Tag Archives: Erika Kindsfather


Album Review: The Julie Ruin – ‘Hit Reset’


Kathleen Hanna, musician, feminist activist, and a figure formative to who I am today has consistently churned out pithy punk tunes while creating space for women and combatting misogyny in the punk community (and beyond). After a three year hiatus, during which Hanna dealt with her long-standing struggle with Lyme disease, her current group The Julie Ruin released their second full studio album Hit Reset. The album as a whole is an incredible revival and expansion of Hanna’s traditional riot grrrl sounds, with her do-it-yourself punk aesthetic alive and well in its framework. The album sets itself apart from The Julie Ruin’s previous release, Run Fast, in that Hanna’s powerful lyrics are more confrontational and cuttingly personal than before.

Hanna kicks off the album with a sharp title track recalling trauma she endured in her youth because of her father. She sings, “Slept with the lights on on the floor, behind a chair that blocked the door… At least I made it out at fucking all.” This powerful song that mixes sweet and scream-y vocals with ripping guitar and steady punk drums sets the tone for the album, giving the listener a taste of Hanna’s raw lyrical tendencies and varied yet consistently charged feminist punk sound. Later in the album, Hanna sings about childhood wishes stunted by her father’s neglect on “Roses More Than Water”. The track displays chaotic vocals with beach-y organ, and orderly drum and guitar rhythms. Hanna chants, “maybe I want roses more than water and to be a loving father’s daughter” and “maybe I’m more hell-bent on living than I am just surviving,” showing her working through traumas and personal experiences.

The discordant “I Decide” rings out with siren-like electric keyboard, a pulsing drumbeat, and a handful of “Na-na-na-na-na’s” amidst lyrics that exude Hanna’s assertion of her self-autonomy. “I Decide” is followed by “Be Nice”, which addresses the emotional labor women are expected to perform in a patriarchal society. Hanna highlights the fact that women are socialized to “be nice” in response to male micro-aggressions and entitlement through her pithy, spitting lyrics. Later in the album, she confronts male feminists’ hypocrisy in “Mr. So and So,” calling out pseudo-feminist men who use their privilege to take up space in feminist circles and offer condescending, patronizing remarks to women. The chorus rings “you can’t say good-bye before I get my hello,” commenting on the silencing of women within feminist communities at the hands of entitled men.

As an outspoken feminist musician and riot grrrl movement icon, Hanna has had her trauma and activism commoditized, which she addresses in “Planet You” and “Hello Trust No One,” in which she confronts toxic people who exploit her emotional labor and set expectations for her performance of self. In “Hello Trust No One”, pop keyboard and bouncy drums accompany Hanna’s staccato vocals projecting satirical lyrics. She sings “cause I can play one-handed guitar while braining my hair on a shooting star!” and “Cause I can play electric guitar while shaving my legs in a moving car!” mockingly addressing the absurd expectations she is met with as a feminist performer and figurehead.

“Let Me Go” greets you with fun poppy keyboard and playful guitar riffs accompanied by rhythmic claps. Hanna sings about her husband’s encouragement that kept her head above water while battling Lyme disease. She sings, “you never, ever really know how many memories you have to go.” With the rock-pop vibes that are mirrored in “Time is Up” later in the album, The Julie Ruin shows their versatility and coherence all while creating incredible tunes. The album ends with a ballad to Hanna’s mother, titled “Calverton” after the Maryland town in which Hanna grew up. Her offbeat vocals are accompanied by a soft and slow keyboard rhythm, setting the tone of the song to be a touching and tender message of appreciative reflection. Hanna has noted that her mother has inspired and drove her forward. She sings, “Without you, I’d take the fifth or be on my deathbed full of wishes”.

The Julie Ruin is playing in Montreal this Tuesday at Fairmount Theatre, and until then I’ll be dancing around my room to Hanna’s music like I used to in high school. Hit Reset will definitely be my Summer 2016 soundtrack and is truly a testament not only to Kathleen Hanna’s resilience, but also to The Julie Ruin’s musical prowess as a whole.

– Review by Erika Kindsfather


Album Review: Deerhoof – The Magic


The Magic, Deerhoof’s latest release, greets us with a mix of noisy pop and chaotic rock & roll. The album as a whole takes a more aggressive tone in comparison to previous releases; however, the experimental rock band stays true to their overall sound even while playing around with styles and technical approaches. Drummer Greg Saunier remarked that the album has roots in “what we liked when we were kids – when music was magic – before you knew about the industry and before there were rules. Sometimes hair metal is the right choice.” He gives some insight into the album’s chaotic mixture of styles and consistent rawness of sounds. After reading about the album, I stumbled across many sources stating that the entirety of the album was recorded in an abandoned office rental space in the desert of New Mexico. It makes a lot of sense that an album recorded in such a space would feel so free and uncalculated, as the nature of the location permitted the musicians to play loudly and without restraint, which is definitely reflected in the final product.  

“Kafe Mania!” pops off with fun synth, crunchy guitar, and driving percussion reminiscent of “The Tears and Music of Love” off their 2008 album Offend Maggie. The synth becomes increasingly melodic, and Satomi Matzusaki’s vocals take a staccato, yet dreamy pop sound. “Life is Suffering” entertains the same juxtaposition between rough instrumentals and sweet vocals sung by both Matzusaki and Saunier this time. The catchy chorus “life is suffering, man” (too real) is accompanied by steady drums and classic electric guitar.

