A short time ago, when I was red-eyed in the dawn, discovering the musick of bygone automata, I discovered something else, something more ancient but newer at the same time. Produced by the same Rich Pell of Specific Recordings as Robotic Music of Pittsburgh, Jimmy Crouse's Not To Take Upon Oneself to Say (1991 - 2017) was something special. Hearing the strange twisty songs, all gnarled and weird, I felt like I had gone somewhere underground. And the songs were actually only from New York! Despite what it looks like, the title is not composed of birth and death dates of a person; these songs were started in 1991 and finished last year. They were recorded in one take and left unedited. Sounds good to me.

The cover of Not To Take Upon Oneself to Say (1991 - 2017) is a piece of a map. To me, it looks like it shows where Antarctica would be. It's not there. This is before the discovery. This is uncharted land. This is terra incognita. When I was a child I read from an old encyclopedia tales of the extinction of the dodo, poems of the ghost of the great auk, and other stories about rocky shores on far-flung 19th century lands. Here they are.

"From What One Can Gather" is the first track on Not To Take Upon Oneself To Say (1991 - 2017). It becomes more musical as it goes along, but it's good the whole way through. It's simple, barebones, just vocals and stark guitar from somewhere out on the prairie, an old log house and smoke etched in metal via acid to show to future kids. "Tell 'em all I tried." The next track is "At Any Rate", opening with some shuffling. This album is the real deal. Crouse's vocals are long and ghostly on this, a strange chant to what could be uplifting musick. Despite the minimalism, there is a lot of depth here. "Each In Its Turn" has some interesting wordplay and some old words too, words from back in those folklore days before the lithographs were made. I like the short segment of bare instrumentation at the end. The final track is "By Way Of Example". It has some more weird wordplay and long drawn-out vocals and minimal, beautiful guitar, another ghost song. I can't make out what the song means too much, but I feel like my mind opens by listening to it. It ends suddenly.

Not To Take Upon Oneself To Say (1991 - 2017) is amazing. I feel like the world opened up after hearing it. I feel like there is so much more to the Earth than what I thought. Somewhere, maybe in New York City, maybe in a hole in the Appalachian Mountains, maybe somewhere far from here on another continent, there is more magick. It's everywhere, really, if you take the time to look. I love the raw sound on this album, the simple but profound nature of it, the almost grim aesthetic. It reminds me of two friends, Reid Magette combined with Dean Cercone. There's not much else like this. Not To Take Upon Oneself To Say (1991 - 2017) gets a Good.

Salad Boys is a band with a cool name that I came across in my electronic travels through the internet one day. They had just recently released an album called This Is Glue on January 19th, but I couldn't review it right away due to other commitments. Also, since Salad Boys are from Christchurch, New Zealand, this review had to be for the international review series Outside In(fluence); here it is.

The cover to This Is Glue looks like, well, glue. Paint and glue all grey mixed, maybe there is a whale on a beach looking rather upset. Are there clouds, a black creature soaring in from the right, some infernal sky shark grown from a hell womb in a fiery mountain? It's all sloshed up confusion, grey matter and mist, dreams and death and nothing at all. This Is Glue.

The first track on This Is Glue is "Blown Up". It starts kinda plain, with an electronic bass sound, but things pick up with energetic fuzz guitar. I don't understand what the song is about, but the lyrics are not muffled in any way. The second track is "Hatred", a song that sounds like The Bats or The Chill, that classic Flying Nun Records sound. There is a very nice guitar solo on here, long and winding. The lyrics are beautiful and not subtle - "If I could ever be under you would you enjoy me?" The next song, "Psych Slasher", sounds like The Jesus and Mary Chain with it's dark and self-critical lyrics of madness and despair. That name is a great play on words. Though it is a very energetic, dancey track, the way that the singing drops off at the end of each verse is fittingly unnerving to the theme. "Right Time" goes back to jangling territory, almost hitting country. I have to really focus to understand the words here; the vocals are quiet, muffled, and overshadowed by instrumentation. I'm sure that the band's accent doesn't help me much either. I like the musick quite a bit. "Choking Sick" opens with the phrase, "little fucker", which I find mildly hilarious. The song is fast with repeating lyrics about kids doing things they shouldn't. It seems somewhat sympathetic but critical of said children. "Exaltation" is the last track on the first side, going back to that "Smoking Her Wings" sound from earlier. Again, the lyrics are harder to make out, but the way they are done, they have a mystical quality. This is some kind of dreamworld, occupied by The Cure, R.E.M., The Church, and other post-punkers and dream-poppers. It reminds me of the first band ever got into, the pillows. This is one of my favorites on the album.

