Music Writers Exercise 2021

This was my second time participating in Music Writers Exercise, a Twitter challenge created by writer Gary Suarez where each day in February you listen to an album you’ve never heard before and tweet about it using the hashtag #MWE. Most people who participate are music writers themselves, but there are plenty who just do it for fun like me, although my day job is music-related. I had a much harder time writing reviews snap judgments this time, and I’m not as happy with how they came out, because most of my vocabulary and cognitive abilities have disappeared after a year of pandemic living. I also didn’t get to finish a whole month’s worth, because work got in the way, but I loved almost everything I heard and that’s what matters most to me!

  1. Playboy Carti, “Whole Lotta Red” (2020) #MWE is off to a rocky start! If I was ten years younger and still drank I would’ve LOVED this album and played “M3tamorphosis” over and over at 3am. It’s definitely a late-nite album. But now that I’m older I mostly feel hungover listening to it.
  2. LINGUA IGNOTA, “CALIGULA” (2019) FUCK IT I’M LEAVING THE CAPS LOCK ON. WOW!! WHAT A VOICE! THIS ALBUM BLEW ME AWAY!!! I can’t wait to listen to it next time I’m painting so I can splash the red ink around. Fav. tracks so far: FRAGRANT IS MY MANY FLOWERED CROWN, SORROW! SORROW! SORROW!
  3. Mdou Moctar, “Ilana: The Creator” (2019) One of the Tuareg guitar gods from the Sahara region who play Desert Blues, one of my favorite musical genres ever. Standout track “Tarhatazed” is a direct line to Eddie Van Halen’s “Eruption” and the album just bursts wide open after that!
  4. Syreeta, self-titled (1972) Debut album from Stevie Wonder’s creative collaborator and former spouse. What surprised and delighted me the most is her voice, which is glassy and precise but also sweet and girlish, and it compliments the futuristic atmosphere so well.
  5. Clan of Xymox, self-titled (1985) One of the first darkwave bands [goth+new wave, or synth-driven goth/post-punk]. I must have heard at least half of this album before on various dance floors over the years. Take me back!!
  6. Tim Heidecker, “Fear of Death” (2020) Aw man. This is supposedly a “serious” album but it still feels like a parody? I guess that is the Comedian’s Curse— even when they are trying to be sincere there is still a sense of holding back. Only the last song moved me bc of Weyes Blood’s melancholy vocals and slide guitar.
  7. Sufjan Stevens, “A Sun Came” (1999) Embryonic Sufjan! It’s all here- the oboe solos, Christianity & Greek mythology, and a dozen other musical styles which he would soon abandon, including free jazz and grunge. I was excited to hear it all as a huge fan, & it’s better than just an early curiosity.
  8. Open Mike Eagle, “Anime, Trauma and Divorce” (2020) another brilliant album from Open Mike Eagle! He captures what it’s really like to try and pick yourself up after having your life shaken to its core, and he does it with honesty, humor, and grace.
  9. Magnetic Fields, “The Charm of the Highway Strip” (1994) feels a bit slight compared to the albums that followed, but even mid-tier Magnetic Fields is pretty damn great, and you can always count on them for a fantastic song about the moon.
  10. Miles Davis, “On the Corner” (1972) pulled me in right away! It’s skronky, raucous, and very danceable thanks to the pulsing (proto)disco beat and forays into Afro-Latin and Indian percussion. I can hear the influence this must have had on No-wave about a decade later!
  11. Alice Coltrane feat. Pharoah Sanders, “Journey in Satchidananda” (1971) is some of the most gorgeous, heavenly music I have ever heard in my life. What took me so long to listen to this??!?!? I wish this album would go on forever so I could keep on hearing it for the first time.
  12. Bob Dylan, “Under the Red Sky” (1990) The album cover says it all. I was hoping to find something to like here, but nahh. Every song plodded on for what felt like 20 min. You can tell he really needed a break. For completists only. Everyone else skip ahead to Time Out of Mind.
