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Your Love, Unrequited

Daniel Bystedt

Never not valiant at first.
Your declarations feel
mighty as you take a bruised love into your mind.

Heel in wait with impaired eyes—
you sell as wounded—
smelling your paramour fleshy 
with discord and doubt.

She threatens to fall into your jowls,
supple with suffering, ripe with rapture;
you just need a boa's patience
and a poacher's heart.

The problem is that you are no predator.
Only a toothless scavenger
who confuses low-hanging fruit with
the toils, failings and ecstasies 
of feral devotion on the burning plain.


Hire Daniel Bystedt [L&R].


The Cost

Standing in my old room, iron
in hand, sweat beads
that are okay because the morning comes
through the blinds in pearl shards.
Another a.m. I’d still be sleeping
off a headache, thirst and misery after feeling your
lips lucid to me before your work.
Later awaking like a specter sucking
caffeine and active cultures in
a race to normal.
But today I left when you did, sipped
fresh coffee, bought groceries in a desolate
market, picked up weekend whiskey, fried
an egg, ate a bear
claw and looked with dry
eyes out the window and thought
to write down these things before
I had no time to remember them.


Addict Haiku

We fear just two things:
Feeling everything at once
or nothing at all. 


Observation #12

When the silver roadwhale flipped, Marcus laughed.
He said the wayward Oldsmobile reminded him of
stumbling out of Bennigan’s into a
backseat full of ass and limbs.
We stopped fishtailing and
Martin was losing his shit,
pounding the wheel and ranting about bucketlists,
journals to unborn children, and unfinished screenplays.
I realized we would probably miss the 10:20
No Country for Old Men when we left the ground.
But I’m more likely to be standing
on a seaside cliff going,
“shit—I could jump right now,” anyway.
It’s Martin who’s living
in a studio with a bike and a MacBook
and my copy of Catcher in the Rye
He’s read it five times.


My Missus, The Hairstylist

My missus, the hairstylist
revives me from follicle to foot.
Her wifely words are the gospels of
drunken debauchery, where
Jager begot Jacob and Patron, Patty,
one short of a trinity.
Dad, (someone else’s husband now)
helped conceive them over
the armoire, between meth runs and
hole-y pokes.
After their lab closed, she melted Jesus
in her mouth and found him
a silhouette breathing in the moonlit curtains.
My missus, I hope
your dreams of managing
strip clubs or Christian hair salons
are all raised up.
Please, just put your
working hands on my hairy
neck and cut me clean again.
Hire Kristin Proctor [L&R].


What Occurred to Me on a Hillside In Sonoma County

Adam Villela Coronado

People don't like alone.
Least of all in people who seem to enjoy it.

They'll walk right up to a body plumbing the brainy cosmos,
Say, "What are you doing off by yourself?"
Existential hall monitors.

The vines, hills, and breezes of Sonoma are ambrosial serendipity.

Butte-side, overlooking a reticent pond.
The soft burn of sunset.
Wind crisp as truth in a lover's mouth.
Wet yearning from the tongue of the vineyard hound.

Even this moment, random as weather, came from a fortuitous handwringing.



Ploughing in the Iron Age, as illustrated by Neils Bach.

Supreme energy. Cosmic force. The Dao.

Alive in all things, you unite me with the world and the world with me. Thank you for this cup of boundless vigor.

Every breath, thought and deed I draw from your measureless temporal waters. I employ your absolute zeal in all things loving. I accept that I am complete and perfect, my worth embedded in neither my greatest deed nor my most vile failure.

I am fortified with infinite potential, free to be anything that my will allows. This agency, resting in my soul’s seat, is my divine gift to an empirical world. I am not my work, wealth or possessions. Nor my friends, family or lovers. Nor my desires, deeds or mind. I am the celestial grounded, quickening through vessels, sinew and gray matter, forged in eternal ardor.

We are us. Our perfection frees us of the pain of yesterdays and the uncertainty of tomorrows. We occur as we choose, trading on all the experience, knowledge and love that we sense at will.

May we remain present in this body, this moment until we depart.


More by Neils Bach. [L&R]



Zen PencilsThe comic with its original color palette, drawn by Zen Pencils and based on a quote by Bill Watterson, can be found here



Vetter Kids. Courtesy.

