Tuesday, April 30, 2024



Charles approached the looming ancient brick building built like a small cathedral at the end of the sidewalk.  He could feel people moving all around – coming towards him and up from behind.  He felt like he was in the way.  He was sweating, had an intense headache and a sour stomach.  It must’ve been that club sandwich and fries he ate for lunch.  He hadn’t had much of an appetite, but he was taught to clean his plate, so he did.  He stopped his slow meander at the bottom of the old buildings’ stairs.  His face was contorted from the intensity of his upset stomach.  His throat was extremely dry.  Probably from all the salty lunch meat and the greasy fries.  He felt incredibly uneasy and slowly approached the thin metal handrail that steeply shot down the ten or so stairs up to the second floor of the building.  He couldn’t get over how many people were going up and down the stairs with such effortless abandon.  He supposed that they didn’t all feel intensely hungover.  The thing was that he wasn’t hungover either.  He simply felt like it.  He fondly remembered back a year or more to his teenage years when he could consume the most diabolical foods and never get an upset stomach.  He grabbed onto the handrail firmly and used it to pull himself up the first few steps before stopping to rest. 

“Hey there Charells, what’s shakin’?” he heard Senndee from behind.  He looked to his left, and spotted her.  First her feet, her slender legs, and then that blank expression staring at her uplifted phone. 

“Heya Dee,” he mumbled back, leaving behind the notion of asking her why not two D’s in her name.  Senndee was always looking at her phone, but she had zero presence on any social media.  She never responded to texts, so he also wondered what she was doing.  Like with the spelling of her name, he likely would never ask. 

“You look sus Chucky D.”  Senndee was wearing a white hoodie with the hood pulled over her hair.  Only two strands of brunette hair spiraled out from the hood and traced the outline of her face like two limp antennae.  Her hoodie reflected the bright, but overcast sky.  The white light bothered Charles’ eyes, so he focused his attention back to the stairs.  “You coming out later?” 

“Yeah, prolly,” he auto responded.  Senndee was already off up the stairs and into the building.  

Charles shifted his body back to the task at hand of climbing the stairs.  His knuckles were sore from gripping the railing so tight.  He lifted his right leg, which felt heavy like he was wearing a weighted SCUBA flipper.  Once he got his foot on the next step up, he pulled his body up to that level using all of his strength.  His left foot reluctantly followed.  He continued this method until he reached the top of the stairs and the entrance to the building.  He felt like Batman climbing up the side of a building from the goofy old TV show his grandpa used to make him watch.  His grandpa watched the weirdest shows and would laugh and laugh.  Charles never got it.


Once the handrail ended, he wasn’t sure how to proceed.  He looked around reluctantly and slowly eased one foot out.  It took all of his concentration to stay upright.  His steps were small and deliberate.  He felt like he had to fight from flopping over to his right.  Fortunately, the lecture was in the first room on the left.  Charles leaned against the door jamb to stabilize his balance before sliding into the first open chair by the doorway. 

Charles felt awful.  He was sweating, nauseous, and dizzy on top of having a stabbing headache.  He was struggling to focus his eyes on anything and all the noise and movement around him felt alarming.  He wondered what was going on.  He focused as hard as he could toward the clock on the wall at the front of the room.  The lecture had begun, but he was completely lost in worry.  He had never felt like this before.  How was he going to treat this?  How was he going to get back to his room?  Lying down would help.  He just needed to get back to his room.




Charles curled up into a fetal position.  His clothes and shoes remained on.  He pulled a blanket up over his shoulder.  He had stopped by the little market to buy some Alka-Seltzer tablets in order to ease his burning stomach.  He hadn’t used it since he was a kid, and despite remembering not liking to drink the bubbling salty fizz, he also remembered that it took his stomach ache away within about fifteen minutes.  His only other experience with stomach ache medicines had been Pepto Bismol.  He vowed to never try that again.  The only time his mom funneled that gross pink slop down his throat, it wound up multiplying and eventually bubbling up and back out of his nose and throat in violent vomit thrusts.  If that had been the end of it, perhaps his reticence may have been less, but he had to endure that pink ooze expulsion several times.  He wasn’t sure then if he was sick from stomach issues, or because he had ingested the Pepto. 


Other than occasionally getting up to stumble to the bathroom, or to guzzle some more Alka Seltzer, Charles spent about 24 hours lying on top of his bed curled up – worried with unease about what mystery ailment he had developed, but also relieved because at least he felt a little better immobile.




