I was first introduced to Indigo de Souza by my boarding school roommate who had gone to the same school as the singer in Asheville, North Carolina. When I began playing a radio show, I was always excited to play a small, local artist like Indigo de Souza. In the coming years, she would become not-so-small, and her discography would expand in a way I could not be more pleased about.
i'm bel$ (pronounced "bel money"). i like to ramble about music and being a DJ and content creator for WKNC provides me a captive audience. thanks for reading!
Defining Midwest Emo
I heard people nitpick the definition of midwest emo long before I began listening to the twinkly, mathy indie-emo that most consider to be actual midwest emo.
For every pretentious boyfriend I’ve had who’s corrected me when I slipped up and put Mom Jeans into the midwest emo category, there are 100 other people on Reddit telling a well-meaning user that no, Joyce Manor is not real emo.
Before Poppy was the musician that she is today, most knew her as a YouTube sensation who gained popularity for her cryptic videos. “I Disagree,” released in January 2020, was a large departure from Poppy’s previous work, which was mostly pop. “I Disagree” does a lot of genre-blending, but the biggest shock of the album to Poppy’s fans was the heavy metal influence that reverberated through the album.
Poppy’s most recent album prior to the release of “I Disagree” was “Am I A Girl?,” which offered hints of the soon-to-come metal genre that Poppy would embrace in its last two tracks, “Play Destroy,” featuring Grimes, and “X.”
I will admit that I am a huge fan of this album and have probably listened to it enough to memorize every beat and syllable spoken throughout it.
Its first track, titled “Concrete,” instantly introduces the sort of genre-mixing Poppy will go on to ace through the rest of the album. It’s not just genre-ambiguous, but actually switches back and forth between heavy metal (complete with guitar shredding and even some screaming) and bubblegum pop.
“Anything Like Me” contains lyricism that reinforces Poppy’s purpose in making this album–
Sorry for what I’ve become“Anything Like Me” – Poppy
Because I’m becoming someone
She goes on in this song to talk about a girl who seems to represent the things that Poppy is supposed to be, but doesn’t wish to be.
I feel her heart beating in me“Anything Like Me” – Poppy
Get her out of me
Poppy works throughout the album to express the idea that conformity is a disease. In “BLOODMONEY,” she asks–
What do you believe when everyone is watching?“BLOODMONEY” – Poppy
And in “Fill The Crown,” she says,
You can be anyone you want to be
You can be free, you can be free“Fill The Crown” – Poppy
Poppy is clearly expressing her desire for individuality, likely in response to the pressures she felt around making music in an industry and working with producers who executed excessive control over her work.
Poppy’s evolution does not seem to be finished yet. From electronic pop in her first album “Poppy.Computer” to the metal in “I Disagree,” and even to the alt-rock/indie vibes of her most recent album, “Flux,” Poppy seems to be innovating in every area she can, not just with her music, but with her character and stage presence as well.
If you were wondering when and where the world’s largest gathering of gay people wearing Doc Martens was, it was May 2, 2023 at The Ritz Raleigh. The 10,000 gecs tour, featuring Machine Girl as the opener, stopped in Raleigh during its nationwide run.
12 RODS: Artist Profile
12 RODS, also stylized as 12RODS or Twelve Rods, is widely an univestigated mystery of the 1990s. Until recently, their records were unavailable on streaming services. If you visit their website today, the domain is parked. If you don’t look carefully, it’s almost as though they didn’t exist.
Looking carefully, though, awards you with an interesting glimpse into queer and independent musicians who grew strong in the wake of a time where many artists struggled with making their music palatable to an industry while retaining their individuality.
12 RODS was a band formed by Ryan Olcott in the early 90s, and although they began releasing music as early as 1992, the group went through a couple of member transformations before releasing what is considered by many to be their masterpiece, the “Gay?” EP from 1996.
“Gay?” recieved lots of publicity via their Pitchfork review— one of the very few 10.0 ratings given in the history of Pitchfork as a publication. In the review, Jason Josephes writes, “This is 12 RODS’ first release, and if this is any sign of things to come, I have faith in the future of music.”
In 1998, 12 RODS released their commerical debut LP “Split Personalities,” this being the album that first brought my attention to the group. “Split Personalities” borrows two songs from its preceding EP, but offers a unique collage of indie pop, power pop, even prog pop and shoegaze. The album is packed full of fresh synth sounds and powerful, sometimes cryptic lyrics, and holds an impressive 9.7 review from Pitchfork.
Throughout “Split Personalities,” Olcott describes his loneliness, awkwardness, and struggles as a queer person in a time where discussions of queerness were sparing, and usually kept far from the mainstream.
My favorite track on the album is easily “I Wish You Were A Girl” for its heartbreaking and vulnerable description of experiencing shame around oneself in their most authentic form. My favorite part about the song, and the discography of the group in general, though, is not the lyrics by themselves, but the lyrics paired with the somehow enticingly monotone vocals of Olcott and the inventive genre-bending music from the group.
If there is one thing I admire “Split Personalities” for, it is Olcott’s willingness to bear pain clearly, loudly, passionately, and his ability to make it beautiful.
In 2000, the band released “Separation Anxieties,” produced by Todd Rundgren, which recieved scathing reviews, accumulating a disappointing 2.0 review on Pitchfork. Since then, 12 RODS has been mostly quiet, aside from an album re-release in 2015.
Ryan Olcott announced a new 12 RODS record in September 2021, writing on their Facebook page that the record was being made with “zero help, zero support, and zero financing.”
