Black Metal Misandry, Iranian Dub, Cello Shred
Some newsletters I read:
Constellations: Marissa Lorusso's tender lists of loves, loss and memory put me in a reflective mood every Tuesday morning, just as I'm sipping a cup of tea.
Abundant Living: Sprawling tangents are the feature, not the bug, of Zachary Lipez's frequently funny, always grumpy, yet loving missives on punk, Kate Bush and whatever's irking him that week.
Don't Rock the Inbox: Natalie Weiner and Marissa Moss make the case better than most that you should really give a damn about modern country music, even the stuff you think you don't like. Only two issues in and already necessary reading.
The Nelson George Mixtape: Look, a legend can write about whatever he damn pleases, and he often does, but Nelson George's insight and stories about icons of soul, R&B and jazz are deeply lived-in and loved.
The Parts of a Body: Jes Skolnik's best known for writing about punk on Bandcamp, and their newsletter does that, but through a personal prism of anarcho-communism, grief and anger… but also flickers of light.
Tone Glow: One day I'll have time to read all of Joshua Minsoo Kim's twice-a-week interviews with experimental artists like Laraaji, David Toop and Wendy Eisenberg… I mean, they're really long, unedited and I've got stuff to do, you know? But props for ignoring pegs and album release schedules and just going for what feels vital to them.
Hip to Waste: Safy-Hallan Farah's a super-smart culture writer who happens to share much of my taste in pop music and trash movies, and she's really good at (lovingly) tearing them all apart.
So It Goes: Stephen Thomas Erlewine has been at the All Music Guide since its inception; his encyclopedic knowledge of music history is now in newsletter form. I always learn so much each edition.
More Fire: Andre Gee has one of the fastest pens in the game, and as his newsletter name implies, writes about hip-hop culture, activism and progessive politics with a fire just hours after shit goes down.
Get It Together: Lauren Denitzio is the singer-songwriter behind Worriers, an very thoughtful/personal/writerly might-as-well-call-it-punk band. Their newsletter similarly muses on punk, queerness and finding joy amidst anxiety.
Music Journalism Insider: What's become the gold standard for both vets and newbie music journos. Todd L. Burns keeps the format consistent, but constantly reaches across scenes and out to folks outside the U.S. and U.K.
Former Clarity: David Anthony's sporadic essays about growing up emo and pop-punk, and the strides it took/takes to be recognized by the culture at large (and what happens when it did).
Night After Night: Steve Smith has turned me onto so much great drone/ambient/classical music over the years, and that's not even counting his bylines for NYT, Boston Globe and National Sawdust. This newsletter focuses on the classical music scene, with reviews, virtual concert listings and interviews.
Cabbages: Gary Suarez's passion for underground hip-hop has fueled this insightful, historically-driven newsletter for 100 issues (!) since January.
Turntable Report: Tracy Wilson's not only one of my favorite diggers but one of my favorite people; her voracious appetite and knowledge for music is felt in every word.
Blastitude: I've been reading Larry "Fuzz-O" Dolman for over a decade now, so I was pleased to find that his long-running noise/free-jazz/psych/weirdo-music domain made the jump to newsletter land. If you think you know the wilder fringes of music, you don't know a damn thing.
— Lars Gotrich
A new sixer (almost) every week. Follow my collection on Bandcamp.
Maral, Push (Leaving): What I'd give to be in a dark basement, puffing hookah with pals and watching Maral live-mix her psychedelic wobble as its dub-noise riddims vibrate neon lights and sweet plumes of smoke. There's a whole rant to made about the cultural tourism of noise artists over the last decade (or always), but gonna keep it posi and just say: Maral, an Iranian-American producer, really understands and lives inside these Iranian folk and classical music samples — what they mean to her kinfolk, what they mean to her, how the music interacts with each other. The record, as it bends and distorts time, is imbued with elan both wondrous and somber.
Jesu, Terminus (Avalanche): Jesu has always been Justin K. Broadrick's metallic sad-bastard shoegaze snuggie. But between these self-defeating song titles ("Sleeping In," "Don't Wake Me Up," "Give Up") and the slow-motion sadness that pervades, he's given us music to stare into the icy void of the pandemic.
Fred Lonberg-Holm, Lisbon Solo (Notice): Guess it took some handsome, letterpressed tapes for me to notice (sorry) this 11-year-old improv/out-musics label. The latest batch is aces, but wanted to highlight some solo cello fire from someone who's been at this scene for a dang minute. Low-tuned and hard-bowed, -scraped, -slapped and -slung, a deep communion transpires in these improvisations, with unknown spirits singing through the wood, creaking through the strings.
Eternal Champion, Ravening Iron (Sword Worship): Even though 2020 was the year black metal met my rage, my heart remains with sword-wielding, fantasy-novel-reading riffery indebted to Manilla Road and Cirith Ungol. Ravening Iron ups Eternal Champion's songwriting and Jason Tarpey's singing for an album that builds worlds on epic battles on the field and in the hearts of humanity.
Lady Ehepr, Gloatre (Nocturnal Hustle): Black-metal misanthropy, Memphis-style horrorcore (via Kentucky) and murderous misandry stir a witch's cauldron in this crypt keepin', dick choppin', mixtape-sold-out-of-car-trunk lo-fi oddity.
Soul Glo, Songs to Yeet at the Sun (Secret Voice): The leap from last year's The N**** in Me is Me to this 15-minute EP takes me back to the whiplash incurred from March on Electric Children to Burn, Piano Island, Burn — and like the Blood Brothers, Soul Glo delights in the sonic tools at its destructive disposal.
32 tracks. I haven't thought about the corny-as-h*ck pop-punk band Slick Shoes since I was in JNCOs, but somehow this new album kinda slaps? Lotta flashy moves and arena hooks, but also some borderline power-metal antics…. who knew? Swedish drama-club death-metal nerds Tribulation are back and psychedelic as ever. Deftones' full album remix of White Pony is taking on some interesting shapes — I'm featuring Purity Ring's glossy rework of "Knife Prty" over Mike Shinoda's just-okay "Passengers." Bree Runway knew exactly what she was doing when she named her weird, bratty punk-pop song "Little Nokia." XIXA makes chicha for goth kids sweating through their black trench coats in the desert sun. Jahari Massamba Unit is Madlib and Karriem Riggins chopping it up, spiritual jazz-style. D.C. death-doom metal miscreants Ilsa have been at this filth for a minute, and "Preyer" has me swearing at its sick groove. I don't know Coco & Breezy, but they put Dawn Richard's voice on a cocktail-sippin' house beat that just glides across the dance floor. Dizzy, intricate Brazilian jazz fusion from Antonio Neves. Throwbacks to Argentine prog-rockers Agnus, Athens instrumental jangle-poppers Love Tractor and some recently uncovered 1979 sessions by power-pop band (well, just one dude) The Toms.
RIYL Walkman envy
What: Just Cassette (Instagram)
Why: I am seriously in awe of this Sony Walkman collection. I owned a couple growing up, but only the baseline models. WM-504, WM-30, WM-DD and WM-20s were the Cadillacs of portable cassette couture. There's some other vintage audio equipment featured, including MiniDisc players, a Technics CD player (?!) and portable units by Aiwa and Phillips, but every time one of the slim and stylish WM-20s (pictured above) comes across my feed, I drool just a little bit and then cry about eBay prices.