Black Belt Eagle Scout – At the Party With My Brown Friends

Photo of Mount Rainier from the Sourdough Ridge Trail

Katherine Paul (Black Belt Eagle Scout) might be the best writer of love songs working right now. Her new album, “At the Party With My Brown Friends,” is full of amazing love songs that cover the spectrum of loves: romantic, physical, communal, familial and more. She talks about friendships, relationships, belonging to communities, supporting people, living in different dynamics. The whole album is bursting with affection and warm feeling and humanity.

“Mother of My Children” is a brilliant album, animated by sharp emotions: grief, sadness, regret, disappointment. The overall vibe of the music on “Mother of My Children” was louder and bigger than what’s present on “At the Party With My Brown Friends.” The songs on the new album feel poppier and more clearly expressed; sometimes in the course of observing an artist as a fan, you get to witness a moment when there’s a perfect marriage of subject matter and execution, like the artist has seized their own ideas so thoroughly that the work seems like a magic trick. That’s what “At the Party With My Brown Friends” feels like.

I love all the songs on this album, but I wanted to write about “My Heart Dreams” because Katherine Paul sings something that I’ve thought about and felt for a long time. “Wastin’ this life/I only want me and you/I look at this life/I only want me and you.” I think about my wife and our families, and how there are so many more worthwhile things to do than what we all do every day, so many people to witness and love.

[BUY At the Party With My Brown Friends]

Jay Som – Anak Ko

Photo of Mt. Rainier from Sunrise and Sourdough Ridge

“Anak Ko” is Jay Som’s great new album. Melina Duterte has a knack for melodies—almost all her songs are super-catchy and tough to let go of once you’ve got them in your head—and she has a wonderful voice and a fantastic way with guitar sounds. That’s the baseline of what to expect with any Jay Som release, since her music is consistently wonderful. “Anak Ko” has a different feel from “Everybody Works” and “Turn Into”—it’s more considered, sometimes a little somber or elegiac, and sounds like a statement from a place where Duterte is taking stock of life. Reading through the album’s lyrics, it’s like she’s reckoning with the last few years—getting out of disappointing relationships, making changes, getting into a situation where she feels more stable and secure. Duterte turned 25 this year, and this album feels like that era of life when you’ve acquired enough life experience to have a better handle on who you are, but you’re not quite satisfied or complacent, you’ve still got aims and ambitions and moves you want to make. “Anak Ko” is a beautiful snapshot, another big work by a big artist.

“Tenderness” (one of my many favorites on the album) is a sweet and smooth groove; it sets off with a faint mechanical beat and some gauzy guitar strumming, then Duterte’s voice enters, singing, “Tell me/Did you fall in at first glance/Do you think you’ll take a chance/Do you think on the weekend I could know,” and then, “Show me/Before you haunt me on the screen.” Later the song emerges from behind the veil after the third verse, when Duterte sings, in full fidelity, “I’m feeling like we’ve just begun/Nothing’s ever good enough/Tenderness is all I’ve got.” She said the sentiments in the song emerge from her feelings about social media, about scrolling on your phone and seeing someone who haunts you. There’s a classic (smooth) rock vibe on this song that I can’t quite place, like a gentler Steely Dan—or maybe Papas Fritas’s song “I Believe in Fate,” and it’s so good and satisfying.

[BUY Anak Ko]

MELT (Sam Mehran and Marion Belle) – Way of Life

Photo of Sol Duck River

The great and underrated Outer Limits Recordings (OLR) was one of Sam Mehran’s many post-Test Icicles projects. I wrote about his music a couple times over the years. Outer Limits Recordings was so fucking weird and so fascinating—a kind of detritus-rock, made of discarded junk sounds, clichés, tinny beats, but assembled with purpose and affection, in a way that made it all sound new. It provoked thought and reconsideration. The best analogue I’ve come up with for OLR’s music is that it’s a little like Adult Swim’s fucking bonkers “Too Many Cooks” video. Same use of junk, cliché, old and worn-out culture to make something new and enjoyable and weird as shit.

Sam Mehran was a great artist and I would urge everyone to track down and listen to the music he made (I always found his Discogs page helpful for finding aliases, etc.)

MELT is the project he was working on with Marion Belle when he killed himself in July 2018. These handful of tunes show the range of Mehran’s production capabilities—these songs are pretty far away from the stuff he was doing with OLR. MELT’s music is sweeping and dramatic, with big sounds, huge percussion. You can still hear some of Mehran’s favorite sounds in these songs too—there’s a beat on “Strictly Dior” that sounds so brittle and basic, like a preset on one of the Casiotone keyboards from the 90s. There’s a lot to like on this MELT EP, and some of the songs (especially “Strictly Dior”) have a vibe like a more emotive and direct version of Felt.

[BUY Way of Life EP]