“What’s going on with you, Charlie?” Senndee deadpanned, as she placed herself directly in front of Charles’ position sitting on the brick ledge of the planters that make up the small public square.  

Charles looked up at her with squinted eyes and groaned an almost unintelligible “I don’t know.”  He hadn’t spoken in a long time.  He was surprised at the effort it took.  “I just feel awful.” 

“You look awful,” Senndee smiled at this, because it was an inside joke between them about how awful he generally looked and how many people felt comfortable voicing this observation to him.  She liked to reinforce that notion, because it seemed so absurd, yet she had observed it several times. “You never showed up last night.  I got worried,” she said flatly showing no sign of concern. 

“I can’t walk straight and I feel like I’m going to throw up!” Charles exclaimed, trying as hard as he could not to sound like he was complaining, even though he was complaining.  He put his face in his hands and began pressing hard on his forehead with his fingertips.  Doing this offered momentary relief.

Senndee tapped rapidly at her phone, bent over at her waist, locked her right hand around one of Charles’s wrists and tugged at it – pulling it away from his face.  “C’Mon, I’m taking you to the ER.” 

Charles got to his feet, but felt stuck to the ground – his feet weren’t cooperating.  He did not understand what was going on.  “I don’t need to go to Emergency!  This will go away, he protested,” but allowed her to pull him into the direction of the student parking lot – his feet slapping the sidewalk awkwardly as he struggled to keep up and upright.




Senndee led Charles to the center of the north parking lot, as an old beat up blue two door sports car rumbled into place in front of them.  It creakily lurched into position and after a loud slap of the seatbelt hitting the door, a guy wearing a tuxedo t-shirt emerged and leaned his forearms onto the roof pf the car.

“Heya Steve,” this guy needs to get to the ER stat,” Senndee stated with uncharacteristic urgency.  “Can you get him there?”

“Yes, of course!  It’s only about a mile,” he replied, before asking Senndee if she was be having lunch on the campus later.

Senndee directed Charles into the passenger seat of the old car.  “Uh yeah, probably,” she hesitated.  “Thanks for doing this!”


Moments later, Steve roughly shifted into third gear and turned onto Main Street, which would get them to the hospital.  Charles was pretty certain that he had seen Steve around campus a few times, and with his unkempt scruffy facial hair, pony tail and glasses, and had reminded him of the comic book guy from The Simpsons.  This was not unusual however, because Charles thought this an apt description of a lot of guys – likely a hazard of being a lot like comic book guy himself, and not wanting to embrace that identity and look down his nose at people that don’t know useless trivia about superfluous stuff, so he looked down his nose at other comic book guys.  “Thanks for doing this.  I’m not sure I need this, but Senndee insisted.” 

“No problem,” Steve waived him off, “I’ll do anything for Senndee.”   Steve pulled into the parking lot and approached the ER entrance, “do you need help getting in?” Steve offered, but Charles could tell that he didn’t want to get out again.


“No, that’s okay, thanks again,” Charles hurriedly climbed out and steadied himself for the thirty or so foot walk to the admitting desk inside the entrance.  He tilted his head to the left to offset the feeling that he was about to fall to the right and stumbled his way through the automatic doorway all the way to the front desk like he was trying to get across a slippery sheet of ice. 

“Can I help you?” he heard, as he glanced around the room.  Struggling to focus.

“I think I need help.  I’m having difficulty walking and I’m seriously sick to my stomach.”



“Charles?” A voice called out his name – startling him.  Light was waning from what he could see outside.  He had been in the ER waiting area for what seemed like hours.  He had turned off his phone a few days prior – not wanting to be tempted to look up his symptoms and freak out even more than he already was.  He had already decided that this awful feeling was now how he would always feel going forward.  This notion was daunting enough.

He handed the clipboard full of forms to the woman wearing light blue scrubs who had called his name.  He dropped the pen and quickly dipped his head on his way to retrieve it and promptly fell over.  Aside from his broken pride, he felt nothing other than a disorientation like he had never experienced before.  His eyes were still seeing the waiting area from a standing position, but his body was instructing him that he was on a dirty threadbare floor.

“That’s alright, I’ll get the pen,” she instructed as she bent over and easily grabbed the pen.  Charles continued to thrash around on the floor trying to get his bearings.  She looped her arm around one of his, leaned into him with her hip, placed her other arm around his torso and easily lifted him back to his feet.

“Wow!  Thanks!  That was amazing!”  He blurted out with an enthusiasm that brought stares from everyone in the waiting area – including the security guards.

