Well, this is the end for The Corn People, 2018, and Skull Valley. We'll ride out the end of the year with December's release by the humanoid vegetables. After hearing many of the other monthly Corn People albums, I can say that 2018 was surely, the Year of the Corn.


The cover art to Year of the Corn is minimal. It's kind of like the Black Flag logo but thankfully isn't an irritating parody. It's a nice design, but I don't like that the cob on the right goes off the side.


The Corn People are off; the first track is "We're Going Home", a tune that warps away with whirring sounds and a nimbly bass pushing the engines. This track really shows the dramatic tension in the launch. I actually like that it fades out; this isn't the whole story. "I" is a short, fast piece of stuff; stuff happens, and this is one of the pieces of that ball of stuff that we call the universe. Next is "60 55 101 57", an eerie soundscape of lingering peril that only stays for a chill, and then we head back to the stuff with "II", a drifty dream of drowsing damsels with bright hair in various colors amidst a neon-colored skyline in the day that is the future of our world.

"Radio C.O.RN." is really cool, another semi-ambient piece in crystalline space. A simple progression provides the main unit with power. There's a big, dissonant change up at the end. "In the Field" follows; it seems fairly bumpy unlike that flat field that Bauhaus sang about. This song is all jumping drums and hollow airborne synths, kites in the musickal wind. "III" is an awkward chirping bird with propulsive feathers singing a short song. It works by the end of the track, but the startup is mediocre. Now it's time to "Escape This Rock", at least for The Corn People. This eighth track is whimsical, the old sound of the Corn Carnival as in the history of this corny crew.

In "Find the Answer" The Corn People have gone way out to the place where vector-based beings live. This place is at least four light years away. There is not much sound here that one would hear on the planet Earth. This track is a great mirage of noise akin to something that might be heard on the soundtrack to Forbidden Planet, something that The Corn People have been getting better and better at on The (Candy) Corn People and Revenge of the Stalkers. "IV" is another short and fast piece of rock blast, asteroid rhythm. It comes and goes, and "Lost and Found" is on the other side. This is a harsh piece. Rattling and siren sounds greet the listener into a realm without light. Here, beings traverse by sound alone, distorted by gravitational forces that hiss and sputter. These noise pieces are really well done.

"An Ode to Homo Sapien" sounds like a lounge song; that's appropriate for New Year's Eve. I really like the sultry horn, coming in like a big "what?!" and becoming a big "oh! that's perfect!". The track rides out into the worlds that Corn People call home, places that have their own kinds of light and sound, gravity and inertia, places that are not those vector-based voids of the unknown or the fields we know. "So Long, and Thanks For All the Corn", they say, and I agree. Thank you Corn People, brave explorers from the other side. The fanfare plays.

And that's the end. Year of the Corn is a summation of what has come before and a fitting farewell to the strange, starchy songsters. I liked everything about this album; from the danceable rockers to the sci-fi terrors, Year of the Corn makes its mark in history and receives a Good.

And, so long for now, 2018! Also, dear readers, I was joking about this being the end of Skull Valley; see you in the future!

I'm back again with another look into the world of The Corn People, Pittsburgh's synth jammers who have done an album each month of 2018. Last time, I reviewed the treasure trove of drive-in horror that is The (Candy) Corn People, an album that showed big steps towards a greater identity for these vegetable humanoids. That walk into the edge of the dark continues on Novembers Revenge of the Stalkers.


Revenge of the Stalkers has done away with the previous template for Corn People cover art and replaced it with something that looks like a B-movie poster and some very limited coloration. I don't love this. Though the standard texture and cheap designs could be tiresome, sometimes they worked great when used appropriately. It was almost a welcome nod of camp and cheese. Here we have the camp and cheese in a far too limited design.

"Pesticide" starts the album as a short piece with an Art of Noise-esque robotic clapping effect and a deep, cheap organ. Then it's on to the title track, another spirited foray into some strange aeons. Unlike many of the other Corn People tracks, "Revenge of the Stalkers" uses a minimal and repetitive drum sound that augments the rest of the wild synth trips more than just keeping the beat. After a psychedelic period, there is "Growth", another short piece akin to the interludes on The (Candy) Corn People, this one like a rocket into space, a rising tone that reaches peak magnitude as the stalk bursts clear into the air perhaps for a giant slayer to climb. "Invasive Species" ends the first side with vocoder, buzzing synth waves, and hollow metallic percussion. Order has left the land.

Side two, so to speak, starts with the pulsing and aggressive "Where Are the Corn People?" that develops into somewhat of an ambient, industrial dance song. The bass sounds like a horid creature gulping some strange fluid. "A Farmer's Worst Nightmare" returns to the zanier Corn People sound with carnival melodies jumping up and down as synths float around like many small bees. "Field Reclamation" starts another industrial attack. This one features solid drone blocks like the sound of small motors with a boxy beat. Instead of going into solos, the song breaks apart into minimal backing combined with noisy notes. I really like the rhythm here. "Chop Off the Ol Stock" closes out Revenge of the Stalkers with a light melody enhanced with an air of danger. And that, as they say, is that.

Revenge of the Stalkers was an interesting progression from the dark interludes on The (Candy) Corn People into aggressive noise combined with the previous light tones of the older albums on a few tracks. It's interesting to see the two separate and combined here, and I really like the more brisk structure of these songs. The album is only around 16 minutes in total, but it is just enough to get it almost entirely right. Next time, I'll move on to the final album by The Corn People for 2018. Revenge of the Stalkers receives a Good.

I'm closing out the year with a few Corn People reviews, continuing the journey we started earlier in 2018 into the Sea of Stars above and then into the depths of the ocean below. They've been doing an album each month, and I owe it to these corny weirdos to review the last few albums before the year is up. This is their October album, The (Candy) Corn People.


The album cover makes great use of the standard corn texture, providing both unity and repetition to the overarching discography. I do like the use of texture and color here, though the outlines of the candies coalesce in a way that makes this a little disorganized. Overall, it works.

The first track on The (Candy) Corn People, “Overture”, is awesome camp – percussive, hip-hop strings and static while the voices of the haunted descend upon man. Some rumbling footsteps lead into the next track, the motorik “Check Your Closet”. It’s a bit like Yellow Magic Orchestra meeting Kraftwerk somewhere beyond the Autobahn. The sound is light and floaty. Next is “De Dance Vampire”, something like an interpretation of musick in an old rubber hose cartoon. The song hits with heavy drums and bass, starting with a crashing speed that slows down to a swaggering swing. “Got Ya” is like a hip-hop skit, the same dark production as the first track, though the composition is all sound effects of wind and rain. One could also call it an interlude.

