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Bow before MOTHERMARY's debut LP "I Am Your God"

Repping NYC at SXSW this coming Wednesday...

I’m not sure which benign deity brought the twin-sister dark electronica duo known as MOTHERMARY into our plane of existence (Lilith? Kali? Ishtar? Cher? Dolly?) but we owe them a debt of gratitude because not since the heyday of Prince and Madonna have there been two such solid proponents for eroticizing religious dogma which is great for Christianity in particular with its central conceit of “original sin” where being tempted to enjoy a piece of deciduous by a sexy wifey made from your own rib is grounds for the eternal damnation of humankind not to mention eternal shame at our own nakedness. 

And then it doesn’t help matters when a few millennia later these same humans somehow managed to murder God’s only son in a particularly gruesome fashion and all this is without doubt deeply guilt-inducing and deeply unsexy. Or is it?

MOTHERMARY offer strong evidence to the contrary on their debut full-length I Am Your God released in late January and they know what they’re talking about because Elyse Winn and Larena Winn were raised in a devout Mormon household in Missoula, Montana (where a deep love for music was self-reportedly instilled alongside the Mormonism) and both attended BYU before moving to Salt Lake City and eventually NYC (first Elyse and later Larena) and recording their debut single “Catch Fire” which caught the attention of their friend Alex Frankel who’s also one-half of synthpop duo Holy Ghost! (how appropriate!) who passed it along to Megan Louise at Italians Do It Better which is basically the go-to label for cooly restrained yet highly and sublimely dramatic electro music—kind of like Italo-disco on steroids and tranquilizers at the same time—a perfect fit for the duo and their own melding of kewl and hawt, sinful and angelic.

And speaking of hotness “Catch Fire” is smoking hot—all swelling organs and throbbing bass and pulsating rhythms accompanied by Johnny Jewel-style synth-tom fills (RIP Chromatics and the fabled Dear Tommy LP) with lyrics from the POV of the sneaky snake in the Garden of Eden (see the truth when / it’s in the nude / taste the fruit / put the blame on me) and geez if Tipper Gore ever heard this song she’d likely have an aneurysm on the spot nevermind if she saw the music video we’re talking heart attack (brief synopsis: Bible study group/faith healing ceremony transforms into a polymorphously perverse strip club complete with crucifix tossing and leather-studded-slow-motion gyrating by Elyse and Larena).

But it’s not all “hotness for hotness’s sake” as MOTHERMARY point out I Am Your God “isn’t about a god complex, it is an invitation to ponder what you worship. It’s about women reclaiming their holiness and inviting you to acknowledge your own…it is a mirror to religion both reflecting the bad and salvaging the good” with the very name MOTHERMARY being “the ultimate symbol of religi[ous] hypocrisy & the insane expectations placed on women…These two extremes. Have children to procreate, but don’t be sexual beings.” The Madonna/Whore complex is an impossible needle to thread for sure but on the album’s most recent single and music video (title track “I Am Your God”) the Winn twins come pretty darn close with a song that floats by on ethereal clouds of airy heavenly electronic oscillations, but it's equally voluptuous and lusty (and a bit creepy with that pitch-shifted vocal) with the repeated line “I can come again” straddling the same line between holy and horny.

I guess guilt is complicated that way when you think about it—it’s an age-old tool for subjugation (especially used against women natch) but keeping people form what they want and need only builds desire upon desire and before long they’re developing some pretty elaborate fantasies and fetishes to redirect some of that energy not to mention making cool art and beautiful music to express their frustrations and longing not to mention how it makes being bad feel so good so guilt is a volatile thing to say the least. 

But enough of this music blogger’s theological thoughts! In closing it should be mentioned that some of I Am Your God was created together with compatriot/co-producer Chris McLaughlin with whom Elyse Winn likewise collaborates on the Cigar Cigarette project fronted by Chris where she takes on the role of co-composer, art director and music video director, and by the way MOTHERMARY direct or at least co-direct all their own music videos which makes sense given their backgrounds in art and theater alongside music plus “sacrilegious spectacle” of course and if the “Pray” video below doesn’t deliberately riff on Garbage’s glorious video for “Queer” I’ll eat my hat!



