Monday, July 25, 2016

Mail Call #5: Pro-plagiarism!

Another week, another logically incoherent email response to a column. Today's installment comes in reply to my recent piece on the Republican National Convention garbage fire.
Emil (you were Emil before you became Emily, right) You seem to have a problem with the passage that Melanie Trump used from michelle obama’s speech which was written by others by the way. Would you have preferred her to use the words that she (obama) uttered in another a speech, “ this is the first time in my life I am proud to be an American”. Ya she said that. Quite sure she wrote that herself. Possible help from barry . You could have written, thank god she (Melanie) didn’t use the words “this is the first time in my life I am proud to be an American’ The fact is Melanie Trump is very proud to be an American all of the time. I guess michelle obama is occasionally when it suits her purpose . Hey, keep up the quality freelance writing in Madison. “The peoples republic of Madison”

Enjoy your rigged convention That would be a great topic for next Sunday’s freelance writing

does “freelance writing” mean they won’t pay you for your efforts???
I'd like to note that I find no insult in being "accused" of being transgender (I am not), and if you open your letter with such a random and transphobic remark, you've effectively ceded your ability to actually win the argument. Of course, folks like this don't really care about changing anyone's mind. They just want to continue feeling superior in their own minds, without having to actually reflect on and analyze what they're spouting. Because the rest of this letter is a totally weird mishmash that, I think, is trying to excuse Melania Trump's (or her speech writer's) plagiarism because at least she used the positive parts of Michelle Obama's speech and not a taken-out-of-context and frequently misunderstood bit from another of her speeches from years ago.
Or something. Who knows anymore. 

I also enjoy the bit where this person seems to utterly misunderstand what the term "freelance" means.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Mail Call #4: GOBMENT

In response to my article about Sen. Ron Johnson's attempt to let private charter schools take public money without any oversight or accountability - all errors are the email author's:

In your opinion and that of the journal, let’s keep all those failing kids in failing schools to keep the low life education machine well greased with (MY) taxpayer money.  Don’t give , the only real Senator this state has had since well before you liberal communist/socialists where BORN a chance.  Senator Johnson has been trying to help the kids ( YOU) the liberals, have placed into a second class role in the lib society!  Keep them poor and dependent on “GOBMENT” programs for existance. The liberal way to keep them voting for the loosers in the world of politics!  Don’t believe that...look at your dismal record of failure after failure and open your socialist eyes!
Aside from the part where this person completely misses the point I was making, their email is certainly an argument in itself for higher standards and proper funding for education. Clearly, they suffer from its lack.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Mail Call #3: Votes for No One I Dislike

I wrote about how Voter ID disenfranchises people. As usual, folks got angry:

You are the most in competent IDIOT liberal of them all!If one does not have the Brains or minimal effort to get a voter ID they DO NOT have the right to Vote!You and the other Liberal,America haters want to vote for them!Trump will Win and America will put you and others like you back in the septic tank you crawled out of!
Trump will put us all back into the septic tank. Now that's comforting. Do folks listen to themselves when they write this shit?

And a two-fer for you today:

You liberals always have something to cry about. What is wrong about having an ID to vote. If voter fraud is unheard of as you claim why worry about it. The reason you guys are so upset is because you are worried. there is something to the lefty cliche "Make sure you vote and vote often". You guys have to gather up people from cemeteries, prisons and people with dementia from nursing homes to cast a vote. The rest are young people who are still wet behind the ears and easy to deceive. This leaves a balance of people who votes are bought . The group that wants more free this and free that. You cater to minorities like Blacks and Latino's and promise them anything as long as they vote for the Democrats. That leaves the rest of us who labor hard and are the ones Liberals to pay all these freebies, and we just want to make sure you don't pull the wool over ours eyes. Conservatives are harder to fool than the liberals Some day the liberal base might wise up but I doubt it, at least as long as you are running the schools and universities, where you shout down any opposing views and spread lie upon lie.
Lots of unfounded and actively disproved dog whistling in this one.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Mail Call #2: "Your small problem"

This one is just plain difficult to parse, but came in response to one of my articles in support of equal/safe/fair access to bathroom facilities for transgender folks.

