BlackBook Premiere: New CRICKETS Single ‘Intentionally Passive’ is a Synth-Pop Stormer

Images by AF Cortes

 

 

It’s not likely you’d have dreamt up a musical scenario in which one member of Faith No More and one from Le Tigre would form a new band—and even more curiously named it CRICKETS. But it has, indeed, happened.

To be sure, Roddy Bottum and JD Samson have been joined by Michael O’Neill of MEN / Princess, to make enigmatic but eminently hummable electronic creations, like the recent, anti-toxicity track “Elastic.” And now comes the sheer awesomeness of “Intentionally Passive,” which BlackBook quite officially premieres here. (Both are taken from their self-titled debut album, due out July 17 on Muddguts Records.)

If we’re being frank, the new single, despite the ghostly lyrical chant of “I just let it happen!,” is anything but passive. Over a relentless groove, minimal synths and ominous bass swells, it is a truly inexorable electro stormer, which seems like it might just blow apart at any minute.

 

 

“One of the reasons I love playing ‘Intentionally Passive’ so much is because I literally play three notes the entire song, and mostly it’s just one note,” explains a gleefully lethargic Michael O’Neill. “We guitarists are usually tempted to shred and play so many notes and make so much noise. But this song really captures the spirit of CRICKETS, which is to strip away all the excess and really hone in on how to be the most effective with as little as possible.”

Which is kind of accidentally zeitgeisty, since we are living with a president who focuses on being as ineffective as possible, with as much bluster as he can muster.

So, come November…vote CRICKETS. Obviously.

 

Jonathan Grassi

Poignant New Christinna O Single ‘Hot Head’ Meditates on Living With Bipolar

 

 

We fell for Christinna O in 2019, with the release of her excellent Girl in Passing EP. The 20-year-old, Philly based songstress has been an outspoken queer female voice, something notably lacking in hip-hop and R&B. But she also knows her way around a sultry groove, which is precisely what underpins her poignant new single “Hot Head,” just released today.

It should be noted that she’s also a genuine poet, when so many unworthy can be found claiming that same title. And against a background of chiming guitars, lush atmospherics and jittery beats, she can be heard pleading in earnest, “If I don’t bite my tongue, don’t clench my teeth / Promise you will listen to me.” And considering her warning that, “The spirit’s got a temper,” we think it best to pay her your full attention.

 

 

Produced by Daniel Lynas (Kanye West, A$AP Rocky), the song is actually about living with all the fears and uncertainties of bipolar disorder.

“‘Hot Head’ expresses how hard it is to speak and be heard for your truths,” she insists, “especially as a Black woman, as a queer Black woman, as a Black queer woman who lives with mental health obstacles. It is a mouthpiece for my often held rage. This song meets me at the fork in the road, with the option of imploding or getting it all out.”

Thankfully, Christinna O is a Black queer woman who happens to also be a (musical) force of nature.

 

The First Trailer for ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 4 Eerily Mirrors Our Current Reality

 

 

 

When we last heard from The Handmaid’s Tale (the Season 3 finale was in August of 2019), there was a credible unease that Donald Trump’s increasingly authoritarian America was mirroring some of the totalitarian ideology depicted in the show. Nearly a year later, the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and racial division have come decisively to the fore, while President 45 has come to look more like an aging clown who can’t remember how to tie an animal balloon.

Alas, Season 4 has been postponed until 2021, at which time we will likely either have a new president, or perhaps even…civil war? But the first trailer has arrived, and, as probably expected, it’s not pretty—though it is rife with determination. It opens with Elisabeth Moss’ Offred, wounded in the last episode, defiantly reciting, “I can’t rest. My child deserves better. We all deserve better. Change never comes easy.”—which seems to eerily mirror conversations we’ve been having in real life. Are we soon to become a quasi-Gilead?

 

 

And indeed, as armed soldiers advance, we can hear Ofrobet fervently insisting, “It’s not safe anywhere, we should just leave.” Recent violent scenes of tear-gassed protestors outside the White House, and heavily armed police marching through Buffalo come immediately to mind.

The imagery this coming season, as ever, is monumental, unsettling, and frighteningly vivid. It’s a dystopia you can’t take your eyes off of. And it’s a struggle that we have to see through to the end with Offred and her fellow handmaids—even if we have to wait until 2021 for it to resume.

And make no mistake, as Ann Dowd’s fearful Aunt Lydia howls of Offred, “She’s out there planning who knows what kind of atrocities, to visit upon our righteous nation,” it sounds absolutely, shudderingly Trumpian.

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 will air on Hulu at a 2021 date yet to be determined.

 

Listen: Robyn Hood Drops the Fierce New Track ‘Drip Flow’

 

 

Actress Miriam A. Hyman‘s star is certainly climbing—with her newly launched starring role in Season 3 of Lena Waithe’s The Chi (which premiered June 21). But her “alter ego” is seriously busy as well.

