In Debbie Dopamine’s debut EP, Pets, the songwriting project of Brooklyn-based musician Katie Ortiz spells out what it means to embrace being a mess. From catchy instrumental arrangements to brutally honest lyrics, Ortiz has deliveredan album that is acutely self-aware and unapologetic while establishing herself as a serious force of an artist. With six songs that span 20 minutes and 49 seconds, Pets is a deeply thought-provoking and worthwhile work of art. In addition to creating a record with a healthily varied sound and style, Ortiz gives plenty of room to each of her songs without them ever becoming drawn-out. Through striking a balance with these elements, Pets commands an attentive listen and gets better with each rotation.
Pets opens with “Get Better,” which is a song that is about not wanting to get better. Anchoring itself in the narrator’s commitment to being unwell, “Get Better” sifts through various layers of emotional complexity with lyrics such as “It’s the instinct to heal that drives me insane” and “I feel my best when I don’t feel anything.” Melodically, the song oscillates between breakdowns and more contemplative moments, leaving plenty of moments for catching your breath. Glockenspiel, synths, guitars, drums, and more are all present in this searingly brilliant track, kicking the record off with a bang.
Following “Get Better” is “Eat Cake,” a track that FTA contributor Mike Borchardt has previously written about and whose music video was directed by our very own Jeanette D. Moses. The song picks up where “Get Better” thematically left off and serves as an excellent transition into the rest of the album. Ortiz continues to sing about coming to terms with accepting mental instability while also proclaiming that she’s going to make her own happy neurotransmitters. In the second verse, she sings “And everybody said I would be better by now/But I got no more tricks up their sleeves/And I don’t want to waste their time any more/Waiting for my dopamine” and by the song’s end, she decides, “I’m not gonna waste my life anymore/I’ll make my own dopamine.”
Providing a burst of emotional sovereignty, is the beautiful and cello-heavy “Rhododendrons,” in which Ortiz seems to reflect on her existence in terms of her past and future selves. “Do the new selves that haunt my home/Ever cross paths with all my ghosts” are the brilliant first lines of the song—prompting the listener to question their own identity while bearing witness to Debbie Dopamine’s conundrum. The song elicits imagery of being in a garden, amongst rhododendrons, large and beautiful flowers capable of sheltering many different types of living beings. Cellist Anthime Miller’s work on the track is exceptional while the track’s composition is remarkable.
Although Pets is only six songs long, it feels like a true and complete album. The rest of the tracks (“Interlude,” “Swimming Pool,” and “Sour”) all hold their own in different ways and round out a truly astounding effort on the part of Katie Ortiz and her entire team. “Sour” is a perfect closer while “Swimming Pool” offers a 90’s rock aesthetic with intensely raw lyrics such as “My mother would be so depressed/But she’s not here and I am blessed/To be left behind/Instead of six feet under, killing time.”
Through Pets, Ortiz has created a long-lasting impression with Debbie Dopamine as a formidable figure in both music and artistic ingenuity. I am thrilled to see what’s next for her and can’t wait to rock out whenever she plays around Brooklyn.
My introduction to the Brooklyn-based trio, Thick, happened this past spring at Warsaw when they opened for Australian booze loving punk wild men, The Chats. I was instantly struck by how high guitarist/vocalist Nicki Sisti and bassist/vocalist Kate Black can jump while singing and playing, and their energy was infectious. They got the entire ballroom bouncing off the walls with their special brand of pop-punk. (Drummer/vocalist Shari Page was also electricity made corporeal, but hasn’t yet figured out how to jump up and down while behind a kit, which I don’t fault her for. She, too, is amazing.) My partner left their merch table that night with 5 Years Behind, which was unfortunately released in March 2020, a most unfun time to release such a great album.
But! But…Thick has just come out with a new full-length release, Happy Now, which as much as I adored 5 Years Behind, I think this new work offers a really interesting tension between the frenetic and fun drive of their music and the somber and heartbroken reality of most of the songs’ lyrics. I’m still bouncing all around my kitchen listening to Happy Now, but I am acutely aware listening to the words that there is some deep hurt roiling under the rockingness of it all.
I mean, hey, we’ve all just gone through (and are continuing to navigate) the craziness of this pandemic, and the mental unrest present in the lyrics of Happy Now’s first track, “Happiness” (yeah, right…we’re happy!) honestly reveals an uneasy emotional tone that I completely identify with right now: “Happiness from the outside in…it fills my gut but it leaves me thin…Look at me, you’re just like me…you fill my guts but you leave me with doubt.” Yep, here we are…and I appreciate that the women of Thick are barreling straight into the honest intensity of the present moment (and still rocking it!).
