Tag Archive | "Amber Valentine"

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Two Cents Presents: Second Annual Fashionably Late Gift Post!

Posted on 22 December 2011 by Mylynda Guthrie

Last year I wrote a blog post detailing neat gift ideas a mere 10 days before Christmas, because well….that’s when I was buying Christmas gifts. I adore gift hunting and giving, and I’m admittedly cocky about my ability to bestow a unique gift perfectly tailored to the personality and interests of the giftee (true story: I gave my friend Cassie this dinosaur muffin pan today and she unabashedly flipped over it in the middle of Caribou coffee – ergo, I rock). However, I am completely horrible about waiting to the last minute to go shopping for gifts – and I feel that if you’re going to give someone their gift late, it sure as hell better one up all the gifts they received on time.

So here we are, three and a half shopping days before Christmas, and all I’ve purchased is the aforementioned dino muffin pan and some delightfully weird art for my husband.  If you, like me, are still hunting for that perfect gift that’s really going to send your pal/family member/significant other over the edge, providing you the warm holiday buzz that bringing others happiness yields, then scroll down and find some inspiration! With the help of Amber Valentine, I’ve compiled another list of truly awesome gifts for the eclectic, eccentric, and intrinsically hip people in your life that will help you to belatedly bestow holiday joy in style.

-Mylynda Guthrie

Amber’s Picks

The world’s best Canadian indie rock charity has a hoodie that’s
perfect for any banjo loving hipster. Support a good cause in style!

Yellowbird Project Hoodie

For the indie rock fan who has everything, give the gift of new music
all year round with a Daytrotter membership! And if you’re a
cheapskate, you can spring for a one month membership for your pals.
It’s only $2!

Daytrotter Membership

Almost everyone has an iphone these days but me, right? Well, since I
can’t enjoy these sweet classic rock phone covers, you should gift
them to the biggest Beatles and Bowie fans in your life, respectively.

Urban Outfitters Bowie iPhone Case

From the Ramones to Tupac to Kiss, Funko has something for everyone in
their line of Pop figurines. I don’t know about you, but I think these
would be just the thing to spice up any boring desk top.


Wilco coffee mugs!

Wilco Coffee Mugs
Perfect to drink your Wilco coffee out of!

Kanye West’s twitter is one of the more meme-worthy things to happen
on the internet since the advent of social networking. What living
room is complete until they have a little bit of Kanye’s trademark
egotistical witticisms hand stitched and framed on the wall?

Supervelma Etsy Shop

Another hand crafted etsy gem are these cookies that feature one of
the best characters on television, Ron Swanson from NBC’s indie-tastic
Parks & Rec. I mean, the show did name drop Neutral Milk Hotel twice
so it’s obviously got cred.

Whippedbakeshop Etsy Shop


Mylynda’s Picks

I started going to Modcloth.com for the clothes, but I stayed for the whimsical home accessories.

These classic yet unconventional mugs come with an owl, fox….or shark. Amazing.

Beau-tea-ful Surprise Mug in Owl

I also lust for Modcloth’s carefully plucked collection of DIY craft books, like this all-encompassing book of indie-inspired crafts from Jo Waterhouse.

Indie Craft book


Antique frames can cost a pretty penny, but this tin frame from Anthropologie can be had for $28.

Weathered Tin Frame


These chalkboard skulls from Etsy seller iamhome come in a variety of colors, but in my home we live by the mantra “when in doubt, paint it flat black.”

iamhome on Etsy

Dinner and a Murder has several kits for hosting a murder mystery party, as well as costumes, music, and game packs available for instant download to help you throw a New Year’s Eve party that no one will soon forget.

Dinner and a Murder

Print media is not dead. Gift a magazine subscription the easy way – pay online and have it sent straight to their home. I like the element of surprise in giving magazine subscriptions, and getting an unsolicited issue of AMP is so much better than ValuPak coupons for new gutters and fruit baskets.


AMP magazine                                         Filter Magazine


As ThinkGeek writes in their description “First the spirit inhabits the skull, then it inhabits you.”

Doomed Crystal Shotglass








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Daytrotter Brings Indie Rock To A Barn Near You

Posted on 16 April 2011 by Mylynda Guthrie

-by Amber Valentine

The first time Daytrotter
hit the road, I was there. So were Mac Lethal, Someone Still Loves You Boris
, and a pre-debut album Local Natives, in addition to all
the members of Team Daytrotter, including their fearless leader, Sean
Moeller, Mr. Daytrotter himself. Sometime between my arrival at the
barn and my departure, I received a sticker proclaiming “I survived
Daytrotter’s Barnstormer”, which I proudly affixed to my car only
moments after procuring it. On the way home, back to the outskirts of
the Quad City suburbs, I almost put diesel fuel in my Ford Focus at a
gas station. And that’s how I almost didn’t survive the first
Daytrotter Barnstormer. Thankfully, despite my brush with danger, I
made it home unscathed and lived to storm another barn.

If you aren’t familiar with Daytrotter, now is as good a time as ever
to educate yourself. Daytrotter takes the idea of music blogging and
revolutionizes it, going far past being “just another music blog” to
become the internet’s best music discovery tool. Nestled en route from
Iowa to Chicago (or vice versa), countless traveling musicians have
taken a day off their tour schedules to visit the Horseshack,
Daytrotter’s studio in downtown Rock Island, Illinois. At the
Horseshack, a short set of about four songs is recorded. Sometimes,
this includes covers or stripped down versions of set staples. This
session is posted online free (Or a lossless version is available for
a mere four bones) but the fun doesn’t stop there. After the session’s
recorded, Moeller takes a minute or two out of his life to write an
essay about the band and Johnnie Cluney sketches the artist for a full
on multimedia experience. If you have any familiarity with indie music
at all, it’s likely that you’ll find your favorite acts have done a
Daytrotter session. Everyone from Bon Iver and The
have stopped by the Horseshack, as well as up and comers
like Indie College faves FronteirRuckus and Yuck.

Of course, it ain’t enough for Daytrotter to be on the internet. A few
years after the site’s inception, The Barnstormer was born. A
Barnstormer can best be described in the following sentence: Some of
the coolest cats you’ll ever meet in a barn while a bunch of
buzzworthy and remarkable bands that you’ve probably never heard of
but will love give it their all, surrounded by bottles of beer, bales
of hay, and an enthusiastic fervor that cannot be matched. I’ve been
to literally hundreds of concerts in my life but nothing compares to a
Barnstormer. In fact, Daytrotter’s Barn on the 4th of July remains the
best music going experience of my life. Barnstromer, in the past, has
included Ra Ra Riot, Delta Spirit, Dawes, and the incomparable
Walkmen. And now, time in nigh for Team Daytrotter to storm once more,
this time with Sondre Lerche, Keegan Dewitt, Hellogoodbye, and
more in tow!