For real, as Robyn Hood, she’s been sharpening her flow since 2014, when her mixtape Journey Of An MC netted her a Best New Artist nom at the Philadelphia Hip-Hop Awards. She afterwards released two EPs, and collab’d with everyone from Lupita Nyong’o to Ciara to Hamilton star Daveed Diggs.

Her third EP, the fittingly titled Alter EGO, dropped today, June 25. And BlackBook is all over the first single “Drip Flow,” which finds her dropping lines with equal parts confidence and impertinence over a fat bass and slow, languid beats.

“Peel back them layers  / Honestly a soothsayer / Hit ’em with those quick lines / Lightfoot like the mayor.”

“As a conscious female lyricist,” she explains, “I’m constantly being told that my music won’t sell if I don’t promote sex, violence, or provocative language. I disagree with that wholeheartedly, and that is how my music is born. I believe if you stay hot, honest, open, and truthful with yourself and listeners, they’ll be intelligent enough to see and hear your art, and that is what my goal was with bringing Alter Ego to life.”

We’re definitely buying.

 

 

 

Listen: Lush New ENZI Track ‘Retrograde’ Can’t be Bothered About Science

 

 

As the nation continues to be at war over the primacy of science, it’s probably also a good time to point out that the scientific community has definitively confirmed that—steady yourself—“Mercury in retrograde” just isn’t really a thing.

Still and all, it doesn’t mean it can’t make visceral fodder for the creation of good art. And bourgeoning Nashville-by-way-of-Colorado songstress ENZI has gone and done just that, turning out what is just her fifth single, tellingly titled “Retrograde.” Aesthetically sweet and whimsical, it’s nevertheless impressively sonically layered, with lots of blipping and chiming seemingly capriciously popping in and out, making the track consistently surprising.

The lyrics were inspired by her accidental discovery of a sample which posited, “when the hell does mercury get out of retrograde, because this is driving me batshit?” Which seems to be the common reaction to this rather fantastical phenomenon—though she claims to have found it all a bit of a laugh.

 

 

“I’m not an astrology expert,” she admits, “but the belief is retrograde throws everyone out of whack and makes people really impulsive and prone to mistakes. So, I thought, what is universally spontaneous and unhealthy? Texting your ex. Of course, we can’t always help but think of someone we probably shouldn’t be with in a romantic way. I thought it would be fun to capture that in a song, and then blame it all on Mercury being in retrograde.”

If you’ve yet to come across her intriguing nom de guerre, just know ENZI already shared a stage with the likes of The Head and The Heart and Fitz and the Tantrums, as well as captured the attention of MTV and iHeartRadio. Should the stars not choose to interfere, we expect big things.

 

Exclusive: Aussie Songstress Harmony Byrne’s Fierce Pride Playlist

 

 

We’re not exactly sure why the XX chromosome energy is such there, but in the last couple of years Australia has been turning out some fierce musical females (Zheani, Jack River, Montaigne). But none come close to the unfettered awesomeness of Harmony Byrne, who with just a few singles to her name, had already drawn raves from the likes of Billboard and The FADER.

But at last, her debut album Heavy Doors was released June 12, and it’s an absolute stunner. It opens with the haunting lament “I Never Played the Game,” with its angst-filled mantra of, “I never had much luck in love.” But it’s followed immediately by the utterly explosive “Sweeter Than Sugar,” with enough wicked riffs as to surely bring Jack White to his knees. By the time “Smoke Inside” kicks in like a steroidal Mazzy Star, her impassioned howl of, “If I die tonight will you save my soul?,” will likely send more than a few chills up your spine. It’s all expertly produced by Spoon’s Jim Eno.

For Pride Month, we asked her to create an equally fierce playlist, which task she accomplished most definitively. It spans from the obscure (June Jones, Caroline Rose) to the monumental (Queen, Janelle), with no small measure of empowering ideology along the way.

“Without the inspiration of others I don’t know where I would be today,” she enthuses. “It is through their examples that I recommit every day.”

 

 

Harmony Byrne’s Pride Playlist

 

Arlo Parks – “Eugene”

My goodness… I hate to admit it, but going from one romantic relationship to another, I have sometimes transferred specific songs from the one into the next because I feared the honesty of the love. “You played him records I showed you, you read him Sylvia Plath, I thought that was our thing…” Shit, I’ve done that. In retrospect, I think it’s because I feared the present intimacy, instead I relied on past intimacy to connect me with the lover at the time. Fuck, right?!

June Jones – “Thorn”

My conditioning, my childhood, my story, seems to always present itself in relationships… What I love so much about this song is when June sings, “Here I am. I almost lost myself back then…” At the end of the day, we all carry incredible weight, unique stories, incredible achievement of soul, no matter who we are or who we become.

Queen – “Don’t Stop Me Now”

“I’m traveling at the speed of light!” You know what? Humanity fears their brilliance! And I’m sick of it! I want to explode @ 200 degrees—let’s go! Don’t stop me…I ain’t gonna stop you, I’m gonna celebrate you baby!

Rat Child – “Joy”

“Won’t Joy be my wife?” Yeah honey, joy will! Let’s give all the feminine power back to the women out there, so they can feel their honest, divine, inherent creative joy.

