Short Stories

Drainuary: A Tragedy in Two Parts

Hope, Part 1

On February 7, 2023, I made a commitment to myself and a small group of friends. For the rest of February, the only music I would listen to would be within the “drain gang”. For anyone who doesn’t know, drain gang includes a plethora of artists including Bladee, Ecco2k, Thaiboy Digital, and Yung Lean. The genre is a blend of hyperpop and trap, which many seem to enjoy.

I had never listened to any of these artists prior to that day. Naively, I assumed that this challenge, called “Drainuary” would be a good introduction to the genre. However, drain gang would soon take its toll on my mental health.

Yung Lean performing at The Hoxton in 2016. Photo courtesy of Drew Yorke, under Creative Commons.

The Demise, Part 1

For context, I listen to approximately 6 hours of music every day. It gets me through both the good times and the bad. Music hypes me up for the gym and puts me to sleep. The issue with listening to this much music arises when I can no longer listen to a diverse music palette. Over the first 24 hours of Drainuary, I listened to about six hours of Bladee alone.

This statistic alone broke me. Exactly at that 24 hour mark, I decided to abandon the challenge, knowing that my mental state would only further deteriorate from there. I wasn’t enjoying the music that much, and I only listened to drain gang out of spite. But, this journey was not yet finished.

Hope, Part 2

One friend of mine suggested that I should instead listen to an artist that I actually enjoyed. After searching through my playlists for artists starting with an F (for February), I finally landed on Fiona Apple. Now, I would listen to no music except for that in which Fiona Apple played a part in creating. Although I hadn’t listened to all of her catalogue, I adored her latest album “Fetch The Bolt Cutters”.

Compared to Drainuary, “Fiona February” was a breath of fresh air. Her music spanned a far greater range of emotions than someone like Bladee, and I could assign an identity to each of her albums. As a result, cycling through her music felt far more natural, allowing me to keep with Fiona February for longer into the month.

Fiona Apple at Damrosch Park Aug 8, 2015. Photo courtesy of Sachyn Mital, under Creative Commons.

The Demise, Part 2

Longer is a bit misleading of a term though. After five days of listening to nothing except Fiona Apple, I started having a mental breakdown and needed to use other artists to ground myself again. Granted, I was also dealing with other issues at the time, but Fiona February certainly didn’t help.

What I Learned

Despite what I had expected, intentionally limiting my listening to just one type of music is extremely difficult. I was unable to complete many tasks I can normally do just fine, because I felt like I didn’t have the “right” music playing. Additionally, I found out just how heavily I tend to lean into music as a coping mechanism for whatever I’m dealing with at a given time.

As a result, I felt like I couldn’t process things that arose in my life well, if at all. I don’t know if there’s really a moral or anything of the sort to gleam from this situation. All I know is that I can never actively limit my music listening to one or a couple of artists.


Interesting Albums: January-February

2023 has been off to a decently solid start through its first couple of months. As for more popular artists, some have seen a massiv surge in popularity, like Ice Spice. Lil Yachty put his heavily autotuned singing to use on a psych rock album. There’s still so many artists who may not be as popular, but their releases have been just as–if not more–intriguing to listen to.

Lumi – Snail’s House

Official audio for “gemini” by Snail’s House

If you’re looking for some new study music, Snail’s House has you covered. “Lumi” dives into a more soft-spoken future bass sound filled with magic and wonder. The only goal this album pursues is to uplift listeners, and it does so wonderfully. There is such a variety of instruments and melodies even if there isn’t much exploration out of Snail House’s typical genre influences. Whether you’ve hit a snag writing an essay (as I have recently) or are taking a short break from your work, “Lumi” is bound to bring your spirits back up and get back into the swing of things.

After the Magic – Parannoul

Official audio for “We Shine at Night (우리는 밤이 되면 빛난다)” by Parannoul

“After the Magic” might not be the most invigorating album you’ve ever heard, but Parannoul has seemed to hone in their craft with this record. Each track takes listeners on a journey, enabled by the nearly six minute average song length. While this makes individual songs euphoric to listen to, going through the whole album at once can be draining. The Korean shoegaze band did have some masterful production on “After the Magic” though. Everything blends together nicely without becoming a slurry of drums, guitars, and vocals.


