Founded in 2007 by MC Taylor, Hiss Golden Messenger is an Americana group that bridges the gap between folk, country, gospel, and soul. Since the 2009 release of their full-length debut album COUNTRY HAI EAST COTTON, Hiss Golden Messenger has been compared to their many Americana contemporaries, but they’ve also stood out on many levels. While many acts had the right ‘sound’, MC Taylor and Co. had the right ‘feeling’. Sounding as authentic as the rustling of the trees on a breezy and warm summer evening, MC Taylor and Hiss Golden Messenger began their career roaming the back roads of North Carolina and searching for truth and redemption through music.

Hiss Golden Messenger’s 2010 album BAD DEBT introduced the band to a wider audience, being the first to be released outside of the US. The released a few critically successful albums – POOR MOON (2011) and HAW (2013) – before signing to Merge Records. No longer one of America’s – and Americana’s – best kept secrets, the band’s commercial profile began to grow as they continued to release a series of critically-acclaimed acclaimed album including LATENESS OF DANCERS (2014), HEART LIKE A LEVEE (2016), and HALLELUJAH ANYHOW (2017). A dozen years after the formation of the band, Hiss Golden Messenger’s 2019 album TERMS OF SURRENDER received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Americana Album.

Two years on from their Grammy-nominated album, MC Taylor and the band return with 2021’S QUIETLY BLOWING IT. From gentle acoustic strums to bold gospel-influenced stomps, the album is a trip through emotions, fears, hopes, doubts, and dreams. Never standing still, the songs on QUIETLY BLOWING IT don’t offer solutions to problems of the world, but they do offer a respite from the storm. Like a paintbrush on a canvas, Taylor’s songs paint pictures of real life in real time. Tracks like “Sanctuary”, “Way Back in the Way Back”, “It Will If We Let It”, “Painting Houses”, and “Mighty Dollar” reveal his views on the world around him… and around us. And like a painting, there is so much depth to the songs on this album. There are plenty of shadows on QUIETLY BLOWING IT, but they are surrounded by bright glimpses of light. Every strum and every hum is here for a reason. This is an album that reflects the cold tears of solitude and the joyous cry of salvation. And that, in itself, is quite the accomplishment.



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Los Angeles, California-based singer/songwriter Rosie Tucker came to prominence in 2015 with the release of her debut album LOWLIGHT. Bathed in shadows, the album was a collection of deeply personal songs presented in stripped-down form. Armed with just an acoustic guitar and a bucketful of songs, LOWLIGHT was a stroll through Rosie’s world. Thoughtful and introspective, the album hit a chord with many listeners. Four years later, she released her sophomore album NEVER NOT NEVER NOT NEVER NOT (2019), which took her music to a new level. On this full-length release, Tucker embraced an Alt-Rock approach with a full band, although the arrangements were still sparse, allowing emotion to bleed through. Without leaving her Folk-inspired roots behind, Rosie certainly added an edge to her introspective songwriting. While the album was a sonic departure from her debut, Rosie Tucker didn’t ‘sell out’ with NEVER NOT NEVER NOT NEVER NOT – she merely upped her game.

Signing to Epitaph Records, Rosie began work on her third album… and her most high-profile release yet. Without altering her musical course too much, the resulting tracks sounded more positive without losing touch of her unique approach to songwriting. As Rosie Tucker states: “Making this album was such a good time that what’s to come almost doesn’t matter. What came before it was a long tour, what came just after was a year spent in lockdown. For me, this album is the string between two tin cans, transmitting me from the can labeled ‘shitty now’ to a can labeled ‘sublime next.’” Recorded with her touring band – drummer Jessy Reed, guitarist Jess Kallen, and bassist/producer Wolfy – the results of these sessions make up her third full-length album SUCKER SUPREME.

On SUCKER SUPREME, Rosie Tucker’s musical maturity takes full flight. The vulnerable acoustic troubadour that we heard on LOWLIGHT is still present and accounted for (just listen to the first half of “Arrow” for proof), yet she has also grown by leaps and bounds as a vocalist and songwriter. On this album, she sounds filled with more confidence and bravado than ever before. The Alt-Rock artist we heard on NEVER NOT NEVER NOT NEVER NOT has an even firmer grasp on the melodic hook, filling SUCKER SUPREME with plenty of tunes that will bounce around inside your brain long after the album ends. Cuts like “Ambrosia”, “Habanero”, “Brand New Beast”, “Airport”, and “Dog” are highlights. This is an album that is smoother and more immediate than NEVER NOT… but still just as edgy and thought-provoking as anything else Rosie Tucker has released.



