Sounds from Osaka: Exploring Punk, Indie, and Alternative Music from Osaka, Japan (Framtid, Kung-Fu Girl, Junky58%)

Sounds from Osaka is our first article in a series highlighting local scenes in multiple ‘postcard length’ album reviews. We’re looking to do more of these scene focused articles in the future! Go to our contact page and let us know about your local scene and we may just cover it. Till then, consider this article ‘postmarked’ March 27th, 2022!

That said, is this list looking a little incomplete? Because we’re sure it is. There may be more pivotal bands in the Osaka scene, but we’ve decided to go with what stuck out to us via Bandcamp, recommendations, and liner note skimming, so Skate Punk bands like The Skippers or Manchester School (M.A. School) won’t be on this list. Consider this a small round up of Punk, Indie and Alternative bands from Osaka, Japan.

Diskover – The End Has No End (2018)

Noisy and nasally Pop Punk, The End Has No End is a lilting and lo-fi record worth a listen. The 3-track EP by Diskover has all the melancholic emotional weight one could hope for from Pop Punk and Power Pop. There isn’t much readily known about them, but they’ve had one release since: a self-titled 7” EP available through nearly a dozen smaller record outlets. You can also find it through the Punk & Destroy record shop and distro, located in Osaka.

Argue Damnation – The Situation In Society Is Worse Than Before, It Is Getting Worse. Direct Action Now Demo (2021)

The medium is the message- and so too, in this case, is the album title. Not ones’ to waste space, Argue Damnation’s ‘The Situation…’ is a collection of demos for what was their third and final album Direct Action Now, recorded and released in 2000. Tracks like Direct Action Now, Number People, and 反新安保 (‘Anti-New Security’) break out of the tight mold of D-Beat and Crust for something more expressive than many of their contemporaries, while Up The Punx gets as close to ‘punk anthem’ material as possible without getting too corny.

Argue Damnation were active from 1994 to 2003, but their music still resonates.

Shonen Knife – Pop Tune (2012)

While I never promised a comprehensive list, I would feel remiss for not including Shonen Knife. Take it from their Bandcamp artist-bio:

“Shonen Knife was formed in 1981 by Naoko Yamano, her friend Michie and sister Atsuko. 35 Years, 19 albums and well over 1000 gigs later the band is as strong, fun and original as ever…”

For this list I’m pulling their 2012 album Pop Tune, whose titular track is so satisfyingly bubbly and fun. People more in tune with the D-Beat and Crust bands on this list may roll their eyes, but Shonen Knife’s Phil Spector and Ramones inspired Alternative Rock’n’Roll sound is a delightful and uplifting force in the cross-cultural milieu of our ever increasingly interconnected lives.

Junky58% – おい、ミルクじゃなくて酒よこせバブー (2020)

おい、ミルクじゃなくて酒よこせバブー, or Don’t Milk, I Want to Alcohol (Google translated to ‘Hey, Give Me Sake, Not Milk.’) is a pumped up Pop Punk EP by Osaka’s Junky58%. Their early Green Day influence might be most noticeable on midway track Junky Band, but flows through the album’s joyous celebration of alcoholic shenanigans (and chocolate cookies?); a high-spirited step away from some of their more melancholy-tinted peers. As someone generally uninterested with alcohol-centric Punk and Rock music, I still found ‘Don’t Milk,…’ a worthwhile and fun record, going near the top of my wishlist.

OXZ – Along Ago: 1981-1989 (2020)

OXZ (pronounced ‘awk-zed’) are in a Post-Punk vein of their own creation, but could be roughly triangulated with bands like Suburban Lawns, Ausgang, and The Passions. OXZ weren’t afraid to include big spacial synthesizers on otherwise dry recordings. This makes for a rare listening experience, especially in the midst of the slog of ‘Post-Punk’ and ‘Goth’ worship bands coming out of the Anglosphere currently.

The compilation, released by the NYC independent label Captured Tracks, shows OXZ’s artistic progression across the band’s 3 EPs and single released during their band’s original run. It’s incredibly satisfying hearing where they took things as their song writing grew stronger and stronger. Personal favorite tracks from Along Ago: 1981-1989 include Vivian, Boy Boy, and Is Life.

Framtid – Under The Ashes (2002)

Crust is universal, so it seems. So I’m not surprised to find heavy hitters Framtid among the crowd. The band’s 2002 release Under The Ashes features members Makino (vocals), Takayama (drums), Ryota “Jacky” Watanabe (guitar), Ina (bass) and Chuma on bass for tracks 12-21. Under The Ashes is unrelenting. With each track fading into the next one, the chaos never stops. I definitely recommend Framtid to fans of Crucifix and Napalm Death.

