A note to the “Spotify Grinch” in this “Bloodshot” landscape

Via Google

In today’s fiery think-piece I have for you all, we’re going to explore what I’d describe as my Festivus moment from the TV show Seinfeld. Its currently the Airing of Grievances part of the episode, and as the late great actor on the program Jerry Stiller would say, I’ve got a lot of problems with you people! And now you’re gonna hear about it!

Courtesy Google Images

Specifically, you’re going to hear about my grievances with country-folk label Bloodshot Records, as well as what digital streaming services are doing to harm the only reason they have money in the first place! Remember that point specifically: the ONLY REASON these companies even exist. 

But first up, batter up Bloodshot. There are several publications readers interested should research about this topic, as multiple writers have done some excellent reporting on the heavily problematic, years-long issues with this label. I myself had been drawn back into the organization’s orbit following 2019 allegations of inappropriate behavior leveled at the partner of Bloodshot co-owner Nan Warshaw (who later resigned). But, I hadn’t become aware of shady financial impropriety until Bloodshot co-owner Rob Miller recently departed his post as well.

I can’t pretend to say I’m a fly on the wall inside the label’s operations knowing what goes on, but leaving yourself allegedly thousands of dollars in debt to your unpaid artists who have been dealt a highly-uncertain future through your own sketchy actions is wildly questionable behavior. Leaving those creators in the dark about when or how they might get their master recordings back if the shit hits the fan might be even worse, especially when those in charge start to go and jump ship. And you know why that is?

Because in music, so much remains cyclical. Pick an era and odds are you can fit these same scenarios into some other past creator’s nightmare. I love music don’t get me wrong, but the business is a hellscape that can deny those in its path money, opportunity, and property of their own art for generations no matter how good, “big” or influential they might happen to be. Even those few hypotheticals are just the tip of the iceberg; I know we probably all have our own favorite infuriating “musician getting screwed over” story. The nature of the system never seems to improve for the better. 

Via Google Images

The overarching point is this: Bloodshot Records, pay your fucking artists who helped you even get a seat at the table of notoriety. Give them the rights and publishing to their music they well-deserve. This week the label was acquired by Exceleration Music, a collective put together by various industry notables. We can only hope that the move means deeply overdue compensation is coming for those that have earned it. Singer-songwriter Cory Branan comes to mind especially (who was quoted as allegedly being owed $10,000 by Bloodshot).

On that note, lets jump over to my complaint for digital streamers Spotify, Amazon, and Pandora. You can read more details here, but suffice to say the three biggest giants on that market would like to propose giving the artists whose work they constantly use an even lower cut of the money generated off their own songs through each stream. Do these decision-makers think we can’t read or understand what these actions mean? It’s like so many other industries in the free market economy, how much more can you push down the smallest person on the totem pole until they push back because they’ve got nothing left to give to you and your greed?

I’ve known and spoken with countless musicians who’ve continuously derided the streaming system as a complete joke that generated them fractions of pennies on the dollar. It reminds me of trying to monetize old Youtube videos I made that qualified for the status, only to eventually realize the site’e monetary program with Google was exclusively designed toward the benefit of a fortunate few. It’s great if you wind up becoming one, but unless the stars are aligned for you odds are video and/or streaming services won’t provide much more than joke checks worth roughly half the paper they’re printed on. 

Via Google Images

And yet, here we are with these belt-tightened proposals sitting before the US Copyright Royalty Board trying to create an even more skewed deal for 2023-2027. I’m just one lowly writer and I don’t profess to quitting my day job anytime soon, but as a hypothetical musician if I could avoid digital streaming I’d walk over broken glass to do it. Having an online outlet like Bandcamp for those to BUY your work outright is one (problematic) thing, but streamers like Spotify start to feel more like the plain, two-bit prize at the bottom of a Crackerjack box by the day. Like pornographers ready to rob exposure in exchange for a few suspiciously wet dollars while they sit there slicked back in gold Gucci slides.  

But that all-seeing hand with its fee-seeking fingers out causes pain in both digital streaming as well as physical releases, where artists often get saddled for the costs to make merchandise, vinyl and CD’s. Inevitably, everyone in the chain wants a piece of the profits, and the pie never equitably spreads out. It’s hard to say when or even if that wobbling table will ever be fixed; there’s just a lot of work that needs to be done. 

I wish I could wrap up this rant with a neat, bow-wrapped solution for this entire unwinding set of dilemmas. Unfortunately, its not made for fixing in a single blog post. Its made for plenty of grievances as I wished to demonstrate here, but with any luck over time we’ll also see bigger pushes in the right direction leading to greater industry independence. 

