Categories
Band/Artist Profile Miscellaneous

What Yoko Ono Can Tell Us About Indie Music

Yoko Ono posing for a publicity image in all black
Yoko at 88

I think most people are ready to admit that Yoko Ono is not the worst person to ever exist. There may be a few of us still clinging to the notion that she was a talentless harpy that broke up the best band ever, but this narrative is out of favor. Even the most traditionalist rock publications (Rolling Stone, Ultimate Classic Rock, etc.) have accepted her into music history, putting out lists of her top songs and best albums. To more liberal presses, she’s become something of an icon. In this narrative, she was an artistic genius victimized by a misogynistic hate mob who resented her avant-garde influence on John Lennon.

There has also been a growing interest in Ono’s music as influential. In 1970, avant-garde music was a strictly classical business. Experimentation was a right reserved to “serious music” and while Stockhausen, Schoenberg, and Cage were celebrities in a certain realm, they were not recording artists, and their influence did extend to pop. Ono was, for many people, their introduction to experimental music. A generation of musicians cited her as an inspiration, from pop music weirdos like the B-52s or Talking Heads to underground celebrities like William Bennet and Meredith Monk.

From indie blogs to the Grammy’s, the press is ready to admit that Ono is important, but they seem hesitant to discuss any of the actual music Ono released. Critics have either focused on her more typical rock releases or simply avoid discussing her music altogether. The New York Times ran a fawning piece defending the place of challenging music that made no reference to any of her actual songs or albums. When Pitchfork reviewed her back catalog, they concluded that her experimental albums were less ambitious and less than her experimental work. When critics dare write less favorable reviews, the assumptions about Ono come into much sharper focus. A Collegiate Times review of her music referred to her 2018 album Warzone as “a stupendously pretentious assemblage of avant-garde schlock,” that “Continues [a] career of meritless prominence.”

What confuses me most about the critical apathy (and occasional antipathy) towards Ono’s music is that it does not extend to music that is clearly influenced by her work. Kate Bush, Tori Amos, Bjork, even Fiona Apple- you don’t have to look far to find popular music that imitates Ono’s vocal style. On the instrumental side of things, it’s easy to imagine a track off of Yoko’s 1971 album “Fly” on a Throbbing Gristle or Captain Beefheart album. All of these musicians are critically adored, and their music is analyzed in great detail, especially their more experimental albums. So why do critics seem so eager to talk around the music of Yoko Ono?

To answer this question, I think it’s helpful to consider how Ono arrived in popular music. While Ono was a celebrated visual artist prior to meeting John Lennon, her marriage to the ex-Beatle meant that before she had even recorded an album, she was probably the fourth most famous artist alive (sorry Ringo), and was able to bypass a lot of music industry gatekeeping as a result. We expect avant-garde music to occur at the fringes, to always be underrated or someone obscure, and we expect prominent musicians to always make music accessible to a wide audience. The Collegiate Times review I quoted earlier makes this explicit, saying that, “‘Warzone’ is simply the latest piece in a long career of failing to reach the heights of an avant-garde frontier of music in hopes of reaching the hearts of people around the world.” The claim that Yoko is trying to reach a mass audience flies in the face of the music itself. Her first two albums are, to put it literally, 45 minutes of a woman wailing over elephant noises. Even her more accessible projects like “Warzone” are still leagues away from the mainstream. Her music clearly has no interest in appealing to a general audience, but because she is famous and on a major label, these expectations are put on her.

The frustrating thing about critical interpretations of Ono’s music, at least to me, isn’t that people don’t like her music- I’m only lukewarm on most of it myself- but that she would receive far different reception were she not a household name. Critical attitudes of popular music have warmed considerably in the last 20 years, but this reevaluation has only extended to the aesthetics of popular music, not to the underlying mechanics. Popular music may be acknowledged as good “in its own way” but it isn’t given equal billing with so-called “serious music.” Yoko Ono is just a little too famous to be taken seriously as an avant-garde artist. Instead, she must be analyzed only in terms of her effects, as the New York Times did, or, as in the case of the Pitchfork review, she must be spun as actually secretly having been a pop musician this whole time. We are still brought up with the deep-seated hipster belief that popular culture is inherently the lowest common denominator. Successful, famous artists like Ono that challenge this narrative are deeply threatening to magazines that make their name by denoting what gets to be taken seriously and what is pop culture trash. She proves that people have wider tastes than they are often given credit for, that fans of independent music are not quite as special as we think we are.

