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Band/Artist Profile

Artist Spotlight: Babes in Toyland

I had a weird time last week. After contracting a cold from a Durham Chuck-E-Cheese’s, (I won’t add context) I spent around seven days in such acute respiratory distress that I reckon I only slept about three hours each night.

When you’re deprived of sleep, reality becomes indistinct. Such an effect is only furthered when you continue to attend your regular 9-to-5 and self-medicate with menthol-strawberry flavored lozenges.

It was during this strange and (frankly) horrible time that I became slightly unhinged. The only thing that kept me sane was the collection of music I listened to as I struggled to fall asleep.

I first heard Babes in Toyland at three in the morning as I lay on the couch sipping my third cup of herbal tea. Considering the band’s sound, it’s a strange juxtaposition.

Babes in Toyland was an American rock band formed 1987 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Though the band no longer exists, it certainly left an imprint on the music world.

“Babes In Toyland performing in Groningen, Netherlands, 1991,’ uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by Greg Neate, licensed CC BY 2.0

The Band

Babes in Toyland consisted of a series of women, ultimately ending with frontwoman Kat Bjelland, drummer Lori Barbero and bassist Clara Salyer (brought on in 2015).

Bjelland and Barbero met at a mutual friend’s barbecue, laying the foundation for what would eventually become one of the most inlfuential female-fronted bands in the alternative rock scene.

Before disbanding in 2001, the band produced three studio albums, “Spanking Machine” (1990), “Fontanelle” (1992) and “Nemesisters” (1995).

The band was known for its particular brand of harsh rock music, with Bjelland’s screaming voice and lashing guitar mingling with the intensity of Barbero’s drums.

Though not technically a “feminist” band, Babes in Toyland covered themes related to female empowerment and feminine rage.

I, I live in the densest corner
Of the deepest mind of the f–most room
And sing “the stars they swing from their chandelier strings” (I know real love)
You know who you are
You’re dead meat, mother–
You don’t try to rape a goddess

“Bluebell,” Babes in Toyland

Riot Grrrls

While their sound is decidedly more grunge than that of their many contemporaries, such as Bikini Kill, Babes in Toyland is largely considered to fall under the “riot grrrl” umbrella.

Riot Grrrl, born from the culture of sexism rife within the punk community, grew into a culture of its own with the efforts of inspired, passionate and angry young women.

Babes in Toyland captures this anger in a bold and brash display.

Cover for “Nemesisters” by Babes in Toyland

Some tracks are purely vengeful while others are irreverent and sardonic. They’re consistently punchy, tinged with a classic grunge smokiness around the edges.

Lyrics are cheeky, insolent and occassionally abusive, laden with vulgarity, profanity and innuendo. Listeners are struck by a sense of brilliant confidence, a kind of uncaring conviction typically reserved for men.

I wear the same face as you
And you share my sick point of view
But I do hate you
Vomit my heart
Pull my head apart
Vomit my heart
Pull my legs apart

“Vomit Heart,” Babes in Toyland

This doesn’t mean that Babes in Toyland is necessarily masculine, but rather that they redefine and recontextualize what femininity can be. Listening to their discography doesn’t invoke a sense of imitation, but rather the creation of something original and wholly unapologetic.

Cover for “Fontanelle” by Babes in Toyland

Their work is inspiring. Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill testifies to this, stating in an interview, “Even in the ’90s, Babes in Toyland was a band that was hugely important to us and we were like, God if only we could play awesome shows like Babes in Toyland.”

For women and girls feeling displaced in the music scene, it’s a valuable experience to not only look up to a female-fronted band, but to look up to a female-fronted band that’s arguably heavier and harsher than many of its male-fronted counterparts.

Song Recommendations

  • “Bluebell”
  • “Ariel”
  • “Vomit Heart”
  • “Pain in My Heart”
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Band/Artist Profile

Artist Profile: DRAIN

After seeing friends’ posts about a recent hardcore show they’d been to in South Carolina, I finally decided to check out DRAIN, and they easily lived up to their reputation.