And so let’s pray all these beneficent forces keep working together and spawning more (un)holy ravishing music because the world really needs it and I’d even be willing to try and guilt them into it. (Jason Lee)





Savak’s elaborate single-releasing strategy revealed

ultranyc.com/legacy-artists-tiktok/

Between October 1982 and September 1983 Michael Jackson released seven count em seven singles off his paradigm-shifting sixth solo album Thriller with each of the singles in question charting in the Top Ten which set a record that wouldn’t be broken until Drake put out Certified Lover Boy (also his sixth studio album) late last year. This is a turn of events that obviously sticks in the craw of Savak, nearly as much as in mine, because the band have released five advance singles to date off their upcoming LP Human Error / Human Delight to be released on everyone’s favorite day of the year April 15 (via Savak's own Peculiar Works label in partnership with Ernest Jenning Record Co. and btw note how the album’s title is a clever nod to Thriller’s “Human Nature”) no doubt in an obvious bid to knock the Digrassi High School grad off his high horse and while none of their singles has cracked the top 10 as of yet I’m sure this blog entry will turn the tide because I mean could it be mere coincidence that this will likewise be Savak’s sixth full-length release having put out four LPs and one EP between 2016 and 2020.

What makes this singles-going-steadily-along strategy all the more impressive is that the three gentlemen who make up Savak are what’s known in the music biz as “veterans” or as “legacy artists” in the latest parlance, but they sure as heck don’t act like it because they keep popping off one razor sharp single after another like clockwork at the start of each month—at least they we they’re not pregnant!—songs that are overstuffed with garage rock grit and power pop glint and with hooks a’ plenty at the ready to the point where honestly I’m concerned the trio may be taking a few too many gas station pep pills but hey whatever works. 

In core you were wondering the core of Savak is made up of Michael “Jaws” Jaworski (Fifth of May, The Cops, Virgin Islands), Sohrab Habibion (Kid$ For Ca$h, Edsel, Obits) and Matt Schulz (Holy Fuck, Enon, Lake Ruth) accompanied on their soon-to-come album by six count em six individual bass guitarists and at least two saxophonists and overall this is a band that’s got more punk rock cred than a warehouse full of Subaru Imprezas (if you thought you’re punk as f*ck you’d better think again my friend) I mean heck Sohrab even has a Youtube page full of digitized Betamax tapes of DC hardcore punk shows that he filmed back in the day during the scene’s salad days.

So anyway on the heels of their last LP Rotting Teeth in the Horse’s Mouth by almost exactly two years which was a lyrically downcast politically-minded record about “fallacies, narcissism, and slime” (the perfect slogan for 2020!) Human Error / Human Delight takes a more varied light-and-shade approach as indicated by the record’s title, kind of like a melding of Rotting Teeth and the overall brighter Mirror Maker EP, it makes sense that the album-opening “No Blues No Jazz” explicitly makes reference to no arbitrary boundaries / no districts…no lines to redraw” in its pro-overturning-of-geopolitical-and-musical-boundaries-and-pledges-of-allegiance-of-all-kinds stance.

In a sense this makes the Savak album-opener the equivalent to the MJ/Paul McCartney duet “The Girl Is Mine” off from Thriller which is also a song rooted in dialectical materialism and the struggle between contradictory forces. And then I’d have to say “Cold Ocean” is the “Billie Jean” of Savak’s Human Error / Human Delight because it opens with a propulsive/plodding repetitive riff which later goes into a killer-hook refrain (can you feel the sand / slipping through your fingers / do you feel the tide / pulling you in) and similarity as you can tell by those lyrics it’s also a song about the pull of paranoia and dark romantic intrigue (the music video captures this as well in both instances). 

And hey I don’t wanna give away which Savak song is the “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” of the album but my vote goes for the highly danceable and highly philosophical “My Book on Siblings” because obviously Mike, Matt and Sohrab totally gets the Foucauldian subtext of that MJ classic (seriously, read the lyrics again and tell me it’s not about the Panopticon) and I’d better end it here before the theories get totally out of hand but in the meantime listen to those five Savak singles (ten songs in all) and try to make your own correspondences. (Jason Lee)





The true meaning of Hello Mary "Sinks In" with latest single

photo by Nolan Zangas


The first time I heard the name Hello Mary I instantly assumed it must be the name of a Christian puppet show like the ones put on by the inimitable Tammy Faye back in the day (RIP) on her TV programs (PTL Club, The Tammy Faye Show) with the phrase “Hello, Mary!” being the first words out of the resurrected Jesus’s felt mouth after He has risen from the dead, waking with a start and one hell of a hangover, and then taking a stroll outside his tomb to see what’s up nevermind that pesky giant boulder in the way only to find Mary Magdalene and “Big Mama” Mother Mary right there outside waiting faithfully for Him to whom He speaks the aforementioned salutation.

