People like lists. People on the internet really love lists. There are whole websites of lists, YouTube channels announcing the TOP 10 SEGA GENESIS HIDDEN GEMS, and various other clicky clacky places to drench yr mind in a weird sticky substance.

Here are my favorite music releases of the year:


Climax Landers - Climax Landers
Climax Landers made such a fun album with springy rhythms and candy apple guitars. It's a pop carousel at the little playground down the street, the one that warbles a bit when it swings around.


Radon Chong - I Keep On Talking to You
Radon Chong finally released an album, and it was amazing. The songs are out-there, complex, and brilliant. It's not hard to get into either, with some surprising pop numbers.


Aunt Dracula - Freaker
Aunt Dracula's Freaker sounds like what I dream about and my thoughts on hypoglycemia. It's something that I would make myself. Journeying through these dark crystal spheres is a journey every sonic voyager should undertake.


The Chinchees - The Chinchees
The Chinchees self-titled album is full of sweet pop-punk (the good kind). It's a really fun album with a classic sound that still does something new.


NONZOO - WAZOO
Wazoo is a dark masterpiece forged of insectile sounds from another world. It's creepy and crawly, all jumpy and weird. I haven't heard too many other things like it.


the Miami Dolphins - Water Your Waiting For
Water Your Waiting is a strange concept album about government lies and taking actions against that but not going in over yr head in those deep waters of danger that often lead to isles of paranoia. It's got more bouncy vocals and weird rhythms.


Sweet Baby Jesus - Lyres of Ur
Lyres of Ur is a real rock 'n' roll album. This is the year 2017. It works.


Neuringer / Dulberger / Masri - Dromedaries
A deep free-jazz dream of a desert shore. It's quite hypnotic.


The Jesus and Mary Chain - Damage and Joy
The Jesus and Mary Chain made a great album after a desert of nineteen years. The clean production, fuzzy guitars, and callbacks to 60s rock and roll combined with the honest lyrics make this a future classic. Most importantly, it helped me feel positive, despite the oft darkness of the band.


BBGuns - Dreamcast and Willow singles
These two singles haven't been reviewed on Skull Valley yet, but they showcase BBGuns alt-rap sound with great flowing flow and rockish rhythms. We'll catch the full album in 2018.



My favorite show this year was seeing the reunited Carsickness downtown at Space Gallery. I never thought I would get to see that band, and it was really cool to see them amidst all of the pfotographs and posters from the past. They were all really nice guys too!

Here are my other favorite shows of the year:

Patti Smith @ Carnegie Music Hall (3/13/17)
It was amazing to see Patti Smith. This was before I had started writing the blog again, so there is no account of it on here. She was very cool and brave.

The Damned, Bleached, Sweepyheads @ House of Blues, Cleveland (4/28/17)
This was another amazing big show that was more than expected. Again it was before the blog really came back. It was fun traveling with Dan and Racheal to Cleveland. I don't know why there was so much McDonald's food.


Climax Landers, Sweet Baby Jesus, Blød Maud, In Arthur's Court @ Roboto (5/21/17)
Climax Landers made me feel confident in musick again. I felt so weird and fucked up after my time working at Roboto, going to school, and working full-time. This was a breath of fresh air. I will never forget it.


This was my first time listening to Nick Cave solo, and it left a lasting impression. Everyone standing on the stage at the end under those green lights was magical.


I felt really out of place here at the beginning, but everyone was really nice. There was no mic stand, so we had to use a vacuum. I saw a real goat. What a strange day!


Ladyfest @ Cattivo (6/24/17)
All of the bands were amazing, especially Blakk Rapp Madusa and Iris Creamer. I got to see my friends The Lopez and Swampwalk too! I am glad that I finally went this year and conquered my anxiety.


I saw a clown and a weird TV sales pitch and a sludgey band. It was the last Station P show. Sneff was so cool, and it was fun to just hang out. I will miss Station P.


2017 had a lot of bucket list shows for me. I don't have a bucket list, but it's the same idea. I don't even like the term. Lydia was cool, and I had never seen Empty Beings before. All the bands did a great job!