The Texas is Funny Records Fall Showcase kicks off tonight at The Ten Eleven (1011 Ave. B) at 9 pm for $5 at the door (all ages). Night two is at Hi-Tones (621 E. Dewey) at 9 pm for $5 (21+ only). Before you head out to the show tonight, check out this interview I had with label owner Scott Andreu on expanding the showcase, signing bands both here and out of state, and also the ongoing mission of the Bands I Know collective.

Adam Villela Coronado: So are you switching from annual to seasonal as far as Texas is Funny Showcases are concerned?

Scott Andreu: Possibly it will turn seasonal. We have a lot of stuff going on in early 2014 release wise and we wanted to have a showcase featuring bands that will be a part of those releases: Deer Vibes, Glish, Vetter Kids, and Young /// Savage. Plus we have big plans for what will be our normal yearly showcase. It will expand to being about much more than just us. 

So this Fall Showcase seems to be marrying with or at least overlapping with the annual "Black Friday Blowout" show at 1011. Was it supposed to be this way?

Not originally. We had the showcase planned for 11/30 at Hi-tones and I had actually completely forgotten about the annual Black Friday Blowout. When I told James from Grasshopper Lies Heavy about 11/30, we decided to combine the two nights and promote them together. After we decided to combine the events, we separated the bands by the level of heaviness because some on Friday night play too loudly for Hi-Tones.

The showcase from January 2012 (at the White Rabbit) struck me for its wide swath of musical styles. The event repped indie country, art metal, space folk and all were either on the same label or part of the TIFR family. This weekend the lineup will be no different, featuring nu-gaze, post grunge pop and post punk. What is it that strings the TIF roster together? 

All these styles of music are basically off-shoots of the punk/hardcore genre. When TIFR first started, I pretty much just worked with my friends and the genres were even more “all over the board.” We did a split for Grasshopper and God Townes and that's when I met Marcos Gossi. Since his joining, we have molded the label into something a little more focused, something along the lines of labels like Matador or Sub Pop.  

TIFR has also begun featuring some out of state acts like Glish. Talk to me about deciding to support bands from outside of Texas.

Our first band from out of state was Heat Dust from New Orleans. We have also released albums from out of state bands American Thunder Band [KS] and Sixteen [KY]. Glish, from New Orleans, and Cherry Cola Champions, of Ohio, will be added to that list early next year. I know the label has the word “Texas” in it but I never had the idea that I would only put out Texas bands.

Now that isn't to say we don't care about San Antonio or Texas in general. We host as many bands as we can that are coming through town by either booking shows for them ourselves or supporting booking companies like Bexar Naked Booking. We want some of these national touring bands to leave Texas saying, "San Antonio was our best Texas date."

Deer Vibes. Courtesy.

In July, the Bands I Know media collective (that you are a member of) scored a weekly spot on KRTU 91.7 [airing Sundays and Mondays at midnight]. How has that been going? 

It has been going great. We pitched the show idea to the KRTU operations manager over a lunch at EZ’s in the Quarry last spring and he was intrigued. He asked us to do a demo show and he loved it. We won second place in best local radio program in the San Antonio Current, which was cool because we didn't know it was a category people could vote for.

BIK seems like it's been a little de-centralized since its 2011 inception. A few Youtubes here, a few blog posts there. Is the concept coagulating on KRTU?

I had the idea for BIK while floating on my back in a pool in New Orleans in the summer of 2011. I was still doing TIFR by myself and wasn't sure what direction I wanted to go with it. I did know I wanted to work with more bands than I wanted to sign to contracts.

At first, BIK was going to be a subscription-based 7" record club but morphed into a video project. It was a way to work with bands that had nothing to do with the label and was a fun project that I did with my brother Stephen. It did have the side effect of people finding out about the label because I was at their show filming them.  

The radio show, however, is about giving voice to styles of music that are being heavily covered by Spin, Brooklyn Vegan, Vice and being booked in San Antonio by smaller booking companies. It's a way for smaller labels in the region (Crowquil, Trends Die, Crime Fighter, Community, Better Days Will Haunt You) and national independent labels to get some coverage in San Antonio. We want the radio program to be an anchor piece to an overall puzzle being put together by a very dedicated group of people.

What do you hope people take away from this weekend's shows regarding TIFR?

I want them to see these new bands we are supporting and get pumped up about them. We are staying true to ourselves, doing our thing and putting out music that we love.