Music video for “Sleepwalking” by The WAEVE

The WAEVE is an artist I’ve been following for a short while. I’ve enjoyed some of their previous discography, but this album seems to drag behind some of that work. Many of the tracks aren’t active enough to keep me engaged, and the lyrics aren’t exactly revolutionary either. There’s a couple of songs that innovate on their relatively quiet, light sound though. “Kill Me Again” has a solid groove and bass guitar with a lot of presence on the track. Overall, “The WAEVE” just does not have a dynamic enough style to keep me invested.

Bless This Mess – U.S. Girls

Music video for “Futures Bet” by U.S. Girls

U.S. Girls have quickly become one of my favorite artists as of late. This new album, “Bless This Mess” takes a synth-pop approach to Meg Remy’s new experiences with motherhood. The singles for this album, such as “Futures Bet” and “So Typically Now”, are especially whimsical and fun. But, even the remaining tracks on the album diversify and solidify U.S. Girls’s lyrical and musical range. From dance pop to more somber tunes, “Bless This Mess” was a joy to listen to from front to back.

Classic Album Review

Danny Brown’s “Atrocity Exhibition”: A Review

My first introduction to Danny Brown’s music was through his 2016 album “Atrocity Exhibition”. After subsequently visiting the rest of his discography, this album still holds its place as Brown’s most introspective and critical.

Over the 45 minute runtime, Brown delivers a haunting portrayal of a life intimately tied to drugs, including all of the pleasures and struggles that accompany them.

Admittedly, it takes some getting used to his voice on the majority of “Atrocity Exhibition” tracks. However, Brown’s whiny, nasally rapping helps reinforce the sense that he is most certainly not sober as he raps.

“Ain’t It Funny”

Brown’s primary goal with “Atrocity Exhibition is to keep people from getting sucked into heroin, cocaine, alcohol, and other drugs. At the same time though, he knows why people do get involved, and much of the rest of the album is dedicated to exploring those reasons.

Live a fast life, seen many die slowly

Unhappy when they left so I try to seize the moment

Lyrics from “Ain’t It Funny” by Danny Brown

“Ain’t It Funny” explores Brown’s own denial of the dangers of hiding away his problems with drugs. Part of the denial comes from a place of drugs being inescapable. Growing up poor, drug use seems “inherited in our blood”. He also falls victim to toxic masculinity, seeing drug use as a sort of ritual that all the men in his area undergo. Therefore, even though he “might need rehab”, he’s not going to for fear of seeming weak.

Music video of “Ain’t It Funny” by Danny Brown, directed by Jonah Hill

The title of the song itself, “Ain’t It Funny” reflects Brown’s feelings on exposing his most vulnerable self to an audience primarily looking for entertainment. Especially considering his previous work, many listeners have taken home a message of: “doing drugs is fun kids!”

Brown simultaneously knows that people get drunk and high at parties to his music, which he does make a living off of, yet these tendencies are extremely harmful to both himself and others. He needs to stop, but he can’t due to addiction to the chemicals, the thrill, and the success.

A Race to The Bottom

If there’s anything Brown especially excels at, it’s pacing. The album never feels like it stalls anywhere, even when songs slow down their bpm and feature less intense beats. “Downward Spiral” begins the album with a raucous, uncertain experience of not feeling grounded. Intensity of tracks fluctuates slightly through the ghostly “Lost”.

All hell breaks loose as “Ain’t It Funny” hits and the energy from that climax seeps through the following four tracks into “Dance In The Water”. This track forces you to keep up as best as you can as it speeds through its sporadic yet hypnotic verses and party-fueled chorus. You feel pulled into the need to “dance in the water / and not get wet” as if that task were actually possible.

And then, everything just stops with “From The Ground”. The beat on this track is far more minimalistic than anything else on the album, especially compared to the prior song. Brown also shifts to his speaking voice, which sounds more sober, matured, and heartbroken.

“When It Rain” immediately contradicts this sense with the now familiar whiny vocals you’ve come to expect from Brown. The beat, which is almost completely made from sampling of the experimental “Pot au feu”, imitates the feeling of Brown taking an absurd amount of drugs to escape the worries he discusses on “From The Ground”.

