Choi and Cure classic “Boys Don’t Cry” make for perfect pairing

Courtesy of Karen Choi

Cover songs can be a tricky art, especially when it comes to making them into great cover songs. For example, Hendrix did it with Dylan’s “Watchtower”, Jeff Buckley spiritually redefined Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, while Johnny Cash took Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” and made the track’s original pain sink even deeper into the flesh. Often it seems like the best way to make someone else’s song your own comes down to finding a whole new way to interpret how it makes you feel, and how that in turn influences the listener.

Lincoln, Nebraska-born singer-songwriter Karen Choi is one of the most current artists I’ve heard truly accomplish this creativity. She recently took on a new spin of the song “Boys Don’t Cry” by English rock group The Cure, and in my mind has delivered a beautifully definitive version. While the original certainly has its merits as a classic Brit-rock bop, Choi and her band strip it down and rebuild “Boys” as a Nashville pedal steel-shimmered, slow-danced ode to the Midwest red rust in the vein of Kacey Musgraves or Emmylou Harris.

Courtesy of Karen Choi

In fact, I think this allows Choi’s take on “Boys” to have more of an emotional veneer than the original allows for. While Cure frontman Robert Smith sings it with tears neatly tucked behind his sleeve inside an 80’s rock melody, Choi slows down the tempo to show all her feelings front and center. If this homage to “Boys” is a breakup, all the dirty laundry is coming out and, if I know a good country/folk song, those metaphorical clothes are going right out on the front lawn. 

It’s a straight-up take on the track, and shows even if you traditionally think of a song as one way, like a prism its actually much more about the angle of how you view it. Lucky for us as listeners, Karen Choi has provided a perspective that’s absolutely bursting with rainbows of light. 

Listen below:

Third Class has front to back excellence on newborn “Haunted Until The Very End”

Courtesy of Third Class

East Palestine, Ohio-based band Third Class has explored a kitchen sink’s worth of twisting, turning, transforming sounds and melodic adventures since their initial formation in 1999, led by frontman Lee Boyle. We’ve talked at length about a few of those prior sonic trips here on OTBEOTB, but I think Third Class’ latest release Haunted Until The Very End might just be a ticket to listen to the best work the trio has done to date.

The LP’s title certainly feels like an apt one, as plaintive organ fills, darting guitars, moments of churning, sludgy production and darker lyricisms are just some of the elements that feel right at home exploring a cemetery on Halloween night, or the darker side of the soul. Ouija board sold separately. And while there are lighter moments (like the airy “Call Me Anytime”, guitar-centric “Happiness Is My Favorite Thing”, and the quiet introspection of “I Own Everything”), the songs feel like the musings of a person reliving a life flashing before their eyes just before the trip to their final destination arrives. Or a spirit as yet unaware that the existence it once knew has already begun to disappear into that mysterious, never-ending voiceless void between the reality of awareness and the drift of permanent sleep.

However, not every moment of Haunted is as deathly serious-minded as implied (no pun intended). The band does take a few pleasantly spacey sci-fi steps in their concept with the song “Holy Alien”, as well as the outer planet radio static rock of the title track. The concoction of the entire LP ultimately settles down right at home in the Third Class catalogue, as Boyle and crew have long been able to expertly weave together songwriting/arrangements that are as much sincere as they can be endearingly tongue-in-cheek or experimental. 

Those touches certainly lighten the mood of this sonic journey, though the nagging ominous feeling of exploring the veil between life and the unknown plane we feel as “the Great Beyond” still remains. Look no further than album opener “Watch Our Souls”, which opens on imagery evoking Sunday church service before a burial. I unfocus my ears a bit and almost immediately find myself in the crowd of black-garbed funeral mourners paying last respects, just before a Band of Horses-esque breakdown hints at something more spiritually ethereal in the room; that the dead can’t rest without a few more stories. 

Altogether, the portrait of Haunted may seem a tad Dali-esque at times, but the heart at its center is undeniable beneath the acrylic layers. 

