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Band/Artist Profile

Lucinda Williams: Country’s Goth Aunt

I’m not trying to make any presumptions about the type of person who reads this blog, but I’m going to hazard a guess that most of you haven’t heard of Lucinda Williams. Modern Country is about as far away from the “Independent/Alternative” ethos of WKNC as you can get. The genre is, in the opinion of most outsiders, directed by radio executives, skews towards a very young audience, dumb, and not especially risky. However, it hasn’t always been this way. In fact, for most of the history of Country music, it had the reputation as the most adult of genres. And not “adult” in the sense of safe or inoffensive, but adult in the sense of emotionally complex and preoccupied with serious problems and difficult subjects. This is the domain of Lucinda Williams.

Williams was atypical even in her time. She began her career in earnest at the age of 39, which is far from unheard of in country music, but for a woman in any kind of entertainment debuting at that age is still remarkable. Prior to then, she had released a few obscure traditionalist records in the early 80s, and when I say traditionalist, I mean like country circa 1930 when the genre hadn’t yet been segregated from the blues. Her self-titled 1988 album was released on Rough Trade. If you aren’t familiar with that label, it was founded by U.K. punks in the late 70s and was most known for releasing abrasive post-punk and obscure indie bands prior to signing their flagship band, The Smiths.

By the late 80s, Country had mostly made its peace with them long-haired hippies and their rock and roll, but this ceasefire did not extend to punk. This prejudice didn’t hurt Williams too much, as her music is only punk in spirit, but it should give you an idea of where she’s coming from. She has very little reverence for good old family values, which was a barrier long since broken down by the likes of Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire, but Lucinda took this a step further by just being relentlessly sad. Country music has a long history of deeply unhappy music, but usually, it takes the form of a bad relationship or a family tragedy, Williams denies any such histrionics in her music. She just sounds depressed, to be honest. Even when she sings about love and relationships, there’s a kind of wistful yearning that doesn’t let up. She asks at one point on her debut “Am I too blue for you?” The answer was yes, evidently, as it would take a number of years before success finally chased her down. She never really had a top 40 country hit, though many people would find success covering her songs, her stature has grown in recent years, especially in the Americana and Alt-Country movements she helped pioneer.

If you’re interested in Lucinda Williams’ music, I would recommend either her 1998 masterpiece “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road,” or, if you aren’t up for a whole album, her song “The Night’s Too Long.” The song is a strange piece of songwriting. It’s in the third person, telling the story of a thinly veiled author insert named Cynthia who can’t take no more small-town living and sells all she has to move to the city. The song is honest in a lowkey way. There’s a happy ending, but there’s no closure, no grand sweeping statement on what Cindy’s story means as if a person’s life could mean anything at all. There’s just that lingering sense of wanting something more and deciding to settle for being happy anyways.

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Band/Artist Profile

Phantogram Band Profile

Created by Miranda

Phantogram was formed in 2007 by long-time friends Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter. The two met in preschool and remained friends, eventually deciding to pursue record making. Originally the band was called Charlie Everywhere, but in 2009 Carter decided on “Phantogram” as the new band name. A phantogram is an optical illusion in which a two dimensional image appears three dimensions. Though this was not Carter’s intent, it perfectly reflects that the band contains only two members but sound much more powerful together than just two people.

Phantogram released their first album, “Eyelid Movies,” in Europe and Canada in 2009 and in the United States in 2010. The album was met with great reviews, and the band continued to release singles and collaborate with artists like Big Boi and the Flaming Lips. Phantogram’s most well-known track, “When I’m Small,” was featured in numerous television shows and advertisements, another single “K.Y.S.A” was featured in Grand Theft Auto V and “Lights” appeared in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Their most recent album is “Ceremony” (2020) and while it did not chart as highly as previous albums, it is an amazing album that everyone should listen to. Phantogram creates enigmatic electronic pop with gorgeous vocal styles.

