It is difficult to pin any one genre on this album as it ranges from soulful and vulnerable in songs such as, “Hot Water,” and “I’m A Man,” to glam-psych songs such as “Most Magazines.” It doesn’t just stop there though, proto-punk makes a welcome entrance three songs in with the raucous track, “Money.”
You could be a fan of anyone from The Modern Lovers to Wilco or The Gun Club and thoroughly enjoy this album about love, longing and heartache in the city. What attracts me about the lyrics is the attention to the details of everyday life; the characterization is fully developed and realistic, which in turn feels like a sincere documentation.
Singer/songwriter/guitarist Jordan D’Arsie said about the songs, “I noticed my songwriting and the voices within the stories were often flickering between a sinister voice and a much lighter and optimistic voice. As the album began to come together, I started to imagine it as its own space and almost as if there were two parallel planes. What is spoken of in the light of day and what is spoken of in the night or simply put Sub Rosa.” Adding, “There’s a symmetry and balance to this record, seven songs on each side and a conscious effort in the songwriting to balance these two parallel worlds, the voices and sounds that accompany them.”
The result is Sub Rosa, a captivating collection consisting of fourteen tracks drawing one into exploring the balance of these two worlds. This balance is reflected in the pace of the album as you move through the unpredictable highs and lows associated with heartache, giving it a slightly raw and unhinged feel. With the band consisting of Kyubae Lee on drums/lead guitar and Greg Watson on bass, the rhythm section is tight and focused; combined with D’Arsie’s renowned songwriting skills, this is an album you need to hear.
Dream Nails describe themselves as a “punk force to be reckoned with” and are known for their strident lyrics and dedication to creating safer spaces for women and non-binary people at their shows. They also know how to bring the party and I can’t recall a show so empowering! We (women and non-binary people) are invited to the front to dance, and men are asked to step to the back, so we can actually take up space.
“Take Up Space” is the first release with their new singer Leah Kirby, who joined the band earlier in 2021. What I love about this video and the accompanying single is that it brings the party to you. It brings the summer vibes of a chorus that will give you an earworm for the rest of August, and long beyond. Don’t be fooled by the power poppy punk sounds; their lyrics always pack a hefty punch, and this one is no different. They can bring the party and hit you with spot on political lyrics that will leave you questioning.
“Saving myself from the creeps today” is one hell of a line, but I think my favorite would have to be “Then I’d meet my date, walk home late/ Not hold my keys like wolverine.” That’s the whole frightening point, succinctly wrapped in a catchy little verse washed down with some summery sixties harmonies. This song is a direct challenge to the yawnsome old anti feminist rhetoric that haunts us, even in the year 2021. Particularly after the heinous murder of Sarah Everard, who sadly is one of the more recent women in a very long line to be harmed or killed during the simple act of walking home, and the attention that came from it, songs like this are more necessary than ever to say we ARE going to take up space. For the punk context, that also means we don’t belong at the back of the gig, EVER.
The song was also accompanied by a brand new music video. Created by Jasmine Doyle-Pitt, Marieke Macklon, and Amin Musa with creative production and editing by the band’s guitarist Anya Pearson, the video binds their dedication to the DIY ethos. It matches the whole sixties energy the song has about it; the colors and the font are peak Scooby-Do! and the fuzzy filters make the video warm and inviting. It feels like a public service announcement and should be mandatory watching for young people navigating different spaces today. Repeat after me…TAKE UP SPACE!
This is what Leah had to say about the song: “This is a bop which acknowledges the injustice with cis male-dominated spaces. It’s an anthem for those who are negatively impacted by patriarchal oppression. It’s a call for us to reclaim our bodies and take ownership of ourselves. We want to live without fear, we want to live freely, we want to take up space!” Leah really shares the values of what the Dream Nails community is and they have fit in really well; I can’t wait to see them perform with the band for the first time soon.
Download the song, check out the video- then if you’re after more, some of my favorite tracks are “Lovefuck,” “Vagina Police,” and “Kiss My Fist”
Tuff Sunshine(who we recentlysaw perform live at 18th Ward Brewing) has released a beautiful new album, Yesterday Suit. The album was written and performed entirely by singer and guitarist Johnny Leitera, who also recorded everything at home during the pandemic. Both lyrically and sonically, the album addresses many of the feelings of isolation and desolation during the course of the pandemic, feelings most all of us can relate to.
The opening track, “My Back Catalogue,” sets the tone for the rest of the album and listening to the collection as a whole, this song is the challenge to sit down and listen to the story unfold. The beauty of the lyrics emerge on a second or third listen, which is absolutely not a chore, especially with the dreamy psych interludes and the subtle harmonies. “Seven hundred twenty square feet…my guitar has turned to concrete,”gave me the idea that it’s a warrior calling for the isolation to do its very worst, but it eventually concedes to fade out with the line “he used to be that way, but now his brain has changed.”
If “My Back Catalogue” is the gauntlet being laid down, then the title track “Yesterday Suit” is the defiant stand, the Phoenix rising from the ashes, ready to face the world, but with a cynical edge. The shoo-be-do-wah’s and echoing harmonies consolidate my feelings that The Beach Boys couldn’t do any better producing a chilled psych album born out of a pandemic. The lyrics are more intelligent for starters, and the melodies could give Brian Wilson and company a real run for their money.
The harmonization is so gentle and soothing in “Spit the Rind” and “I Got My Hardhat On,” it could ease you into a daydream, the escape from whatever you just sometimes need for five minutes. It sounds like Leitera is at his most vulnerable, emerging into a new world. “Insomnia,” has a perky melody, but the lyrics tell a different story. I guess it’s like painting a smile on while affecting a cheery disposition; the tune is lively and challenging themes are braided lyrically through the jangly guitars.