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Ever since his days as the singer, songwriter, front man, and ringleader in Oingo Boingo, Danny Elfman has always been unpredictable. He first came to prominence in his brother Richard Elfman’s 1980 film FORBIDDEN ZONE, in which he performed with his band – then called The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo. In 1979, the group shortened its name to Oingo Boingo and streamlined their sound into a quirky New Wave beat. Immediately, they became a sensation in their hometown of Los Angeles, releasing an EP on I.R.S. Records before signing with A&M Records. Oingo Boingo became the most played local band on KROQ, one of the most influential radio stations in Southern California. Hits like “Ain’t This the Life”, “On the Outside”, “Private Life”, “Only a Lad”, and “Grey Matter” revealed a songwriter like no other. Dramatic, creative, and cerebral, Danny Elfman took Pop, Rock, and New Wave into new and exciting directions. Somehow, their massive success on the West Coast was only trickling into other states and barely resonating outside of the U.S. Elfman and the band needed to make a change if they wanted to achieve greater success…

Switching over to MCA Records, Danny Elfman released a solo album in 1984 before Oingo Boingo finally scored a commercial hit with their theme to the 1985 motion picture WEIRD SCIENCE. With a poppier sound, Oingo Boingo scored several more minor hits for MCA before changes behind the scenes altered the future of both Danny Elfman and the band. Interested in composing film scores, Elfman collaborated with director Tim Burton on several film projects. At the same time, Oingo Boingo was still creating music, which had become a bit darker by their 1990 album DARK AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL. Balancing both his burgeoning career as a film composer and being the leader of a Rock band became overwhelming and the 1994 album BOINGO was the band’s final release. However, his career as a composer went from strength to strength. Between 1986 and 2020, Danny Elfman has composed the scores to dozens of films including PEE WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE, BEETLEJUICE, BATMAN, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, MARS ATTACKS!, MEN IN BLACK, GOOD WILL HUNTING, SPIDER-MAN, SCROOGED, JUSTICE LEAGUE, and many, many more. His best-known soundtrack is THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, a monumental mix of musical mayhem that is now considered a holiday classic… during both Halloween and Christmas! With his schedule dominated by film scores, Danny Elfman has not released a Rock/Pop album since the final Boingo album in 1994… until now!

Like everyone else, Danny Elfman has felt the emotional strain of the COVID pandemic, politics, and civil unrest. When he and the world were faced with lockdown, he took his creative energy into his studio and began piecing together a collection of songs inspired by these dark times. And in 2021, he releases BIG MESS, his first solo ‘rock’ album in 37 years. This double-album opus is most certainly not what you might expect from the man that sang “We Close Our Eyes” and “Gratitude” some 30+ years ago. In fact, BIG MESS is a mixture of everything he has done since the beginning of his career. The core of the album is a heavy Rock stomp – closer to the Industrial genre than the quirky jive of Boingo – mixed with big emotional cinematic sweeps, making this album sound like a twisted stage musical performed deep in the heart of madness. BIG MESS is an album that unveils itself depending on the mood of the listener. Is it “Happy” or “True”? Will you “Choose Your Side” or “Get Over It”? (“Sorry” about the song title puns). BIG MESS sounds like the troubled times that we are living through. It offers us a voice to express those thoughts that we often have when we are alone in the dark. It is an emotionally heavy album, but it is not without hope. We most likely will never hear new music by Oingo Boingo, but at least we are lucky that Danny Elfman has (briefly?) returned as a solo Rock artist. It is most definitely ‘good for your soul’…



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Japanese Breakfast is singer/songwriter Michelle Zauner. Or rather, singer/songwriter Michelle Zauner is Japanese Breakfast. Zauner was born in Seoul, South Korea and moved with her family to Eugene, Oregon before she turned one. Falling under the spell of music, she eventually became part of several bands throughout her college years and beyond – Post Post and Little Big League – as well as starting her own solo project Little Girl, Big Spoon. After spending time away from Oregon while pursuing music and education, she returned to Eugene to spend time with family. It was there she began writing and recording material that would surface on the debut album by her new musical project Japanese Breakfast.

Her first album as Japanese Breakfast, PSYCHOPOMP, was released in April 2016. The album garnered plenty of critical attention, and within two months, she signed to the Dead Oceans label. SOFT SOUNDS FROM ANOTHER PLANET, Japanese Breakfast’s sophomore album, was released in July 2017. The release was greeted with universal acclaim and helped Zauner to reach a wider audience. Often described as Experimental Pop, Bedroom Pop, or Indie Pop, the music on Japanese Breakfast’s albums were multi-layered, revealing new melodies or moods with each spin. While the two albums were written during her mother’s cancer treatment and untimely death, there was still a sense of hope woven into the music’s many moods.

With the release of Japanese Breakfast’s third album JUBILEE, Michelle Zauner brings that sense of hope to the surface. Like a gracious mix of ‘90s Electronic Pop, ‘80s Synthpop and New Wave, and modern Indie Rock, JUBILEE doesn’t leap from the shadows and dance in the bright sunshine – it is more cautious and thoughtful than that – but it most certainly sparkles in these dark pandemic days. On the surface, this is another collection of catchy melodies that could easily cross over to commercial radio, but the hooks are too smart for the production-line Pop that infiltrates the charts. This is intelligent and emotional music that touches each listener in different ways… sometimes in different ways than Zaunder herself intends. For example, in “Be Sweet”, one can feel a slight Roxy Music-meets-Japan vibe. On “Sit”, the swirling sound is a blend of Dreampop and Techno. Reaching further into the obscure, “In Hell’s” keyboard hook sounds like early China Crisis. However, differently listeners will find different musical signposts scattered across JUBILEE’s aural landscape, whether Zauner purposely placed them there or not. JUBILEE is a journey with many destinations. It is up to you to decide on where it takes you.