I swear, some people's children:

I was only a young boy when I realized I wanted to get the ole snip snip. Not until recent times have I been able to muster enough mental and physical strength to cut through my 14 inch fire hose. After all is said and done I love being a born again woman, but have to say I disagree with your article on transgender bathroom rights. If I'm a boy I should use the boys bathroom and if I'm a girl I should use the girls bathroom. I don't want any degenerates or sickos in my bathroom while I'm trying to peacefully do my business. All in all I think you're plain wrong so please quit your job because it's not that big of a deal and I'm sorry you look like a man but don't take it out on the anti transgender people because your problem can be easily solved.

Please stop lashing out about your small problem and find something else to do, thank you.
Really hitting a lot of the finer points here:
  • Weirdly disjointed commentary on his own gender identity, alleged penis size (natch) 
  • Transphobia! Transmisogyny!
  • Nice little attempted jab about me "looking like a man" (I look like me, no apologies needed)
  • Urging me to "quit my job" (this column writing business is freelance but you'd be amazed how many people seem to think I'm employed full time by MJS) because his opinion differs
  • Belittling of what is a very real, very serious issue for a lot of folks by calling it a "small problem"
Sadly, this email is pretty representative of the super hateful, misguided, fearful, gross commentary I've received every time I write about transgender rights. I've hesitated to post any of it, frankly, because lord knows my trans friends don't need more of this disgusting vitriol in their lives, but I also want to show everyone else exactly the kind of hurtful shit trans people have to deal with all the time. It shouldn't be up to them to shut it down, either - that's the role of us, the allies.

So speak the fuck up whenever and wherever you hear anything remotely like this being spewed. Point out why it's wrong, why it's hurtful, why it matters - how much easier it is just to be decent to one another. Dollars to donuts the email writer above could have used a lot more of said decency in their life, too, to have steered them away from the clearly confused, ignorant, and fearful place they're in now.

Take care of each other.

    Wednesday, March 30, 2016

    Mail Call #1

    So I've had the honor of contributing an opinion column to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for the past couple of years. They let me wax philosophic about any topic that tickles my fancy, and it's been a great opportunity to both expand my own knowledge and understanding of a wide variety of issues, but also to receive feedback from all across the state.

    I have a separate email account set up specifically to take that reader feedback, in fact, because sometimes it's important for mental sanity to have things sectioned off a little. I've been more than pleasantly surprised to find that a good 50% of the responses I get are actually positive/supportive, and come from a wide range of people from all across Wisconsin. Of the negative/opposing feedback, too, I'm very grateful that some folks take the time to offer it constructively and seem to genuinely want to have a discussion.

    There's about 20-30% of the feedback, though, that occupies its own, let's say "special" place. I've been sharing some of the greatest (see: weirdest, most out there) hits on my Facebook page for awhile, and more than a few people have no urged me to turn it into a regular archive. That brings us here. I consider this somewhat cathartic for me, honestly, because sometimes I just don't know what drives people to take time out of their days to send such ridiculous and hateful (and often wildly misplaced) bile. I have to believe that, if we met in person, we could probably find at least one thing in common and get past all this (if not ultimately agree on everything) divisiveness. But I also know that some folks are just hell bent on being nasty and feeling righteous.

    These are their stories. No names/identifying information included. Enjoy?

    Feb. 28, 2016 - in re: my column "Partisan Politics and the Courts"

    What in God's name makes you think you know so damn much? And that only liberal thinking is hones,fair and just thinking? And that any one even slightly left of you and Madison is wrong, selfish, uncaring,self-serving -etc. well you get the point? Was is your public schooling? Your college profs? your parents? your friends-assuming you had any? Jesus woman -you haven't even been around long enuf to put you bra and undies on right -where did you get the fucking idea that you can tell educated, charity giving, job creating, church going people the kind of shit you spill every week? Was it some poor fuck at the newspaper? Well we know ho well that is going don't we? That's why so many people quit buying it. Have fun now with this bilge because I would predict it won't last long for you.
    You a a fucking little twit with a large opinionated ,not quite mature, narrow minded mouth. Here's an idea-try gay parade and party planning. [sic]

    (note to that final suggestion: done and done!)

