Saturday New Single Alert: Benin City's Lord of the Manor

The genre-defying London trio, Benin City, have released a dark and spooky banger just in time for Halloween. “Lord of the Manor” is evocative production wise to formative songs of my youth like Prodigy’s “Firestarter” or perhaps anything off of NIN’s Downward Spiral with strong drum tracks and vocal distortion that draws the listener in. It’s gritty and an earworm you’ll want the dj to play to rally the dance floor.

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You can listen to “Lord of the Manor” on Spotify and join me in the crowd of folx anticipating the trio’s release of an EP at the end of this year.


New Tunes Tuesday: ROOM8's debut album "Transduction"

ROOM8, the cinematic production duo based out of Stockholm and Los Angeles, released their debut record Transduction, a little over a week ago and I know I am not alone in having it on heavy rotation. I’m an eighties baby, one of those weird Xennial generational types who experienced an analog childhood and digital adulthood. And while this record is accessible for listeners of all ages, it certainly struck a chord for me with a nostalgia for the films and sounds of my own past.

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I was so delighted to have this record sent to me and for the opportunity to chat with the band for Inhailer Radio. You can check out some of the details behind the album in our conversation over on the Inhailer blog.

ROOM8 created Transduction as an almost soundtrack to a film that doesn’t yet exist and upon listening there is a definite cinematic quality to the tracks. Soundtrack scoring comes naturally to the duo, who are also celebrating the release of Transduction along with their soundtrack to the newly released alt-right incel horror film, Cuck.

Transduction offers a dreamy, synth-filled soundscape with many of the tracks being instrumental and lending to a bit more of an exploratory audible stroll down a nostalgic wormhole. For me, the tracks that contained vocals brought the record into a more contemporary feel, reminiscent of Blood Orange and at times perhaps Boards of Canada. “Only You” which features Swedish duo, The Sound of Arrows, most definitely seems like the type of a song in a Molly Ringwald film where a breakup has just occurred and the protagonist realizes what a goof they’ve been to have gone for the popular girl instead of the nice girl next door type who is the one who they really belong with anyways.

“West” which features Swedish singer Mavrick presents an earnest vocal component over a vibrant electronica/pop base. It is dreamy and opens with an almost reminiscent of an Alphaville ala Forever Young heartstring tugging chord progression before evolving into a contemporary dance tune that I have woken up with in my head for every day at least a week.

“Jasmine Night” is driven by heavy synth production but really soars thanks to vocals from Jesika Miller. It’s the perfect transitional summer to autumn track evoking those pangs of end of summer. It captures, for me, that feeling of when you start driving home and noticing the sunsets are happening earlier and summer is ending.

ROOM8 are planning to eventually release an animated film to accompany the record but for now I think most of the fun lies in the sort of stories the songs seem to inspire pulling from nostalgia but allowing the listener to create something completely knew in their mind while listening.

You can listen to the record on Spotify, and buy it on vinyl from ROOM8 or your local record shop!


New track from Hugh x Jylda: Whatchu Saying

Happy Friday! It’s no secret around these parts that I adore the many projects of spoken word artist and vocalist Joshua Idehen and I’ve been happy to feature a few singles from his duo, Hugh, this year. Today they released their final single of the year with the track, “Whatchu Saying,” which features singer songwriter and producer JYLDA.

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You can listen to the new track on Spotify!

New Tunes Tuesday: Bamboo Smoke's "Treehouses"

Though it’s been out for a week today, I cannot get Bamboo Smoke’s “Treehouses” out of my head. The UK-based Alt-R&B trio of producers Tom Hollis, Mark Gilyead, and singer Louise Wellby have created a dreamy, graceful track in “Treehouses,” the first song they’ve written together.

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Wellby offered the following on the track: “Created in a garage out in the pines, Treehouses is the very first song we wrote together. Recalling the joy and thrill of secret hideouts, makeshift treehouses, teetering on the edge between our imaginary world and the ‘grown up’ world.” 

