Aesthetic Perfection – Live at The Casbah, San Diego, CA, 11/06/2022

I didn’t write this review the very next day after the show. I spent the following day basking in the afterglow and just reminiscing this sublime experience; like a freshman the morning after a classic rager. With some shows, the band plays and the crowd stands there and watches. Other shows make the crowd feel like they were truly part of an event. Seeing Aesthetic Perfection’s American Psycho Tour come through San Diego was such an event.

I’m glad I arrived at The Casbah early. Turns out there were actually FIVE bands on the bill, rather than the advertised three. More on that later.

Opening the show was LA’s Arden & The Wolves, which came as a total surprise to me. As we’re both friends of Sounds & Shadows, Arden Leigh and I had been in communication for various reasons over the last several months. But as A&TW was a last minute addition to the bill, I was thrown a pleasant curveball on this. If fact, so many members of the “family” were present this night, it felt like a Sounds & Shadows mixer.

Photo: Mary Strong

Simply put, A&TW have their shit together. The playing was solid and on-point, with Nick Mason (NOT the Nick Mason of Pink Floyd ) having the tightest drumming of the night. Pete Mills on guitar and Justin Emord on bass compliment Arden Leigh’s commanding stage presence. With the disciplined polish to her look and sound, I got the feeling Arden could have done this show in her sleep. She was, however, very much awake with an energy and enthusiasm that sucked in any onlookers. And with the number of San Diego fans who turned out to see this LA band on a Sunday night, it’s obvious that this is a band with traction and an appeal that will only grow over time.

Photo: Mary Strong

Next up was an act I knew nothing about ahead of time, Halo Boy. Now this was an interesting twist I didn’t see coming; hip-hop infused indie pop with a none-too-subtle industrial edge. Sounds like it would be a hot mess, right? Instead, Cameron Cade takes all these influences and intelligently combines them into an eclectic blend where no two songs sounded the same and kept the crowd guessing where it would go next. Afterwards, I overheard people in the audience comparing them to everything from Imagine Dragons to Hollywood Undead. Linkin Park was another name that popped up more than once in the conversation as well.

Halo Boy’s live show is very energetic with the zeal of youth. This guy was on fire and wasn’t afraid to singe the onlookers who were standing too close; jumping into the crowd, giving random hugs and starting a mosh pit. The rhythm section was locked in and took the songs where they needed to go. And I had to give the bass player credit for showing grace under pressure after his E string broke on the last song.

Following Halo Boy came the band I was most excited to see initially, Philadelphia’s genCAB. Having written about genCAB previously, I was intrigued by how they would pull off their sound live. Turns out the lineup on this night was stripped down to the duo of David Dutton and Cristian Carver.

Don’t get the idea that this made the show any less. They were having a ball onstage and the enthusiasm was contagious. And while the band was perhaps a bit socially lubricated courtesy of the friendly Casbah bar staff, they steered into the skid and made even their mistakes work for them in a fun and powerful live show.

David exudes a natural onstage charisma and Christian was on a epic tear with crazy flying hair and flying drumsticks. And while all the bands brought their “A” game, genCAB proved to be on a level that was easily on-par with their LA counterparts.

Three bands in and not a dud yet. Josie Pace hit the ground running to keep the show moving along. Talk about showmanship! Josie and accompanist Ken Roberts stepped onto that drum-cramped stage and proceeded to own it. Funny thing, but I realized that I was more familiar with Josie’s oeuvre than I thought thanks to the Sounds & Shadows Spotify playlist. Next thing I know, I’m singing along to songs like Underestimated and Storm And Stress.

I’m hard-pressed to decide between Arden and Josie who had the strongest voice of the night, as both of them kicked my ass with epic vocal performances. I’ll just call it Apples & Oranges and leave it there. Pace closed her truncated set with a cover of Placebo’s Pure Morning that I liked better than the original. I went in thinking I didn’t know what to expect only to come away with a fanboy crush.

And, of course, we have Aesthetic Perfection as the headliner.