“Corn People Scare Me” comes in with an off-kilter warble, tones that shimmer and shine off the light of the last sound. The instrumental light changes throughout. It’s a cool jam that returns to the old style Corn People jamming but makes use of a central chord progression more than some of the old stuff. The eccentricity level is still pretty high. “A Full Moon” rises into another napa-kraut jam that goes full popped weirdness. I like the production on “The Maze” as it descends deeper into the depths of the Earth. The watery synth sounds provide a melody interrupted by staccato percussive stabs. I enjoy the small chimes in the mist behind the curtain. At the end I think the cops come, and then everyone goes to “Purgatory”, a stark realm of screams and noise. Finally, the moral is revealed to be that “Monsters Aren’t Scary, They’re Just Alone”. This is a more whimsical romp through a haunted house with static effects against the rolling hills of bulbous synths and electric piano. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein at last, and all is done in this story for now.

The (Candy) Corn People is another great one from the mysterious Corn People. The horror interludes blend well with the fright-infused jams to make a more brisk album of solid hits this time around. The Corn People have definitely grown up since we first saw them, and I'm sure these stalks will keep going up and up. Here's to the next one (coming up in the future world of tomorrow [and I mean December 28th, 2018, not a date in the actual future world of the Blade Runners, 2019]). The (Candy) Corn People receives a Good.

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One week ago on December 14th, I was really excited to play another show with Sorry, I'm Dead. We had done such a good job with a new setlist at the last show with Leopard Print Taser, and I'll tell you about that later. We had been doing some Facebook livestreams on our personal pages and posting them on the band page (which I would appreciate if you followed ha-ha). We're setting up for more awesome stuff in 2019. In this article, we'll finish up this year with some poor pictures I took with my cellphone.


Loose Cattle played first. They were a full-blown country band in a very large, bombastic sense one might associate with Johnny Cash. It's not a standard sight for Pittsburgh or Howlers, where the show was set, but people certainly came out for this. Led by Tony Award winner Michael Cerveris, Loose Cattle brought a fun and festive experience to everyone involved. Some of the songs were originals, some were covers; the most unusual had to be Dolly Parton's "Jolene" with pieces of the chorus from CeeLo Green's "Fuck You". Was it a Christmas miracle?


After the big country bash and with about a third of the audience taking off, Swampwalk set up and played a short but focused set of her awesome glitchy pop tunes. Though I had heard all of these songs previously, the overall theme seemed a little darker than usual, with the gloom coming over me like a small wave.


Suavity's Mouthpiece was third. The frontman is a big nerd wearing a shirt saying that he would rather be at a library. The band also include Nick Bigatel from Smokey Bellows on super fuzzed out guitar. This was peak Our Band Could Be Your Life potentials formed far after the fact. It's a shame really. Suavity's Mouthpiece is good, perhaps a bit too composed and mathematical, but the compositions fit the odd nerviness of the charismatic and smooth-voiced frontman. Despite the shirt, he also told us about how the library rejected their album. The library seems to have made the wrong move.

We were last, only playing to the real hardcore fans or some such. Sorry, I'm Dead started with "Vampire" by Destroy All Monsters with me taking a walk around the building to then return and do the vocals. We went straight through the rest with only a few moments of repose. People were really into the songs we did including new ones like "Zontar" and classics like "Shopping at Night". I've had a lot of fun since we have gotten the transitions to be so quick and smooth.

After all was said and done, there was your standard post-show hanging out for a bit, and then Kaiti and I had to head home. We were invited to go to Jellyfish at P Town, but people have to get up for work or didn't sleep before work; we didn't go. Anyway, Sorry, I'm Dead will be back in 2019, and I hope to see you there in the future.

John Seleznev, who I am entirely unfamiliar with, released Vistas just a few days ago on December 11th, 2018. The album seems especially appropriate for winter, or it would be if it any snow had actually fallen by now. Technically winter will not begin until December 21st, so there is still time. The album is here now, and we can pretend.


The cover art to Vistas is no masterpiece. It does the job, but it looks very middle-of-the-road. I like the details of the trees, and I appreciate the monochromatic design. The bench in the corner, presumably included to create a solitary and calm feel, hurts the overall color scheme though and draws the eye away from the landscape. The text is very small and includes an awkward drop shadow, especially with the bleak, white sky behind it. Small changes would have taken this cover to higher places.


Vistas begins with “Wavy Ground”. The track is composed of echoing, choral guitars, a scan over a landscape. This could be the musick in a nature documentary. Various layers come thru including piano and a simple beat. The icy chill descends on us as we enter the middle of the song. The drums are kind of cheesy, but I kind of like them, making the track seem somewhat more playful and fun to an otherwise meditative work. “Kosciuszko” begins with small chimes and turns into something that nears trip-hop with a cool beat, shimmering synth pads composed of falling snow, and a small line of conifer trees on xylophone (or similar percussion). “Kiandra”, the third track on the album, opens with a watery bass before adding a soft choir from another aqueous star. Gentle guitaring drifts through the sound.

“Fen” changes it up, going darker and starting with a simple, compressed beat like somebody playing a cardboard box. It almost gets repetitive with the choir sound used previously, but the chimes in this track, which also may have been used previously, make the whole of the piece work decently overall. This is still the least interesting track to me, and the break towards the end really hurts it overall. The final track is “Onsen”, the word for a Japanese bath. It has a drippy sound and thudding drums. Starting almost creepy, the track makes a cyberpunk turn with a keyboard line and bass throb; the shot pans out over the fence and we see that it’s a replica of rural Japan in a vast neon metropolis. The choral tones that mix with the lost voices of static give me chills in their horror of neo-consumerist dystopia. This is a great track, though I wish, again, that it did not take a break towards the end.

Despite its shortcomings, Vistas is not a bad release at all. While "Fen" may falter and the pieces may reference the same structures throughout, the kindred atmospheres are not homogenous and work as a whole to create a larger world. The standout track, "Onsen" pushes the EP beyond where it may have gone with the remainder alone, bringing a statement and vision to my mind that says something totally new and vivid. On the edge of the world, Vistas receives a Good.

On October 26th, I played a Halloween cover show at Babyland. These Halloween cover shows are a yearly tradition in many cities and something that seems to be even bigger in Pittsburgh from what I have heard from out-of-towners. Every year, I think about doing one of these but only remember about them at the last minute. There seems to be a sort of secret society of Halloween cover show promoters, so I've had trouble getting on one: not knowing who to talk to, when to ask, or just getting denied because apparently nobody wants to see a cover band for Kiss.

This year I responded to a post from my friend Alexis for an L7 cover band. I was only marginally familiar with the band, but I thought it would be fun and challenging to go out of my comfort zone into the harsh realm of grunge.

I honestly didn't think anything would come about signing up as these things tend to go, so I was shocked when Alexis contacted me about practicing. I was worried for a moment, but I really wanted to do it and practiced a few nights at home with some tabs I printed out. I figured I needed to catch up, but I found out that I was actually the most prepared at our first practice.

Over the next few weeks, we had some difficulties with different members moving at radically different paces. We ended up working on four songs: "Shitlist", "Packin' a Rod", "Freak Magnet", and "Pretend That We're Dead". By the date of the show, I think the four of us were excited, prepared, and a little antsy.