Bamboo Smoke also released a video for their track “Stretchmarks” earlier this year, available on Youtube.

You can follow Bamboo Smoke on Instagram and listen to them on Spotify.

New Single Alert: Benin City's "What A Time"

The individual artists who make up Benin City have been quite busy this year with amazing projects but finally I get to share their new release which is streaming on their VEVO below for US listeners and included in Spotify’s New Music Friday for the UK & Iceland for my across the pond pals!


“What A Time” is a bit of a party anthem that despite sounding so carefree is really about coming to peace with oneself, enjoying life and poetically states, “these are your best years/be careful how you spend them.” It highlights their distinct sound with beats from multi-instrumentalist Tom Leaper and dual vocals by Joshua Idehen and Shanaz Dorsett.

Dorsett reflected on the song’s meaning for her personally, “What A Time embodies how I felt about turning 30—so empowered and at peace with myself… but often completely overwhelmed by having all the choices but few of the resources to truly ‘live my best life.’ In ways it’s the realistic party anthem that I needed.” Dorsett also relayed how finally coming out as queer worked in tandem with this coming to terms with oneself.

Benin City is a London-based trio that represents the diversity of the city, exploring and challenging social and political issues. Their second album tackled the notion of the depleting London club scene and its impact on the artistic community. Their forthcoming EP later this year will face head on similar themes as a both an interrogation and celebration as Londoners.

You can find Benin City on all the social media, including: Instagram, Twitter, and Soundcloud.

Founding Fathers and Big Gorgeous Wrapped Up Tight 2019 Tour

When living in the dystopian nightmare that’s 2019, there’s only one escape and that is Big Gorgeous. The San Francisco based duo are at their purest part metal theatre and part pervy pop goodness. They write songs about outrageous situations that are so catchy and infectious you can’t help but smile.

Big Gorgeous by Ben DeCastro

Big Gorgeous by Ben DeCastro

I first saw Big Gorgeous when they played an off venue gig at Iceland Airwaves in 2018. I had been told to check them out and loved that they had a local musician Eric Johnson of Cincinnati’s Founding Fathers along for some backup vocals and stage prop management. The show was about 25 mins in Lucky Records and was a raucous, over the top, fun time.

Big Gorgeous performing at Lucky Records during Iceland Airwaves 2018.

Big Gorgeous performing at Lucky Records during Iceland Airwaves 2018.

Big Gorgeous is coming back to my hometown for a short but ambitious tour with Founding Fathers who are releasing their 2018 album Mating Rites on vinyl. I recently had a chance to chat with Young Potatoe, half the duo of Big Gorgeous about what an adventure this whole musical performance art project has been so far.

To start at the beginning, the artist behind the moniker, Young Potatoe, outlined the birth of his stage name/personality. Spawned as a bit of an expansion of his childhood dream to create a professional wrestling personality, when he arrived to college aside from his academic studies he pursued his dream of entering into wrestling school. His bit of acting experience and theatre talents also came into play when after writing a few songs with his other half, the Big Gorgeous, and the dream to play live versions of their material came to fruition. The Big Gorgeous was initially concerned that just he and Young Potatoe alone performing wouldn’t be enough to carry the show, especially as he gently reminded Young Potatoe that he doesn’t play any instruments. But as everything else he does in life, Young Potatoe made a deal with the Big Gorgeous that he would come up with a show that just the two of them could put on and make this dream come true.

The Wrapped Up Tight 2019 tour kicks off tonight in Wisconsin before they’ll make it down to Cincinnati on Sunday for the Founding Fathers vinyl release show, “I am so excited for the show in Cincinnati because it’s their hometown and our first time playing there and we’re really hoping for a big fun night” said Young Potatoe. Founding Fathers and Big Gorgeous are terrific on their own but when the two groups get together the energy is off the charts. You can see a little of this in the guest spots of Founding Fathers members in the Big Gorgeous video for “Puddles” which debuted two weeks ago on Youtube.


You can follow Big Gorgeous and Founding Fathers on this ambitious 20 shows in the next 23 days and support them here and here.