I enjoyed playing this last minute show. It was my first show in over a year. I always enjoy Thief in Your Head for doing something very different, something that is familiar and alien at the same time.


Everything went wrong in all the right ways. Sometimes that's the best.


I couldn't believe the energy of NONZOO! The singer was so amazing and cool! Radon Chong and Night Vapor also gave it their all. It was almost a reunion of various people from the Doo Wop Mansion, Romeo Street, and the like.


I enjoyed the camaraderie felt during this show between the other two bands and mine. It had a rough start with delays and some wild loading scenario, but it worked in the end.


This show had an amazing ambiance to it that I've never seen before - a spooky faerie twilight world sprung from nowhere. Two of the sets took place in a seemingly abandoned building. It was also really fun to play in a chaotic and barely constructed group with a variety of artists.


Miami Dolphins blew me away with their sardonic post-punk. I had no expectations going in. I always like seeing Aloe. I also really enjoyed my own set; it is one of my favorites I've done.


This was just really fun. It was cool to see all the covers and costumes. Seeing Weird Paul in a backup role and Mae just get up and play with the Ween cover band with no practice or preparation with that band. Dumplings and friends as The Damned was as good as the real thing!


Arto Linday, Beauty Pill @ The Andy Warhol Museum (10/18/17)
Another big show for this year and another one where I didn't exactly know what I was getting in to. Beauty Pill was awesome and Arto Lindsay's solo stuff was awesome. I have the setlist, and I got to thank the artist in person for his influence on me.


I just had fun at this show dressing up in my weird 


I got to see Steve play with a plant and a guy in a robot suit rock out to sci-fi rhythms about being a machine man. I didn't expect it to be so cool.


A final big show for the year that really, really delivered. My trip to New York was strange and full of wonder, and this was maybe the highlight. I didn't think the Jesus and Mary Chain would really deliver, but they really, really did. I love the new songs and the new album; seeing it all live sealed the deal!

Thanks for reading! I'll be back in 2018 with more reviews and some new features! I'll see you in a bit. Happy New Year!

Well, the year is ending in a few days. I wanted to get this final album review out for the new Jesus and Mary Chain album, Damage and Joy. I saw the band when I was in New York in November, and I bought the album sort of on an obligatory whim. I really didn't like one of their later albums, Honey's Dead, so I have been cautious about the JMC's output for a while. This broke my expectations for sure.


The album cover is pretty cool. I like the saturated look and the playfulness of it. The text has a fresh, erratic feel to it. Since this is a comeback album, and one that seems exceptionally honest for the majority of it, I like that it blatently displays the year on the front. Originally I felt like this cover was lazy, but it made sense after listening to the musick.


"Amputation" starts the album off with a driving, full sound. It's sets the tone for the rest of the album with a clear production, thumpy drums, powerful bass, and the expected noisy guitars. There might even be some electronics here making feedback sounds in the background. The lyrics are downbeat but hopeful. It's a comeback of survivors. The next track, "War on Peace", is a slow and dark refutation of the solemnity of old age. Despite this, the song has a classic sound akin to 60s garage-rock and girl groups and other things that inspired Psychocandy. I love the fast outro and noise. "All Things Pass" sounds like it's about the aftermath of living fast and hard, having found yrself after looking for so long. It's a simple song, and the latter half is pretty cool. It is a bit repetitive. "Always Sad" goes back to the old school rock 'n' roll sound. It's a duet, and that works well. I like the guitar parts a lot. There's a kind of star-crossed lovers thing here. It's a familiar feeling.

"Song for a Secret" continues where "Always Sad" left off. It's another duet, and it's a love song between survivors. It's confident with bright bells and upbeat, ringing guitars. The vocals on "The Two of Us" sound like Joey Ramone. It's another love duet and again bolstered by maturity. The chorus is sickeningly sweet, but I like it.

The next track, "Los Feliz (Blues and Greens)" is a pretty dark one with very bright chiming guitars and breathy vox. It sounds like a criticism of American exceptionalism and the violence that results from ennui. The chorus is super forceful, punchy, and hits hard. This is one of my favorite tracks.