Heartbeat Radio – Sondre Lerche

For a full list of dates and bands, see below. And take it from the
gal who once drove seven hours to barnstorm in Maquoketa, Iowa: A
Barnstormer is always worth the trip.

Daytrotter Presents… Barnstormer 4

April 26th – Free
Range Film Festival Barn

909 County Road 4, Wrenshall, MN

April 27th – Hoosier
Grove Barn

700 W. Irving Park Rd., Streamwood, IL

April 28th – Lakeview
Farms Barn

12075 Island Lake Rd., Dexter, MI

April 29th – Kalyx

442 E. 1300 North Rd., Monticello, IL

April 30th – Codfish
Hollow Barn

3437 288th Ave, Maquoketa, IA

Tickets are available via Daytrotter until they sell out!

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Two Cents Presents Evil Don’t Look Like Anything: An Examination Of Modern Murder Ballads

Posted on 27 January 2011 by Mylynda Guthrie

– by Amber Valentine

I remember the first time I heard a modern murder ballad. Being raised on a fairly steady diet of classic country growing up, I was entirely familiar with songs that dealt with death at a young age and by second grade, I was telling pals that I’d shot a man in Reno just to watch him die, a proclamation which none of my peers found as funny as I did. When I developed my own musical taste, murder ballads fell off my radar as tunes dealing with matters of the heart became more prevalent in my life. Then I discovered Okkervil River.

I have a ridiculous, intense love for Will Sheff and his band of Austinites. It’s the type of love that affects my life on a daily basis, a love so intense that I’ve been known to present my friends with Okkervil River mix cds whilst wearing my Okkervil River hoodie as part of my constant championing of the band. I listen to Okkervil River every day and my face lights up like a child’s when they’re mentioned in passing by one of my friends. I even slip vague references to the band’s lyrics into every day conversation. Given these facts, it’s strange for me to think that a time existed not all that many years ago when I hadn’t so much as heard the band but it’s true: In 2004, I had nary a clue what or where Okkervil River was and the name Will Sheff meant nothing to me. Upon the release of the band’s triumphant Black Sheep Boy album, that changed and I subsequently immersed myself in the band’s back catalog, including the album Don’t Fall In Love With Everyone You See. On a whole, Don’t Fall In Love With Everyone You See was not as immediately hook-laden as the albums that followed it in Okkervil River’s discography and while the disc has grown very near and dear to my heart in very many ways, I wasn’t as impressed upon my first listen of the disc as I was with Black Sheep Boy. That is, however, until “Westfall”. “Westfall”, the fifth track on Don’t Fall In Love With Everyone You See, starts with hushed guitar and gentle mandolin. When Sheff’s vocals come in, they’re more composed and subdued than we’ve previously heard on tracks like “Lady Liberty” and “For Real”, where Sheff’s unhinged quality takes a featured spot to create the band’s urgent sound. So, when Sheff explains, as the true nature of the song begins to make itself audible, “When I killer her, it was so easy that I wanted to kill her again”, it’s so shocking that it’s enough to affect you physically. The first time I heard “Westfall”, the realism of Sheff’s storytelling had me rapt with attentiveness and, when the song climaxes with Sheff’s admission of murder, a wave of nausea overtook me. I’d never heard anything as shockingly affecting as “Westfall” before. And, thus, I began my love affair with modern murder ballads.

Westfall – Okkervil River


But what is it about songs about killing that I’ve taken such a shine to? I’ve never killed anyone and I can say with a fair amount of certainty that the majority of people who love murder ballads as much as I do haven’t either. In fact, I’m so sensitive to matters of life and death that I once cried when I killed a moth (Laughable but true). I can’t even imagine a scenario in which I would kill someone, even in a matter of life and death, as the prospect of murder is so frightening to me. I’m haunted enough by events in my past and less than respectable things that I’ve done. To add taking a human life to that list sounds nightmarish. So why is it that nothing enthralls me as much as Will Sheff luring an innocent co-ed into a forest and bludgeoning her to death? I feel as if this all comes down to morals. Murder ballads, as a subgenre of music (folk in particular), deal with subject matter that few other songs touch on. They let people examine the inherit morality (or lack thereof) in human beings. Most everything in life comes down to a question about one of three things: Love, God, and morality. I found David Bazan‘s harrowing loss of faith album, Curse Your Branches, a remarkably interesting take on “breaking up with God” and The Good Life‘s heartbreakingly honest Album of The Year forced me to take a hard look at the damage I was doing to my then-boyfriend in the relationship I was in when it came out. When the power of music is exploited in it’s entirety, it makes the listener examine their own life, and the morality touched upon in murder ballad is no exception to this. Chances are you’ll never kill anyone but through songs like “Mariner’s Revenge Song” by The Decemberists, you start to understand a fraction of the terror you might feel were the situation to ever arise and The Decemberists and Okkervil River aren’t the only bands taking the kitsch out of murder ballads.

Songs that deal with death are many, but most don’t examine the soul shattering event of actually taking a life. That’s what differentiates a “song about death” from a “murder ballad”. While John Vanderslice‘s “I’ll Never Live Up To You” tackles living with loss, the death in the song wasn’t at the hands of the tune’s narrator. San-Fran-by-way-of-Texas duo Agent Ribbons have a habit of tackling macabre subject matter more often than not but this is always done so in a tongue-in-cheek (and surprisingly seductive) manner and is never played for chills. Songs about morbid subject matter litter aren’t rare but instead of dealing with “morality”, these songs seem to deal with “mortality”. Interesting, yes, but not nearly as compelling as lyrics like “Climb into my arms with blood on your clothes” (Okkervil River’s “A Glow”).

Murder ballads pepper the modern indie scene with The Decemberists trying their hand at slaughtering the innocent on a number of their tracks, perhaps most notably on The Hazards of Love‘s main single, “The Rake’s Song”. “The Rake’s Song” finds Colin Meloy committing infanticide until he’s “living so easy and free” and confessing that, despite the fact that he’s poisoned and drowned his own children, he sleeps remarkably easy at night. Canada’s Timber Timbre have built their entire career on ghost stories and homicide, as evident on the band’s latest, self titled release, an album that touches on such bone chilling topics as grave robbing and necrophilia (“Lay Down In The Tall Grass”) and the electric chair (“We’ll Find Out”). The fact that Timber Timbre‘s dark subject matter is chased with a macabre romanticism makes the sexually deviant behavior Taylor Kirk mentions in passing have a strange allure to it that doesn’t exactly seem wrong. Arizona folk punk duwo Andrew Jackson Jihad‘s People Who Eat People Are The Luckiest People features “Bad, Bad Things”, a track that finds songwriter Sean Bonette brutally killing an entire family and surmising the events in the songs closing lines: “If I don’t go to hell when I die, I might go to heaven… But probably not.”