I recommend Phantogram to anyone who likes indie, pop, or electronic. Some of my favorites include “Saturday“, “Fall In Love,” and “Glowing.”

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Band/Artist Profile

Band of the Week: Gatecreeper

What’s going on Butcher Crew?! It’s your Master Butcher, The Saw, and I am back with another band of the week! If you like O.G. Death Metal, but also enjoy components of hardcore, then Gatecreeper is the band for you! 

This band combines death metal riffs and also hardcore riffs in order to formulate their sound. It gives their music a violent groove that you can both mosh and dance to! I first heard about Gatecreeper when they randomly started playing on my Spotify. I really like the feature that Spotify has in which it plays bands that they think you will like after listening to an album. I immediately added Gatecreeper to my library. They have that sound of death metal that I cannot get enough of. It’s so eerie but yet, so groovy! 

Gatecreeper is an American death metal band from Phoenix, Tempe, and Tuscan, Arizona that formed in 2013. They took the scene by surprise and seized the underground after their 2014 release of their self-titled EP. The band has combined the death metal style of Entombed but also added hardcore components. All the members of the band are fans of both death metal and hardcore, and listen to both genres frequently. Two members of the band are also in a hardcore band, Territory; of course, Gatecreeper will have some hardcore components. Their vocalist, Chase Mason, says that hardcore influence has always been there, and they do not use it any more or any less on their other albums. 

The lyrical content speaks about Mason’s heroin addiction, his former life before he joined Gatecreeper. Mason has been 8 years sober and will be at 9 years this coming August. I think it is great that Mason is open with his past and will talk about it within Gatecreeper songs because I’m sure people can resonate with the message. This is just another example of music being used as an outlet for not only the listener, but also the creator. 

Current Members: 

  • Chase “Hellahammer” Mason (vocals) 
  • Eric “The Dark Cowboy” Wagner (guitar)
  • Matt “Thunder Rage” Arrebollo (drums) 
  • Sean “Hell Mammoth” Mears (bass) 
  • Israel Garza (guitar) 

Discography: 

  • Gatecreeper (EP) (2014)
  • Sonoran Depravation (2016)
  • Deserted (2019)
  • An Unexpected Reality (2021) 

Stay Metal, 

THE SAW 

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Band/Artist Profile

Artist to Watch: reggie

There is a special feeling to hearing a song that stops you directly in your tracks. I was simply scrolling through music on Youtube when I came across the track “I Don’t Wanna Feel No More.” by reggie. The harmonies and guitar at the beginning of the song were warm and nostalgic. Yet it was once reggie began singing, that this song rocked me to my core. I knew at that moment, that this artist was something special.

Hailing from Houston, Texas, reggie delivers soulful and beautifully crafted music that is hard to ignore. With three singles available on streaming platforms, I can with absolute faith tell you he is going to be a very successful artist. Each one of the tracks he has put out has been unique in its own way while still capturing the reggie’s style and sound. The even better part? Each song is phenomenal. And this is not even exaggerating. As previously mentioned, the song “I Don’t Wanna Feel No More” separated my mind from reality for nearly three and a half minutes where all I could do is feel. It made me think about memories of youth, hard times, and in many ways hit very close to home.

Yet it doesn’t stop there. reggie’s other two tracks, “Southside Fade,” and “AINT GON STOP ME,” are also incredibly high quality. “AINT GON STOP ME,” is his more recent release, and creates a positive feel with lyrics that build up determination. On top of this, reggie has consistently quality visuals to accompany his songs. I especially love how the beauty of Black people and Southern Black culture are highlighted in them as well.

In conclusion, I am very excited to see what reggie does next and am very confident that he will exceed expectations for his fans. If you haven’t had the opportunity to hear his music yet, I highly recommend taking some time from today to check it out.