  13. Mogwai, “Young Team” (1997) I made the mistake of trying to listen while sitting upright at my desk at first, but this is dreamy music that only makes sense while you’re sinking into your in bed in the dark, staring up at the ceiling (or even better, stars) Then it’s perfect.
  14. Dead Can Dance, “Into the Labyrinth” (1993) 1st thought: whoa it’s the Myst soundtracks! I could go on about the common threads of early musical traditions (drone, chants, reed pipes, melismatic singing etc) or I could just call it sexy cathedral music. Either way it was groovy.
  15. Robert Glasper Experiment, “Black Radio” (2012) is a mostly mellow blend of jazz, hip hop, and neo soul with about half the Soulquarians on guest vocals, so ofc it sent me straight to my late-90s r&b comfort zone. Ends with a Smells Like Teen Spirit cover for good measure!
  16. Georgia Anne Muldrow, “Seeds” (2012) Freewheeling 70s-influenced r&b, in both sound and the new-agey lyrics. I can hear the comparison to Roberta Flack that I’ve read in a few places. This is the kind of music I can’t fully appreciate until it’s at least 70° outside.
  17. Tierra Whack/Whack World (2018) WOW! 15 minutes, 15 songs, 15 voices, 15 alter egos. If you’re feeling jaded, put this on now! It will make you feel excited about the strange possibilities of art, music, and life again! Must watch the video first:
  18. Black Dresses/Peaceful as Hell (2020) The dense noisy textures of WASTEISOLATION are toned down here (but not too much!) which allows so many great things to emerge, like catchier melodies and some of the sharpest songwriting i’ve heard in years. Fav. track so far: IM A FREAK CUZ IM ALWAYS FREAKED OUT
  19. Bo Diddley, “The Black Gladiator” (1970) Bo Diddley’s psychedelic album, where he starts out teaching you how to build an elephant and ends belting out an aria. Sounds like it was recorded at some sweaty outdoor festival in the middle of the summer, so it’s a good cure for the Feb. funk.
  20. Iannis Xenakis, “Pleiades” performed by Kroumata Percussion Ensemble (1990) Clattering, violent but also hypnotic composition. I’m not surprised to hear an influence of gamelan ensembles here, esp. in “Metaux”— that music has always felt very cosmic to me.
  21. Neil Young, “Trans” (1982) Neil Young does Kraftwerk! I love it! His clear falsetto is really well suited for this kind of music and all its vocal effects, but the album is still such an endearingly awkward fit. So much fun! Can’t wait to play “Computer Cowboy” at a real party someday!
  22. Anderson .Paak, “Ventura” (2019) Better than Oxnard, doesn’t reach the heights of Malibu, but that album is hard to beat! Still a fun, breezy pop album, just right for riding around in a convertible or any fast moving vehicle. Fav. track: Jet Black (feat. Brandy!)
  23. Adrianne Lenker, “songs” (2020) is mossy, green springtime melancholy, enhanced by ambient sounds of chimes, rain and birds chirping. Her voice is how i imagine a dryad would sound. I know i’m making it sound twee but trust me, it isn’t! Fav. tracks: ingydar, zombie girl
  24. Leonard Warren, baritone; Morris Levine, conductor, “Sea Shanties” (1948) some of the arrangements are a bit cutesy but it’s easy to imagine them in a movie musical of the time. And Warren’s voice is what it’s all about here. Fav. track: Haul-a-way, Joe

Last year’s reviews.

Monsters of Music October Art Challenge!!!

It’s 2020 and Inktober’s reputation has been tarnished beyond repair (everything else is ruined, so why not?) Since then dozens of new and/or lesser-known lists of spooky art challenges have sprouted in its wake, so I thought I’d make one too. You could try drawing album covers, portraits of the musicians, comics about the creatures, anything really. Or just use the songs as your October soundtrack. Links to the songs are right below the list!