DRAIN’s first two EPs, “Over Thinking” (2016) and “Time Enough at Last” (2017) garnered public attention and solidified them as a prominent peg in the Santa Cruz hardcore scene. According to DRAIN frontman Sammy Ciaramitaro, “When people come to Santa Cruz, they’re like, ‘Oh, I get it, DRAIN looks like what this town looks like.’ We also sound like what you expect Santa Cruz to sound like.”

Following their local roots, DRAIN released “California Cursed” right after the dawn of the pandemic– April 2020. This is the album that first drew me to DRAIN. It’s one of those LPs I can’t help but move to when I listen to it.

Songs like “Feel the Pressure,” “Army of One,” and “Hypervigilance” are undeniably bangers, for lack of a better word, and they’ve helped the album quickly become one of my most-listened for the month.

Having an album released so soon after the outbreak of COVID-19, DRAIN wasn’t able to tour or perform any shows for “California Cursed.” This was especially unfortunate because of how vital live shows are to the fire that fuels the hardcore scene.

“Kids fell in love with music but didn’t have the chance for two years to see it live,” said DRAIN’s frontman. “Now that it’s come back, the feeling is, ‘I want to see it live. I want to go to every show. I want to experience it.'”

DRAIN’s most recent album, “Living Proof,” released on May 5 of this year. Its reception has been wider than any of the band’s other releases, and for good reason.

A review of the album in Kerrang! by Luke Morton reads, “From piledriving opener of “Run Your Luck,” “Living Proof” puts its pedal firmly through the metal, hauling a mix of chunky riffs and frenetic two-steps into a mosh-ready melee, superbly bolstered by Slayer-esque guitars and snarling, spiteful vocals. Despite the aforementioned Sammy being a genuine Good Dude, he is in serious F— You mode throughout “Living Proof,” spitting lines of defiance and individuality.”

I could not have put it any better.

DRAIN is currently on the “Living Proof” tour through the U.S. until the end of June. Here’s to hoping we get a Raleigh show real soon.

— bel$

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Band/Artist Profile

Queer Artist Profile: Dog Park Dissidents

Dog Park Dissidents is a self-described “loud and flamboyant” queer rock band from New Orleans, Long Island and Philadelphia.

As the band explains, they “bend genres, genders, and decency” with a mix of “old-school” punk, pop punk and camp energy in order to stoke the flames of queer rebellion.

Anti-Respectability

The band’s reputation largely comes from its unflinching condemnation of respectability politics and the corporatization of Pride Month.

While I personally am not a huge fan of the band I do admire their commitment to the defense of “queer anger,” a concept often shirked by mainstream circles due to its “poor optics” and “lack of respectability.”

The idea that being a “good queer” will somehow garner the support of the straight hegemony is certainly not new. The classic “kink at Pride” debate is a prime example of this.

“Norwich Pride 2019-308” uploaded to Wikimedia commons by Sasastro from Suffolk, licensed CC BY 2.0

While it’s understandable that members of a marginalized class would strive for anything to lessen the burden of systemic oppression, recent events involving a certain big-name grocery store demonstrate that even “respectable” queerness is not enough to win over those who have already decided that queer people are not worthy of public existence.

Thus, Dog Park Dissidents is wholly committed to being a group of “bad queers.”

Such is the reason that I respect the band. Not only do they produce flagrantly bitter, queer music, but they exist as open members of the predominately-gay puppy play scene, a group often looked down upon by fellow members of the LGBT community for its lack of respectability.

Cover for “Sexual and Violent” by Dog Park Dissidents

If Dog Park Dissidents makes anything clear, they couldn’t care less about playing the game of LGBT respectability, especially when the rules are made by the same people who oppress LGBT people in the first place.

“Queer As In F– You”

Dog Park Dissidents formed in 2017 after vocalist Zax Xeper and guitarist Jon Greco produced the single “Queer As In F– You” as part of an anti-Trump sampler compilation.