The nurse in scrubs kept her arm around his waist and guided Charles down a dimly lit hallway that was framed by heavy plastic curtains instead of walls.  He surmised that these curtains were partitions for temporary exam rooms in an effort to meet increased demand for emergency care.  They stopped and with her other arm she pulled at a curtain opening up a gap to create an entrance into one of these rooms.  Charles could hear hushed voices all around him.  “Go ahead and sit on the bed,” she indicated as she wheeled over a pole with a blood pressure cuff dangling from it. 

“How has your day been?”  Charles tried to make small talk, as she finished her preliminary examination. 

“Busy,” she responded quickly, before instructing him to take off his clothes and put on the gown folded on the bed next to him.  “The doctor will be in shortly,” and with that the curtain was pulled shut and he was alone – sort of.  

He struggled putting the gown on over his shoulders.  His hands were not cooperating as he tried to tie the two sets of strands of the open back of the hospital gown.  He noticed that he was breathing incredibly hard, so he focused on slowing down his breath before re-addressing his efforts to tie the gown in place.  He reminded himself that there was clearly no hurry.  Once he managed to get the gown in place, he laid back on the gurney and closed his eyes. 

Despite only being separated by curtains, and being fully aware that there were people all around him, he noticed a hush envelop him, as well as a strange calm.  The calm would be interrupted occasionally by beeping IV’s, moaning patients, and the voices of passing medical professionals moving amongst the exam maze.

The initial relaxation melted away as time dragged on.  Charles could feel his patience wearing thin the longer he lay there wondering if they had forgotten him.  Every time he heard voices approaching he steadied himself for the entrance of an actual doctor, or simply an acknowledgement of his existence, but those voices would pass by and fade away.

 Finally, a pair voices from a man and a woman stopped on the other side of the curtain.  He could clearly hear them.  “He’s all checked in” the female voice stated and Charles could hear a shuffling of papers.  “Oh, great, some guy with tummy issues,” the male voice trailed off.   Charles closed his eyes as the curtain opened.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024






When I write these little album things, I often struggle to find ways to describe the music involved.  I try to use the tried too much use of comparisons, and it often leaves me uneasy.  First off, though sometimes effective, I often times find comparisons unfair to the artist that I am writing about.  Everyone hears things differently.  I try not to pull out too many obscure references, because those can be meaningless to most potential readers.   As a reader of music reviews myself, I can be turned off by too many unknown references.  I don’t need to know that the writer is so damn hip, plus I often find as an older person that my references are often dated – so much so that the artist I’m writing about may not have been born, while I was bouncing off the walls listening as a teen.

The newest SPECTRES album, Presence, their fifth full length is a refreshing reminder that time is relative and crucial regarding how we all perceive events and how we proceed with decision making for our lives.  The song “Waiting,” which stands as the middle point of this collection, opens with a dramatic musical build up that levels into a melancholic love song.  The beautiful chorus of “Waiting for the sunrise / Waiting for the day / All for your reaction / Your one in a million” can be interpreted as a nice love song, or that “your” instead of “you’re” it feels more like a dissertation about timing.  The juxtaposition of patience versus time.  Can we hold off even knowing that our one n a million chances might be jeopardized?  Time is referenced in almost every song on this album, from the generational struggle inside “The Old Regime,” to the stuck in the past vision of “AM Gold,” to the closing message to take time, take stock and “Start Again.”  Vocalist/lyricist Brian Gustavson provides a lot of thought-provoking words. 

One of the reasons that I say that SPECTRES’ music is refreshing, is because as an old fart, their music makes me feel like a kid again.  Not only do they remind me musically in the most simplistic terms of a remarkable melding of early New Order and Big Country, but they also evoke a wonder at the size of our world, and a belief in possibilities.  They are twenty year veterans who sound like classic 80s post punk, but only discovered recently.  I absolutely adore the variety of Presence.  “Chain Reaction” brings an angry punk energy, while “Real World” sounds like what should be a hugely popular pop song, as well as the yearning quality of the wondrous “One Day.”  The spikey guitars of “AM Gold” sounds like a lost outtake from Big Country’s The Crossing, while “Dominion” evokes early Chameleons with its exciting twin guitar urgency. 

There I went and dragged out a bunch of 40 year old references.  However, SPECTRES are no retro act.  These songs are relevant and current, and really fun to listen to. 