 

 

Courtney Barnett – “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go To The Party”

No one really thinks about you as much as you think about yourself. You Narcissistic Angel you…

Janelle Monae – “Neon Valley Street”

“May this song reach your heart.” Seriously this is my prayer for every song I write. Songs have healing powers.

The Eggshell World – “RVG”

I love a song that invites you in: “We are meant to bury ourselves in the eggshell world.” That lyric hits me hard. We’re meant to experience the joy and pain and the full spectrum of the human life.

Caroline Rose – “Jeannie Becomes A Mom”

I love the production. I just can’t help but dance with myself…bloody real life is a trip.

 

BlackBook Premiere: New Maris Single + Video ‘Elephant Skeleton’ Confronts Our Universal Isolation

 

 

There have been plenty of curious paths to fame—but when a 17-year-old Maris Ward grabbed a bottle of Kikkoman soy sauce and belted out a jazz-inflected cover of Sinatra’s “Fly Me To The Moon” in 2017, she could hardly have expected it to go viral. But 50,000 retweets later, she was a digital sensation.

But now 20, the Missoula girl is hardly a fly-by-night phenomenon. She has also performed, by invitation, at Carnegie Hall’s American Protege series. And now truncated to just Maris, her new single, the curiously titled “Elephant Skeleton” (which BlackBook premieres here), channels Lana Del Rey and David Bowie—or perhaps imagine a gospel-gothic Kate Bush—on the way to making some emotional sense of the unsettling solitude so many have experienced during this long pandemic lockdown.

 

 

“For me, this song was about processing loss and isolation,” she explains. “I wrote it after being socially isolated in my apartment when COVID first hit. I also lost a few relationships over the past couple months that really meant a lot to me; so as I was producing the tune, rewriting, etc., I began to explore the iridescence in loneliness. Where I once thought it was a desaturated void, it became a glimmering and multifaceted beast.”

The accompanying video, the result of a Zoom brainstorming session with several close friends, finds Maris extrapolating the theme of the single’s cover art, having to do with being…wrapped up in space. Which would seem to be the Bowie influence further exerting itself.

“I bought 24 yards of green cloth, [my friend] Erica sent me all of the amazing, twinkly backgrounds to be keyed on the green, and I filmed the whole video on my kitchen floor. I’m so proud of the work we’ve put into it, and I feel so liberated, excited, and grateful to be finally sharing music again. So thankful for all the help from friends I’ve gotten along the way, too.”

For our part, we’re impressed by anyone who has been able to make the best of this terrible coronavirus reality.

New Erasure Single ‘Hey Now (Think I Got A Feeling)’ Is a Hit of Joy When We Really Need It

 

 

For very good reason, it has seemed for the last week that solemnity and anger are a full time occupation. And as the nation splits apart, it is genuinely difficult to access any reasonable sense of hopefulness.

But we have found in the past that it helps in some measure at least to take a pause and dance the pain away, if only for the moment. And we couldn’t help but feel a sense of relief at the arrival of a brand new Erasure track, as their music has often felt like a hit of exuberance when we needed it most. And indeed, their latest single “Hey Now (Think I Got A Feeling),” is another irresistible, modern synth-pop stunner, with its massive hooks recalling their ’80s classics like “Oh L’Amour.”

 

 

“Our music is always a reflection of how we’re feeling,” explains Vince Clarke. “Andy was in a good place spiritually, and so was I—really good places in our minds. You can hear that.”

To be sure, Andy Bell’s voice has rarely sounded so affecting and soulful, as he lyrically exclaims, “You’re my hot baptism of fire / And I won’t let that feeling go.”

“It was about refreshing my love of a great pop song,” he says. “I want kids now to hear these songs! I wanted to recharge that feeling that pop can come from anyone.”

The track is taken from their upcoming new album The Neon, which will be released via Mute this August 21.

 

BlackBook Premiere: The Kickdrums’ New Single ‘The Power of Ideas’ Questions Our Perceptions

 

 

As producer to the likes of Kid Cudi, K Flay and Lana Del Rey, Alex Fitts has certainly spent his share of time bothering the mainstream charts. But he’s mostly known as The Kickdrums, under which name he has released six EPs and albums since 2009.

But dormant for the last five years, his alter ego is finally back with an incisive new track, edifyingly titled “The Power of Ideas,” which BlackBook premieres here (another EP is on the way this summer). Coming off like some mashup of vintage East Coast / West Coast stylistic ethos, with its sampled strings, languid beats and retro soul vibes, it’s impossible to pigeonhole—but it’s ultimately driven by some totally unstoppable hooks and melodies.

Lyrically, it’s an insightful meditation on how illusions shape and warp our view of the real, with Fitts earnestly entreating, “Would you still do your thing / Without the crowd / Without the limelight?”

“This track is about the perception of reality versus true reality,” he explains. “How easy it is to fall in love with the idea of something.”

In an era where manipulation of the information flow is at a worrying peak, what could be more worth pondering?