Monsters of Music October Art Challenge list of songs

  1. Shep Wooley, “Purple People Eater”
  2. The Cramps, “I Was a Teenage Werewolf”
  3. Dr. Octagon, “HalfSharkAlligatorHalfMan”
  4. Bauhaus, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”
  5. Rasputina, “Transylvanian Concubine”
  6. Sid Hemphill, “Old Devil’s Dream”
  7. Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, “Little Demon”
  8. Alice Cooper, “Feed My Frankenstein”
  9. White Zombie, “I’m Your Boogieman”
  10. Slint, “Nosferatu Man”
  11. Outkast (feat. Kelis), “Dracula’s Wedding”
  12. Talking Heads, “Psycho Killer”
  13. David Bowie, “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)”
  14. The Sonics, “The Witch”
  15. Sam the Sham & The Pharoahs, “Lil’ Red Riding Hood”
  16. The Specials, “Ghost Town”
  17. The Boss-Tones, “Mope Itty Mope”
  18. ESG, “UFO”
  19. Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks, “Little Fang”
  20. Type O Negative, “Be My Druidess”
  21. Santana, “Black Magic Woman”
  22. Incredible String Band, “The Minotaur’s Song”
  23. Chavela Vargas, “La Llorona”
  24. Daniel Johnston, “Casper the Friendly Ghost”
  25. Roky Erickson, “I Walked With a Zombie”
  26. Shorty Long, “Devil with the Blue Dress”
  27. Robert Johnson, “Hellhound on my Trail”
  28. Germs, “Manimal”
  29. Misfits, “I Turned Into A Martian”
  30. Residents, “Herman the Human Mole”
  31. Grouper, “The Man who Died in His Boat”

People’s Quarantine Theatre: Shorts

These are all short films, 20 min. or less. Just some of my favorites:

1911: A Trip Through New York City (speed corrected with added sound) “Old film of New York City in the year 1911. Print has survived in mint condition. Slowed down footage to a natural rate and added in sound for ambiance. This film was taken by the Swedish company Svenska Biografteatern on a trip to America.”

Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll by Vaughan Mason & Crew. Don’t you wish you were at a roller rink right now?

Cargo Cult (dir. Bastien Dubois. Animated film about the development of a cargo cult on a Pacific Island during WWII)

Comingled Containers (Stan Brakhage, 1996) Pretty much all of Brakhage’s films are on Youtube. Binge!

Crooked (Orcus) Rot (David Firth, 2008) Creepy stop-motion classic.

Heavy Metal Parking Lot (1986) “Considered one of the greatest rock and roll movies of all time, ‘Heavy Metal Parking Lot’ is actually a hilarious documentary tribute to rock and roll’s greatest fans. Filmed in 1986 at a Maryland concert arena parking lot before a heavy metal show, this hilarious documentary is an unvarnished anthropological study of American metalheads in their mid-’80s glory.”

Liquid (Off the Air, Adult Swim) “Off the Air” is so great. I wish it wasn’t on hiatus. At least there’s dozens of episodes already!

This is Color / Learn about color and its commercial use, pre-Photoshop.

Train Ride to Coney Island 1987 (Nelson Sullivan) Things were different back then.

ULTRADIVE ICE DIVING BAIKAL / Extreme sports and Eurodisco on Lake Baikal, Russia. You think you’re tough?

White Magic (1940, Handy (Jam) Organization, Chevrolet Division, General Motors Corporation) “The physics, science and applications of light.”


People’s Quarantine Theatre – Long Version

Most of these are art and music documentaries because that’s what I like to watch. Let me know if any of them get yanked off Youtube and I’ll update the list. Coming up next: short version!

The 1880s Speak: Recent Developments in Archeophony “Presentation given by Patrick Feaster at the annual conference of the Association for Recorded Sound Collections in Rochester, New York, May 19, 2012. Visit to see some of his latest projects.”