"Mood Rider" sounds like a drug trip or the kind of thoughts you have at 3AM falling apart in strands of various shades, courage and cowardice in the face of the unknown. I really like this one too. "Presidici (Et Chapaquiditch)" is a cool song that makes sense to me, though I couldn't really tell you what it's about. The lyrics are amazing: "and the son of Allah, he was a hell of a guy, hippie of God and famous liberal guy". "Get on Home" is an old blues song that isn't old, but maybe Howlin' Wolf would have written it if he was alive today.

Nearing towards the end, "Facing Up to the Facts" is kind of weird, but it's another one about coming to terms with the real world. The lyrics are funny and dark, though they also make me think a bit. "Don't worry be happy". Yes and no at the same time, right? The next track, "Simian Split" has a kind of free jazz intro and then this amazing verse - "I killed Kurt Cobain. I put the shot right through his brain. And his wife gave me the job, 'cause I'm a big, fat, lying slob."

I didn't like "Black and Blues", the penultimate track, too much at first. It works as the song goes along. I do like the guitar when it goes out into some space orbits. It's definitely not one of my favorites though. I think it's the weakest track on the album.

"Can't Stop the Rock" is a good end. It's back to the love song duet thing, and it's kind of an obvious song, if that makes sense, which I think it sort of why the Jesus and Mary Chain work as a band.

Damage and Joy was much more than I expected it to be. I didn't know anything about it when I went to see the band, and, while they were awesome live, I did not know if the record would be of the same quality. I was expecting "Reverence" from Honey's Dead, but I got something that summed up their output as a whole, something that combined the bleakness of Darklands with the neo-garage of Psychocandy and the best of their later records. Damage and Joy also is more than just a cool album to me; it made me feel better about myself and about the year that is coming up. I've been suffering from depression, a lack of order, and a disconnect from others. I listened to the album right after I got back from New York and intended to write this review a few weeks ago, but I couldn't get myself together. It seemed like such a task, this being an actual record by a band that a lot of people know. After listening to it again to write this review, I feel much better. Not everything can do that. Damage and Joy gets a Good.

After the Jesus and Mary Chain show the night before and the show at Brooklyn Bazaar the night before that, I was a little tired. I had also wandered around New York City so much in the last few days, searching for old video games, little stores, and remnants of Ramones. Now it was Saturday, November 18th, and I was set to see a true living legend, John Cale, the reason I planned this trip in the first place.

After stopping by VideoGamesNewYork to search for an elusive black GunCon that apparently never existed (at least in terms of me seeing it there in October), I went back to the Airbnb and got ready to head back out. I ate my last Italian bread/Tofurky slices/green sauce sandwich that I had been eating pretty much every day and dropped off all of my camera junk. I took a different train to where I needed to go. This train took forever to arrive.

When I got to the Atlantic Terminal, it was almost showtime. I asked some people where the Gilman Opera House was, and it turned out that they were headed there too. We got there in a minute or two.

The Brooklyn Academy of Music is not as rude or thorough at the gate as the security at the Playstation Theater. It was a grand building that is just what it sounds like it would be, clearly designed for things far before rock musick and the like. My seat was on the second floor, mezzanine 1, which I misread as "magazine 1" to the usher. "I guess you need new glasses", she said.

The view was a little blocked. It said that on the ticket, but the picture on the website made it look a little clearer. Still, it wasn't much of a problem for me. The curtain was closed, glowing with a violet light as a drone filled the air and a man memorably yelled out, "Hail! Hail! John Cale!"

I was so excited to see this, even if there was not much to see at the start. As the song progressed, I realized this was "Frozen Warnings" from Nico's The Marble Index. That was quite a surprise. Actually, the whole set was to me.

I had thought that I would be seeing John Cale play The Velvet Underground and Nico. He did not do that. He had played that album the last two nights, but this third night was dedicated to his solo material. Surprisingly, I have never listened to any John Cale solo albums. I know "Rosegarden Funeral of Sores" from Bauhaus' cover, but that is it. The things I heard on this night were not much different than what I expected, Scott Walker sounding stuff. Cale's songs started more droney and dark and melancholic, but they became more rockish and electronic towards the end with three new songs - "Pretty People", "Hatred", and "The Legal Status of Ice". It was all new to me.

