J. Robbins/Her Head’s On Fire split 7inch

J. Robbins/Her Head’s On Fire split 7inch

 

J. Robbins may be best known as the frontman of Jawbox, but the list of projects he has led and been involved with stretches much longer than that. His work began with Government Issue in the 80s and continued long after Jawbox ended in 1997, seeing him create albums with Burning Airlines, Channels, and Office of Future Plans, as well as building a successful career as a recording engineer and producer.

 

In 2019, Jawbox returned to the stage for the first time since the late 90s and saw Robbins release his first solo album simply under his own name, Un-becoming, on Dischord Records. Now he’s back with another solo track, “Uncle John,” this time one side of a split single on New Granada Records. Fans of his past work and solo debut should enjoy this as well, with Robbins’ signature melodic yell kicking off the song immediately. Personally, I’m a big fan of the vocal mixing here. The rest of the space is filled completely with driving guitars punctuated by rapid fire snare, courtesy of Peter Moffett (Robbins’ bandmate in Burning Airlines who also played on the solo LP) for a perfect slice of post-hardcore. 

 

J. Robbins performing

J. Robbins performing in 2019 (photo by Kate Hoos)

 

 

 

The other side of the split is “Certain As” by Her Head’s On Fire, a group made up of members of Saves the Day, the Bomb, Small Brown Bike and Garrison. The track is no less energetic musically, even with a few parts that trend slightly towards… dare I say sludgey? There are ample opportunities for headbanging here, interspersed with heartfelt hand-on-heart choruses. 

 

The 7-inch single is available from New Granada in a limited quantity of 300, along with the digital version at Bandcamp.

Razor Braids- I Could Cry Right Now If You Wanted Me To

Razor Braids- I Could Cry Right Now If You Wanted Me To

 

I Could Cry Right Now If You Wanted Me To album cover (photo by Jessica Gurewitz)

 

 

The debut album from Brooklyn-based band Razor Braids has been several years in the making. Hollye Bynum, the lead vocalist and bassist, taught herself to play in 2017 after being confined to bed with an injury and put together the band over the next couple of years. Their debut single “Nashville” was ready to go by 2020; unfortunately, as many bands did, they encountered difficulty during the pandemic, having to downgrade their single release to a livestream from an anticipated show at Baby’s All Right and cancel their planned East Coast tour.

 

Razor Braids refused to be daunted, and used the positive response to their single as the impetus to record their debut full-length, I Could Cry Right Now If You Wanted Me To. Like many indie-punk bands who look back to the 90’s, Razor Braids have embraced the gospel of fuzz and melodic, layered vocals. Yet they keep that fuzz and vocals from turning into a totally distracting wall of sound, sometimes by backing off, at other times by employing a different mix in the left/right channels to split things up.

 

Rather than simply alternating lyrics and lead, Janie Peacock’s guitar lines often continue underneath. Jilly Karande is on rhythm, and there is a nice interplay between the two guitars. Having a bassist sing is always a treat in my opinion (I’m biased) and Bynum doesn’t fight against herself when playing, but also doesn’t keep it too simple, laying down a pleasing rhythm section along with drummer Hannah Nichols, who also offers beat changes to keep you engaged. There is even a bit of country twang on songs like ”I’m A Blackhole (and you’ll never get out)” and “42,” the epic closer.

 

“Not Dead, Not Yet,” the intro track, features a good thumping beat to draw listeners in. “No, I’m not dead, not quite, not yet,” the lyrics assert. Throughout the album, from “Sex In The City” (”we all have our places to hide”) and “White Noise Machine” (“turn on my white noise machine, too scared of what’s in my head”) there is a sense of working through something, especially regarding relationships. And maybe they haven’t reached a solution, but as the title indicates, perhaps Razor Braids could cry, but they don’t seem ready to give up yet.

 

Razor Braids performing in 2019 (photo by Kate Hoos)

 

For me, the highlights are “Not Dead, Not Yet, “I’m A Blackhole,” “Boy,” and “White Noise Machine.” I must credit the band for excellent tracklisting on this album; they don’t allow for dead spots, and the opening and closing tracks are perfect bookends.

 

The band has spoken of their connection as a group and the power of female friendship, and that connection definitely comes across in how tightly-knit the music is. Their Instagram bio says “just a few gals who need some fucking help,” but Razor Braids seems to be helping each other out just fine.

 

I Could Cry Right Now If You Wanted Me To is available now on all streaming platforms.

Leechwife- Nebulae And Debris

Leechwife- Nebulae And Debris

Leechwife Nebulae And Debris

 

When I think sludge I don’t immediately expect to hear synths, and perhaps that’s short-sighted of me. Leechwife certainly has a modern take on it, mixing up psych, industrial, post-punk, and all manner of the many facets of metal for an all out aural assault. When I’m lost for words, I like to fall back on band’s own descriptors, and in the case of Nebulae And Debris, their latest release, “heavy lysergic chaos” certainly fits the bill.

 

The solo project of singer and musician Lilith Grace, Leechwife is based in Columbus, Ohio and has put out several self-released albums before this, although this is their first full-length on a label (the Denver-based Pyramid Inversion Act.) According to Grace, Nebulae And Debris is a “surreal sci-fi concept album” which features a protagonist who “journeys across an entropic universe.” I’d say the record succeeds in meeting that vibe. Backed by sharp marching drum machines and throbbing bass, leads are mostly handled by the aforementioned synths — sometimes airy, at other times almost wounded — and guitars, which tilt from angrily distorted to surf-textured. Grace has also included more unusual-to-metal instruments such as oud, banjo, and balalaika, Grace’s vocals run the gamut from a confident shout to Sabbath-like melodies to a growling scream, all against a backdrop of what could easily pass as boss music from an NES game, albeit recorded on a spaceship.