For better or worse for the four of us, we did not play first. A Placebo cover band was the opener. I had never heard Placebo before. My friend Shoop played keyboards and guitar, and I was excited to see her play finally. The band was pretty good, and I liked most of the songs. Some of them bordered on Goo Goo Dolls soft rock territory, which isn't my thing, but it was all well done.

L7 (that's us) was next. We set up with our gear and went right through the songs. I'm not sure the levels were perfect for all of our stuff. We had a few minor hiccups, though it's the kind of thing that you notice as a performer without any knowledge from the audience. Since we only had four, everybody wanted to hear more once we finished "Packin' a Rod". There was a minor idea of playing "Sonic Reducer", but we didn't do it (ha ha).


As we started clearing our gear from the floor space for bands, a ton of gear started coming our way. This was for a cover band of Samhain, Glenn Danzig's post-Misfits metal/punk mashup that evolved into Danzig. I always wanted to hear this band when I was younger, but I never did. It was a little harder when I was in high school since there was barely anything on YouTube and Spotify did not even exist. It's odd to think back to then since it doesn't even seem that long ago or that different until I think about it more.

Anyway, Samhain did sound like a combination of Misfits and Danzig (more of the latter than the former). It was hard to hear, though, as they were super loud and it was such a small room. The audience had also surged to much larger numbers for this set, so it became hard to see or move. We still had to get a bit of gear outside through the crowd. The anxiety from this situation did not make me want to stay at the show.


I didn't leave though. Dethklok was last, and it was worth staying for. I've only seen Metalocalypse a few times, so, like every other band on the bill, I wasn't familiar with any of the songs. I thought it might be fun to see how they would do the set since there was a lot of theatricality to be had here. They did a great job with the voices and look. It looked great with the red lights flaring about too. I enjoyed the Dethklok set way more than I expected to.

In the end, it was an awesome show, and it was almost all new stuff to me with my limited knowledge of the bands being covered. That obviously misses the point a bit, but I enjoyed it. It was fun to play with a new group of people too and learn stuff that I wouldn't normally play. I would totally do it again. We'll see what ends up happening for me for Halloween 2019.

Today, I did some more research into The Corn People mystery, hearing of their exploits under the seas after space-faring and world domination. This album, The Great Scooba Chase, was released in September and details these adventures underwater.


I don’t have much to say about the cover of The Great Scooba Chase. It’s got The Corn People under the water in some kind of submersible. The text is wavy, and everything is dark. There are abstract bubbles flitting about and some sine waves. It’s fine, but I wish it just was a little less dark or more colorful a bit. Yellow looks weird underwater. That’s life though, sometimes.


“Dive! Dive! Dive!” is a great, kooky watery intro. It has a sound like many prog bands such as Zuntata and Eloy distilled into under 40 seconds. “20,000 Legumes Under the Sea” has the chimey synths ringing in as a more horrid sound filters through the background and some weird animals squeal and shout. “The Great Scooba Chase” is like Pink Floyd’s “On the Run” but more minimal, sonar blips amongst the waves. “Attacken of the Kracken” is a seriously goofy name, but it starts as a silly song. A rollicking bassline is accompanied by sawtooth ascents and descents. I like the break with the big explosion, and everything goes haywire afterwards. Wires whiplash as the song ends, continuing the great sound effects library of The Great Scooba Chase.

“Hadopelagic”, the types of organisms that dwell in the deepest parts of the oceans, is a great description for this melodic wonder of sound. There aren’t any b-movie sound effects here; this is a mystical and wondrous piece of musick. It could be in a film or video game or something else that is awesome. The many layers of sound contribute to the depths of this voyage. “The Unknown Danger” is a short piece that builds up but doesn’t go anywhere. It sounds cool for what it is, though it is relatively sedate. “Rise Up” has the deepest bass sound I’ve heard on a Corn People release. It’s nice to hear a thicker sound, and the drums sound full too. This track is pretty good, but the lead twirls around into an eddy and gets lost downstream for a moment or two. “Tamam Shud” is named for a mysterious murder case surrounding an unknown man found on a coast in South Australia on December 1st, 1948. This track has the static of unvoiced radio chatter amidst it’s pulsing beats and rush of sonic adventure. “Sub Jam Sesh” is the last song here and one of the best. The depths ripple as bubbles twinkle in the last glimmers of light. Some of the sounds recall Pere Ubu's fractured musette and the ruinous doom of Allen Ravenstine's sampler. Now, back to the surface.

It's spotty and uneven, not unlike other Corn People albums, but The Great Scooba Chase truly plumbed new depths for undiscovered species of musick. I really enjoyed the later half of the record and liked the variety of song lengths here. Nothing went past five minutes, having to come up for air sometime sooner than later. The hollow synth sounds could be tiresome when used too much, but this album did so many other things with the sounds of waves, crashing electric impulses, and the deep rumbles of sulphur that it works. The Great Scooba Chase receives a Good.

I've been with the Corn People on a few of their adventures now: back with the Three Sisters, when they were blue, and last time when they took over the world. Now they are Veggies in Space, and that sounds good. Look at the little corn rocket. Isn't that cute?


The cover art to Veggies in Space is so silly. It's a very happy, carefree image akin to the images used by Beat Happening. I love the little jet coming out of the corn, so fun and simple, and it makes the corn look like a carrot. Rabbits are from the moon, you know, so it all makes sense. This might be the best cover for a Corn People album yet, and it does a good job at representing the musick under the surface.


“Crash Landing” is a great song. The drums are powerful, and the synths are wild and mechanical. It sounds like somebody is in trouble. “Abducted and Experimented” is calmer, funkier; seemingly the subject is under hypnosis or pharmaceuticals to create such a state. There are some kind of bubbling tubes. Also, it’s a smidge too long. “Zero-G Swing” is creepy and similarly silly. The warbling tones seem deranged. “I Have Craters in My Head” is a cool, spacey jam. I like the sharp change in the latter half into a different bombardment. “Betelgeuse” closes out the first side with an ambient and whirring jazz-fusion/funk.

Side 2 starts with the distant star voices of the “International Bass Station” that quickly warp into a fast jam. I really enjoyed the middle section with minimal drum hits and the static noise. “A Trip to Trappist-1” is another upbeat space jam that riffs off one segment. Also there are laser sounds. I wonder how far Trappist-1 is from the “International Bass Station”? “Dark Matter” starts with a hand drum and then becomes a pretty far out fanfare. “Floating with Greys” has elements of a soundtrack and has some cool dance stoppage. There are still tons of goofy horns. I feel like this one has some really, really good elements but should be more focused for how concise it is. Finally, there is a “Jam Aboard the Mothership”, which is certainly very jammy. It’s a good summation of this journey, both the highs and the lows.

Veggies in Space does not live up to the heights of Corn People Take Over the World, but it isn't the worst album either. The jams run wild; they cross borders and dimensions, planetary boundaries. They might go too long and far out, though the distances are not great; they are just unprepared for such journeys as meager space travelers (it seems anyway). I am glad that The Corn People took the trip out there, but Veggies in Space only gets a Neutral.

