Math Rock band Snooze has released their latest EP, "Still", via Choke Artist. The band faced the tragic loss of their bass player Camron Grom back in March and have dedicated this album to his memory.
This is primarily the work of Logan Voss (Guitars, Bass, Vocals, Keys, Lyrics) who is joined by Anup Sastry (Drums, Mixing, Mastering), Cameron Grom (Bass (Toilot), Lyrics (Feels Bad)), and Lucia Sarmiento (Alto Sax (Feels Bad)). Voss and Sastry recently appeared on the Choke Artist Podcast to discuss the recording process and the EP in general.
Daria – Could they make the holidays any more vulgar?
Jane – I hope so.
Daria – What?
Jane – The more debased they become, the less reason to celebrate them, and the less reason for my family to get together, until presto! I’m finally alone on Thanksgiving with a TV dinner
“Depth Takes A Holiday” (Daria S03/E03, aired 1999) opens with the exchange quoted above between our anti-social hero Daria Morgendorffer and her partner-in-sarcasm Jane Lane as they watch a TV ad for show-within-a-show “Sick Sad World” featuring a pitchman hyping a story about a massive Nativity scene constructed at the mall in the month of August. The half hour that follows is a surreal parody of the “very special holiday episode” (VSHE) that’s a fixture of TV-Landia around this time of year.
The typical VSHE features a cast of characters—usually a biological family or a ragtag surrogate family—who together overcome a series of serio-comic misadventures on their way to a happy, heartwarming holiday celebration; or more typically for the 21st century, on their way to a disastrous, uproarious failure to meet the heightened expectations of the holiday season. Either way, what’s rarely questioned in these episodes is the sacrosanct nature of the holidays themselves, and their vision of an ideal world often based more in fantasy than anything resembling reality.
Daria, of course, breaks with VSHE conventions and parodies the heck out of them instead. A groundbreaking animated series that turned the Bechdel test on its head and set a new standard for realistic hot takes on high school (not to mention its fantastic soundtrack that’ll never make it onto a DVD or Blu-Ray release) “Depth Takes A Holiday” departs even from the show’s own conventions with its wholesale flight into fantasy. Centered on an array of holidays in human form—Halloween is a goth rock chick, Guy Fawkes Day is a Sid Vicious lookalike, etc.—the plot revolves around several of them escaping “Holiday Island” through a wormhole behind a Chinese restaurant in search of fame as a hip-hop-punk-electronica band in the suburban purgatory of Lawndale. It’s up to Daria and Jane, with the help of an overgrown Cupid and a cranky Brit-baiting Saint Patrick’s Day, to restore the (very relatively speaking) natural order of things by ushering the errant holidays back to their island. Like I said, pretty surreal stuff.
True to form the episode’s Holiday Island turns out to be its own sick, sad world with its own sick, sad Lawndale-like high school chock full of weirdos and petty rivalries between the holidays. A bizarre, tossed-off seasonal affective disorder fable, “Depth Takes A Holiday” is also the perfect teachable moment for late 2020. The lesson being not to believe the holiday hype and that you’re usually better off just staying the f*ck home. Besides to do otherwise is to risk the ire of a girl in a pleated skirt, combat boots and Edna Mode specs who’s expert at tossing off withering disses delivered in monotone. (A question for another day: did Daria invent SoundCloud rap?)
Speaking of Daria in the present day, the Daria-loving four-piece who go by the name Climates recently put out a cover of the show’s iconic opening theme song “You’re Standing on My Neck.” It’s perfectly suited to the Brooklynites’ self-designated “glitter grunge” sound, “Seether”-style harmonies (sounds like the Breeders) and feminist politics. Their cover version can be heard on SoundCloud and on Spotify or purchased wherever records and tapes are sold (yeah better stick to streaming for now). It’s lucky for all involved that Splendora bequeathed to the world those five “nyah-nyah, nyah-nyah-nyah” notes that ring out Close Encounters-style at the start, and bridge and the ending of “Standing On My Neck”–a clarion call to tribes of disaffected kids, and to girls and young women in particular who appreciate the “strongly layered female characters” on the show.
Once you’ve had time to fully take in the Climates version of the theme song and it’s source material you may want to check out this article on Splendora. Another Brooklyn-spawned-all-female band, led by two sisters who today work in Manhattan’s high powered publishing industry, they never quite received their due and disbanded soon after Daria hit the airwaves and cable boxes of America, languishing in no small part due to limited resources dedicated to the promotion of female bands at the time. It’s a shame as their one and only full album release from 1995 is a solid piece of work. One can only hope that better is in store for Climates–despite some minor obstacles like a pandemic that makes it impossible to practice or a band member relocating to Seattle–because even with just a handful of songs on record so far they’ve already proven some serious songwriting chops and an ability to command a stage. This interview with Climates from Chez Nous highlights some of the challenges still faced by female-identified bands but they appear prepared to power through.