Check out the new album below and follow the band across social media channels!

https://thirdclass.bandcamp.com/album/haunted-until-the-very-end

Anne Bennett’s “Hell Couldn’t Keep Me” scorches with Underworld fire

Via Anne Bennett

When the mood hits just right, blues music has an almost drug-like power of intoxicating promise and persuasion deep within the storytelling of its sandpaper hollowed bones. Take Anne Bennett’s dark, rumbling new song “Hell Couldn’t Keep Me” for instance, which kicks off with an entrancing pattern of assertively arpeggioed acoustic guitar notes. The resulting melody feels like slow surrounding serpentine menace; beautifully engrossing to the eye until it’s too late to see the coils encircling your throat for an unfriendly final squeeze. 

That thunder-streaked, ominous fog is the perfect place setting for the backwoods murder balladry of “Hell”, which feels a bit like the love child of Alison Mosshart and Jack White’s Dead Weather side project, or White’s Raconteurs work (think “Carolina Drama”). It’s the perfect vibe as we get close to Halloween to imagine Bennett’s protagonist suffering a grim and gruesome demise on a dark, stormy night…. only to rise again, pulled back by the pursuit of revenge so fiery, swift and terrible even Lucifer himself can only stand back and watch with awe and admiration. 

Via Anne Bennett

In fact, as the rhythm of the song rises with swirling shades of harmonica, simmering electric guitar heat and chains in the percussion, I suddenly visualize that trademark hand from any horror movie rising from the freshly overturned dirt and dust. Stirred on by the trauma of those sins committed in the deep dark muddy, Bennett breaks free of those chains, her croon as equally unleashed as the ultimate promise of retribution, retaliation and brutal vengeance.  

I can’t begin to describe my sheer enjoyment when it comes to the atmosphere of “Hell Couldn’t Keep Me”. Half of the blues is just that, conveying… real blues and making the listener believe that truth. Take one guitar riff, add a pinch of “I woke up this morning”, but you gotta feel it somewhere down deep in your blood and soul. Lucky for us blood and soul is just the passion Bennett pours into this energizing blitz of a track.

Carlile makes “In These Silent Days” filled for afternoons of golden joy

Oh, Brandi Carlile. We’re here to discuss her new country/folk rock album “In These Silent Days”, and opening track “Right on Time” just started… it makes me incapable of words outside of Brandi, WOW Brandi this level of power is so special. Carlile has musically graduated by the length of planets compared to the young singer-songwriter trying to break out of her birthplace in Ravendale, Washington. 

Not that it took her long to rise, especially with musical compatriots (and guitarist twins) Tim and Phil Hanseroth acting as the heart of Carlile’s backing band. Accolades from the recording booth to the stage soon followed. The bond between the three emerges quickly on other ITSD standouts like “Broken Horses”, Stay Gentle”, “Mama Werewolf” and “This Time Tomorrow”, as powerful harmonies amongst the trio function with the precision of a surgeon’s blade. Even Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in their prime would have trouble making voices sound that clean, crisp and pure; brim-filled with fret-worn emotional storms. 

Carlile still has the same Seattle rocker instinct that made the shriek of her voice so filled with intrigue in her 2005 breakout “The Story”, but in the 15 years since she’s taken that power and refined it with both time and experience. As she recently proved during a live gig at The Gorge she’s still as capable of keeping pace with members of Soundgarden singing their hits, but can also slow to a crawl in the next moment for a Joni Mitchell croon on “In These Silent Days” track “When You’re Wrong”. 

Since hearing Joni’s “Blue” album with her songbird-like melodies, I’ve felt as though I was witness to something I’d never hear again the same way. But if anyone gets close it’s Brandi Carlile. Just put on the closer of ITSD “Throwing Good After Bad” and that tone comes through loud and clear like gems we thought gone long ago. 

I think Carlile hit a definable height with her prior album “By The Way I Forgive You”, and has managed to continue that type of pace here with “Silent Days”. Rightly the praise continues to logjam for her as a result, and in my mind it couldn’t happen to a better person. Especially a musician working this hard not to just get better, but to redefine the art form as we know it. 

Check out Brandi and the Hanseroth twins below slaying the SNL stage last night for some added audio magic!

Jude Shuma takes us on immersive ride with expansive “Suzy Space Cadet” project

Via Jude Shuma

There’s a certain majesty in the many stained-glass hues of an untapped night sky. Constellations and the stars we find as familiar friends dot the territory like a box of overspilled paints coursing down a sidewalk. But if anything it all feels like department store blinds concealing our view of something much more than just a backyard to a quiet neighbor’s house down the street. And the deeper delved, the further the mystery goes… that infinite realm holds so much open space (no pun intended) where many stories can begin to take root within the path of the orbit.