 

There are several instrumentals which serve to break up the more intense vocal driven tracks, and give the listener a short pause to take a breath. They contribute to the spaced-out intention of the concept, and are also useful for variety; even with so much going on in each song, some of the tracks can blend together. That’s not necessarily a strike against the album, however, as it makes for a cohesive, trippy work. The intended first single is “Take This And Be Wire To God’s Throat,” which along with “Lunar War Herd” and “Observation Murmuration” are the stand out tracks for me. (Extra points for sick song titles throughout this record, honestly.)

 

Nebulae And Debris came out on cassette 12/6/21 on Pyramid Inversion Act, and can be ordered at Leechwife’s Bandcamp, as well as purchased digitally, or streamed at Spotify.

Sub*T- So Green

Sub*T- So Green

Sub*T So Green

 

Fresh off two singles released earlier this year, Sub*T are back with a self-released four-song EP. So Green is a great sampler for the band, but works well as a release on its own without feeling thin. A two-piece consisting of opposite coast residents, Jade Alcantara and Grace Bennett, the band recorded the EP in Nashville with producer Alicia Bognanno (of Bully), although they are no strangers to trading song ideas and recorded parts online when separated by distance. According to an interview in Alternative Press, Alcantara and Bennett met online, bonded over music, and decided to learn how to play guitar so they could form a band together. 

 

The opening track on So Green, “Bruce Banner,” is a bit deceptive — more upbeat than the rest of the EP, with the refrain of “I was so green” a reflection on youth rather than Hulk-like anger. The real meat of the EP for me is in the other three tracks, less catchy and less straightforward, perhaps, but weightier. The clever, vulnerable songwriting brings to mind 90’s Guided by Voices by way of pre-Bob Rock Veruca Salt. Through fuzzy riffs and twisting guitar lines, the musical layers belie the two-piece nature of the lineup, and the vocal harmonies between Alcantara and Bennett are well-placed. (I have to hope that their live shows push the vocals forward in the mix, because I think they drive the songs.) 

 

Sub*T

Sub*T (photo by Kenzie Davis)

 

A highlight track is “Fur on Porcelain;” from the lines “I’m notoriously surrealist” and “am I just a found object”, one must conclude the title is a reference to Méret Oppenheim’s 1936 sculpture Object (Le Déjeuner en fourrure), while the listlessness of the lyrics (“I’m willing, I am never able / always thinking, never saying”) point more at the impracticality of a fur teacup, and not the more erotic interpretations usually leveled at the piece.

 

There’s quite a bit of looking back here, both in sound and nostalgic lyrics, but Sub*T are poised to move forward with this first EP. Stream it on November 19 on Bandcamp or Spotify, and check out the band on YouTube. If you’re in Brooklyn, you can catch them with Been Stellar, Computerwife and Dinoboy at Elsewhere on November 21st.

 

 

 

Julia Shapiro- Zorked

Julia Shapiro- Zorked

Cover art for “Zorked,” the new solo album by Julia Shapiro

Zorked (adj.) – what happens when you end up thunderbaked, as in extremely stoned–or in any situation where you feel not sober. You can feel so tired you’re zorked.

 

The dictionary-style entry for the title of Julia Shapiro‘s latest solo effort, Zorked, defines the word but also goes a long way toward previewing the feel of the album. There is a stoner feel about the record — not as heavy as stoner metal, or as meandering as psychedelic rock, but somehow fitting right in with those two genres while not belonging to either of them. Rather, the music here can be loosely classified as shoegazey-dream pop.

 

Shapiro is well-known as a multi-instrumentalist, singing and playing guitar in Chastity Belt and Childbirth, and drumming in Who Is She? Her first solo record, Perfect Version, came out in 2019. After eight years in Seattle, it was time for a change, and Shapiro moved to LA…in March of 2020, which had to be a disorienting and isolating experience.

 

 

Julia Shapiro performing

Julia Shapiro performing in 2017 (photo by Edwina Hay)

 

 

From the outset, Zorked has a dark tinge, with the lead track “Death (XIII)” beginning with throbbing guitars and Shapiro’s voice echoing out from behind them: “This is the end.” But overall, the record is less ‘apocalypse’ and more ‘never-ending sigh.’ In “Hellscape,” the verses speak of unpleasant, edgy boredom: “Wake each day / stare at my phone / the burden of being alive” and “take a walk / call a friend / the burden of staying awake.” It’s a combination of laziness and anxiety I think is extremely relatable.

 

Not everything is distortion; some tracks show a folk influence, and are suited to the woods. There are tremolo-laden solos (”Someone”) a spoken word track (”Reptile, Reptile”) and really interesting chord progressions (”Do Nothing About It.”) With no tracks over five minutes the record doesn’t get bogged down. 

 

If a city is a sound, I didn’t really hear LA in this record, at first, until reading the press release for the album via her Bandcamp which calls it “a wasteland melting in slow-motion,” and that I definitely hear. Where Perfect Version was less heavy, more of a romp, these tracks feel endless. Not meandering, but without firm resolution. And that’s a perfect analogy for life these days — stoned and trying to figure out a direction, while waiting for the other shoe to drop.

 

Zorked is out now on Suicide Squeeze Records, and you can check it out on Spotify or Bandcamp here.