And finally, after ingesting every recorded version of “You’re Standing On My Neck” and watching the five-season run of Daria in full, you would be well advised to check out the Climates’ single below released earlier this year. “Super 8” is a song that has some interesting things to communicate about the nature of fantasy and reality and the porous line between the two–the throughline to my ramblings here if you’re being generous–with lyrics revolving around the idea that our lives are at their most "real" when our lives feel most like we’re living in a movie. Super 8 film is a consumer-oriented motion picture format that spawned the home movie explosion of the ‘60s and ‘70s–you can hear the sound of an old-style film projector in the intro of the song–technology that led directly to the videotape boom of the ‘80s and ultimately to our current show-me-your-phone-video-or-it-didn’t-happen social media era.
Maybe it’s overreaching but I’m putting it out there that this song speaks to a transformation in our collective consciousness that’s still taking place today where we continually narrative our very own “very special episodes” 24/7 to an adoring audience, or an ignoring audience, but who can really tell the difference half the time. Either way the song is a moodily seductive banger that’ll mash up your mind with its killer earworm chorus: “big things get in the way / we’re filming away."
Although admittedly I sometimes hear that first line as “fake things get in the way" and don’t know which is correct but maybe this sense of ambiguity and uncertainty is the realest thing of all. (Jason Lee)
“Picture this in glitter and smoke
hold the camera steady
Candy-flossed clouds, who’s the boss now
sugar on the lenses and the roses in the ground”
Three high school friends, Gigi Reece, Nora Cheng, and Penelope Lowenstein, formed Horsegirl last year and this month packaged the three songs they have written, the newest being "Ballroom Dance Scene", into a wonderful new EP. It is that new song that has landed the trio in the spotlight, on NPR and in the Tribune, and when you listen you will hear why.
"Ballroom Dance Scene" is the perfect balance of odd, beautiful, deadpan, and graceful as it builds and swirls like the dance scene it is depicting. It brings to mind the sounds of Nico, Bell & Sebastian, Sebadoh, and Stereolab, and if you check out the girl weekly radio hour you may get a better sense of their vibe.
This is the Indie Pop sound of Jackie Heuser, Brad Harvey, and Kevin Provencher, and truly sets this group apart is the vocal pairing of Heuser and Harvey. On "Break U Down", Harvey takes the lead, but is joined by Heuser in the chorus for harmonies that instantly elevate the track. On "YDLM" they reverse the formula, but still find great results. It seems to be one of the magically creative pairings that will hopefully be making outstanding Pop music for years to come.
Noise Rock trio Drowns has released their debut EP, "We Will Not Survive This", via Weed Cabinet Records. As the title suggests, this EP is exploring the darker side of the times we find ourselves in with elements of angry, fear, and horror.
The band Bambara is something like a good marriage. A decade in and their music keeps getting better and better, while still remaining reliably Bambara-ish, fully basking in its tent-revival-post-punk glory. On their most recent LP Stray these Georgia transplants (ok so the Bambara boys moved here nearly a decade ago, but still let’s all give a big big-up to that most swingin’-est of swing states) locked themselves in a windowless Brooklyn basement (pre-pandemic mind you) and worked out a new batch of death-rattle songs that’ll make you wanna go out and grab life by its naughty bits so be sure to listen in its entirety if you wanna get that uncanny life-and-death-drive-all-at-once feeling.
Here’s the real reason for this writeup: Bambara is known to absolutely tear it up live and in March they taped a live set just under the lockdown wire which was posted online a couple months ago and which this writer just happened to come across recently. So we need to know, do you miss live music? I mean, do you really miss it? Do you really really miss it and really really need it? Well do you? Yeah? How bad? Ahhhhh ok, I see! Well allow the DELI to be your plug then because this scorching four-song set with interview intermission, taped by the good people at Seattle’s KEXP over on the other coast, captures Bambara’s raw intensity in all its intense rawness. And they seem like really nice guys, awww.