It’s in those cascading waves where we find Jude Shuma’s new trippy audio/visual hybrid project Suzy Space Cadet. The record itself is a hay fever psychedelic, ricocheting mood of thick percussive bridgework, pacing bass/synthesizer lines, and lockjawed guitar fuzz to emulate and characterize the main character Suzy’s descending direction. David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” and the iconic Major Tom come to mind in Suzy’s tale, though more if ”Oddity” became a short film given time to have access to a relatable emotional center and background.

Courtesy of Jude Shuma

The visual/comic book side of “Suzy” as well as Shuma’s occasional unsteady lyrical narrator fill in the gaps between the sonic instrumental moods due to their ties together, creating a frustrated feeling of elation that becomes uncertainty, fear, and a loss of everything familiar through the eyes of our space-bound narrator hurtling through the endless void. The drifting arc of this narrative path leads to the question of how far do you spread your eager wild wings without fear of becoming Icarus, a casualty for flying too close to a sun at the edge of the universe.

Moreover, we can easily extend that warning to all humanity itself. In my prior post we discussed musician Andrew Thomases and his climate fears on new single “Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone?”. But there’s also the likes of Bob Dylan’s 1983 Infidels track “License To Kill”, in which Dylan laments humanity’s violence and that man’s thirst for colonization included our first step that ever touched the moon. 

Humanity has a relationship as raggedly raw as Shuma’s guitarwork when it comes to the realm of space, especially as Earth’s climate issues spark debate of our future trying to survive on other planets. There’s still so much we don’t know, plus the thought that we as a society may only act as a blight to any other place we choose to inhabit. As much as Shuma’s “Suzy” project is meant as light, slightly substance-enhanced fun, it also raises questions as numerous as each of the stars above us.

Get the full immersive experience of Shuma’s latest project below! Visual media features illustrations from German artist Denise.

STREAM: “Suzy Space Cadet” on Spotify

VIEW: “Suzy Space Cadet” Comic Book

Times of change find me “Swimming” in “Circles” on Miller masterwork

Courtesy of Google Images

I was inspired to put on Mac Miller’s Circles album today after listening to the re-release of his heralded mixtape Faces (out on physical and digital formats now). Circles came out in a certain life period for me pre-pandemic that was a mixed bag where I needed just what that record was saying. I had chosen to leave media and was doing a different job I was having a tough road accomplishing at the time, there were many dark fall and winter days, and real or perceived I felt very isolated, aimless and out of place in my world.

Often on lunch breaks I’d just go to my car alone and quietly listen to Mac. Not drumming for sympathy, just how I preferred the menu when the pressure was off as a way to decompress. The selection was usually Circles or the equally brilliant Swimming (with some Faces and The Divine Feminine in between). Despite how real and raw that material is, it also had its comforts; often in being so easily relatable through the experience and resilience of human rising and failing. Getting up off the mat even after confessing to the mortal wound lying within one simple phrase: I’m not doing well.

Mac Miller’s Youtube Page


Miller sadly lost his fight through the darkness, but the light of what he left behind still signals to anyone struggling you aren’t alone dealing in it. Music is (or should always be) an all-inclusive playground to those hurting in ways we can and can’t identify. Kid Cudi’s Man On The Moon trilogy and Speedin Bullet 2 Heaven LP also speak bluntly on the same pains, and those works are just a drop in the bucket of creators who bare such vulnerabilities. Personally, I hope each beneficial note can aid in the spread of more honest conversations on subjects like mental health and being secure in sharing basic emotions with meaningful people in your life.

Normally OTBEOTB is a blog I keep pretty on the narrow reviewing new/indie music, but I’d also like to mix in more of my honest introspection on the overall art as well.

Courtesy Kid Cudi’s Youtube


I reminisce on these moments with Mac as I’m set to be fully healthy and pain free from wrist issues for the first time in years, and with that is coming major change. I’m not exactly sure what yet, but the great thing with Mac, Cudi and every artist that matters on this level… in the digital age they’re never far from me in being any needed support. And in that, I feel some optimism. Despite the many young artists like Mac who should still be with us.

After all, great music expressing you… can make all the difference of a world’s weight.