Personally, I feel the urge to continuously speed up while driving when listening to the track. The thrill is invigorating, but it’s progressively more dangerous to both myself and the people around me as I do it. Brown’s whole point is to keep from giving in to that urge.

Only way you hang is with a noose

Beef with us, it ain’t no truce

Lyrics from “When It Rain” by Danny Brown

Concluding Thoughts

There is a level of depth of analysis that can be applied to “Atrocity Exhibition” that I’ve only seen a few other albums be able to achieve. Brown subverts the whole gangster rap genre while also fitting in perfectly by referencing all of the “right things”: gun violence, sex, drug abuse, etc. The entirety of the album reeks of irony: even though the experimental, sample-heavy instrumentals seem to encourage escapism, only excaping the grip of these pleasures will keep you alive.

Rating: 9.5/10

Best tracks: “Ain’t It Funny”, “Pneumonia”, “Dance In The Water”, “When It Rain”

— DJ Cashew

Miscellaneous Playlists

How to: Mental Health

Some days, things are just going bad. Sometimes, we know the root of that cause, sometimes we just feel unlucky. Sometimes, there hasn’t even been anything bad that’s happened, we just feel awful.

In the moment, it can be near impossible to ignore the emotional reality that you’re experiencing. It’s difficult to fix problems that do exist and matter when you’re having a rough time.

I’m putting this collection of tips out there for those days when things just seem to be going badly. It’s difficult to know when to seek help, or even if you need help, but it is easy to know that this might not be the greatest of days.

A lot of this article was inspired by Sinope’s Tumblr post, “Everything Is Awful and I’m Not Okay: questions to ask before giving up.”

Things you can do right now

Eating healthy and drinking water regularly are both extremely helpful for your mental health. Even if the food you’re eating isn’t perfectly “healthy”, having balanced meals with carbs, fats, and proteins in some capacity can help a lot. If you don’t feel like you can prepare a meal, eat some mixed nuts with whatever bread products you have access to. Maybe eat a banana or some grapes with it.

On that note, buying foods that can be prepared in bulk ahead of time can be quite helpful in alleviating the stress of making a meal in the moment. Additionally, try to at least drink a water bottle’s worth of water a day. Fill a reusable water from the tap or a Brita filter if you have it, or just grab a plastic water bottle.

Take a shower if you’re at home. Don’t worry about how long you’re in there or how hot the water is, just keep the temperature comfortable and get clean.

Likewise, dress into some clean clothes if you haven’t gotten dressed today. It gets you out of the tired mindset that being in pajamas may put you in, giving you more energy during the day.

Things you can do with and without people

If you haven’t really interacted with people, especially friends or family yet today, try to meet up with them, even if it’s just for an hour or two. If you can’t meet in person, text or call them. Don’t worry about getting work done during this time. Ask for a hug from friends or family if you’re comfortable. This doesn’t necessarily apply if those people are part of the reason you’re not doing that great.

If you’ve spent large chunks of the day around people, even friends or family, take some alone time. Play around with hobbies, whether it be knitting, playing video games, or programming. Sit down with a show or a movie.

Hell, watch Tiktok or Youtube to unwind for a bit, though try to limit these to an hour or so.

Things you can do to be active

Exercise also helps your mental health greatly. People who do a lot of intellectual or emotional labor may find exercise especially helpful. If you have access to a gym, take your pick of what activity you want to do, whether it be strength exercises, swimming, or walking/running on a treadmill.

Personally, I’ve found lifting weights to relieve my mind of stress, since all of my focus is on physical exertion.

Going outside in any capacity is probably the most helpful piece of advice I could possibly give here. Whether you go on a walk, sit on a bench for a while, or run around for a bit, these all tend to be more beneficial to your mental health than staying inside. If you have access, go to a local trail through the woods.

I cannot stress enough how rejuvenating a nature walk like this can be. Green spaces more generally are also relaxing compared to dense urban environments.

How music can help

Music tends to be prevalent through all parts of my life. I use it to highlight pleasant moments and relieve negative moments. There’s a number of different types of music that I tend to gravitate towards when I’m struggling with a variety of things, and I want to share those here in the hopes that they help others.