That said lead extemporizer Reid Bateh performs throughout with a street-preacher-foaming-at-the-mouth-level intensity to the point where by the end of this brisk 22 minutes there’s a good chance you’ll be converted. Plus his energy level is matched by the band’s playing and we promise you that barely two minutes into the first song when touring guitarist Sammy Zalta goes all Travis Bickle on his guitar you will damn well wanna go out and massacre a den of pimps yourself. Stay cruel for me, baby, indeed. (Jason Lee)
photo credit: Daggers For Eyes
Paper Jackets are honest about the state of things this year but do splash some pastels and creams on their sonic portrait aptly titled “I’m Depressed.” The new track, accompanied by a vivid visualizer, is charged up with sticky indie-pop hooks, tambourine jingles, dirty electric guitar sustains, and a thunderous beat that all help it reach anthemic territories. Limited human interactions may be the influence for “I’m Depressed,” but the sound of it is one of community, a loud and colorful one at that. The band is looking ahead to 2021 as it will release Souvnenirs Volume Two, the follow-up to the first volume released this past summer. Stream “I’m Depressed” below for another take on 2020, one honest with all its emotions. – René Cobar
Dream-pop music is often judged by the vivid sonic worlds it can create, crystallized sounds that take shape as you listen, by that standard Sleep Still’s new song “The Panoramic” flows with elegance and swells into a wonderful soundscape. Using sharp synth sustains and liquid-like electric guitars buzzing, Sleep Still paints the track as it rides a mighty beat and follows the refined vocals of lead singer Mariam McCarthy towards the song’s whirlwind instrumental finale. The music video for the song is simple and powerful in its imagery: sonic patterns made human, vulnerable, and empowered at once. Rest and reflection exist in this new entry by Sleep Still; stream the new video below for a closer look at the movements that make us whole. – René Cobar
Subhi has released the latest single, "Wake Me Up", from her forthcoming EP. Originally from India, the independent Pop artist has been working the follow-up to her 2017 debut Shaitaan Dil for months, and wrote this track durning the first week of March. It captures that feeling of panic just before quarantine began
According to Subhi, "’Wake Me Up’ is a song about that time, about the fear of being lonely, about hopelessness, helplessness and trying to find a way to remove the darkness from the world".
The Deli isn’t sure how many résumés include qualifications like “adolescent jazz prodigy who shreds on double bass and who holds a degree from the Manhattan School of Music”, “live gig played with Jeff Goldblum", “appearance on a U. of Miami musicology panel alongside Ben Folds”, “taking a left turn into indie rockdom with a widely-praised debut LP in the format”, and finally, “co-writing a hit song with Ms. Sharon Van Etten”. Based on these credentials, if you’re ever competing with Kate Davis for a job whatever it may be, we’ll just go ahead and wish you better luck next time.
In case you’ve not seen nor heard the music video for the Von Etten/Kate Davis collab the song is a lovely aching ode to adolescence (Rachel Trachtenburg plays Sharon’s younger doppelganger in the video) and on the visual side it’s a lovely aching ode to NYC independent music venues–past and present, living and deceased–with full knowledge that the city plows on as always steamrolling its past and building who knows what in its place.
Back to Kate Davis. Her latest release dropped yesterday–a sneak preview single from her upcoming full-album tribute to Daniel Johnston (1961-2019) who was an OG of what some people call “outsider music." Johnston launched his music career by handing out cassettes of his homemade music at the McDonald’s where he worked in Austin, Texas ("would you like some fries with your free copy of Songs of Pain?") and then crashing the stage when MTV was in the city filming a special on "The New Sincerity" which hardly anyone remembers anymore. Now that’s DIY. Also those photos you’ve seen of Kurt Cobain wearing a t-shirt that says “Hi, How Are You” that’s Daniel Johnston.
Back to Kate Davis, really this time. Kate says "when I first heard Daniel Johnston I was struck by the directness and clarity in his writing. I wanted to gain perspective into that directness." See below for her stirring rendition of “Oh No” and see below that for Ms. Davis discussing the bond she feels with Daniel Johnston–his unique gift for songwriting and his lifelong struggle with mental health issues.
Strange Boy: Daniel Johnston ‘Retired Boxer’ Cover Album is being released in conjunction with the Hi, How Are You Project, an NPO formed by Daniel Johnston’s family to raise awareness around and remove stigma from mental illness. You can pre-order it on blue vinyl whoooooa like how much more blue, none more blue! But before the album drops in early 2021 you’d be advised to check out her already-existing one called Trophy. Kate’s music casts an intimate glow but it can be muscular too case in point being the title track. This song has what we in the industry refer to as an arc. At first it sounds like it just needs a hug but by the middle it’s trying to seduce you and then by the end it’s ready to throttle you but consensually no doubt. (Jason Lee)
photo up top by Erica Synder