    Monday, December 28, 2015

    Best of 2015: My favorite music from this year

    Another year, another collection of music. This has become a favorite tradition for me, both because I love sharing music I dig with other people and because it reminds me to keep better track of new music that comes out in a given year. Lots of folks like to bemoan the decline of modern music but the thing is, if you actually pay attention, there's so much incredible work that gets released all the time. And it's more accessible than ever. People are still coming up with creative new ideas and grooves, reshaping and honoring old themes, fusing styles, breaking ground, having fun, and making us dance/think/nod our heads.

    The only reason to give up on modern music would be if you're just lazy. Don't be lazy. There's a whole world of awesome shit out there for the listening!

    The following is my by-no-means-complete-or-comprehensive mix of some of my favorite music that was released in 2015. It was a great year for music. As always, please consider purchasing any tracks/albums that you find yourself enjoying. We need to support those who work hard to bring us this goodness, and we need to do it with our ears and our dolla dolla bills, y'all.



    EM'S BEST OF 2015 MIX - "Big Wheel Keep On Turnin'"

    1. "Never Ending Circles," CHVRCHES, Every Open Eye
    2. "Waking Hour," Jennifer Hall, self-titled EP
    3. "XO, Skeleton," Hailey Wojcik, Book of Beasts EP
    4. "Surface Envy," Sleater-Kinney, No Cities to Love
    5. "Ripe," Screaming Females, Rose Mountain
    6. "Pedestrian at Best," Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I just Sit
    7. "Someday Soon," Lindi Ortega, Faded Gloryville
    8. "Planet for Sale," THEESatisfaction, EarthEE
    9. "Figure 8," FKA twigs, M3LL155X
    10. "Circles Out of Salt," Snow Ghosts, A Wrecking
    11. "Far," The Soft Moon, Deeper
    12. "The Day Is My Enemy," The Prodigy, The Day Is My Enemy
    13. "Quicksand," Bjork, Vulnicura
    14. "Saint Claude," Christine and the Queens, Christine and the Queens
    15. "Flesh without Blood," Grimes, Art Angels
    16. "Lose Control," Robyn & La Bagatelle Magique, Love Is Free EP
    17. "Queens Speech 4," Lady Leshurr, Queens Speech 4 - Single
    18. "You Tell Em," Zebra Katz & Leila, Nu Renegade EP
    19. "Call It Off," Shamir, Ratchet
    A little about each track...

    Never Ending Circles by CHVRCHES: So far this Scottish electro-pop outfit is two-for-two when it comes to incredible intro tracks for their albums. From the first note of the song, Chvrches dispels any fears that might have existed that they couldn't continue and build on the momentum of their debut, The Bones of What You Believe. The impressive thing about Every Open Eye is that it both manages to stay true to the exuberant vision of the first record without sounding like a retread. There are new ideas aplenty here, and a lot of catch-as-hell music to boot, all with Lauren Mayberry's understated but confident lead vocals to bolster it.

    Waking Hour by Jennifer Hall: I was an idiot and went home early from a show in Madison that featured a friends' band, followed by Hailey Wojcik (also featured on this mix), and then Jennifer Hall, missing Hall's set at the end (I WAS TIRED, SUE ME). Thankfully, said friend gave me a copy of this singer/songwriter's fantastic EP and I was hooked right away. Lush, beautiful, interesting, and creative - Hall has a powerful voice that she uses expertly to compliment the genre-bending, melodic music that makes each track a goldmine. I hope she releases a full-length ASAP.