Craft hits another slam dunk on new HOMECOURT ADVANTAGE mixtape

Off Marlon’s FB page

I recently had full fusion surgery on my right wrist in order to alleviate the consequences resulting from late stage Keinbock’s Disease. The procedure requires dealing with a lengthy recovery time and a slow comeback to semi-normal function, but after going through significant pain and strength issues for years (even while typing) the trade has thus far been a very important one. Plus, it’s a move that finally promises a real and lasting solution to a career-hobbling crutch.

Healing is still ongoing, but I’ve finally gotten to the stage where like a cigarette at the end of a long day I can slowly stub out some words again. The effort to do so takes a bit longer than it normally would, but I found too many music-related words swinging through my brain like fruit on the vine to simply be left unused to go rotten.

Sourced from Craft’s social media

So let’s get started with New York City bar-spitter Marlon Craft. The 28-year old Hells Kitchen rapper has been a creative madman in a career still going as young as it is strong. Last time we joined Craft he’d locked forces with producer Yusei on the superb Space EP; today we find his vivid verbal vitriol as the headlining star behind new release HOMECOURT ADVANTAGE Vol. 1. 

The mixtape is less standard LP format and more a set of fast-shifting vignettes putting Craft’s sheer level of profound verbal bars in even sharper scope, especially with beats and sampling that frame Craft’s worldview rather than overwhelm it. Tracks like “Lost Faith”, “The Loop”, “Bluffin”, “All We Got” and “Halal” hit with the consistent laser-like efficiency of Steph Curry snipershot threes; a perfect fit alongside HOMECOURT’s SLAM Magazine-basketball alluding cover. 

From Marlon Craft’s FB

No lyrical topic’s safe here either as Craft puts everything from mental health to the oligarchs in his firing squad line. And in this day and age, it’s become more important than ever to find figures like Craft willing to scream the truths behind the indiscretions, illusions and inequalities of our existence. Too often there are too many willing to be silent or have hushed conversations on those dangers and fears in the hope that will be enough to keep the hungry wolves from breaking down their door.

But life isn’t the power of pretend, purple dinosaurs and pretty faeries. It’s a real, raw experience that deserves equal scrutiny whether its kind, cruel, or a percentage in between somewhere. We must never be afraid to use our voices, and lucky for us Marlon Craft made a trade deadline swap for more full-throated defiant shouts here on HOMECOURT.

Be sure to check out Marlon’s new album and plenty of his other material on everything social media, streaming sites, digital downloads, the works!

Williams having a blast on solo single; no “Game for Guessing” on that

Courtesy of Google Images

Sometimes there’s a fine line between being “too fun” or “too serious” in an artist’s music. Don’t go over the Florida Georgia Line, and CERTAINLY don’t cross the Mark Kozelek Divider (these days anyway). 

Thankfully, the Lone Bellow’s Zachary Williams is well-trained in the balancing act. Williams has a solo album called Dirty Camaro due out October 22nd, with debut single “Game for Guessing” having just dropped (featuring the lovely Robert Ellis who helped produce the LP).

Like Williams, Ellis is an earnest goofball at heart, and that tandem strikes early here with “Game for Guessing”. The lyrics don’t always make sense and lean heavy on well-crafted humor; something Ellis relished in on his underrated 2019 solo release “Texas Piano Man”. But they’re a lot of fun, especially as the band rocks with wild abandon. 

Image courtesy of Google Images

The accompanying music video for “Game” adds perfect illustration to that mood, as Williams dances through an old house wearing a brightly colored robe with shiny slippers and later winds up running down the street in a hospital gown. It’s something to be witnessed (see below). 

Knowing Williams, there’s also going to be a hell of a lot of heart and emotions on Dirty Camaro. That’s just the wonderful way he rolls. The only thing left to do now is wait for release day in order to find out. 

“How Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last?” I think it could be one of 2021’s best

Courtesy of Google Images

To put it simply: I absolutely LOVE what the band Big Red Machine has done with the uplift of new album “How Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last?”. The side project is the brainchild of two men who recruited a host of gorgeous throated/fingered angels for friends to create a 15-track LP that slipped into the world recently.

Ordinarily I’d simply say those two gentleman were Aaron Dessner and Justin Vernon, but their separate credits are worth a mountain of paragraphs. Forgive me if I admire too much, but it’s hard not to be impressed.