Perhaps the most remarkable modern murder ballad this side of “Westfall” is Fronteir Ruckus‘s brilliant “The Back-Lot World”, off the Michigan band’s full length debut, The Orion Songbook, sets it tone early on with the spooky quaver of a saw, coupled with the ungapping prose of Matt Milia’s lyrics, sung with a hushed manner that’s vaguely reminiscent of a sinner in a confessional, admitting their wrong-doings. By the time that Milia reveals “I killed a woman, she had it comin'”, you understand the gravity of the scenes that Milia has described earlier, from the “cooling rain clouds coming” to the “ghost-filled brimming field” that serve as an aching grey background for the mundane beauty of Milia’s storytelling.

Murder ballads in modern music are nothing new, per se. It’s not a budding trend like “lit rock” was a few years back or “chillwave” was in ’09. I don’t expect Pitchfork or Hipster Runoff to write about murder ballads because the fact of the matter is that murder ballads never went anywhere. From their inception in 1700’s English folk songs to “goth rock” artists like Rasputina, murder has always been a subject matter touched upon for dramatic storytelling. The way murder ballads are being tackled now, however, in the modern indie scene, is something different that I’ve taken quite a shine to. When I listen to music, I want to be affected. I want to feel something. For me, love songs are old hat, something I feel like I’ve heard before. Plus, I’ve loved and I’ve lost. But I’ve never killed a man. Hearing a song sung by a narrator that has, however, opens up my mind to horrific new possibilities that it may never think of without prodding. The low stakes involved when discussing heartbreak have dissipated in murder ballads. People recovering from heartache. More compelling are the risks involved when it comes to ending a life and the dramatics of this are darkly fascinating. When Meloy sings that the titular Shankill butchers “used to be just like me and you, they used to be sweet little boys, but something went horribly askew: Now killing is their only source of joy” and Sheff kills his ex-girlfriend’s new lover in “A Glow”, the unearthly allure of murder ballads is fantastically palpable.

-Amber Valentine

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Album Review: Ben Weaver – “Mirepoix and Smoke”

Posted on 21 December 2010 by Mylynda Guthrie

by Amber Valentine

It’s diffcult to review an album that has already been reviewed perfectly by a friend and colleague only a few weeks earlier. You see, if it weren’t for Abby Holmes, I wouldn’t be saying this. If it weren’t for Abby Holmes being such a talented wordsmith and solid reviewer, I would never have begged her to write for my site, Radio Free Chicago. I would have never come around to the multi-layered pop wonders of John Vanderslice or taken a shine to The Moondoggies. Sure, I introduced Abby to some local favorites of mine like Lightning Love and Chris Bathgate but it’s Abby that undoubtedly wins this round of recommending great music with Ben Weaver. If it weren’t for Abby, I’d be completely unaware of the subdued beauty Weaver has to offer, blissfully ignorant to the lilting melodies and softly sung romanticism Weaver brings forth on Mirepoix And Smoke and for that, I would be that much less content.

From the opening notes of “Grass Doe”, it’s hard not be taken by Ben Weaver’s music. He sounds at times like a more darkly upbeat version of Iron & Wine, a more accessible Bonnie “Prince” Billy, maybe even a hushed, less obviously county take on Justin Townes Earle, with whom Weaver shares a label in Chicago’s Bloodshot Records. Weaver displays his artful ability to weave an unforgettable story immediately in “Grass Doe”, telling the tale of love gone by the wayside in such masterfully poetic lines as “Their legs were twisted up in each other as the rain came down like watermelon seeds” and, later on in the tune, “There’s never gonna be another one like her and now you see her everywhere you go, like a tag under an overpass”. Near everyone’s loved and the vast majority of those people have lost as well. I know I certainly have. And it’s that fact that Weaver capitalizes upon, taking his own heartache, stated so poetically again and again and set to the simple backdrop of a fingerpicked guitar, a slight riff plucked on a banjo. By the time Mirepoix And Smoke closes, on the gentle notes of “The Rooster’s Wife”, you feel as if, to quote Abby Holmes, you’ve just listened to a “button-up flannel set to music”. Despite the fact that I’d never heard Weaver before listening to Mirepoix And Smoke, something about him made me feel immediately at ease, as though I were listening to the recordings of an old friend who’s reappearance in my life filled a very obvious void.


I remember when Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago came out and I remember the subsequent nights I spent with that record. Never was I more at peace with my life than when I was driving alone, sometime around three or four a.m., with nothing but Justin Vernon’s impeccable falsetto harmonies at my side. Musically, Weaver’s Mirepoix And Smoke only has the rudimentary in common with Bon Iver’s release but to me, the records share a vast amount in common in reference to how they make me feel. Mirepoix And Smoke affects me in a way that only comes across a handful of times every few years. It’s the kind of record that lulls you into a false sense of security with it’s lack of obvious hooks but in the restraint that Weaver repeatedly exhibits, there is a seductive element, reminiscent of the first time you catch a glimpse of a beautiful boy from across a crowded room or a dingy bar, knowing with a foresight you probably don’t possess that this is the boy who will one day come to be your greatest triumph in love before he deftly destroys your heart with a grace that prevents you from harboring feelings of bitterness. There’s beauty in that moment, the discovery of great beauty and even greater potential, and even though you know it might break your heart (because doesn’t it always?), you know that it’s worth the risk, if only for the experience.

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Weaver sings songs that makes girls want to be the kind of woman he writes about and makes men want to find the kind of lady Weaver tells you of in such deftly written tracks like “City Girl” and “Grass Doe”. Nearly every track on Mirepoix And Smoke is an ode to a long lost dream girl, be her fiction or reality, and half of the beauty of the album lies in that amorous fact. “East Jefferson” features lyrics so strong that you’ll be hard pressed to not envision Weaver’s heroine sitting on the stoop alone, smoking her last cigarette as Weaver narrates the situation: “Cold wind blew through the swings in the park; by dinner time, it was already dark; the rain had turned to snow, everything whiter than a hundred ghosts at the end of the night.” That cinematic quality is one that Weaver exhibits over and over again, and by the time album stand out “Split Ends” rolls around, chances are you’ll want Weaver’s record narrating your life’s most poignant moments of heartache.