I've been listening to a lot of city pop recently. Essentially a Japanese form of disco and synth-pop that inspired vaporwave, city pop owes a lot to Yellow Magic Orchestra as a whole and its individual members. While browsing Bandcamp, I came across the fantastic synth duo, Satellite Young. That's a fabulous name, and they have a very cool sound to boot.


A month ago, November 2nd, 2018, Satellite Young released the single "Moment in Slow Motion" to Bandcamp. The cover artwork by Kana Tarao is both beautiful and alien. It appears as a still life, objects floating on the cool water. A splotchy pyramid hangs near a giant lens and a small palm. These are all symbols of vaporwave, that whole scene beyond just that type of reused mall musick. It works decently here, the sculptural appearance going beyond the usual. I don't love the composition, unfortunately.

Now, the composition of the actual song is another matter. It has a beautiful pop structure reminiscent of those 80s tunes that I have been listening to, mostly the tracks from Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam and weird, trash anime OVAs. I can't understand most of the lyrics, and that's fine. The vocals are strong, with background peeps appearing when they are needed and a small hint of reverb enhancing the minty flavor already produced by those crisp keyboards and rich bass. I get lost in these kind of tracks, displacing time, wind, light, Sun, Moon, and stars; it's a neon world of night full of cars and poofy hair. "Moment in Slow Motion" is just that, and when it cuts off after a short instrumental and synth solo, I want more. I'll be sure to watch for more from Satellite Young. "Moment in Slow Motion" receives a Good.

I don't know anything about the label aufnahme + wiedergabe or the artist Imperial Black Unit. I found this release while browsing Bandcamp and really liked the name, though I don't know what it means. It sounded tough and frightening, harsh and gritty. The label's name means "recording + playback", and they, along with the duo who created this release, are based in Berlin, Germany.


The cover art looks like the small label on the center of a record. It could also be a picture disc. Going along with the aesthetics of industrial and EBM (Electronic Body Music), this shows a figure in a biochemical suit holding a Molotov cocktail in greyscale. A regal building appears behind him in another layer. It's okay, very true to form, and that might be the best way to describe this release overall.

State of Pressure starts off with the title track. It's hard-hitting beats and warped vocal grunts and cries make me want to dance hard. I like the drum fills, cutting through the mix, and the buried arpeggios; the distant voices, lost in the void, add a frightening paranoia to the track. "The White Rose" starts with some frenzied cries that make me uneasy. The pulsing music builds into a similar rhythm to "State of Pressure" before the song adds a symphonic chorus hidden behind a veil and a running chiming lead.

"Philosophy of a Knife" starts off the B-side. I didn't like this one at much. It hits a little too hard for me to really enjoy it. I'm not a fan of those harsh yells, and the synths are not much to talk about either. There was some really cool textural creepings happening at some points though. "Now You Can Pray" starts out with some really hard four on the floor, and, though it changes, it doesn't let up. The synths sweep throughout, curtains in a hot room of scaly men.

State of Pressure is a decent release from Imperial Black Unit. As someone who doesn't listen to a ton of EBM, techno, and industrial, this doesn't do a lot for me. I liked the A side but not the B side. Mostly I don't like the harsh vocals. The first half had some very interesting compositions, different instruments producing greater wholes from their parts. State of Pressure gets a Neutral.

Smokey Bellows is a folk/blues/cowpunk band from here in Pittsburgh, PA. I used to book them at Roboto back when they were called Dick Whiskey and the Bottle Openers. Though the goofy name may have turned some away, they were still a great band. Now called Smokey Bellows, the band released Devil on August 17th of this year. As they say, and I mean nobody, 81718 is the number of the Beast. Save me.


The cover art to Devil is by Mick Malone, a poet and visual artist who I spoke with in February. Mick's art here has the look of blood and ink suggesting an unholy pact with the unhinged depiction of the beast. The title text looks spooky, and the band name is printed boldly like an old chest delivered from the Arctic that might contain a terrible secret. It's perfect for this occult tale.


The first track on Devil, "Prologue", has a swing feel to the blues/folk. The vocals are a little overboard for much of this song. The instrumentation is pretty minimal overall, discordant, and sparse. The piano clashes a bit with the guitar. After the introduction to the story, it's time for "Devil I". I really like the reverb-laden production here, though the bass is a slight bit too loud at first. The guitar jangles like ice under the moon, and the vocals, like Reid Paley himself, tell us the dark tale dramatically. This whole album is very theatrical, recalling Tom Waits. "Devil II" is a heavier rocker. Like ZZ Top, the guitar goes deep into heavy blues thunder and lightning. This is a great song. "Midnight" goes hard rock again, backing vocals howling like cowboy spirits from dirt and grit. The banjo is a nice touch, expertly hidden away behind roaring guitar solos. The guitar is really wild here, almost to Guitar Wolf levels.

"Adrift" begins with a raging man, lost. It explodes, but it's cold and nervous most of the time under the eye of fear. The vocals are a little off, the lyrics a little too specific to the story, written in a way that isn't the most musical. "Epilogue" does the story-telling better in tune with the song. A particularly grim guides our narrator on his descent into Hell. But that's not the end - Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell on You" follows. This one sits closer to the original than to well-known cover by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Along with "Devil II", this is one of the strongest songs on the album.

Overall, Devil is pretty good. It has a few fault moments, but Smokey Bellows succeeds with this cabaret-tinged tale of damnation and gloom. The album has a similar sound to Chris D.'s Flesh Eaters and Stone By Stone, along with the aforementioned Tom Waits, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, ZZ Top, and CCR. Despite the classic sound and tale, Smokey Bellows produce a unique sound on Devil that shows the past, present, and future of American musick. Devil receives a Good.

Sorry, I'm Dead played at the Deutschtown Music Festival on July 12th, 2018. We ended up playing Friday at 5pm at the YMR Club, the first show with the new lineup.

I was really excited heading down to the festival. I had never been there before, though I had always intended to go. As I have mentioned before, music festivals give me anxiety about missing them and being on time (not about crowds or public spaces), so I often do miss them. Having a deadline helps me stay focused.

We stopped at the green room, and then went down the street to the YMR Club. It was much smaller than I expected, but there was already a decent crowd. The audience didn't seem pleased to see us; I felt like we were invading somebody's semi-private space. Once we started playing, the people seemed to be into it.

We started with an instrumental jam, and then went into an array of classic songs such as "Stand Me Up Tonight", "Killed in an EC Comic", and "Neon". People were dancing and really listening to the musick. There were a few errors on our part, a sense of unsureness within us as a unit. I can't necessarily speak for others, but I can say that we were surely not yet cohesive. It wasn't bad regardless. At the end, members of the audience said how great it was. They really liked us; I don't think they were disingenuous. We decided to stay for the next band at least.


Neostem was next. Basically a grunge band, Neostem was focused in their heavy music. It was pretty cool; I didn't expect to like them as much as I did. The entire scene, the band and the venue, looked like a background stage in King of Fighters. It was refreshing to see a band that was so into what they were doing, and I hope to see them again sometime.