Healing – In Love With a Ghost

Music video for “Healing” by In Love With a Ghost

In Love With a Ghost is probably my most played artist when I’m having a bad day. Their lo-fi, bedroom pop sound allows listeners to let their thoughts drift away as they listen. Their music is perfect for those times when you might not know exactly why you’re sad or upset, just that you are.

Pills & Good Advice – Left at London

Lyric video for “Pills & Good Advice” by Left at London

On the contrary, sometimes I just need to vent my emotions until I’m satisfied. When I feel wronged, especially by someone I know well, I tend to come back to Left at London’s music. Her album “t.i.a.p.f.y.h” is phenomenal for giving me something to sing my heart out to in the car. Songs like “Pills & Good Advice” give me the perfect opportunity to feel like I have closure over some bad event that’s already finished.

Meant to Be – SAFFRA

Official audio for “Meant to Be” by SAFFRA

Other times, the most helpful music is that which will get me back into the swing of things. “Meant to Be” is the debut single from SAFFRA, and it rides the line between positive energy and low-key relaxation perfectly. Its long solos in the middle of the song provide a wonderful chance to just close your eyes, sit back, and let the music wash over you. I tend to use this (and songs like it) after artists like Left at London to get myself back into the swing of things.

LAW OF AVERAGES – Vince Staples

Music video for “LAW OF AVERAGES” by Vince Staples

Sometimes, all I need from music is to have a soft, somewhat depressing tone to stew in my emotions for a while. Unlike Left at London’s invigorating, aggressive attitude, Vince Staples sounds more low-key, as if he’s having a serious, emotional conversation with listeners. This sentiment is especially true on his last two albums: “RAMONA PARK BROKE MY HEART” and “Vince Staples”. I especially recommend his music if you’ve had a rough day at work and you’re driving home.

Music Education

On Musical Elitism: Indie and Institutional

“Oh, I only listen to real music. You wouldn’t get it. I’m so individualistic and nobody else shares my taste in music.”

At all points in history has there been some form of elitism in music. Often, it is fueled by racism, classism, and other forms of discrimination, especially by the dominant forces in the music industry. However, there has also been a counter-elitism among people who listen to less mainstream artists for the past few decades that has seemed to become more prevalent since the 2000s.

Since I’m centering this discussion around music in the US, which is predominantly English-speaking, I will refrain from discussing music in other languages. It’s cool to see latin music and K-pop becoming popular in the English-speaking US over the past decade, however.

Racism in the Music Industry

Black artists have consistently been the ones to bring innovations to music in the US, from rock to hip-hop to jazz. Even pop music (considering pop as a genre) has its foundations in music created and innovated on by Black artists. As a result, Black artists are often somewhat overrepresented on music charts, and rightfully so.

Famous jazz musician Charles Mingus. Photo Courtesy of Tom Marcello, under Creative Commons.

From 2012 to 2020, they represented 38% of all artists on the Billboard top 200. However, they are consistently overlooked for awards like the Grammys, receiving only 26.7% of nominations over the same period. Much of this discrimination comes from the overwhelming lack of people of color as executives in the music industry: only 4.2% are Black.

Additionally, many of the most notable “snubs” in the Grammys over the past decade or so have been against Black artists. Despite now having the most Grammy wins of any artist, Beyoncé has only one win in the Big Four categories. So, why do programs like the Grammys continue to be so popular, even though discrimination continues to be so prevalent?

I believe there are two predominant reasons: hope for better and ignorance of these issues in the first place. There are many people who likely hold onto the hope that this year will be the year that the music industry reverses course on its racist tendencies. I think there are even more who don’t notice these issues at all–or don’t care–since they aren’t affected.

How Music Bros Shape the Conversation

However, this lack of representation extends beyond institutional practices. Fans of independent music online tend to be white, financially comfortable men. Some of these listeners tend to obsess over classical music, especially the music that has overwhlemingly shaped the contemporary, western understanding of music theory, though that is worthy of its own discussion.

Logo for
Logo of

Most of the rest of these indie music fans tend to congregate on platforms like Rate Your Music and music-related social media groups. These are the places where I see the most elitism in music among people who hold no actual power over record labels or other parts of the music industry. Here, elitism comes through in the form of gatekeeping of up-and-coming artists as well as discriminatory biases.