Building on the folk of yesteryear, occasionally bordering on the subdued country of like-minded fellas like Jacob Jones (only more beautifully subdued) and Jonny Corndawg (only much less raunchy), Weaver takes cues from the gentler moments of Bob Dylan and the more callous moments of Simon & Garfunkle, piecing together a veritable quilt of lullabies and longing with nothing but Erica Froman, his female harmonizer, and an acoustic guitar at his side. Weaver makes music for people who have been put through the ringer by love and, despite the fact that they’re left emotionally raw and slightly bruised, they’re still willing to put themselves on the line for the potential of more and there’s beauty in that willfulness. It’s like Weaver sings on “Drag The Hills”, “I’d rather have scars from the life I lived than have none from the one I missed.”

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Feeling Warm Inside The Swarms Of Hell: Rediscovering Michigan With Frontier Ruckus

Posted on 20 December 2010 by Mylynda Guthrie

- by Amber Valentine

I was made to love Frontier Ruckus. I didn’t know it and neither did the band but if there was one group that was tailor made to appeal to my better nature, it was Frontier Ruckus.

I stumbled across them earlier this year, in a press release, and took a chance on downloading their sophomore cd, Deadmalls & Nightfalls. It struck me right away how special the album was and within days, I found myself gushing about it’s beauty to all of my friends, insisting they listen to the disc by using the tag line “It’s like a Black Sheep Boy era Okkervil River that’s even more heavily influenced by Neutral Milk Hotel but with a Ben Kweller sort of twist to the vocals.” Thankfully, as my social circle consists mostly of indie kids like myself, these comparisons were met with nods of recognition and high expectations. Personally, it makes me nervous to hear anything compared to my beloved Okkervil River and the near-holy Neutral Milk Hotel, so comparing anyone to these two bands myself obviously means serious business. Few bands are as near and dear to my heart as Will Sheff’s Austin based Okkervil River and Jeff Mangum’s thoroughly affecting Neutral Milk Hotel but these Frontier Ruckus kids more than live up to the lofty goals they’ve set for themselves by drawing from these groups as influence.

From my first listen, I was taken with lyricist Matthew Milia’s lyrics. Wordy, tricky, and requiring multiple listens to decode thoroughly, Milia makes such indie rock wordsmiths as Sheff and Meloy proud with his poeticisms. It’s something that’s hard to ignore from the opening lines of “Nerves of the Nightmind”, a song that includes such enchanting words as “Getting to know you lash by dark lash, the beds where you sleep and the floors where you crash” and “The dampness of sweat is the sweetest recording”. As a backdrop to these seductive lines, wrought with longing and moodiness, are David Jones’ masterful banjo and an ensnaring web of horns and keyboards, the wonderful production of which never overpowers which is no small feat, considering how many elements are at play on “Nerves of the Nightmind”.

The album seamlessly works together as one cohesive work of art, each song transitioning so perfectly to the next that, while the twelve tracks of Deadmalls & Nightfalls do work as stand alone gems, it seems a shame to listen to “Springterror” without listening to “Ringbearer” and while “Silverfishes”, with it’s searing bitterness and dark overtones, sounds beautiful on it’s own, listen to it after the aforementioned “Ringbearer” and it’s charm is magnified infinitely.

Milia sings songs that are evocative of twilight in autumn. There’s an inherint sadness to Deadmalls & Nightfalls, no doubt due in part to Milia’s mournful croon and lyrics like “If I knew which part of me was wax, I would try to truncate it.” What exactly it was about Frontier Ruckus’ album that appealed to me so, however, I couldn’t put my finger on. That is, until I spent some time living with it. When I got to know Deadmalls & Nightfalls better, that was when I really fell in love.

Frontier Ruckus formed in Orion Township, Michigan. For reference, I grew up approximately forty two minutes from Orion, according to Google maps, deep in the suburbs surrounding Detroit so when Matt Milia sings “I shot down Telegraph with a hot laugh as we cruised through through the sinews” (“Silverfishes”), not only do I know what road he’s talking about but I know the exact feeling of flying down Telegraph, late at night, en route to a party somewhere near Detroit, the black of night tinged with neon lights and the road marred with gas stations and Michigan Lefts. The references sneak up on you, permeating the songs with their presence but never going so far as to make their presence glaringly obvious. This fact makes certain that Deadmalls & Nightfalls has an appeal that’s across the board and I’ve got friends in such far reaching corners of the country as New Hampshire and Seattle that cherish Frontier Ruckus’s masterpiece as much as I do. What I doubt, however, is that this album means as much to them as it does to me.

Moving back to Michigan, to me, was like admitting defeat. I had worked very hard for very many years to get out of the state, which was marred with the bad memories and worse experiences of my youth. Coming back was a distinct step backwards so far as I was concerned and every day spent in my homestate was a reminder that I’d failed at being a self-sufficient writer. I was just one of the countless casualties of living in the technological age but the fact that I wasn’t alone in my unemployment didn’t make things any easier, nor did my return to my homestate. My plan was to spend a few months in Michigan, to get my bearings straight and find another writing job. It was a longer process than I’d initially thought and it was depressing to find myself living in the same area I spent my formative years, identical to how I remembered it but so different at the same time. The record store I used to frequent? It was now a Jimmy John’s. The book stores and coffee shops and parks had all been knocked down and paved over, to make way for Barnes and Nobles, Starbucks, and strip malls. The jarring changes were just as heartbreaking to me as the fact that, despite these differences, these suburbs were still the same suburbs I loathed in middle school. And here I was, walking their streets once more, more than ten years after I first decided that after I completed my education, I was ditching the mitten for Chicago. It was in the midst of this dull depression about the sad state of my locale that Deadmalls & Nightfalls came into my life. And it was perfect.

Not only does Deadmalls & Nightfalls perfectly encapsulate the grey ache that mars the dull landscape of Detroit, but it also exposes the beauty that can be found in mid-Michigan, from “Sylvan Lake and in between, perpetually like Halloween” to “the billboard dentist from White Lake to East Lansing”. I might have expected Frontier Ruckus to soundtrack my sadness when I first discovered them but what I didn’t expect was for them to help me fall in love with Michigan for the first time. Despite the vast majority of my 26 years having been spent with the great lakes and college towns of Michigan as the backdrop to my existence, I’d never felt anything but disdain for my homestate. Soon, however, I found myself putting down roots in Ann Arbor, falling in love with the streets I’d walked down hundreds of times before but never truly taken in, all the while experiencing the same slew of emotions that Milia expresses so deftly on Deadmalls & Nightfalls. My emotional connection to the album was only magnified by the fact that I found myself frequenting Pontiac, the “heart of darkness” that Milia sings about on “Pontiac, The Nightbrink” and riding the same highways daily that are described during accounts of Milia’s trips to Ontario and Chicago.