Sexy, weird and loud; this show had three of my favorite flavors. Daniel Graves is certainly a performer with an ability to move the crowd, even if he did get a humorous talking to from drummer Joe Letz for forgetting the next song on the setlist. Constance Antoinette Day did the heavy lifting; playing guitar, keys and bass variously throughout the set as she effectively played up the gothic sex kitten image.

It took me a while to recognize Letz, although the androgynous latex look doesn’t disagree with him. And his fetching blond wig was a nice touch. He flailed, he gyrated, he drank from a dildo-shaped water bottle. Those of us in the front were in danger of being hit with water or flying drumsticks at any given time. At one point, I was worried about getting smacked by the floor tom. I feel for the drum tech on this tour.

Most of the songs were newer, if not from the newest release, MMXXI, but there were indeed a few crowd-pleasers to be had. It wasn’t the tightest set I’ve seen, but that didn’t seem to be the point. Make it hard, make it punchy, make it memorable; that was the order of the day.

My only complaint? It turns out that A&TW and Halo Boy were added to the bill after winning a battle of the bands in Los Angeles. However, it was explained to me that each tour stop was supposed to have a local act as an opener. As a native-born lifelong San Diegan, I wish to point out the following: LOS ANGELES IS NOT SAN DIEGO. Thank you, that is all.

San Diego was the last leg of the American Psycho Tour in California. Those of you who get a chance to check out Aesthetic Perfection on the road have a raucous night full of music and antics to look forward to. Although there may be moments when you’ll want to keep a safe distance from the stage.

(CORRECTION: Halo Boy and Arden did not win the Battle of the Bands for Los Angeles, BlakLight did and played with AP on that date. Arden won for San Diego. Halo Boy was a last minute addition to all the California shows.)

https://ardenandthewolves.bandcamp.com

https://www.youtube.com/c/HaloBoy

https://josiepace.bandcamp.com

https://gencab.bandcamp.com

https://aestheticperfection.bandcamp.com

Fractals To Infinity by Giant Monsters on the Horizon (feat. Arden and the Wolves) – Part 2/2

GMOTH’s collab with Arden & the Wolves yielded admirable results. So much so, I felt compelled to contact Arden Leigh and get her side of the story…

– Who are your influences and what did you take away from those artists?

That’s a terrific question. I have ADHD that’s been exacerbated by the way our culture fosters a brief attention span, so lately I find myself constantly seeking and finding new sources of inspiration. I finally embraced that as a singer I feel called to express myself in a large number of genres, that if I’m not challenging myself in some way I’m bored, and that it’s okay for me to feel like whatever I want to make in the moment is the opposite of the last thing I just made.

That said, I’d say my traditional influences are Paramore, Panic at the Disco, The Pretty Reckless, Pat Benatar, Blue October, Imogen Heap, Poe, WALK THE MOON, and 30 Seconds to Mars.

And I’d say my newer influences are HANA, AURORA, The Midnight, Starcadian, Poppy, Ghostemane, Aesthetic Perfection, MisterWives, Auri, and Thomas Bergersen. 

For this track in particular, I mostly listened to the singer Veela for inspiration. I wasn’t accustomed to writing to the style of track Vinnie sent me, but I welcomed the challenge and sought to find a way that I could use a repetitive melody that would merge with, and not compete with, the intensity of the track. I found that many of Veela’s melodies were written in that style, and that felt like permission to try it myself.

– Do you draw inspiration from sources outside of music, per se?

All the time. I don’t ever want to write a lyric that’s only inspired by something someone else said, you know? For me, the impetus of a song, whether it’s one that I self-generate or one I’m asked to write/sing on, is that I have to feel that what I’m saying is important. When I’m asked to do a guest vocal like on this track, I have to find something that is important enough for me to write about. If the subject and lyric doesn’t feel important to me, the song will feel flat and unfinished until I sit with it and figure out what it’s trying to say.