The second side of This Is Glue opens with "In Heaven", which I don't like that much. It still has that airy sound, but the lyrics are not very intricate or interesting, plain words without much punch or pop. The chorus bugs me - "But you're not buried yet, so just play dead." The incredibly fuzzy, almost plush, guitar is beautiful at the end. The guitar solo also turns this around, making it almost an epic or something. I wish the rest was better. "Under the Bed" seems almost formless to me, though I think it's just me having trouble hearing and understanding the lyrics. I like the warbling guitar. "Dogged Out" has a scrunched up, wide-open sound, a song wearing a scarf out on a cold hillside. I like this one a lot with its simple lyrics, synth or string sounds, and clattering drums. "Scenic Route to Nowhere" is the third to last track, a Beatles sound of surreal adventures outside and inside. The circus guitars make this one especially strange, almost like Pink Floyd's "Corporal Clegg". I really like this one, another favorite. Next to last is "Going Down Slow", a cinematic piece of sad gloom, Kurosawa's Throne of Blood. This is a bittersweet something or other, epic by means of strings and despair, an ending theme of some future film. We're all stuck in glue sometimes. "Divided" is the final track, opening with an awesome hollow and fuzzy bass(?). The lyrics seem familiar to me, just getting out of a dark depression and failures that cling to the skin like static'd plastic. The electric singing of some strange tones as the song closes ensures that this chant carries through to the end. It's a beautiful song.

This Is Glue is just like it sounds like. It's a sure downer, but it is a bright and dancing and loud and epic downer. Everything works perfectly together, the title, the cover art, and the songs. Though the lyrics are at times subpar, they fit the tone and are sometimes brilliant. The instruments glide along in the clouded sky; sometimes they are the clouds, sometimes the bright blue. I really liked this album overrall. This Is Glue receives a Good.

On February 21st, I played at the Experimental Guitar Night #1 at Howlers in Pittsburgh. I was not originally on the bill but got on when I asked after Sadie Powers had to drop. I hadn't felt good most of the week. I still don't feel too great right now. I'm talking about mental health mostly, but I was actually physically ill the morning of the show. I threw up after eating breakfast, presumably from some old mustard I put on a sandwich.

I was pretty tired during the day and slept for a lot of it. I woke up just in time to leave for the event. I should have left earlier. I got there right before the first performer, Aaron Myers-Brooks, played.

Aaron Myers-Brooks played a sort of classical/speed-metal. I wasn't a huge fan. He obviously worked pretty hard on it with big musical scores written out and some fancy samples. It really didn't connect with me at all though. I don't really appreciate things that seem overly complex to me. I'd rather see someone sort of mess up or play something that's simple and emotional in some manner (preferably not something that is particularly melodramatic or angsty though).

Next up was Derek Bendel, who I have seen and played with many times. Derek asked the audience if we wanted to see improvised musick or written pieces. I don't like the classical, somewhat indulgent idea of a "piece" so to speak, I mean it's basically the same as just saying you wrote a song, so I voted for the improvisation. The audience seemed to agree, but it was close. A few people, myself included, suggested he just split it, and he did. Derek played dreamy, minimalist semi-blues to a more gritty sludge pseudo-noise. There were some cool tremolo effects.