But beyond any pandemic-related shared trauma that’s resonating with me as I listen (and re-listen) to Happy Now, I still have to say that I shake my head after cathartically enjoying all eleven tracks and say “Who hurt you?” Happy Now gives an example to all of us of how to frenetically muscle one’s way through the hardest times. What do you do when you’re “crying everyday …you’re not to blame…I’m fighting …fighting for change…take it day by day,” as the standout track “Wants & Needs” declares? The serious lyrical tone continues in “Disappear”: “You disappear when I’m right here…swallowed by voices that I can not hear.”
And while a lot of the lyrical themes are dark, there is also the glimmer of holding onto hope and the ability to triumph despite being labeled as a “loser” or “less than” which is what the song “Loser” centers around. This was the first single from the album and came with a cheeky sports themed video that also featured FTA crew Jeanette D. Moses and Kate Hoos in front of and behind the camera.
I am grateful to Thick for writing and playing raucously through such difficult times and subject matter. Get Happy Now in whatever form you consume music. Carry this painfully exuberant music around with you and feel grateful for how much Thick rocks!
Happy Now is out now via Epitaph Records and available on all major streaming platforms.
Efrem Czajkowski, Wren Krisztin, and Aaron Batley (aka The Janes)—have been together since 2016. The Corruption of What Cheer?, their new full length, is a culmination of their creativity and hard work over these last two tumultuous years.
In 2020 they released the single Pink Liquor/Respect, recorded in 2018. Both tracks have found their way onto their new full length LP in fresh forms. “Pink Liquor” is the perfect leadoff track, demonstrating much of what makes the band so compelling and unique. An ominous song, the swirling guitars and synths coupled with sharp percussion involve a dark carnival atmosphere. There are many interlocking parts here that fit a lot of complexity into only 4 and a half minutes.
This sets the listener up for much of what they can expect through most of the record, although there are quieter moments as well (the re-recorded “Respect”) and some songs with a genuinely danceable beat (“Can You Ever.”) The Janes make great use of their harmonized vocals, especially on songs like “Miscommunication Department.” Sometimes the vocals are very present in the mix, at other times moved into the background for a truly 3D quality.
Multi-instrumentalist experimental music can easily go in the direction of jam band meanderings. (Which isn’t to put down jam bands, but it’s nice to know if that’s coming or not.) Yet even on the longest track “What is Left is Also What is Right,” which flirts with jamminess, the music seems to be moving towards a deliberate destination.
The Corruption of What Cheer? truly feels like a collaborative effort, and it’s easy to tell the members are having fun even while they take their craft seriously. According to the band, the album was the result of “enthusiastic, zealous single-day recording followed by months of loving, careful bedroom mixing” and it shows.
Watch their latest video here and see several more on the band’s YouTube, or you can look them up on Instagram and Twitter. Jane Doe Ensemble are a compelling live act and they will be at Pete’s Candy Store on September 3rd and Hart Bar on September 10th.
Hi! Hello! Here we are with some bite sized goodies and a taste of some new things that we dug this week, quick fire responses to some great new music we think you should check out. This week was pretty busy for everyone with real life stuff, so this list is brief, but Kate and Mike still found a little time to weigh in on some new songs we dug so give em a listen! See you again next week with more.