Anyway, it’s a theory. Except in this case the reality is even better than the theory because in reality Hello Mary is a young and upcoming NYC-based-indie-alt-rock trio whose combined age is probably less than the age of Axl Rose’s oldest hair extensions and, I’ll just go ahead and say it, each one of Hello Mary’s songs to date rocks harder and more convincingly/compellingly than the entirety of Chinese Democracy.  

Take their latest single for instance released just days ago, “Stinge” backed by “Sink in,” or “Sink In” backed by “Stinge,” these things are difficult to parse in the streaming age. But anyway “Sting” comes first in the running order, a song addressed to a mercurial character who “may be the one for good” but who “leave[s] just as it gets fun” which is precisely why “they said I should run” and sometimes “they” know best and yes I realize there's an unreasonably large gap between the Bandcamp embed above and this text which I blame on the new Spotify-people owners.

Meanwhile the music of “Stinge” (definition: a person or other entity who is stingy) ably captures the emotional whiplash of the narrator’s romantic longings and loser-induced frustrations flipping back and forth between the grinding riff of the song’s intro, the jangly shoegazy float of the verses with some nice off-kilter chords, and the bridge section that sounds something like an underwater waltz. 

“Sink In” comes next which is quite possibly a song about the stark reality of the previous song fully sinking in where “it starts to drift and fall away / mostly from saying all I had to say” which I gotta say jumping straight to the fifth stage of grief in the second song is an encouraging sign of psychological health and if this is what acceptance sounds like then sign me up because this song rips starting off with a James Iha-esque alternation between a contemplative riff and head-drubbing power chords (the “sink in” part) before bursting open like an overpollenated flower full of “oohs” and “ahhs” ascending to the heavens (one of my fave musical moments of the year so far) and oh yeah there’s a guitar solo too with heavy reverb and note bending and more oohs and ahhs over some altered chords and it’s a pretty exciting ride and a pretty one too.

Across these two songs Hello Mary continue to hone their appetizing mix of heavy musical dramatics spiked with an enticing sense of play (cuz dammit these young ladies know how to write a catchy hook that’s for sure just see "Ginger" below) and a trippy psychedelia-adjacent vibe (see “Take Something” above for another example) and when you put together this mix of heavy and light and just plain weird it’s not entirely unlike (wait for it…) a bizarro Christian puppet show or a close encounter with Axl Rose’s dreads. (Jason Lee)





Say She She "c'est très chic" on first single

When I first heard “Forget Me Not” on a radio show a couple weeks ago I immediately thought to myself “Wow, I never knew the Salsoul Orchestra cut a slinky, stripped-down, clavinet-led four minutes of funk with vocals by erotic thespian Andrea True and/or select members of Sister Sledge and/or select members of Silver Convention, with Johnny Pacheco from the Fania All Stars supplying some nice flutter tonguing on the flute (not a bad skill for any guy—or gal—to have ammirite ladies?) plus a groovy solo toward the end and really who doesn’t like a nice groovy flute solo and if you don’t like a nice groovy flute solo then I don’t want to know you until you seek therapy.” This is what I thought to myself.

So there where I thought I’d made quite the old school “deep cut” discovery it turns out, better yet, I’d discovered (random stumbled upon) an entirely new school of lush groovy funkitude that’s centered right here in the borough of Brooklyn NYC, with a significant assist by Loveland, Ohio-based Colemine Records, because “Forget Me Not” is the debut single by the Brooklyn-based-female-fronted-seven-piece-deep-friend-soul-combo-platter called Say She She—a group whose officially ensorsed alternate spelling is “C’est Chi-Chi” given that any perceived similarities between SSS and the disco era’s most legendary band or with the classic LP C’est Chic are probably not unwelcome, nor unfounded, as “Forget Me Not” amply checks off the elegant coquette box of that album’s “I Want Your Love” and next I’m eagerly awaiting SSS’s take on the “Le Freak” aesthetic.

Which isn’t to say that Say She She are mimics, more like the curators of a rich array of influences taken apart and reassembled. Along these lines “Forget Me Not” is what I’m guessing the “parallel universe ‘80s” would’ve sounded like if Jimmy Carter had been re-elected president and if a bunch of drunken meatheads hadn’t burned a pile of disco records on a baseball field and if the nation’s youth hadn’t been persuaded by Music Television to adopt synthesizers, parachute pants, and asymmetrical haircuts en masse. 

But enough about alternative realities who the heck are Say She She exactly in real life? The tripartite vocal front is made up of one-time Londonite Piya Malik (79.5, El Michels Affair) whose great uncle was a prominent Bollywood music producer and who met Sabrina Mileo Cunningham (Denny Love) because the two were living in the same Lower East Side apartment building and heard each other singing through the walls and then once they joined up with Nya Parker Gazelle the vocal chemistry was complete. 