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Band/Artist Profile

Silver Apples: The Sounds of 60s Glitchpop

I have a special place in my heart for primitive uses of now commonplace technologies. There’s something so delightful about past people marveling over the revolutionary changes that, say, the microwave, will bring to our lifestyles. This extends into music. Electronic music technology was available 80 years before anyone had a clue what to do with it. Double credit for hippies convinced that synths will be the next brain-expanding discovery in the counterculture. So, given my interest in these kinds of cultural artifacts, I was surprised when my brother forwarded me an apparently prominent band in this genre whose name I’d never heard before: Silver Apples. This mystery was compounded by his only description for it, “It’s like straight up Glitchpop, but from the late sixties.”

Let’s make our introductions, there are two apples in this bunch, Danny Taylor and Simeon. They have a pretty standard hippie story until about 1967 when Simeon started to incorporate an audio oscillator into their psychedelic rock band, which promptly drove away everyone but Taylor. For context, an audio oscillator is not strictly an, uh, instrument? It’s a piece of technology used in telegraphs and radio transmissions to produce regular intervals of electric current. Like, if you set it to the right frequencies, it makes a sound, but only in the pattern of a sine wave, with a cyclical change in pitch and absolutely no change in timbre. It almost comes off as the endless repetition of a two-second recording, because the oscillator creates an identical cycle of sounds until the frequency or amplitude is changed. This limitation is doubled by the fact that there is only one audio setting total, and that is the sound of blooping robot noises.

So how does one go about making a disassembled telegraph into a musical instrument? Well, the honest answer is probably some form of now illegal drugs, but more to the point you stack like thirty of these things on top of each other and hook them to the same control panel, which is exactly what Silver Apples did. Now, for a bunch of technical reasons I’m not going to get into because trust me, you do not care, this machine is technically a form of very basic synthesizer. I did not know it was possible to make a homemade synthesizer, but Simeone managed to make one. Like most homemade instruments, Simeon’s synthesizer had its eccentricities. For instance, it wasn’t controlled through a keyboard like most synthesizers, it was controlled through a panel of telegraph levers that could be set on or off. This effectively means that playing Simeon’s “instrument” was like playing one of those flash game pianos that set each key on your keyboard to a note, except your playing it with sticky keys on, so to stop a note from playing you have to press the corresponding key. Oh, and each note isn’t one discreet pitch, but a sine wave of pitches oscillating from one extreme to the other.

If this sounds like a bit of a hot mess, you would be correct. While the music itself definitely has telltale signs of the technology used to create it, the overall effect is more calculated than you might expect. The lyrics, which yes their music has lyrics, were often written by non-musical poets the group was friends with, and Taylor is a decent art-rock drummer, comparable to her fellow female drummer in a male band, Mo Tucker. This means that their music is not an avant-garde experiment with emerging technologies, if it was it would have probably been listened to by a hand full of college professors before being forgotten. No, Silver Apples are a pop band… somehow. I can’t explain it but the whole is radically different than the sum of its parts here, and with early electronica, there are a lot of parts.

Does all this add up to Silver Apples being good? Well, to be honest with you I’m not sure. The band is certainly interesting, but there are some serious flaws. For one, I question their decision not to hire another singer, because Simone and Taylor have fairly limited ranges both vocally and in terms of expression, which isn’t great when the primary instrument is so monotonous. Also, despite the lyrics being contracted out, they are still not great. Don’t get me wrong, the lyrics have unparalleled camp value, but I’m not quite sure if “The flame is its own reflection,” is really the deep meaningful poetry Simeon thought it was.

Criticisms aside, I think there’s something to be said for primordial uses of basic musical elements. Listening to music like this reminds us that our current techniques for assembling sounds into songs are not final. Even fundamental concepts like pitch and rhythm are, at best, oversimplifications of the truth. Pitches can in fact be cycles, rhythms can be oscillations, and sometimes, music can spring from a Frankenstein’s telegraph someone built in their backyard.