Kung-Fu Girl – Cassette Tapes Series Vol.1 (2021)

Cassette Tapes Series Vol.1 is a single release by the lo-fi Pop Punk band Kung-Fu Girl. A-side Rabuka might be my favorite, as it stood out to me immediately with its melancholic bubbliness. It’s absolutely something for fans of Full of Fancy or Bluffing. But b-side Ghost Girlfriend incorporates Power Pop sensibilities with raw Punk energy. It’s incredible, and a fun break from more D-Beat oriented bands.

Potato Headz – Potato Headz (2018)

Seeing “POTATO HEADZ” in a varsity font on a black and white concert pic, I wouldn’t have expected something so sonically interesting. Through and through, it’s your ‘classic hXc’ style beatdown Hardcore, but with just enough off-kilter weirdness and goofball energy to make it an incredibly fun album.

The riffs: chunky. The drums: hunky.

I’m all into it.

The Harriets – The Harriets 1st Demo (2019)

The laid back Indie jams of The Harriets’ 2019 self-titled first demo are easy on the ears, but don’t take that to mean ‘light listening’. The Harriets are made up of members Milk (guitar), Nana (drums), and Fumi (bass) with all 3 members contributing vocals. This relax-adaisical demo single features the a-side track Last Night backed with the fuzzed out I Don’t Care.

There’s an element to The Harriets that might make them an easy shoe-in for fans of bands like Slant 6 or Apocalypse Meow. The songs are minimal and well written, invoking an easy going feeling while keeping sonic vitality.

I would like to note The Harriets and the American band Frankie Cosmos as an ‘ideal’ double-billing for a tour. Seriously, can we make that happen?

Beverly Hills Ketsukon Hactyo (2004) [compilation]

Beverly Hills Ketsukon Hactyo is a compilation released by Centralscum in 2004 celebrating the marriage of WonWons bassist Mami and Haruo Ishihara (owner of Lost Frog Productions, “the oldest Japanese netlabel in existence”).

Beverly Hills Ketsukon Hactyo is a short but stylistically mixed bag. The lo-fi indie jam and titular track Beverly Hills Ketsukon Hactyo by Morino Jun (Moaco) is a fun and sloppy melancholic song in the style of Magnetic Fields. The album is balanced out with off-kilter Indie Electronic in a style similar to the UK group The Sons of Silence.

But by far, Loggins Alive by Izumi Headache of UltraFuckers is an immediate favorite. Thumping drum machines pound away under the clatter of metallic guitar noise and pitched and processed vocals that sound like the Max Headroom Incident. It’s a hair too wacky to be considered a Big Black tribute, but likely ‘just right’ for Men’s Recovery Project fans.

Keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming +Brief Thoughts article with a follow up to Beverly Hills Ketsukon Hactyo as well as Shock Rock in Japan and the USA.

REVIEW: Malakas – Flamme Flottante (2018)

Flame Flottante is the 2018 EP release by French instrumental duo Malakas. Based in Coulommiers, France, band members K.Yordanoff and M.Le Saux have created a charming work of Post-Exotica.

Opening track Fatigues sinks the listener into a melancholic sea. Somber surf guitar, awash in reverb and wobbling tremolo, plods along while lapping brushed drums smears across the song’s musical structure. A harpsichord-sounding keyword elicits the sensation of light beams through stained glass, breaking outwards in floral kaleidoscopic fragmentation.

Similarly, the titular second track Flamme Flottante (Floating Flame) drifts along in an eerie space-age fashion before breaking into a Bossa-Nova tinged and organ driven dash to the finish. There’s a quality reminiscent of 1970s Italian film composers Giuliano Sorgini and Armando Trovajoli that is prevalent at first. That is until the album’s break in to a more distinctly indie rock territory on its second half.

B-side tracks HOO HAA and the closing Palapappa exhibit a more energetic, somewhat silly and less despondent indie rock approach. On both HOO HAA and Palapappa, Malakas pits guitar and synth to battle it out over an occasionally Math Rock influenced Indie sound. Though still far from the ‘boss fight’ aggression of Nintendocore / Surf champs The Advantage, the final two songs on this four song EP work back into a more Rock oriented sound.

The Surf music genre is undoubtedly an influence on most artists exploring Post-Exotica themes, and it shows here. Surf has seemingly always had one foot in the cinematic and one foot in pure playfulness. I like that about Flamme Flottante. Even if the latter half doesn’t engage me in as intense of a way as the album’s more cinematic first half, that the album can balance these two at times contrasting depictions creates for a well-rounded EP.