I’d say my main job as a vocalist/songwriter is to tune into the narrative and build out its world. That’s not always inherent to the music itself but I’m not sure it can really be separated. Also, I’m a synaesthetic, so I tend to have colorful sensory associations as it is. 

– Please describe a typical day in the studio. What is the chemistry like?

Is it cheeky of me if I say it depends whose studio it is? In seriousness, I don’t have a home studio so I work with an engineer for my vocals, and nine times out of ten it’s Pete Mills of the band The Sweet Kill. We have amazing creative chemistry in the studio. Even more than chemistry, we have comfort, and for me, the safety of a regulated nervous system, knowing you’re safe to share ideas without judgment or criticism, is the most important foundation for creativity. You have to be able to say your weird ideas and have someone make the effort to grok them and help you bring them to life. Pete really understands me and supports my vision, and he will always share his feelings and ideas but also always supports me having final creative say since it’s my name on the work. It’s a wonderful creative relationship full of lots of mutual respect and fun. 

Because Vinnie and I live far apart, we actually haven’t met in person yet and haven’t been in the studio together. But Vinnie makes long distance collaboration easy. He’s so supportive of my ideas and for this track we both allowed each other complete creative freedom – Vinnie let me track pretty much whatever vocals I wanted, and then I shipped them to him and let him do whatever he wanted with them. Honestly it’s really great when you have two artists who trust the quality of each other’s work enough that you’re both like, you know what, whatever we come up with will be great.

– What’s next for you? How are you forming/adapting your plans in the age of COVID?

To be completely honest, it really kinda felt like my musical career “began” with the release of my EP Who Can You Trust in 2018. Before that, I released songs but I was treating my band like a vanity project because of past traumas and worthiness issues. WCYT definitely changed that for me. 

But by the time I was able to find aligned producers and get back in the studio to work on the next album, which will be my first full-length, it was already mid-2020. So to be honest, I haven’t so much had to do much adapting as learning on the fly this whole time. If anything it was an advantage for me when the pandemic hit, because all of a sudden there were all these musicians who couldn’t tour and were looking for production work to keep busy in the meantime, and I needed producers. 

I will also add that even besides Covid, I think it’s safe to say that music right now is an ever-shifting landscape with no reliable model, and that everyone is being invited into more adaptability. The old ways are dying and a new sustainable way hasn’t been established yet, which I think is plain to see from how much arguing there is over the way things are currently happening. It’s intimidating but it’s also exciting. I regret to admit that I will probably have to learn about blockchain if I want to start being a part of the solution, which I do. But I anticipate this to be a 5-10 year scope, and I still have a lot of learning to do in that regard. It’s a lot of data to eat and process. 

But if I could solve my mental health issues in the scope of two years, especially when that felt impossible throughout the rest of my life, and if I could create The Re-Patterning Project out of that journey and help dozens of others to do the same, then I think I can be helpful in solving this too. And at that point, who am I not to at least try, right?

– What is your take on the current state of the dark music “scene”?

Is there a scene? I have really been trying to overcome feelings of being an outsider, with historically mixed results that I’m happy to report are steadily getting better. But I’m not sure I feel like I’m part of a scene. Maybe that’s a limiting belief on my part. I will say I really appreciate the way Ken is a positive force in creating community. In fact I found Vinnie through the Sounds and Shadows group, so in that way I owe this very song to him and to everyone involved! 

But I think the same lowered barriers to entry that make music so accessible these days has also meant that it is very spread out and difficult to feel like there’s any one homogenous scene, and instead that there’s pockets of communities here and there. My modus operandi is simply to be the best version of myself that I can be and operate in integrity so that I can align with people who do the same, gravitate toward and nourish the people in my immediate circles who feel like the best fit, where everything feels easy and fun and inspiring, and then keep repeating that. Into infinity, so to speak.

When you can do that, and when you start connecting with the artists around you and forming mutually positive creative friendships with them, maybe it doesn’t matter whether there’s a scene or whether you belong to it.

https://giantmonstersonthehorizon.bandcamp.com/track/fractals-to-infinity-feat-arden-and-the-wolves

https://ardenandthewolves.bandcamp.com

Who are some of the Non Binary artists in the modern Darkscene?