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Band/Artist Profile Miscellaneous Music Education

Carolina Beach Music

When you bring up the topic of beach music, most people immediately think of The Beach Boys and perhaps lesser known bands such as Dick Dale, The Ventures, The Lively Ones, and The Tornadoes. However, there is a distinct difference between these styles. The Beach Boys had a much more profound “doo-wop” sound to their music. In fact, lead singer Brian Wilson even said that he disliked when people described the Beach Boys as “surfin’ music” just because they were from California. Is his mind, they were their own subset of beach rock. 

The “surf music” that Brian Wilson was so ready to be detached from was pioneered by Dick Dale in the early 1960s. Around this time, Fender had just incorporated the reverb sound into their amps, allowing electric guitars to mimic the sound of a wave. This can be heard in almost every surf rock song. Dick Dale popularized this effect, while adding Mexican and Middle-Eastern influences to give us the surf rock sound we know today. 

While this was all happening on the west coast, a much lesser-known style of beach music was taking hold on the east coast, particularly in North and South Carolina. This style of beach music found its influences through blues and rock R&B. While surf rock exhibits the use of electric guitar, Carolina beach music incorporated more brass instruments, such as the trumpet and the French horn. All of this music was closely associated with “the shag,” which was a popular dance at the time. 

I was first introduced to this music by my parents, so some of my favorites that they used to play include “I Love Beach Music” by The Embers, “Give Me Just a Little More Time” by The Chairmen of the Board, “Ocean Boulevard” by Band of Oz, “Mrs. Grace” by Tymes, “Myrtle Beach Days” by The Fantastic Shakers, and “Summertime’s Calling Me” by the Catalinas. 

Hope you guys enjoy the tunes,
-The DJ Formerly Known As Chippypants

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beach_music#History
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surf_music

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Band/Artist Profile

Band Profile: CHAI

CHAI is one of the best Japanese girl groups. Two of the members, Mana and Kana, are twin sisters; the other members met the sisters during high school and became friends through their school’s light music performance club. After the girls graduated and went to college, they began performing throughout Nagoya and Aichi Prefecture and eventually moved to Tokyo to pursue the band. Since their formation they have released two albums, most recently “Punk.” They’ve also gained a more global following in recent years, and have toured the UK and US and signed onto labels in both the UK and US.

As Japanese musicians, the band has strived to go beyond the J-Pop genre and beyond the geographic boundaries of Japan. CHAI creates music that doesn’t perfectly fit within the pop mold. The women also focus a lot of their music towards empowering themselves and all women. They also take a new approach to “kawaii”, or “cute” culture: promoting that everyone is cute in their own way. CHAI is a wonderfully expressive and dynamic band that everyone should listen to. I recommend their most recent album, “Punk”, especially.

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Band/Artist Profile Classic Album Review

The Making of Led Zeppelin’s Final Album – In Through the Out

Days Before “In Through the Out Door”

By 1979, Led Zeppelin seemed to be at the tail end of an 11-year reign over rock music. After the release of their seventh studio album, “Presence”, in 1976, the band decided not to tour due to a number of personal issues, beginning a long period of silence for Zeppelin. The cancellation of the tour was due in part to a serious car accident involving Robert Plant and in part to Jimmy Page’s alleged drug abuse. The band did end up touring very briefly in 1977, although the tour was cut short due to the death of Plant’s five-year-old son, Karac. Prior to the release of the band’s final LP, “In Through the Out Door”, the future of Led Zeppelin was all but determined and it was unclear whether any new music would be released again. It seemed as if the greatest rock band of the 1970’s was finally expiring. 