Dave Bernabo was the third performer. He always seems like a very well-respected and important artist in the community. His set was pretty cool, with blues and jazz chords and then some drone tones, quiet during the first half and loud and distorted in the latter half. This was accomplished using two Freeze pedals. I thought it was interesting and enjoyable.

I played fourth. I started with a more melodic sequence that descended into a dark lurking max of a dry desert. Buzzing drones and storm clouds filled the air. I played my guitar with a pop can and threw it into the audience. Ghostly chimes interrupted the sound followed by more storms. It was not a long set, shorter than I thought, but I'm happy with it. I streamed it live on my Facebook.

Devin Sherman played a really interesting song last, using a Digitech Whammy pedal and an EBow sitting on an untouched guitar to generate tones. He played a few ambient, Eno-meets-Dave Gilmour songs after that, but the first really stood out to me for being so unique.

It was fun to see all of the different things at the first Experimental Guitar Night. I am also glad that I got to play. A lot of people were at the show and most stayed the whole time. There will be a second one in a few months, and I hope it is just as successful.

Welcome to the second Artist Special! As I mentioned last month, Artist Special is an interview series that runs the third Sunday of each month. These interviews are with those who make musick and another kind of art (plays, films, sculptures, paintings, and more!). This month I spoke with another poet, Mick Malone, about his new book Cave Body.

I first encountered Mick Malone when he was in the band Worn Colors. I also played with some of the members of Worn Colors in the revolving Diamond Breaker. I only played with them once or twice. Some time ago, I saw that Mick had published a book on Amazon. I thought that was pretty cool and liked the title and cover art, so when I saw he was releasing a new one, Cave Body, I knew that I wanted to ask him about.

Cave Body is a series of short and eerie poems with accompanying illustrations of monsters and expressionistic images of horror. I thought it was awesome when I started reading it. I read about half of it one morning and brought it upstairs to finish later in the day. I have not seen the book since. I rarely ever lose anything, I still have most of the toys and games I had when I was a child, so this must be the work of some entity from either the 34th or 51st dimension. I'm sure I'll find it again one day. You can get one from our evil overlords at Amazon, though. You won't even need to do any inter-dimensional warfare.
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What kinds of things inspire yr writing? I feel like it connects with me quite a bit and is similar to some stuff that I have made. Why all the bugs?
I spend a lot of free time reading about weird shit that supposedly (or definitely!) happened. The other day at work I read a story about a woman in New Zealand who woke up to gnomes trying to drag her body into a wardrobe. I was floored. I came home and drew a weird creature and wrote "the gnomes try to drag my body into the cupboard but I am too heavy." A lot of odd cults, missing people, conspiracies, and creatures make their way into my artwork and writing. I like channeling my personal life through these fantastical elements. My last two books, DOPE GRAVE and Cave Body, deal with a lot of my feelings of hopelessness, that nothing is ever really going to be okay, feeling like a broken person, constant worrying, knowing that everything is meaningless and pointless but you still have to exist and deal with it. But I can never just say "I'm having a hard time right now." I kind of have to make it more absurd, a little tongue-in-cheek. It's probably not healthy. As for the bugs, I honestly don't know. They always just show up. They're fascinating but creepy. I wish they wouldn't crawl on me while I sleep.

You used to make musick with Worn Colors and I know you have played with some other bands too. Do plan to make more musick some day?
I hope so. Playing shows is absolutely my favorite thing to do, and I really miss it. Towards the end of Worn Colors we were all just so busy with full-time jobs and other projects, and all of our new songs were really weird and super long; I think we just kind of burned ourselves out and needed a break. I still hang out with those dudes, and I wouldn't be surprised if we end up doing a project together again at some point.

Did you turn any songs into poems or vice versa?

Whenever any of my bands would get together and start writing something new, I would always look over poetry I've written and see if any of it would fit. It was pretty common for me to kind of cannibalize that work and borrow a few lines from different poems and mash something new together. I find writing lyrics to be very limiting, I've never had a good experience sitting down to write lyrics knowing I'll have to fit this to music. Poetry can just be what it is, and I really enjoy that.