    XO, Skeleton by Hailey Wokcik: Like I said, I got to see Hailey live (and meet her briefly, very nice), performing as a one-woman show with a scaled down backing track, letting her voice and guitar/bass work take center stage. And pulled it off with aplomb. I love how familiar and yet new her music sounds, like the indie women of my teenage years (i.e. the mid-to-late '90s). A little rough around the edges in all the best ways.

    Surface Envy by Sleater-Kinney: Speaking of the bands that inspired young Em, Sleater-Kinney has been such a rewarding band to follow through the years. Each record charters their evolution and solidifies their status as rock royalty, far as I'm concerned, with zero compromises and a never-faltering commitment to melt faces with ovaries-to-the-wall rock n' roll. There's no one else who sounds like them, either, no matter how much (usually male) reviewers like to compare every all-lady rock outfit to them.

    Ripe by Screaming Females: I'm late to the party with this band, having only stumbled onto them with this most recent release, but I'm glad to be here. Shredding guitars, and lead singer Marissa Paternoster's ridiculously unique, warbly alto, give this outfit a special, bone-shaking quality that I love.

    Pedestrian at Best by Courtney Barnett: The Australian singer-songwriter seems to be taking the music world by storm at this point, and I'm glad to see her coming in for so many accolades, landing this record on a number of prominent best-of lists for the year. She has a style reminiscent of Dylan, with sprinklings of early Liz Phair, a little bit of country, with the twist of wry Aussie wit. I could see her almost spoken word style of lyric delivery not being everyone's jam, but hot damn those lyrics. Dense, clever storytelling make this record soar.

    Someday Soon by Lindi Ortega: Humorously enough, Lindi is part of a group of musicians that I was turned onto through the soundtrack of Canadian sci-fi show "Lost Girl." Since then, I've been waiting for her new record with some anticipation, since I think this Canuck does Nashville country better than most of the Americans now toiling in the industry there. She was apparently signed by a major label back when, charmed by her goth looks and old-school Americana style, but then dropped after they decided to go a different route (see: Lady Gaga). This is a lovely track, something of a throwback to the greats like Patsy Cline.

    Planet for Sale by THEESatisfaction: How can you not love a collective of queer black women making their own, unique, kicked back beats and songs that largely focus on social and political issues without getting particularly ham-fisted, instead insinuating itself into your earholes with nods to classic soul and R&B? You can't not, that's how.

    Figure 8 by FKA twigs: I'm a recent convert to the musical genius of this dancer-turned-musician. Her music videos are mesmerizing. The music is not particularly easy to categorize, either, which I adore. Soaring soprano gymnastics layered over intricate, artsy electro-hip-hop? That might be as close as I can come to describing it. Good shit. Excited to see where she goes from here.

    Circles Out of Salt by Snow Ghosts: Moody as fuck, beautiful but gritty electronic/industrial with awesome lady vocals. Right up my alley. The whole record is a fascinating story-journey, with tons of atmospheric soundscapes, and did I mention moody? Feel this stuff in your gut.

    Far by The Soft Moon: I am a sucker for industrial rock, specifically the stuff that came out in the late '80s and early '90s, before EBM started to more fully take over the genre. The Soft Moon has mastered the sound while offering some new ideas of his own - just good, dark, industrial-infused music for working out your angry ennui.

    The Day Is My Enemy by The Prodigy: Here's another electronic outfit that I've been following since that time after our 8th grade dance when the DJ decided to play stuff he liked as we were all waiting for our parents to pick us up and take us home. I mustered up the courage to approach the kid and ask him what it was that he was playing, and he flashed me The Prodigy's "Music for the Jilted Generation." I went to the mall music store and bought my copy the next day, and the rest is history. The group's output as been mixed ever since, with some soaring highs and weirdly phoned-in lows, so I was thrilled when this first track dropped off their most recent effort and it was just. so. BOLD. And they're still fun to see live, after all these years - got to see them perform in Prague this past November.