We stopped back at the green room. There was a bunch of good-looking food, but I could eat none of it. It was disappointing but not surprising. We talked with a few of the other bands and a man who used to come up with songs for bands in the 90s, specifically Soundgarden. I think he just came up with ideas for songs and some small parts, not necessarily the whole composition. I was pretty tired and there was a lot going on to pay attention super closely. Regardless, I was interested in his wild stories of rock 'n' roll myth. After that we walked around for a bit, grabbed t-shirts that listed all of the bands and had a cool Joe Mruk illustration, talked with the new Pittsburgh Current, and then drove back to Lawrenceville. Let's do it again next year!

Last time we saw those wacky synth weirdos they were blue; now they are taking over the world! The Corn People have been busy in the months since June doing an album each month of this year. For July, they released Corn People Take Over the World.


What a goofy cover this is. Of course, this is The Corn People. As beings from another world, they do not understand our Earth ways of design and aesthetics. This is just the Corn People corn texture overlaid on a planet with black continent silhouettes and a flag with the same texture. The flag looks pretty cool, and the black and yellow is a strong choice. The text is sort of hard to read too. Overall it's pretty cool like a B-movie music album.


For an album called Corn People Take Over the World, the first track announces that "We Come in Peace". Is this a lie? Is this a put-on? The music is a combination of maracas and other percussion instruments to an ambient, textural decay. A long drone interspersed with blips becomes more percussive and rhythmic as the song continues. Perhaps The Corn People have just come to dance? "Wandering" is a great track. I love the drum sound, though I wish it sounded more within the same realm as the swooping synths. The short pauses towards the later half bring a lot of climactic tension that pays off with choral light. "Planet Corn" is perhaps where The Corn People came from. It seems like a fast and busy place, almost kraut-rock combined with video games and jungle stuff. Perhaps this is the how the planet is now if we assume that Can and Neu! came from that world as well. Truthfully, of the famous kraut-rockers, this sounds the most like Kraftwerk; that beautiful synth that journeyed "Europe Endless" and rode the "Autobahn" seems to be here, ancient alien artifacts (and I don't mean that poofy hair guy riding the Chariots of the Gods?). Next is "In the Beginning". Is this a concept album about The Corn People's journey to Earth and their adventures here so far? It's a beautiful track that reminds me of Zuntata, Taito's legendary prog band. The melodies are wonderful, soaring clouds and stars. The choppy part in the second half does not work as well as the similar part in "Wandering". The end here is pretty weird but cool. The change in composition is weird but striking, going from a more composed nature to something more amateurish. The same drum parts continue into "Tomorrow", a rumbly jam like a 50s sci-fi theatre, a rush of hot wind thru the High Desert. The rumbling dissonance continues into the wind.

A click and then something starts. "Nara Dreamland" announces the second half with false horns and percussive static accompanying your standard drums. The moan of a monster from some lunar asteroid and the chirps of stars like from deep inside an Acid Mothers Temple appear, and then chaos takes over. Apparently Nara Dreamland is the name of a defunct Japanese amusement park; perhaps The Corn People hid out here for some time after landing on our planet. "Pop" is next. Is this how they came to develop their Earthly musick? I assume that The Corn People played musick previously but they may have discovered Yellow Magic Orchestra or the previously mentioned Acid Mothers Temple back in Japan. Maybe it is a statement on pop music, an outlier and the shortest song on the album. "This Was Your Life!" sounds like musick in a game show made with a haunted organ that's rocking back and forth out of control further and further into some strange future. The title makes me think of the TV show and seems like a comment on consumerism to go with the last one. It could also be talking about the changing fortunes of The Corn People. "The Bomb Run" continues with the organing, the fatalistic pounding that the last track became, before being swept over by an air raid siren. It's another in the theme of Atom Age sci-fi storytelling that's been creeping along in a rubber costume. This one really does sound sinister: murmering drones, creaking synthetic tones, an ominous bassline. Finally, somebody returns "Home". I'm not sure who. It seems that they live in a pretty dark place, a crumbling darkness navigated to by ticking hi-hats. Peering out, again I can see the stars, small lighthouses in the abyss. Something speaks. Was it an invasion all along?

Corn People Take Over the World is a great album, their best yet, at least for me. I still have four months more to go thru plus the upcoming December Corn People album. It's gonna be a wild ride through the cornfields from here till 2019. I can't say what the future will hold, but the higher production values and killer but corny songwriting ensure that Corn People Take Over the World receives a Good.

I finally got out to see some live musick at a show I wasn't playing for the first time in a while. I haven't seen a lot of stuff that interested me recently, but I had to get out to see Carsickness and Ploughman's Lunch again.

This show was at the headquarters for Get Hip Recordings, a garage rock-focused label run by the Cynics' guitarist, Gregg Kostelich. All the proceeds went to the Tree of Life Synagogue, the location of the attack in late October this year by a neo-Nazi in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Squirrel Hill. Karl Mullen, frontman of both bands, also had tons of art for sale focusing on art in the shape of record release formats (45 and LP). My partner and I looked around the Get Hip store a bit before the show; we thought we would end up unfortunately late to see the bands but were somehow on time. Zack Keim, frontman for the young rockers Nox Boys, showed us around the cool and tidy location. I had my eye on a few things, mostly a compilation by the UK band Gobblinz, but would be back to give everything another look once the musick was done.



Maura Moonshine played first, just solo on an electric guitar except for a short accompaniment by her father Karl. Her set was short and more poppy than the latter two bands. One could call it singer-songwriter, a blend of R&B, country, folk, jazz, and blues in a way that works on a small scale. Though it wasn't exactly my bag, so to speak, I did enjoy much of it, especially the Sonic Youth tone of the guitar.




Next was Ploughman's Lunch. I had seen them last on the final night of the BBT. That night they played long - two sets constituting several hours from what I remember. This night was short and perfect. It was just right and combined the punkier songs about hate crimes and police violence with the happier Celtic melodies about whiskey and love. The band seemed in top form - the bass booming, the small penny whistle happily chiming, the guitar skittling and roaring, and the drums bringing it all together. Karl Mullen had an awesome fuzz pedal that really made his leads rip. That carried on over to the next band too.





Carsickness was last, opening with "Bill Wilkinson", their cult hit song that asks, "what do you say to the KKK?" It's not a friendly message to any white-hooded creep, and it is especially powerful to hear now. When the President has turned treachery to the people of this country and the world and emboldened criminals of a similar persuasion across the globe, it is important to remember Edmund Burke's words about how evil wins. We must always stay vigilant against fascists and bigoted thugs. Carsickness took off on this energy with an all-star set of hard-hitting sonic power and exhibitions of togetherness such as "For You". Towards the end, Steve Sciulli, the wind instrument and keyboard player, walked amongst the audience followed by Dennis Childers, the drummer, as he tapped on everything around him (including his bandmates). The band was joined by Maura Moonshine and Gregg Kostelich. Just when the musick seemed to end, Carsickness took off again for a final reprise of "Bill Wilkinson". Karl made sure to ask us what to tell Donald Trump as well as the KKK. The answer will always be, "fuck you".