Those last three songs stood out to me. They recalled when I saw Patti Smith, her call to younger generations to fight back against evil beings that sprang from her generation. "Rise up! Rise up!", Cale told us on "Pretty People". "Hatred" was harsh and dissonant. The last song might be the most interesting on a lyrical level. ICE is the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency that has been in the news in the past year due to the actions of the orange man who assailed the highest executive flagpole. How legal are ICE's actions? And also, how long will this last? Orange ice will melt eventually just like normal water. This was a call to everyone in the audience to do what is right.

John Cale's band was huge. I don't know what classifies something as an orchestra, but this had many of the same pieces. In addition to the standard rock drumkit, synth, bass, keyboard, and guitar, there was an entire string section and small choir. In terms of visuals, videos sprang up behind the band, huge and eerily distorted by the cavernous building. It was a place more than just an event.

I felt lost in that place throughout the show. I felt a little drained from all the melancholy of those songs, lost in a darkness with the others around me. When the lights came back on, I felt strange but somewhat relieved. I gathered my belongings and left the building. I walked around a fountain outside and went to the train station to charge my pfone. Then I just went back to the Airbnb. I didn't want to be out all night and have to ring the bell and awaken my host. I also didn't want to be late getting up in the morning.

That night I realized I overpacked my bags. I had bought some cheap vegetables to bring back to Pittsburgh, but I ended up having to cook them right away. I figured I would eat them in the morning. However, I had nothing to store them in or a way to reheat them. I ate a bunch of cooked leeks in the middle of the night. I was still thinking about John Cale's musick. I packed the pineapples, Famicom games, PS2 light gun, Lego sets, Jesus and Mary Chain shirts, and various CDs. It barely fit. Then, in the morning I said goodbye to my host, took the train to Manhattan, and walked to the bus station. I was actually early. The trip back to Pittsburgh was fine, though I still felt lost in that darkness from the night before.


The day after seeing that show at Brooklyn Bazaar, I was set on seeing the Jesus and Mary Chain. I had intended to get a ticket the previous day, but I ended up doing a bit too much shopping around various areas of Brooklyn that I had never been to before. On November 17th, the day of the JMC show, I went to Manhattan with some time to spare. I rushed to the Playstation Theater worrying the tickets would be sold out. Thankfully they were not. I was really excited for the show to start in an hour.

Since I had some extra time, I walked over to the Lego Store in Rockefeller Center. Despite having been to New York many times before, I had only been there once before in October when I was heading to the bus back to Pittsburgh. I didn't get to buy anything that time, but I had a few things in mind now.

a sci-fi serial character, a lycanthropic hippie, and a Warhol-esque actor

a little kid excited about Christmas (I didn't notice the lipstick), a yinzer tourist, and an artist inspired by Agata (Melt-Banana)

a henchman from a horror film who feeds victims to his hounds, a vampire housewife, and a cool rockabilly girl
I got to the store and picked out the things I had seen last time - some small seasonal/holiday sets. Then I saw the amazing little station where you could build minifigures to purchase. There were some unique pieces here, at least to me, like transparent green popsicles, a little Lego Oscar award, and of course a Lego version of the kind of New York tourist memorabilia shirts you see all over Midtown. I made nine figures, creating little backstories and stuff in my head. It was fun to play around with all the pieces, and I helped some of the other customers with finding the pieces they wanted if I had seen something like it.

I rushed back to the Playstation Theater. Unfortunately, my bag was so full of the Lego minifigure sets and some other stuff that I only got to get one of those seasonal sets - a discontinued wedding topper thing. It was pretty weird, but it was the last one in the store. When I arrived back to see the Jesus and Mary Chain there was a bit of a line. There was pretty intense security before entering the building; I had to empty my entire bag, Legos and all. It took a long time and made one of the security people angry. They got really concerned when they saw I had a camera, but I said that I had planned to leave my bag at the bag check, which I had thought was mandatory anyway. It ended up alright.

