Band/Artist Profile

AAPI Artist Spotlight- Hojean

In honor of AAPI, Asian American Pacific Islander, Heritage month I’ll be starting a little series where I’ll highlight a few different AAPI artists.

To start off this series, I’d like to introduce the Hojean or Justin Hojean Yi. He’s a 23- year old Korean-American R&B artist that got his start by wanting to perform a song for his crush at his school’s talent show. After playing up on that stage and seeing the reaction of the audience, he knew that being a musician was his passion. From that, he found his niche in writing love ballads and R&B tracks. He was initially an indie singer, but once he began experimenting with the R&B genre he felt that he preferred it a lot more.

The Georgian artist is a singer, producer, songwriter, and visual artist, who takes part in all creative aspects of his music production from lyrics writing to song cover art all from the comfort of his home.

What I admire about Hojean is his love of making music not only for his fans but as a way to support his parents as well. His entire life is writing music and his passion for spreading his musical diversity for his fans to experience the feelings he feels while writing his songs. Hojean has mentioned many times that he was always a creative person growing up and would doodle in his notebooks in school and sing at church, in a way he was always meant to make music and share his art.

A few of his most popular tracks are “Over 85”, “Pick Up Your Phone”, “You Feel Like” and of course his newest single “Bluffin,” which I wrote a review of.

His song “Memory” is a personal favorite of mine. It’s an upbeat song about moving on and letting go of the past. It was a track he had written after taking a nine-month hiatus from creating any new music– a product of his anxiety in a sense. A culmination of his feelings that had been developing while he was in a slump. But one day he walked into a thrift store and bought an electric guitar on a whim. That electric guitar lead to this song being written and now has become a significant part of his music production.

As a visual artist, I felt a connection to this song the most because I had been in an artist’s block myself. Painting was something I had a hard time doing during the school year during the pandemic because I constantly felt like my art didn’t compare to other artists, similar to how Hojean had felt about being a musician. Imposter syndrome– a common dilemma. Once listening to Hojean’s music one summer afternoon I started scribbling in my notebook and listening to Memory got me out of my slump as well.

If you want a change of pace or want to listen to music that makes you feel like you’re floating down a river on a sunny afternoon then Hojean’s music will make you feel just that.

Hojean will be releasing his first EP sometime this year so be sure to keep an eye out for it!  

Check out Hojean’s Spotify page to view his entire discography. 

Blog Concert Review

Built to Spill @ Cat’s Cradle 5/8/22

If you, like me, are an indie rock fan, then seeing Built to Spill should be on your list of bands to see live. I went with a group of friends to Cat’s Cradle (one of the best venues to see anyone play) on May 8, and I saw a couple of electric performances by individuals and bands. 

Built to Spill frequents Cat’s Cradle, as they usually make sure to have a stop every tour. This year they brought along two openers, Itchy Kitty and Prism Bitch. Itchy Kitty are from Spokane, Washington and they play wonderfully loud, jarring sounds in the vein of punk and “whiplash inducing riffage” as stated by their Bandcamp bio. Prism Bitch are from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Their genre focus is in the pop indie rock niche, which unfortunately adds to my slight distaste for their performance. 

Itchy Kitty

Itchy Kitty performing live at Cat's Cradle
Itchy Kitty onstage at Cat’s Cradle – Photo by Ben Price

After milling about in the crowd waiting for the show to start, Itchy Kitty hopped on the stage. The members, Ami Elston (guitar and vocals), Naomi Eisenbrey (bass and vocals), Mike “Sug” Tschirgi (drums), and a fill-in guitarist, immediately started off trying to get the crowd moving.

Elston and Esenbrey’s vocals screamed through the Cradle and jolted most people awake. I don’t think many people were expecting a raging punk band like Itchy Kitty to open for the soft, mild-mannered Built to Spill. 

At one point during their set, my group of friends got a shout out from Elston and Eisenbrey for being the only people trying to mosh and get moving to the music. I loved their stage presence. Especially Naomi Eisenbrey’s jerky movements when they covered “Psycho Killer” by Talking Heads (which was fantastic and horrifying at the same time). 

Itchy Kitty killed their set. I didn’t recognize all of their songs, but “Year of the Slut” and “Diffuse the Rat” were good ones to throw some elbows to. I am hoping this tour with Built to Spill will make their fanbase a bit more vast so we can see them headlining soon. 

Prism Bitch

Moving onto the second opener, Prism Bitch did a fine job. They were more of who I expected to open for Built to Spill. Their pop centered indie rock did not blow me away like Itchy Kitty’s in-your-face screams and riffs. The members are Lauren Poole (bass and vocals), Lilah Rose (keyboard, guitar and vocals), Chris Walsh (guitar), and Teresa Esquerra (drums and vocals). 

I thought Poole and Esquerra made the most impact on the band’s presence on stage. Both were fun to watch as they poured in all their energy into their instruments. Poole’s vocals were a great addition to Rose’s dreamy, classic, pop-rock style of singing. Prism Bitch did not get me moving like Itchy Kitty, but I have hope they’ll be able to fine tune their style to find a sound more intriguing. 

Built to Spill

When Doug Martsch finally came to stage it was already 10:30 p.m. Both openers had exhausted me and friends, but nothing could stop me from enjoying seeing one of my favorite bands knock out some of the best guitar work in the world. 

Doug Martsch was joined on stage by Prism Bitch’s drummer, Teresa Esquerra, and bassist Melanie Radford. Both Esquerra and Radford were amazing fill-ins. Radford’s bass playing was fun to watch. She looked like she was having as much fun as the crowd the way she swayed with Martsch’s rhythms. 