"He was a small town hustler and would-be shaman with big dreams, a heart of gold and a silver tongue more suited to live at the end of the 19th or beginning of the 20th Century than in today’s world. He was a perpetual outsider and definitely the truest rebel I’ve ever been close to. Jukebox - I hope you find all the things that escaped you in this life on the other side. I hope you will forgive me for not letting you know that I understood and respected you for who you were while you were still on this earth. I will always carry some of you with me brother."

-Jeff Smith, Owner of Saustex Records, on the death of John Thomas Jackson aka "Jukebox" (pictured above). Jukebox was a founding member and guitarist of Texas cow punkers Hickoids. 

Read the full eulogy.

Download classic Hickoids' cuts with Jukebox on guitar.




Not an hour before I begin this review, Seattle transplant and Bad Breaks creative force Chuck Kerr tells me on the phone that he’s sorry he’s bad at giving good answers in interviews. I reply that you don’t have to say a lot to mean a lot. Case in point: the former San Antonio Current Art Director’s new Carry On EP begs the question, “What now?” without uttering the words. Being an SA scene vet in multiple bands, it’s no surprise Kerr was short on time and long on savvy when he logged these sessions over two days last December. In that time, he captured the sound of a scrappy talent in a victory lap that hopefully isn’t his last.

But if this were the end, what a way to go out. Carry On is 13 minutes of raucous, platinum-polished indie pop that flexes Kerr’s expanding musical charms. On “Feel It In My Bones,” Kerr waxes cynical about conspiracy theorists over spooky-cheeky grooves provided by bassist Ryan Teter (Mission Complete!), guitarist Jackson Floyd (Ronald Ray Gun) and pianist Alex Wash (Black Magic & the Full Expose). “Feel” is pure Kerr, all stomping snares, pounded keys and “Oooh-ooh-ooh!” choruses. When Kerr injects a joke about fucking corpses and Floyd shreds after verse two, the song becomes sing-songy mania. 

In line with that crack on scenes and necrophilia, Kerr’s strongest musical weapon seems to now be his wry, often caustic point of view. He spent last year’s Bad Breaks painting and re-painting himself in relationship meltdown, often making us laugh at his delivery as we cried over his (our?) realities. Where the macabre melodrama of “Feel” pokes fun at conspiracy theorist paranoia, Kerr also snipes suburbanites “who will never shut up/’bout how proudly they are digging a rut” on the EP’s title cut. He implores a certain someone to “carry on” before “they carry you out,” with pianos and hand claps bouncing in mockery. The biting words and campy sounds cast Kerr as snide but sweet, like April Ludgate attending a prom she secretly loves.

Meanwhile, “Tell The World” finds Kerr returning to the well of love gone wrong, but in a way we didn't see last LP. The music is stripped to just Kerr’s voice over a piano (his fingers, not Wash’s) and a tambourine (god knows how) and it becomes clear why all his facetiousness has been funneled into wry character critiques. When Kerr tells a failed love that it’s them not him and that it’s breaking his heart, he sounds like any funny man caught in a moment of arresting honesty. No punchlines. No smiles. Just inopportune, unrelenting feels.

The moment is sobering enough on its own merits, but is underscored by Bad Breaks’ uncertain future. Kerr plans to continue writing but admits to being paralyzingly picky about collaborators. The hope is that Carry On sees him doing just that in Seattle.

Hear/buy this album.

Bad Breaks celebrates the release of Carry On tonight at 502 Bar (502 Embassy Oaks) with Chris Maddin and We Leave At Midnight. Music begins at 10 p.m.


LaJIT On the Rise

Poverty, survival, and chasing dreams are hardly new themes in rap. But the genre has shown us that, in the mouths of a raw talent, the ideas can reinvent themselves with striking conviction. Enter LaJIT, born John Isaac Torres (23), a fledgling San Antonio cloud rapper who’s struggled with a broken family, suicidal thoughts and minimum wage jobs. His 2012 Black Sun EP attempted to chronicle the pathos of such topics with mixed results. A year later he returns with Blue Sun, an EP tackling the same issues but with muscle, consistency and, most importantly, confidence.

