Music Education

An Introduction to Country: Three Artists to Get Started With

As you all may or may not know, I co-host a country, bluegrass, and folk show from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. While I’ve always been a folk guy, not so long ago I barely listened to either country or bluegrass.

The reason for this is that my introduction to country was through my parents, who mostly listened to commercial or stadium country: Blake Shelton, Kenny Chesney, Luke Bryan, etc. I think for many in my generation, this is unfortunately what we know country music to be.

Authenticity is what defines country music and these artists just do not come off as authentic through their music. However, a couple of years ago, I was introduced to Tyler Childers’ 2017 album “Purgatory”. It shocked me how authentic this record was, despite its popularity.

Since listening to that record, country has become one of my favorite genres. I have become a fan of so many excellent, true-to-their-core country artists that I want to share with those of you who might be interested in the genre but don’t know where to start.

These artists are all modern country artists (all started releasing music in 2010s) and they are also are quite popular. However, I think that these artists all show that great country music is still being made and provide a variety of different sounds within the genre.

Tyler Childers

Tyler Childers is a guitar player, singer and fiddler from Kentucky. Starting his career in 2011, Childers had his breakthrough release in 2017 with “Purgatory”, which was produced by Sturgill Simpson, another artist on this list.

I would recommend starting out with “Purgatory” if you want somewhere to get starter with Tyler Childers. After that, his first album, “Bottles and Bibles” is also good, but you could truly listen to anything by him after you check out “Purgatory”.

Colter Wall

Colter Wall known for his gruff, deep vocals and his guitar playing. From Saskatchewan, Canada, Wall released his first EP in 2015 after he left college. He has released five studio albums since then, the last one being released in 2020.

All of Colter Wall’s work is so solid, I don’t think there’s a stand-out album to listen to first. I’d check out his discography in the order which he released in, so you can see how his sound has developed over time.

Sturgill Simpson

Sturgill Simpson is a guitar player and singer from Kentucky. Starting his solo career in 2013, he released “High Top Mountain”, which is my favorite record by him. He has released seven albums since starting his solo career. His last album, “The Ballad of Dood & Juanita”, is a story album and another one of my favorites.

If you want a story about a gunfighter, then you should check out his latest album. However, if you just want some good country music, I’d start at the beginning of his discography. Simpson is another artist that you cannot go wrong with, all his music is consistently great.

New Album Review

“SEE YOU THERE” by Matt Watson Album Review

Matt Watson, 1/2 of the comedy duo Supermega, released his debut album “SEE YOU THERE” on November 7. The California-based musician has been working on this album for over two years and it has finally come to fruition.

Having been a huge fan of Supermega since 2016, I was pleasantly surprised by Matt’s first venture into the music scene with his EP “OUCH!” in 2020. This new album builds on the bedroom pop sound he established in that EP and embellishes it with elements of rap, dream pop and full-blown pop.

Since I am such a fan of Matt outside of his music ventures, my opinion of this album might be slightly skewed. However, it is clear that there was immense care put into this album, it comes off as a truly personal effort by Matt.


This album starts off incredibly strong with “STARSTUD”. Featuring Sarah Bonito, this song is an incredibly catchy pop jam that was stuck in my head for weeks after its release as a single. The addition of Sarah to the song makes this track a highlight on the album and the one I find myself coming back to most often.

Matt’s vocals work extremely well with dream pop songs. He dipped his toe into the genre with a cover of “Space Song” by Beach House earlier this year, which he put an excellent flair on. He steps further into the genre on this album, with “CORAL”. The echoey instrumental combined with Matt’s dissonant vocals and lyrics make it another highlight on the album.

Matt Watson, “STARSTUD” music videp

Many of Matt’s friends in the music industry, such as Kill Bill: The Rapper, Rav, and Ben Beal are pioneers in the lo-fi hip-hop genre. Matt takes clear inspiration from them while rapping, and there is no exception in this album.

“Ring Pop” featuring Father is the only song that is entirely rap and while a good track, I felt didn’t fit very cohesively with the rest of the album. I would definitely be interested to hear a full EP or album with Matt exploring this genre.