On the instrumental side of things Say She She is comprised of the wah-wah stylings of electric guitarist Matty McDermott (Black Acid, Coyote, Nymph), the funky strutting keys of Mike Sarason (Combo Lulo), the finger-slapping phat bass tones of Preet Patel (The Frigtnrs, RIP Dan Klein), and the in-the-pocket drive of drummers Andy Bauer (Twin Shadow among many other projects) and Ben Borchers (The Shacks), and last but certainly not least the groovy flute of the multi-talented Mike Sarason (see above).

So if you’re feelin’ the vibe be sure to keep an eye peeled for Say She She’s next moves. And don’t be surprised if one of their next songs is in Hindi or if they come out with a debut album this summer full of more raw analogue slabs of sonically transmitted smooth funkitude which even though I'm trying is not quite as good a tongue-twister as the title of this piece. (Jason Lee





Caroline Polachek takes listeners on a celestial voyage on "Billions"

Photo by Aidan Zamiri, styled by Tati Cotliar

The mesmerizingly winding road of Caroline Polachek’s musical trajectory had spanned far and wide—from writing haunted house music in Boulder, Colorado to co-founding the indie combo Chairlift and bestriding the Great-Early-21st-Century-Brooklyn-Psych-Pop-Rock Renaissance alongside the likes of MGMT, Yeasayer, and Grizzly Bear; from songwriting collabs with such obscure niche artists as Beyoncé, Solange, and Blood Orange to putting out solo albums under two separate alter egos (the Dario Argento-adjacent dark synthpop soundtracks of Ramona Lisa, and the electro-instrumental ambient drift of CEP); and finally, from her 2019 debut LP released under her own name called Pang to her two latest singles which together demonstrate that Ms. Polachek still has plenty of new musical highways and byways left to explore somehow. 

The first of these two singles (“Bunny Is A Rider”) is a song about being “liberated by disappearance, about non-responding, about being unbeholden to anyone” which accounts for the refrain of Bunny is a rider / satellite can’t find her which is a fitting theme for our current Surveillance Age where freedom’s just another word for somewhere left to get lost—a theme mirrored sonically by the stark bassline-led Spaghetti Western musical textures, and their implied wide-open spaces, complete with pitter-pattering rhythms and high lonesome whistling and autotuned trilling and sampled infant cooing plus plenty of tape hiss and chicken scratch and synth swelling all of which makes going off the digital grid sound like escaping to a glitchy Wild West.

The second single, “Billions,” released earlier this month, likewise takes the listener to a place outside of normal experience or social surveillance—the title and the cosmic vibes of “Billions” can’t help but put this listener in a very Carl Sagan-esque headspace—a space comprised of delicately lurching reversed rhythms and skittering tablas that like raindrops dancing off rooftops plus celestial choirs and sub-bass and string arpeggiations and dramatic recitations and a breakdown section with what may possibly be a dilruba solo (but hey I’m no ethnomusicologist) not to mention Caroline’s majestically malleable voice swooping across multiple octave registers and multiple emotional registers and multiple digital manipulations across the song’s nearly five-minute kaleidoscopic arrangement.

In sum it’s a virtuosic arrangement and production and performance overall—with both singles co-written and co-produced by British producer/remixer/songwriter Danny L Harle, best known for his work with the pioneering PC Music collective and for his impressive resume of collaborations, including making Pang and seriously the collaborative work of Polachek & Harle so far is the closest upgraded-equivalent of Bjork and Nellee Hooper’s sublime mid-90s sides that I know of with “Billions” being their “Venus As A Boy” (extolling the virtues of a lover who lies like a sailor but…loves like a painter). The duo have a knack for not only crossing musical boundaries but also for pretty much melting them away entirely, with synthetic sounds rendered vivid and visceral and lifelike, while organic sounds often come off as extraterrestrial, in other words, a near-total meshing of human/physical and machine/technological that’s like “sexting sonnets / under the tables / tangled in cables” to quote Caroline herself.

Oh and the video for “Billions” is cool too just like most of Ms. Polachek’s video (see top of this page, co-directed by Matt Copson and Caroline herself) and after viewing it you’ll probably wanna go grape-picking-and-stomping and then order some cool crazy-straw-style wine glasses and an ornamental blown-glass funnel for bath-taking purposes but sorry no Paul Giamatti. (Jason Lee)

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