The modern Darkscene has always been a place to push the boundaries of standard definitions of gender and self concept. Exploration of what society has subscribed is called into question through self discovery. Much like the umbrella that is goth and the genres within the artists who create the music form a broad and complex spectrum. I don’t want to dive deeply or speak for those that make up this rich tapestry. Instead I will focus on shining a light on some of the great non binary artists I have discovered.

Mystic Priestess – Oakland California dark punk band brings a cobweb lace batcave chaos full of elder goth tones and floor shaking intensity. The percussion is a non stop primal assault. The effective use of time change and intensity make each song dynamic and captivating. The instrumentation used shows a range and craft to the rough and passionate style. Eternal Resurrection features a muted saxophone that perfectly contrasts and shows a depth beyond standard 4/4 punk. The vocals carry a chanting energy teeming with life and prowling danger. A creature from a buzzing bog moving with jerking purpose ready to strike out at anyone who makes eye contact. I love that no matter how deep I dove into this album, I never found the floor. There was always another layer.

https://mysticpriestess.bandcamp.com/

Favorite Track: Christian Lies – This opening tom fill makes my heart beat fast. It’s one of those recorded tracks you can’t help but picture live. The energy is infectious and the breakdown at 1:40 just collapses the floor and leaves you in a free fall ready for the trap to spring. A politically charged flame thrower that holds the spirit of what punk was always suppose to mean. I want to hear this song as I charge up the hill to burn post world capitalism from the landscape.

Sister Sarin – I first became aware of this Baltimore artist when they played percussion for Steven Archer with his Stoneburner project. Hemlock has one of those terrifying and remarkable energies you can’t help but spot from across a room. The sound is immersive and textual. A carefully orchestrated journey that makes the abstract realm of emotion take on shape through tone and hook. I’ve always been fascinated with chimes. That place where percussion and melody meet. Hemlock has an amazing talent for creating a dance of these aspects that seem to always strike a cohesive picture in my mind. Right Where I Belong is one of the few tracks that feature vocals and they are gorgeous. A sort of David Gahan’s ghost calling from beyond the veil. This EP is my soundtrack to a steamy ivory bathhouse lit with candles. It’s a challenge, it’s a comfort, it’s real.

Favorite track: Tripwire – Here those amazing chimes are on display. The percussion is complex and in the front. It’s a mystery of anticipation I’m drawn to because I want to be surprised.

https://sistersarin.bandcamp.com/album/whats-left-unsaid

Vortex Empath Xen, Moira Scar – Another Oakland California talent. A very experimental and raw sound with a minimalist efficiency. Sometimes with something this raw in production it might have a hard time capturing me, the more i listened the more it grew on me. It feels like being invited into an underground lair of where a secret society is preforming Kaos majick with thick smoke and hundreds of flickering candles. The guitars growl firing around the room like a demon summoned by Raw Power. This was never intended to be an easy hook driven listen. I feel the intention is to be unnerving. The vocals are delivered with power and unity like a flung spell taking shape from the void. I found myself constantly wondering if a cleaner production would clarify or ruin the vibrating hunger. This is an album you need to be in the right place for, however if you are in this place, it’s staggering and emotive.

https://moirascar.bandcamp.com/album/between-worlds-lp-bonus-tracks

Vinsantos – I first witnessed NOLA artist Vinsantos opening for Peter Murphy in a Chicago church and my heart stood still. It was as though they grabbed ahold of the center of their rib cage, tore themselves open, and 1000 ravens and doves flew out. The entire catalog is masterful in a way that makes the hairs on my arms stand up. This single in particular is a blend of the conceptual story telling of Robyn Hitchcock and the effortless emotion of Q Lazzarus. This song builds, it delivers, it places it’s hands on the side of your head and makes you stare into the windows of it’s soul. You need this, everyone needs this.

https://vinsantos.bandcamp.com/track/chimera

HIDE – If there is something more intense, powerful, and visceral in the modern scene than HIDE, I am hard pressed to say what it is. The Chicago based duo play slow meatgrinder machinery sounds that roll towards your body and you watch yourself chewed away by the awesome, unstoppable force of the lyrics and soul splitting delivery. There is nothing fun or happy go lucky about this phycological assault on the senses. This is true high art delivered with a morning star to the face instead of a paint brush. Sometimes when you hear an album, you are changed forever and terrified to keep listening. This is one of those records. You need to summon your courage, you need to listen, you need to be changed.