Don’t sell me a rainbow
Your market’s never done s– for me
Don’t want a seat at your table
And f– an invitation to your party

You want to celebrate a gay man on your cable TV
While trans lesbians of color dig in garbage just to eat
You’ve paved the road for CEOs to suck on some d–
While all the kids on the street are getting pelted with bricks

“Queer As In F– You,” Dog Park Dissidents

The song was a viral success, leading Xeper and Greco to release the 2018 EP “Sexual and Violent.”

The following year, the band had their first live performance in Long Island with drummer Mike Costa and bassist Joe Bove from The Arrogant Sons of Bitches, a 6-piece ska band active from 1998 to 2006.

Shortly following this was the release of the EP “High-Risk Homosexual Behavior,” which featured Bove on bass.

The EP features the track “Refugees,” which highlights the growing fear within the queer community as the enactment of anti-LGBT legislation becomes a growing threat on the horizon.

Into the great unknown
In fear of losing our home
With the stroke of a pen
Threatening to erase us
Our lives can be revoked
Hard won rights in limbo
When your shield’s on the books
It’s thin as the pages

“Refugees,” Dog Park Dissidents

The band’s next release came in 2021 with the EP “ACAB For Cutie,” featuring Costa on drums.

Cover for “ACAB For Cutie” by Dog Park Dissidents

The EP touches on classism and queer liberation, exploring themes related to the queer community’s relationship to the police force and the ways in which prominent LGBT figures capitalize on fame at the expense of their peers.

I don’t care that the labor board
Says it’s A-OK to be gay
When they shout, “get out”
You don’t got no clout
They don’t need a f– reason
They can say whatever they gonna say
I don’t care that the police
Carry rainbows in our parades
‘Cause they’ll be sent to take down all our flags
As soon as their bosses want to put us in body bags

“Class Struggle,” Dog Park Dissidents
“Gay Pride in Valencia,” uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by Dorieo, licensed CC BY-SA 4.0


She’s that empress with her fierce jeweled crown
And she don’t care if you call her a sellout
Took your culture and she made it her brand
That’s how you play, it’s just the law of the land
But it was not enough for she
To make it a commodity
To turn your queerness into business
And to sell your raison d’etre
Bitch, she put on these nails
To hydrofracture some shale
You came to play, she came to slay
Entire ecosystems, hunty

“RuPaul’s Frack Race,” Dog Park Dissidents

The Pink and Black Album

As Dog Park Dissidents released their third EP, they announced their partnership with Say-10 Records.

On June 2, 2023, they released their first full-length album, “The Pink and Black Album,” featuring a compilation of remixed and remastered tracks from all 3 EPs.

What I find particularly important about the album is its context. While other bands I’ve discussed, such as Limp Wrist and Los Crudos, were largely active during the 80s and 90s, Dog Park Dissidents exists in the contemporary sphere of queer culture in America.

Photo by Toni Reed on Unsplash

As someone who often hears straight people chalk-up queerphobia to something of the past, something I and other queer people are responsible for “getting over,” projects such as “The Pink and Black Album” preclude the idea of straight people’s plausible deniability.

Straight people cannot look past the messages laid out by Dog Park Dissidents without admitting their deliberation in ignoring queer suffering and contributing to institutions which directly suppress our freedom and self-expression.

With songs targeting specific political and social figures, dynamics and events, “The Pink and Black Album” paints a very real picture of the fears and struggles of the modern-day queer community.

As Dog Park Dissidents expresses in their song “Class Struggle,”

We’re only free to be you and me to the degree
Capital and the state consent
We only live our lives and we can only thrive
Within the boundaries they have set

“Class Struggle,” Dog Park Dissidents

The purpose of groups like Dog Park Dissidents is not to make the queer community “look bad,” but rather to liberate the community from the burden of having to exist within the strictures of heterosexual respectability.

Once the queer community can reclaim its freedom of expression, it will be all the more easy to mobilize in defense of our civil liberties.

Until then, Dog Park Dissidents and other unabashed creatives will work to lay the foundation for queer revolution.