Pontiac, the Nightbrink

I’ve been living with Deadmalls & Nightfalls for the greater part of six months now and, just like how Milia himself is desperately clamoring to get to know the object of his intrigue in “Nerves of the Nightmind”, the more I discover about the album, the more it means to me. With Deadmalls & Nightfalls, Milia has made a Salinger-esque ode to his homestate, the audible equivalent of “To Esme; With Love and Squalor”. Deadmalls & Nightfalls is just as much a love letter to Michigan and it’s residents as it is a man reminiscing about the sadness that he can’t just shake while he’s in his homestate and from start to finish, with Deadmalls & Nightfalls, Frontier Ruckus has created the ubiquitous soundtrack for time spent in the Great Lakes state.

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Album Review: Jeremy Messersmith – The Reluctant Graveyard

Posted on 18 November 2010 by Mylynda Guthrie

by Amber Valentine

I’ve always loved a good spook story. Blame it on my mom taking me to see The Nightmare Before Christmas one too many times as a child or blame it on the fact that death touched my life one too many times for comfort and, to cope, I’ve taken an intense interest in the macabre. So intense, in fact, that before my foray into music journalism, I was dead set (pun intended) on becoming a mortician. So, naturally, any album that deals with murder, loss, and eloquent tombstone testimonials is right up my alley but never had I heard a pop album on the subject until Jeremy Messersmith‘s The Reluctant Graveyard.

As the story goes, Messersmith and his wife moved into a Minneapolis house that neighbored a cemetery, spurring an idea in Messersmith’s hook-laden brain to write a concept album of sorts in which the narrarator of every track experiences death. Naturally, that would have you think that the songwriter had abandoned the infectious melodies of his first two albums for a more somber route. That assumption, however, is blown out of the water immediately.

The Reluctant Graveyard opens with a guitar hook that makes Messersmith’s love of ’60’s pioneers The Zombies and Beach Boys apparent and as “Lazy Bones” progresses, the album’s dark concepts dissipate in a pop chorus sunnier than an August day. The trend continues through “Dillinger Eyes”, a song that culminates with Messersmith being shot, his good intentions bleeding out around him, all because he “was born with John Dillinger’s eyes”. The album even verges on Neil Diamond territory with “Violet!” which, to me, is slightly reminiscent of Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” but hey, maybe that’s just me.

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Of course, my darker tendencies force me to gravitating to the album’s darkest tracks. Messersmith’s concept becomes clear on “Organ Donor,” a seductively eerie standout of a track that has Messersmith confessing that, after all he’s been through, “I don’t know if I’ll ever be whole again” against an understated background of strings and gentle guitar. Messersmith is never one, however, to overwhelm and it seems that every overtly grim track is sandwiched in between a folky tune that deceives you into thinking Messersmith’s verging on optimism until you take a closer listen. When Messersmith sings about “thinking of the friends (he’s) left behind”, it eventually becomes obvious that he’s not leaving on vacation but instead departing to the great beyond that Messersmith influence Elliott Smith was so fond of musing about.

While the concept is clear on The Reluctant Graveyard, it never overpowers the album’s pure catchiness. One of the album’s darkest tracks, “John The Determinist”, is wrought with dark desperation, a man insisting “Oh, you silly things, I’ve got you figured out” although it’s more than apparent that the narrator’s constant need to understand his own life and the lives of others will never leave him with any answers.

Even on an album fraught with standouts, nothing can compare to “A Girl, A Boy And A Graveyard”. You see, readers, every year for the past five, I’ve made a “Mental Health Mix”. This mix consists of me choosing one song per month that perfectly encapsulates my life. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a new song, it just has to be a song that describes what I was going through during that month. This year, however, twelve songs aren’t necessary. I mean, I’m still totally going to make “Mental Health Mix 2010″ come December but I could sum up my life simply using “A Girl, A Boy And A Graveyard”. It would take quite literally a dissertation to discuss why every single line of that song affects my life so deeply but as Messersmith sings about his Lucy, whose “body’s cold” and “guts are twisted steel”, I can’t help but feel he, without knowing me, perfectly encapsulated every aspect of my personality, from Lucy’s cryptic optimism (“Life’s a game we’re meant to lose (but) stick by me and I will stick by you.”) to her complete fear of vulnerability. Before “A Girl, A Boy And A Graveyard”, I was quite fond of this Messersmith character. Afterward, however, I was completely and utterly in love. Any other musician, I feel, would romanticize his heroine in such a way where she was helpless, feeding upon most every guy’s superhero complex where he gets to swoop in like Superman himself and rescue his lovely Lois Lane. Messersmith, however, compares Lucy to “some kind of Frankenstein, waiting for a shock to bring (her) back to life. But (she doesn’t) want to spend (her) time waiting for lightning to strike.”

A Girl, A Boy And A Graveyard

It goes back to my love of the macabre, of the ghosts of my past that have left me afraid of becoming attached to any one person, afraid of my own “lightning to strike”, for all the reasons Messersmith explores on The Reluctant Graveyard: Despair, tragedy, and the type of catastrophic loss that Messersmith sings about in “Repo Man”, another track that finds a man reflecting on the defeat that has marred his life. Even so, Messermith manages to end his album on two incredibly positive notes. “Deathbed Salesman” finds Messersmith playing the role of just that, a very literal deathbed salesman, and despite the fact that Messersmith is offering his audience their final resting places, he never stops reminding you, while dying is inevitable, “all your friends are there and waiting” and “once you’ll gone, you’ll never want to live again.” The swirling, Beatles-esque chorus, wherein Messermith repeats “This is how it has to end, so love somebody while you can”, recalls Smith once again, this time evoking one of my all time favorite songs, Figure 8‘s “Happiness”, a song who’s lyrics I just so happen to have tattooed on my arm.

Messersmith, who released two stellar folk pop albums before The Reluctant Graveyard, finds the perfect balance of tragedy and beauty, of modern and vintage, on his third LP and despite his obvious infatuation with the literal end, Messersmith has managed to produce a remarkably optimistic album. Lyrically, this is the same guy that sang “Even the good times could be so much better…. Even the great times wouldn’t let me down” only now, he knows how to perfectly juxtapose the depression with the good times.

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Band of the Day: Amber Valentine reviews Archie Powell & The Exports – “Skip Work”

Posted on 12 November 2010 by Mylynda Guthrie

by Amber Valentine

I was exposed to rock and roll at a young age. I knew the words to Tom Petty and The Heartbreaker’s “Refugee” when I was well under the age of five and one of the saddest days of my youth was when my dad told me that, during moving from Missouri to Michigan, we’d somehow lost our copy of Buddy Holly’s Greatest Hits. The first cd I ever bought was Abbey Road at eight. I saved up my three-dollars-per-week allowance until I had enough scratch to get my own copy of The Beatles’ legendary disc and, sure, my parents had multiple copies (Vinyl, tape, probably 8-track as well) but how cool was it to have my own?