And don’t forget to come seem them live on Sunday May 26th at the Northside Tavern for the Founding Fathers vinyl release show!



New Single Alert: Hugh releases "Sober"

Hugh are releasing new music with the single, “Sober” dropping nearly two years after their debut Love, Hugh was released in 2017. The lineup of the group has shifted a bit as well since then, but vocalist Joshua Idehen and producer Andy Highmore remain at the core.

New listeners of Hugh may recognize Idehen’s voice, he’s a vocalist of the acclaimed London trio Benin City. He’s half the duo that forms Hugh and certainly in this new track he brings a different energy than his other musical endeavors. Highmore’s production is definitely a highlight as well. Guest vocalist Amaroun, is recognizable too, as she is Jay Brown, the London singer-songwriter whose smooth R&B sound blends so well with Idehen.


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In an interview with the folx at The Line of Best Fit, Idehen explained that the track was written as a breakup song about Brexit regret, but the universality of the lyrics lend themselves beyond this specific dumpster fire political climate (though it’s something this American relates to all too well).

The structure of this newest release from Hugh is solid. Specifically at the bridge, in a track that could easily get messy and drunkenly out of control, “Sober” keeps a calm and even-keeled quality. Indeed it would seem the same satisfaction that one derives from knowing you’re over someone and better than an ex-lover is present in the listening experience and one certainly feels better having heard this track.


You can listen to “Sober” on Spotify.

New Single Alert: IamHelgi's "Speeding"

Helgi Sæmundur, the man behind the moniker IamHelgi, is a bit of an enigma. As beat-maker extraordinaire and one half of the Icelandic hip hop group, Úlfur Úlfur, he’s been building his notoriety and repertoire among fans of the duo and now as a solo artist. I first encountered Helgi’s work on his 2015 Úlfur Úlfur album, Tvær Plánetur, which has been in my heavy rotation for years. I relished in the chance to see him live at Iceland Airwaves 2017. So much, in fact, that I saw him three times in a week. Admittedly, as I can’t begin to understand the language, I think I’ve always gravitated towards Úlfur Úlfur because of the beats.

Fans got a first taste at this new, more synthy endeavor of Helgi’s when he dropped the single “Yourself” back in December 2018. That is, if you weren’t lucky enough to catch his solo debut at Iceland Airwaves in November 2018. Helgi’s influences are present in his new work--it’s synth driven rock that calls to mind a Depeche Mode and sort of Twin Peaks mysteriousness. This could be because he’s recently scored the Scandi-Noir television series, Stella Blómkvist.

IamHelgi performed last month at one of my favorite Icelandic venues, Iðnó opening up for Warmland. He’s also been announced in the lineup for Iceland Airwaves 2019. It will be very exciting to see how his solo artistry expands this year, as he’s off to a terrific start.

His new single “Speeding” is out today and is sure to be on repeat in my household. You can stream it on Spotify.

YAMANTAKA // SONIC TITAN

Last night I had the enormous pleasure and introduction to Yamantaka // Sonic Titan, a self-described psychedelic noh-wave opera group hailing from Toronto. They performed at Motr pub in Over the Rhine to a modest, Monday night crowd in Cincinnati.

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Their performance was solid, the band was really tight, and the vocals were stellar. I got to chat a little bit with the band afterwards about the creative process in this political climate, another Toronto band who came through town and blew my mind at Motr (looking at you Beams), and midwestern life. They were all really generous with their time which was amazing because they had just played one hell of a show and had to get on the move to Cleveland, where they are playing Beachland Ballroom tonight. If you find yourself with the opportunity to check them out, I cannot recommend enough that you do just that!

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circles and circles and circles again

When I last posted here, I had no idea that in just two short months following, my mother would die in a sudden and traumatic end. I couldn’t write for the longest time after that, then I picked up working on short fiction again. The escapism of fiction has always been a nice release, but the mental and emotional toll that losing her took on my well being was just too great.

It’s been nearly a year and a half since that happened.