Categories
Band/Artist Profile

Queer Artist Profile: Vision Video

Vision Video makes “dance music for the end-times.”

Drawing inspiration from The Cure, Joy Division, Bauhaus and The Chameleons, Vision Video introduces a familiar but distinct concept to the post-punk genre that blurs the line between contemporary and classic sounds.

Overview

Featuring guitarist and lead singer Dusty Gannon, keyboardist Emily Freedock, bassist Dan Geller and drummer Jason Fusco, Vision Video cultivates an intimate atmosphere through each of their songs.

Cover for “Inked in Red” by Vision Video

Based in Athens, Georgia, the band debuted in May 2020 with their single “In My Side.”

The track features a dreamlike arrangement of guitar, keyboard, bass and vocals that evoke the sensibilities of Robert Smith and Ian Curtis.

The rest of the band’s discography, now spanning across two albums and 12 singles, is similarly nostalgic. Without the ethereality of synths, the band’s raw sound smacks of decades long past.

Artistry Through Vulnerability

One of the main things that sets Vision Video apart from other groups is their unflinching irreverence, something reflected primarily through their lyrics.

Subject matter for the band’s songs draws from the lived experiences of frontman Dusty Gannon, a former soldier, paramedic and firefighter.

One of the first Vision Video songs I ever heard (and also played on-air during my DJ set) was “Death in a Hallway,” released October 2022.

As Gannon explains in a short video, his time as a paramedic during the pandemic and his frustration with surrounding political discourses led him to compose the song as a “big f– you” to influential individuals who profited off of the pandemic while simultaneously downplaying its severity.

The song’s music video, filmed in an abandoned hospital, served to punctuate the massive loss of life incurred by the pandemic.

Liеs likе bоdiеs соunting up
Whilе thеy оvеrflоw thеir сups
In dеniаl, gаsping fоr brеаth
In this hаllwаy оf yоur dеаth

“Death in a Hallway,” Vision Video

Another track, “Kandahar,” draws inspiration from Gannon’s time as a rifle platoon leader in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Part of the 2021 album “Inked in Red,” the song captures the pointlessness of modern warfare and the emotional weight of the destruction left in its wake.

Pain made manifest
A scream out like broken glass
A cry out into the void
To pronounce its pointlessness

Did you hear we killed the monster?
Did you you think we did so well?
Did you see the broken bodies lying there?
We’re getting good at building hell

“Kandahar,” Vision Video

Goth Dad

Argubably the face of Vision Video, Gannon is also known as “Goth Dad,” a quirky online persona with a midwestern accent and heavily made-up face.

Primarily active on TikTok, “Goth Dad” videos consist of song recommendations, fashion advice and general topics such as how to tie a tie and how to shave.

Cover for “In My Side” by Vision Video

Given the goth scene’s unsavory history (a topic I may touch on in a future post), it is unignorable that a figure such as Dusty Gannon is a beacon of light for young goths across the subculture.

Not only does his proud existence as a queer man (Gannon identifies as bisexual) help to destigmatize “unconventional” self-expression, but his “Goth Dad” persona stands as a constructive, purposeful role model for young members of the scene.

A Safer Scene

As many subcultures can attest, alternative scenes often become breeding grounds for predation. Impressionable young people eager to prove themselves amid cultures of exclusivity can easily fall victim to malevolence.

The risk increases significantly when alleged malefactors are prominent subcultural figures. Influence becomes a tool used to exploit and abuse young and vulnerable individuals.

The situation with Marilyn Mansion a perfect example of this.

With these dynamics coloring aspects of the goth scene, it’s important to recognize individuals like Dusty Gannon whose efforts contribute to making goth safer and more accessible.

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Band/Artist Profile Music Education Playlists

Hot and Heavy: A Queercore Field Guide

Last week, we learned about the proliferation of queercore within the hardcore punk scene.

To briefly recap, queercore emerged as a subculture in the mid-1980s. It started from punk’s DIY scene, with purveyors of handmade magazines and other forms of media serving as the movement’s basis.