Many of the tracks on this album are in the same vein as the tracks on “OUCH!”. Songs like “WACKY”, “Aquarium”, “Work It Out” and “STUPID” are all very bedroom-poppy but feel more like full songs than the tracks on “OUCH!” did. It is clear that Matt has truly come into his own sound with these songs.


Overall, I really enjoyed “SEE YOU THERE”. Matt has begun to flesh out his sound fully and I look forward to seeing it develop further. The highlights of this album are the explorations of different genres and sounds that I hope to hear more of in Matt’s next release.

Matt Watson is touring right now on the West Coast. If you are out West, you can find tickets on his website.

Concert Preview

Origami Angel 2022 Tour Concert Preview

Origami Angel, the D.C.-based emo/pop-punk duo, is touring all across the United States after the release of their album “GAMI GANG” in 2021 and two new EPs, “re: turn” and “DEPART” right before their tour. They are visiting Blind Tiger in Greensboro on November 15, 2022. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show is at 8 p.m.

I have been a fan of Origami Angel since the release of “Somewhere City” in 2019. They have a great sound and put an excellent twist on a genre I already love a lot. When I saw they were coming to Greensboro for only $18, I couldn’t turn down the tickets.

To sweeten the pot, Pool Kids and insignificant other are starting the show.

Origami Angel

Rooted in the sounds of emo and pop-punk, Origami Angel has been releasing music since 2017. Origami Angel puts a fun twist on the genres they are rooted in, using a sound that is typically very angsty to create mostly very hopeful music.

Origami Angel’s focus on this tour is their 2021 album, “GAMI GANG”. However, they released two EPs right before their tour with polar opposite sounds which will also be performed. “re: turn” is heartfelt and acoustic, and “DEPART” is a screamo EP.

Fans can also expect songs from their older releases, of course including songs from “Somewhere City”. They can be expected to start the show by playing Sweden by C418 before moving into their set. The encore will consist of “Noah Fence” and “Find Your Throne”.

Nonetheless, I am extremely excited for the show, it seems like Origami Angel has put together an excellent setlist which is a wonderful representation of their discography.

The Openers

I found out about math-influenced emo band Pool Kids earlier this year through their album “Music to Practice Safe Sex To” and loved their new self-titled release which came out in July. They will be playing songs mostly from their new album, but will also play “Erso” and “$5 Subtweet” from their first album.

insignificant other is an indie band that I started listening to in preparation for this concert. They have one album, “i’m so glad i feel this way about you” from 2019 which will make up the entirety of their setlist. Everything I have heard from the band is super fun and I am excited to hear it live.

This show has a very stacked lineup. I am thrilled to have the chance to see the show. Tickets can be purchased through the etix website. If you are a fan of Origami Angel and have the time, this would be a great show to go to see.

Setlist information provided by

New Album Review

“Waiting to Spill” by The Backseat Lovers Album Review

It’s been three years since The Backseat Lovers freshman album, “When We Were Young”. In many ways, their first album was a compilation of songs rather than a complete, cohesive album. Each song was very good in its own right, but there wasn’t much flow between the tracks.

Their sophomore album released today after three years and three singles of waiting. “Waiting to Spill” is a complete project that flows consistently throughout, blending classic indie-rock with a variety of new sounds.

The quartet that makes up The Backseat Lovers includes Joshua Harmon on rhythm guitar and lead vocals, Jonas Swanson on lead guitar and vocals, KJ Ward on bass guitar and Juice Welch on drums and backup vocals.

NC State students got the chance to see the Backseat Lovers live for free last year at Wolfstock 2022, which was an awesome experience. Even though they were playing for a crowd of a lot of people who didn’t know them, they put on an excellent performance.

A Bottle of Wine

“Waiting to Spill” centers itself around the challenges of facing time head-on and the desire to live in the past. I greatly appreciated that this theme is on display throughout the entirety of the ten-song record, shown in various lenses.

As The Backseat Lovers thematically focus on growing up and developing in their songs, their sound also develops into new grounds on this record. Staying rooted in indie-rock, The Backseat Lovers grows into areas such as country on “Snowbank Blues” or more piano-based songs on “Words I Used” and “Follow the Sound”.