On the all-time best album chart on Rate Your Music, Black artists comprise about 25% of the 50 top albums. Again, this percentage is well below the representation of Black artists on the Billboard top 200. More striking, though, is the lack of women and queer artists in these communities. On that same chart, only three of the top 50 albums have female vocalists (where gender is most noticeable), and the first, Björk, is only 31st. There are only three openly queer artists in the top 100 albums, and only two in the top 50.

Why is the Non-Mainstream Music Discussion Like This?

I bring these numbers up, because I think elitism in these types of music circles is largely predicated on the belief that mainstream listeners, especially women, will “ruin” the music. These listeners also tend to have a suspiciously high overlap with “incel” groups. The resulting misogyny (and queerphobia) leads to generally less respect for women and queer artists. Unless these artists are accepted into the “canon” of great artists they are largely neglected. As a side note, no female queer artists or trans artists until Big Thief at no.398.

There tends to be a lot of talk among these types of music listeners, especially over the past few years, about how Tiktok and other platforms are “ruining” music. When a song by an artist commonly accepted amongst these listeners as a “great” goes viral, they lament about how they can’t enjoy the music anymore. These listeners think that their interpretation of good music is the best interpretation, and any attempt to break the gatekeeping of these artists is a tragedy.

Likewise, these listeners often disdain music that gets especially popular for similar reasons. Artists like Taylor Swift, Harry Styles, or Bad Bunny have been seen as “trashy pop” only liked by teenage girls and people who don’t really “get” music like these white men in their mid-20s.

It’s okay to not like popular artists because you don’t vibe with their sound or genre. As for myself, I don’t typically listen to any of the three artists I just listed, but I still enjoy Swift’s music. I listen to a lot of Beyonce or The Weeknd. That doesn’t mean I don’t also love music by lesser known artists.

Closing Thoughts

WKNC is a radio station that prides itself on playing music by less popular artists, especially those whose voices are often left out of discussions of what “the best” music is. I hope that this mindset is able to spread farther than the idea that men (especially white, cisgender, heterosexual men) overwhlemingly make better music. And this should extend to what the music industry chooses to become popular as well.

–DJ Cashew

Classic Album Review

Avantdale Bowling Club: A Review

Avantdale Bowling Club’s self-titled debut album is a wonderfully produced jazz project led by New Zealand rapper Tom Scott. The band’s name refers to Scott’s hometown of Avondale, New Zealand. Much of this album “was creatively fueled by a stint living in Melbourne” where Scott seemed to mature some from his previous projects.

“Water Medley”

Photo courtesy of Pedro Szekely, under Creative Commons

“Avantdale Bowling Club” can best be described as a leisurely stroll through struggle. With an average song length of 6.5 minutes, each track meanders around looking for a place to settle. Each track feels loose and free to evolve as it pleases. That effect gets amplified by Tom Scott’s rapping, which disregards the need for a consistent beat on tracks like “Pocket Lint”.

Instead, Scott’s vocals often float through the instrumentals, not trying to find a sound to anchor to. The jazz melody plays as if Scott weren’t even there, resulting in a lively, yet mellow sound to contrast Scott’s melancholic voice.

This flow is contrasted somewhat through tracks like “Water Medley”, which is a nine minute collection of multiple smaller songs centered around water. Here, jazz is combined with heavy hip-hop beats to create a more original sound. This influence helps reinforce Scott’s primary objective with this album, which is to tell the story of his life’s misfortunes and struggles.

Poverty is a Fiend

“Avantdale Bowling Club” is a tale of the trappings of living paycheck to paycheck with a child while coping with alcohol and drugs. This sentiment comes through incredibly clear on “Pocket Lint”, which is essentially Scott ranting about not having enough money to live. However, he never feels like he’s repeating himself because of how well he pieces together different issues that come from low-income in the city.

The price of the life, the price of death
The price of gas, the price of meth, the side effect of stress

Lyrics from “Pocket Lint” by Avantdale Bowling Club

Scott’s rap flow is what really brings the album together, though. Probably the best example of his talents comes in the last verse, where you can’t help but bob your head along to his lyrics. Likewise, “F(r)iends” is where emotion comes through most, making it the most intriguing of any track. The song is a remembrance of both the good and bad times Scott had with one of his friends through drugs before he committed suicide. The emotional weight of this track encourages Scott to put on his best performance as a result.