Since then, I’ve expanded my horizons and all but left rock behind in the process. Yeah, I’ve still got the Traveling Wilburies in my iTunes library but I’m sad to say that these days, Jenny Lewis’s cover of “Handle With Care” gets more play than it’s original predecessor. Perhaps that’s why I’ve taken such a shine to Chicago foursome Archie Powell & the Exports. I came across the band shortly after both myself and Powell had moved to the city and was, at the time, going through a huge David Bazan phase. The band, it ends up, had just released a free five song EP on their bandcamp and who am I to refuse free music? Immediately, I was reminded of the bands that got me into music in the first place (Petty, Westerberg) but with a twist of the modern bands that Powell and I both cut our teeth on in high school (The Strokes, Weezer) and that mix kept the band’s sound from being a stale rehash of The Replacements’ Let It Be.

Even after the hearty reception the band’s EP received in my household of one, I must admit that I was slightly apprehensive to hear the band’s debut. Why? Well, because while every song on the band’s Loose Change EP was catchy bits of audible bliss with lyrics that, to a girl who had just moved to the exact city Powell talked about in “Moving To The City”, struck a major chord, I couldn’t help but feel that ten plus songs like that had overwhelming odds of growing stale.

This, however, was not the first time I’ve been wrong.

Skip Work is Archie Powell & the Exports to the extreme. These kids are ready to make a splash and they are not playing around. This isn’t kid’s stuff. This is a band that’s all in, diversifying their sound on more than a few tracks and releasing an album that includes not only the catchy bits of Loose Change, but also some songs that are shockingly different for the Exports.


The albums starts out with “Milkman Blues”, a minute and a half long tune that gives you the impression you’ve just popped in a much folkier CD than you actually have. When the song abruptly stops, only to punch your eardrums with the opening notes of lead single “Enough About Me”, it’s as evident to fans of Powell from his debut release as it is new recruits that this band is worth your time, more now than ever. Stand out track “Fightning Words” is a perfect example of this. Admittedly, being used to Powell and company’s straight up rock sound from the previous year’s EP, I hated “Fightning Words” at first. The verses are a spitfire assault of megaphone shouted lyrics while the chorus is signature Powell, megaphone tossed aside. The abrupt juxtaposition of the two versions of Powell present felt jarring, to say the very least but within days, the song had not only grown on me, but quickly became one of my favorite tracks on the album, a song that when I tell people “You need to hear this band!”, ends up being the track I tell them to “wait for” because “this is worth hearing.”

Of course, this isn’t to say it’s all about Powell. Sure, he’s a hell of a front man but without the Exports, his talent wouldn’t shine half as much as it does. You see, Archie Powell & the Exports are sort of like the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. Alone, they have spandex and mad ninja skills but together, they can transform into Megazord and that’s when you know some ass is about to get kicked. This, of course, is the proverbial ass of your eardrums, not the ass of Rita Repulsa, but regardless, ass? The Exports are kickin’ it. I never understood when people described a tune as a “bassist’s song” until I heart Okkervil River’s “Lost Coastlines” and goodness, am I ever glad that Okkervil River’s Patrick Pestorius came into my life because without him, I don’t think I’d truly understand the value of Adam Export (Yes, that’s totally his real last name) in Archie Powell & the Exports. Adam’s passion for his craft is showcased song after song and when the Exports bust out their rock numbers, Adam is just as prevalent of an asset to the band as is Powell himself.

I feel as if one of the biggest reasons the Exports shine so thoroughly, however, is keyboardist Ryan Export (Where the heck did Powell find all these kids with the last name Export?!), who adds an alt-country flair to Skip Work‘s best tune, swoon-worthy album closer “The Darndest Things”. Elsewhere, Ryan adds an appealing spice where a lesser band would have just put a lackluster guitar solo. To say the Exports function as a musically cohesive unit is completely accurate and even less memorable tracks like “All Tuckered Out” and “Follow Through” are incredibly solid songs.

Lyrically, Powell specializes in words that are equal parts sincere and snotty, singing earnestly about the pains of shouldering day to day responsibilities at a factory job where he “doesn’t want to have to fake it anymore” (“Piggy Bank Blues”, “All Tuckered Out”) before launching into a rockin’ tongue-in-cheek number about the shortcomings of his old friend Mattson who, yes, is a real guy that apparently skips out on chill sessions with Powell to watch reruns of the O.C.

Powell, as well as all the Exports (which, in addition to Adam and Ryan, include RJ, a recent acquisition that did not appear on Skip Work.) don’t only command your attention but they deserve it. They wear their love of rock on their sleeve and their type of rock is the rock that just doesn’t relay exist anymore, having been replaced in “hipster” culture with synth beats and music laden with irony and kitsch. Sure, Powell might be a snot on occasion but he’s never insincere and if there’s any justice in the world of rock and roll, Archie Powell & the Exports will be big time in no time.

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The Overwrought Catharsis of Brand New

Posted on 29 October 2010 by Mylynda Guthrie

The Overwrought Catharsis of Brand New

-Amber Valentine

In 2006, I experienced my first heartbreak. I was a painfully shy girl in high school and college and incredibly unaware of how I was perceived by the opposite of sex. So to say I was a late bloomer is an understatement. At 26, I’ve still yet to go on a “real date” and now, I’m at the age where most of my friends are married, high school acquaintances are starting families, and my step-mom is inquiring when exactly a little Amber Valentine can be expected. To say the least, all of these things make me feel like a singular, undatable freak, and recently, I found myself, for the first time since 2006, crying over a boy. And that’s when I turned to Brand New.

Brand New is one of the few bands that have grown alongside with me and my musical tastes. In 2001, I was a snotty high school indie kid who occasionally ventured into what would become the awful “emo” trend. But before “emo” came about, Brand New was at the forefront of the craze that saw band’s everywhere giving their songs ironic titles that referenced movie lines and mixed drinks. When the band, two years later, released Deja Entendu, I too was discovering the emotions and longing that front man Jesse Lacey sang so deftly about in songs like “Sic Transit Gloria… Glory Fades” and “Play Crack The Sky”. Of course, by 2006, I’d completely abandoned Brand New for “cooler” bands and found myself, truthfully, not caring all that much that the four piece had released their third album, The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me”. That was, until I heard it.