The inside of the Playstation Theater was huge - I couldn't believe how big it was! There were some Playstation 4s to test out, which I didn't get a chance to do. Even the bathrooms were pretty spacious. The actual stage area was pretty awesome. Just like everything else, it was quite large. I was able to get right to the front since it was still early. Nobody was really sure if there was an opening band, but it turns out there was. I don't think they were listed on the physical ticket.


The opening band was Mark Crozer and the Rels. I think I may have heard of them a long time ago. They were pretty cool, reminding me of the Soft Boys and other things that are sort of proto-Britpop. It was funny when he asked who was a fan of WWE before playing the song used by Bray Wyatt. I enjoyed this set, though it was just the beginning.



After a short break, the Jesus and Mary Chain appeared. The lights were really intense during their set, flashing and displaying their name. It was almost too much at times. The Jesus and Mary Chain opened the set with a song from their new album Damage and Joy, "Amputation". They played a lot of other songs from that album too. I had not heard the album until after the show, but the songs were good - hard and fast and not so edgelord-ish as "Reverence", which I can't believe they ended the set with. Even "Reverence" sounded good live. The Jesus and Mary Chain played a lot of the great older songs in addition to these new ones, stuff like "Cherry Came Too", "April Skies", "Some Candy Talking", and "Darklands", which was introduced as "a song we used to play a long time ago", a rightful way to introduce one of my favorites for sure.

For the encore they opened with "Just Like Honey", accompanied by another vocalist. They played "War On Peace" from the new one and closed with "I Hate Rock 'n' Roll", the first Jesus and Mary Chain song I ever heard from the first CD I ever owned, the American Records Sampler that came bundled with Comix Zone on Sega Genesis. It was a quite a set, emotions ranging from awe to joy to a sort of "really?"

Most of that "really?" was one large distraction. This also made the show more memorable. It might be the most memorable thing of the night. There was a woman who just sort of snobbishly pushed her way into the very front a little after the Jesus and Mary Chain had started. Thankfully I was able to get back to where I was right behind the first row of people. This lady shouted at the band the entire show about how cool and beautiful they were and sang along off-key to the songs. It was somewhat endearing. At a certain point, she put a bunch of drugs into a tote bag with a vinyl record and threw the bag onto the stage. The band just ignored her. I was surprised, though honestly somewhat glad, that the security didn't throw her out. They did confront her, but she somehow talked her way out of getting thrown out. I didn't understand it at all, but I am glad someone was so happy to be at this show.

wearing one of the JMC shirts when I got home
After all that, I found a ticket for the bag check which was quickly handed over to the rightful party. Then I bought some merch, two shirts and a CD, retrieved my own bags, and left into the bright Manhattan night. I was pretty happy. The trip back to Brooklyn was long, and that's fine. I would see John Cale tomorrow.

Last month, November 2017, I went to New York City again. If you remember, last time I went to see Lee "Scratch" Perry. This time was a similarly big event; I was going to see John Cale from the Velvet Underground. Since I wanted to hang around in the city for a bit, and because bus tickets were cheaper in the middle of the week, I opted to stay for a few days.

On the way to New York, I missed the bus! Wow, that was a terrible experience. There was a ton of traffic, and I saw the bus pull out as we pulled up for me to get on. They never seem to leave on time except for this time! I tried to see if I could get the bus to stop and let me on, but the driver wouldn't do it. I didn't really expect him to. I did get a really cheap copy of X-Men vs. Street Fighter for PS1 while I waited for the next bus. It was terrible having to buy another ticket though.

Anyway, I eventually got on the bus and made it to Manhattan. I was staying in Brooklyn, so I had to take the subway or a bus or something. Unfortunately, the subway I needed to take was not running to Brooklyn that night. I think I could have found another way, but Google Maps is awful at giving directions there. I ended up taking an Uber, which was way more than I wanted to spend. I got to my Airbnb okay, and was able to sleep and everything.

My host was a nice lady, and she was very accommodating to me. Unfortunately, she did not have wi-fi, so I had to go to a coffee shop to use the internet. I actually wrote two posts (this one and this other one) at that coffee shop. I also found out about two shows that were happening in New York on the days before the John Cale show I had come to see.