This blog was inspired by my life and love for Iceland, a country that’s been so healing and so hard to be in for different reasons. When I first traveled there, I carried the enormous weight of having suffered rape at the hands of a friend who I trusted just six months earlier and still couldn’t even process that I experienced that trauma, not even to my partner. When we returned home after that trip, I spent the rest of the summer very much in a healing process and supported by a partner who is and always will be at the core of who I’ve become as an adult.

We didn’t return to Iceland for two years after that, but when we did it felt even more like home to be back on that rock in the middle of the ocean. That trip was a beautiful exploration of the entire island, but not without the heartache of arriving at a small farm in East Iceland, only to receive messages that my mother was suffering from a stroke and it would be days before we could travel home. She recovered, thankfully, but those hours where things weren’t certain as we tried to assess from thousands of miles away were extremely difficult. I had no idea that it would be nearly a year later and she’d be gone forever.

Surviving the loss of a parent is a bizarre and almost unnameable experience. But because we had made it through 6 months of this hell, I suppose my partner wanted a break and he certainly deserved it. So even though it was going to be November and colder than ever when we had previously visited, he booked our return home to that emotional rock in the middle of the ocean and we attended our first Airwaves festival. We made some of the best of friends and saw incredible artists and I thought a lot about what had happened with my mom last time we were there. It was a trip of a indulgence and reward for having made it through the things we had made it through and for that I am forever grateful.

I’ll celebrate my birthday this year when we return to Airwaves. This time of year is always one that is wrapped up in feelings of new beginnings and fresh starts, with the change of seasons and as I start another revolution around the sun. It’s also marked with trauma, however, and we actually depart on the anniversary of my assault, the one I carried with me in silence the first time we traveled to Iceland. And to be sure, the political climate here in the US with the recent confirmation of a known rapist to the Supreme Court nominated by another known rapist has become one of the most difficult daily reminders of this awful experience. But, this time of year is mine, it’s my new start, my renewal, my enduring, and my survival.

So I guess this post is to say, I’m back, I think, here for a while to share again the things I’m reading, writing, listening, and enjoying. Thank you for being here with me.

Audible is incredible

So in looking for an audiobook for my book challenge this year, I started with something totally not in my wheelhouse and then ended up switching to Neil Gaiman's narration of Norse Mythology. It is absolutely perfect.  

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Okay, not as perfect as that time he was in a falafel on Arthur....but close.  Coupled with some weirdo weather lately that's made the Midwest seem very Icelandic, it's just a real treat to listen to while looking out at the rainfall.

I might make the move from podcasts to audio books for my drives to work now! 

Wherein Sherwood Anderson, who I haven't thought much about since undergrad makes my heart so happy.

In the collection of letters gathered in  Posterity: Letters of Great Americans to Their Children and edited by Dorie McCullough Lawson, I have come across some really famous/well known letters, probably because of the blog Brain Pickings by Maria Popova. 

But then today, I read one that Sherwood Anderson, most notably for his work Winesburg, Ohio and who I probably hadn't given much thought about since undergrad (aka a really long while). The letter included penned by a then 49 year old Anderson to his second child, John. Under the collection on "Good Work" this letter included some advice on what the future holds for the seventeen year old. 

He stresses the importance of learning how to do something with one's hands, though if given the choice, he himself would still be a writer first and how the importance shouldn't be strictly measured in a monetary benefit.  He writes, "There is a kind of shrewdness many men have that enables them to get money. It is the shrewdness of the fox after the chicken. A low order of mentality often goes with it."  

Then, about a year later, when Anderson's son stays behind in Paris to study painting, after his family traveled there together---he writes what I would describe as the "Wear Your Sunscreen" sort of commencement speech bits of advice for his son. 

Some particular bits of wisdom: 

The object of art is not to make salable pictures. It is to save yourself. 

 

 

The thing of course, is to make yourself alive. Most people remain all their lives in a stupor. The point of being an artist is that you may live.  