Inner-Zeppelin Turmoil

The making of “In Through the Out Door” defined a clear separation among the members of the band. The majority of the album was written by multi-instrumentalist John Paul Jones and vocalist Robert Plant; a surprising deviation from the usual Page and Plant songwriting dynamic. Prior to the release of “In Through the Out Door”, guitarist Jimmy Page had been credited with taking a hand in writing every Led Zeppelin song released, aside from covers. On the final album, Page was noticeably absent from writing credits on “All My Love” and “South Bound Suarez”. Both Jones and Plant have suggested to multiple sources that they took the primary hand in creating “In Through the Out Door” and that the separation among the band members was clear in its production. In discussing the absence of Page in a 1991 interview, John Paul Jones stated, “We were left alone quite a lot of the time, along with [drummer John Bonham], and so we tended to get on with it, I think. I suppose you could say that “In Through the Out Door” is my album, the way “Presence” was Jimmy’s album.” Although it seems that Jimmy Page had very little to do with the album, he was still given the producer’s credit. He has been recorded in several interviews stating that he actually had more involvement in the album than it seemed. In an interview with “Mojo”Page stated, “‘In Through the Out Door’ was done in a little over three weeks, so I couldn’t have been in that bad a shape,” alluding to his rumored drug abuse in the years following “Presence” and preceding “In Through the Out Door”No matter the exact details of the delegation of the album’s production, it was clear that there was definitely some separation among the band members that was not present in previous albums. 

The Release

“In Through the Out Door” was released in August of 1979 as Led Zeppelin’s eighth studio album. Overall, the album was well-regarded by the public and was most definitely comparable to earlier successful Zeppelin works. The album debuted at No. 1 on both American and European charts and it was clear that fans had been made to wait far too long for new music. The album is yet another example of Led Zeppelin’s incredible range and fearlessness towards musical experimentation. Songs such as “Fool in the Rain” show John Bonham’s impressive drum work, as well as an incredible solo and multiple creative run by Page on guitar. The integration of Latin music and samba beat influences in the song further exhibit the recurring creative risks present on every Zeppelin album. The most notable creative liberties taken on “In Through the Out Door” undoubtedly come from John Paul Jones, with his use of multiple instruments, such as a synthesizer. This was possibly John Paul Jones’ most significant work. Without the regular influence of Jimmy Page, Led Zeppelin was in serious need of an instrumental frontman, and Jonesy stepped right in. His growing role in the band was apparent and he subsequently received much more praise and recognition than he previously had. Although the album is quite different from the more rock-heavy albums that Zeppelin had previously released, “In Through the Out Door” was an important addition to the band’s repertoire and lives on as an important album in rock history. 

“All My Love”

Possibly the most notable track on the LP is “All My Love”, one of only two Led Zeppelin songs that Jimmy Page did not have a hand in writing. Although it may be one of Led Zeppelin’s most widely known songs, the band considers it to be something entirely different from their usual releases. It is clear that Page’s absence took a bit of Zeppelin’s hard rock element out of the equation, as “All My Love” is often credited as being one of their ‘softest’ songs released. Both Jimmy Page and John Bonham can be found expressing their disapproval of “All My Love” to multiple sources. In an interview with “Light and Shade”, Page stated, “I could just imagine people doing the wave and all of that. And I thought ‘That is not us. That is not us’,” alluding to the  more soft and intimate feel that accompanied “All My Love”. Another quote by Page in the same interview states, “In its place it was fine, but I would not have wanted to pursue that direction in the future.” Of course, the song did end up on the final version of “In Through the Out Door”, even after the artistic disapproval of Page and Bonham. Despite their concern with the softness of the song, “All My Love” was ultimately included on the album because of Plant’s undeniably beautiful vocal performance and pure passion. “All My Love” is not a song of Plant’s declaration of romantic love, as many listeners may assume. Robert Plant wrote the lyrics of “All My Love” as a tribute to his late son, Karac, who passed away in 1977 at the age of 5. The death of Plant’s son was a devastating loss for him, as well as the band. “All My Love” is a timeless classic rock ballad that shows a more intimate side of Led Zeppelin, furthering proving their mastery of range. 