Thursday, March 28, 2024






I’ve always loved indie pop/rock.  There’s something in its simplicity that I’ve always clung to.  There’s an approachability and vulnerability to the best indie music, as well as that DIY punk rock spirit.  These are songs written and performed by goofballs like me!  Scratch that.  I have no skills, but I sure can appreciate those willing to go for it.  My ears are always drawn to dissonance, when paired with straightforward indie melodies.  At their base, Torrey is an old school indie pop band with over busy drumming, imperfect scratchy/strumming guitars and meandering grinding basslines, but here they’ve added loads of noise – everything from washes of feedback, overloaded retro-sounding keyboards, incredibly upfront and aggressive tambourines.  I think of the cut and paste genius of the Swirlies, the angular bitterness of the Archers of Loaf, or more currently: the most recent Alvvays album and their timeless melodic sensibilities.  There’s a certain ramshackle feeling in this collection that provides an exciting depth and repeated discoveries with additional listens. 

This self-titled second LP from Oakland band Torrey is their first for Slumberland Records and for me.  I have not yet investigated their prior work, but am extremely excited by this release!  To be honest, even though the lyrics are provided for this album, I can’t seem to make sense of them, yet so many of these tracks are incredibly contagious.  The aptly titled “Pop Song,” has a repeated chorus of “A common blue” that has been stuck in my head endlessly for the past several days.  This is not a complaint.  It only makes me want to hear it again, even though I’m not so sure what it all means.

There’s no way that I’ve ever figured out how to describe this, but sometimes certain artists sound more meaningful.  This is incredibly subjective, but I felt these songs upon first listen, even if many of the lyrics have remained elusive to me.  Early favorite, “No Matter How,” is an exception.  I love the repeated bridge refrain of “it will all be okay” landing just before the chorus of “no matter how you wanna spin it.”  I feel like this message hits incredibly well in these days where we are all guilty of spinning our own stories to justify our own means.  I know I’m certainly guilty of this.  I seem to be able to assuage my own bad feelings by spinning my narrative to only positives.  “No, I did nothing wrong!”  It’s a powerful message for a catchy three or so minute song.  The afore-mentioned “Pop Song” is also undeniably addictive, as well as the sweet sounding organ drenched “Bounce” and “Happy You Exist.”  My favorite amongst these highlights though is the haunting “Moving,” which has a similar vibrato vibe as “How Soon is Now?” and a sneaky earworm of a chorus vocalized perfectly by singer Ryann Gonalves that is absolutely breathtaking.

It’s discovering new music like this that I find forever regenerative.  If you’re familiar with pretty much any musical act to ever grace the Slumberland Records label, you will likely love this.  If you’re not familiar, this could be a perfect gateway into a magical world.


Torrey "No Matter How"

Thursday, February 22, 2024

The Raven


Magnet School

The Raven EP

(Shifting Sounds) 

Has it really been eight years since Magnet School’s last album, 2016's The Art of Telling Truth?  Wow!  Lucky for us, they’re still at it and have graced us with another collection of cranking twin guitar majesty.  They have always reminded me of Swervedriver, with the dual exploratory guitars that aren’t afraid to lock in with the potent rhythm section and crank out some serious rock-n-roll. 

“The Raven” opens with an air raid siren that acts as a clarion call to action. Once the guitars kick in atop a beat full of stuttering nervous energy, “The Raven” jumps out as one of the most rousing songs I’ve heard in eons.  It feels like a call to action like New Model Army’s “Here Comes the War,” but with lyrics full of festering and rotten imagery, it is more of a call for some kind of hex on a betrayer.  The intensity of the instrumentation gives the song an undeniable urgency that feels incredibly vital.  There’s more turmoil ahead in “A Conversation,” which is pushed forward by a bass-line that sounds like the rumbling engine of a hot rod.  It’s another song that feels full of betrayal as the lyrics ruminate on the changing stories (misrepresentations?  lies?) from conversations between the past and the present. 

Magnet School are always reliable with some devastatingly good instrumentals, and here we’re treated to “Dotted Eighth,” which absolutely rips.  The band locks into a tightly wound riff and soon sparks begin to fly.  Once the cool breeze of “Mayor of Greenpoint” comes in, I envision hearing/seeing these songs live as part of an especially hot encore and this is the slow burning set closer that builds to the exciting conclusion, as well as the highlight of the set.  This EP closes with a classy piano and strings “Reprise” brief instrumental of “The Raven” – replacing the original’s harrowing and menacing threats into a quiet and peaceful reflection.    

It was a long wait for these new songs, but well worth it.  Magnet School have showed us that they set a high bar of quality control.  Happy to have them back.  Does this mean there’s more new music on the near horizon?