Favorite track: Daddy Issues – Holy shit, a brutal and unapologetic judgement on modern society and rape culture and Brock Turner. The fury and delivery of his fathers quote is staggering in it’s force. They hold a mirror up to society and then smash society over the fucking head with it.

https://hide3.bandcamp.com/

Synth Witch – An artist from Portland Oregon that does lovely slow creeping interstellar travel sounds. Gorgeous textured bleeps and bloops I want to fill my ears while constructing high risk plans in the dangerous far reaches of space. One of those artists that truly captures a visual wavelength without the use of lyrics to paint the picture. Set the controls for the heart of the sun and sail away.

Favorite Track: Dangerous – This immersive soundtrack for a space heist is effortlessly cool. Perfectly tailored leather jackets in dirty space.

https://thesynthwitch.bandcamp.com/album/synth-witch

Arden and the Wolves – Wonderful talent from Los Angeles that also does a podcast about magic and art(I linked it below) . They have a voice that absolutely drips with power. A look and sonic energy that resonates with every step. I found myself struck by the theatrical delivery and spiritual passion. It almost feels like the goth version of modern secular music delivered by a soloist in front of a choir . Shadowed by the mystical roots to make a contrast. This is a teaching sound, each time i listen I feel like I am unraveling a story.

https://ardenandthewolves.bandcamp.com/track/mary-did-you-know

Interview with Daniel Graves Aesthetic Perfection

DORIAN ELECTRA – Artist from LA doing a blood pumping spicy trip hop. I love the way they spray the sexuality around like a firehouse. The vocal timber has a really unique feel and the energy is pure darkpop adrenochrome pumped right in the vein. The album brims with guest artist which adds a lot of flavors and complexity. This has such glorious relatable pop sensibility but delivered with razor edge and soul.

Favorite Track: My Agenda (Feat: Village People and Pussy Riot) – This has such a slinky beat and a real fire in the vocal delivery while holding a smoldering flame of pop beauty.

Darkswoon – Portland artist with singer Jana Cushman who also has done soundtrack work for the film “My Summer As A Goth”. Smokey driving shoegaze flavor. I really love how the music has a wall of sound shoegaze feel but the vocals are very forward and ring clear like a bell. Andrew Michael really puts on a clinic with the movement of a fuzzy swelling bass tone.

Favorite Song: The Flesh – Huge 10,000 maniacs meets Kevin Shields vibes. This song is a twisting mechanical snake with Jane pouring visceral soul from their mouth. Chefs Kiss.

https://darkswoon.bandcamp.com/album/bind

Sawtooth – New England EDM artist Lillian Edith Martin that does a body shaking synth heavy dance drive. I love the labyrinth of staircases and moving paths. It’s glorious to hear dance music take on such a fantasy tone. It’s like listening to imagination. Some great collaboration with Juliet Brownell-Lee (Gorgeous vocals) and John Greene (Makes my arm hairs stand up). I have gotten lost in each of these tracks in different moments for different reasons.

Favorite Track: Crawling Towards the Light Feat: Juliet Brownell-Lee – Such a perfect homage to fantasy and nostalgia with modern dance flavor and perfect movement. This song is such a journey.

https://djsawtooth.bandcamp.com/album/cold-days-ahead?fbclid=IwAR0H33llKTEuxy5L8QuAePa_r6vaugHJCxMF43oFsd8uFiEPfS8CXxxmPD8

grabyourface – Marie does the most amazing sad industrial hybrid music. Tortured soul bearing poetry poured over a beat like blood down a fountain. Hearing the courage with which they reveal the most intimate aspects of their soul in every song fills me with strength every time I hear it.