Concluding Thoughts

Unfortunately, not all of the album is as memorable as the tracks discussed here. The back half of the album lacks direction, as if Scott only had a couple different things he was able to discuss in his music that lasted four or five songs. “Quincy’s March” is more hopeful than other tracks, but lacks any distinctive sound from the rest of the album.

“Tea Break” seems like an instrumental track that Scott originally meant to rap over, but simply lacked the material to turn into a full song.I still have the best songs on “Avantdale Bowling Club” on repeat often, but I rarely come back for the rest of the album for these reasons.

Rating: 6.5/10

— DJ Cashew

New Album Review

“Heavy Heavy” – Young Fathers: A Review

Young Fathers is a Scottish indie rock trio that I’ve been following for a bit now. Their newly released album, “Heavy Heavy” is exemplary of the group’s creative spirit, and it’s one of the more unique projects I’ve heard so far in 2023. Despite the name, the album tries to bring with it uplifting energy encouraging dance and a celebration of life.

Scottish band Young Fathers at the Melt! 2015 in Ferropolis/Germany. Photo Courtesy of Stefan Bollmann, under Creative Commons.
Young Fathers at the Melt! 2015 in Ferropolis/Germany. Photo Courtesy of Stefan Bollmann, under Creative Commons.


Take a look at album opener “Rice” for example. The percussive groove on the track alone is enough to get your body moving. Towards the end of the song, the ensemble of voices chanting the chorus feels like a concert with everybody invested in ramping the energy up towards its climax.

By far the most powerful segment of the song, though, is the chant “these hands can heal”. You can’t help but join in the power of this phrase, and I think there was a missed opportunity to bring this chant back at the end of the track. Instead, the chant on the back end of the track calls listeners to “see the turning tide”. This feels less powerful, though it does more cleanly fit with the theme of sticking through the rough patches of life.

I need to eat more rice
It’ll take some time
Gonna take some time
Gotta bide my time

Lyrics from “Rice” by Young Fathers.

“I Saw”

The second track on the album is where Young Fathers seems to get into some thematic consistency. “I Saw” doubles down on the message of waiting out the rough times to get to better ones. At least here, they actually get into the source of these bad patches: abuse, especially parental abuse. Wordplay is improved considerably here, even if the music itself is more repetitive and harder to really get into.

“I Saw” also foreshadows one of “Heavy Heavy”‘s biggest flaws: not knowing how to end. Again, the track ends with a chant that feels like it goes on a bit too long given the dynamic nature of the rest of the song. Here, it’s not a big deal, but on later tracks like “Sink or Swim” the energy dies off without feeling like an emotional resolution has been reached yet.

Music video of “I Saw” by Young Fathers.

The rest of the album

While there are still great tracks left on “Heavy Heavy” the first half of the album–especially the first three tracks–is far more powerful than the latter half. A track like “Tell Somebody”, while it has a good message, has little uniqueness or clarity. It feels too direct, especially compared to the other tracks mentioned above.

“Ululation” is a pleasant embrace of two of the members’ West African histories, but it doesn’t blend all that well with the rest of the album tonally, not just linguistically. It’s an elongated interlude trying to be its own track. “Sink Or Swim”, meanwhile, feels derivative of the prior tracks on the album, as if the song was created after the album’s singles came out. It sounds shallower and more cheaply produced. “Holy Moly” sounds like a track off of a JPEGMAFIA album as opposed to Young Fathers’ own style.

Concluding Thoughts

There’s a lot to like about “Heavy Heavy”. The great songs on the album are on repeat all the time on my playlists. However, the rest of the album feels incomplete and rushed. Some songs on the album did not need to be nearly as long as they were. Others either failed to recreate the celebratory sound of “Rice” or failed to create a rich, darker sound that compliments its lyrics.