Flamme Flottante is Post-Exotica bliss, exploring both the tropical sounds of the age of Hi-Fi’s past and more contemporary instrumental playfulness.

For fans of: The Advantage, Hospitality, Armando Trovajoli

Like Malakas? Give these a listen: Giuliano Sorgini, Why?, Battles

Disintegration: Bandcamp Joins Epic Games

Founded in 2008 in Oakland, Bandcamp has long been the go-to for independent musicians, bands, and small labels to sell directly to their audience as well as those looking for new music. But as many of us found out yesterday morning, Bandcamp has now been sold to Epic Games, the creators of Fortnite and Unreal Engine.

From the Epic Games’ website, “Today, we are thrilled to announce that Bandcamp will become part of Epic Games. Bandcamp is an online music store and community where fans can discover, connect with, and directly support the independent musicians they love.

Fair and open platforms are critical to the future of the creator economy. Epic and Bandcamp share a mission of building the most artist friendly platform that enables creators to keep the majority of their hard-earned money. Bandcamp will play an important role in Epic’s vision to build out a creator marketplace ecosystem for content, technology, games, art, music and more.”

But what else lies in Epic’s vision?

The understandable distrust in giant companies like Epic Games is only part of the outrage and wild speculation in the current discourse surrounding Bandcamp. Surely none of us can be certain of the future to come, but if we examine the attitudes and competing narratives perhaps the bigger issues will make themselves clear.


At the root of much of the backlash to this news is the disenchantment of Bandcamp’s anti-corporate user base. Whether it’s distaste in streaming models, the predatory track records of major labels, or simply the ‘sticking it to the man’ spirit of rock’n’roll, many have lauded Bandcamp’s efforts as an ‘independent’ venture. The company has championed artistic independence, direct payment to artists, and music scene’s sense of community.

But isn’t selling out to a major private entity, especially one backed by a multinational conglomerate, somewhat contradictory?

Distrust: ‘Microtransact Your Nuts Off’

Bandcamp is a low- perhaps the lowest- cost of entry into selling one’s own music. Even the notoriously cheap cassette tape costs about 250 USD for a run of 100 cassettes, and this is just acquiring the product. With Bandcamp, the product is digital. What it costs to produce is the time you the artist put into it, and perhaps 15 minutes to upload and label all your track files (assuming your internet is slow).

But much like your local greasy spoon getting new, yuppier owners, many are starting to worry we’ll see cost of entry inflation from the nickel-and-diming at the heart of the ‘video games as service’ model adopted by Epic Games in the 2012.

Could artists be charged per track upload? Will Bandcamp and third-party revenue shares increase? There’s a thousand and one ways these microtransactions could take place.

Bandcamp Daily, the site’s daily roundup of music from all corners of the site’s marketplace (and currently staffed by some of my favorite music journalists), has proved a semi-lucrative land for any band to make- the closest to ‘front page coverage’ many of us could ever dream of.

But under a microtransactional system BCD could be targeted for payola, given a SubmitHub-esque ‘pay to play’ entry, or even require a paid subscription to read. But all of this is currently wild speculation. None of these things are known.

Regardless, none of the BCD writers or editorial staff deserve the flak and harassment they’ve received since the news first broke. It seems fairly safe to assume that their opinions in the sale of the company, whether for or against, would have had little to no effect on upper management’s decision to pursue selling off the company. And that’s assuming they even knew about it before it happened!

Wild speculation is simply that. We have absolutely no certainty of what the future will hold, but we can look at a Epic’s trajectory…

Disintegration: Bedfellows of A Metaverse

The past few years has shown Epic Games making a series of funding rounds and acquisitions, the latter of which predominantly being video game developers and digital tool makers.

From a post on the Epic Games website, April 13th, 2021, “Today Epic Games announced that it completed a $1 billion round of funding, which will allow the company to support future growth opportunities. Epic’s equity valuation is now $28.7 billion. 

This round includes an additional $200M strategic investment from Sony Group Corporation, which builds on the already close relationship between the two companies and reinforces their shared mission to advance the state of the art in technology, entertainment, and socially-connected online services…”

The article goes on to state founder and CEO Tim Sweeney is still the controlling shareholder of Epic, and includes the following statement from Sweeney himself:

“We are grateful to our new and existing investors who support our vision for Epic and the Metaverse. Their investment will help accelerate our work around building connected social experiences in Fortnite, Rocket League and Fall Guys, while empowering game developers and creators with Unreal Engine, Epic Online Services and the Epic Games Store.”

