, pop mini-epic “Whatever You Have” sounds like something from another era. It’s lo-fi aspect makes one think of something like an early 80s demo tape sent to a record label with the hopes of getting signed. The songwriting is fully realized, the arrangements gorgeously fleshed out and the vocals syncing perfectly with the processional dynamics sitting well in the mix. An echoing piano with lush, fuzzy synth washes and bells adding a melodic touch to the textural percussion pushes the memory into emotional musical touchstones like Tears for Fears or even Joe Jackson. The lyrics seem to come from a similar perspective of grappling with aging on the cusp of thirty with a tone of resigned, melancholic reverie aswim in a flow of the song and its evocatively atmospheric ebb and flow. One hears regret and contemplation of the give and take of a relationship and what it means and where it might go and coming to terms with an existential uncertainty in a time of psychological life transition. It’s like listening to a fading VHS tape of an old concert from the early-to-mid-80s and that is part of its charm both sonically and in its ability to tape into a sense of nostalgia without wallowing in it stylistically. Listen to “Whatever You Have” on Spotify.

Baudelaire Spins Despair Into Catharsis on the Urgent Post-punk of “Lethe”

Baudelaire, photo courtesy the artists

Baudelaire made an interesting choice in titling a song “Lethe” invoking name of one of the rivers of the Greek underworld, the one corresponding to forgetfulness and oblivion. Which suits the name of the project borrowing the surname of the Nineteenth Century French symboliste, Decadent and modernist poet of some renown. The lyrics paint a landscape of darkness and emotional urgency while untangling a web of deceit and betrayals in a social circle fraught with fragile and fake relationships even to the point where the line imploring one’s “last remaining friend don’t make me feel better” about a situation that can only turn toxic and unsustainable in pursuit of a life worth living. The pulsing rhythms and guitar paired with dramatic vocals surge with great momentum and riffs run abstract into atmospheric drones and back again in a dynamic that puts guitar sounds on the same sonic plane as the fine synth work suggesting flashes of dark realization and the disorientation that comes with acute disappointment spiraling into a desperate dispiritedness. The catharsis of the anxiety expressed in the song is a more positive form oblivion as transformation and transmuting the intensely bleak mood into inspiration. Fans of early Modern English will appreciate Baudelaire’s aesthetic greatly. Listen to “Lethe” on Spotify and follow Baudelaire at the links below.

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Palm Ghosts’ “Another Way Escapes Me” is an Exuberant Song of Self-Acceptance

Palm Ghosts, photo from Bandcamp

Palm Ghosts’ single “Another Way Escapes Me” unfurls redolent of 80s synth pop and post-punk bands like Depeche Mode and Duran Duran with a touch of INXS, perhaps later era Comsat Angels but with modern sensibilities. The bright synth melody sounds like something from an old higher end Casio keyboard and the pulsing bass line accents push the song along like an undercurrent more felt than distinctly heard once the song into its full form following a spare into. Whatever influences one imagines one hears in the songs tonally rich composition about an inner compulsion to be how you are and trusting the best of those instincts and not knowing another way of being yet aware of one’s flaws and limitations and having learned to work with them rather than trying to be someone and something you’re not. Its an exuberant song of self-acceptance at a time in life when you can be cognizant of who you are on a primordial level. Listen to “Another Way Escapes Me” on Soundcloud and follow Palm Ghosts at the links provided.

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“Claude The Armadillo” is Lou Hazel’s Tale of the Senselessness of the Arms Race

Lou Hazel, photo courtesy the artist

For his story song “Claude The Armadillo” Lou Hazel has crafted an Americana pop song that seems to tap into similar realms of creativity and imagination drawn upon by Marty Robbins and Harry Nilsson circa The Point. The animated music video adds another dimension of poignancy and loss to a song whose gentle acoustic guitar melody, countrified vocals and touches of pedal steel flow over a steady, simply beat seemingly established by hand percussion like bongos and shakers. The whole lends the song an air of the folkloric in the story of a man and his friendship with an armadillo who has seen his share of the dark side of the American war machine and the destructive aspects of human civilization on the natural world. And yet our narrator regrets these trespasses even as he isn’t sure how to convey those misgivings to the armadillo in a way that would have any meaning without seeming like a patronizing jerk. The song ends with Claude, the titular armadillo, and presumably Lou mysteriously parting ways but with Lou saying how he misses not having the rightfully jaded Claude to talk to for a spell on their journey through this fraught world. Though we’re told they’re still friends and presumably there are more Claude stories in Hazel’s repertoire in the past and to come. It’s an odd song in a way but one that has the earnest charm of a childhood storybook for adults. Watch the video for “Claude The Armadillo” on YouTube and follow Lou Hazel aka Chris Frisina at the links below.

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Lou Hazel on Sleepy Cat Records

“Sixteen Gold Candles” by polyheDren is a Non-Linear Psychedelic Jazz Funk Exploration of Notions of Youth and Identity

The unmistakable voice of one of the members of legendary avant-garde, multi-media pop group The Residents can be heard throughout polyheDren’s “Sixteen Gold Candles” telling a surreal coming of age. As can some fairly intricate drumming courtesy of Josh Freese (the Vandals, Devo, Guns N’ Roses, A Perfect Circle, Nine Inch Nails and others). The music video a stream of dream logic psychedelic narrative with the candles featuring prominently as well as a bevy of otherworldly beings seemingly existing inside an interactive Rube Goldberg-esque setting as a bizarre art studio. Juxtapose that with graphic design and video art imagery reminiscent of something one saw in the early 2010s during which many video artists free-associated ideas and colorful imagery to unmoor the imaginations of viewers from conventional conceptions of time, proportion and visual thinking conditioned largely by classical conceptions of what art should look like. Don’t bother looking for a linear plot in the video because even the “sixteen gold candles” seem to be a metaphor for awakening into your own sense of self separate from being defined in ways that are simply utilitarian for the dominant economic and cultural paradigm in which one’s identity must be subsumed by the exigencies of the narrow concept of the marketplace favored by so-called free market advocates. But these considerations aside it’s a playful jazz funk pop piece set in a fantastical realm where creativity is king and a place you don’t mind visiting for the duration of the song. Watch the video on YouTube and connect with polyheDren at the links below where you can further explore the album Psychic out now on Bandcamp and other online sources.

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