Afro-Punk (doc. that inspired the annual AFROPUNK festival, 2003)

First Language: The Race to Save Cherokee

The Goat (dir. Buster Keaton, 1921)

Hackers: Wizards of the Electronic Age

Häxan (dir. Benjamin Christensen, 1922 “Based partly on Christensen’s study of the Malleus Maleficarum, a 15th-century German guide for inquisitors, Häxan is a study of how superstition and the misunderstanding of diseases and mental illness could lead to the hysteria of the witch-hunts.”) There is also an abridged version narrated by William Burroughs.

Holy Ghost People (Pentecostal/”snake handling” doc., 1967)

How to Draw a Bunny (Ray Johnson doc., dir. John Walter, 2002)

In the Realms of the Unreal (Henry Darger doc., dir. Jessica Yu, 2004)

Kowloon Walled City Documentary (1988)

Life In Hidden Light (dir. Miranda Tasker and Marcus Nield, “Video of life inside an enclosed Carmelite community, including short excerpts of interviews with some of the Sisters.”)

The Life of Tove Jansson (BBC doc., creator of The Moomins!)

ODDSAC (Animal Collective movie, dir. Danny Perez 2010)

People Who Do Noise (Portland, OR noise scene doc., 2008)

Phonogram Images on Paper “Phonogram Images on Paper and the Frontiers of Early Recorded Sound, 1250-1950.” Presentation given by Patrick Feaster at the annual conference of the Association for Recorded Sound Collections in Los Angeles, May 12, 2011.

Pink Narcissus (dir. James Bidgood, 1971)

Stop Making Sense (Talking Heads concert doc., dir. Jonathan Demme, 1984)

Style Wars (graffiti/hiphop culture doc., dir. Tony Silver, 1983)

Wattstax (aka The Black Woodstock, concert doc., 1973)

We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen (dir. Tim Irwin)

Wesley Willis: Artist of the Streets (1988)

Yo! MTV Raps (VH1 doc.)

Music Writers Exercise 2020

Music Writers Exercise, aka #MWE, is a Twitter challenge created by writer Gary Suarez where each day in February you listen to an album you’ve never heard before and tweet about it. I found these capsule reviews much more challenging to write than I’d imagined they would be! Although I write in a similar way at my day job (cataloging collections at the Bob Dylan Archive), those are mostly summaries and my personal opinions usually aren’t involved. I’d like to think this exercise helped improve my writing a bit and made me more likely to talk about the music and art I love. Most importantly, I had a blast doing this and caught up so much on albums from the past couple of years, when I was dealing with illness and couldn’t pay attention to anything else. Without further ado…

1. Fennesz, “Endless Summer” (2001) Opens with the sounds of machines whirring and roaring to life. Probably one of my favorite opening tracks of all time! The entire album is gorgeous, full of prickly, clicking, pulsing textures, like static electricity.

2. Sleep, “Dopesmoker” (rec. 1996) I wanted to like this more bc of its title and kickass cover but unfortunately metal and I are still oil and water. It’s the only genre of music that does little for me, except in a campy sort of way. Feel free to try & change my mind!

3. Helado Negro, “This Is How You Smile” (2019) You know when your intuition chooses the right music for a time & place? This is the sound of early February to me, its melancholy and the slow spreading return of sunlight and warmth. Excellent songwriting too.

4. …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, “Worlds Apart” (2005) has more of a mainstream ’90s alt-rock sound than Source Tags & Codes and kinda loses the plot toward the end, but it’s still got plenty of awesome RIFFS and vague fantasy-world imagery. 15yr old me loves it!

5. PAST WHERE THEY PAINT THE HOUSES! PAST WHERE THEY PAINT THE HOUSES!!! Slint “Tweez” (1989) sounds like it was recorded inside a dumpster. Each song starts, stops, and trails off whenever it wants to and doesn’t care if you follow along. Best song: CAROL (see above)

6. Autechre “Tri Repetae” (1995) didn’t click with me until track 6, then I was hooked on its intricate electronic polyrhythms. Fav. track: the delicate, skittering “Gnit” PS- looking for a file of the album cover is a good example of the subjectivity of color.