Tim Sweeney, Epic Games CEO and Founder

It’s hard to see the acquisition of Bandcamp as anything but an extension of Epic’s metaverse aspirations. But how would Bandcamp fit within a privately-owned domain such as a metaverse?

Sony Group Corporation is only one unnerving bedfellow of Epic Games. The Shenzhen, China-based multinational conglomerate Tencent Holdings Ltd has owned a 40% stake in Epic Games since 2012, and was a guiding force in Epic’s move to a ‘games as service’ business model. Putting some Bandcamp users’ xenophobia aside, in an article written by Tim Ingham for Music Business Worldwide reported that “Tencent now controls 10% of [Universal Music Group], 9% of Spotify… and Nearly 2% of Warner Music Group”.

It’s this selling out, albeit indirectly, to the very behemoths of the music industry which feels like such a betrayal. That these music industry giants are some of the main bread-winners of the currently dominant streaming model, a platform in which the artist disproportionately suffers, only brings that uneasy feeling of a death knell. 

There was a strain of online discourse encouraging Bandcamp to enhance streaming function on its mobile app during the most recent Spotifallout: a debate over better pay and the ethics of streaming drowned out by a Neal Young-leveled ultimatum over vaccine misinformation on the Spotify-backed Joe Rogan podcast. But others have warned over losing focus on Bandcamp’s core-function as a direct B2C (business-to-consumer) e-commerce marketplace.

Would a corporation as big as Epic Games, backed by a multinational conglomerate and having multiple ties to streaming-platform breadwinners, stay true to their claim of “building the most artist friendly platform that enables creators to keep the majority of their hard-earned money”?

The wool may not be pulled over people’s eyes, that doesn’t mean the rug won’t be pulled out from under them.

REVIEW: Weed & Dolphins – Islandkid Cassette (2017)

Sure, it came out on cassette, but it’s also part of the album’s name. Islandkid Cassette is the 2017 full length release by Belarusian Indie Rock and Alternative Hip-Hop outfit Weed & Dolphins. Filled with dreamy glazed-out guitar riffs and reverb-drenched drum machines, Islandkid Cassette shows a band developing their sound in a world of good vibes indie rock.

While there is nothing particularly profound about the album, Weed & Dolphins deliver a multitude of easy going tunes worthy of attention. It’s an early effort that makes me excited to see where Weed & Dolphins will go with their craft. They’ve certainly left many routes open to explore with Islandkid Cassette, and we’ve since seen maturity with their 2019 single High.

They’ve released a steady trickle of singles across the last year or so and where ever they go with their music they surely make it interesting, so be on the lookout for their work!

For fans of: Bass Drum of Death, Arctic Monkeys, Damaged Bug

Like Weed & Dolphins? Give these a listen: Why?, Stevie, KAPUTT

An Interview With Grass Jaw

Grass Jaw is the solo recording project of musician and father Brendan Kuntz. The project’s 4th album Anticipation will be out November 5th, 2021 on vinyl and via digital download. Written and recorded while moving from Jersey City, NJ to Ithaca, NY, Anticipation blends elements of slowcore, alt-country and garage rock. The songs on this record reflect the tumult that happens during such a transition, covering depression, self-awareness, and super-anxiety that goes with parenting.

The following interview with Kuntz took place over email in September 2021.

You reached out to me through Resident Sound’s contact page, as occasionally happens with folks, and we started talking. Being an independent solo project you take on all artistic and business responsibilities yourself. What do you find to be the biggest struggle with getting through to people, be it artistically or promotionally, and where have you found success in this struggle?

Building an audience is something that took me a painfully long time to figure out. I played in a band in NYC from 2005 – 2015 and we didn’t play many shows (especially after the first few years) because shows usually were sparsely attended and seemed not worth the trouble. We all worked 9-5 jobs and had a hard time justifying being out until 4 to play to 5 or fewer people. After a while we mostly stopped trying, and would basically play only when invited by friends, which ended up happening more frequently out of town. During much of this time I was also in the process of trying to figure out how to function socially without alcohol, and it was very rare for me to go out and see other local bands, because it was uncomfortable to go out. In general, as a band, we weren’t really connecting with other people (and especially musicians) locally, so it makes sense that we didn’t have an audience.