All three elements are thrown into sharp relief on “Cards in Hand,” where LaJIT says no victories come without costs. He casts a portrait of his troubled nephew against his own recent successes as an artist. Then he links both tales by admitting that he hasn’t had much time “to be a dad.” By cloaking this inconvenient truth in staccato verses, ethereal synths and machine-gun snare fills, LaJIT makes “Cards in Hand” a tragic hero anthem. Credit his co-opting of beats by Lil B producer Keyboard Kid and the mixing/mastering of Creekside Sounds labelhead Ldotsdot. Both musicians give Blue Sun a spherical, subdued sound that underscores the EP’s late night character.

LaJIT has also become more aware of who he’s drawing on and what his limitations are, working within them always with the intent to expand his abilities.  On “That’s Life,” he updates the stoop-side musings of Nas’ “Life’s a Bitch” with the longing in Bone Thugz N Harmony’s “Tha Crossroads.”  His voice is on the softer side of grown, but his hyperawareness and speed make his meditations lean. When he exclaims, “Am I really doing something wrong?!” to his skeptical-of-art father, he’s channeling a generation low on prospects and high on discontent that doubles down against all doubters.

LaJIT’s hasty maturity gives the impression that he is onto something big, even on clumsier, too self-focused offerings like “Look Into My Eyes.” He has the lyrical chops and a gift for choosing collaborators. If he can expand his lyrical focus beyond himself, he may become San Antonio’s street storyteller in the style of Nas. 


Listen to Blue Sun single "Fear in Me."



Can't stop thinking about this song while prepping my review of LaJIT's forthcoming EP.





"The dialogue from Spike Lee's Mo Better Blues rings true for all music art forms. All too often black people approach us after shows to apologise for the over abundance of...white people. As if it's a genuine surprise that black people would pass up the chance to spend $30-60 for a pair of concert tickets.

But with all music (created) by African people there's a dangerous pattern. We create it, nurture it, elevate it, and abandon it. For those of you who are not familiar with the movie, they [Denzel Washington and Wesley Snipes] are speaking on the love/hate relationship relationship between Jazz artists and their jilted black audience (or lack thereof). But it's not only limited to Jazz: Blacks are a minority at Blues shows. Blacks are a minority at Rock shows (AND YES...WE CREATED ROCK N' ROLL). You see about 0 blacks at Raves (AS WELL AS HOUSE, JUNGLE/DRUM-N-BASS AND "ELECTRIC" MUSIC) and now my friends...surprise, surprise in 1986 in Long Beach, CA at a Run DMC show you might see about 20,000 Blacks...and 20,000,000 cops. But now?...it's more like 6 Blacks in attendance and Gary Coleman as security.

So those 'glory days' are over....On the other hand, the voice of Wesley Snipes represents the voice of non-traditionalists. I've been in many a debate with people who side with Wes. People who feel as though, if we get off the high horse and give 'em what they want, there would be no need for alarm...But what would happen if we gave 'em what they need? Hmmmm...."

-?uestlove, Things Fall Apart liner notes on the cut "Act Won (Things Fall Apart)."

More by Ultradialectics.


Review Rewind: LaJIT's "Black Sun" EP

CourtesyLaJIT is John Isaac Torres, a 21-year-old SA resident who spent his high school years on fixed income living with with an alcoholic uncle after his parents divorced. In 2011, he refused Zoloft prescriptions after contemplating suicide. Expectedly, his debut EP Black Sun attempts to chronicle the pathos of family dysfunction and, in some ways, it is a wild success. Producer Nicodxmvs (pronounced "Nicodemus") paints a soundscape that is as macabre as it is anxious. Beats percolate with a palpable insanity alongside the skeletal synths and piano samples. Credit LaJIT for cherry-picking the songs from Nicodxmvs' vault and also rapping with a heart attack's seriousness. The problem is that his reflections lack impact. He thinks money is overrated and that the idea of thinking money is overrated is overrated. His pontificating leads him to lyrics like "I'm the type to question Life and if God's fake." Not startling realizations for most of us. Still, on "Strange Pleasures" he deftly equates his generation's soul-searching with numbing one's brain from too many search engine queries. The unfortunate truth about LaJIT's quest for the same is that time is often the only solution. The hope is that he doesn't cross the precipice before that happens.

Listen to this album.