As always, if you’re in a band or from a label, don’t hesitate to reach out and let us know about you! If we dig ya, you’ll get a nod in the column. Read on to find out what we dug the last week or so:
Babehoven– I’m On Your Team. Talk about an uplifting motivational pep talk, the latest release by Babehoven takes the duo’s typical slowcore melancholy and flips it on its head. The lead single “I’m On Your Team” from their upcoming debut LP Light Moving Time (due out Oct 28) gives us all the warm and fuzzies we can use in these uncertain and scary times. Tucked between the sleepy shuffle and cozy guitar, singer Maya Bon wraps you in her arms and stacks melodies that slowly soar in and out of whispered lullaby. “Even if you feel so alone/Someone’s going to listen/Give you back what you’ve given.” Living lightly in the grey areas of existence when everything today has become so heavily polarized, she invites you into ambivalence with powerfully subdued harmonic crescendo to “Make a choice and then change it/ respect where you’ll take it/ In these end gamеs, we’ve got to Creatе a life that’s liveable.” It’s nice to hear a track offer up such emotional support and promote healthy life balance, and know that after a rough week or a shitty day, Babehoven’s got my back. [MB]
BLKVAPOR– Proxy. There’s a lot to BLKVAPOR’S sound—emo, punk, noise—and it all coalesces into something that is uniquely them. This Baltimore based outfit also puts on an explosive and enthralling live performance and are without a doubt a band you need to be keeping your eyes and ears on. “Proxy” was originally released in 2021 as a Bandcamp exclusive and on it they lean pretty firmly into their emo side. The song now comes with a fun music video that was just released. [KH]
Botch– One Twenty Two. Math metal greats, Botch (which features members who went on to be in Russian Circles, Minus the Bear, These Arms Are Snakes and others), have just released their first new music in 20 years, the absolute ripper, “One Twenty Two.” The band will be re-issuing their catalog on vinyl this year via Sargent House, and as of now this new song appears to firmly be a one off. Bassist Brian Cook elaborated on things on his Twitter, addressing why now and some of the apparent backlash as well as some of the hopes for more from the band. He also addressed things on Instagram saying the song is “a bit of a fluke. Originally written by David Knudson for his solo album, it eventually morphed into a Botch song as former bandmates were brought on board to add their distinctive flair to the piece. No… we’re not back together. No… there isn’t more material in the pipeline. This was just a random thing that happened over COVID and we decided to share it with the world as part of the upcoming reissue of We Are The Romans.” [KH]
The Casual Dots– Frequency of Fear. The indie punk supergroup featuring Christina Billotte (Slant 6, Quix*o*tic), Kathi Wilcox (Bikini Kill, The Julie Ruin) and Steve Dore (Deep Lust) have just released their first new music in 18 years which was quite the welcome surprise to me and I’m sure a contingent of deeply nerdy music fans of a certain age. Read more here and listen to the awesome first single, “Frequency of Fear.” [KH]
Future Teens– Team Sports (feat. Dan Campbell). This is the latest single from Boston “bummer pop” aficionados Future Teens and will be on their upcoming album Self Help (out 9/23 via Triple Crown). “Team Sports” is as catchy as the crescendo is gigantic and they also got some help from The Wonder Years vocalist Dan Campbell who really helps drive the final chorus into the stratosphere. Regarding the song, guitarist/vocalist Amy Hoffman said “The first time I bleached my hair, a surprising number of people asked if I was doing okay. I know they were just razzing me, but it struck me as such an absurd barometer for wellness, like, no! I’m not okay, but that’s not why I’m blonde now! I think it’ll always be challenging to ask for help, or to be honest when my best friend gently checks in about the motivation for my latest self haircut, but I’m grateful I’m not always white knuckling it until my next therapy session anymore.” Elaborating on Campbell’s involvement, Hoffman went on to say that the last chorus “was originally a wordless, rock out ending, but Andy [Park, who is producing the album] felt like there was something missing. Dan happened to visit us as we were working through it and was kind enough to sing on that section. All of our jaws hit the floor as soon as he started, it was such a memorable part of recording the album.” Future Teens will next be in NYC on 10/13 at The Meadows. [KH]
Wild Pink– Hold My Hand (feat. Julien Baker). The second single from the upcoming Wild Pink album, ILYSM (due out 10/14 via Royal Mountain), this one is a tear jerker about singer John Ross undergoing cancer surgery. On this he said “I wrote that song right after my first surgery, about lying on the operating table where a member of the surgical team held my hand right before I went under. It sounds kind of arbitrary, and like it shouldn’t have been as impactful as it was, but I felt very comforted and wanted to capture that loving feeling in the song.” The vulnerability of the subject matter is heightened by the subdued beauty of the music—piano, lightly strummed guitar, with subtle drums played with brushes accompanying—and the addition of the master of heart wrenching songs herself, Julien Baker, who sings a verse and on the choruses. On how the song came together Ross said “I knew pretty quickly that I wanted it to be a duet, and I’m super grateful to Julien for joining me on it. This was one of the first songs we rehearsed together as a band in the studio and David’s piano part felt great almost immediately. There were a couple moments like that in the recording process where a song just immediately fell into place as soon as we started playing it.” [KH]
Boris play a lot of styles: noise, stoner rock, shoegaze, industrial, ambient, punk, metal. Their Heavy Rocks series of albums tend to focus on the latter two. This latest installment is in the same mold, but the band showcases almost all of these influences as well, sometimes within the same tune.
Though not as focused as 2020’s full-on metal assault, No, or as transcendent as W from earlier this year (read our review), Heavy Rocks has a lot of killer tracks. From the jump, the band hits on a couple different heavy styles: the lead track “She is burning” is fast-paced metal with saxophone echoing the vocal melodies to exhilarating effect. This is followed by the Faith No More-esque flavor of “Cramper” and the crossover thrash of “My name is blank.”