Sources: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/217029/light-and-shade-by-brad-tolinski/

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Band/Artist Profile

Olivia Rodrigo and the Trajectory of Indie Pop

Alright, so if you have listened to either of Olivia Rodrigo’s newest singles you might already know where I’m going with this. The newest Disney-affiliated teen pop star Olivia Rodrigo sounds eerily like the current biggest name in indie, Phoebe Bridgers. This is maybe not the most startling observation, as they both make personal, emotional power ballads with a pop sheen, and Rodrigo has cited Bridgers as an influence. However, I think it’s worth taking a minute to ruminate on what this similarity might mean, and what we learn about the future of both pop and indie rock because the gap between pop and indie rock has traditionally been miles wide. What shifted in publishing trends in the last decade or so to make this possible?

Indie kids have a bit of a superiority complex when it comes to finding different music, and I include myself in that criticism. I mean, the entire function of this radio station is to play music that isn’t marketable enough to get on mainstream radio, this desire for unique sounds and genres is basically the definition of indie at this point. So, there’s a kind of knee-jerk reaction whenever any indie artist has a mainstream hit, or whenever an indie sound is adapted for pop radio, to instantly brand the crossover success as the most boilerplate reduction of both genres. This typified the treatment bands like Fun, Portugal. The Man, and most infamously Mumford and Sons got upon breaking the top 40. Even though some of these artists had genuine indie cred, their bands and sometimes the entire scenes they came from were instantly branded as everything wrong with indie music. The prejudice works the other way too, as traditionally indie outlets have maintained a serious skepticism towards Charli XCX until very recently, Lady Gaga’s Joanne, and basically any artist that comes from TikTok.

So, what shifted to make Rodrigo’s dabbling in Indie acceptable? Well, we probably have Lorde and (dare I say her name) Lana Del Rey to thank for that. Lana has been the only exception in terms of mainstream indie; she had a pretty big hit with Summertime Sadness and then continued to rake in critical acclaim straight through the present day. Lorde broke through in the other direction, as her debut was one of the biggest albums of the 2010s, and was immediately followed by one of the most acclaimed indie albums of the decade “Melodrama.” These two artists were massively successful, but they didn’t start a trend of mainstream alternative music in the way that Nirvana or The Strokes did. I don’t think Olivia Rodrigo is going to do that either, but between her, Billie Eilish, and whatever your favorite one-off Tik-Tok hit is, I think we might have a pattern on our hands. Predicting the future is a dangerous game, but I’ll take a crack at it and say we might see more indie-pop creep into the mainstream in the next couple of years.

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Band/Artist Profile Classic Album Review Local Music Miscellaneous New Album Review

New Music Alert: Rehearsal

One of my long-time favorite bands, Skegss, has finally released another album. Skegss is a group of three guys from Byron Bay, Australia. The group formed in 2013 when childhood friends Johny Lani and Ben Reed started playing together as a duo around local venues. They soon paired up with Noa Deane and Tony Cregan and released their the singles “LSD” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio.” However Noa left the following year in pursuit of a surfing career, leaving Johny, Ben, and Tony to run the show. 

Since then they have released three EP’s and three albums. My personal favorite is their self-titled debut EP, however their two most recent albums are close contenders. Rehearsal is their most recent one to date and includes 13 surf-punk-garage styled rock songs on the album. It starts off with “Down to Ride” and “Valhalla,” which are both upbeat, fast paced songs that set a good tone for the album. However, my two favorites of the 13 are “Bush TV” and “Savor The Flavour.” They perfectly incorporate the iconic Skegss style and listening to them makes me feel like an angsty teenager again. Another honorable mention off the album is “Wake Up,” which is a bit of a slower song. That being said, I feel like this band doesn’t make slow, sentimental songs like this all that much, which makes it all the more meaningful. 

Fun fact about this band, they actually had their cover art for the EP “50 Push Ups for a Dollar” stolen by Lil Yachty and Reese for their single “Do It.” Go ahead and look it up, the comparison is laughably similar. 

That’s all for this week, hope you guys enjoy the music. 
-The DJ Formerly Known As Chippypants