 

And he closes this long letter with what is such terrific advice from a parent to a child, so accepting and loving:  

 

It isn't your success I want. There is a possibility of your having a decent attitude toward people and work. That alone may make a man of you. 

 

I think reading this letter, coupled with having just finished John Green's  Looking for Alaska has me thinking a lot about parenthood and the relationships between teenagers and how they relate to their folks. That weirdo age between almost adulting and actually having to adult is interesting because while so much depends on the teenager, undoubtedly a great deal rests on the involvement of the parents. As someone who has had hands off parenting since early adolescence, I can't help but feeling as though I missed out on not having these sort of letters and conversations. But, perhaps it's the beauty of collections such as these.... Sherwood Anderson's parental advice keeps on instructing far longer and much further than he had imagined back in 1927. 

 

 

small goals sunday

I met with friends over the weekend and we talked about our successes and failings in working through each week. Undoubtedly, since that awful day this past November, when the world seemed to lose all sense of what is good and right (at least in our corner in the US), it has been exhausting to work through the endless cycle of madness that is the daily tweets and news reports .

I've taken to small goal planning, to exert some level over control in this decidedly undecided world. I say small goal specifically too, because as much as I like writing TO DO lists, I enjoy marking things off of those lists even more. 

So for this this first full week of March, I working on the following: 

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Write every day. I have been sticking with this one for a while, but it's important to me that I continue with this goal. I have various projects I'm working on: this blog, an EP that Patrick and I are working on together, a short story art project I have had in the works for quite a while, and a new poetry project that's in the earliest stages of infancy. Basically, come on lady, you've always got something to write for/on/about.

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Drink some fucking water, you ungrateful first worlder. As an adult with access to clean drinking water, I have no excuse for the amount of caffenated beverages I consume in lieu of delicious good old fashioned H2O. I don't know if the old timey 8 glasses of water is still the recommendation, but this week I'm seriously making it a priority to get at least 4 glasses. I mean, I have to start somewhere.

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Keep readin', Keep, Keep Readin' (sing to the tune of Leona Lewis): I have been super excited about the Pop Sugar challenge I posted about a few days ago. I really rediscovered my love for reading last year when I did the one year challenge where I only read authors who were either Women or POC. It had been long enough from my heavy academic workload that I got back into reading for pleasure. I finished another text this week and I think to complete the full Pop Sugar list I have as it stands currently, I need to be reading at least 50 pages a day on average, which seems a bit heavy, but I'm going to work towards that and will be happy if I finish off another 2 titles this week. It will be a challenge but I know I can definitely finish 1, which is why I'm going to work toward 2. 

 

Dear Woodward, I love you.

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Last night, the Nashville four piece Savoy Motel came through town. It was a really great show. Whoever does the booking at the Woodward is totally responsible for expanding my musical horizons. The best show I saw all of 2016 was there.

These kids were way groovy. I felt bad that they had a show on the start for the biggest drinking weekend in Cincinnati, Bockfest. Nevertheless they put on a hell of a show for an intimate crowd.  

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Friday musings

It's Women's History month and I'm on my way to a concert, which made me think of this gem.  

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Vincent (as her friends referred to her and I like to pretend we'd be friends in other lifetime) is such a fascinating woman and I really treasure her anachronistic personality. Talk about queer poly heroes of the 20th century for $500, Alex. 

 Happy Friday Night!

 

 

A lot has happened in 226 days

So I didn't exactly lie , but it's been longer than I anticipated in my break from blogging. 226 days to be exact.  

 

But here we are, on National Bjór Day, where Patrick and I celebrate from abroad the repeal of prohibition on beer in Iceland. 

 

The world is very different place from the last time I recorded anything on this little piece of the internet, but I won't mourn the sadness at the ridiculous state of our current political climate here... at least not today. 

 

Mostly, I wanted to put in writing I'm back. Or will be, every day this month. Unfortunately, I started off March feeling under the weather, both figuratively and literally, but I'm looking forward to digging in and sharing my thoughts in this space. I do hope you'll pull up a seat and stay a spell.