Doug Martsch onstage at Cat's Cradle
From left to right: Melanie Radford (bass), Doug Martsch (guitar and vocals), and Teresa Esquerra (drums) – Photo by Ben Price

Built to Spill’s set ranged from classics to covers to long winded instrumentals. They started off with “The Plan” to get the crowd “moving” (everyone was doing the obligatory calm head bops to the beat). There were a few technical issues after the first couple songs, but after that quick pause Martsch played the opening instrumental to Rush’s “Tom Sawyer”, which led into “Gonna Lose”. 

A cover of a Cate Le Bon song, “Are You with Me Now?”, marked the middle of the set. The plucky instrumentals and Martsch’s soft voice created a memorable sound. I really loved this cover (unfortunately I had never heard of Cate Le Bon before this concert). At this point the crowd began to sway their hips and move their feet more.

That cover was followed by “Goin’ Against Your Mind”. The never ending guitar riffs, bass solo by Melanie Radford, and always incredible drum work by Esquerra created the perfect atmosphere for the song. I think while they were playing “Goin’ Against Your Mind,” I saw Martsch smile for the first time and only time during their set. 

“Carry the Zero” being one of the last songs they played was a treat too. That classic hit will never get old for me, and now I can say I have seen it live. I honestly believe that finally seeing Doug Martsch and Built to Spill perform live was a life goal achieved. While the merch table was mediocre (besides the bangin’ Itchy Kitty t-shirts), seeing Built to Spill live is an important experience for people to understand why they are so well loved. 

Keep eatin’

– DJ chef

Blog Classic Album Review

Classic Album Review: “The Natural Bridge” by Silver Jews

ALBUM: “The Natural Bridge” by Silver Jews

RELEASE YEAR: Oct. 1, 1996

LABEL: Drag City

RATING: 10/10

BEST TRACKS: “Pet Politics”, “Inside the Golden Days of Missing You”,  “Pretty Eyes”

FCC: None

The Silver Jews’ album “The Natural Bridge” is easily one of the best lo-fi, country-rock albums ever created. That is not at all a biased statement. It is solely factual. Silver Jews was a band composed of David Berman (the lyricist and lead guitar), Stephen Malkmus (guitar and sometimes a lyric collaborator), and Bob Nastanovich (percussionist and keyboardist mainly). In “The Natural Bridge” Berman composed all of the tracks. His lyrics are full of metaphors, religious symbolism, and his monotone, gravel-ly, indie rock voice. 

This LP consists of 10 tracks and has a 35 minute and 42 second run time. Each song is distinct, but together the tracks are able to support each other to make a collective sound of loneliness, wandering, and beauty. 

The second song, “Pet Politics”, is easily my favorite of the record; it opens with soft acoustic strums and Berman’s calm voice. Then, it slowly dips itself into the heavy lyrics obsessing over death, new Bible creation stories, and pleas for safety. Because this song elicits so much emotion through repetition and simplicity, it feels complete.

Each track on this record itches a scratch I never knew I had. The satisfying guitar and keyboard synthesis puts me in a state of calm acceptance I cannot get from anywhere else, and Berman’s lyricism is one of the reasons I fell in love with this album.

Look at this line on “Inside the Golden Days of Missing You”: 

“What if life is just some hard equation on a chalkboard in a science class for ghosts”

This bleak image of the afterlife makes this album meaningful to me, as I love to learn about people’s perspectives on how the world around them works. 

Even the instrumental track, “The Right to Remain Silent“, has a purpose in this album rather than being a short filler between songs. Light drums march along, and I am transported to the dusk, empty streets of a nondescript American city. Every song accompanies you as you explore the beautiful, expansive streets of the world alone.

“The Natural Bridge” is no longer an album for me to listen to if I am feeling blue. It became a fervent necessity to focus on every note and word within each track. Silver Jews are able to blend the comfort of country with the exploration of ideology and emotion often seen in indie rock. I have become addicted to listening to this LP, and maybe if you start listening closely, you too might become obsessed like me.

Keep eatin’

-DJ chef

New Album Review

Hojean “Bluffin” Song Review

“Bluffin”, like all of Hojean’s releases, is an R&B/soul single. 

The song grabs you in from the start with an acoustic guitar intro with Hojean’s voice joining in shortly. I may be biased as a Hojean fan, but something about this song pulls you into the melody immediately and makes you start tapping the rhythm with your feet. The song is simple and is purely written for the vibes. 

With the repetitive chorus and lyrics that quickly get stuck in your head, it’s not difficult to enjoy the song. 

A particular verse of the song that felt memorable was “Girl you’re good at bluffin’ | You know we’re onto something the way | I got you blushing tonight | Feelin like we’re running | So why not get to stoppin’ | I feel like we been doin’ alright.”

The premise is traditional – Hojean is singing to a girl telling her that she’s been on his mind and wants to make her his girl. Essentially, he knows they both have something and wants her to stop pretending it’s not there. He wants her quite literally to stop bluffing.

With Hojean’s distinct style, he adds his own twist on the typical. The song is easy to enjoy regardless of whether you focus on the lyrics or the melody of the guitar.

If you’re looking for a new song to add to your summer playlist this might be one to look out for. It’s the perfect song for listening to while laying out in a hammock under the sun or while you’re sitting by the lake with your friends watching the sunset. 

Make sure to check out the lyrics video of “Bluffin.”

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Underground Charts 5/10

3HIATUS KAIYOTEMood ValiantBrainfeeder/Ninja Tune
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7MILAN RINGI’m Feeling HopefulAstral People/PIAS
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10WESLEY JOSEPHUltramarineEEVILTWINN/Transgressive
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6SEGA BODEGARomeoSupernature
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5BACKTRACKLost In LifeBridge Nine
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8BLOOD INCANTATIONHidden History of the Human RaceDark Descent
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