Until then, I’ve got my eye on you Bloodshot, Amazon, Pandora and Spotify! We need solutions!

Google Images

Don’t sleep on meaning unveiled behind Thomases new single “Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone?”

Photo via Andrew Thomases

I really enjoy the approach musician Andrew Thomases is using to make his appeal for saving the Earth on new single “Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone?”. To quote the singer-songwriter:

“Throughout my life, I have always been concerned about climate change and the impact humans have on the planet. What will the environment look like in a few generations? Will our grandkids be able to enjoy it like we do? I decided to write a song about it, and I write it in the voice of the environment. “Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone?” is a warning and a call to action, as we must act quickly to preserve what have for future generations. Otherwise, they may not even know what they are missing.”

Andrew Thomases

Thomases buoys this concept in on the back of jangly, Pavement-style power chord waves bearing an off-center mellowed honesty that holds no weight back in the choogling punch of its lyrical intents. And while some might lead that “warning” with a fueled, angry venom upon their lips, Thomases has a straight-up approach similar to the likes of They Might Be Giants, John K Samson, a rolled smooth Mark Lanegan or the Crash Test Dummies. Words aren’t a poetically overcooked word mince because at the end of the day the stakes and consequences of the subjects are real not whimsical license, and that’s the type of urgent emotion in play here. It’s not a time for games. No matter how you communicate, it’s overdue to make the important matters heard. 

That perspective is echoed and illustrated even more deeply in the official lyric video for “Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone?”. Issues like severe deforestation, pollution, and rising ocean waters get the top billing as Thomases declares a simple admonishment from the Earth to its people, will you be sentimental when all you knew disappears? It seems like such an obvious question, but as the highest offices/powers in the land go longer and longer willfully without an answer, endgame possibilities start to feel more and more prominent and possible in the months and years ahead. 

Pic courtesy of Andrew Thomases

Music with a message is not only essential for highlighting these matters, but in how it’s meant to stay with the listener once the track has ended. To later ask, how do you see this concern now; did it change your perspective or make you dig your heels down further? In a world with a still-ongoing pandemic the dividing lines between us become easier and easier to discern this way, especially on matters of masks, vaccines, and overall regulations.

But the climate of our world exists outside such black and white perspectives. Good or bad results based on our actions are coming whether we like it or not, and as Thomases points out we’re beyond past needing to start paying attention.

Be sure to check out Thomases and “Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone?” across social media and on digital music platforms!

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!

Ryan delivers one of his strongest singles yet with “Autumn Rain”

Summertime in 2021 has felt more than a bit abbreviated, especially with the weight of an unprecedented pandemic at our backs. Now we’re in September and it’s already become easier to see the day’s light ending earlier on as the season begins to mull its inevitable change.

With that gradual alteration of perspective moods begin to sway as well, and not always for the greener side of the fence. I’ve been in and out of that crevasse many times, but regardless of the moment music has always been a salve for those invisible wounds. Especially when I’ve felt the words and the emotions were speaking directly to my state of mind. 

I’ve felt that connection with Andrew Ryan’s new, very appropriately-titled single “Autumn Rain”, which comes out on all things digital today. The song vibes perfectly with a feeling of an upbeat smile hiding deeper, lightning-laced storm clouds of weary discontent beneath the airy surface. The track walks a similar path to “Somewhere Only We Know” from Scottish rockers Keane or prime Oasis, and the contrast pays off with great satisfaction.

Ryan’s impeccable knack for mixing and production also sticks out here as it did with his prior single “Never Let Me Know”. The musician is clearly a drummer at heart as every skillful note falls into place as evenly as Tetris tiles, and the layers bear repeat listening to avoid missing the small details (like the piano notes) brought out especially well through headphones. 

As I noted the last time I discussed Ryan’s music, “Autumn Rain” fits like instruments to the background of cinema when I imagine the old days of going to hole-in-the-wall rock show venues. We’ll be able to go back regularly (hopefully) someday, but in the meantime its fun to imagine what might be, soon.

In the meanwhile, check out “Autumn Rain” below, and for more on Andrew Ryan’s work be sure to follow his presence across social media!

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

.Paak brings the “Fire” on new “Shang Chi” soundtrack

It’s been an absolute joy to me watching the continued rise and success of musician Anderson .Paak. The Oxnard, California native hit the jackpot especially hard this year, largely due to his gold medal-level collaboration with Bruno Mars in their new band Silk Sonic. Debut single “Leave the Door Open” has been all the rage in 2021, possessing a popularity watermark that made the song almost Tik Tok-levels of unavoidable at its peak.  