It’s impressive when you think about it, half a century later and Yoko Ono is still scary.

Categories
New Album Review

Smerz- “Believer”

ALBUM: “Believer” by Smerz

RELEASE YEAR: 2021

LABEL: XL Recordings

RATING: 10/10

BEST TRACKS: “I don’t talk that much,” “Flashing” and “The favourite”

FCC: CLEAN

The new Smerz album, “Believer,” dropped this February and with it came many music videos! This is very exciting and made me want to switch things up from our typical album review format. The videos perfectly visualize the album and truly expand the listening (and now viewing) experience. So, why just stick to reviewing the songs, when I could rate my favorites in order?

With that being said, here are my favorite music videos from the “Believer” album (from least favorite to favorite). Enjoy 🙂 

“Hva hvis”  

Technically, this belongs to the “I don’t talk that much” video, but it feels very separate to me. It’s so calm and serene. I wish I was there right about now. 

“Believer”

This video is very ethereal and reminds me of a childhood fairytale. It’s very classical and very beautiful. I especially love the emphasis on nature that seems to continue throughout the entire album’s videos. 

“Grand Piano”

I LOVE this video. It perfectly encompasses their Copenhagen background and style. It’s simple and very natural, just a bunch of people running around in the grass and their sweet little white puppy dog chasing them around aimlessly. I love it.

“I don’t talk that much”

This is my favorite song on the album. It’s so fast and I love how they juxtaposed this with the classical dancing and all white dress. Catharina Stoltenberg wears the same white dress in the Believer video, so there’s some continuity here too. This was super close to being my number 1 and I’m still torn!!

“Flashing”  (WARNING- There are flashing lights in this video)

Number 1 on my list! “Flashing” is so fun. The entire video is set in the driver’s seat of a car as Henriette Motzfeldt, one of the two in the duo that is Smerz, sits and sings. There are so many cool, small details such as the light from the cigarette she smokes when the light flashes to dark. I also love, love, love this song so much. 

I hope you check out the album and its videos and enjoy as much as I did.

XOXO,

Gab

Categories
Music News and Interviews

Black Dresses Are Back?

An album cover with a fiery peace sign over a green field

Canadian Noise Pop duo Black Dresses released the album Peaceful As Hell early last year, their most bold and entrancing album yet, and almost immediately thereafter broke up the band. Citing a wave of harassment and privacy violations occurring after one of their songs became a TikTok hit, they announced an end to the band for the sake of their mental health. It was sad, but not surprising. Fan’s demands upon creator’s personal lives are at a fever pitch, and it’s understandable that some artists wouldn’t want in. Two albums, that’s all we get and it’s more than we deserve.

Last Tuesday, the band put out the following statement on Twitter, “We’re no longer a band, unfortunately. Regardless we’ve decided to keep releasing music.” The surprise announcement was accompanied by a new album, titled Forever In Your Heart. They gave no follow-up explanation, but have spent the last couple of days aggressively retweeting fan art.

Well, that all seems clear enough, and I don’t think anyone is complaining about more Black Dresses. The album was also likely created in their post-breakup period, meaning there’s possibly more to come. There are multiple quasi-references to the invasive pressure of fan culture, and some songs that feel tailor-made to this, the eleventh month of quarantine, including one about living in a concrete bubble that feels especially prescient. The album is possibly their best yet, I’ll spare you a full review and just recommend you check it out for yourself on Bandcamp. It’s full of hyper-pop meets thrash ragers that are as infectious as they are miserable. Black Dresses are infectious misery, and I mean that in the best way possible.

Categories
Classic Album Review

Classic Album Review: Zentropy

Written by Miranda

Frankie Cosmos, also known as Greta Kline; a well-loved indie artist, has been making incredible music since “Zentropy”, her first studio album. Not only is this album well-done for a 19-year-old independent artist (at the time), it remains one of my favorite works. “Zentropy” helped set the stage for future success for Kline in subsequent years and helped establish her within the indie pop scene. 