Magnet School "The Raven"

Monday, January 15, 2024

Top 10 of 2023


Top 10 of 2023


These choices below are an approximation of what I believe my most listened to albums of 2023 have been. I feel like it’s been a great year for music and that I have missed a lot.  Once again, I am not ranking these.  All of these releases helped bring me great joy throughout this past difficult year.

Bleach Lab In a Rush of Emptiness 


Flyying Colours You Never Know 

Fragile Animals Slow Motion Burial 


The Julies Always & Always


Lanterns on the Lake Versions of Us


The Popguns Popism

She’s Green Wisteria


Slowdive Everything is Alive

Soft Science Lines

UJU The Sun is in Our Eyes

Sunday, November 12, 2023



The Popguns are such a jewel.  I feel like this EP should be getting worldwide hit buzz, because every song here is exciting, fresh, bright, thought provoking and essential.  Pretty much every year, like so many others, I make a list of my favorite albums – or most listened to albums.  This is a four song EP that clocks in at less than twelve minutes, but it is easily my most listened to release this year.  Every single time I put it on the player, I listen to it at least twice, if not three or four times.  Talk about leaving an audience wanting more. 

“Caesar,” has a yearning chorus that is so goddamn pretty that it sends shivers down my spine.  Wendy Pickles’ mellifluous voice continues to be so charming that it took me several listens before I realized that she’s singing about the irreversible damages of climate change brought on by short-sighted greed.  Of course, this sobering message is delivered inside a brilliant and beautiful package.

Similarly, “Dirty London” takes a glance at monuments marking England’s far reaching history of Imperialism and weighs the pros and cons of the privileges earned from some disturbing history (“Now you see / how the hurt is just a page of history / how the end will justify the means”).  It’s a heavy subject that is delivered with a wicked combination of grinding bass and scratchy guitar stabs. 

“Red Cocoon” comes on as a breezy love song.  Sparks flying between a pair out on an all-night bender?   It’s funny, because this song could easily be the feature song with its bouncy bass and suburb guitar leads, but it’s not! 

This all too brief EP closes with a fun punky anthem named “Indie Rock Goddess.”  Talk about leaving us wanting more!  This song abruptly ends just before it reaches two minutes, yet it’s pounding beat and Wendy’s commanding vocal will definitely imprint itself into your consciousness.

It’s wonderful to have the Popguns as our wonderful little indie pop secret, but I feel like they should be one of those bands that get much higher recognition.  I feel like we’re taking them for granted.  Please check them out. 




The Popguns "Dirty London"

Tuesday, November 7, 2023



During my last extended hospital stay for brain surgery, I experienced a lot of disturbing hallucinations.  I think I was mostly unconscious during these times, in my mind, I was convinced that I was being held captive by alternately two separate underground terrorist groups who for various reasons wanted me to pay for my alleged betrayal to their respective causes.  Despite not being able to walk, I managed to avoid capture for long periods of time by riding the rails all over the U.S.  Despite these situations all being imaginary, I found solace in forgoing my fight and flight instincts and giving up.  I allowed the hospital worker terrorist group to capture me for their surgical experiments and the military terrorist group to capture and imprison me for my beliefs.

It was all incredibly scary and I have had a difficult time putting these imaginary battles behind me.  However, the idea of giving up has continued to feel like a great decision – one that gains more and more appeal as time progresses.  In one of those hallucinations, I was trapped, so I simply laid down and tried to sleep.  I was done trying to find ways to allude my potential captors.  In reality, I am also finished with trying to find ways to continue to survive.  My long time fight against VHL (Von Hippel Lindau) has found me at a stalemate, yet it is a very precarious position.  I have lasted longer than I ever thought, and I am tired.

I am fully aware that millions, if not billions of people have much more difficult struggles which they handle with strength and grace.  In addition, I am fully aware that there are some people close to me who are in crisis.  I understand crisis and am absolutely out of energy to deal with it.  This is about me losing the desire to fight anymore.  VHL is a relentless and endless genetic syndrome and I am done with trying to navigate the unforgiving bureaucracy of health coverage in its many forms.  It is not enough that my health continues to decline, but that I constantly have to prove to faceless entities that I am broken.  There is a lot of paperwork necessary to prove that I am "sick," and most of it is insanely repetitive and incredibly inadequate.  I find it all discouraging and exhausting, which is why I am too tired to fight anymore.  I have fought very hard for a long time to live as normally as possible and not allow my medical asides to be anything more than an occasional distraction, which is why trying to convince others that I'm unwell is so awful..  I want to rest.  I want to crumple up all of the forms, pile it up, and climb atop and rest.