Queercore, also known as homocore, reflected the experiences of LGBT individuals in a society that was often hostile towards open displays of queerness.

“homocore block in 1994 chicago pride parade.” Image published to Wikimedia Commons by QZAP.org, licensed CC BY-SA 2.0

While I primarily focused on Limp Wrist’s influence on the scene, there are numerous other bands that defined the genre.

As we move farther into pride month, I encourage both members of the LGBT community and allies to reflect on the convictions outlined by the queercore scene.

To help with this, I’ve composed a short “field guide” of various tracks and artists — some punk, some not — classified under the “queercore” umbrella.

Pansy Division

This band has a classic summertime driving-down-the-road-with-the-windows-down style.

Closer to the sound of blink-182 than Limp Wrist, Pansy Division is edgy but light enough for casual listening. With upbeat guitar riffs and a sardonic lead vocalist, the band produces tracks to be enjoyed both ironically and in earnest.

Album cover for “More Lovin’ From Our Oven” by Pansy Divison

Based out of San Francisco, the band formed in 1991 and solidified itself as one of the only openly gay rock bands in the contemporary scene.

Touring with Green Day in 1994, Pansy Divison was one of the most commercially successful queercore bands to exist. The band’s pop-punk style and often-comical songs about queerness garnered significant acclaim.

Recommended Tracks

“Smells Like Queer Spirit” (Nirvana cover)

A flagrantly ironic cover of a Nirvana classic, this track cleverly queers one of the most well-known songs by one of the most gatekept bands. Play this track for your favorite straight white man and watch his blood pressure surge.

Against all odds, we appear
Grew up brainwashed,
But turned out queer
Bunsplitters, rugmunchers too
We screw just how we want to screw
Hello, hello, hello, homo

Pansy Division, “Smells Like Queer Spirit” (Nirvana cover)

“Fem in a Black Leather Jacket”

He looks as good in a skirt as he does in jeans
He is a most notorious queen
His personality, I’m not impressed
But I can’t wait to get him undressed

Pansy Division, “Fem in a Black Leather Jacket”

G.L.O.S.S. (Girls Living Outside Society’s S–)

Based in Olympia, Washington, G.L.O.S.S was an openly trans-feminist hardcore punk band.

Formed in 2014 and dissolved in 2016, the band’s existence was tragically brief. While G.L.O.S.S. had the opportunity to “make it big” with a $50,000 deal by Epitaph Records, the band ultimately decided to remain unaligned with a large corporation.

Shortly after turning down Epitaph’s deal, G.L.O.S.S. announced its breakup in an issue of the punk zine Maximum Rocknroll.

Cover for G.L.O.S.S. album “Trans Day of Revenge”

The band members explained that the growing “cult of personality” surrounding the group, as well as the obligations of touring and performing, were taking a toll on their mental and emotional health.

The band’s sound blended classic hardcore with trans-affirming themes to create raucous, angsty riffs striking back against heterosexual hegemony and anti-transness. Their songs are undeniably iconic.

Recommended Tracks

“G.L.O.S.S. (We’re From the Future)”

They told us we were girls
How we talk, dress, look, and cry
They told us we were girls
So we claimed our female lives
Now they tell us we aren’t girls
Our femininity doesn’t fit
We’re f– future girls living outside
Society’s s–!

G.L.O.S.S., “G.L.O.S.S. (We’re From the Future)”

“Lined Lips and Spiked Bats”

They told us to die, we chose to live
They told us to die, we chose to live
Straight America, you won’t ruin me
Sick American dream

G.L.O.S.S., “Lined Lips and Spiked Bats”

Los Crudos

As I mentioned in last week’s post, Limp Wrist’s predecessor was a Chicago-based band called Los Crudos.

Active from 1991 to 1998 and comprised of all Latin American members, Los Crudos helped to make a place for Latine punks in a predominately white subculture.

Album cover for “Doble LP Discografia” by Los Crudos

The band tackled themes related to imperialism, xenophobia and immigration. All songs were sung completely in Spanish.