The album begins with an ode to the dreariness of school and ends with the sadness of a dog’s passing away. It’s strange, girlish, experimental, but simple. The beauty of this album is highlighted in its simplicity. A mixture of mediocre electric guitar and drum beats are all that makes up the melodies on the album, but sweet-sounding vocals entice the listener. Frankie Cosmos gives a solid look at the life of a nineteen-year-old girl. Issues of love flings, loss of pets, and disinterest in school make up most of the album. Her ability to use simple lyricism to convey these ideas gives an easy glimpse into her life and what is most important to her. The emotional depth of this album and its catchyness as an indie pop-adjacent style of album makes it one that is so easy to return to again and again. Even seven years after its release, I find the lyrics stuck inside my head while I go about my daily life – thinking of lyrics like “I’m the type of girl/Buses splash with rain” or “This is when I say my I love you.” Surprisingly (or not), “Zentropy” ended up gaining 

Frankie Cosmos has come a long way since this first studio album, since creating three more albums and dozens of music videos. Her latest album was released in 2019, and she has teased fans throughout quarantine with Instagram performances of her music and hopefully a new album coming soon.

Categories
Weekly Charts

Daytime Charts 3/2

ArtistRecordLabel
1ARLO PARKSCollapsed In SunbeamsTransgressive/PIAS
2SHYGIRLALIAS [EP]Because
3CASHINOVABig DragonStophouse
4JORDANASomething To Say To YouGrand Jury
5POM POKOCheaterBella Union/PIAS
6STEVE LACYThe Lo-FisL-M
7GOAT GIRLOn All FoursRough Trade/Beggars
8KIWI JRCooler ReturnsSub Pop
9MISS GRITImpostor [EP]Self-Released
10BILLY DEAN THOMASFor Better Or WorseSelf-Released
11BLACK COUNTRY NEW ROADFor The First TimeNinja Tune
12BLU AND EXILEMilesDirty Science
13DEZRON DOUGLAS AND BRANDEE YOUNGERForce MajeureInternational Anthem
14DON TOLIVERAfter PartyWMG Atlantic
15FAT TONYExoticaCarpark
16GEORGE CLANTON AND NICK HEXUMGeorge Clanton And Nick Hexum100% Electronica
17NANCYThe Seven Foot Tall Post-Suicidal Feel Good BluesB3SCI
18NAVY BLUESong Of Sage: Post Panic! Freedom Sounds
19PARK HYE JINHow Can I [EP]Ninja Tune
20PINK SIIFU AND FLY ANAKINFlySiifu’sLex
21PRINCESS NOKIAEverything Is Beautiful/Everything SucksSelf-Released
22SHAMEDrunk Tank PinkDead Oceans
23TOBIElements Vol. 1Same Plate/RCA
24SERENA ISIOMASensitive [EP]AWAL
25TY BRISweet LickSelf-Released
26BUTCHER BROWN#KingButchConcord Jazz
27CAKES DA KILLA, PROPER VILLAINSMuvaland [EP]Classic Company
28CHERRY GLAZERR“Rabbit Hole” [Single]Secretly Canadian
29GRIMESMiss Anthropocene (Rave Edition)4AD
30DREAMWEAVERCloud9MagicCrafters

TOP ADDS

ArtistRecordLabel
1JULIEN BAKERLittle OblivionsMatador/Beggars Group
2GLITTERERLife Is Not A LessonAnti-
3CLOUD NOTHINGSThe Shadow I RememberCarpark
4BACHELOR“Anything At All” [Single]Polyvinyl
5MIA JOY“See Us” [Single]Fire Talk
6JUICE WEBSTER“Wanna Be Held” [Single]Self-Released
7ALICE PHOEBE LOU“dirty mouth” [Single]Self-Released
8FIELD MUSIC“No Pressure” [Single]Memphis
9DENNIS ELLSWORTH“Becuz Of You” [Single]Pyramid Scheme
10DAMEERFor We Are Distant [EP]Majestic Casual
Categories
Weekly Charts