The first show was one featuring the band Fruit & Flowers that I had heard about at the show with Casper Skulls at Spirit back in Pittsburgh. The second show was for the Jesus and Mary Chain! I would have to get some tickets for that but figured I had enough time.

That night, November 16th, I went to Brooklyn Bazaar. That was after I had a very long and engaging conversation with my host about gentrification, Pittsburgh, "New Brooklyn", and the current political climate. It was good to hear of the efforts being made to fight for immigration rights and against police brutality and racist laws. The bad part about all of this was that I got to the show late. I missed Fruit & Flowers, the main reason I had gone to the show!






I did get to see two other bands - Roya and New Myths. This was some kind of local bands showcase, LPR Presents, so there were no touring acts. I wish there were more all locals shows in Pittsburgh that weren't just organized by Wild Kindness or some terrible Gorilla/Afton thing. Anyway, Roya was first, and they were great. They had a 1970's, Sunset Strip/Doors sound, though the singer sounded a lot like Niagara from Destroy All Monsters. I loved the surf sound produced from the vibrato arm on the guitars. The songs really pushed forward with a sound like what I imagine a desert would be like after dark, a sort of "end of the 60's" Manson cult danger thing combined with a hint of Levi's commercial.




I talked with the drummer from Fruit & Flowers for a little bit and got a CD. New Myths was ready to play. They were a lot different than Roya, much more of a ROCK band like in all caps. New Myths reminded me of The Runaways, a sneering kind of 70s hard rock, especially that guitar tone. They also had some really dancey songs that emphasized the bass and drums. In addition to AC/DC and the like, they recalled that early 2000s sound of The Strokes or the dance-punk of Franz Ferdinand.

After the sets, I talked more with the members of Fruit & Flowers. I found out that the drummer also played with Tall Juan. I knew that both bands would be playing together in December, though I won't be able to see such an awesome lineup.

I should mention here that Brooklyn Bazaar is quite a big building, a bigger version of Spirit here in Pittsburgh. It seems pretty cool, though I only saw some of it. I left soon after everything was done, bought some produce from a little market, and made it back to my Airbnb. Tomorrow I would head to the Playstation Theater to grab tickets for and then see the Jesus and Mary Chain.

Casper Skulls released an album this month. It's called Mercy Works. I bought a copy of this album at the show at Spirit with One Hundred Year Ocean. I really liked Casper Skulls live set, but what do they sound like on the record?


Well first, let's take a look at the cover art. It's a dream-like drawing of a human and a bat, and it wraps around to the back. It's eerie, reminding me of early 3D computer games like Immercenary on 3DO. There's something incomplete, murky, and cruel about the crudeness. I can't say the same about the musick within, unfortunately.

The first track is a portal into another world titled after the album. The second track comes in somewhat jarringly, the production goes from murky strangeness to extremely clean and poppy reverb-land. "You Can Call Me Allocator" is a good song. The guitar and drums sound awesome. The vocals sound like Lee Ranaldo. "Lingua Franca" is basically a pop song. It almost sounds like Taylor Swift or something like that. It is good, and I really like the chorus. I wish it was a little less of the usual though, a little less clean. Again, I really like the guitars, especially the Neil Young meets Sonic Youth solo, and the vocals. The fourth track, "What's That Good For", really sounds like a Pavement song, vocals and all. It's decent, though it's weird that it sounds so close.  The backing vocals are okay, but it almost seems like padding to a somewhat weak chorus. The fifth track, "Primeval", reminds me again of a Lee Ranaldo-written Sonic Youth song. I'm not sure what to make of it. I like the sadness, the melancholy of defeated resignation. The lyrics sound like what's been going on in Pittsburgh and many other places. Condos will one day surround my house. The song goes on too long.