Each member of The Backseat Lovers allow each other to shine in their performances. When one member pulls back, another one fills in the spotlight immediately. At moments where all four take the spotlight together, they create a truly incredible sound. The explosion of the soundscape at the end of the album in “Know Your Name” is extremely satisfying to listen to after 40 minutes of highs and lows.

I am somewhat split on the ending of this album. On one hand, I think “Know Your Name” would have been a very conclusive finisher that would have ended the album with a satisfying bang. On the other hand, “Viciously Lonely” ties the album together thematically in a very conclusive way.

While I probably won’t go back to the first or last track very much, I think they do help make the album feel more full and cohesive. It is a difficult task to find the perfect balance to create album cohesion and songs with a lot of replay value.


“Waiting to Spill” is an excellent record. While not as catchy as it’s predecessor, “Waiting to Spill” has a cohesion and depth that “When We Were Friends” never truly reached.

The Backseat Lovers has also grown in talent over these past three years, putting on an impressive display on all fronts. They incorporate a more complex vocal and instrumental performance to highlight the complexity they are attempting to reach.

The Backseat Lovers is currently touring across the United States and will start their European leg of the tour in 2023.

I greatly enjoyed this album and look forward to whatever work The Backseat Lovers ends up doing next.


My Five Favorite Horror Movies for Halloween

Halloween is right around the corner which means it is officially scary movie season. My favorite Halloween activity is sitting down on a couch with some friends and watching a bunch of horror movies.

I wanted to share some of my favorite horror movies that I’ve seen over the years. If you’re a horror movie fan I’d highly recommend any of these movies for a movie marathon.

Ranked in order from least to most scary (in my opinion):

House (1977)

This Scooby-Doo-esque Japanese horror film from 1977 is the most fun you can have watching a scary movie. A cult-classic, this movie is famous for how off-the-walls it is. The plot is quite simple, a girl and a group of her friends go to visit her ailing aunt’s home out in the country for a vacation and come face-to-face with a bloodthirsty piano, skeletons, evil spirits, and more.

The first time I watched this movie, I had an absolute blast. Each time I’ve watched it since, I’ve had just as much fun but also come to appreciate the film in new ways. “House” plays on gender roles and implements themes of post-war trauma and the role of family through the use of humor and horror.

I would definitely recommend this movie to finish a horror movie marathon as a chaser to movies that would otherwise keep you from getting a good night’s rest.

The Thing (1982)

“The Thing” is a classic. I was shocked to hear that this movie initially flopped in the box office when it came out in 1982. Kurt Russell’s performance, the practical effects by Rob Bottin, and the unravelling mystery written by Bill Lancaster are all top-notch, still this day.

This movie centers itself around a group of twelve scientists in Antarctica, trapped in the dead of the Antarctic winter collecting data. They uncover a mystery that if not contained, would destroy humanity.

This is my favorite movie by John Carpenter, and would definitely throw it on for a horror-movie marathon with friends.

Nope (2022)

Jordan Peele’s newest movie is my favorite by him. I won’t say anything about the plot because this movie is best experienced going in knowing nothing about it. I truly believe that in 20 years, “Nope” will be marked down as a classic.

This movie brilliantly uses horror elements to provide commentary on spectacle and trauma. Peele has finally mastered balancing comedy and horror, which grounds and creates investment in the story for the viewer.

There are two scenes in this movie that are most likely the scariest scenes I have witnessed on-screen. If you didn’t catch this movie while it was in theaters this year, I would definitely recommend watching it this Halloween season.

The Shining (1980)

“The Shining” is the most well-justified classic I have ever seen. There are too many classic scenes in this movie to count. The blood from the elevator, “Here’s Johnny!”, red rum, and more. No matter how many times I watch this movie, it’s bone-chilling.

A masterful dive into madness and commentary on abuse, if you haven’t seen this movie, this Halloween is the time. The three leads in this movie are each excellent in their roles, their performances sell the horror of this movie more than anything else.