Favorite Track: Shore – From the album Sea in 2020. When you think of a song as haunting and revealing. Every time I hear this is leaves me shook. The imagery, the self reflection, the tone.

https://grabyourfacengp.bandcamp.com/album/sea

Shadows Beloved – My dear friend Adrian Auchrome from Maine does such an amazing job of resurrecting old school traditional goth like Rossetta Stone and seasoning it with anguished vocal delivery. What really hits my heart every time is the guitar tone perfection that blisters to the front to take center stage. This album is so under appreciated in the discussion of the modern goth renaissance. Emotional abstracts and artisan crafting in perfect blend.

Favorite Track: All We Want – Adrian is at their best when letting their beautiful voice be itself and ring forth. This song captures that. The guitar solo is a powerful masterclass in modern traditional goth.

https://shadowsbeloved.bandcamp.com/releases

Sloar&Mordor – Wisconsin artists Matt Florence and Svea Tiberius Trzebiatowski bring their love of Science fiction and pop culture into this dungeon synth art house explosion of Easter eggs and shake that ass beats. I love the spoken word delivery and raindrop synth sounds.

https://sloarmordor.bandcamp.com/track/its-too-bad-she-wont-live-but-then-again-who-does

Kali Ra – Oakland California artist does amazing offbeat driving guitar slather that I want to be my entrance music when I walk into a party. It’s dark and has it’s own saunter. David Goad has a 30’s phonograph sex appeal on their voice. It’s breathy, beckoning, and full of temptation. The album “The Monarch” leaps around between tone and style ranging from 90s goth pop to 70s Glam rock. Their voice is the one thing that ties together all these colorful threads stretching out on a loom of sound.

Favorite Track: Gaslight – The spirit of Brian Eno has been summoned and infused with youth to entertain me in the modern age. I also love what a contrast this is to the other tracks.

https://kalira.bandcamp.com/album/the-monarch?fbclid=IwAR2wxt1hCLgmNLPnIs9xFCPUMdDzXWnnvcYZd0nuYHznc2028WXEzBhFoN8

Dea Decay – Florida Dj/Artist Dea does this lovely candy sweet synthpop full of magic and color. If I had to choose a word to describe their sound it would be vibrant. It features samples and head bopping energy.

Favorite Track : Catronica – Look I love the new She-Ra and in particular Katra. Feel good adorable energy and breakneck fun pacing. Yes please.

https://deadecay.bandcamp.com/track/longing

WINGTIPS – Chicago synthdriven apocalyptical dreampop which captured my heart a few years back and continue to impress. Gorgeous flowing imagery turned into sound and fired out of a smoke machine to create a shimmering wave of deeper dreaming. One of the truly exceptional performances to see live in the modern scene. One of those bands that continues to evolve in complexity with every passing year.

Favorite Track: Last Minute – They have had so many amazing songs since, but you never forget your first love. When I heard this track I was instantly transported to the post apocolyptic John Hughes prom and I never wanted to leave. It’s unforgettable beauty.

https://wingtips.bandcamp.com/

Since I have come this far 🙂 I also want to give a shoutout to three Djs very near and dear to my heart that help make this scene what it is 🙂 Pat Allen, Kate Mior, and Azy Bats. All of them are great ways to hear the best in new music and keep your finger on the pulse of the modern scene. Pat 626, Darkness Forever, and Obscura Undead.

https://www.twitch.tv/obscuraundead

https://www.twitch.tv/darknessforeverto?fbclid=IwAR1DoSc2nTMPQ8BvgNQl2uiwYUpECGgI6OoNduE6okkRei_m73WvzU76cRw

https://www.twitch.tv/djpat626?fbclid=IwAR0ozOND2F39s30h_Tp37HOTOS5eb5pXpJRRFeIw5dpr-GN_uc0F9GYL73Y

Album Art Feature: Part 1

An album is a multi-faceted piece of art. There’s the lyrics, the music (instruments, vocals, effects, mixing), and then there’s the visual side of things. Today, we’re exploring some great pieces of cover art shared in the Sound & Shadows group.

