Op-Ed: Living and Doing

There’s a sentence that’s deeply dreaded by those among us who try to get right with polydidacticism, whether in person or on dating profiles: “I listen to everything except country and rap.” Country and hip-hop—the two American musical forms with the longest and densest evolutionary tracks—are the genres most prone to criticism leveled against their supposed inauthenticity, the two genres that demand (or are perceived to demand) genuineness at an unprecedentedly granular level. Any medium or genre has, in the minds of cultural gatekeepers, to pass litmus tests; country and hip-hop have to pass an entire battery. Even the creators have to reaffirm their credentials to ensure that they’ve lived through their creative catalysts; notice how our subcategories are based on lifestyles, are “gangster rap” and “outlaw country.” Aside from the relevance-terriers like Taylor Swift and Drake, whose evolution is catalyzed solely by market share rather than creative shift, there’s no point in dissecting whether something is “lived” or “created.” We, as listener, allow a certain creative flexibility to our creators for most art (no one, after all, demands that speculative fiction authors be astronauts in addition to writers), but we have a hard time making that logical leap when it comes to the quintessentially American music of folk and hip-hop, two genres that have created full synthesis out of generations of elements without losing focus. Continue reading

Album Review: Advance Base, “Nephew in the Wild”

Advance Base Nephew in the Wild
(Orindal Records – August 21, 2015)
(Indie Pop, Bedroom Pop)
Review by Rob Bockman


There’s nothing less useful than the qualifier “underrated,” since it requires establishment of metrics, sources, and definitions straight off the bat; still, Owen Ashworth (Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, Advance Base) doesn’t get mentioned nearly enough in the Best American Pop Contemporary Songwriters pantheon. Nephew in the Wild, his second album under the Advance Base name, is another argument for his inclusion. Continue reading

Album Review: toe, “Hear You”

toeToe Hear You
(Topshelf Records – July 24, 2015)
(Post-Rock, Math-Rock, Experimental)
Review by Rob Bockman


Early on in life, we used to fill squares of graph paper in to make blocky shapes when you’d squint. Japanese experimental outfit toe’s latest, Hear You, evokes these analog pixels, creating something grand and fuzzy out of obsessive patterns and rigid geometry.

There’s always been something mathematical in toe, with the slightly frenzied percussion and playful time signatures, and that promise reaches full theory in tracks like “Because I Hear You,” which pilfers the individualized schematic patterns of jazz and puts them to use to create a bold whole. It’s harmony through intentional fracturing, but you have to break the ceramics to make the mosaic. Indeed, there’s something both artistic and very architectural about toe’s music, something as bounded in mathematics as music, and Hear You creates a lush but precise atmosphere from that same creative spirit. 
Continue reading

Album Review: Daddy Issues, “Double Loser” EP

DoubleLoserDaddy Issues Double Loser EP
(Self Release – February 14, 2015)
(Alternative-Pop, Garage Rock)
Review by Rob Bockman


Greensboro quartet Daddy Issues released their first EP, Double Loser, in February, but perhaps should have waited a few months; there’s something sunny and rich about the record—a suitable Carolina summer record that’s drenched in oceanic imagery and clanging surf-rock. Now, at the peak of the season, it roars back with a new resonance, one born out of languorous heat and sleepy afternoons spent getting into trouble out of boredom. Continue reading

Album Review: John Andrews & the Yawns, “Bit by the Fang”


John Andrews & The Yawns Bit by the Fang
(Woodsist – April 14, 2015)
(Alternative, Indie)
Review by Rob Bockman

Humans are creatures of reference; we have to be, as otherwise we’d have died out long ago. We’re guaranteed to construct schema, whether it’s “red berries are probably worth avoiding” or “hey, this album kind of sounds like [REFERENCE POINT].” So, it’s a poor album that doesn’t reveal influences when you pan for them, but ideally, you like it take a few listens before it feels overly familiar. On his first solo album, erstwhile Woods and Quilt member John Andrews and his rotating (described as “imaginary”) back-up band, the Yawns, hits a bit too close to a rote mundanity, but it feels deliberate and intentionally worn-out, torpor as a trope. Continue reading

Album Review: Can’t Kids/Schooner Split 7″

Can’t Kids/Schooner Split 7″
(Sit N Spin Records – May 27, 2015)
(Indie, Alternative)
Review by Rob Bockman

Sit n Spin Records, formerly of Carrboro, NC, resettled to Columbia with its owner, Sean McCrossin, who continues to curate the music of the Carolinas. Now, with a split 7” from Columbia’s Can’t Kids and Durham’s Schooner, the label continues to showcase the ne plus ultra of the Southeast—or at least its scrappier side.

Kicking things off—and very slightly weighted in their favor, trackwise—the record gets off to the races with Can’t Kids, who pull off two very solid tracks that punctuate the scope of their evolution over the last two LPs. Can’t Kids have always had that peculiar blend of tautness and shambolic slackness, a Malkmusian energy to the band’s sleepy chording and Jessica Oliver’s raw vocals, borne out in the heavy pulse and harmonic interplay of “Walmart Parking Lot,” the seven-inch’s immediate standout. Continue reading