Between the two (musick and writing), which came first?

I've always dabbled in both, but writing was first. I used to love writing short stories - they were usually only like a page or so long and almost always ripping off Jurassic Park or whatever anime I was into at the time. I remember in fifth grade my friends found this stack of like 50 handwritten pages, my "novel", in my desk and were like, "Wait, what? You're writing...for fun?" I never thought it was weird. I just liked being creative.

I didn’t realize it until I got the book, but I, of course, noticed the illustrations inside. They remind me of illustrations I used to make when I was half-asleep, which made them especially strange. What inspired the scratchy style? It fits well with the grotesque and vulgar imagery of the poems.
Honestly, my lack of artistic talent. I have a major disconnect from what I want to put on a page and what my hand can actually do. There's actually a poem in Cave Body about a person being forced to edit speedboats into television shows to not-so-subtly sell more speedboats and I initially came up with that idea as a comic I wanted to do. I mapped the whole thing out and realized I could not draw a speedboat no matter how hard I tried. I even looked for tutorials on how to draw speedboats and still had no luck! Eventually, I decided I could keep trying to learn how to draw things for real and still be awful at it, or I could just kind of embrace this sloppy, messy, abstract weird style and just have fun with it. It's much more in line with the art I enjoy anyway. I love starting a drawing while having no idea what it'll actually be.

Was it difficult to get a book published and on Amazon? Since you have done this twice, what tips do you have for other writers looking to do that?
It's genuinely so easy to self-publish these days, and there are so many ways to do it. I've been using Amazon's CreateSpace just because it's free and makes selling your book super easy. But there are tons of other sites you could use, or if you're crafty you can just make your own and sell it at shows or whatever. I run into people all the time who are like, "Wow, I can't believe you have a book!" It's like dude, I submitted a word document to a website. Literally, anybody who enjoys being creative can do this. I go with self-publishing because I know nobody would actually want to publish my work, and I'm super impatient. Cave Body was very spur-of-the-moment, where I was just feeling restless and decided I wanted to release a short zine-esque book, and the next day I submitted the first draft. (I soon changed my mind on that product and basically rewrote almost half of the book in a couple days). I just love how fast self-publishing can move. The downside is you're stuck promoting it on your own... and that is a nightmare.

Will you be working on a third book? Or what else is in store for the future?
Cave Body is actually my fifth book.

Oh, whoops. What were the other books you released and in what format? Were they also released on Amazon and the like?
I released two collections of short story and poetry when I was a teenager on a different service. They are out of print and I don’t even have any copies. I have three books on Amazon: Doom Riddles (a poetry collection designed to tell a larger, interwoven story), DOPE GRAVE (poetry and artwork), and then this most recent one, Cave Body.
I'm definitely working on some more stuff. I really like writing these small zines/books and releasing them as cheap as possible. I'd like to put out some new music. We'll see. I'm constantly certain that I am going to die very soon, so I just want to be productive and work on shit until all of my bones slide out of my body or my liver explodes or whatever horrible fate awaits me. The seas will rise and wash away it all, so it's ultimately meaningless but fun.
I hope that this look into Mick's work was not meaningless to everyone reading. I'll be back with a new artist next month. I have a few in mind, but nothing is totally concrete yet. If you want to be a part of this series, send me an email at skullvalleyblog@gmail.com or send a message to the Skull Valley Facebook page. As mentioned, be sure to check out Mick Malone's books (Doom Riddles, DOPE GRAVE, and Cave Body) on Amazon. Don't let the bed bugs bite.

Big Splash is a band that I only saw once, but that show was legendary. When I heard that they were playing their last show, I knew I would have to go. The other bands were Bong Wish, a band I figured was probably some kind of doom metal, and Robin Vote, who are usually pretty cool. It seemed like it would be really fun.

The show was February 10th. It was not a bad day that day. Big Splash was playing first, and they played quite a show. They opened with Neil Young's "Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)". It was awesome! They even did the little backing vocals. Another great one was that song about following the road or something. That's always a good one too. The set was full of sludgey guitar and bass with a clear lead guitar over the top and solid drums. They did lots of cool rock moves. And that was it.