In addition, they openly called out homophobia — the band’s lead vocalist, Martin Sorrondeguy, was openly gay — and thus Los Crudos solidified themselves as adjacent to the queercore movement.

Recommended Tracks

“Me Lo Paso Por El Culo”

“Hardcoregoismo”

“Asesinos”

The Butchies

With a career spanning between 1998 and 2005, The Butchies started in Durham, North Carolina as an all-female punk band.

Though their style was far from hardcore, they were a distinct force within the queercore movement.

Their songs were imbued with staunch political messages, focusing on themes relating to lesbianism, gay romance and misogyny.

Album cover for “Are We Not Femme?” by The Butchies

In a 1999 issue of The Advocate, singer-guitarist Kaia Wilson said of the band’s reputation for its leftist politics:

“I say, maybe it’s because we’re so openly hated every day, maybe because one in three teens who commits suicide is gay. I say that the people who come to our shows are glad that we are [political].

Recommended Tracks

“Trouble”

Well it’s not supposed to bring you madness
And it’s not too far too cold forgiveness
When we hold to truths so false like bibles
Won’t you come and meet me here

The Butchies, “Trouble”

“The Galaxy is Gay”

Who are you anyway and how did you get inside
II heard you’re from the gay galaxy and now you’ve got to hide
Sure wish you would have gone here
Wish just the same you’d stay next year

The Butchies, “The Galaxy is Gay”
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Band/Artist Profile

Queer Artist Spotlight: Limp Wrist

As we usher in this year’s Pride Month, I think about how frightening it has become to exist as a queer person in the United States.

Amid a sudden resurgence of anti-LGBT rhetoric, expressed both through discourse and legislation, I feel far removed from the corporatized and polished version of Pride that has been offered to us in recent years.

Thus, I have decided to spend this month highlighting aspects of queer history the mainstream often finds unpalatable. I aim to cast a spotlight upon subversive queer artists and the often-obscured dynamics of queer music history.

Photo by Rodrigo Curi on Unsplash

The best place to start is with a band whose audacious queerness empowered its fans to live their lives unapologetically and with radical self-love in the face of an often-stifling heteronormative society.

In staunch opposition to the concept of “queer marketability,” this group expressed the crux of the queer experience as something deeply emotional, often sexual and ultimately transcendental.

Limp Wrist, Raised Fist

Limp Wrist emerged in 1998 from a Philadelphia basement.

Their first performance a year later at Stalag 13, a now-defunct venue in West Philly known for its status as a punk powerhouse, carried them into the subcultural consciousness.

Cover for “Thee Official Limp Wrist Discography”

Following the dissolution of Chicago-based band Los Crudos, singer Martin Sorrondeguy and guitarist Mark Telfian decided to form Limp Wrist as a means of addressing dynamics affecting the queer community.

The band’s first release was “Don’t Knock It Till You Try It,” a self-released demo featuring savage drums and guitar and barely-comprehensible lyrics about men-loving-men.

Following this release, the band put out the single “What’s Up With The Kids” before releasing their first LP, “Limp Wrist.”

Queercore

Limp Wrist’s songs are hard, fast and irreverent.

Beyond that, they’re unabashedly queer.

Their most well-known song, “I Love Hardcore Boys, I Love Boys Hardcore,” validated the presence of queerness within the hardcore punk scene, with the song’s lyrics illustrating shameless themes of sexual attraction.

I love hardcore boys, it’s too good to be true
One on one or the whole damn crew
It’s all exciting for us so lets give it a whirl
I love hardcore boys cuz they make my toes curl

Limp Wrist, “I Love Hardcore Boys, I Love Boys Hardcore”

An all-gay band, Limp Wrist stands as a pioneer of the punk queercore movement.

Also known as “homocore,” queercore emerged as an offshoot of the punk subculture in the 1980s in response to societal hostility towards the LGBT community.