Rating: 6/10

–DJ Cashew

Concert Review

Best of Double Barrel Benefit 19: A Recap

As many of you may be aware, Double Barrel Benefit 19, a WKNC fundraiser, happened recently. Each of the two nights featured four local artists playing their hearts out to a packed venue at Kings Raleigh. The energy in the place was incredibly lively, and the whole concert was just a great time. I want to showcase some of the best acts from both nights here that I believe deserve more support and a larger fanbase.


Chainletter performing at DBB19. Photo courtesy of Alena Lewis Photography.

Night one premiered with techno act Chainletter, who brought the initially stagnant, uninterested crowd to an energetic boil. This silent DJ didn’t need to interrupt their set to bring the crowd back to their music. They knew how to keep adding on more and more depth to their sound, ramping up the intensity over time.

Juxton Roy

Juxton Roy performing at DBB19. Photo courtesy of Lizzy Novelli.
Jess Ray of Juxton Roy performing at DBB19. Photo courtesy of Lizzy Novelli.

Juxton Roy closed out night one of DBB19 as its headliner with the most dynamic set of any artist that night. This queer, emo rock group kept up much of the energy from previous act Fading Signal while infusing a richer emotional core. They swerved from crowd-pleasers like “The Road” to trauma-dump session “Elephant” with ease.

Teens in Trouble

Lizzie Killian of Teens in Trouble performing at DBB19. Photo courtesy of William Flathmann.

Night two featured artists such as Teens in Trouble, whose set felt most familiar to other indie rock artists . Their music felt perfectly crafted for a party setting with a lively on-stage performance contrasting lead vocalist Lizzie Killian’s shoegaze singing. Although their lyrics can get quite melancholic, their sound never failed to keep the crowd engaged and moving.


Khx05 performing at DBB19. Photo courtesy of William Flathmann.

Khx05 (pronounced “chaos”) might have been my favorite act across all of DBB19. This black, trans artist from night two put on by far the most invigorating on-stage performance of any artist through their dance. With music emphasizing sexuality and power, their dance felt like a really well choreographed thirst trap in the best possible way.

Although seeing any artist live tends to be a more enjoyable experience than listening to them online or through radio, Khx05 was incredible to see in-person in a way that can’t be appreciated otherwise. Additional help was provided by WKNC’s own Plover, who did DJ work during the set.

Concluding Thoughts

Double Barrel Benefit 19 was an absolutely fantastic experience to share with everyone who came out for it. I wish the artists I’ve mentioned here, as well as the others who performed, all the best in their future careers. There’s so much good music in local music scenes, so support local artists when you can.

Classic Album Review

Visions of Bodies Being Burned – clipping. Review

Over the past month or so, I’ve been entranced by clipping.‘s 2020 release, “Visions of Bodies Being Burned”. Full of industrial energy, “Visions” is a headache-inducing, horror rap journey that I cannot get enough of. I truly do not believe there is another hip-hop group around right now with a similar style and sound as clipping.

A Blood Narrative

One of the most cohesive threads running through “Visions” is how well clipping. pieces together narratives like a detective novel. “Say the Name” sets this precedence with the story of a woman haunted by a DIY abortion of a nine-month pregnancy. The consistently violent imagery following her lust after a man keeps listeners in morbid curiosity of how her situation could have ended so poorly.

clipping. also seems to have done a decent bit of murder investigation as well. With how vividly the killings of three different cops are described, there’s so much dread that went through me listening to “Body for the Pile”. Even the horrifically grinding sound of overdriven static at the start of the track adds to its aesthetic. The three murders only get more violent and messy as the song progresses.

Three little pigs and they can’t do nothing, for the last time

You can’t run, you just a body for the pile

Lyrics from “Body for the Pile” by clipping.

It’s hard to miss, but the way the officers’ corpses are just “bodies for the pile” highlights their stance on police getting killed generally. The first is beaten to death, the second is shot, and the third is killed in a car crash, representing the most common atrocities committed by cops against civilians.

The Sound of Violence

Photo of "clipping." at a live performance.
Promotional photo of clipping. Courtesy of Edwina Hay at Sub Pop Records.

One of the most striking aspects of clipping.’s music is how overwhelmingly powerful the bass is on every track. Many songs start with either rumbling, deep bass or pure noise for the sake of noise. There’s very little in terms of percussion or any lighter sounds than this pounding that permeates the album. So, when the bass drops out, you know to pay extra attention to rapper Daveed Diggs’s lyrics.