Autechre "Tri Repetae" various versions of the album cover found during a Google image search

7. Sudan Archives “Athena” (2019) is 21st century genre mixing at its most fluid. Spacey pop/r&b anchored by down-to-earth lyrics. Her Bandcamp bio says she was inspired by Sudanese fiddling, among many other styles of music, so now I want to check that out too!

8. serpentwithfeet “soil” (2018) Apocalyptic songs about the collapse of a relationship. His voice trembles, flickers, and sounds ready to burst into flames at any moment. Difficult listen bc of the raw emotions involved, but well worth it bc of its honesty and beauty.

9. Screaming Females “All At Once” (2018) The 90s are not back, they never went away! Not only does the whole album ROCK, but there’s a song called (about?) Agnes Martin, one of my favorite artists now, but I doubt I would’ve liked her in high school. It’s good to be older!

10. Kælan Mikla “Nótt eftir nótt” (2018) Icelandic darkwave/punk band. Walls of 70s/80s horror movie synths and screams, bigass beats. Sometimes I wish the singer(s) voice was a bit less buried in the mix bc it’s so strong, but I also like all the echoey effects she adds to it.

11. Norma Tanega “Walkin’ My Cat Named Dog” (1966) If the title track doesn’t make you smile then I don’t know what to say! A real warmhearted album, but not sweet or syrupy at all, especially the haunting first song “You’re Dead.”

12. Archy Marshall “A New Place 2 Drown” (2015) is a darker side of King Krule, if that’s at all possible, and released under his real name. Like being hungover at midnight, or the dread before a migraine sets in, after staring at a streetlamp for too long. Anyway, he rules.

13. Fugazi “The Argument” (2001) is their last and sparest sounding album. Mackaye & Picciotto’s voices ring out over the capitalist hellscape of 2001-??? even when they whisper. Fav. part: transition from grim, suffocating “Cashout” to desperate screaming on “Full Disclosure.”

14. Zola Jesus “Okovi” (2017) WOW. I can’t gush enough about this album!! Sorry for the cliche but her voice is a primeval force of nature! Lyrics are bleak and uplifting at once esp. in “Witness.” Now I have to go comb the leaves from my hair and pick the thorns from my skin.

15. Oneohtrix Point Never “Love In The Time Of Lexapro” (2018) I didn’t know where to start with OPN so I chose by title. The EP sounded pretty to me but I didn’t connect with it emotionally. I hear so many good things about his music- does anyone recommend another album?

16. Kacey Musgraves “Golden Hour” (2018) makes me feel like I’m riding across the desert in a silver convertible instead of shivering at home in February. A sense of wide-eyed wonder shines throughout the whole album, which is reflected in its buoyant, subtly futuristic sound.

17. Tyler, the Creator “IGOR” (2019) captures the agony of queer unrequited love better than any album I’ve heard since “Monomania” by Deerhunter. They couldn’t sound more different but they brought up the same queasy memories for me. Fav. tracks: A BOY IS A GUN, WHAT’S GOOD

18. clipping. “There Existed an Addiction to Blood” (2019) Man, this one was disappointing. Diggs’ oddly clinical depictions of gory violence and death sound like a horror film that’s afraid to get its hands dirty. Maybe that’s what he was going for, but I found it tedious. PS- the only interesting AND scary parts of the album were “Blood of the Fang” and “Piano Burning” which is exactly what it sounds like:

19. The Antlers “Hospice” (2009) Ok, I have a bunch of weird sound sensitivities and this album triggered all of them! Does that mean it’s bad music? Not at all!! Blame my brain’s weird circuitry and inability to hear a lot of guttural/glottal and piano noises w/out flinching.