Next was Robin Vote. The band has gone thru significant changes since I last saw them, retaining only two of the members from that time. The musick was a little more country rock than the sort of country meets post-punk of the past. They are kind of like the Pittsburgh version of The Fall. I honestly did not find this set to be as engaging as before, though it wasn't terrible either.

Bong Wish was getting ready to play last. The members looked much more like a hippie, psych band than some doom thing. That's exactly how it was too. The songs resembled The Doors and the Allman Brothers over any comparisons to Sleep or Earth. The guitarwork from the frontwoman was really awesome with a clear and bright tone and fast fingerwork. The lights stayed dim as they played, creating a different kind of atmosphere. It was a good set.

Before I left I also got a pin and a tape from Bong Wish. I like the moon design on the pin. I don't smoke weed or anything else though, so I feel strange about wearing it. I also talked with the members of Big Splash about their future projects. It seems like there will be some interesting stuff coming up.

Last month, I reviewed the two BBGuns singles, "Dreamcast and "Willow". I was excited about the album that was promised to follow. Well, today, Valentines Day, is the official release. Thirst goes out to all the lonely hearts out there. That includes me too.

I like the album cover for Thirst. I am not super big on the way "BBGuns" is displayed on it; it's a really basic Ariel-type font. It also works with the rest of the composition though, and that's what's most important. The flames in the text remind me of the Jesus Lizard's Goat. The wave is so smooth and nice looking. Of course, it contrasts with the fire. It's a very clean design, very modern, and very true to what's being told here.

The first track, "Mauve",  comes in hard. Barz Blackman has some hot raps contrasted with Lazy JP's drawn-out singing style. I like the short dream-pop sounds and the snare. JP's verse at the end seals the deal. "Circles [It's Time]" has a dance thing going on, and it comes in with a more techno sound. I like how this song changes as it moves ahead. It's such a different song by the end, vocals sorting through a cyber-drone-wall. There's a beautiful melody too. The only thing I'm not really fond of is the line, "and everything is so purple". Next is "Willow", which I've reviewed before. I'm not gonna review it again. "Lost Soul" has a swinging jazz cool. There's some rapid-fire rapping before Barz launches into something that could be on a Digable Planets record with some cool rhymes. "Ensure my first born's rich," and the subsequent rhymes are the real thing.

"Drive" is somewhat too bright. It features Mrs. Paintbrush (aka Jackson from Grand Buffet). I don't dislike it, though it is a bit long. "PK Starstorm", named for a PSI ability in the SNES game Earthbound, opens with a verse from JP about love letters and romantic failures. The subsequent verse, presented by Barz, presents the anxiety of our modern age in terms of love. The next song,  "William", makes me sad with the line "she studied psych and nursing, but now she's moving coffee," and then the subsequent verses about how the connection didn't work. The whole song is full of Romeo & Juliet references, which are cheesy but work. It's so obvious that it works perfectly here. The latter part of the song contains some of the coolest drone sounds I have heard.

The opening of "Blade Runner" sets the scene, rainy and mysterious. Unfortunately, this one is also kind of bright, and I am not fond of the repeating voice sample in the chorus. The song is too repetitive. Some stuff shines thru the gloom though - the sample I initially disliked works better towards the end, and the last verse by Walkman is a fresh sound. I'm not fond of the chorus of "Ghost in the Shell," as it seems too obvious the way it repeats the title. The song is good though. The floating keyboards and rattling bells are very atmospheric.

"Disguises" is about changing who you are to meet different expectations. It is creepy to think about, though it happens all the time every day. To quote Captain America/Wyatt in Easy Rider, "I never wanted to be anybody else." Track 11, "YELNATS", has possibly a Pepsi commercial sample within it? I don't know what it is, but I love the little vocal blips scattered about. Everything about this song is catchy.

