Return of the Matt

Mars Lights practiced with Matt this week for the first time in a long time, and it clicked immediately and felt awesome.  Drew’s getting us a show at the Riot Room ASAP.  Based on what we messed with, the set will likely include:

  • Straight Shots
  • Nukular
  • Cold Burn
  • White Flight
  • All Tied Up
  • Stars Above
  • Black Roses II
  • Stangray

The last two Drew and I have played at the Czar Bar and Replay shows last year.  “Stars Above” is a riff that’s been around for a long time, but I just finished earlier this year during my big Mars Lights writing burst.  “All The Time In The World” and “No Witnesses,” which we also did at the duo shows, are contenders.

My gear upgrades – Sunn amp and POG for the bass synth, GT500 and TimeFactor for guitar, and my Epi ES 355 guitar itself – really shone in rehearsal.  I could hear myself better, and my tone stood up to Drew’s without needing to be overpoweringly loud.

Really fun.  Made my week.

MR|Review – Snowden, Ladyfinger (ne), Palms, Aesop Rock, and Elder

What a beautiful surprise; seven years after Anti-Anti (which I still listen to regularly), Snowden returns in top form on No One In Control, hitting all the marks you might want based on their past work, and subtly expanding on it, too.


The band’s bread and butter is a backbeat-leaning, dark new-wave dance jam, coupled with stuttering kick/bass rhythms and a droning key or guitar line (see “Hiss,” or “Not Good Enough”). They’re so good at these, they don’t get old. No One In Control also twists and stretches this template successfully, building the title track up slowly over the course of seven minutes that could go on for twice that, integrating a cool, retro synth-stab sound with “The Beat Comes,” or dialing down Snowden’s usual burn to a simmer on “Don’t Really Know Me,” focusing rather than cutting its energy.

What can I say about the perfect “Anemone Arms?” Its simple, pure, eternal-but-counterintuitive theme? The beautifully understated arrangement? I invite you to give yourself over to it, especially if you’re in need of a moment of grace.

Every time I hear this record, I’m grateful Snowden made it.


I’ve tried for a couple weeks not to be disappointed by Errant Forms, unsuccessfully. But, I love Ladyfinger. Their show at the Riot Room a few months ago, with mostly material from the new record, was great.

In the end, though, “Dark Horse” is the only good song (and it’s really good) that shows any growth from the band. “Blue Oyster” and “He Said She Said,” relegated to the last two tracks of the album, adequately invoke the old Ladyfinger; the rest of the set is toothless and meandering, two words I never expected to use about Ladyfinger’s music. Plus, “Meathead” is simply embarrassing in its unintentional irony. It’s a dumb, reductionist song trying to snark at dumb, reductionist stereotpyes.

My expectation that this album would be something other than what it is is something I’ve been wrestling with and trying to suppress before forming a solid opinion about Errant Forms. One angle on art that I like thinking about is sussing the artists’ intention, and the extent to which they accomplished it. Other than from “Dark Horse,” I haven’t gotten any sense of why Ladyfinger made this record. It feels mostly checked out of its own existence. The guitars are muted and indistinct, and the drums are fussy and tapped. I think my disappointment has more to do with the specific recording, not the band or the songs (since the live set was energetic and a little edgy).  I’d gladly trade my copy of Errant Forms for a bootleg of the Riot Room show.

As a Ladyfinger listener, I needed to know what this album was. It’s good to know, but I hope the next one has some bite.


Palms’ self-titled debut is exactly what you’d expect from the press blurb; a Chino Moreno (Deftones)-fronted Isis side project. Ambient metal, or some such. In spite of that, I like it a lot and have it in heavy rotation, but that doesn’t mean it gets a strong recommendation by MR|Review.

Nothing here will reach up and grab you. Overdriven, heavily delayed arpeggios permutate around Chino’s moans and steady, sometimes angular, rhythms. If you listen closely, you’ll notice details changing from section to section.  Otherwise, it mooshes all together.  Rinse, repeat.  “Patagonia” is my favorite example.

The first half of closer “Antarctic Handshake” indicates a direction forward, should the group ever convene again. It has a straightforward dream-pop feel that, maybe blended 50/50 with the languid space-rock of the rest of Palms (start with the metal section of “Mission Sunset,” guys) and written into complete songs, could be noteworthy on a wider scale than “interesting metal supergroup side project.” I hope Palms makes that record, but in the meantime I’ll dig revisiting this one periodically.

Aesop Rock’s Skelethon is over one year old, but I won’t relax about it until I’ve done everything I can think of to convince you to check it out.

It’s basically a perfectly-executed record, with Aesop Rock rapping over his own intricately-constructed beats; arrangements as tight as German engineering, every ounce of sound aimed squarely at making your head nod *so* *hard,* and it never lets up. I’m jealous, in an inspired way, of how thoroughly Rock executes his singular vision and practically forces his point of view on listeners.

Ahh, words don’t do it justice. You have to bang this once, and then tell me if you don’t feel it.


Elder’s Dead Roots Stirring – is it or is it not metal? – is so inviting and infectious it should spill over from stoner/doom/desert rock silos. If you love this shit like I do, you’re welcome. If you don’t (yet?) but have the slightest interest, here’s a gateway.

Hitting the sweet spot between straight blown-out blooze and alternately broken and augmented psychadelic riffing, Dead Roots Stirring is that kind of heavy that puts a smile on my face. There’s a joy in volume, a release in mutual submission, and egolessness in waves of fuzz.

Twelve-minute guitar jams aren’t for everyone; I get that. Just don’t assume they’re not for you until you’ve listened to a couple good ones.

MR|Review directs readers’ limited attention among works via ratings, and within works via prose, focusing on works where our opinion diverges from critical or popular consensus, or we have significant insight that compliments or challenges readers’ aesthetic experience. MR|Review totals to date:
Must-hear! 2
Recommended 13
Good 9
Fans only 10
Skip this 3
Owww! My ears! 0


Mars Lights Side 3 Release

It’s out, and that brings about a nearly six-year chapter in our music to a close.

In late 2007, Matt and I were working on some new Five Star Crush demos, and found ourselves experimenting with some blown-out bluesy punk rock stuff during our down time.  We wanted a third member, Cory told us Drew was in the area and re-introduced us, and what eventually became Mars Lights formed.

We started recording the Sides in February 2009, and have been working on them ever since.  The last overdubs were done just a couple months ago; the Side 3 final mixes were made a week ago.

We’ve done other things, too.  Drew and I are 85% of the way through tracking an album as a duo.  He learned to play drums and record everything, turning Dark Satellites into an album, and then a full band.  Matt joined In Back Of A Black Car, and is having some other post-rock adventures we hope to hear more from.  I put a couple records out myself, mastered some others, and generally attempted to be a shark (keep moving), if a slow one.

As exciting as it is to share Side 3 with you, my strongest feeling right now is freedom.  We learned so much through this project – about writing, recording, playing, gear, mixing, mastering, communicating, design, and more – and that’s already reflected in the LP that’s under way, and will be even more in the projects that follow after.  It feels great to have reached this milestone, knowing some of the good stuff that’s on the road ahead (and not knowing some as well).

I hope you really enjoy Side 3, and all of the Sides.  Rock out.  Nod your head.  Air guitar/drum.  Be overcome.  Or just press play and make dinner.