We headed back to the store, picked up a few things (thanks for playing the Swamp Rats and The Paisley Zipper band for me, Zack!), hung out for a moment or two, and headed out into the night. I hope to see Carsickness again.

Months ago my friend Reid shared a link with me over Facebook Messenger to an album they had done. I put it on a backburner, "I'll listen to that soon." Well, here I am at the end of the year, and I have finally listened to this tape, Carrie Blast Furnishings. I think that you should too.


The cover art is pretty simple. I don't feel much about it. I like the crookedness of the design, and I like the old-timey look connecting it with the Carrie Blast Furnaces referenced by the title. I wish it wasn't just all white though. It's not a design I particularly love.

The first song on Carrie Blast Furnishings is “Dry Mouth Dawn”, a song that goes through small changes before heading into a more traditional form of lyrical folk acoustic guitar works. Reid’s lyrics are introspective and sad, an elegy to weedy evasion on the edge of the waking world, red-eyes separation. The turn at the end suggests the narrator inviting another into the shadowy edges before a tape drone whirrs out the track. Next is “The Archive (Infinite Turns)”, a more sedate work, an empty wooden floor with some small particles that haven’t been swept. “The sun becomes the moon; you think you’re in a stranger’s room”. The song made me happy towards the end. “Letter G” is a kind of a rock song played by brave couch surfers who can rock and even roll. It sounds like The Soft Boys, and it is good. I like it. “I try to make my love like the letter ‘G’.” Is there better than that? “Sisters of Fountain” hisses and croaks and scuffs, a toy in a wind-up factory. “And I drove down to the bog, trudged uphill and mountain, just to get a cool, clean drink from the sisters of the fountain. Oh yeahhhhhhh…” It’s a country song, more so than the others. The song sounds like an excellent metaphor for an abusive situation to me. I’m not sure if the sisters are good or bad though. The ambiance at the end is quite cool. “Swissvale Samba” opens with the strangest combination of old-school cheap keyboard drumbeat and Legend-esque synth pads. Then a guitar, or maybe a ukulele, plays with the little drums, and it sounds good, recalling the gentleness of Jonathan Richman. It does go on a bit long. Some spaghetti western synths close it out.

Side two, I think, begins with “Sophia”. Since I don’t have a physical tape, I’m just guessing. It starts with another micro-synthphony masterpiece. “Sophia” and the narrator are falling apart; the beautiful poetry sounds like Bob Dylan in certain turns of words and cracks in vocals. “Spider has made its home by the outlet,” Reid says before going in to “Comforter”. These last two songs have both been preceded by VHS tape static effects. “Comforter” is high drama Led-Zeppelin as a slower and more deliberate tunehouse blues with pop hookage fishing line. “When I feel a solid metric ton way down on my mattress on the floor,” Reid says, and I hear high art of true authentic colors. The sound is so full for just acoustic guitar and vocals. “Salinger Christhead” comes right in from “Comforter” with a lustful rhyme that goes on and on. "Enough with all this neoliberal capitalism. Jump into my bed, and untie my red ribbon 'cause I do so much better when I'm loved and I'm fed." I love "Space Whales", the next track. "I have no fear. They'll meet me here, way out in the Midwest." It's a little cleaner than the others and very cinematic. "Screaming Trains" was recorded at a different location than the other tracks. I don't know that that is obvious from the track itself, but it does seem a little quieter and more subdued than most of the rest of the album. The chorus, the title repeated, is really great. "Sometimes I stand in my own backyard just to stare at another, and it's about time to cut that out." The last track, "Reel of Lies" has a semi-Celtic, or maybe bluegrass, kind of thing mixed with a weird, whirring drone. This is another favorite on this album.

Carrie Blast Furnishings is such a great album. I love the little VHS-synth snippets. I don't know if they are samples or original, but they sound great mixed in with the ragged and real music, a glimpse into a different time and space of misty heights and spacious waters. The lyrics set the craft into motion. Carrie Blast Furnishings receives a Good.

You can order Carrie Blast Furnishings from Unread Records here on from the Bandcamp above.

Once upon a time, long ago, I booked a show for a goofy band called Zigtebra. Zigtebra is a Chicago-based synth-pop duo. Every time they come through Pittsburgh, it's some kind of political holiday. The first show was Flag Day of 2013, and we had a potluck at Roboto with some fun decorations created by Steph Neary. Last year, Sorry I'm Dead, my band, played with them at Howlers on the 4th of July. They had tried to come back again this year, but I was busy with Deutschtown Music Festival.

I will say that over time, Zigtebra became a lot more powerful, more "professional", more polished but not boring. The older Zigtebra was goofier and guitarier and reminded me of Jonathan Richman. Now they're doing Purity Ring-style dreamy, electro-pop with synthscapes and TS808-descended beats. And I still like them, because they are still very good. Zigtebra has a new album coming out this month, September 28th, and I was lucky enough to hear it ahead of time. Let's talk about this Major Crush.


"Want You is a bittersweet song, pining for a lost love. It's got an insanely catchy hook, ghostly backing vocals, and a bubble-chewing drum beat. This is will be played over the end credits of a 32-year-old film. "Bring It On" has one of the coolest synth sounds I've ever heard, hollow and wild, an icy-fire. The lyrics have a power fueled by sexual desire or something. "I Can Dance" has a bubbly synth and lyrics about self-esteem thru dance and a positive relationship. It's pretty cheesy but cool. I like the mysterious and suspenseful nature of the vocals from the dance floor. I'm not big on the breakbeat breakdown, but that's life sometimes. "Wildlife" is a quiet song with that crystal sound I talk about a lot. It's a very sweet love song - aww! "If you keep on going, I'll go too!" That's so sweet and good. The beat is very interesting with a cool bass sound and muffled drums. I like the samples that spring from the musical transmission here. "Paradise" is a great end to the first side. More love and all of that with lyrics about being a peanut butter sandwich in addition to a sound like a teen movie ending theme, this song sums it all up. "Be my echo!"

Starting the second side, we, the listeners (I hope you will listen to this album anyway) are told to "Take My Hand" (and that's the band's, not mine - thanks from the management). This song has a sound like a music box with gentle and lush synth waters flowing over the beloved subjects with softly popping bubbles in the air. "I'll Find You" has a sound that combines 80s Madonna and a bit of hip-hop from the past 10 years. That whining horn is so weird and kind of annoying. The lyrics really remind me a lot of Madonna, and the production is excellent on this one. The hypnotic breakdown is my favorite part. That horn is a little annoying, but I feel like sometimes that makes the song too. "Greatest Love" has a vaguely jungle beat and is a little more lo-fi than the earlier tracks. The vocals just manage to crest the wave of the synths once they peak in the chorus. It's very catchy and Ramones-esque in its simplicity. "Wild Child", the penultimate track, is a unique song with a squirmy/slurping synth line and brash lyrics. It's rock 'n' roll with R&B backing vocals. "You're just a soft boy, and I like it tough". This is some cool stuff; Iggy Pop would be proud. Spidery guitars bring in the final track "Cut Me". It's spooky coming down from the skinny limbs of a post-autumnal tree in the night near a bench. "My friends said you were poison". Is this the comedown from the titular Major Crush? A blues letdown destruction, "the only thing you've ever been good at is making me... is making me... bad" the singer wails, hesitating to admit the sinking truth.