The penultimate track is "Dreamcast", an awesome song that I have already reviewed. The final track is "555". I love the muffled keyboards on this one. "I don't wanna die, but I don't wanna live another lie." For how epic the album is, this last song ends very abruptly. It kind of works with the theme of the last song and the album, the doom and gloom of modern romance, to put it in a melodramatic way. It's still weird though.

Thirst is the tale of internet dating in the time of Tindr and OkCupid and hookups and all of that stuff. I think a lot of people are more alone now than ever; the internet is a great communication tool, but it also helps keep us indoors and looking away. There is also economic and political despair for young people today, failed promises and a questionable future. In a sense, BBGuns have kind of continued the gangsta rap of the early 1990s with these stories of heartbreak on a societal failure.

In addition to the epic scope, Thirst is full of catchy hooks, exciting and unusual backing tracks, and powerful rapping. Barz goes hard with such fury, and JP's parts will get stuck in yr head. They are definitely stuck in mine right now. Though I feel that the best tracks were definitely the singles, Thirst still has a lot to offer and thus receives a Good.

Late last month, I got a message on the Skull Valley Facebook page from a member of the London-based band Everafter asking for a review of their new single, "Over You Tonight". I was not particularly enthralled by the name of the band or the song, but, after watching the video, I found the names very fitting and the song good. Here is a short review on this rainy Saturday for the third Outside In(fluence), a series of international musick reviews.

The video for "Over You Tonight" is really funny. It's so tongue in cheek, I couldn't stop cracking up. For the most part, the video contains footage of various people comically lip-syncing and dancing along with the song in front of various seemingly found footage of cartoons, text, and clipart. There's also some footage of the moon and a band playing. It's all very lo-fi, in a sense, but it's not badly made at all. The video really had me in stitches as I watched a Jack Black-looking man play air guitar and other people play tennis rackets to the guitar solo of the song.

The actual musick is awesome. It's cheesy, with a classic 80's power-pop sound combining elements of bands like the dB's with Bon Jovi and the like. The members of the band obviously realize the cheese factor here, hence the video, but the sound works. The production is very clean with snappy drums and cheery vocals.  The chorus is probably going to be stuck in my head the rest of the day. And the guitar solo is really good too, even accompanied by the mocking video people. Though the song is a bit repetitive, the bridge caught me off guard, providing another element of interest. The entire package of video and musick really works well together.

I have to give Everafter's "Over You Tonight" a Good. It's clever but not pretentious. It has a classic sound that's changed just enough to make it their own, with a self-deprecatingly humorous video. This fairy-tale, power-pop single is a sure hit, and I wish the band well when their new album finally releases in May.

Just the other day, February 7th, I went to see a show at Spirit despite the cold weather that keeps popping up. It had snowed recently, and I was not in a good mood. In fact, these last two days I have been very depressed. It has not been a good week. This was a good show though.

I got to the venue and talked with my friends from A Deer A Horse. Sorry I'm Dead played with them the last two times they were here. I wasn't playing with them this time, which isn't important to me, but I do really miss that band.

The first band to play was Hearken. I had never seen them before, but it's not dissimilar to Roulette Waves, who I have seen before. Hearken is a stripped down version of that other band, just guitar and drums. The songs were awesome, with rippin' chords and a solid backbeat. The vocals were very raw and Cobain-esque. I enjoyed Hearken more than listening to Nirvana, though.

Next up was A Deer A Horse. They were excellent as always, very heavy and sludgey but not goofy metal stuff. I was really enthralled by the whole thing. They seemed to really fit in that space in that time. Though I couldn't tell you much about the lyrics, I felt very connected to the emphatic vocals.

The last band was Derider. I've only seen them once before, the time that I took a picture that was later stolen by Andy Mulkerin and used on Anthony Bourdain's website for Parts Unknown. That was bullshit. Both of the times seeing Derider have been cool though. This time they opened with two songs that really reminded me of Sonic Youth. Last time seemed a bit more chaotic overall. This set ended with a more structured song that might be the one they used in a video I saw some time ago. It was all good.