    Quicksand by Bjork: Speaking of my earliest electronic influences, Bjork continues to innovate the hell out of music in general, never ceasing to be a tiny Icelandic powerhouse of creativity. And she doesn't get nearly enough credit for it, far as I'm concerned, especially considering how many people seem to enjoy glossing over and/or ignoring entirely the fact that she does the lion's share of production on her records. This is a great track on a great album.

    Saint Claude by Christine and the Queens: The last track added to my mix, I was only just turned onto this French musician by this great article about how women in music and the arts are kicking ass and taking names but still being ignored, underfunded, and underrepresented in seats of power. I went and took a listen and instantly fell in deep like (which could easily grow into love, given time) with this project--both for the lovely music and the dance-heavy music videos.

    Flesh without Blood by Grimes: I love Grimes. She's a one-woman powerhouse of production, creativity, engineering, delightfully weird vocal embellishments, beautiful soundscapes, and is just generally super listenable while being a totally uncompromising badass.

    Lose Control by Robyn & La Bagatelle Magique: I love Robyn. Like, really really a lot. So I'll basically listen to anything she's involved with, including this collaboration with French outfit LBM. Good thing it ends up being a delightful, electro-disco romp.

    Queen's Speech 4 by Lady Leshurr: I don't usually include singles on this mix, but this one by British trap artist Lady Leshurr caught my eye as a triumph of freestyle flow, wit, and simple but killer beats. Plus the DIY vid is delightful.

    You Tell Em by Zebra Katz & Leila: ZK initially caught my attention with his incredible, creepy, confident tribute to how queer men and drag queens playfully cut each other down to size with "Imma Read," and it's super fantastic to see him continuing to innovate and be artsy as fuck, giving no fucks, with his new EP and collaboration with Leila. Watch the videos, too. Funded in large part by a grant from the Austrian government and filmed in Austria, it's some unsettling, visually interesting work.

    Call It Off by Shamir: I love this record. I love this track. I love this kid. And I love that he comes into a world where being a young queer person of color is something he can openly celebrate and inject into his art. The guy has a unique as hell voice, too, and with such catchy, fun production work, it makes for quite the package deal. Stoked to see where he goes from here, too.

    HONORABLE MENTION OF MY OWN PROJECTS

    Not included on the mix, because I'm not a complete narcissist, but I feel worth mentioning are the projects that I had the great good fortune to be involved with this year:

    Meghan Rose - "In Your Bones"
    I wrote and recorded all the drum tracks for this record, released earlier this year. Meghan is basically my platonic musical life partner (and one half of Damsel Trash with me). This was a serious labor of love for her, involving years of writing and preparation and pouring her heart and soul into each song and lyric. We spent a week up in the hinterlands of Ontario, Canada recording this with Grammy and Juno winning producer Darryl Neudorf (who also produced, for instance, people like Neko Case). It was, simply put, an incredible experience, and the end product is something I couldn't be more proud of. Support kick ass, unsigned musicians and buy it here.

    Friday, December 26, 2014

    Best of 2014 mix

    Another year gone by, another chance to dig through the bins and reflect on all the great music released over the course of those 365 days.

    This started as a way for me to prod myself into keeping more on top of new releases, and as a fun gift to my friends and family, and mostly that's still what it is. I don't pretend that this list is even remotely exhaustive - I know I've left off a whole bunch of great songs and artists from 2014, and there are more still that I've simply not yet heard. Feel free to leave your own suggestions for great music from the past year in the comments section. I'm always keen to be introduced to new stuff, or even old stuff I've been missing out on for far too long.

    I will say this: Of the music I did find and listen to this year, there was just so much good shit. I'm currently thinking about putting together a second mix composed entirely of local Madison-area bands and/or bands that I played shows with this year, because that can and should fill its own compilation.