Major Crush is an impressive album, telling the tale, emotionally, of a rollercoaster crush, ending in sudden oblivion. "Say goodbye to all of this," one could say here. It came so unexpectedly, and that end made the album perfect. Zigtebra has combined excellent production with deep bass ravines and crystal teardrop highs, clear vocals and the rush of electronics. I enjoyed all of the songs and the concept as a whole. Major Crush releases on September 28th, and you need to listen to it. It gets a Good.

On June 17th I went to one of the Ladyfest shows for 2018. I was pretty upset around this time, mostly about money. I had applied to over 250 jobs, got a job as a dishwasher that was unclearly a one-time thing, opened new credit cards to pay for rent, and even made a GoFundMe to try and raise money for my expenses. It really wasn't looking good. I got especially bummed when someone left a rude comment for me on the GoFundMe telling me to get a job when I had been trying to do so since February. A month or so after, I got a job at a coffee shop and am now working in an IT position. I just have to wake up early, but I'm not doomed.

On June 17th, the forecast was still doom and gloom. I went to the show anyway because my partner and I were both excited to go. I saw my friend Racheal outside, and she put me on the guestlist after I told her my story about the GoFundMe and everything. I was really angry about the negative comment and made some very negative remarks about the person who left it which made Racheal feel bad too. She still helped me though. I'm glad she was willing to do that for me; it was a big help to know that someone cares.



When I came in, the Alice Bag Band was coming to the end of their set with just a few songs left. Surprisingly, I'm not familiar with her work, though I have read about her before. I generally know less about Californian punk stuff than New York or the Midwest. The band was really cool, with great playing and a good sound that shot forward with force and an element of jaggedness. Alice Bag was really amazing. She was really loud and powerful and positive. I can't remember the exact song she played or what she said, but I remember feeling very emotional and starting to cry. It also made me feel a lot better to hear her, even if I can't remember what it was.


Next was Aloe, and this was their last show. I saw them many times before this, so it was nothing new to me. It was still a really great set, one of their best. The vocals were clear and the playing was tight with more noisy guitar work than before.


Blak Rapp Madusa was awesome. I was excited to go to Ladyfest to see her set in particular, and it did not disappoint. She played a song about not letting people get the best of you, not letting people see you in a rage because of something they said. That made me feel so much better about that stupid situation with the GoFundMe person. The whole set was pretty awesome though


Finally, before I left, I was able to see The Lopez. The last few times I have seen them, I felt that they have gone on for a bit long. Not so much here, and the songs were fast and energetic. It was a return to form. I love their high energy noisy garage punk/electro style.

I wish I could have seen more of Ladyfest, but I was tired that night. I didn't go to any of the other shows, but the Sunday show looked excellent as well; I have stuff I have to do each Sunday afternoon with some friends, so getting there was not really possible without letting a lot of other people down. I hope all of the shows went well.

Speaking of letting people down, I know that I have let my readers down. I've been super anxious and busy in the last few months, hence the summer break. I also misplaced a few SD cards or at least the files on them, including things from this show. While I still haven't found the missing files, it was good to finally write this article. I'll be making weekly posts again now that things have settled down. Thanks for reading.


Deutschtown Music Festival is a two-day music festival that has taken place across Pittsburgh's Northside for the past six years. It's a free event with over 320 bands playing at over 30 music venues, both indoors and outdoors, tomorrow, Friday, July 13th, and also on Saturday, July 14th. I'm particularly excited about this year because my band Sorry, I'm Dead will be playing with a new lineup.

Sorry, I'm Dead is set to play at 5pm at YMR Club. That's 631 Suismon St. I've never been there before, and I had never heard of the place before this year. It has an interesting history, being founded as the Young Men's Republican's Club back in 1934 and obtaining one of Pennsylvania's first liquor licenses after Prohibition. Based on this Post-Gazette article from 2003, YMR Club doesn't seem particularly affiliated with the Republican Party anymore, and the fact that they are calling it YMR Club now follows suit. It sounds like an interesting little slice of old Pittsburgh that still exists for those in the know. I hope that doesn't change.

In addition to my own musical happenings, I'm also excited about many of friends playing the festival too. I'll be able to make some of the later Friday shows, but I have to work Saturday. I'm most excited that my friends, BBGuns, will be playing on the HughShows Stage at 8pm on Saturday. I've listed my favorites below if you want to follow the leader, or you can check out the full lineup here. No matter which bands you decide to see, it's gonna be a packed night for sure!

Friday, July 13th

Saturday, July 14th

If you live in Pittsburgh, I'm sure you know the story by now. Charlie Deitch, the editor of the City Paper, and Rob Rogers, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's editorial cartoonist, were both fired from their jobs on May 15th and June 14th respectively. They both lost their jobs for upholding their more liberal/leftist/progressive ideals and causes, the same ones that these publications supported for many years.

Deitch was fired for continuing to criticize Daryl Metcalfe, a Republican representative from Butler. Metcalfe has described himself as "a Tea Partier before it was cool". He has done many reprehensible acts. In 2015, Metcalfe invited a white supremacist, Robert Vandervoort, the head of ProEnglish, to speak before a hearing to make English the official language in Pennsylvania. Metcalfe defended his actions by proclaiming, “a white nationalist … is a lot different than a white supremacist”. Great. Last year, in 2017, Metcalfe lashed out at a colleague, Matt Bradford, for touching his arm briefly during a state government committee meeting about a land-use bill. Metcalfe reacted to the touch by saying, “look, I'm a heterosexual. I have a wife, I love my wife, I don't like men — as you might. But stop touching me all the time.” Everyone certainly has autonomy over their own body, but this oddly homophobic rant was irrelevant of the situation at hand. This event came after Metcalfe's attempts to pass a state law to define marriage as solely between a man and woman. In 2013, he even called for the impeachment of Bruce Hanes, an official in Montgomery County who was issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Metcalfe has been the representative in Pennsylvania's 12th district since 1999.

Deitch described Metcalfe as "unfit for office" and a "blatant obstructionist". This came soon after Metcalfe unleashed a Facebook tantrum about "lying homosexuals" and how he won't even bother with any Democratic legislation that passes his door. I can't say that I disagree with Mr. Deitch's opinion on Metcalfe. After doing some reading on the representative, I can say that he's no friend of mine either.
Deitch was the editor of the Pittsburgh City Paper since 2014 and had been with them in other roles since 2005 before he was fired last month. This termination happened only 13 days after his piece about Metcalfe's obstructionist tendencies and a week after he was told to stop writing about the representative. The general manager of the paper said that Deitch's negative coverage of Metcalfe damaged ties with parent company, The Butler Eagle, a newspaper in Metcalfe's area of representation, Butler County. The paper is certainly allowed to fire him for these reasons; it's not against the law. Deitch was replaced by sportswriter Rob Rossi. This is Pittsburgh, home to champion sports teams such as The Steelers, but it's odd to have a sportswriter as the editor of an alternative paper.

