PSYCHOMAGIC"Bad Ideas" (Curly Cassettes)

Portland's Psychomagic offer up their first tape on "Bad Ideas", their sophomore album release. As I listened to the opening cut, Go Go Ladies (From Outer Space), I was immediately reminded of that surf-party recipe that made The B-52's so compelling. But as Your Lover and the third track, Gumball Crazy were quick to demonstrate, this band is so much more than that. The five-piece (two guitars, keys, bass and drums) exhibit a vast array of influences and have that rare magic touch that allows everything to sound remarkably familiar yet retain the bands uniqueness throughout. All ten original compositions exemplify the band's trademark punk and garage stylings yet the craftsmanship and production take the whole affair up a notch or two.

Diverse similarity, if such a thing is possible, is rampant throughout. A love-sick Transylvanian, a mind warped cult member and other off the beaten path characters parade through these songs. One after another, in spite of the zaniness, they, wrapped in catchy hooks and clever phrasing, suck you in and leave you wanting more until the next cut starts the process yet again. And so it goes throughout the tape leaving you only coming up for air long enough to flip it over.

Willamette Week, a paper in their hometown, awarded them finalists in their yearly best new band category while describing them as "a broken kaleidoscope designed to give flower children bad trips." In truth, the songs that singer/guitarist Steven Fusco and drummer Anthony Brisson write are both compelling and enjoyable listening. The album was recorded and released on those "other" formats by L.A.'s Lollipop Records with the tape being issued in November of 2015 on Curly Cassettes (

-- Bob Zilli

SAD HORSE "SH" C20 (Curly Cassettes)

The tape consists of six short songs, and I think it would be a good idea to examine each track as its own entity.

Still Thirsty - The vocalist in this track is definitely a unique one. Her style is reminiscent of Jack White’s style in The White Stripes’ album White Blood Cells. The almost scratchy voice that shouts and “woo”s at the listener incessantly should not compliment the mellifluous instrumental as well as it does. It’s a very happy song, and there isn’t a much better way to describe it. The substantial use of percussion (specifically the smashing and thrashing of cymbals) stood out strongly.

For Real Now - There’s a different, male vocalist in this track, and the lyrics are significantly more understandable than in the last track. The style of rock in this track is evocative of that of early 2000s boy bands, save for the generic lead singer and mediocre instrument use. It’s certainly as catchy as those mainstream hit singles, and the outstanding use of bass is certainly worth a compliment or two.

Can’t Remember - The first thing that came to mind when I heard this track was “The Strokes”. This song is precisely the kind of song one would expect on The Strokes’ album Angles. Fans of The Strokes (or rather, the style they’ve become) would appreciate this song greatly, and again the bass creates a most noteworthy sound.

So Far Away - This song differs from the rest of the tracks on the tape in that it’s performed and recorded live. It’s equally pleasant to listen to and it’s a nice change from the more powerful overtone that the previous tracks had created. It’s soft and establishes a very friendly atmosphere in the listener’s head. Not a bad track at all.

SH - Bass, bass, bass! I can’t tell you how much I love the bass in this album, especially in this track. It’s a purely instrumental track and the shortest on the album, but it definitely conveys the mood that the title of the track/album seeks to deliver (SH = Sad Horse). It doesn’t need vocals to sound any more perfect than it sounds.

(This Is What It’s Like) In Heaven - The (remarkably less talented) female vocalist is back for the last track on the album. If Phil Collins suffered from strep throat and had just stopped crying, this is what he would sound like. Sad Horse didn’t save the best for last, but every album has its lame-ass track. This was SH’s.

This is a more than decent album. This artist definitely deserves your support.
Overall, I give it a 7.5/10

-- M. Syed

NICKY Z “Boat Fetish” (Hem & Lock Tapes)

A change in drift is good and fair. A charge of karaoke through molecularity’s grinding gears provokes another misfire. Welcome to the splice center, a falling rock zone where grip slips from the precipice. One last little pinky finger can’t hang on for very long, it being too eager to join the other fingers and stroke loose fur off strays. Lotion doesn’t help much, either.

Looney dust cloud spotting after the drop. Falling into ice water with the microphone still plugged in generates shock. This gulch ain’t dry. Where’d that stray cat go? One second it’s a-shimmying and a-shaking on some big rock, and the next second it’s over down a-ways making wet stray sounds. It doesn’t give us much of a chance. The mindless breeze sort of tosses the stray fur around. The stray fur sort of gets lumped into little furballs every once in awhile, but not for long. If anyone actually saw you in the thick of that dust cloud splashing in the gulch chasing furballs they’d probably think you were crazy, I reckon. Especially if they knew how much lotion you had put on ahead of time.

“absolute (0) embrace”
(Bicephalic Records)

In the day and age of a generation gone astray on wild concepts such as ‘Netflix and chill’, thankfully we still have some people who prefer ‘spooky dark ambient and j card photo of outer space’. This split tape between Faint Glow and Somnaphon will appease the later and cause the former to shit their pants…assuming they were still wearing them. 

Both acts give roughly 15 minutes of terse, unforgiving soundscapes a piece. On side A I found myself immersed in the vortex of Faint Glow’s “Inside A Red Storm” to the point where I could almost feel the wind hitting me. By the end of those tracks I was floored. Somnaphon didn’t let me off the hook after I flipped the tape over. The humming of an impending doom on “Wasp Star” had me looking over my shoulder. Sometimes split releases are plagued by one side that totally outclasses the other. I am happy to report that is not the case here. Now may the word “happy” never again be used to describe either of these acts. Check it out in the link below.