Suddenly, we’re full-on skronking: “Blah Blah Blah” blares with saxophone cacophony before transitioning into an industrial groove, Takeshi’s fuzz bass rumbling under Atsuo’s steady drum pattern while guitar wizard Wata stabs and pierces sporadically with her angular, noisy axe work. Quite a left-turn from the first three straight-ahead rockers. This is followed by the fantastic “Question 1,” a trad metal–type offering with galloping rhythms, Wata’s shredding leads, and strong, soaring vocal melodies. Before you can get too comfortable, the song breaks down entirely, guitar noise leading to a goth-metal middle of big vocals and synth touches before returning to a faster pace.
“Ruins” is another standout cut, an under-three-minutes thrasher featuring Wata’s fast-picked chugging (reminiscent of 80s thrash guitar heroes like Hetfield or Mustaine) but with more punk rock attitude in the mix. “Ghostly imagination” brings the heavy and the speed but in a completely different way. Atsuo’s robotic stomping drumbeat is somehow danceable even at its breakneck pace.
The album is full of twists and turns that are trademark Boris, all the while showcasing the many influences. The band effortlessly steer their way through various sonic landscapes and continue to solidify themselves as one of the all-time brilliant and mind-bending guitar bands.
Hello! Here we are with some bite sized goodies and a taste of some new things that we dug this week, quick fire responses to some great new music we think you should check out. This week Kate and Nick weighed in on some killer songs, so give em a listen! Stay tuned as more of the FTA staff will be rotating in to give their thoughts on new music in the coming weeks.
As always, if you’re in a band or from a label, don’t hesitate to reach out and let us know about you! If we dig ya, you’ll get a nod in the column. Read on to find out what we dug the last week or so:
Automatic– Automaton. The synthy indie trio released their latest album, Excess, back in June and now have released a new video for the hypnotic “Automaton,” a song critical about the evils of capitalism and the ways we feed into it. The video features gripping, stencil-like animation by Yana Pan & Jenny Nirgends and sees the automaton protagonist in a nightmare reality aka our actual current reality. Along with the video the band has announced a tour which will hit Brooklyn on 10/14 at Market Hotel. [KH]
Big Girl– Summer Sickness. According to their Spotify, Big Girl is a “New York project conceived by vocalist and guitarist Kaitlin Pelkey,” and “A Queer-fronted, vivid, and ambitious rock band.” This was my very first time hearing them and I immediately felt transported to what it must have been like in a 1970s arena rock show. Like a Zeppelin anthem, this starts out subdued and acoustic before a sexy guitar lead kicks in and starts to amp the song up. Before you know it, the drums are massive, the riffs are giant, and the song has surrounded you. Vivid and ambitious indeed, this is the first single from the band’s upcoming album Big Girl vs. God due out in early 2023 and is accompanied by beautiful concept video produced and directed by Josefine Cardoni. (See pics from one of their recent shows in Brooklyn.) [KH]
The Beths– Knees Deep. The third single from the upcoming album, Expert In A Dying Field, “Knees Deep” is all about taking risks. Singer Liz Stokes says “I’m the kind of person who wants to go swimming but takes like 10 minutes to get all the way into the cold water, slowly and painfully. I hate this about myself and am kind of envious of people who can just jump straight in the deep end. In a shocking twist, this is also a metaphor?! For how I wish I was the kind of person who was brave and decisive instead of cautious and scared.” And take risks the band does in the video that accompanies the song, each member realllllly going for it by going bungee jumping. They are currently on tour in the US (check out pics from their recent stop at BRIC) and along with the song and video, they also announced more tour dates in the US for 2023. Expert In A Dying Field is out via Carpark Records on 9/16 with the tour hitting NYC at Brooklyn Steel 3/2/2023. [KH]
The Chats– I’ve Been Drunk In Every Pub In Brisbane. The booze loving snot noses from Down Under have a brand new record out today, Get Fucked, and this is another bratty Ramones inspired ode to—you guessed it—beer and being wasted. Not exactly new territory for them musically or lyrically but does it really need to be? Goddamn if these songs aren’t a hell of a lot of fucking fun to shout and pogo along to. [KH]
Deep Wimp– Plume. Take a little bit power pop, add in little bit more indie alt rock, sprinkle a on dash of Midwest Emo and you’ve got the recipe for “Plume,” the latest offering from Brooklyn band, Deep Wimp. The band says about the song: ”This song is mostly about recognizing the quiet comforts in your life. Navigating social situations is still challenging sometimes (even for us in our 30s), and you occasionally have to remove yourself from them and focus on the joy you already have at home, whether that’s a partner, a pet, or a pair of Star Wars sweatpants.” I can definitely get behind finding the joy in life and you can find this catchy song on all major streaming platforms. [KH]