Chainsaw Charts 3/2

ArtistRecordLabel
1BRAND OF SACRIFICE “Altered Eyes” [Single]Blood Blast Distribution 
2ARCHITECTSFor Those That Wish To ExistEpitaph
3ASPHYXNecrocerosCentury Media
4CANNIBAL CORPSE“Inhumane Harvest” [Single]Metal Blade
5BODYSNARCHER “Take Me To Hell” [Single]Entertainment One
6GATECREEPERAn Unexpected RealityClosed Casket Activities
7OF MICE AND MENTimeless [EP] [Advance Tracks]Sharptone
8WAGE WAR“Surrounded” [Single]Fearless
9UPON A BURNING BODY Built From War [EP]Seek & Strike 
10BOUNDARIES Your Receding WarmthUnbeaten 
Categories
Weekly Charts

Underground Charts 3/2

ArtistRecordLabel
1JENEVIEVE“Baby Powder” [Single]JOYFACE
2REEL PEOPLEDancing On The Moon [EP]Self-Released
3ZACARIRun Wild Run FreeTop Dawg
4OHAJIJEast Manhattan ProjectMore Valid Decisions/Hustleward
5D SAVAGETrust No OneUMG
6CHIKA“U Should” [Single]CHIKA/Warner
7CLOUDY NUEVESoberHella Clout
8AESOP ROCK“Pizza Alley” [Single]Rhymesayers
9MARMAR OSOLove Don’t Cost A ThingFree The Lost/EMPIRE
10TOBI NWIGWETHE PANDEMIC PROJECTTOBE NWIGWE
Categories
Weekly Charts

Afterhours Charts 3/2

ArtistRecordLabel
1PRINCE INNOCENCE“Angelyne” [Single]Self-Released
2JAYDA GBoth Of Us/Are You Down [EP]Ninja Tune
3DREAMWEAVERCloud9MagicCrafters
4JESSIE WAREWhat’s Your Pleasure?Virgin EMI
5TSHAFlowers [EP]Ninja Tune
6BLUE HAWAIIUnder 1 House [EP]Arbutus
7ELKKAI.Miss.Raving/ Bleep+ [EP]Local Action
8SHYGIRLALIAS [EP]Because
9LOGIC1000You’ve Got The Whole Night To Go [EP]Therapy/Because
10OKLOUGaloreTrue Panther / TaP
Categories
Classic Album Review

The Saw’s Choice Cuts: Three Albums for Your Consumption

How’s it going, Butcher Crew?! Today I have collected for you three albums that are heavy on my rotation lately. All three records were released during 2020, and all three were released by Unique Leader Records. Watch these three bands. And enjoy the madness of these three albums that made The Saw’s Choice Cuts. They will surely pound you into dust! 

Where Only Gods May Tread (2020, Unique Leader Records) is the 5th studio album from the British Brutal Death Metal band, Ingested. Now, I’m here to tell you, this band delivers the beat-downs in quick order! Jason Evans utilizes many different forms and types of vocal techniques – most notably, screams and gutterals in a more DeathCore fashion. In fact, IMO, Sam Yates and Sean Hines (guitars), Lyn Jeffs (drums), and Brad Fuller (bass) masterfully deliver the beatings in a sort of Brutal DeathCore/Technical Death Metal assault that will leave you gasping for air. Formed in 2006, Ingested have some miles on their carcasses! As an example of their crushing abilities, they’ve toured with the likes of Black Dahlia Murder, Carnifex, 3 Inches of Blood, Aborted, Disentomb, Enterprise Earth, I Declare War, Kublai Khan, Despised Icon, and Cryptopsy to name a few. 

Favorite Songs: Follow the Deceiver; The Burden of Our Failures; Leap of the Faithless

Rating: 9/10! This one will beat your brains in, for a long time! 

