better living- crush

better living- crush

better living crush


better living started as a two piece composed of vocalist/guitarist Gavin Siebrass and drummer Greg Klepczyk. Under this lineup they recorded the EP Lemons three years ago. But times have changed, and their debut LP crush features the current lineup that is rounded out by guitarist Sam Gaylert and Jorge B-R on bass.


On this record, the band weds their influences of grunge, hardcore and pop-punk. It’s energetic from start to finish. Two recent singles chosen from the album are “stupid song,” a musically-upbeat number that proves to be a pretty good bop, and “untitled,” a tonally darker, harder song leaning heavily on the bass. It’s a smart choice of the band to showcase the varying moods on crush



The noisier songs like “hellgodbabydamnno” are the strength on the album, while the catchiest song on here is the humorous yet depressing “danny devito.” There’s a vibe on this album that reminds me a lot of the punk bands I grew up with 20 some years ago, which I promise is a compliment. Fun local bands you can catch live and also put on your skate mix are important to the musical ecosystem. 


Better Living portrait

Better Living (photo by Leah Bouchier-Hayes)


crush was mixed by Siebrass and mastered by Matt Goings; the production is fairly drum-forward, not necessarily a bad thing as the percussion does drive the songs forward well. Still, I’d like to hear the guitar lines better, as they’re pretty fun. “cold comfort” does a good job of bringing the distorted wail of the guitars forward, with some quiet-loud dynamics that make it a highlight.


better living can be found on Instagram and Soundcloud; crush was self released and is available now on all major streamers.




Black Belt Eagle Scout- The Land, The Water, The Sky

Black Belt Eagle Scout- The Land, The Water, The Sky

Black Belt Eagle Scout The Land, The Water, The Sky 


“When the land calls, you listen.”


During the tumult of 2020, Swinomish musician Katherine Paul returned to the Skagit River from Portland, and her newest album under the name Black Belt Eagle Scout, The Land, The Water, The Sky, reflects that journey. She shares: “I created The Land, The Water, The Sky to record and reflect upon my journey back to my homelands and the challenges and the happiness it brought.” There is a spaciousness to the music, open like the sky, and an ebb and flow of loud and quiet moments like the tides, which narrate—along with Paul’s lyrics—a story of her connection to the land and her community. Paul grew up in the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community surrounded by the music of her culture, and was later inspired by the rock music that emerged from the Pacific Northwest. Now Paul is making her own mark on the musical landscape.


On The Land, The Water, The Sky (the follow-up to 2018’s Mother of My Children and 2019’s At the Party With My Brown Friends) we find the sensibilities of a singer-songwriter style wedded perfectly to grunge and shoegaze sound. Paul handles the guitar, drums, and vocals on the album, as well as occasional omnichord and vibraphone, with bass mostly provided by Grace Bugbee. Numerous other musicians appear, including Nicholas Wilbur on Mellotron, Swil Kanim on violin, Gibrana Cervantes on violin, Takiaya Reed (of Divide and Dissolve, who also co-produced the album with Paul) on soprano saxophone, and Lori Goldston on cello. (Goldston famously played with Nirvana during the In Utero tour and for their iconic MTV Unplugged set in 1993.) Paul’s multi-instrumental talent is considerable: never does her work on the guitar or drums feel like an afterthought to her voice. She is a skillful percussionist— “Fancy Dance” is a particular highlight—and both her cleaner, plucked parts and wall of sound distortion work on the guitar is exquisite.


Black Belt Eagle Scout

Black Belt Eagle Scout (photo by Nate Lemuel)


The record starts off with a bang, Paul’s vocals soaring over the gritty, gutsy guitars of “My Blood Runs Through This Land.” “I know you speak through me / I feel it in the sound of water touching all the rocks / I feel no one can take this moment away cos my blood runs through this land.” It’s a fitting statement to lead off the record, and a gorgeous slice of pure rock. 



The album is also punctuated by quieter tracks like “Salmon Stinta,” which features guest vocals from Phil Elverum (of The Microphones and Mount Eerie). Paul makes wonderful use of her emotive and narrative lyrical skill here, while the song’s musical qualities flow along as the salmon in the river: “In the Stinta / gray and white salmon swim upstream / yellow underneath the stream / through the window / all I see is driving me away / screaming in the distant sea.”