-- Roy Blumenfeld

“Death Poems” C46
(Breathe Plastic Records)

The Fifth Alliance offered a promising album cover and an intricately designed cassette tape, housed in a beautifully crafted display box and accompanied by a most useful lyrics insert. For this reason I was excited to pop the tape into my boombox and give it a listen. And it seems I was write to be excited.

I listen to a variety of musical genres, one of which includes metalcore (the figurative “baby” of heavy metal music). For this reason I can never quite appreciate a song featuring all unclean vocals the way I can if it features a few clean vocals, and I’ve certainly never been a fan of sludge metal. However, the first track on this tape broke this dogma of mine. “Your Abyss” features three minutes of build-up to something intense and unknown, then blasts the most perfect screams at you. These vocals are most wonderfully in sync with the elaborate instrumental layout, and the guitarist for this band is without a doubt a skilled one at that.

My only complaint (and a decidedly slight one) is that the vocals were all high-pitched screams, when the music clearly called for growls and deeper, throat-oriented screams.

I rate this album an 8.5/10; there was clear effort and it definitely paid off in a most wonderful composition, and if you’re into sludge metal, this effort surely deserves to be rewarded.

Favorite track: Your Abyss

-- Mansoor Syed

CRUZ SOMERS “Here Comes the Tarp” C20
(OJC Recordings)

Cruz Somers of Socialites sounds like Black Francis fronting a cross between the Ramones and Devo. Right? Cause eff yah that sounds like something I wanna do all the time. Or maybe “I Wanna Be Your Dog” run through a rock crusher might be a more apt description. Ah heck, I’ll go with the first one.

This is LA underground sheez whiz Repo Man style in abandoned buildings and parking lots, doing crimes and melting down in Cold War hysteria. There’s a thing as green as this tape in your trunk, and it flipping glows. These five songs (or six, depending on whether you consider “Your Future/Dog Dance” one song or two) are causing total panic at the discotheque, so hit the deck.

I’m almost certain a Trapper Keeper fight is going to break out in my vicinity. When it does, I’m ready. I have a yellow sport Walkman with this thing in it, and I’m ready to hit stuff with my binder emblazoned with pastel geometric shapes. Let’s rock this joint. Let’s remind everybody that this is how to channel your anger. Let’s jump up and down on industrial scrap. Let’s drink cheap beer and have fun.

Who cares anymore? Cruz Somers is kicking ass and taking names, wearing a turtleneck with the sleeves cut off at the shoulders. It probably looks awesome.

--Ryan Masteller

HEY EXIT “Else” (Self Released)

Hey Exit is the solo project of Brendan Landis. If “Else” were a movie starring Landis here is how it would go. Boy meets baritone guitar. Boy falls in love with guitar yet decides rock and roll music is too boring and confined to let him express what he wants to express through music. Boy decides conventions are for squares and turns the guitar from instrument to tool which he uses to craft ambient compositions and save Western civilization.

The movie would be among the greatest stories ever told. There would be romance, introspection, and a grand storyline. Since you will probably never get a chance to see it in film form you should stream + download the music instead from the link below.

-- Roy Blumenfeld

“Little Mac” C21
(White Reeves Productions)

Is Lil Mac an ode to a dog, presumably named Lil Mac? I don’t know. That’s certainly my guess, though, as I can imagine pet owners grow a certain affinity for their wards. I’m not a pet owner – too many allergies in our house growing up. So, with that in mind, this two-track tape comes off like a eulogy to the pup on the cover, as the title track’s euphonic synth and tape strains mimic a church organ throughout its ten-minute runtime. It feels like an ambient funeral service, replete with all the pain and hope bubbling raw to the surface of Andrew Kirschner’s consciousness. If this is the case, Andrew, I’m sorry for your loss.

Side B is much more cosmic in tone, and that’s actually completely unsurprising. Keeping with the theme, Kirschner’s titled this passage “I Will See You Again,” and if I’m correct about this tape being an ode to a beloved lost pet, then AK would undoubtedly pine for a reunion with Lil Mac in the afterlife. It’s a more pensive, brooding meditation, filled with thoughts of uncertainty. It makes total sense here, as if Kirschner isn’t sold on reunification, but he’s pushing toward it anyway. Here’s hoping you get that chance to hug your little pal again, Andrew.

Sorry I’m such a downer today, but look at that cute puppy face! I love him!

This has been a White Reeves Production joint. As usual, the White Reeves team knocks it out of the park. This feels like a minor release compared to the other, more wild-eyed and frenzied tapes this crew has issued, but it nonetheless scratches that experimental itch. Make it part of your collection today! Oh, wait, it’s sold out. Bandcamp, people!

Lil Mac Bandcamp page

--Ryan Masteller

“Unfortunate Chronology Volume 2”
(Self Released)

For this piece I’ve decided to write a eulogy instead of a review.

Here lies Estrogen Highs. They were a band. A forward thinking punk band from Connecticut that liked to mix things up. Now they’re not a band anymore. Those who knew them will weep. They will feel a loss, as the following which was built was not accidental. Yet to the silent majority who had no idea they existed, life will continue on without knowing anything has changed. Funny how that works.

Very little was left behind to commemorate Estrogen Highs brief time on earth. Unfortunate Chronology Volume 2 is the sequel to the aptly named Unfortunate Chronology Volume 1. The two tape set is made up of outtakes, covers, live cuts, and oddities. Only 50 copies were made and they already have sold out. No digital uploads exist. Rumor has it Night People will be reissuing them at some point so look out for that.  

-- Roy Blumenfeld