Around 5 years ago, after my youngest son was born, I felt a strong need to get out of the house occasionally, and started seeing more live music. Going to a show, I would find I liked the opening band, or I would meet someone in the audience who played in a band or even just liked the same bands, and after a while it became shockingly clear what I had missed out on by not connecting with music people during that time. At first I felt a ton of anxiety about being the weird old guy at shows (especially basement shows!), but after a while it subsided. I lived in such a great music town, but for years didn’t really know or value local bands. It’s a little embarrassing. The other side of it is that eventually I did start going out more and more (of course still limited with a day job, 2 kids, and a wife who has her own interests) and meet a lot of people. Many of those people have been so supportive as I’ve started making my own music. I’m very appreciative of having music friends who share their own music with me, and will also listen to what I make. For family reasons I am not in a place to play live much or tour, and I know that’s an impediment to growing an audience much beyond where it’s at today, but I’m at peace with that (although I do hope to tour again someday when my kids are older, just to make more of those friendships in different places.)

Smaller musicians usually don’t receive the luxury (or burden) of having their entire catalog over-analyzed and ‘made straight’ by fans and journalists. What is the Brendan Kuntz / Grass Jaw narrative thus far? How did Grass Jaw come to be where it is now?

I’ve played drums for most of my life now (almost 30 years at this point.) I started playing with some kids in 8th grade in a band, and have basically played in some iteration of that band on and off since 1992 I think.  I went to school for recording and after college moved to the city to work in a recording studio.  I thought working in a studio like that was my dream job, but it ended up being one of the worst jobs I’ve ever had.  It left no time for playing music (or anything else) and also didn’t pay near enough to live on – it seemed like most of the people who were doing ok there had some other source of income or support.  After a while I gave up on it and found another job outside of music, and also started playing in a band again.

I love the group of people in this band, and love playing with them, but at different times in my life have felt like I wanted to have more of a voice than is typically afforded to the drummer.  Around five years ago I saw a show (it was Bad History Month) and the one guy in the band was singing, playing guitar and doing kind of a one man band thing on drums at the same time.  He’s one of my favorite artists and I was so excited to see him, but it was also kind of a realization that I could make music on my own and didn’t need to wait around or rely on any other people. So I basically just started writing some songs, and worked on recording them at home until I had an album’s worth. I asked for feedback on that first record from a trusted friend / bandmate and asked him to be brutally honest, and he helped me think about things like editing and crafting in a way that I hadn’t thought too much about as a drummer (like why am I bringing this part back, or what purpose does this section serve).

Listening back to that album now there are definitely some rough edges that can be hard for me to listen to, but I’m also proud of it as something that I set out to do and finished. It reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend about tattoos a long time ago – I was asking him if he still liked all of his tattoos, and he basically said he would probably make different choices if he were to do it over today, but he’s glad he has them to remember where he was at. On that first record I was really just figuring out how to do things. I made another one a year later that felt like it came bubbling out of me, like those songs just had to get out and I just needed to figure out how to translate them. And with each record I’ve made (this is my fourth) the process feels a bit more natural, and capturing sounds feels more natural, and it’s just amazing how things come together when compared with that first album where it felt like I was pushing a truck uphill.  

Many musicians have credited their environment (landscape, weather, crime rate, etc.) with influencing their sound. Do you find this to be the case with your music, and if so, how has the move from New Jersey to New York state changed your approach?

I grew up near where I live now and I’ve always had a bit of a country streak in me musically, so it’s hard to say when it comes out how much is from my current environment, and how much is just ingrained, but it is there. I think one of the biggest things that’s pretty easy to hear in the newest record (after the move) is the effect this past winter had on me. It was probably the bleakest winter I’ve ever experienced, and it affected my mood and songwriting deeply. There was one stretch of about a month where I was literally shoveling every day, often 2-3 times a day just to keep up, and it seemed like it was never going to relent. I was in a cold dark place physically and emotionally, and I think it’s pretty apparent when listening to it. 

For you, what has your identity in being a musician given you that you don’t find else where? How do you approach the dissonance of daily life (responsibilities) and the art life?

I remember being in middle school and feeling deeply unhappy and lonely, just feeling like I didn’t know where I fit in, and hating going to school and being ignored (at best) or bullied. Towards the end of middle school grunge became a thing, and there was a lot of rock music on the radio and on MTV, and I would come home every day after school and play (drums) along to some of those albums. After a couple months I heard about some other kids that were trying to start a band, so I asked if I could try out. The next year as a freshman in high school was so much better, because there was a thing I was good at and I had some friends who liked some of the same things and could spend time with. I still had a pretty typical high school experience with bullying and struggling to fit in, but it was light years better than it had been before I found music. To this day, almost all of my closest relationships have some connection to music, and I’m very thankful to have found it.