Think About This

"If, for instance, the future of the movie business comes to rely on the income from Netflix's $8-a-month-streaming-service as a way to fund all films and TV production, then things will change very quickly. As with music, that model doesn't seem sustainable if it becomes the dominant form of consumption. Musicians might, for now, challenge the major labels and get a fairer deal than 15% of a pittance, but it seems to me that the whole model is unsustainable as a means of supporting creative work of any kind. Not just music. The inevitable result would seem to be that the internet will suck the creative content out of the whole world until nothing is left. Writers, for example, can't rely on making money from live performances – what are they supposed to do? Write ad copy?" - David Byrne, on the cloud and the music industry.

Full text here.



A recent purchase. Photo by me.

Being an old millennial (1982) and aspiring techy, it’s no surprise that I adopted digital music early. I owned a Diamond Rio PMP300 in 2000, which held around 30 minutes of MP3 that sounded like a cassette tape copy of a CD from the public library. I took it jogging until the face plate fell off. Even though I was outspoken among peers about paying for music in the digital age, I took to file sharing like Mark Zuckerberg to the color blue. I didn’t hate compact discs but they looked like software for Christ’s sake. I bought them understanding that I’d eventually buy something smaller and that something was the MP3.

I traded MP3’s online, burned and exchanged CD-R’s with friends and begrudgingly bought CDs until I could afford an iPod in 2008. When Spotify came stateside in summer 2011, I signed up for a premium account without even demoing the free version. I did not care ever about the tactile romance of analog music, nor did I care about how fragile it seemed. Digital recordings, whether on compact disc or on a hard drive, did not age and that, along with the increasing ease of digital music storage, was all I ever cared about.

It is, perhaps, all the reasons I obsessed about the accumulation of digital music that I now want to collect as much vinyl as I can now. In recent weeks, I’ve handled my 180 gram reissue of Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs the way one might bath an infant (they weigh the same it seems and require similarly mild soaps). Meanwhile, electromagnetic induction (a process happening while the record stylus converts the grooves into music), makes about as much sense to me as babies being brought by storks. I’ve accepted music as zeros and ones all my life; a needle dragging through hardened polyvinyl chloride and/or shellac to create sound makes me want to reevaluate all the things I was certain about: God, unicorns, being a 1.5 on the Kinsey Scale.

Because vinyl is delicate, it degrades easily. So you lightly run a carbon fiber anti-static brush across its petal soft mini-valleys. You clean it with vinyl gloves, a velvet sponge and ten drops of Tergitol 15 S-3 and S-9 in a gallon of distilled water. You protect it from heat, dirt and dust and it still degrades just from taking it out of the sleeve. It degrades further as the diamond-tipped stylus drags through the grooves. Your hands, even when clean, are covered in organic shit that destroys the sound over time.

This incidental wear, that you can’t stop but only hope to contain, produces a sound that is unique from the last time, even if you can’t detect it. It’s warm and rich with all the faults blurred, like drunk friends on a weeknight, miles away from stinking their work restroom with coffee-Gatorade piss the next day. Vinyl is those same friends years later, buying a blood-glucose monitor and Diet Pepsi and resolving to cut the crap. The memories purchased. The costs exacted. You can give vinyl the Chris Traeger treatment all its life; it will expire one day as surely as you will.

Richard Garcia, of Yes, Inferno and Romeo Golf, addressing himself and, surely, records.

Privately consuming music has always featured the wet must of loneliness and, when the record plays, there is literally nothing but you and the aural snapshot of the band. Digital players, social media and the cloud seemed to battle this experience by, ironically, allowing us to share musical experiences from wherever our devices are (near or on our beds, likely). For the aging millennial that has spent most of his media experience on a computer and/or internet, listening to a record that can’t be synced to software that is also a purchase hub is not just unfamiliar. It’s downright frightening.

It’s quite possible to shut off the phone, power down the laptop and sit in front of your speakers and feel completely alone. But strangely, the more I place the vinyl and lower the stylus—with the care of a gardener moving soil and plant from one pot to another— the more I find myself in the wilderness downtown, but not alone.



“The monster about to come alive again.” That early lyric in Yeezus’ opening cut “On Sight” is the only guide needed to make sense of Kanye West’s latest brutal, disorienting and incredibly prismatic solo record. Imagine West ripping the spine out of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’s “Monster,” then suckling the bone marrow while getting drunk on misogyny, race politics and guilt. Then imagine him vomiting on a Pro-Tools rig on record. It sounds abhorrent, but the end result is so insistent and confounding that it cannot (and should not) be ignored.