Cover of the American magazine Homocore, edited by Tom Jennings and Dick Nigilson. Image depicts Jennings and Nigilson in an embrace. Demonstrates the DIY nature of the Queercore movement through production of magazines.
Cover of the American magazine Homocore, edited by Tom Jennings and Dick Nigilson. Image published by Деніел Ніколлета (Deniel Nicolleta) on Wikimedia Commons, licensed CC BY-SA 4.0

Bands associated with the subculture produced songs exploring sexuality, gender identity and the intersection of queer identities with systemic oppression.

The queercore movement primarily expressed itself through the DIY convictions of the punk movement, with members producing zines, films and other forms of art.

Limp Wrist’s contribution to the queercore subculture lay in its musical content.

With lyrics decrying homophobia and the straight hegemony as well as tounge-in-cheek quips about corporatized homosexuality, Limp Wrist created a space for unrestrained male queerness.

Don’t be the world’s punching bag
A defenseless queer open for attack
Thick Skin –They can’t get through
Layer upon layer they can’t get through

Limp Wrist, “Thick Skin”

Submissive tired f—ing scene
Boring predictable queens
Absorb and swallow what’s being pushed
Individuality is crushed

Limp Wrist, “Fake Fags”

During live shows, band members implored queer men to “stop hating their bodies” and “stop imitating Daddy.”

At one performance, frontman Martin Sorrondeguy told the audience “there’s not nearly enough guys in here with their shirts off right now,” a statement reflecting the band’s staunch philosophy of sexual expression and self-love.

Limp Wrist Today

A self-proclaimed project band, Limp Wrist’s inactivity is largely due to the fact that none of its members have ever lived in the same city as one another.

In a way, this makes it all the more special when they finally come together.

Cover for Limp Wrist’s album “Facades”

The band’s most recent activity includes a 2018 show at The Regent in Los Angeles and a 45-minute radio show with NTS Remote Utopias in May of 2020.

While the band still remains inactive on all platforms, hope prevails that current political tensions may compell them to rekindle Limp Wrist’s unique spark.

Recommended Songs

Categories
Band/Artist Profile Blog

Harsh Symmetry: Artist Profile

Harsh Symmetry comes from the mind of Julian Sharwarko of Sacramento, California.

Debuting Jan. 20, 2022 with the single “Mirror Twin,” Sharwarko’s “synth-driven solo project” is consistently dark, danceable and melodic.

Harsh Symmetry’s discography draws from the classic sounds of 80s post-punk and new wave with the influences of contemporary gothic genres like darkwave and minimal wave.

The resulting sounds are both nostalgic and ethereal.

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Band/Artist Profile Blog

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.

– bel$

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Band/Artist Profile

Aesop Rock: Artist in review

Who Is Aesop Rock?

Ian Bavitz (also known as Aesop Rock) was born on Long Island, New York in 1976. When he later started creating rap projects with his long-time friend and producer Blockhead, his style was heavily influenced by the 90s New York rappers he grew up listening to.

How is Aesop Rock?

His quick, verbose rapping over slow, bass-heavy beats helps emphasize the role of his vocals over all else. Of course, that same emphasis on having such a large vocabulary can often make his verses near unintelligible unless listeners put their full focus into his songs. While there certainly is a place for music that requires your full attention in order to understand what’s going on, there are often times where his rhymes are just a bit too incomprehensible to tell what’s going on anyway.

What has Aesop Rock done?

Over the course of his 20+ year career, Aesop has released nine studio albums, six EPs, and many more collaborative songs with other artists. Of course, over that kind of a career, an artist is bound to evolve. While his rapping style hasn’t changed much since his debut “Music for Earthworms”, the production surrounding him has shifted so much that the effect of his onslaught of words has taken on a completely different tone by the time of his 2020 album “Spirit World Field Guide”.

As his beats became more synthetic over time, Aesop ironically seems to just get more authentic and personal. That’s not to say his early work featured impersonal content, just that most of his lyrics focused on his day-to-day complaints with work that are often prevalent in conversations with friends. There isn’t much he raps about early on that isn’t already covered by other rappers, in other words. A lot of the complaints critics often place against Aesop’s seemingly pretentious nature comes from these albums, I believe.