After Derider, I stuck around for a while, talking with many friends. Originally, Maenads were also going to play, but they couldn't do to actual physical injuries. Despite that, the other members still came out to the show. I'd like to see these pop-punk bands that always cancel at the very last minute offer that kind of support.

The show made me feel much better. Someone said something very nice about Sorry I'm Dead. The show was already great, but that really made a difference to me. I mean, I thought we were the best. It was nice to hear that from someone else too. Hopefully, I can put something together again soon instead of being so sad and lonely all the time.

Pittsburgh's Brightside has been around for a while. I've seen them a few times, though not recently, and I always thought they were pretty good. Originally they had a more pop-punk sound, but their new single (or maybe it's a two song EP), Two Songs, shows how they have grown from those roots.

The cover looks like something you might see in a science classroom in a movie. I like the shapes on the right side, the skull, and the various colors. It's somewhat jarring seeing the more 3D sphere compared with the comic book skull. It seems as if the attempt is to show various basics of art and to say that it revolves around death. I'm reaching a bit, but it isn't a bad cover anyway.

The first of the Two Songs is "Is This Real Life?", a very poppy number with a very dreamy reverb. I can hear the Milky Way above my head, y'know? The vocals sound like Free Pizza, and the musick is not dissimilar to later-era Dinosaur Jr. or a more rock R.E.M. from their early years. I like the line, "let me show you dreamland." After a pause in the song, the beat takes a dance move to an early 2000s sound but reverts back shortly. Then the song ends somewhat abruptly. It's a very catchy song, though, so it's sticking in my head.

The second of the Two Songs is "Speedball". It's one of these songs comparing love and drug addiction. I'm not a huge fan of this, especially this self-sacrifice emo version. I also don't find a lot of this as interesting as the first song, but the guitar has many very cool solos that make up for the rest of the track. It's still a very catchy track, and I had that chorus stuck in my head well after listening to it.

Brightside has produced quite a pop album with a surface-level post-punk sound combined with their pop-punk roots. It sounds like something that could be on the radio right now, surprising for a more rock-based sound. I love the starfield lyrics and the matching reverb that reaches all the way out to space to touch the King of All Cosmos or Saint Seiya. I wonder how Brightside will continue to evolve? Speaking of their sound right now, Two Songs receives a Good.

I have been following the Pittsburgh-based Soda Club since they started. I thought the name and look were so cool and twee. Somehow, I have never seen them live, though I have planned to go to quite a few shows that somehow my presence never materialized at. They just released an EP, Enjoy, on February 2nd. "Oh that could be cool," I thought. And here is my review.

The album cover of Enjoy is a little pencil drawing of a garden with vegetables and bees as mentioned in one of the EP's tracks. It's a little cutesy, and something seems off with the perspective on the top of the wall. I really like the linework and watercolor though. I feel like this would look pretty good in reality, particularly on a 7" record.

Enjoy starts out with "Halloween Party", a slow, doo-wop song that recalls older Pittsburgh janglers Actual Size. It's more melodic and soft than that though. I love the saxophone on here, and the drums sound very nice. The band goes quiet and comes back with a Clarence Clemons solo. The lyrics make me sad a bit. "Been Down" starts slow with downer lyrics, but the speed picks up with the words. This song was really cute. It made me feel better about myself actually. I love this line - "If you wanna be a beekeeper, I will help you keep those bees."

"Stone Soup" has a romantic sound, a tale of life as a paper poem. It has a dark edge to it in a way, "Our laughter, then silence, followed by tears and violence." To me, it sounds like it's about accepting that the world changes and people come and go; things change from bad to good. The end has a back and forth segment between the two vocalists. The final track is titled "Haunter". It is a very stark, slow tune of slight peril. It gets faster at the end with lyrics about just living for the moment and, unfortunately, not living for yrself.