In a word: horror. Much is made of West using industrial sounds, select collaborators and a minimalist sonic approach, but the most resonating element of Yeezus may be that it literally sounds like a futuristic nightmare. EDM, indie rock and (most beguiling) dancehall are cut and pasted into magazine-lettered rap ransom notes. Multiple songs are jarringly interrupted by contrasting samples with blunt-force effect. “I Am A God” ends simulating the primal screams and heavy breathing of someone falling prey to Leatherface. On “New Slaves,” sleazy horror keyboards paint racism as a monster that keeps coming back in the final act. “Hold My Liquor” is a living nightmare for any rap mogul: unable to keep the drinks down or employees in line or lovers close, crashing one’s Range Rover into a bootycall’s Corolla. But Yeezus is no more comprehensive than on “Blood on the Leaves,” which eviscerates decency by framing Nina Simone’s rendition of “Strange Fruit” firstly around West’s loneliness (“All I want is what I can’t buy now”) and then around his perceived injustice of being financially obligated to a pregnant groupie (“Now you sittin’ courtside,/wifey on the otherside./Gotta keep ‘em separated./I call that apartheid”).

This is this record’s other dominating thread. West has never been known to not run off at the mouth, but Yeezus sees him setting his irreverence to “Tony Montana with M16.” It’s not just that he’s using Johnny Cochran (his baby mama’s deceased father’s once teammate in O.J. Simpson’s defense team) to illustrate a woman’s sluttiness or comparing his fist to a civil rights sign when inside a woman's vagina, it’s how often he contradicts himself.* On “New Slaves,” West indicts the hip-hop accessory industrial complex which he aggressively participates in. His tirade is revealed to be fueled less by rage and more by futility (for all his success, he’s still black in a world largely controlled by whites). His conclusion: vowing to take revenge by grudge-fucking a white girl in the Hamptons, a plan that victimizes women, his oppressors and, ultimately, himself (by legitimizing the Black Brute stereotype). If you listen to West the way feminists read Hemingway, then the tragedy is as loud as the misogyny and consumerism.

Further complicating things is West’s reliance on vicious deadpan. It’s simply too difficult to tell when he’s kidding or if he’s even interested in being funny. See “I’m In It,” where he equates a bra unclasping with a negro spiritual (“Your titties,/let ‘em out/Free at last./Thank God, almighty”) or “Hold My Liquor” where he reminisces about some pussy that “Had me dead./Might call 2Pac over.” West seems to be both taunting his haters and challenging his fans, inflating his depravity to the limit and literally trying to make as many enemies as possible.

All of which makes Yeezus sound like an apocalypse of the spirit, celebrating everything that is brilliant and deplorable about West, so much so that it often feels like a desperate plea for relevance. The cyclopean irony here is that West’s art has never lacked accolades, his anti-hype campaign resulted in a furor of media speculation and the album is so compelling that it’s destined for year-end lists based on its sound and attitude alone.

More importantly, it seems that West’s work trajectory is revealing him to be rap’s Miles Davis. Like the iconic jazz trumpeter, he’s not always the reason for the genre’s new directions (Yeezus could easily be the result of him just discovering Goblin, Ten$ion and Pretty Hate Machine), but he continually puts himself at the center of the newest, strangest, most engaging elements in popular music. His last three albums reveal the restlessness often associated with tortured geniuses (coincidentally coming after his mother’s death). For five years, West has been running from whatever sonic tapestry he crafted on his last album, while simultaneously plumbing the depths of his personality. If Yeezus is West reaching his core, then it puts him on par with sociopathic art figures like Howard Hughes, Vincent Van Gogh and Mozart. The album may not best represent West’s body of work, but it immaculately captures the way we see him live his life: excess, narcissism, low and high brow in the red, teetering on oblivion at times. Given a media-entrenched country’s emotional ambivalence towards celebrity, it may be West’s most cautionary and relevant work to date.


Buy this album.

*This sentence originally referred to the inserting of a sign into a vagina, which was found to be an innacurate description of the lyric. Stomping Grounds regrets the error.