Around the time when my wife and I were expecting our second child we decided we needed more space to raise a family, and we decided to do some renovations to our apartment. We were fortunate enough to be able to also add some extra space for a music room. For the first time in my adult life I had a drum set and other music gear in my home and could play without having to travel an hour and a half to the practice space we’d been renting for years. Ironically, having a space to make music at home came just as our 2nd child was born and all of a sudden it became harder than ever to find the time to make music. That said, my wife and I have always been really good at giving each other the space to pursue individual interests and maintain friendships. Up until last year we both have tried to give each other a free weekend 3-4 times a year. I also work remotely, and have been fortunate over the years to be able to sometimes (when my schedule allows) spend my lunch hour working on a new song. But of course it’s hard trying to fit inspiration into those little windows. There have been lots of times when a melody or lyric idea will come to me when I’m with the kids or working, and if I can manage it I’ll pull out my phone and quickly record it into voice notes and hope it translates later on. Or sometimes there’s just too much else happening and it’s lost, and I have to just trust that more ideas will come.

You’re far from the first parent musician, but maybe that’s a journey one takes alone. Do you see your struggles and stresses in the work of past musicians? How has becoming a parent shaped your view of your own artistic work?

I honestly haven’t put too much thought into this, but I’m having a hard time coming up with many artists where there’s a clear connection between parenting and the music. I know there are lots of great musicians who had kids – one that comes to mind is Neil Young, I know his son had special needs that took a huge amount of focus and dedication, and it’s amazing that he was able to make any music for all of those years, but he was putting a record out almost every year, for decades.  I think he comes to mind first because we both had kids with special needs. It’s something that can take over your life, and it can be hard to maintain perspective.
One thing that is surprising to me is that I can’t think of much music that directly focuses on the feeling of being a bad parent, which I think is strange because it’s an extremely strong feeling that I think most parents experience. Or maybe it’s not being a bad parent, but not the right parent for your kid and working through that and trying to do better. It’s complicated, and it’s hard and it seems like a shared experience that could help other people with kids.

On a related note, I struggle with how much I should share about my own personal life, especially when it relates to my kids.  How are they going to feel about some of these songs when they’re older that are obviously about them, or about our relationship?  In a lot of ways, songwriting is a form of therapy for me.  When I’m writing music, it helps me process and think about what I’m feeling, what’s bothering me, what I want to change.  Sometimes it just helps me get a bad day out of my system.  I worry about how my kids might take those songs when they’re older, but I also want to be open and honest with them, because I want that kind of relationship with them.

A little question for people to nerd out on. What are you listening to? No cool answers!

Hmm, this is probably a “cool answer” but I am such a big fan of Exploding in Sound, and love almost everything they put out. It’s just automatic at this point that I buy every single thing they release.  The records they put out this year from Floatie, Thirdface, and Stuck have been in heavy rotation.  Last year it was Shell of a Shell, Dig Nitty and Knot. And the year before that there were records by Human People and Maneka that were amazing.

Non EIS records I love, Thalia Zedek – Perfect Vision, Squitch – Learn to be Alone, The Chives – THE CHIVES, Writhing Squares – Chart for the Solution, Frank & The Hurricanes – S/T

Regarding less cool stuff – lately almost everything I listen to is “new”, so it’s hard to say. I’m in my 40s, I don’t know what’s cool 🙂 As far as older stuff I just started to get back into Q and Not U. I always loved that first record but never really connected with the follow ups. A month or two ago someone suggested I go back and give the other albums another chance, and it’s just crazy how I missed it. I love it, especially Different Damage. As far as really old stuff, I can put on Thin Lizzy just about anytime and it’s an instant mood enhancer.

Hmm, what else? There was this one track thing a few years ago that I hope more people will listen to, it’s on Bandcamp, the artist is “Debbie” who I think is the primary singer / writer from Human People. I love just clicking through Bandcamp and finding new stuff.  It’s funny how many times I’ve wasted an hour scrolling through Netflix or whatever service looking for something to watch before bed. If I decide to instead spend that hour clicking / scrolling through Bandcamp, it is almost always a better use of that time. I also remember getting weirdly into Hawaiian teenage pop-punk around the time I turned 40.  There was a band called Aura Bora that had one amazing record.

Last thing –  my kids also love Weird Al (I’ve always had a soft spot for him as well) and it’s super fun to put on some of those records and just have fun with them and they are so catchy cause they’re based on radio hits that of course have great melodies, etc… I think one of my favorite lyrics of all time is actually from Weird Al’s I Think I’m A Clone Now; “I can be my own best friend and I can send myself for pizza” is hilarious but also kind of strangely dark and unsettling.

Last but not least, run what ya brung! Tell the people about your latest record Anticipation and where they can find it!

Thanks! Yeah, I am so excited about this record.  This is the first one I’ve done where every song is extremely personal, every song is part of my story, there’s no fiction or even really exaggeration.  This all happened to me.  There’s a lot of dark stuff on this record, but it does end on a hopeful note, and anyway, what kind of psychopath would be making a happy record after the last 18 months (or the last 20 years)?