“That Ain’t No Life to Me”, sung entirely by Ed Rodriguez, Deerhoof’s veteran guitarist, takes a cliché rock vibe and combines it with feedback-laden garage noise. While it stands out as a bit of an anomaly from the usual dreamy noise Deerhoof is known and loved for, the song isn’t the only heavy tune on the album. The full-on rock vibe returns later in “Dispossessor” with Rodriguez taking the frontlines once again with vocals and strong guitar riffs. I am not too keen on macho rock & roll tunes, though these are a refreshing change from Deerhoof’s typical experimental sound and ultimately showcase the band’s stylistic versatility.

“Criminals of the Dream” starts off with a humming synth and dreamy (go figure) vocals, followed by sweet poppy electronic keyboard. The clipped rhythms line up perfectly with Matzusaki’s trademark vocals repeating, “you can dream, you can dream, you know you can dream”, sending you afloat down a pink lazy river. The offbeat jazzy tunes of “Model Behavior” follow, with dystopian synth ringing in the background. Greg Saunier takes the frontline with powerful drums that accompany Rodriguez and John Dieterich’s (Deerhoof’s other resident guitarist) funky guitar rhythms.

The rest of the album follows the same pattern of technical aptitude and stylistic ambiguity. Deerhoof’s characteristic musical risk-taking mixed with more traditional rock algorithms with makes for a fascinating overall sound. Though not my favorite Deerhoof album, The Magic is still a strong addition to their oeuvre.

– Review by Erika Kindsfather



Album Review: Mitski – Puberty 2


“Happy” initiates the discordant theme of Mitski Miyawaki’s recent release Puberty 2, telling a story where happiness takes the form of a man, comes to the singer with cookies and tea, uses her, and leaves while she is in the bathroom, leaving her with empty cups and wrappers to clean up. This abrasive introduction shows the artist’s certainty of the fleeting nature of happiness that she explored in previous albums with more reservation. Rather than taking a conflicting perspective, she emphasizes the inevitability of sadness that follows waves of happiness, hitting harder than the initial positive feeling. Her pithy lyrics and juxtaposition of choppy and ethereal rhythms make for a frictional tone as the artist comes to terms with her decided reality. In a nutshell, this album nuances Mitski’s comment that “happiness fucks you”.

Mitski and Patrick Hyland, who also produced the album, recorded every instrument from the resounding melodic saxophone to the industrial beats of electric drums. There is decisiveness in the rhythms of Puberty 2; the instrumentals lining up perfectly in accord with the message Mitski sends lyrically. From the tense, incessant electric drumbeat in Happy to the steady, pressing drums and bass in Fireworks, Mitski’s voice is dynamic, haunting one moment and wistful the next. An almost uncanny emotional potency ties the album together as Mitski unpacks her longing for happiness in personal stories woven throughout her lyrics, coinciding and highlighted by instrumental complexities.

“Once More to See You,” “ I Bet on the Losing Dogs” and “Thursday’s Girl” are delicate, melancholy ballads built up from ethereal vocals, steady synth, and distant reverberant guitar. Mitski’s voice is soft yet resonating, evoking dreamy 70s folk tunes of love and longing. “Once More to See You” addresses her longing for the happiness of a past romantic relationship. She seems to address the person she sees “in the rearview mirror,” pleading with them to be alone with her secretly. I’d argue that “A Loving Feeling,” a catchy, upbeat track appearing later on the album, responds to “Once More to See You” by harshly deconstructing the reality of the situation she longs for. Here she sings “what do you do with a loving feeling if they only love you when you’re all alone?” and details instances of concealed affection. With the lyrics of each song in dialogue with each other and the clarity of emotional evocations in Mitski’s instrumental choices, Puberty 2 communicates Mitski’s insight coherently and conclusively.

My favorite tracks “Crack Baby” and “A Burning Hill” conclude the album. The instrumentals in “Crack Baby” are a testament to Mitski’s dynamic handling of discordant percussion, rhythmic melodies and an ultimately fascinating mixture of electronic and traditional sound. The longest track on the album, “Crack Baby” is initiated with a low-tempo percussion rhythm pattern and bellowing bass, with Mitski’s haunting vocals coming in on an up beat and following the steadiness of the bass echoes. This pattern obeys the evocative theme of the track where Mitski likens a longing for happiness to addiction, as both highs lead to inevitable lows. In “A Burning Hill”, Mitski asserts, “I think I’m finally worn,” evidently of the pattern of up and down. The artist seems to come to terms with this undulating emotional existence that comes with polar periods of happiness and sadness, ending on a self-reliant tone by describing herself as a fire, the forest it burns, and the witness of the spectacle. She withdraws, identifies herself as multiple forces, and ultimately abandons the person she was addressing in her pleas and confrontations in saying “you’re not there at all.” By dwelling and detailing moments of everyday life, she concludes, “ I’ll love some littler things,” perhaps suggesting the possibility of balance in a neutral presence.

Though Puberty 2 essentially chewed me up and spit me out emotionally as I listened to it carefully and incessantly since its release June 17th, Mitski executed this album with stunning vocals and instrumentals that make it absolutely captivating. You will find no empty optimism in her lyrics, but rather will be forced to confront a reality with the rose-colored glasses removed.

– Review by Erika Kindsfather