Hereditary (2018)

Ari Aster’s “Hereditary” is gut-wrenchingly terrifying. I was lucky enough to see this film in theatres in 2018 and I have not stopped thinking about it since. A family tragedy that breaches into the supernatural, this movie feels like classic horror but turns every fear-inducing element up to 11.

This movie creates a pit in your stomach and does not let it dissipate until well-after the credits roll. This was the first real horror movie I viewed in a theater, and it’s still the scariest. While I’ve been meaning to rewatch it for a while, it’s hard to get the courage to go back to it.

If you want to make your horror movie marathon truly one to remember, put this movie on your list.


Now is the perfect time to sit down and watch some horror movies. As someone who doesn’t usually seek out horror, Halloween is a great time to give myself an excuse to watch it. If you want to watch some movies but don’t know what, this list is a great start. Happy Halloween and happy viewing.

New Album Review

“Blue Rev” by Alvvays Album Review

After a long five years, Alvvays has returned with their long-awaited album, “Blue Rev.” Named after the Canadian alcoholic beverage, Rev, this album is bubbly and hard-hitting.

The band, based in Toronto, has been around for almost ten years. This album, their third, is the culmination of over half of their time together. A full profile on the band can be found here.

After many trials and tribulations (floods, thefts, the pandemic) getting in the way of this release, it centers itself around stasis and change. Antonymous as they are, stasis and change are often closely interwoven.

“Blue Rev” sees Alvvays pushing the boundaries of their sound while refining it like never before. They still have the heavy focus on melodies over genre shown consistently throughout their discography but it’s shown in new light on this album. That bittersweet sound I can instantly recognize Alvvays by has been bolstered by brilliant songwriting and guitarwork.

Album Highlights

My favorite thing about this album is how seamlessly it balances the faster, more energetic tracks with slower, more melancholic tracks. They add an element of abrasiveness to their sound on this album that is hard to miss.

Rankin and O’Haley’s songwriting is the best it’s ever been on this record. The “Blue Rev” track list focuses on events that are dramatically life-changing. Natural disasters are described to emphasize the catastrophe these changes can ensue. Rankin finds a perfect balance of reflection to learn from these moments but move on.

There are also moments in the track list that highlight all the good that can come from change. “Many Mirrors” is a love ballad in a sea of heartbreak and reflection that serves as a beacon of hope that good times are ahead.

“Now that we’ve passed through many mirrors / I can’t believe we’re still the same”

Alvvays, “Many Mirrors” Lyric

The guitarwork on this album is also the best it’s ever been for Alvvays. Each track builds beautifully throughout the song and from each song before it. The guitar and Rankin’s pristine vocals, like on previous Alvvays records, link this album together.

“Tile by Tile” followed by “Pomeranian Spinster” whiplash the listener from melancholy to euphoria in a fashion that is prevalent throughout the entire album. The band’s ability to switch between the soft, jangly and rocky, rough sounds make each song an exciting listening experience.

“After the Earthquake” starts with jangly guitars in the same vain as any other Alvvays song but before realizing it, the song has exploded with reverb and roughness. Only once the reverb comes in at full-blast into a pop-rock anthem, the song pauses for a moment, letting the listener savor the sound they just heard, before exploding again.

My only wish for the album is that it ended a song earlier. “Lottery Noises” would have been an conclusive, wipe-out finisher. The addition of “Fourth Figure” at the end makes the ending feel stagnated on, like there should be more to come.


This album took some time to grow on me fully, but each time I listen to it I find something new to connect with. Even though this is Alvvays’ longest record, I think it is their most consistent and fleshed-out project to date.

I am eager to see what Alvvay’s next project sounds like. Hopefully, they will continue to bolster their sound and will be able to release their project sooner rather than later. Alvvays is touring right now throughout the United States.

New Album Review

“Magic Hour” by Surf Curse Album Review

From Reno to LA, surf punk band Surf Curse returns with their fourth album, “Magic Hour”. Started by childhood friends drummer/vocalist Nick Rattigan and guitarist/vocalist Jacob Rubeck, this band has created something truly magical in this record. Bassist Henry Dillon and Guitarist Noah Kholl help to flesh out the band’s sound perfectly.

