Hey what's up I'm writing this approximately two hours before I go see Drug Church and Soul Blind and Gel play a show. I'd like to say thanks to everyone who read my stereogum piece about the 10th anniversary of Sunbather by Deafheaven. Everyone who said a nice thing or fav'd a tweet or even just read the words I put down, thanks. It means the world. Here's my week in record reviews:
Protomartyr - Formal Growth In The Desert
Detroit’s been the setting of a fair few horror films of late. It Follows (2014), Don’t Breathe (2016), and Barbarian (2022) all make the city’s residential areas into a sort of otherworldly, extraterrestrial land. In Detroit, where the homes and dreams are abandoned, no one can hear you scream. Protomartyr’s latest record gives those scary stories a soundtrack, whether it knows it or not. COVID left those half-abandoned even more quiet than before and Joe Casey’s account of living through it all is awfully eerie. He sings of unknown intruders sneaking into his home at night like the guitars on this record slink in from one song to the next. “Graft Vs. Host,” a song about the loss of Casey’s mother, has been an early standout for me. As a devout Protomartyr listener, I know it’s been a subject long on Casey’s mind and it typically gets his best performances. On this record, her absence is notable as Casey worries in this song if the numbness will affect his emotions long-term. Casey is despondent, but the band is right behind him, supporting and giving space rather than performing through it. It’s a common theme on the record and it’s the most brutal (in the architectural sense) record of theirs to date, spartan on first listen but truly and deeply emotional on further inspection. B+
PS: IF YOU OR A FRIEND CAN GET ME INTO THE PROTOMARTYR SHOW AT THE BOWERY BALLROOM, I'D LOVE TO PAY YOU FOR A TICKET OR SOMETHING. PLEASE EMAIL JAY@LISTENUPNERDS.COM. THANKS!
Master Gardener (2023, Dir: Schrader)
I saw this a few weeks back and so much of it has been rattling around in my brain since I watched it. I don’t want to spoil it with conjecture about what it means or what happens (you can drop a comment in the box or send me an email), but I did have the pleasure of seeing it with Paul Schrader in the building and he, Edgerton, and Weaver did a Q&A. This being a showing at Lincoln Center, almost every seat was filled with a scruffy Brooklyn-transplant-type and every question was directed to Schrader. The thing that still sticks out in my mind is that Schrader was very complimentary about critics fleshing out ideas that artists might have left on the table. Schrader spoke specifically about the setting of an old plantation house not being a priority, it just happened to work out that way, and how a keen-eyed watcher of the movie can draw on that sort of happenstance to give the art more context he couldn’t. He said that this is the best relationship that a critic could have to art (and artist to critic), adding more to underline their argument, and it’s something I hope to capture more of the more that I write.
Greg Mendez - Greg Mendez
Good lord. Greg Mendez’s new record is the Gallant to Alex G’s Goofus. Maybe that’s unkind to Alex G, but where Alex G’s music creeps off into other realms and indulges whims, Mendez’s record has no time to do any of that. It’s 20 minutes of selecting the most heartbreaking moments out of every Elliott Smith song and posting in a photodump to grid. Mendez’s record plays like a stop in at the confessional booth between substance abuse support group meetings. It’s a quick, incisive, heartwrenching album about abusive relationships with people and heroin alike, and it’s quickly climbing up my most-listened-to rankings this year. Even if I don’t think it’s the best album I’ve spent time with so far, I find it incredibly listenable and that means something to me at, least. A-
Bar Italia - Tracey Denim
Really digging the new Bar Italia record. I’d have more to say about it but I’ve only listened a couple of times and I’ve mostly just dug the mood of it all. It keeps reminding me of something that’s on the tip of my tongue and I don’t know what it is. I guess I’ll have to keep listening!
Best Wishes - The Thrill Is Gone
It’s hardcore. My taste in hardcore has basically locked itself in and it sounds like this. 2-step kindling for the burning flame in your heart.
Forming - Forming
Forming, to me, feel like the best band that never was. I wish they put out like 20 more songs. I listen to this 7” every summer and it never gets old. Hope you dig it, too.