Posts Tagged ‘Baltimore’

Ricky Eat Acid

"this goes out to..."


I’ve had nearly two weeks to let Ricky Eat Acid‘s self-described “fun nightmare EP soak in among my growing obsession with a revitalized juke movement. The aftermath of a DJ Rashad era has invited waves of inspiration and has become the most thrilling genre to expand among SoundCloud feeds everywhere. Leave it to Sam Ray to prolifically find new ways to keep his multi-faceted project ahead of the curve in mixing.

Yet after digesting the brilliant intensity of Sun Over Hills and mulling over the title track especially, the EP’s softer side in “this goes out to…” shines just as brightly when going back for another listen. Really, there’s no telling which direction REA will go from here, but of course that’s where true admiration for the project lies. A subtle pitch-shifted Kreayshawn flip against the more IDM-like production sounds like a pattern that could continue to be explored.

Natural Velvet

"Baby Dear"

Natural Velvet

When the dust settled after Natural Velvet finished their set at Silent Barn last January, a musician friend proclaimed, “Natural Velvet makes Brooklyn shoegaze seem like BBMak.”

Besides being the best music review of the year, that statement is also absolutely true. Baltimore’s Natural Velvet is a captivating force—an elegantly ominous sound pillared by Corynne Ostermann’s dark velvet vox and Kim Te’s mind-blowing masterful guitar shredding.

“Baby Dear” is the third track off of Shame, the band’s recently released follow-up to last year’s smouldering debut Salome With the Head of John the Baptist. “Baby Dear” is the most direct song on the album, moving headlong through Te’s screeching guitar riffs as Ostermann repeats lines like “Baby dear, I’m not what I appear” and the chilling “my body is central to my existence / my body you read like an open book.”

Shame was released on June 26th and can be found in full via Soundcloud and Bandcamp.




Catharsis in music can take on any shade, any shape, any touch. Active listening can create a platform for any number of emotional breakthroughs. Releasing yourself into shared human experience is warm, nourishing, bountiful. It’s so powerful when you find an artist that captures that exact notion in your mind and in your heart. Especially when that notion is sex.

Baltimore R&B duo Chiffon is undoubtedly making that deliciously sexy music to get your groove on and “roll up in” some special person’s body. Their latest EP, Marble, is an unapologetic ode to getting all sensually pleasured with passionate and respectful lovemaking. These songs are filled with the unpredictable synth grooves that feel like fingers in your hair, true blue throaty grunts, and poetry all about the romancing of the stone. It’s special and it’s true; it’s super weird and it’s totally here for you. It’s everything that a fulfilling roll in the hay ought to be.

Sometimes sex and music about sex can feel a little troubling. The subject matter can often be deformed into something exploitative, shameful, or embarrassing. There are countless things in society that perpetuate this and make the terrain less navigable. However, sex should be just as natural and gratifying as any other part of a romantic relationship. And we should be able to talk openly about it. Expressing consensual and sizzling devotions of the sexual sort is important to make conversations about sex less oppressive. It’s essential to have a forum where you can talk about how much you want to make “I’ll have what she’s having” noises with somebody to show how positive that expression can be.

Marble accomplishes this tastefully, gracefully, and steamily. “Baby, tell me what you need,” opens the closing track “Deep Fantasies.” There is a clear trajectory here, to rock your world. The release even captures an imperative sense of humor that comes with sex, songs sporting a sample of the undeniable sounds of a bed squeaking. These songs are honest while totally turning you on, making you dance, or whatever it is you want to do. It’s not aggressive, but it’s sexual. I think there’s a lot of room for modern pop music to grow here, and Chiffon has lain some very impressive and tamale-tastin’ groundwork to move forward.

Stream Marble in full via Chiffon’s SoundCloud page.

Austin Tally

"Ready To Be Cold"


Baltimore musician Austin Tally sinks in and out of consciousness on a new collection of songs titled In G. It’s a “mini-album” recorded in Pennsylvania and showcases a sweet, blissed out sound that’s simple on the outside but full of complexity on the inside. The vocals on “Ready To Be Cold” swerve in and out of consciousness, coming from all angles and never settling into one constant groove.


Born Gold - Week 3


Residency is a four-part weekly journal entry brought to you by one of our favorite artists every month.