It’s coming out on Nov 5th in all the usual streaming places, it’s also on Bandcamp and there is vinyl available as well for those who would like it.  I’m hoping to have a couple more features / premieres before the official release, and I will usually post that kind of thing on Twitter (@brendankuntz)

You can find Grass Jaw over at their Bandcamp, or find Brendan Kuntz on Twitter here.

REVIEW: Arigarnon Friend’s – Muscle Memories (2021)

Arigarnon Friend’s pop sensibilities and mid-west emo stylings lend themselves to the emotional intensity expelled on each track. Delicate angular guitar sweeps and bubbling sappy melodies sit atop grumbling bass and agile musicianship. Every moment of this album is well utilized to push the emotions behind each song further and further. Arigarnon Friend’s Muscles Memories is the emotions of a good hard cry processed and packaged into a well-used 25 minutes 47 seconds.

Opening tracks Timing and ACCEL come bursting through the speakers; each instrument played with such passion as to feel as if the band could reach out and touch the listener. Use of minor chord eeriness and group backing vocals on track Wallow help expand Arigarnon Friend’s sound while keeping the more straight forward songs on the album still feeling fresh.

There aren’t any drastic stylistic changes on Muscle Memories. It’s mostly pop-punk and mid-western emo, but Arigarnon Friends treat the individual creation of each song with the artistic intent and tailoring needed to keep songs from becoming stale. By doing so, the album as a whole stays interesting and feeling emotionally sincere.

Closing track FRIENDS delivers sparse verses contrasted by wall of sound choruses. Its vocal melody delivering a distinct feeling somewhere near melancholy before the whole song burns up under the accelerating pace of a misty reverb guitar solo.

And as quickly as it burst through the speakers, it went.

For fans of: Hot Hot Heat, Frankie Cosmos, The Fastbacks

Like Arigarnon Friend’s? Give these a listen: Hazy Sour Cherry, Knola, Full of Fancy

The Best Show No One Attended + Brief Thoughts on Non-Anglophone Music

A few years ago I made a point to work non-anglophone bands into my music listening habits. I started off picking a country. In this case Japan, as city pop was starting to blowup in the west and, let’s be honest, they’re some of the best pop records released in past 50 years. But what really drove me not only to start with Japan but to make an active decision to listen to non-anglophonic music was seeing the Japanese punk band X-L Fits.

As recounted in my review of Cal Folger Day (Ireland), it was another rainy Tuesday night. I worked at a record store that doubled as a show space. X-L Fits played to a room of maybe 7 people including myself and the owner of the shop. I was blown away, practically the best punk (or even punk adjacent) band I had ever seen.

The 5 attendees stood there beer in hand, watching these 3 guys grind and groan, rock and slam. They finished, the attendees left, and I had a brief conversation in which one of the members and I hand signaled and gestured the best we could to get across his beer order (PBR) and about how great the set was.

I bought all their merch, then X-L Fits packed up and left. I closed the shop and walked to my car, thinking about all the people who had missed out on such a life changing show.

It was at this moment I realized I was missing out as well. The barrier of learning another language, or even deciding which language to dedicate myself to loomed over me. I still haven’t made that decision (unfortunately), but I did make the decision to know more non-anglophonic music.

This was all stirred up again while reviewing Sophia Chablau e Uma Enorme Perda De Tempo’s self titled album. Their song Hello even toys with language barriers, or maybe it mocks monolingual English speakers (guilty).

But there is a world of music out there that is overlooked by American audiences due to language barriers. Why does that stop us? Even when people can understand the lyrics, the message is usually lost on most people willing to talk about their supposedly ‘favorite’ bands. Not understanding what is being said has never stopped monolingual audiences from enjoying music.

So pick a genre you like, pick a country you are intrigued by, and dive in. You’ll be rewarding yourself with more than you realize.

Wanna discover some non-anglophonic music right now? Here’s what we recommend:

Sophia Chablau e Uma Enorme Perda De Tempo (Brazilian indie rock)

Hazy Sour Cherry (Japanese indie)

Lyon Estates (Italian hardcore punk)

We also recommend the article Why Russia’s Indie Musicians Don’t Sing in English Anymore by Marco Biasioli over at The Conversation.

REVIEW: Sophia Chablau e Uma Enorme Perda De Tempo – Sophia Chablau e Uma Enorme Perda De Tempo (2021)

Sophia Chablau e Uma Enorme Perda De Tempo is an indie rock band from São Paulo, Brazil. Formed in 2019, the band recently released their self-titled debut album in 2021.