To start off, this is the cover to Automata by Confusion Inc. “The artwork to my Automata album is special to me, because the original image used was a photograph of my mother’s artwork,” Colin Cameron says. “She’s an abstract expressionist – life long painter. I love the stone-looking background here, as well as the several dimensions of glitchy-ness added over it. This is an elegant cover with a heart-warming backstory.

Next up is the cover to The Fire Within by Vaselyne. This piece is a self portrait by Yvette Winkler. The photography here is excellent. It is still, yet in a day dramatic and dynamic. I love how the picture fades so seamlessly into the black void background. It altogether creates some emotion I can’t quite name.

Here’s the art for Plague Garden’s upcoming album. The piece was done by Albie Mason. I’ve got several aesthetics on the tip of my tongue while looking at it. It’s visually striking. There are many elements at play here, but they all form a wonderful cohesion under the vintage-feeling grain. It reminds me of browsing the sci-fi section at an old bookstore tucked away somewhere.

Inertia by We Are Parasols is coming in hot with this rainbow orb! The art was created by Daniel Kopton . This feels like something I could see in a museum. It would make a great desktop background, too. A poster, even. Basically what I’m trying to say is that I love looking at this. The choice of using a bar code instead of text is bold, but I think it works well.

Changing gears a bit, let’s take a look at Sea Lungs. This art was done by one of the band’s own members. It has a slight comic book cover vibe to it, I think, in how perspective and action are both played with. I’ll admit when I first glanced at it, I thought of astronauts due to the suits, the crater-like ground, and the star-like bubbles. I think this ambiguity adds to it, though. After all, space exploration and deep sea exploration are both equally terrifying intrusions into the harsh unknown.

Here’s a shocker. The album cover to Batavia and Their Friends by Batavia. No, you didn’t suddenly get transported back to the 1970s. “Nobody we showed this to thought we would actually use this and risk losing 200% of our goth credibility,” says band member Ed Cripps. “Risk is the spice of life.” That it is, Ed, that it is. I applaud this bold stylistic choice and devotion to an artistic direction here! I love it.

Another strong artistic direction is shown here in the album Leyendas de las Almas Perdidas by Valentina Maurino. “Endăley (fairy of the souls) is the one I portrayed here, the one who tells the stories of the lost souls behind each song, and these lost souls are represented through objects on the little table (it’s a telephone seat), some of these appear in my music videos too, I love symbolism,” Maurino tells me. I absolutely adore the whimsical handwritten wording. The broom-like hands, the table ornaments, the lighting…it all comes together and, I agree, tells a story.

Speaking of stories, let’s go into Another Year Of Rain by Arden and the Wolves. Arden Leigh had a lot to say about this piece.

“I wanted to convey the question that was arising for so many women at the time, myself included – is our sexual objectification and submission hot, or is it violent? Does it depend on who’s doing the choking? How can we be sure of the person’s intentions? Are we getting off, or are we endangering ourselves? As it turns out, in the following four songs on the EP that I would write between 2016-2017, I ended up unearthing and purging all my relationship trauma, and recalling a memory I’d suppressed – one where I was choked in anger by a dominant male partner I’d been financially supporting as his submissive. Through the course of the album writing and recording process, I answered the question “who can you trust” and I learned discernment. When the EP was released in early 2018, we were four months in to the crest of the #MeToo movement, and it was right on time.”

More information about Arden and the #MeToo movement can be read here.

Lastly for today, here’s the cover of Nervous Prayers by Sweat Boys featuring the logo work of Jim Marcus. This piece is serene yet dangerous. The imagery is drowning and, yet, reaching for help all at once. I am reminded of the hand of Adam reaching towards God as the Sistine Chapel.