It was nice to finally hear Soda Club. The musick was overall what I expected, lyrics that are both sad and joyous with various twists. The songs seem more poetic than the standard rock fare and have a very nice lyrical composition. I like the simple instrumentation - even a ukelele sounds pretty good here! At just four songs, Enjoy is a compact listen; I get the feeling it would get drawn out if it continued like this for much longer. As it is, Enjoy receives a Good.

I went downtown for the gallery crawl on January 26th. I never know when these downtown gallery crawls happen usually, so it was a surprise to find out about this one way in advance. Soon after I heard about the gallery crawl, I also was informed about a band playing down there, so I figured I would check that out.

The band is called Today is the Best Day Ever, a name that I think is way too long and kind of weird, however it is kind of cute. I will say, "Guys, you should probably capitalize the word "is" in yr band name, as it is a verb and not a preposition or article," but, well, it's not my band. Anyway, Today is the Best Day Ever is an emo/indie rock band similar to Shin Guard, who I reviewed last time. Don't worry, this still isn't really a genre I like. However, despite being curmudgeonly against these types of things, the band was okay. They kind of do that sing-song singing that I hate. The instruments are fine. Most interesting to me, in a way, was that most of the lyrics seem to be about drug overdoses and suicide attempts. I was able to read some of them, as they were hung up on the walls of Future Tenant. The band even made a clear statement about the importance of mental health and getting help, which I found very commendable.

I met up with some friends soon after. We tried to go to CAPA, a performing arts school that was participating in the gallery crawl, but a security guard said that it was closed. We were there later in the evening. Instead, we went to the Wood Street Galleries.

After climbing many steps and being a little confused, we saw part of an eerie movie playing upstairs. As I entered the room, I felt very vulnerable, all these people in the darkness staring my way. They were actually watching the film; it was nearly impossible to see people entering the room. The film showed outlines of various subjects, such as animals and people, morphing into other things. One of the scenes particularly showed a crowd, which makes me think that the setup was intentional. Perhaps the goal was to illustrate a feeling of depersonalization and isolation within a group. I hope to go back soon and see the whole film.

Finally, we went to Space, another gallery basically across the street. I really like this gallery; I like the setup, and I think they bring in interesting art. It also reminds me of seeing Carsickness with all of the early Pittsburgh punk stuff. That was really a great show.

Emilie Stark-Menneg

Paul Mullins

Surya Gied

Jenson Leonard

Jason LaCroix

Devan Shimoyama

Thad Kellstadt

This show was a bit different. It was mostly paintings and created by seven different artists. They each had their own style that was very distinguishable from the others. I really enjoyed Surya Gied's  paintings that suggested the shapes of crowds. Emilie Stark-Menneg has a whimsical, soft style that is somewhat off-putting at first but something I like a lot actually. Thad Kellstadt's shelves also had an element of whimsy to them with more bright colors and odd shapes like a cartoon from the 1960s. And I loved the patterns of Jason LaCroix with their repetition and colors. I have mixed feelings about Jenson Leonard's display of collages showing various internet memes juxtaposed together with other pop culture pieces. I think it's kind of cool because it is itself kind of what a meme is except used in a fine art way. It's very relevant to current trends. I hate memes though. I'm just neutral towards Paul Mullins' body parts collages. I feel like they lack focus. Devon Shimoyama seemed to have the main area of interest with their own small room. These pieces, with their figure of a purple man with a quiff, made me think of Prince.

According to Lissa Brennan of the City Paper, who did a much more in-depth review of this show, the curator had written something about how the paintings "present a working duration that attempts to respond to the surface of things.” I don't think this statement is totally bogus, but it is very vague. I didn't even see this statement, as there was so much to look at and so many people in the gallery that I felt a bit overwhelmed. I think the most unifying aspect of this show was the overall use of bright colors and tendency towards somewhat scrambled images, either displayed through a, so to speak, soft filter or through a more literal jumble of objects or pictures.

I stayed downtown with my friends for a bit, but it started to get really cold. Instead of sticking around, hanging out, I decided to go home and think about the show and finish some work. I hope to make it out to one of these again.

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