Sophia Chablau e Uma Enorme Perda De Tempo opens with Pop Cabecinha, a burst of jazzy indie rock punctuated by the band’s lo-fi punk energy. Vocalist and guitarist Sophia Chablau’s fragile but versatile vocal style holds its own even as the album shifts between rougher lo-fi and more delicate indie songs.

The soft intimacy of Se Você is covered in a trailing fog of reverb. The song slowly swells and swells, crashing down upon the listener like a giant wave taking us out to sea, awash in melancholia. Drummer Theo Ceccato’s delicate cymbal work guides us through further melancholy on the following track Fora do Meu Quarto.

Over the next few tracks a more distorted and lo-fi quality takes over. Blown out bass and guitar feature prominently on Deus Lindo, yet don’t distract from the music at hand.

Jazz influence throughout the album comes across more directly on song Hello, another intimate guitar and vocal track with a distinct warmth behind it. This light jazz quality across the album can draw similarities to the French pop genre yé-yé.

Similar to yé-yé artists is the band’s willingness to incorporate just about any influence. Starting with the indie rock, the band proceeds to branch out through intimacy, lo-fi and jazz before eventually embracing a healthy level of funk trappings on song Debaixo do Pano. Returning to a more straight laced indie sound on Moças e Aeromoças, Chablau and company branch out one last time, closing on the indie disco track Delícia/Luxúria.

Overall, Sophia Chablau e Uma Enorme Perda De Tempo is an accessible and fulfilling work that rewards the highs and lows of our emotional palettes. We recommend you go give this a listen.

For fans of: Interpol, Frankie Cosmos, April March

Like Sophia Chablau? Give these a listen: Hospitality, Jack Hardy, Klarcnova

REVIEW: Grouper – Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill (2008)

Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill opens with Disengaged, an appropriately titled grief-riddled song popular to certain streaming algorithms. Every note is obscured in muddied overdrive and cavernous reverb. Unlike the music it serves so well, it’s an artistic choice that is far from subtle.

By synth or silence, tracks flow seamlessly into the next. After Disengaged, the listener is treated to a suite of dreamy acoustic guitar oriented songs, layers upon layers of delicate vocal tracks serve more as a chorus than self-backing. Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill is a floral tapestry of ethereal agony. It’s psychedelic doom channeled through folk and singer/songwriter sensibilities.

Grouper is Liz Harris, an American musician born in 1980 and raised in a Fourth Way commune in the Bay Area of California. This, and how she chose the name Grouper (members of the commune were called “groupers”) is an oft echoed anecdote of her life in which the greater story of Grouper’s work is generally affixed to by fans and reporters alike.

Pulled from a 2008 article by Cary Clarke for the Portland Mercury, a quote from Harris: “I guess this album partly ended up being me thinking about the past, and the way we carry around the dead festering weight of it for a long time, or I did anyway, and how maybe we have to leave it off somewhere at some point, even if the ghosts of its carcass come back to haunt and talk to us at night.”

The album crashes to a close with engulfing waves of delay on track Tidal Wave before drifting away on the outgoing tide that is We’ve All Gone To Sleep.

For fans of: Chelsea Wolfe, Cocteau Twins, Snail Mail

Like Grouper? Give these a listen: Charlie Megira, Last Frost, Polyphonic Shooting Spree

REVIEW: Myles Manley – AAA (2020)

Myles Manley’s 2020 EP release AAA is what Of Montreal and other indie bands of the late-naughts would have tried to be if they had carried higher artistic aspirations. A lush yet intimate recording, AAA is an intricate tapestry of emotion.

Myles Manley’s work is a great example of metamodernist ‘new sincerity’ within music. Humor briefly flourishes before being struck back down by underlying pain, all made very real by a high-degree of sonic intimacy. AAA is by no means a record that will be playing over the grandstands of your sporting locale. No, this one is best heard in your room, at night, speaker in reach. Opening track I Took On America And Won has been through my headphones a couple dozen times while wandering the local graveyards, and if you’re given the chance to do so I would highly recommend it.

Sometimes it can be difficult to understand if the lyrics should be interpreted in an abstract, surreal manner, or painfully direct and honest. While maybe not intended, this does allow for AAA to burn slowly with layered re-listening and reinterpretation. What is certain is that AAA is a triumph of the extended-play format, and ought to make it into your listening rotation should you find yourself alone anytime in the near future.

For fans of: Why?, The Angst, Sibylle Baier

Like Myles Manley? Give these a listen: Cal Folger Day, Concetta Abbate, András Cséfalvay

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