"Colour of the Outside" has a beautiful intro. It drifts in from some chilled air that isn't quite cold or unpleasant. The chorus heavily reminds me of a Sonic Youth song that I can't remember the name of. It might be "What We Know" from The Eternal. That song has a lot more drive, something that I think is really missing from this album. Also, as you can see here, a lot of these tracks overall sound like later-era Sonic Youth, especially those by Lee Ranaldo. A noise plane lands, and then a jangle pop song begins, "Chicane, OH". This one has a nice dreamy sound, Strawberry Switchblade or The Cure on Wish. I really liked this one, though I didn't expect to. It was a break from the emotional overcast of the last few tracks. This song could be shorter. "I Stared At Moses and the Burning Bush" is alright; it just kind of goes. That is until the latter half and the end, which really make this song. I think this is my favorite from this album.

I love the slide guitar on "The Science of Dichotomies", recalling The Dream Syndicate's "Too Little, Too Late". I also love the drums. This was a good song all around. "Glories" is an awesome song too. Some of it reminds me of "Gooseflesh" by Blød Maud, a Pittsburgh band that had described themselves as post-pop-punk, which makes sense for Casper Skulls as well. Anyway, all the instruments, lyrics and vocals on "Glories" are awesome, and there is a drive to this one that was missing earlier on. I also love the big noise guitar solo. "Faded Sound" ends the album with a vaguely Nocturnal Projections thing, a big epic like the beginning. I still have some of the same issues, but it works.

Mercy Works is an interesting album. I was disappointed for the first half, not that it was necessarily bad. There are too many epics. By that, I mean that too many of the first songs have such huge sweeping emotions like the cloud on the cover of Neil Young's Prairie Wind. It's too much that there isn't room to breathe. Also, early on, I hear such a strong Sonic Youth and Pavement influence, the songs sounding way too similar to those bands' songs. Finally, a lot of these earlier songs are way too poppy and melodic with super clean production that I have previously described as jarring; it is somewhat unpleasant. That said, I did enjoy most of the last half and some of the first half. I like a lot of the lyrics and the guitar solos, when they do happen. I can't say I really love this album, and it also isn't bad. If only it was more like their live sound, this but just slightly less polish. I will give Mercy Works a Neutral. Too bad, but this is a band with a lot of promise. I will await their next release.

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I went to a show at Howlers on November 14th to see a plant play musick. Oh, the synth player from Carsickness, Steve Sciulli, was accompanying the plant rock star. There were some other people playing too. One guy was even a cyborg or something.



Steve and the plant played first. The plant made many different types of sounds: echoing Electroplankton hollow bells, Ocarina of Time well whispers, sweeping synths of sonic air, and strange rumbles from space. Steve brought these sounds out from the innards of his photosynthetic pal with different methods: fire, water, touch, sound, and light. He even accompanied it on some kind of woodwind instrument. As the set was going on, I figured the whole thing must have been some kind of put on, but Steve confirmed that it was not. It was one of the coolest sets I've ever seen.


Immediately after "Robert Plant", as the flora was called, finished, Ephen Ager started their set. I was a little put off by the sudden shift; Steve and "Robert" hadn't even got off the stage yet. I wasn't sure that anything was really starting until it had been going for a while without stopping. Anyway, Ephen's set was pretty good. They played a lot of different stuff, ranging from fast techno beats to slower psychedelic tunes and harder jungle rumbles. A lot of it reminded me of the video game Wipeout.  I enjoyed the musick, but, as with most electronic artists, I wish there had been more of a visual component to it. I like seeing people play instruments, seeing how the musick is created. Obviously you can't do that with a laptop, but there are other solutions. It would have been cool if everybody danced, but nobody did (that includes me too).


The final performer for the night was Benni, a New Orleans-based musician on Goner Records that I had never heard of before. Before he played, he set up a video of dogs that projected onto the stage. I think it was an old PSA or instructional video. Benni's musick was awesome! It was cheesy, but that was all incorporated into the retro sci-fi aesthetic. He had a metallic cape on and used a vocoder for everything. He combined elements of Vangelis, Tangerine Dream, and John Carpenter to great effect. I loved the song about being more than a man with awesome musical hook and lyrics. "My power knows no bounds!" "I am supreme machine!" So cool!

After Benni's set, I bought a record and talked with him for a bit, talked to Steve, and then walked home. I haven't listened to the Benni record yet, but I will review it once I get the time to visit the "Moons of Almuric". Most importantly, I hope to see more plants making musick in the future.

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