Gun– Mark of the Beast Mode. The latest from the NYC noise punks, this song gives some big 90s vibes and is mostly structured around a grunge rock riff with snarling vocals to match and an underlying synth line complimenting the two harder elements. Then totally out of left field at 1:12min in, the unexpected happens and the song veers into an Amen Break (yes, I did in fact just say THE AMEN BREAK) interlude for a few measures reminiscent of the electro rock of bands like The Prodigy, before picking the grunge back up, hitting a quick hardcore floor punching breakdown, then back to the grunge. But instead of giving me whiplash with these wild genre/feel changes from bar to bar, somehow it all just works and makes for a fun and catchy song that would have done just fine in 1993 but also feels totally of the here and now. [KH]
Hunx & his Punx– White Lipstick b/w Losing My Mind. This new double single is part of the Sub Pop singles club and is the first release from the band since 2013’s Street Punk. Both songs feature the signature bubblegum girl group inspired easy going brand of punk the band is known for and both are fun summertime bops perfect for cruising on your bike to the beach. “White Lipstick” also comes with a video that looks like it was shot with a 1980s camcorder, an excellent pairing as far as I’m concerned. [KH]
Konjur Collective– George Jackson. The inaugural release on cow: Music (an imprint of the terrific Astral Spirits label), this lead cut from the forthcoming Blood in My Eye (A Soul Insurgent Guide) brings a different sonic palette to the free jazz realm. Loops and synth noise join the usual maelstrom of crashing drums and skronky brass, creating a swirl and depth of sound that is absolutely infectious. Snippets of improvised melody are looped, offering the occasional hook within the cacophony. Named for the Field Marshall of the Black Panthers, this tune is full of beauty, rage, uplifting spirit, and exuberant joy. [ND]
LAPêCHE– Mermaid Blues. This is the latest from the Brooklyn indie rockers, a catchy stand alone single, which the band says “expands and contracts around the experience of heavy seasonal depression,” continuing “hope is an imperfect skill that may guide you out.” While the subject matter may be bleak, musically the song features effervescent guitars, dreamy vocals from singer Krista Diem, and is filled with big hooks and dare I say, brushes just at the edge of power pop? Maybe that’s just my take but I can definitely hear the influence here and it sounds great. While this song is not part of a full album, the band is in fact at work on a new record, collaborating with producer Alex Newport (Death Cab for Cutie, At the Drive-In) and that is definitely something to be hopeful for. [KH]
Meat Wave– What Would You Like Me To Do? The latest from the Chicago indie punks, this is a driving fast with the windows down, fist pounding on the wheel affair, no time to wait around, get in and let’s go! As with all things Meat Wave, I love the driving bass, love the drumming, love the guitar work and love the way they all perfectly meld together for a sound that is uniquely them with singer/guitarist Chris Sutter’s anxious yells over top. This is the first official single from their just announced upcoming album Malign Hex due out 10/14 on Swami Records after two stand alone singles were released earlier this year (that will in fact appear on the album as well). If this is a taste of how the rest of it will go then I’m very ready for more. [KH]
Psalm One X Custom Made– Shadow Work. Psalm One has been busy! She recently put out a book, Her Word is Bond, detailing her triumphs and travails as a woman in hip-hop (also get hip to the #BoycottRhymesayers movement she is leading against her former label, Rhymesayers), and now has a new collaboration album with Custom Made called Bigg Perrm due out on Filthē Analects Record Company Sept. 2. Lead single, “Shadow Work,” is part confessional, part manifesto. Psalm One raps openly about her personal shortcomings and her determination to keep improving and thriving: “I am a reformed fuckgirl/I mean it/If that shit don’t line up with my purpose/then I leave it/Had to see my inner demons just to get a little peace.” Custom Made creates an uncluttered groove for Psalm to flow, mixing up her rhythms and cadences and peppering in unexpected hooks. Very stoked for this record to come out! [ND]
Thus Love– In Tandem. Agothy, lustrous offering from this Vermont based queer post punk outfit, it’s hard not to be reminded of a more upbeat Bauhaus here. But that’s certainly not a bad thing because I love Bauhaus. I really like the interplay of the drums with the bass, both driving the song as the guitar shimmers over top. This is the second single from their upcoming album Memorial, due out on 10/7 via Captured Tracks. See pics from their recent show at The Sultan Room. [KH]