Recorded at the infamous Electric Lady Studios, which has been the recording spot for the likes of Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Wonder, this album is a clear nod to the legends who have recorded there previously.

A review of their 2019 album, “Heaven Surrounds You”, can be found here. Before the singles for this record came out, I had only listened to a dabble of Surf Curse. Upon the release of the second single for this album, “TVI”, it was immediately all I could listen to for the next two months.

The Magic Trick

The sound of this album is silky smooth magic. The band almost called this album “Milky Magic” because they wanted to emulate and create a milky, white magic sound.

First off, I have to give major props to lead vocalist Nick Rattigan, who somehow manages to display an incredible vocal performance all while tearing it up on the drums, which is no easy feat.

Nick Rattigan also makes music under the persona Current Joys, which has a totally different sound and feel when compared to Surf Curse. The range of sounds and feelings Nick Rattigan can create throughout his music is commendable.

There are too many tracks on this album that have immediately stuck with me. If I had to name my three favorites from the record, they would probably be, “Self Portrait”, “Fear City” and “TVI”. All three tracks highlight the new steps Surf Curse has taken in their sound and what I enjoy about this album.

Surf Curse, “Self Portrait” music video

This album is Surf Curse at their most energetic. Rattigan’s visceral “YEAH”s throughout Self Portrait is heightened energy that can be found nowhere else in the Surf Curse discography. The discordant, blaring saxophone in “Fear City” makes it one of the most memorable tracks on the record.

However, the band does not forget the roots of their sound. There’s some classic Surf Curse in tracks like “Cathy”, “Lost Honor” and “Sugar” that will instantly get stuck in your head and give homage to their most popular tracks such as “Freaks” or “Disco”.

My only problem throughout the entirety of the 44-minute album is that I feel some tracks, especially the six-minute ones, could have been slightly shortened. Besides that, this is an excellent record. I highly recommend it to anyone that enjoys rock or punk music.


This record is probably my favorite of the year so far. I’m considering going to see them on tour the weekend before all of my finals. I wouldn’t do this for many other bands but hearing “Magic Hour” live would be incredible.

As Surf Curse’s discography continues to grow, they continue to vary and improve upon their already solid sound. I look forward to their future projects and how they will continue to build their discography.


“Babel” by R.F. Kuang Book Review

“Babel” is a dark academia historical fantasy book by R. F. Kuang set in 1830s Oxford University. “Babel” utilizes fantasy elements to highlight the cruelty of imperialism all while creating an engaging story full of fleshed-out, interesting characters.

I have been following Kuang’s work since the release of her first novel, “The Poppy War”, in 2018. She turned “The Poppy War” into a trilogy and announced earlier this year after the end of “The Poppy War” trilogy, that she would be releasing her fourth book, “Babel” in August.

I was extremely excited to hear this and immediately pre-ordered a copy. I finished “Babel” and must say, this book lived up to and exceeded my expectations. Kuang’s prose continues to get stronger and her stories more elaborate and nuanced.

The Magic System

The most brilliant thing about “Babel” is its magic system. My main problem with many fantasy books set in the real world is the magic system has no impact on the world outside of the scope of the story.

“Babel” does not have this problem. Babel, which the book is named after, is the world’s center of translation and silver-working. Silver-working is the art of manifesting meaning lost in translation through enchanted silver bars, creating magical effects. In this alternative world, silver-working is what has made the British Empire an unparalleled power.

This is, in my opinion, an excellent way to incorporate fantasy elements into the real world. It is subtle but has such a large impact on everything going on in the world of the story.

The Novel

“Babel” covers revolution, colonial resistance, and the use of translation as a tool of empire. It follows protagonist Robin Swift, orphaned by cholera in Canton and plucked out of China by a wealthy and mysterious Babel Professor, Richard Lovell.

Throughout the book, Robin becomes a student at Babel and comes to learn that serving Babel, creating silver, would be a betrayal of his homeland. What’s more, as his studies progress, he gets caught between Babel and the mysterious revolutionary group Hermes.

Throughout this book, Robin is constantly grappling with the question: can powerful institutions be changed from within, or does revolution always require violence?