Courtesy NME/Graham Tolbert

Dessner is a vital multi-instrumental presence in indie rock group The National with twin brother Bryce (twinning with his own sideman and composer accomplishments). He’s also worked with the likes of Taylor Swift, Sharon Van Etten and The Lone Bellow, showing his all around limitless range.

Meanwhile, Vernon is the man behind the curtain of bands like Bon Iver, Volcano Choir and the now-defunct DeYarmond Edison. While miraculously perhaps, he’s managed to collaborate alongside both Kanye West and Taylor Swift and lived to tell the tale with great success.

So as you can guess, having Dessner and Vernon collaborate for a 2nd BRM album is exciting. This effort perhaps moreso because it is so beautifully collaborative without sounding crowded or overstepped.

While the 1st BRM LP was primarily bounced off Vernon and Dessner, this feels more out in the open. Like an album The Band might have made if they had a vibe for more futuristic tones (such as the Naeem-featured “Easy to Sabotage”). There’s also plenty here to be found that’s down to Earth, like Anais Mitchell’s gorgeous poignance on “New Auburn”, the swoony church of Sharon Van Etten of “Hutch”, and a gorgeously ghostly Robin Pecknold on “Phoenix”.

Taylor Swift doesn’t disappoint either, as she and Vernon pair like they’ve sung together for years on the yin and yang of “Birch” and “Renegade”. But her fame level doesn’t overshadow on this; her takes are simply just more goodness in the grain here.

Courtesy of Google Images

For something so divided amongst artists, one would almost expect some sound division across this album. But Dessner and Vernon keep a flow that never truly leaves these pieces no matter how casual or ornate.

They’re calling the shots with this orchestra, and it’s creation is a gorgeous comparison to sunrise. Get your sunglasses, it’s gonna be pretty.

Ryan’s “Never Let Me Know” makes for fitting fall palate appetizer

From Andrew Ryan’s FB page

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has truly deprived the world of the joy of personally seeing so much young and hungry music talent that’s out there. I know that in my case, I have a quantity of wonderful memories seeing several bands in an evening, maybe knowing one of them, and coming home a fan of others I hadn’t even heard of before that night. 

This is all while being packed into a sweaty sardine heap inside a charming blink-and-you’d-miss-it venue that might be violating fire codes by having so many people there. Nevertheless, there was always a certain kind of magical love affair I experienced getting into the club trenches and being on the lookout for the next best thing creatively. Even if by our current pandemic standards such a scenario now seems impossible.

I’ve long felt Andrew Ryan belonged directly in the ranks of these diamonds in the on-stage rough. I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing the St. Louis native live and in person, fortunately in the digital age I’ve been able to slowly witness his artistic progression at length from the studio side of the glass.

Image courtesy of AR Facebook

Ryan’s latest single “Never Let Me Know” is a deeply dreamy, psychedelic Midwestern rocker that feels as woozily disconnected as its lyricisms imply. Ryan lets his producer heart out within the tightly wound layers of tipsy guitar, drum and heartbeat-like bassline, the building of which only adds to the equal tapestry of fogging emotional murk. 

It’s been impressive to watch Ryan build his sound from basics such as acoustic guitar, percussion, and a sprinkle of bass into material with greater and greater nuance. “Never Let Me Know” has a rich, ragged flow akin to Lord Huron that only adds to the listener’s ear appeal, and that’s vital when constructing world building melodies. 

Courtesy of AR Facebook

From my perspective, I love great headphone albums or songs that reveal layers. They reward repeat listens by scrubbing off the surface to reveal intricate bass runs, guitar style techniques, and notes that might never be discovered with the naked ear. Fans don’t lie sometimes when they say all a good LP needs is more time to listen to it in order for it to truly flourish.

I believe the same is true with “Never Let Me Know”, especially as it enters into my now fall-themed playlists. Give a listen to the track below, peep the personnel who helped give this song life, and keep it tuned here September 22nd when we visit Ryan again to evaluate another new project! 

Andrew Ryan- acoustic guitar, keys, synth, production, and mixing. 
Will Walden- electric guitar
Alden Hedges- bass guitar
Eric Slick- drums
Mastered by Jamie Sego at Portside Sound in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

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