On the very catchy “Nobody,” Paul tackles Native representation in media, or the lack of it, saying “When I was growing up, I didn’t have very many Native role models to look to on TV or the radio. It was within my own community that I found inspiring role models through our elders and our community leaders. With Native representation in music and television slowly growing, I often ask myself where I stand within representation in music and how I want to be seen. This song is about the relationship I have with my own representation in music.” As she croons “Nobody sang it for me like I wanna sing it to you” we are reminded of the importance of her perspective—that of a queer Indigenous feminist—and the joyousness of elevating voices like hers.



The closing track on The Land, The Water, The Sky is the lead single “Don’t Give Up,” which according to Paul is “about mental health awareness and the importance that my connection to the land plays within my own mental health journey,” adding “I wrote this song for me but also for my community and anyone who deals with challenging mental health issues to remind us just how much of a role our connection to the environment plays within our healing process. At the end of the song when I sing ‘the land, the water, the sky,’ I wanted to sing it like my late grandfather Alexander Paul Sr. sang in our family’s big drum group—from the heart.”


For me, two other highlights on the album are the tenderly-constructed “Sčičudz (a narrow place)” with its sweeping guitar lines, and the darker sounding “Treeline.” For all the epic feel of some tracks, none clock in over five and a half minutes, and even the shorter songs (such as “On The River,” coming in at under two minutes) make an impact over their duration. Always front and center is Paul’s connection to the land and her heritage. This is not an album only looking to the past, to Paul’s ancestors, but the very present here and now. Fittingly, Paul’s parents Kevin and Pat accompany her voice on “Spaces,” whose video features the Coast Salish style carving work of Paul and her artist father. The line running from then to now to the future is quite evident.



The Land, The Water, The Sky truly is an album from the heart, and through her voice and music Katherine Paul has written a vibrant and impactful record, one she calls a “love letter to Indigenous strength and healing, and a story of hope.” It’s early in the year, but I have a feeling this will make some “best of” lists (likely mine.) 


The album is out today on Saddle Creek Records, and you can catch Black Belt Eagle Scout on tour right now, including here in Brooklyn at Baby’s All Right with Claire Glass and Adobo on April 15th.







Fucked Up- One Day

Fucked Up- One Day

Fucked Up One Day


One Day, the newest album from Canadian hardcore band Fucked Up, was recorded remotely—not the most unusual thing over the past few years, but this time there was an extra self-imposed limitation: each band member had only 24 hours to write and record their parts. The idea came to guitarist Mike Haliechuk near the end of 2019, and he used the restriction— broken into three eight-hour sessions— to reconnect with his songwriting, saying “After you’ve been in a band for this long, you lose track of what your sound actually is.” He then turned the guitar parts over to the rest of the band.


Drummer Jonah Falco was the first to add more layers in January 2020, recalling “I got this email from Mike saying, ‘I made this record in one day, and I want you to record drums on it—but you can’t listen to it before you get into the studio,” while bassist Sandy Miranda recorded the next month. Lockdowns hit, and the project was shelved. In the meantime the band completed their ambitious Year of The Horse record. When vocalist Damian Abraham finally was ready to record his parts, he found himself contributing lyrics for the first time since the release of Glass Boys in 2014, saying “after retreating into the fantasy world with Year of the Horse, this record is like we’re returning to real life.” 


Any other band may have felt constrained to the point of turning in sub par work, but Fucked Up have been together a long time and are masters at their craft. One Day is full of their classic sound, with solid rhythms and sharp, snappy guitars pounding along under the well-worn yell of Abraham. 


Fucked Up performing

Fucked Up (photos by Kate Hoos)


The record is dense both musically and thematically, and opens with the single “Found,” a song about the threads that connect colonization, genocide, and gentrification. Many highlights are on the first half of the album, like “I Think I Might Be Weird” and “Huge New Her,” while the soaring “Lords of Kensington” also turns an eye to gentrification, this time in a Toronto neighborhood. Even the shortest track on the record, “Broken Little Boys,” feels massive.


“Nothing Immortal” is poignant, although maybe I’m just an aging sorta-punk who feels stabbed in the throat hearing another aging punk sing lines like: “I keep hearing that same old punk song but now it all seems changed / There was always something perfect about it I wish I could get it to sound the same / I’ve heard that something is better than nothing but I can’t help wondering if this isn’t my thing anymore.


The title track “One Day” is truly a punk love song (“Oh a ripe heart’s only wish is to be with another at the end of all history / Let just one thing be left of me / What could you do in just one day? / Fall in love, spend your time away”) and features a seriously catchy guitar melody and a beautiful music video directed by Colin Medley, choreographed by Lauren Runions and starring Amanda Pye and Tavia Christina.