This book does a great job handling the heavy themes it tries to tackle. Robin and Robin’s cohort feel like a very dynamic, alive group of characters. Often in fantasy books, I feel that characters are merely plot pieces waiting for the next moment to move the plot along. However, I did not feel this way with “Babel”.

This book also does give equal footing to both sides of the question Robin grapples with. However, Kuang is not afraid to take a firm stand when the question must be answered.

This book is great and is an excellent use of fantasy in the real world, which is rare to see. I look forward to Kuang’s next book, “Yellowface” coming out in May 2023, which will be stepping away from fantasy.

Concert Preview

Mother Mother Inside Tour 2022 Concert Preview

Off their latest release, “Inside”, alt-rock sensation Mother Mother is touring with Vundabar and Transviolet across the globe. They are visiting Raleigh’s own The Ritz on October 18, 2022.

This is the first time Mother Mother has made their way to the triangle in almost ten years, since 2013. The opportunity to hear songs such as “Hayloft”, “Verbatim” and “Infinitesimal” live is an opportunity fans will not want to pass up.

On top of that, with openers like Vundabar and Transviolet, it is shaping up to be quite the show.

Mother Mother

Mother Mother has been releasing music for almost 15 years at this point, with eight studio albums under their belts. While their newer releases have been split among audiences, their early releases have energy that can’t be found in many other bands.

Mother Mother, “Inside” Album Art

Fans can expect the set to open with “Verbatim”, one of their most popular songs. They will play music from all reaches of their discography, with acoustic versions thrown in and even a cover of “Creep” by Radiohead. The set will wrap up with “Hayloft” into “Hayloft II”. Fans can also expect an encore.

The Openers

Fans of the electronic indie band Vundbar can expect to hear a variety of songs from their earlier alums. They will be playing many of their most popular hits including “Alien Blues”, “Oulala” and “Chop” all from their album “Gawk”. Fans should not expect to hear many tracks from their three newest albums.

Pop band Transviolet will start the Mother Mother show with their song, “Bloodstream”. Fans can expect songs from all over their discography to be played, especially “Girls Your Age”.

With all this in mind, fans of Mother Mother should expect an excellent show with great openers. Tickets are being sold by Ticketmaster and are still available for the Raleigh show.

Setlist information provided by

Concert Preview

Seven October Shows in the Triangle

October is in full swing and there are tons of shows going on in the Triangle this month. October is one of the best months to go to a concert, the weather is perfect for it. The best way to celebrate fall is to get out into your community and go to see a show.

The triangle is lucky to see some awesome artists this month from Watchhouse at the North Carolina Museum of Art to Panchiko at Cat’s Cradle. I personally am looking forward to the Mother Mother show at The Ritz later in the month and hope to see some of you there as well.

Here are seven shows in the triangle worth checking out:

  1. Caroline Rose – Sunday, October 9 @ 8 p.m. – Cat’s Cradle
    • Opener: Tōth
  2. Mother Mother – Tuesday, October 18 @ 7 p.m. – The Ritz
    • Opener: Vundabar and Transviolet
  3. Hippo Campus – Friday, October 21 @ 7 p.m. – The Ritz
    • Opener: CHAI
  4. Panchiko – Sunday, October 23 @ 8 p.m. – Cat’s Cradle
    • Opener: Computerwife
  5. Whitney – Tuesday, October 25 @ 7 p.m. – Cat’s Cradle
    • Opener: twen
  6. Watchhouse – Friday, October 28 @ 8 p.m. – North Carolina Museum of Art
    • Opener: Allison de Groot & Tatiana Hargreaves
  7. MICHELLE – Monday, October 31 @ 8 p.m. – Motorco Music Hall

If you want to go see a show but can’t decide who to see from this list, here are some recommendations. Whitney is a great artist to see live, speaking from personal experience. They have a calm, nice energy that really matches their music and makes for a great show. If you want to go to a cool, outdoor venue to enjoy the autumn weather, you could go see Watchhouse (previously known as Mandolin Orange) at the NCMA.

Even if it’s not a traditional fall activity, I always try to get out and go see a show during the fall season. There are some great concerts in the triangle this month at some amazing venues. If you have the time, I would definitely go check them out.