Anyway, here’s Aesop’s most popular song that acts as a great introduction to his work: “None Shall Pass”

Categories
Band/Artist Profile

Nordista Freeze: Artist Profile

Nordista Freeze is a psychedelic pop rock project and persona by singer, songwriter and tambourinist– Freeze.

His discography is defined by whimsical love songs and smooth ballads reminiscent of 60s pop tunes. However behind these gentle songs is a dramatic, high energy performer made for the stage.

Discography

Taking a look at his recorded discography, his most recent album “Big Sky Pipe Dream” is refreshingly sweet.

“Wysteria” is one of my favorite tracks off the album. Nordista Freeze creates a feeling of weightlessness in his songs. “Wysteria” in particular is a great example of the vocal and musical style Freeze has accomplished– airy, light and mystical.

The characteristics of 60s pop unite “Big Sky Pipe Dream”. However, this influence is relatively new in his work.

In his 2017 album “Cosmis Haus”, there is a greater presence of 90s pop-rock influences.

Track “Florida” off “Cosmis Haus” is bolder and a little more rustic– and captures the energy of his early work.

Something that is missing from “Big Sky Pipe Dream” is a slower, more sentimental track. “Good Time” demonstrates Freeze’s ability to slow it down and reflect beautifully.

I really admire Freeze’s ability to tie together high and low energy into his work– while still maintaining a bit of goofiness and otherworldly pop energy.

With each release his persona and sound continues to get more confident and bold.

The Narrative

One aspect that really pulled me into his music is the narrative he have built around his music.

In his artist bio on Spotify, this story is outlined best:

“A flaming blue orb came flying out of the sky and smashed into the earth, and there, lying sprawled in the crater, was a man wearing only his underwear with a tambourine in his hand. He rose to his knees and took off running over the rim of the crater and into the distance yelling ‘Na Na’. Where did he come from?”

Freeze has created a narrative of supernatural, time warping events that creates his music. It’s silly, goofy and set the foundation to his on-stage and off-stage presence.

Music has the power to redefine and reinvent the creators. In may ways Nordista Freeze and his music are one entity– and the two come alive in live performance.

Live Shows

I had the pleasure of seeing Nordista Freeze open for flipturn during their 2022 Shadowglow tour.

I was so excited to see flipturn and did not expect much from an opener– but I walked away that night amazed most by Nordista Freeze.

In my experience, openers typically give a solid performance but nothing over the top. The audience may dance a little and get warmed up, but I have never seen an audience mosh to an opener until Nordista Freeze.

What makes this even more remarkable is that his recorded work does not allude to his remarkable, chaotic stage energy at all.

Nordista Freeze opened as if he was the main event– and succeeded brilliantly.

It is clear he cares deeply about connecting with the audience, and Freeze goes above and beyond to ensure everyone walks away associating his music with a good time.

In an interview with SCAD Radio, Freeze elaborates on his goals as a performer,

 “There are two goals, the internal one to make the art I want to make, which can be dissonant or cooperative with my secondary goal of interacting with a crowd and creating an engagement where people leave with good memories”

Freeze provides an infectiously excited energy to his shows. His recorded work simply does not convey the same level of radiating adrenaline and unbridled passion in comparison to live performance.

One of the elements I loved about his performance is the live vocal mixing and editing. As seen in this recorded performance, Freeze amplifies and adds to his songs throughout his live performances.

This love for live performance is prevalent in his booking history. As outlined in his artist bio:

“The Nashville psych-pop artist is such a prolific performer that, as of the beginning of May 2021, he boasted 516 live shows since 2016 — a rate of one every three nights for almost five years”

Concluding Thoughts

Nordista Freeze is a talented performer how brings a refreshing silliness and sweetness to the music industry.

I am excited to see how his work grows and matures through his career– and I’m looking forward to where his live performances take him next.