Your first heartbreak is the kind that sticks with you for years, that leaves you wrought with baggage and issues, fears that every boy or girl will end up just like your former, with allegations of cheating, be they unfounded or not, and severed trust that, no matter how hard you try to work it out, finds itself an irreparable damage to your relationship. Yet, no matter how much you’ve been hurt, your heart still aches for a brief (or not so brief) time for the presence of your ex, for the calming touch, the even voice that assures you “Everything will be alright.” But after what you’ve gone through, nothing will be alright, not while you’re harboring all these grudges and neuroses, and no one understands that better than the Lacey who composed the thirteen tracks on the devastating opus that is The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me.

Since that initial heartbreak, I’ve made a very conscious effort to never put myself on the line again. It wasn’t worth it. I made excuses, put my career first, and broke a lot of hearts myself in the process, finding myself playing the role of the unattainable girl, shrouded in mystery. It was all a defense mechanism. I moved around the Midwest, meeting boys and spurning their advances, and then one day, I found myself face to face with someone who I knew was worth the chance. Why? Well, because I, in my irrational brain, was more certain of the fact that he would love every aspect of me and I would not end up sobbing into a pillow alone.

If there’s one thing, however, I’ve found I’ve become an expert at, it’s being wrong and at the absolute worst time in my life, I was without the one person I thought I’d probably never be without. I was on my sister’s couch, awake at three a.m. when suddenly, my internal narrative found itself quoting Lacey: “Jesus Christ, I’m alone again.”

At that moment, I realized, for the second time in my life, that Lacey had put out the perfect break up album. In all it’s over-dramatic confessions, it’s insistence that life, without love, is over and that Lacey would forever remain an empty shell without the “blend of color (his ex) left in his black and white field”, he perfectly encapsulated the type of ache that everyone feels at the exact moment that they realize they lost.

Brand New – Jesus Christ (official video) from Lindsay Thomson on Vimeo.

If I could have sent one song to that boy I felt so irrationally strongly for, despite a minimal interaction that did not warrant the emergence of such feelings, it would have been “You Won’t Know”. If I had to boil it all down to one lyric, it would have been “I wish that I could tell you right now ‘I love you’, but it looks like I won’t be around so you won’t know.” And it’s true – He won’t know. He’ll never know. As I found myself trying to salvage the ruins of my romantic life, I couldn’t help but quote Lacey once more: “I can’t shake this little feeling that I’ll never say anything right.” Every word I said, no matter how sweet and reminiscent of the beginning stages of my courtship, found me digging my heart a deeper grave until soon, it was just about six feet under. Dramatic? Yes. But that’s the beauty of Brand New. When you feel as if you’ve lost it all, Lacey and his New Jersey companions are there to tell you, yeah, you have and guess what? It is not okay. It will be, of course, but isn’t life about living in the moment? And in the moment of heartbreak, your day to day existence is the furthest thing from okay.

You Won’t Know

The Devil and God seems to narrate, in equal parts, my own perspective on losing out and the perspective of what I’d like to think my former felt on the subject and therein lies it’s brilliance. (Note: The fact that Lacey quotes a Rudyard Kipling poem is “Sowing Season (Yeah)” is another place wherein Brand New’s brilliance lies.) Every time, in my head, I would insist “I don’t mind you under my skin, I’ll let the bad parts in,” the proverbial “he” would counter “Settle, baby. You are not the sun.” Even in my brain, I recognize that I’m the neurotic one and his thinking, in this imaginary conversation, would take the rational role. Did that keep me from wallowing in the self-important pity of lines like “I love you so much, do me a favor, baby, don’t reply; ‘Cause I can dish it out, but I can’t take it?” Of course not.

That being said, a solid mix and a stiff drink works wonders, as does moving on because guess what? Just as I was not the sun, I realized, after a few days, neither was he.

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Album Review: Tim Kasher – “The Game of Monogamy”

Posted on 24 October 2010 by Mylynda Guthrie

I have a strange and wonderful relationship with Cursive front man and The Good Life troubadour Tim Kasher. I got into him very early on, via a mixtape (yes, a tape. Yes, I am getting old.) from my middle school’s only other indie kid. The fact that we both wore Chuck Taylors and exchanged mixtapes resulted in some lesbian rumors which I guess makes sense as our relationship was one of self-discovery. Only, instead of discovering each others prepubescent chests, we discovered something far better: Stephen Malkmus. I gave her Elliott Smith and Eels. She gave me The Dismemberment Plan and Cursive. To be more specific, she gave me Cursive’s “Cielings Crack” from their debut release, Such Blinding Eyes For Starving Eyes. And I was smitten. At the time, I was heavy in like with a boy who didn’t see me as anything more than “one of the guys” (probably because of those lesbian rumors) so the sentiments of Kasher’s screams echoed long and hit heavy. “I know I’m just a peon to you, but I deserve more,” he shouted and inside, I said “Eff yeah. I do deserve more. This guy gets it. He gets it!” Some years later, the same friend asked me to recommend her some happy music. I told her I’d been listening to The Ugly Organ a lot. When she informed me that Cursive was just about the furthest thing from “happy music”, I told her that she had done this to    me and really, she had. Without her, who knows when I would have discovered Cursive, or The Good Life for that matter, and what affect they would have had on my life.

Just like everyone who’s ever been bummed about heartbreak, Album of the Year holds a special place in my heart and “Sierra” gets me to shed a tear every time it comes up on my iTunes library. Black Out has more than a few songs that mirror my life and seeing Cursive play a cover of The Cure’s “Lovecats” to less than 200 die hard Kasher fans in DeKalb, Illinois ranks as one of the best moments of my musical life thus far. I heard rumors of a Tim Kasher solo show at Schubas in Chicago brewing before I heard any announcement of his solo debut, The Game of Monogamy, so when I heard that the man himself was releasing a solo debut, I had two thoughts: 1) Complete and utter fan girl excitement (Oh my god, did I mention the time Tim complimented my shoes you guys?! That totally happened! In real life!) and 2) Wait… Why?

You see, Kasher started The Good Life as a way to release all the songs that didn’t fit with his career with Cursive. Since that time, The Good Life has progressed from a electro-indie band to confessional acoustics and Cursive? Well, they just do whatever they damn well please these days. So really, a solo album from Kasher just doesn’t make sense. Surely, one of his outfits could be well suited enough for The Game of Monogamy.

Tim Kasher – Cold Love from Saddle Creek on Vimeo.