His rapid-fire style and punchy flow are in themselves just as violent as the music he raps over. The use of an extensive range of metaphors and references only make his verses all the more dynamic. His voice isn’t particularly heavy though, so it can still cut through the rest of clipping.’s beats when it needs to. The result is an outburst of frustration at a wide variety of social ills from police violence to the destruction of Earth. As a response to the violence of the perpetrators, clipping. calls for an equally violent revolution.

Waiting patient for the signal when the time is right

To bring it down

Lyrics from “Something Underneath” by clipping.

Concluding Thoughts

When a group with this much talent comes along, they become hard to ignore. I believe that they will surpass other experimental hip-hop artists with future records powered by their toxic industrial production within the next few years. From this album, I especially enjoyed the songs mentioned above, as well as “She Bad” and “’96 Neve Campbell”.

Rating: 9/10

— DJ Cashew

Classic Album Review

Well, I Should Have become a Jazz Daredevil

A couple months ago, a friend of mine referred to me an album called “Well, I Should Have…*” by Jon Benjamin – Jazz Daredevil. The record was released in 2015 under Sub Pop Records, who have a track record of talented artists. I’m typically not much of a jazz listener, but I decided to give this a shot.

The Premise

H. Jon Benjamin is a comedian, writer, actor, and “musician” who decided to create a jazz album with some other professional musicians on drums, bass, and saxophone. Lacking any skill or practice on piano, Benjamin attempts to sell his soul to the devil and is turned down. The rest of the album is divided into 4 parts, each titled “I Can’t Play Piano”.

Portrait photo of H. Jon Benjamin at the 2022 WonderCon in Anaheim, California
H. Jon Benjamin at the 2022 WonderCon in Anaheim, California. Photo Courtesy of Gage Skidmore, under Creative Commons.

The first part begins with a lively saxophone led section, and actually sounds quite good. The drums and bass play together wonderfully, and the sax solos are dynamic and fresh. And then Benjamin comes along.

With no sense of rhythm, melody, or how chords work, Benjamin’s piano sounds like a dying songbird with its vocal cords swapped around. When playing as backup for the lead saxophone, he actually doesn’t sound that bad, all things considered. But, since he has to improvise his solos, he is hopelessly out of tune with the rest of the band. In fact, they just play over him as if there is no piano to begin with.

This pattern continues throughout the rest of the album. The professional jazz players try their hardest to create a satisfying, cohesive set while the Jazz Daredevil tries his hardest to keep that from happening. And that makes this album so fun to listen to. This album is the music equivalent of “The Room” or “The VelociPastor”, which I consider to be high praise as a comedy special.

The Skits

As a comedian, Benjamin can’t help himself from putting a couple of jazz-inspired skits in his album. “Amy’s Song (The Bum Steer)” is a raunchy song too explicit to describe here, and it has to be the worst of his three skits, so I’ll skip over it. “Deal With the Devil” and “Soft Jazzercise” are spoken word interludes performed by Benjamin that fit in perfectly with the musical tone of the album.

The first of these tracks actually features Kristen Schaal and Aziz Ansari, both well-respected comedians in their own right. The dialogue between Benjamin and Schaal may remind listeners of a conversation from “Bob’s Burgers”, since they voice Bob and Louise Belcher, respectively. Benjamin’s timid insistence on selling his soul is honestly endearing, especially through Benjamin’s deadpan delivery that makes him sound uninterested in the intricacies of soul-selling.

Benjamin uses “Soft Jazzercise” to ease the mind of listeners, giving them a break from his lack of piano skills. His class is easy for any listener to try out for themselves. Personally, I found it refreshing and comforting to listen to his voice lead me on a journey of self-improvement.

Closing Thoughts

This album might not be the most meticulously crafted. It might not sound as good as Thelonious Monk or Dave Brubeck. But “Well, I Should Have…*” is an incredibly creative and irreplicable album that I highly recommend listening to for any fans of music. Although, perhaps regular jazz listeners might find it too rough on the ears.

Promotional video for “Well, I Should Have…*” released by Sub Pop Records.

— DJ Cashew