The duo continues to take their time releasing a full LP (second teaser “Skate” dropped in July), but in the meantime .Paak has kept busy. The rapper, singer, music video director, drummer and jack of all trades makes his latest appearance on the big screen with a song that’s part of the soundtrack for Marvel’s recently released superhero film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

Courtesy of Google

“Fire in the Sky” isn’t just some unused session track here to fill time either. 88rising, a record label largely devoted to Asian and Asian American musicians, was brought in to curate the LP; creating a melding flow of artists like Jhene Aiko and NIKI with Marvel’s first tentpole flick that’s primarily focused on Asian and Asian American actors. A similar method was employed for Marvel’s Black Panther; rapper Kendrick Lamar executive produced the effort with a specific vision meant to pay homage to the culture and tones of each moment. 

Shang Chi skillfully paints with a similar brush, using the soulful vibe of .Paak’s wide-grinned musical optimism just as Shang-Chi’s credits roll. And, like so many of his features or one-off appearances on various projects, he always knows just how to hit center stage’s sweet spot. Kicking in with a blissfully hazy piano in a gentle cloud of guitars, .Paak raps, drums and sings with all the rhythm of a buzzed romantic high on another human, sticking out his chest, shooting his shot, and making that lightning rod first connection. 

“Fire in the Sky” is aptly named as its all the sensation of looking at a post-storm horizon, bright swatches of color emerging in wild, intricate streaks of hope after a dark and lost night. Bruno Mars is credited as a contributor/lyricist for the song, which makes sense as its warm throwback vibe sounds right next-door to the Silk Sonic creatives. At the end of the day it all boils down to this one simple point (something I knew well already) .

PAAK DON’T MISS! 

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.

Oaks’ “Galacticana” is winning teaser slice of forthcoming “Heaven”

Courtesy Google Images

Strand of Oaks is the moniker created by Timothy Showalter, a 38-year old Indiana-born musician (and former Hebrew school teacher) who broke onto the scene in 2009 with album Leave Ruin.

I crossed paths with Showalter’s Oaks project in 2014, a year in which Tim’s album HEAL was a constant topic of conversation around indie rock circles. This was for good reason, as HEAL remains a desperately beautiful, screamingly raw, deeply delving insight into the deathly horror of mental, personal breakdown and the resurrection of finding the healing hope and reasons to still go on.

Courtesy Google Images

HEAL also was speaking a lot to what I was feeling then. I had recently enjoyed being introduced to Dinosaur Jr’s brilliant J Mascis only to find his enigmatic guitar playing on “Goshen 97”, while the aching of loss I felt for Songs: Ohia musician Jason Molina after his tragic death at 39 was perfectly eulogized in the rattling “JM”. Even bonus track covers of Ryan Adams’ “My Wrecking Ball” and The National’s “Pink Rabbits” fit in line with other artists that obsessed me at the time.

HEAL is a true “complete” album without a misstep in an era that needs a lot more of them. That song on the radio may stay with you a day or a week; a true album is a staple of life.

I also empathized with Showalter nearly giving up the craft until fate intervened in the form of My Morning Jacket guitar-slinger Carl Broemel (leading to the recording of the gorgeous 2019 Oaks revival record Eraserland). I’ve long loved working in creative writing, but on more than one occasion I’ve felt the compulsion to quit based on anxiety, crippling self-criticism, and thinking I had nothing left to say anyone cared to hear. It’s connecting to hear someone singing and persevering through what I felt and what I still deal with mentally today.

Someone being real.

Courtesy Google Images

Tim Showalter is one of those musicians talented enough to consistently bring that baggage of emotion out for some recording booth catharsis, and that continues with the lead single from the upcoming Strand of Oaks album In Heaven, due out October 1st.”Galacticana” has an uplifting swing in mentions of joy and ecstacy, but like storm clouds amidst summer sun it also dwells on the human fear and insecurity that lies beneath those gold rays.

But instead of that worrying “I don’t wanna drag you down” suggestive earworm on this track, that reveal of vulnerability instead feels like a badge of kinship. It’s a powerful bonding connection between Showalter and his listeners, which is more than can be said for a lot of musical projects.

For example, take a band I’ve enjoyed a long time who recently dropped a record with a producer I greatly respect. Despite the anticipated team up, the majority of this band’s new tracks just felt lifeless and meandering. But sometimes that’s just it, you can book the best producer behind a great veteran band with a handful of songs, but when there’s no soul in it…. you’re just ironing an empty shirt.

Not so with Strand of Oaks. If “Galacticana” is any indication, In Heaven is already a dark horse contender for 2021’s Best Of list.

Watch below:

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