Revive The Throne (2020, Unique Leader Records) is the 7th full length album from the German GrindCore/Brutal Death Metal band, Stillbirth. This band is as old as me, forming in 1999! Now, here is what I like about these butchers, they strongly incorporate the CORE (as in HardCore) aspect into their efforts. With multiple tempo changes, mid-riff (the GrindCore aspect), and crushing, gurgling gutterals, this record will give you whiplash. Lukas Swiaczney is the vicious vocal master, Dominik Konig also gutterals, and plays bass, Martin Grupe is banging, smoothly and quickly on drums, Jens Strack and Simon Sturmlinger slay the blistering dual guitars, and Lukas Kaminski is like a steam roller on the 2nd bass. Double gutterals and double bass players?! You know the beatings are life threatening! 

Favorite Songs: Degraded to Mutilation; Panem et Circenses; Dethrone the King

Rating: 8/10! Skull splitting frenzy!! 

Nuklearth is the newest album (2020, Unique Leader Records) by the German band, Cytotoxin. Right from the start, I’ve got to say that this band is like the WhiteChapel of Technical/Brutal Death Metal (and you already know that I love some WhiteChapel!). But this record… what an incredible piece of work we have, here! The arrangement, style, and structure of the powerful music by Fonzo and Jason (guitars), Stocki (drums) and Vitalis (bass) is nothing but pure, “Chernobyl Death Metal” (as Cytotoxin, themselves, refer it), and Grimo’s vocal delivery is nearly perfect – brutal gutterals and growls (reminding me of Phil!). Cytotoxin formed in 2010 and Nuklearth is their fourth full length album. 

Favorite Songs: Soul Harvester; Coast of Lies; Nuklearth

Rating: 10/10!! This record will bang for MANY years to come!!

Stay Metal,

THE SAW

Categories
Playlists

Springtime Songs

The weather is finally getting warmer here in NC, and all I want to do is sit on my porch with a nice book, a cup of tea, and some springy tunes. It’s hard to believe that daylight saving time is right around the corner! In honor of the longer, warmer days ahead, I’ve decided to put together a playlist filled with my favorite springtime songs. These tracks give me sitting-in-a-garden-feeling-the-sun-on-my-skin type vibes and I hope they do the same for you!

1. Peach Fuzz – Tyler, the Creator

One of my favorite singles from Tyler, this song just oozes sunny, spring vibes. Even just the title makes me want to go fruit picking!

2. Not Fade Away/Goin’ Down the Road Feeling Bad – The Grateful Dead

The Dead are the masters of all things jammy goodness, and this track is no exception. I love the beachy, lovestruck sound to this song.

3. Run to the Sun – N.E.R.D

The title “Run to the Sun” says it all. Pharrell’s signature funky style sticks out especially on this track from the N.E.R.D trio.

4. Tangerine – Led Zeppelin

“Tangerine” is actually the song I named my show after! I love the gentleness of it, and it’s one of my all-time favorite Zeppelin songs.

5. The Girl From Ipanema – Stan Getz & João Gilberto

The idea of starting off Spring without some Bossa Nova playing in the background is despicable. This Brazilian classic will for sure remind you of sunny days.

6. One Rainy Wish – The Jimi Hendrix Experience

One of Jimi Hendrix’s softer songs, this psychedelic ballad is filled with lyrics that seem to worship mother nature herself.

7. Hit Me Like That Snare – alt-J & Rejjie Snow

This is one of those songs that I just wish were longer. The bridge at 0:53 is absolutely fantastic.

8. Raspberry Jam – Allah-Las

Allah-Las are arguably the kings of modern surf rock. This song, off the soundtrack of “Self Discovery For Social Survival” is a great testament to that.

9. Sparks – The Who

Even though this track is just an instrumental, the upbeat, soft strumming reminds me of sunshiny afternoons.

10. Dancing Barefoot – Patti Smith Group

Patti Smith is an absolute icon. Period. “Dancing Barefoot” is one of her more pop-leaning songs, but it reminds me of spinning around in the middle of a bright, grassy field!

11. An Idea – IAMNOBODI

What a great little random track! Featuring Emmavie, Zacari, and Josh J., this song is the pinnacle of R&B perfection.

12. Ivy – Frank Ocean

It would be injustice not to include at least one Frank song on this playlist. Though it’s a bit melancholy, for some reason this track reminds me of the shift from Winter to Spring.

Happy Listening!

– DJ Butter