12 RODS is a short little blip in the 90s indie scene, but their music is an important statement regardless– a statement on queerness and visibility, on the music industry and what it means to create art for profit rather than for the sake of the art itself.
Mark Drizzle’s debut album “sharp objects” is like if a kid who grew up listening to Saosin and Owl City made a passion project in the 2020s. Actually, it’s exactly that.
Mark Drizzle, a queer songwriter and producer living in San Diego, California, released their debut album “sharp objects” in August 2022.
Listening to “sharp objects” feels like scratching all the right itches– Mark Drizzle is able to combine emo and pop-punk with hyperpop, meaning heavy guitars are almost always matched with inventive techno riffs.
The ambiguity of genre is fantastic; it’s exciting to see hyperpop being mixed with metalcore guitar, but it’s even more exciting to see Mark Drizzle combine their experimental music with deep and creative lyricism.
Song and Lyric Highlights
Mark Drizzle opens their album with a track, “deepfake,” that I haven’t been able to stop listening to since it first came out. Its catchy, danceable melody met with Mark’s semi-falsetto makes it irresistible.
Brain zaps from the Lexapro
Secrets only you would know
Yeah, I had a bad, bad episode
Sippin’ on a dollar sweet tea, now I’m good to go“deepfake” – mark drizzle
These opening lyrics may be some of my favorites on the entire album. They offer relatability and make the track clearly contemporary without being overly obvious about it– it’s the sort of song that could go viral on TikTok, but not the type of song that would only go viral because it’s on TikTok (I’m calling the Mark Drizzle rise to stardom before anyone else).
“Man” is the fourth track on the album, and discusses the difficulties related to toxic masculinity, as well as the ways in which masculinity is enforced on those who don’t identify with manhood but are expected to.
As a man it’s kinda silly to romanticize your life
Your memory’s just fine you won’t need pictures
We’ll allow you one short paragraph whenever someone dies
Then you’ll go back to living someone else’s life“man” – mark drizzle
Mark Drizzle uses their own voice to echo the things they have heard and been repeatedly told relating to the gender roles placed on them.
It is refreshing to see lyricism as honest and vulnerable as this, and seeing a rise in queer voices being used to speak openly and fearlessly about the queer experience is beyond exciting and empowering.
Man-to-man you’re getting awfully comfortable showing your skin
You don’t need vitamin D, they’ve got pills for that
And as a man I’d be embarrassed at the check-out cart from Shein
Fast fashion won’t eliminate that feeling“man” – mark drizzle
Beyond “deepfake” and “man,” the album’s title track stands out as incredibly strong, with clever and heartfelt lyrics preceded by a true emo intro– screaming and all. I’m also partial to an instrumental track, “when i say no you turn back around,” for its twinkly math rock riffs.
There are few other albums I’ve found with the vast diversity of genre of “sharp objects,” and yet, the album is surprisingly cohesive. Maybe it’s Mark Drizzle’s unique character being woven into each song, but whether it be a track that starts with acoustic guitar, screaming, or a 100 gecs-esque melody, it all stands out as something you should hold closely before putting it down.
If you’re anything like me, you enjoy priming the perfect playlist to soundtrack your walk to class. The only problem is, spring in North Carolina is unpredictable. Some days it’s freezing and the next you’re pretty sure it’s already summer. Luckily, I’ve got a couple playlist starters for any weather the spring can throw at you. Temperatures are in Fahrenheit.
“Paws” – Adult Mom
This song from Adult Mom, the mostly-solo project of Stevie Knipe, off their 2014 EP “Sometimes Bad Happens.” It’s upbeat and feels like a good song to be played when it’s a bit cooler– early fall or early spring, especially.
“Polly” – Whitney
This Whitney track is chill while still being emotive, making it perfect for the days of spring where you’re wishing the breeze would make up its mind on whether or not it’s going to be cold out today.
“Daibutsu” – Sunbeam Sound Machine
This track is groovy and catchy without any attention-grabbing lyrics– it’s like if someone made a shoegaze and pop crossover. It’s a great tempo for matching your steps to the beat on the walk across the brickyard.
“Here I Dreamt I Was an Architect” – The Decemberists
I will admit that this song is good for almost any season, given its instantly-nostalgic nature. Still, it’s got a lot of potential for spring, particularly weather that encourages you to stick a hand out of the car window while driving.
“Six AM” – Inner Wave
This song makes me want to dance. At the very least, it will get me bopping my head. The low-pitched, catchy vocals paired with the catchy beat allow it to check all of my 80-degree boxes. There are a few samples from older American media in the song that are now permanently etched into my memory.
“I Came As a Rat” – Modest Mouse
Easily one of my favorite tracks off my favorite Modest Mouse album, “The Moon & Antartica,” this song is super fun and catchy while also maintaining an air of seriousness and the weird, almost discomforting instrumental atmosphere of this album.
“I Hate Everything” – Greet Death
If I could give a song the Rainy Day award, it would be this one. I saw Greet Death open for The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die at the back room of the Cat’s Cradle in 2021 and totally fell in love with their stuff. This song, off their recent EP “New Low” definitely takes the cake for my favorite track of theirs.
“Murderers” – John Frusciante
Although this song has a generally ‘chill’ vibe to it, it’s somehow super exciting to listen to it. Pretty simple guitar riffs without a whole lot of instrumentals layered over them, but still compelling.
Dull Overcast Sky
“Midtown” – Josh Augustin, Eva Alexis
This song from the frontman of Vansire is always one of my favorite semi-ambient songs to put on during a grey day– it matches my low energy without producing a low mood. Good daydreaming soundtrack.