For his third entry, Born Gold‘s Cecil Frena shares an exemplary experience of why he prefers to play shows in the welcoming abode of a stranger to conventional establishments.

i’ve spoken a bit before about how doing a house-show-only tour can actually be about doing collaborative art with respect to both environment and event. nothing illustrates this more with more clarity than the show that went down last sunday in baltimore.

when we arrived it was already apparent that the show’s host was a serious artist: she had a neat house with dramatic interior design shifts in each room, a basement covered in beautiful graffiti by her own hand—and she had made born gold gum and beer.

born gold beer. awkward because i don’t drink. apparently there is also a commercially manufactured sake called ‘born gold.’

born gold gum. not awkward because i chew the shit out of gum.

the born gold tag on the graffiti wall.

the show opened with a resounding bang with a performance by elvis. here’s caroline from julia brown relishing her brief moment with the king. there was also a magician, though i can’t find any photos of him.

then julia brown played a gorgeous and intimate acoustic set in an ornate little crawlspace that was seemingly designed specifically for their colorful, wistful melodicism.

here’s an action shot of us that night—but what you can’t see is more exciting: our host was passing out LED lightsabers and weird glowing elf ears to the crowd, and also making stealth confetti attacks in sync with the beat.

when we started playing “lawn knives,” i had to suppress on-mic laughter at the insane scene before me—our host had distributed popsicle cutouts of my face to the crowd, who then directed that creepy energy back at me.

here’s the aftermath of our set.

naturally, we then went out to the porch for a bit of fire eating.

and as it turns out—our gracious host was also a balloon artist—and thus the three were coronated and sent on their way again.

we’ve been doing our best to bring people a singular art performance in the comfort of their homes. but the baltimore show, thanks to our host, Julia Brown, Elvis, and the crowd reached levels of surreal beauty that would have been frankly impossible to produce on our own. it was a night marked by the confluence of several very different creative energies—and it’s worth considering how alternative hustles such as touring houses can facilitate that confluence.

Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4

Alex G & R.L. Kelly - Split

rlkelly alex g

A few weeks ago, during my weekly radio show, after a lengthy set of East Coast lo-fi indie pop, I referred to the songs as “tweemo” music. It’s a horribly gaudy and generic categorization, but there is a bit of truth to the name. Because starting last year and running full force through 2013, there has been a considerable scene growing in indie’s underground. With a focus on plaintive, lo-fi songs mostly released on cassette and spearheaded by labels like Brooklyn’s Birdtapes and Orchid Tapes, tape hiss and confessional lyrics has been yet again growing a small, yet dedicated, fanbase.

Alex G has been there from the beginning. Perhaps not directly involved with the scene’s inner workings, but as a direct influence on some of it’s biggest breakouts so far: bands like Julia Brown, Pill Friends, Attic Abasement, and Elvis Depressedly. His two albums last year, Trick and Rules didn’t so much as fly under the radar as they dug a hole under the radar station and infiltrated it from the inside. In just over a year Alex has gone from local DIY hero to being included on a list of “20 Indie Classics” with the likes of Minor Threat, Bright Eyes, Slowdive, and The Microphones.

R.L. Kelly, on the other hand, is a brand new addition to this crew. The solo project of Kiss Kiss Fantastic‘s Rachel Levy, her debut album Life’s a Bummer was released this February to much fanfare. Both artists occupy a very specific space of melancholy that highlights devastation in life’s minutiae. “I don’t like how things change,” Alex crooned late last year. “How it hurts to change when everything is not enough,” Rachel echoed just a few months later.

There are few moments of pure joy on Split, though the catharsis does feel somewhat relieving. The songs are short and affective, like a knife directly to your ribs. There are hooks piled on top of hooks, but when you catch yourself singing, “What I need to be okay with myself / and everybody else,” while walking down the street, it’s a little disconcerting. Out of all the admirable things about this collaboration, the ability of these two musicians to mask their crushing lyrics under literal pop perfection might the most admirable.

R.L. Kelly’s side deals mainly with mental struggles: coping with depression, anxiety, and feelings of worthlessness. “Everyday” builds itself around an overblown bass loop while Levy questions—but doesn’t necessarily challenge—her self-deprecating mental state. The chorus-less “Fake Out” attempts to personify the hidden glowing thing that “floats next to” her bed, eventually consuming her entirely. The third track on her side, “The Voices,” ends with the devastating resolution: “Ask the voice in my head, ‘Am I’m okay?’ / She says, ‘Get out of my head.’” The mental battle is nonstop, and ends in just under seven minutes. It’s a wrenching, beautiful continuation of her debut record—something somehow simultaneously more accessible and yet equally upsetting.