    For now, here's my list of my favorite music from the year, which ranges in genre from dance, electronic, folk, punk, industrial, R&B, and more. Please note that some songs have explicit lyrics and/or videos and may be NSFW (aww yeah):

    Em’s Best of 2014

    1. “Let ‘EmSay” – Lizzo & Caroline Smith, single
    2. “Feel of Love” – Tensnake, Glow
    3. “Busy Earnin’” – Jungle, Jungle
    4. “Hideaway” – Kiesza, Sound of a Woman
    5. “Could I Be” – Sylvan Esso, Sylvan Esso
    6. “Every Little Thing” – Rӧyksopp & Robyn
    7. “Cthulu” – EMA, The Future’s Void
    8. “Ain’t That Easy” – D’Angelo & The Vanguard, Black Messiah
    9. “Gold” – Chet Faker, Built On Glass
    10. “Strong” – London Grammar, If You Wait
    11. “Before the Words” – My Brightest Diamond, This Is My Hand
    12. “Bring Me Simple Men” – Timber Timbre, Hot Dreams
    13. “Blue Ridge Mountain” – Hurray for the Riff Raff, Small Town Heroes
    14. “Destination” – Nickel Creek, A Dotted Line
    16. “10th Floor Ghost Girl” – Cibo Matto, Hotel Valentine
    17. “Talking Transgender Dysphoria Blues” – Against Me!, Transgender Dysphoria Blues
    18. “Don’t Mess With Me” – Brody Dalle, Diploid Love
    19. “Consuming Guilt” – Youth Code, A Place to Stand
    20. “Aint Ur Baby” – Thelma and the Sleaze, Heart Like a Fist

    NOTES:

    "Let 'Em Say" by Lizzo & Caroline Smith
    You gotta love a song that's both ridiculously catchy and released with proceeds going to benefit a good cause. You also gotta love Minneapolis-based hip hop artist Lizzo, who I was first turned on to with last year's killer single, "Batches & Cookies." Great flow, great production work, great artist.

    "Feel of Love" by Tensnake
    This whole album is just so good. No hyperbole, I think it's one of the most listenable (all the way through) of the year, but then I like that twinkly '80s synth pop shit with all my heart.

    "Busy Earnin'" by Jungle
    I recently heard this track in the background of a Green Bay Packers commercial and had to chuckle--seems to be another instance of someone only listening to the hook and not the rest of the lyrics, but hey, I'm all for wider exposure for this group, who first grabbed my attention with the video for their song, "Platoon," that features the coolest little b-girl on the planet.

    "Hideaway" by Kiesza
    Look, what can I say, early '90s club music was what first turned me onto house in general, and was pretty damn influential for my wee adolescent brain. It would appear the same was true of Canadian singer-songwriter Kiesza, who emulates that ridiculously fun sound without coming off as stale and totally derivative. Plus, this video is just ridiculously fun. Check out her moody cover of Haddaway's "What Is Love."

    "Could I Be" by Sylvan Esso
    I had no idea that one half of this electronic duo originally hails from Middleton until I went to see them live at a sold-out concert next door in Madison, and his parents were in the audience. A friend turned me onto Sylvan Esso much earlier this year, and shortly thereafter I began hearing their track "Coffee" on The Current fairly regularly. It's a great album all the way through and I'll be stoked to hear where they take the project next.

    "Every Little Thing" by Rӧyksopp & Robyn
    So here's the thing: I adore Robyn. And I've loved Rӧyksopp since "What Else Is There" first came across my radar. So when the two began pairing up a handful of years ago, I was in heaven. This EP is masterful from front to back, sandwiching a couple of club bangers in the middle of some seriously lush epics.

    "Cthulu" by EMA
    You have to dig an artist that's able to mash up '90s grunge, industrial, and modern electro while still maintaining musical soul, and that's basically what EMA does on this record. This track in particular, I think, exemplifies that hybrid sound, and also features one of my favorite, slow building crescendos of any song this year.

    "Ain't That Easy" by D'Angelo & The Vanguard
    A last-minute entry for the year, D'Angelo took 15 years between his last record and this one, but the album doesn't sound at all piecemeal or scattered. In fact, Black Messiah may be one of the best records of the year, if I do say so myself. It's just gorgeous. It doesn't hurt that he tapped one of my favorite drummers, Questlove, to be part of the backing band.

