TRACK | Katy Needs A Life – I’m Going Down

5/5 golden merles

I’m Going Down is a tremendous album closer from Katy Needs A Life off their new record, With Friends Like Bees.

Traditionally my preference is for tracks that tend toward the briefer sort. As a rule, don’t trust anyone over 2 minutes. I like the lyrically and melodically meandering, smash and grab mentality: a series of iconic segmentations and their interplay, interruptions even. And further still, maybe even some concise field recorded embellishments that proffer small clues to the greater whole. Subtlety is underrated. If you want to hear a chorus repeated, loop the track.

But exceptions are emphatically made at the extreme polarity when they’re executed this well.

I’m Going Down is composed of a heartfelt mantra, repeated and recontextualized throughout in a burning incantation of call-without-response. The vocal delivery of this phrase moves initially from matter-of-fact and then builds to an impassioned entreaty, a heroic attempt to overcome the silence that grows in reply.

The synths act as kindling. The frenzy cultivates to a fever pitch. And when the structural reprieve and variance finally comes it’s just another dagger:

What should I do / I’m lost and I have nowhere to run to

TRACK | Bnny – I’m Just Fine

5/5 golden merles

Coming off of 2021s Everything, Bnny moves from strength to strength with this remarkable single, “I’m Just Fine.

In a few direct lines recounting a brief encounter, swiftly this microcosm extrapolates into wide avenues of longing and of unrealized eventualities. The subtext is immense. This moment, or it’s recollection, acts as a portal to the vast emotional ocean of undercurrent that undergirds our every interaction.

And, yeah, most songs should do this. And most try to, if sort of inadvertently. But rarely do they render this phasing of micro to macro as convincingly, or wed the everyday to eternity in a manner that allows for direct intellectual as well as emotional resonance. Rarely do you feel as though the ground has opened up beneath you. And, better yet, by design.

There is great refinement in the two guitar leads, the quiet chorus of backing vocals that swells late on, and the elegant drumming variance. Where most songs would put the full burden of focus upon one of these individual endearing elements of instrumentation, the glut of quality coalesces here into one hell of a stunning track.

TRACK | La Luz – Call me in the Day

5/5 golden merles

Previously we’ve covered Shana Cleveland’s Night of the Worm Moon.

Call me in the Day is another track of her affiliation that is never skipped when it comes up on the infinite rotation.

There is a lot to learn from it’s construction, in the phrasing and resource distribution of the instrumentation. And the way the lead guitar feeds into the organ solo, when the vocals retire for nearly 90 seconds midway through, but never disrupting the ongoing celebration.

Then, later, the majesty of the slightly staggered cymbal splash on the half beats. The track is reliably, inventively playing with genre forms and templates that are at least half a century old and nevertheless coming up with some new and fresh ways to modify the material.

All that ignores the salient greatness of the core vocals and backing vocals that are the soul of the thing. And the bass that carries everything, always. It’s remarkable stuff.

TRACK | Gracie Gray – Morphine

5/5 golden merles

Gracie Gray’s Morphine would fit in seamlessly with Because I Was in Love era Sharon Van Etten. Or maybe just after, think Heart in the Ground.

There is a similar concordant maneuvering between the octaves and in moving from strength to strength as they transition through the various melodic passages.

The track effortlessly stretches the liminal space between confessional singer-songwriter and the quasi-choral, maintaining the organ/synth accompaniment that well suits either.

Also, my parents have a cat named Gracie Gray and she sometimes plays the piano. A fortuitous coincidence.

TRACK | Madison County Senior Citizen Center – Wasn’t That A Mystery

5/5 golden merles

This incredible track was recorded April 19, 1983, by Nancy Nusz as part of the documentation for the Florida Folklife Program. The chorus is composed of residents of the Madison County Senior Citizen Center, in Madison, Florida.

It is important that it was produced in the reign of President Bedtime for Bonzo. And it is a great relief presently to revisit it as something richer, collaborative and kind, and altogether more glorious, to contrast it to that morally delipidated, regressive political period that hangs heavily over us still. And still some more than others.

The choral progression builds, refined through collaboration and the variations of repetition. The choir behind the lead singer phases in and out, supporting and expanding the melody. One percussive clap accompanies the movement, through the emotional peak at the line “I never have seen my mother’s face,” and finally into the lovely field recorded context of a bit of laughter and banter at the outro.

TRACK | Twain – Nature Song

5/5 golden merles

“Look at those vultures fly, black against the sky, if they eat me I’ll learn how to fly.”

There must be a general reassessing.

the future is begging us to forfeit the values of tradition in the sake of the good, every day and at all times. To serve good and not habit, to form new rituals that reinforce behavior around decency and dignity.

There is embedded in this track a very faint accompanying backing vocals, chiming in at 5-10% and just adding a bit of nuance to the direct-to-handheld recorder operation. It is slightly staggered and suits the unfolding.

It feels like the future, approaching, slightly after and rising. “Go get ’em, little ones.”


5/5 golden merles

DRAGGS makes reliably filthy lo-fi garage punk from the Australian Gold Coast. In writing about this now I have realized there was a 5th record released in 2019 on Slime Street, surely full of muck that I’m very happy to dive into.

HEARSE is a bludgeoning. It is regularly pushing the boundaries of what is tolerable to most fans of the broader genre. But it is always returning, beat from beat, to it’s foundation, a finely honed structure underneath the apparent liberties taken with form.

TRACK | King Tears Mortuary – Crash Report

5/5 golden merles

From King Tears Mortuary’s 2012 Safe Sex 7″, Crash Report is a track on that very fine EP.

There is a somewhat broadly shared Australian sentiment around lo-fi garage and bedroom rock that I find very agreeable. Or did, of a certain era, maybe it has passed. The internet makes all this seem eternal.

But from a population of 25m (15m less than California) there is a pervasive consensus about what guitar-music should prioritize closer to my own predilections. And the quality dispensed by this culture seems disproportionate in the extreme.

Maybe we are both just defective/mutated in a similar manner.

KTM here deliver some undeniably pointed melodic hooks and fun/inventive lyrically playful phrasing such as “light of my life goes on and off.”

TRACK | Video Age – Throwing Knives

5/5 golden merles

One song that I never skip when it appears in the shuffle is Throwing Knives by Video Age. It is so admirably wrought, not overly so, but like iron. I find it hard to get away from, it is undeniably inspired material.

Each melody builds off the last, including the hearty bridge and “It’s all in my head” refrain. The song is an admirable force of nature that covers a lot of ground by the tenable three minute mark; a great and luxurious thing, maybe as elaborate as lo-fi will allow without some sacrifice to coherence.

TRACK | White Poppy – I Had a Dream

5/5 golden merles

White Poppy’s I had a dream is one of the finest closers to an album I have heard. Over the mild hiss and drum, one line is repeated like a mantra:

I had a dream but I think I’ll forget about it
I had a dream but I think I’ll forget about it
I had a dream but I think I’ll forget about it
I had a dream but I think I’ll forget about it

The tape was put out in 2012 on Not Not Fun records, an extremely reliably excellent CA label over the last couple of decades.

About a year after this release in 2013 Britt from NNF wrote me a very kind and thoughtful rejection email regarding some poorly recorded demos I had sent them. I proudly showed this note of pleasant renunciation to my friends at the time as though it proved something or other, something beyond their patience and goodness.