Gold Leather - Churl


Gerard Marcus

Some music has a rawness that’s almost primal, a visceral sound that sparks with angst and ecstasy. It’s not genre specific–anything from Ornette Coleman to Guerilla Toss to JPEGMAFIA generates this feeling in me. It’s an energy, the type that compels you to relax all the muscles in your body and throw yourself around like a rag doll. Gold Leather produces this kind of music.

Gold Leather is a four piece rock band from Austin, Texas that makes music that is in your face without being too full of itself. Their new single, “Churl,” is a searing tirade directed at an unnecessarily mean-spirited figure who plays dumb at the absurdity and consequences of their own actions. Gold Leather tells this tale well, with a raw vocal delivery that clashes its members’ voices against one another before they fall into eerie harmonies and tasteful screams. But the true primordial power of the song comes from the driving auditory forces, intricately layered drum, bass, and guitars. They intertwine and trip over each other as if trying to escape a monster that haunts their dreams. With “Churl,” Gold Leather has written a song that hits hard and fast, a freshly-triggered avalanche hurdling towards some undetermined end, and a great first offering from them for 2019.


Small Forward - Kind of Funny

Jordan Feinstein

“Kind of Funny,” the new bedroom pop single by L.A.-based Small Forward, is accurately named. It’s kind of a funny track. The audio landscape is cozy, a warm stream of guitars and smooth vocals, picking up only a little speed and turbulence as it builds towards the end. But this placid journey seems to bother the lead singers, who perform together as a single narrator.

“Always in the right place from the very start, there’s not a lot of things that I did to play my part” the song opens. This is a song about agency, and it feels weird to them how little they perceive having over their own life’s (albeit “right”) direction. While there’s an ambiguously troubled relationship with an even more ambiguous “you” throughout the song, this lyrical thread might remove more focus than it adds useful context. This is a song about their entire life’s experience, and the weird malaise that comes with not making enough active decisions in it. The song’s structure is nicely connected to its lyrics, taking a pretty break after “finally, finally, I’ll fall right back into place.” From there it builds into a slightly more dramatic ending, taking trips slightly outside of their comfort zone. But they don’t seem too concerned, and the song doesn’t sound it either. They’ll end up right where they’re supposed to be yet again. They even seem to rely on it.


Illiterate Light - Two Cats

Gerard Marcus

Richmond, Virginia duo Illiterate Light use their driving rock music to peer inwards, searching down into the hidden, uncontrollable emotions within. Their video for their new single “Two Cats” is a quirky study of one of these emotions: obsession. Shot for a film festival over a single day on Super 8 film, they restricted themselves to only in-camera editing, embracing the limitations of this technique to power their creativity.

The song “Two Cats” is about someone furious that their partner is moving away, who has gone ahead with the purchase of their two cats anyway in the hope that it will make them stay. In the video, we follow two characters, “cats,” who become unrelentingly fixated on a tight-fitted floral crop top. What ensues is a quirky story that starts as a more of a Sunday morning comic strip, but with no resolution in sight, escalates to an epic backyard brawl. It’s telling how Illiterate Light handle their emotions that they’ve created such a light-hearted story to explore the desperate obsession and anger of the song. The video is a unique and creative depiction of their inner turmoil, shining a satirical light on obsession to help us all see that, sometimes, it might be better to just let it go and not take everything too seriously.

Illiterate Light are playing Brooklyn Steel this Friday, January 11th!

And the rest of their tour:

01/12 – Washington DC @ The Hamilton ^
01/15 – Ft. Wayne, IN @ The Brass Rail ^
01/16 – Bloomington, IL @ Castle Theater ^
01/17 – Milwaukee, WI @ Colectivo ^
01/19 – Chicago, IL @ Park West ^
01/22 – Indianapolis, IN @ HiFi ^
01/23 – Columbus, OH @ Basement ^
01/24 – Lexington, KY @ The Burl ^
01/25 – St. Louis, MO @ Delmar Hall ^
01/26 – Nashville, TN @ Marathon Music Works ^
01/27 – Richmond, VA @ Broadberry %
01/29 – Ithaca, NY @ Haunt ^
01/30 – Holyoke, MA @ Gateway City Arts ^
01/31 – Portland, ME @ Port City Music Hall ^
02/01 – Burlington, VT @ Higher Ground ^
02/02 – Boston, MA @ The Sinclair ^
02/05 – Newport News, VA @ Boathouse Live ^
02/06 – Charlottesville, VA @ The Southern ^
02/07 – Charlotte, NC @ Visulite ^
02/08 – Asheville, NC @ Grey Eagle ^
02/09 – Charleston, SC @ Pour House
02/10 – Jacksonville, FL @ Theater Benefit ^
03/12-17 – Austin, TX @ SXSW
05/03-05 – Atlanta, GA @ Shaky Knees Festival

^ w/ Rayland Baxter

% w/ Mt. Joy


Monkeybars - Practical Suede


Gerard Marcus

Synth pop can set you in a dream, suspending you in a brief, hazy reality. Sometimes this is a place of relaxation, and sometimes the lush synths and driving grooves propel your feet off the ground and your fist into the air as you jump along in a state of disoriented bliss. Or maybe that's just me?

"Practical Suede" is right at the center of this synth pop dream space, balancing themes of patience, doubt, and life's most overwhelming experiences with a groove heavy enough to push you through it all. The brainchild of songwriter Eli Aleinkoff, Monkeybars features a cadre of talented artists, including Sahil Ansari on drums and production, James Wyatt on guitar, Peter Wagner on bass, and Aleinkoff himself on vocals, synths, and soprano sax. The song melds synth with creative horn production, stretching traditional synth pop sounds in a fresh direction. And Aleinkoff takes the brass a step further with a blistering soprano sax solo, doing a great job of shredding it while not distracting from the track's groovy vibe. "Practical Suede" makes for a great ending to 2018, and has me looking forward to what Monkeybars have in store for the new year.


Star Rover - Plain Air

Abigail Clyne

Star Rover’s video for their new instrumental single “Plain Air” is a dreamy dive into an ocean abyss. The video, directed by Nao Yoshigai, stars dancer Kaho Kogure performing elegant choreography beautifully juxtaposed within the rhythmic and trance-like instrumentals. The soundscape of the song is a creative combination of electric guitar, overdubbed sonar whale recordings, and a string arrangement which enters midway through, fleshing out the track's otherworldly dynamic.

The title of the song is a play on the “plein air technique,” which simply means to paint outdoors in the environment you are depicting. Kaho Kogure embodies this through dance, showing how her body moves through air, light, and water. In the video’s and song’s climax, Kogure’s previously measured movement explodes into a powerful and aggressive dance. She fully owns the space she inhabits in this beautiful moment, and shows what can be found when we allow ourselves to dive into the depths within us. 

Catch Star Rover live on December 13th at Secret Project Robot!