Love, Caution

Justin Oullette

Streetlight embraces.
Duckpond gropes.
Telephone hours.
Night drives.
Fight one, where I scream and she laughs.
Fight two, with the stranger without her pills.
A poem about chasing Ascher’s balloon in the rain.
A song about family.
Fight three, about writers who don’t teach.
Sex in the garage.
Holes in the wall.
Tears on the backseat.
Dents in the car.
Spouting about Ascher being a man.
Seething in the driver’s seat, admitting nothing.
Driving my brother, “Crazy,
man. This is it.”
More by Justin Oullette.


Mery's "Streets" a Lovely Jaunt

Is there a modern genre more spiritual than R&B? I’m not referencing the presence of God so much as the emotional core that holds fast after the genre has been sonically stretched to Tantric proportions. Many of its champions barely sound like one another (ever listened to What’s Going On right after The ArchAndroid?), but the messages seldom change: I love you. I miss you. Let’s fuck. And, oh, what’s wrong with the world today?

It’s this context that helps shed meaning on Gentlemen Streets, the latest release from Nick Mery aka Merykid. The fact that Streets is the first title to bear Mery’s proper namesake tells us he’s starting a new chapter and is, at least, trying to drop the “youthful” persona. He enters the R&B fray as a five-year industry vet, having licensed his music to CBS, charted on Garage Band’s Top 25 Acoustic Artists and been nominated twice at the Feel Good Film Festival. All these accolades have been accompanied by a restless genre stretching of his own. He’s made eclectic folk his hallmark (as Merykid), but has also veered into garage rock (The Great ‘85) and psychedelia (The Texas Weather). In other words, Streets makes sense because R&B is forever mercurial and Mery is comfortable with his own weird. You’ll likely be, too, because, well, James Blake is in the world.

Mery understands the fundamentals: some butt-bouncing beats here, a sultry hook there, stacks of synths, plus guest verses by able rappers and one vocalist. The difference here is that Mery (writing, playing and co-producing with Edwin J. Stephens) drenches everything in a coat of space. That is, the music literally sounds meant for baby-making at zero gravity.

Streets soars on opener “Countdown (To The End of the World).” Mery lets wordsmith Carlton Zeus rule with his gravelly bro timbre for nearly half the cut, before entering the hook in a volley of vocal effects. Then he leaps into a respectable (if short) rap verse. This is the same guy who played “Master of Puppets” on a banjo.

The rest of Streets seldom hits as hard as its opener, but it makes several killings because of Mery’s sonic approach. Lead single “True” is why-won’t-you-love-me balladry stuck in the retrofuture. The warbly synths and glitchy snare don’t just reveal Mery’s love of vintage tech sounds. They also work with a cache of ambient synth noise to evoke that dreamy “4 am” sound. The same is true about “Baby (I Know),” which sounds like Mery giving a post-coital pep talk to his lover, their space suits still drifting around them. Meanwhile, “All I Had,” the suite “Strange World” and the beginning of “Now or Never/Just Say It” wouldn’t make sense on most R&B records, but end up becoming displays of Mery’s IDM prowess.

And on two tracks, Streets induces head-scratching. “Good Day” has Streets’ best segueway (from “All I Had”) and a spastic killer speed-verse from folk-rapper Chris Conde. But Mery mars the song with an un-enthused chorus. It aims for cool, but lands on meh, despite the fact that the cut makes “Galactic Trap” sound viable. (Conde was crashing on Stephens’ couch when he offered to freestyle over a demo of “Good Day.” Mery didn’t know him from Adam but gave Conde a try and decided the verse was, “the best thing I ever heard.”)

But the clincher is “Give It Up,” a smoldering soul anthem Mery built on rhode keys and abrasive guitars. The song will pique the interest of many simply because soul-rock chanteuse Carly Garza is credited in the track listing. She’s relegated to three-word-hook duty. The fact that Garza and Mery, both exceptional singers, aren’t engaging in any give and take (she doesn’t even get a verse) is criminal, especially as the boy-girl duet holds a cherished place in R&B’s history. On its own merits, the anthem is still a centerpiece, just a centerpiece that begs, “What if?”

Even so, Streets is a triumph. It takes a few listens to sink in, but the record makes R&B sound like it’s inhabiting Mery’s world and not the other way around. But also, Streets marks Mery’s fourth genre shift in as many years. He may not yet be the relentless genius his artistic output implies, but it’s clear Mery has no plans to slow down.


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