    "Gold" by Chet Faker
    It took some sweet rollerskating to draw my attention to the video for this track, which led me to checking out the entire album, which got me into Chet Faker in general. Soulful vocals, solid grooves.

    "Strong" by London Grammar
    I first came across lead singer Hannah Reid when she provided guest vocals on a Disclosure track, and her haunting, low soprano made me want more. London Grammar walks a fine line of melancholy moodiness and lush musicality without bumping into what I feel like is, say, the main drawback with bands like The xx, where every song sounds the same and I can't imagine any new album every sounding any different. If You Wait feels like an ever-changing narrative, something they can build on in a part two that will still sound like LG without retreading old ground.

    "Before the Words" by My Brightest Diamond
    Shara Worden's solo project is always filled out with a wide array of extremely talented guest artists, and this record is no different, going so far as to feature an actual marching band at times. I had the good fortune of catching her when she came through town years ago as part of a festival line-up along with backing band Clare & the Reasons, and have loved her work ever since. She's a classically trained opera singer, for goodness sake.

    "Bring Me Simple Men" by Timber Timbre
    Aside from loving the good wordplay of their name, I also really love the sort of dark, dusty road, Lost Highway sound this band has landed on. A friend introduced them to be just this year and I've been diving into their back catalog ever since.

    "Blue Ridge Mountain" by Hurray for the Riff Raff
    Modern folk music that sounds as classic as anything Guthrie wrote, with a beautiful and grounded female voice leading the way. They apparently wrote this song based on the life of the Carter family, and I think it's a fitting tribute.

    "Destination" by Nickel Creek
    They're back! They're back! After taking time off to work on their various solo/other projects, folk powerhouse Nickel Creek reunited for a 2014 release that picks up where they left off without skipping a beat. Superb musicianship coupled with catchy songwriting = win.

    "Before Too Long (ft. Amanda Palmer" by Missy Higgins
    Two musicians that I like a lot, working together on this really fantastic cover of Paul Kelly's 1986 cut, as part of Higgins' album of Australian cover songs, Oz.

    "10th Floor Ghost Girl" by Cibo Matto
    Another band that likes to take long periods of time off in between releases, Japanese I-don't-know-how-to-categorize-them act Cibo Matto released this sprawling tale of a haunted hotel that just solidified their reputation for unique/weird/awesome music.

    "Talking Transgender Dysphoria Blues" by Against Me!
    This record, man, this record. Lead singer Laura Jane Grace kind of just knocked it out of the park when she went into the studio alone to write and record this sucker, before calling in the rest of the band to help flesh out the sound. I'm not sure if this is the first punk rock album to tackle the intensely personal journey of a transgender person (LJG), but it has to be the most guts-out, heart-on-sleeve, no-holds-barred one.

    "Don't Mess With Me" by Brody Dalle
    I first fell a little in love with Brody Dalle when she fronted the take-no-shit punk act The Distillers, and it's super fascinating to see the transition from that to her solo work on this record--not to mention going from the big, black mohawk spikes to the bleach blonde look she's got now. Not that I'm complaining, of course. It's an interest album with a lot of her characteristic, gravelly voice and guitar grit, but with a little added vulnerability around the edges.

    "Consuming Guilt" by Youth Code
    I was so freakin' stoked when this EP dropped, because it marks the first time in years that I've listened to an industrial record that sounded like the shit I grew up loving on the mix tapes my older brother used to make for me back in the early and mid '90s. The fun trick is, it also sounds totally new. I don't know how they pull that off, but they do, and I adore it.

    "Aint Ur Baby" by Thelma and the Sleaze
    You know what the best way to be introduced to a new band is? Live, of course. I went to an underground queer/punk show a few weeks back that had these delightfully skuzzy bitches from Tennessee as the headliners, and I fell in love after the first down and dirty rock and roll song (not to mention their fucking amazing, hard hitting lady drummer).
    The Lost Albatross