Apparently not. The theatrics Kasher displayed with Cursive on The Ugly Organ? Imagine that ten fold and you have the first ten minutes of The Game Of Monogamy. With his solo debut, Kasher has written a mainstream musical, complete with horn sections, pop arrangements, abrupt tempo changes, and storytelling lyrics. The only problem is… well, frankly put, all of these songs would sound better bare bones, Album of the Year style. Another problem? Well, aside from the unabashed mainstream overtones of the album, Kasher has, at one time or another, done everything here before. That isn’t to say the man is losing his talent, as he once expressed fear over in “No News Is Bad News”. Kasher’s songwriting is just as wonderfully, brutally, honest and self-loathing as ever but what Kasher has done on The Game of Monogamy was just better the first time around. Those horn sections that litter “I Think I’m Gonna Die Here”? They just fit better on Happy Hallow. The strings on “There Must Be Something I’ve Lost”? It was cooler when it was on “Driftwood: A Fairytale”.

No Fireworks

That isn’t to say that The Game Of Monogamy does not have it’s appeal. “No Fireworks”, in particular, is another damn near perfect Kasher composition, the type of song he does so well that manages to do nothing less than encapsulate my personal life with lyrics like “I thought love was supposed to spill from our hearts…. But I can’t feel anything at all.” Much like “What Have I Done” and “Staying Alive” before it, “No Fireworks” is a song for the ages of Amber Valentine, a lament of the sad state of my personal life, a dirge for my once a-flutter heart. If love has to suck so bad, at least I have Kasher to commiserate with me.

By the time the album wraps up, with “Monogamy”, if your ears have adjusted to the shock of Kasher’s polished sound, the closing tracks beauty will not be lost on you. Heck, even if your ears haven’t adjusted (as mine seem unable to do), you’ll be able to take note of “Monogamy”. The track sums up the entirety of the album, closing it on the somber note that makes it clear that monogamy was just a “charade”, a “game”, as the album title points out. Once again, just as with all of the endeavors Kasher puts to music, he’s failed. Is it shocking? No. “Ten years of wedded bliss” is not for people like Kasher, over grown teenagers who still lust after high school girlfriends, who want to sleep with every girl they see, just to see what it’s like.

For all it’s musical downfalls, The Game Of Monogamy is not a bad album by any means but the fact of the matter is that, honestly, I just can’t help but expect more from Kasher. My exceptions for the man, after all, are quite high. But at the end of the day, “Just Don’t Get Caught”, the country tinged b-side to Kasher’s Cold Love single, is just more appealing to me than anything that made the actual album’s cut.

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Two Cents Presents Audio Orgasm: One Girl’s Sexual Relationship With Gayngs

Posted on 18 October 2010 by Mylynda Guthrie

-by Amber Valentine

“You have got to hear this album.”

That’s how it started. Isn’t that how it always starts? I’d been waxing poetic on my schoolgirl crush on Justin Vernon, better known to some as Bon Iver, better known to others as the hottest fella to wear too-revealing shorts during Pitchfork 2009, when my friend John Brunner told me about Gayngs. Little did I know what would happen next.

Gayngs is a Midwestern band to be reckoned with, a tour de force of over twenty of Wisconsin and Minnesota’s finest, from P.O.S. to Dessa to, yes, Justin Vernon, and it’s all the brainchild of Ryan Olson. Naturally, the moment I heard of Vernon’s involvement I was in. However, when John told me a bit about the record, I was no longer just “in”. I was “all in”. Apparently, one of John’s friends had been spinning Gayngs at the record store he works at. All the gentlemen who heard the album were appalled by the sheer raunchiness of it. The ladies, however, became instantly weak in the knees. That, I feel, is the most appropriate reaction to debut LP Relayted. Despite nary a “dirty word” appearing on the LP, the songs play out at 69 beats per minute and the album’s sheer seductiveness is, quite frankly, incomparable.

Sure, songs can be sexy; songs can flirtatious; songs can explicitly talk about sexual acts of various natures but never once has song, let alone an entire album, physically turned me on. That is, until Gayngs (quite literally) came into my life. Within moments of procuring Relayted and putting down the proverbial digital needle on the opening song, I found my mouth agape and goosebumps raising upon my body. In my two plus years as a music journalist, I had heard a lot of records but never had I heard anything like Gayngs and I’ll probably never hear anything like it again.


Something magical happened when Gayngs was conceived and it’s impossible to discern exactly how it all came about. Even if Olson himself attempted to recount the story to me, I’d probably hush him because part of the allure of Gayngs is the mystery of how it is that such explicitly lustful bedroom music came to be. Listening to Relayted is like having your first sexual experience resulting in an orgasm. Sure, you’d been turned on before, but never before have you felt anything like this. “The Gaudy Side Of Town” seduces you gently, wrapping around you like smoke before dissipating into “The Walker”, a song which ups the ante with a kicky hook that doesn’t just permeate your eardrums, but permeates areas which, well, music just doesn’t usually permeate. “The Walker”, in turn, seamlessly carries you into a cover of Godley & Creme’s “Cry”, which tempts you to venture to “No Sweat” and before you know it, Gayngs has changed something inside of you, going deeper into than you ever thought a record could and making you realize there’s a whole other level of physicality that most music can’t compare to.

After falling for Gayngs, I fervently recommended it to friend after friend, telling them that this record will get you laid. There’s no doubt about it. Pop open a bottle of wine and put Relayted on as your loved one walks into your respective house or apartment. I’m willing to bet something will be penetrated before “The Gaudy Side Of Town”‘s seven minutes is up. In fact, I’ve made it my personal goal to let Gayngs get me laid before the year is up. I’ve also told a number of my fellow gayng members that they will be receiving a text message telling them when I’ve completed that particular dream. So, when @Gayngs themselves @ replied me on twitter one day, after mentioning the dirty things their record made me want to do, telling me to “do my thayng” and “be proud”, you can probably imagine the elated-slash-aroused emotion I found myself rapt with.

To be quite honest, Gayngs recent Jimmy Fallon performance was the best sexual release I’ve had in many months, not because I was doing anything remotely sexual whilst watching Olson and his Midwestern comrades but rather because it’s just that good. Even I, with my extensive Gayngs love, was not prepared for what the band offered up when Sean Moeller, Daytrotter’s fearless founder, and accompaniest David Vandervelde joined the gayng in Wisconsin to record the sexiest thing ever put to tape. To quote Vandervelde himself, “It’s like music for sex people. You’re all just sex people.”

I never was a “sex person”. I was always a “mope” person, who found catharsis in the kind of music that detailed heartache and loneliness but then I met Gayngs. And now, here I stand before you, a woman, having finally found a band worthy of taking my “sex music” v-card and I can guarantee that if you let Relayted enter your life, you’ll be a “sex person” too.

For more from Amber and her fine team of sex persons (including Indie College’s own Mylynda Nellermoe), check out Radio Free Chicago.

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