Alex G, on the other hand, is a little less direct with his heartbreak. Generally, he is a storyteller, and his tracks on Split range from the confessional to the magical. “Magic Mirror” is heavily processed and distorted, with Alex trading lines with what sounds like a young girl. The lyrics are nearly unintelligible but the parts that peek through (“When it fades, I’m a slave to you”) make the struggle worth all of the sadness. Bar stool confessional “Trade” meanders through mumbled admissions of “I’m way too old to give a shit” and “there is no one inside this body.” Even if there is an indignant tone to the lyrics, it feels pitifully depressive.

The highlight of the entire record is Alex G’s “Adam.” What begins as a tale of schoolyard bullying becomes a heartfelt expression of love, swapping the “I’ll never let it go” from the first verse with “I want you so.” It flips the song’s entire context upside down in just four words, timed in perfect succession with a wailing organ.

Alex and Rachel live for these little mind-bending moments when things come full circle. Unearthing deeply buried emotions and feelings in the listener is what these two do best, and it’s nothing short of destiny that the two teamed up for a release like this. Levy famously covered Alex’s “Change” on her debut earlier this year, and even then the pairing made perfect sense. That their collaboration is this perfect is a testament to the strength of this beautiful little scene the internet has birthed. Thanks to the internet, collaborations of this quality have become increasingly common. But there’s an indescribable relief that these two have created here that is simply unmatched in 2013. Like R.L. Kelly says on “Everyday”: when I listen to these songs it’s almost feels like nothing’s wrong.

Alex G and R.L. Kelly’s Split is out now via Birdtapes.

Dungeon Kids – “P. Squared”

dungeon kids

Instead of me telling you why you should listen to the latest EP by Baltimore newbies Dungeon Kids, I’m just going to relay the original email/run-on-sentence that Sam Ray (Julia Brown, Ricky Eat Acid) sent me last month endorsing the band:

…this EP (unmastered still & not even finished being mixed I guess) is incredible and so fucking weird. Like some weird mix of Cursive and the Talking Heads style art-pop just like angular guitar, weird goofy nonsense, screaming, super pop. Some weird small bit of like Philly-ish (not noodley) emo in there. Like Glocca Morra‘s older heavier stuff even when its just fast walls of guitar noise. I love it.

How’s that for a recommendation?

Grab the band’s debut EP Oh How It Hurts via their Bandcamp page.

Ever Ending Kicks – “Outside Again”

Ever Ending Kicks Weird Priorities

I don’t know where I think I’ve been
But it’s good to be outside again

Every work day I feel that verse to the bone. Trapped in a windowless wire-filled room from 8-5pm, it’s almost awe-inspiring to open the door and let the light pour in.

Ever Ending Kicks (formerly Motorbikes), the musical project of Paul Adam Benson, has just re-issued his other worldly pop cassette entitled Weird Priorities via Baltimore’s Holy Page. The opening track, “Outside Again,” gives a good keyhole look at the diverse spectrum of sounds following on the LP—honest lo-fi verses skimming the realms of beat tapes and synths.

Hugging – “How Many Marigolds?”

Hugging - Today

Sometimes Bandcamp is beautiful. Sure it’s vast and chaotic, but amidst the chaos often hides a bit of peace. Many times I’ll stroll through the “Baltimore” tag just to see what oddities are occurring in my hometown that avoid PR, labels, and email hype. What I happened upon this instance is the glorious found-sound samplings of Hugging.

Hugging is the side project of Jason the Swamp, a Baltimore artist whom I know nothing about. When Jason isn’t swamping, he’s skirting the art-rock experimental pop vibe. It’s pretty stunning in its own right (check his most recent EP, Remember, Resemble). What he’s doing with Hugging is somewhat different—creating exceptional melodic instrumentals with bits and pieces of samples from all over.

Today is his newest LP, filled with a wide array of moods and moments that tell a lonely story of hope and mystery. While most of the tracks build to a higher beat or energy, the song I was most captivated by was “How Many Marigolds?” This song is a peaceful summer dream x10. It’s hard to listen and not immediately imagine floating down an undiscovered waterway, birds darting through the distant clouds that thankfully cover the sun’s heated rays.