20. Pharmakon “Bestial Burden” (2014) Now this is real horror. Industrial hospital meat locker sounds. Having been through a medical crisis recently this was both cathartic and truly terrifying to listen to.

21. Moon Diagrams “Lifetime of Love” (2017) takes its time sprawling and unfolding into one long hazy groove, tinged with melancholy. Fav. tracks: funky, kaleidoscopic “Magic Killer” and 80s/90s dance party “End of Heartache” Solo project from Moses Archuleta of Deerhunter.

22. Moses Sumney “græ” (2020) is gonna be hard to beat for my favorite album this year! It’s been thrilling to hear his music evolve since “Aromanticism,” which I still listen to all the time. Here, his voice weaves through ever more complex arrangements & lyrics like a satin ribbon.

23. Duster “Stratosphere” (1998) is a great come-down, sink-into-the-sofa album if ever there was. Spacey drones and heavy drumbeats keep a steady rhythm all the way through, but with plenty of variations in tone. My dog and I looked exactly the same while listening.

sleeping brown and white hound dog

24. Nivhek “After its own death/Walking in a spiral towards the house” (2019) is Grouper at her starkest. Heavenly chanting and funeral bells make me feel like I’m inside an ancient cathedral watching specks of dust float by in the dying sunlight. Dark, somber, and beautiful.

25. X-Ray Spex “Germ-Free Adolescents” (1978) Poly Styrene on vocals! Lora Logic on sax! Blazing masterpiece of punk rock and art! FUCK YEAH!!! ::scrapes self off the floor, falls down again::

26. Youssou N’Dour “The Guide (Wommat)” (1994) Production is very slick 90s “world music” (including a trip-hop duet with Neneh Cherry) but Senegalese superstar N’Dour’s voice soars over all and will never sound dated. Nice bilingual cover of “Chimes of Freedom” at the end.

27. Tanya Tagaq “Animism” (2014) more than lives up to its name! Rhythms of Inuit throat singing combined with harsh electronic beats and set off by atonal strings create a vision of our world seething and pulsating in all its beauty, complexity, and brutality.

28. King Krule “Man Alive!” (2020) I’m already a huge fan and his latest does nothing to change that! I was surprised at how similar the songs become from “The Dream” on, almost like one long grey, gloomy track. I liked it a lot but I missed the variety his albums usually have.

29. Kamasi Washington “Heaven and Earth” (2018) It’s jazz odyssey time! Clocking in at nearly 2.5 hours and very heavily 70s fusion influenced- think Herbie Hancock’s “Head Hunters” It’s not my favorite jazz genre but if it’s yours, you won’t want it to end.





Inktober 2017: Child Ballads

It’s the most wonderful time of the year again! My Inktober theme this year is Child Ballads: Monsters, Maidens, and Murder. Here are my sketches so far:

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Come back here through October to see new drawings added to the list below! And you can listen along to the series with this playlist I made:

  1. The Devil’s Nine Questions/Riddles Wisely Expounded (#1)
  2. The Elfin Knight (#2)
  3. The Three Ravens/Twa Corbies (#26)
  4. The Mermaid (#289)
  5. Sheath and Knife (#16)
  6. King Orfeo (#19)
  7. The Laily Worm and the Machrel of the Sea (#36)
  8. Edward (#13)
  9. Sweet William’s Ghost (#77)
  10. The Holland Handkerchief/The Suffolk Miracle (#272)
  11. Cockle Shells/Waly Waly (#204)
  12. False Knight on the Road (#3)
  13. Thomas the Rhymer (#37)
  14. The Farmer’s Curst Wife (#278)
  15. took a sick day, no drawing
  16. The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry (#113)
  17. skull-heart thingy (took a break from drawing ballads)
  18. Barbara Allen (#84)
  19. another sick day
  20. The Unquiet Grave (#78)
  21. The Wife of Usher’s Well (#79)
  22. sick day
  23. sick day (rrgh)
  24. The Cruel Mother (#20)
  25. The Twa Sisters (#10)