In spite of being recorded separately, the songs blend simplicity and intricacy, although I can’t help but wonder if even more varied changes and tempos were out of possibility due to the nature of the format. Still, One Day captures a band at the height of their craft who is unwilling to compromise and still willing to try new things, and it’s a successful gambit. Falco notes that “This record is about how we see time passing in our lives,” and that the recording method gave them “no time to second-guess. You had to be confident.” It’s a confidence well-earned, and produced an album that will surely please their fans as well.


One Day will be out January 27th on Merge Records.




The Moss- Insomnia

The Moss- Insomnia

The Moss Insomnia


We were big fans here at FTA of the recent single “Insomnia” from The Moss. This is the kind of music that gets called “summery,” but don’t we deserve this kind of bright, fun, poppy rock year-round? The Moss think so apparently, and are releasing their newest EP, also titled Insomnia, on S-Curve/Hollywood records this month. The video for “Insomnia” features the band playing in a snowy landscape, so maybe we can call this ski-rock.



Singer and guitarist Tyke James and guitarist Addison Sharp originally hail from Oahu; The Moss are now based out of Provo, UT, where they joined forces with bassist Caiden Jackson and drummer Willie Fowler. There is a very open feel to the music on this EP, even while the bass and guitars loop around each other and things are often more complicated than at first listen. The crisp, simple production suits the tone perfectly.


In addition to the title track are three more songs showcasing The Moss’ brand of driving, jangly tunes. “Blink” has delicate parts interspersed with breezy solos and pounding drums, and is a real highlight of the EP for me. “Carousel” is a bit more laid back, shuffling off-beats underpinning James’ soulful country-tinged croon, and feels most in line with their 2021 album Kentucky Derby out of all these songs. “Chaparral” moves through surf, western, and a nostalgic 60’s haze, weaving together what seems like numerous song pieces into a compositional whole. 


The Moss (photo by Shervin Lainez)


The Moss are embarking on a winter tour to promote Insomnia, and take their jobs as performers seriously, with Fowler stating “No matter what we do, we want to make sure the songs are fun to play live. We pride ourselves on being a band people want to see live.” If you are out West you can catch them over the next couple of weeks, and if you aren’t, then this EP will tide you over. You can find The Moss on Youtube, Spotify, and Instagram.




White Lung- Premonition

White Lung- Premonition

White Lung (photo by Lindsey Byrnes)


For their fifth album Premonition, Vancouver band White Lung build on the tight songwriting and high-quality production that has been a hallmark of the band since at least 2016’s Paradise (an album I reviewed for Tom Tom Mag, noting “Listen to this while trying to put your eyeliner on straight on the train en route to a punk show.”) 2022 finds the band as an even more perfect version of themselves. Their punk-hardcore-rock sound is as punchy as ever, with loud guitars, thrashing drums and Mish Barber-Way’s melodic yell tempting listeners to put the pedal down and head straight to the mosh pit.


Premonition has been in the works since 2017, although in the meantime Barber-Way has had two children and the band (along with the rest of us) dealt with several years of upheavals. White Lung have obviously used this time to hone themselves into an even sharper unit, and the band hasn’t settled down— this album is just as fast-paced and fist-pumping as anything they’ve done. Drummer Anne-Marie Vassiliou is on absolute fire on this record (she’s always had a great snare sound in particular). Kenneth William provides the guitars, bass, and synth; although the basslines are great, a driving mass pushing the songs along, it’s the guitars that grab my attention, from the first hyperactive chords of “Hysteric” all the way to the vicious churn and high-note flourishes of “Winter.”


Premonition (art by Justin Gradin)


Barber-Way is indeed a parent now, and doesn’t shy away from her motherhood but doesn’t make a saccharine ploy of it. Lyrics on songs like “Bird” don’t try to make everything perfect. “Count all your little limbs and then I’ll binge / While my brain breaks down / Stolen in part by you, what can I do? / As I wait for sound.” The single “If You’re Gone” is about children dealing with the loss of a parent who took their own life. Thoughts of aging and love are here as well, in “Mountain:” Will you say you adore me when I’m beat and almost forty? / When I’ve given all my body up for you? / Will you still cut the trees down? / Will you come to my hometown with our litter wrapped up in your arms? Another highlight on the album is “Date Night,” a tale of burning your bridges after a date night with God himself (imagined as a smoker in a Cadillac.)


If you’ve read this far and are excited to hear the album, I must bear the sad news that
Premonition is White Lung’s swansong: “the last album we’ll be getting from one of the best bands to ever do it.” Pick up the album out now on Domino Records and toast White Lung as they ride into the sunset.