Similarly, Rob Rogers, the famous political cartoonist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, also lost his job. His firing on June 14th came after 19 of his cartoons were killed for being left-leaning and anti-Trump, focusing on recent political events such as the separation of children from their families at the border.



The Post-Gazette fired Rogers because he "has become too angry for his health or for his own good," said publisher John Block. Block wants to appease right-leaning readers who have moved to the Post-Gazette after the competing Tribune-Review switched to an all-digital format. Block also merged the Toledo Blade and Post-Gazette's editorial departments, as both are managed by his company Block Communications, putting Keith Burris in charge of both papers. Keith Burris is certainly right-leaning, admitting this himself, though he has described his goal as making the paper "independent". Burris certainly has the right to fire Rogers even if I don't like it, though there's also room to ask, "wasn't he just doing his job?" Most importantly though, it's telling to see the shift in the paper's goals and audience.

These two terminations of longtime staff members, even Pulitzer Prize-winning in the case of Rob Rogers, showcase the visible shift under President Trump. Are the papers afraid of criticism from the despot? If nothing else they're trying to tap into the new "alt-right", logic-without-care, pragmatism-without-love, the-now-without-the-why. President Trump has brought out the worst in us as a nation. We've seen a dramatic rise in hate crimes brought on by the President's careless use of language. We've seen, of course, Nazis marching in the streets and increased border control measures to the point of absurdity and child abuse, the latter of which was pondered briefly before. Just yesterday, the United States even withdrew from the UN's Human Rights Council on charges that the council accepts countries that have poor human rights laws and frequently, hypocritically in their eyes, criticizes Israel. This withdrawing was after the UN accused the US of violating human rights law. Though the Human Rights Council is certainly deserving of criticism, the act of withdrawing right now is also fishy and ponders, "what's next?"

I don't know what to think about "what's next" to be honest. Any number of things could happen next, but I am sure that more explicitly racist, sexist, transphobic, homophobic nonsense will occur. I'm sure we'll see some Nazis run for office next year, despite protest from both major parties and the unlikelihood of victory. I'm sure we will continue to see police shooting black people, such as what just happened yesterday to Antwon Rose. I don't want these things to continue, and I know that you don't either.


We always need to ensure that there is a local voice for more progressive politics. It seems that the Post-Gazette and the City Paper have turned to appeasement to avoid criticism and to ensure their profits are intact. Their profits seem pretty down, to be honest. So let them go. Seriously, just let them go. There is a new independent media company turning up in Pittsburgh that I'm interested in. Before you get any ideas, no, this is not a sponsored blog post. Anyway, check out the Kickstarter for The Pittsburgh Current, a new alt-weekly and proposed counter to what remains of the City Paper. The Pittsburgh Current is being set up by Charlie Deitch himself. I'm somewhat worried that the name may hurt the publication's reach, as it's hard to search on Google (it doesn't even show up on the first page by just searching the name), but we'll see what will happen. Here is the current site, and there are future plans to turn this into an actual printed publication to rival the aforementioned City Paper. The website is pretty basic now, but this is just the first few days. I myself have very little funds at the moment (you can help with that here), but I intend to support the Pittsburgh Current in any way I can. And, to Mr. Deitch, if you are reading this and need a musick reporter, don't be shy ;-).

I got a message to the Skull Valley page last week about a new album that just got released, Bagger by Bagger. Sam Casale is the sole member of Bagger, a weird name that is appealing to me in a way. He used to be a vocalist in a hardcore punk band, but Bagger is a lo-fi/dream pop/bedroom pop project.


The cover art is strange. It has a nihilistic tone and a strange character that reminds me of a badger. The simplicity of the sun in the background seems intentional, and I don't mind the figure in the front. The colors are extremely bright and jarring, and I don't like the plain text in the bottom right, the holes in the image (where it is transparent or white on the edges or near the linework), the blurriness, or the black border.

The first track on Bagger is "Stii Cine Esti (You Know Who You Are)". It's okay. I like the production, the deep drone dreams that encapsulate the track. The guitar work is pretty typical for this kind of stuff, clearly sprouting from the Dream Academy, Cocteau Twins, and the like. I don't like the lyrics at all. They are also along those same lines, a downer rainfall grey wash forever, and the lyrics seem to be describing a failed relationship. It's just not that interesting and like pointing fingers, y'know? "Next" has a cool start, almost like Your Friend, and then it goes into an interesting yet awkward noir, trip-hop sound. The lyrics continue down the same path as before, unfortunately. It seems like the narrator is blaming someone he hurt for not keeping him away, and I really don't think that's too great. Of course, I'm just looking at this through the lyrical window that I have. "Study Break (Intermission)" is an awesome instrumental trip-hop piece. I love the dissonance, the flute, the start and stop of the beats, and the jazz instrumentation. There's some great sampling on here.

The second side begins with "Trust". It's a return to the sound from that first track on the first side, airy synths and vocals both. I have to mention that I don't like the vocals much at all, and the production is particularly lo-fi here. The vocals sound awkward, especially some of the backing vocals. I kind of like the backing vocals for being so odd, though they make the song over-the-top in a campy and humorous way; unfortunately, I assume that is unintentional. The instrumentation is really basic, quiet, droning guitar and clear drums. The vocals are another downer about the same stuff. "What I Say vs. What I actually Mean" is very self-gratifying and accusatory, spoken-word like Henry Rollins with some big words. It's very, very melodramatic. The instrumentation is like a ballad. It's too much, and I really don't like it. I like that the final track "Galactus (Nothing Left to Give)" uses a pop culture metaphor. It seems to be wishing the other party well after the failed relationship that has permeated this release. It still seems somewhat entitled to me, and I find the lyrics to be convoluted at times. I think it's often better to use simpler words than flowery language.

Bagger's self-titled EP leaves a lot to be desired. It's a release that arrogantly wallows in grief in an unfortunately familiar way in the current musick culture. While I do enjoy droning guitars and the like, this was too much of a downer. Bagger lacks tension overall. Films, fiction, musick, any type of story pretty much needs tension; without it, there's nothing to build or let go. It's just swimming in circles.

It is nice to see a variety of sounds here; they don't work perfectly together, but they aren't completely alien to one another either. I didn't expect the trip-hop elements at all, and that instrumental one was my favorite of these tracks. It was strong, confident, and powerful, something that I wish the rest of the album had. There's a lot wrong with this album, and unfortunately, I cannot recommend it. Perhaps the next Bagger release will be better. Bagger gets a Bad.

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