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only noise 2018-08-09T17:03:08+00:00

ONLY NOISE: Like A Summer Thursday

One of my favorite descriptions of summer, particularly its languid, melancholy months, comes from Don DeLillo’s first novel, Americana: “Summer unfolds slowly,” DeLillo writes, “a carpeted silence rolling out across expanding steel, and the days begin to rhyme, distance swelling with the bridges, heat bending the air, small breaks in the pavement, those days when nothing seems to live on the earth but butterflies, the tranquilized mantis, the spider scaling the length of the mudcaked broken rake inside the dark garage.” This of course is not the summer of your childhood, spent racing to the river, camping out on the [...]

ONLY NOISE: Glenn Branca’s Final Ascension

I wound up at the Kitchen sort of by mistake. It was a Tuesday - February 23rd, 2016 to be precise. It had been a year since the worst week of my life, and sitting at my desk after a long day of designing women’s underwear, I longed for a little culture that evening, a little date with myself. So I scrolled through concert listings on Oh My Rockness, hoping for a name to leap out at me. February is not the most happening time for live music in the city, and my backup plan involved a movie and/or overpriced [...]

ONLY NOISE: Punk Rock Mom

“Punk Rock Mom” was a distinction of honor my mother appointed to herself, and though the title mortified me on more than one occasion, she’d well earned it. She was the one helming the two-hour, round trip commute between my hometown of Arlington, Washington and Seattle, where any and all rock concerts worth two hours on the road took place. These gigs often occurred on school nights, no less, but my mom didn’t seem to mind. She’d just as soon climb behind the wheel of her late Subaru Forester (RIP) on a weeknight as she would let me go to [...]

ONLY NOISE: Waterloo

Waterloo always sounded like an exotic place to me, an English garden oasis dotted with fountains and plum trees and those little stone statues of naked angel-babies. The name suggested a swan pond, croquet matches, and crustless triangle sandwiches served at 3 p.m. for tea. Little did I know that the “Waterloo” Ray Davies was singing about in the Kinks’ “Waterloo Sunset,” which first topped the pop charts 51 years ago this week, in fact referred to a bustling train station in the center of London, far removed from the green gardens I'd imagined. It took living in London to [...]

ONLY NOISE: An Audience of None

In what world does this sound like a good time? You are in a dark room, surrounded by drunks you don’t know, and some you know too well. Your favorite song is playing, only it’s a compressed, simplified version void of lyrics. You are holding a cheap microphone, and the fate of the next three minutes is in your hands, and most crucially, your voice. For many, this sounds like a grand ol’ time, and it is the enthusiasm of that majority that keeps karaoke alive. For me, it is the stuff of nightmares. One might assume that any avid [...]

By | April 26th, 2018|Categories: COLUMNS, Only Noise|Tags: , , |0 Comments

ONLY NOISE: Adult Entertainment

In 1997, filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson was racking up a lot of “firsts.” He released his first major feature, Boogie Nights, which garnered his first Oscar nomination. Moreover, Boogie Nights was the first widely celebrated Hollywood film about the Golden Age of pornography. Set in 1970s San Fernando Valley, California (aka “Porn Valley”), the film chronicles the rise, fall, and redemption of fictional adult film star Dirk Diggler and his adopted family of pornstars, directors, and one particularly eager Boom Operator.  But despite the movie’s racy subject matter, its initial frames unfold like a glittering homage to ‘70s club culture. [...]

ONLY NOISE: When You Walk

There is certain music that you share with close friends and family. Music that scores the first dance at your wedding, albums you recommend to your sister, and songs that make your dinner party mix. There is music that feels inherently a part of a communal experience, and necessitates sharing immediately. And then, there is the music you hold close to your chest like a winning hand. The work of Bill Callahan and Smog has always felt like the latter to me, and maybe I haven’t so much held it close as I have ingested it completely. I initially associated [...]

ONLY NOISE: Let Them Eat CupcakKe

You don’t have to be intimately familiar with Chicago rapper CupcakKe to glean that her work might be sexual in nature – if titles like “Deepthroat” and Cum Cake don’t tip you off, I’m not sure what will – but on Tuesday, YouTube saw fit to censor her video channel, pulling clips for the aforementioned 2016 track and “Duck Duck Goose,” which appears on the artist’s latest LP Ephorize. The video platform replaced them with a message that read: “This video has been removed for violating YouTube's policy on nudity or sexual content," failing to realize that CupcakKe is a lot more [...]

By | March 22nd, 2018|Categories: COLUMNS, Only Noise|Tags: , , , , , , , |0 Comments

ONLY NOISE: Marjorie’s

On Sunday, in a part of town I rarely get to visit, I sat on a hard wooden bench staring at a wall. From beyond that wall I could hear trumpet, bass, and a drum kit played by invisible musicians. Their presence was confirmed not only by the sound, but by the rows of people sitting in fold up chairs in front of me, who had a better view of the action. The only musician I could see was an elderly woman in a close-cut purple sheath dress, hunched over a piano. She sat framed by a doorway, and if [...]

ONLY NOISE: A Woman Like Your Kind

Today is International Women’s Day, and people are celebrating in many ways. This American Life devoted their entire show on Tuesday night to listening to the stories of five women who were sexually harassed by media executive Don Hazen, giving individual voice to members of the #MeToo movement. Mattel came out with 17 new Barbie dolls celebrating diverse and historic women like artist Frida Kahlo, Australian conservationist Bindi Irwin, and NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson. Our favorite female and non-binary music festival, The Hum, has announced a new run of shows slated for May, and various Women’s Day events have sprung up across the world. In my own [...]

ONLY NOISE: Don’t Be In Love With the Autograph

On Monday, Mount Eerie’s Phil Elverum posted a lengthy Reddit AMA explaining his reluctance to sign autographs for fans. The statement was originally published in a pamphlet Elverum hands out to concertgoers in search of his John Hancock. The statement is six single-spaced pages and nearly 3,000 words long. In it, Elverum not only questions the implications of autographing records, but instills the custom with philosophical weight. “I believe in equality and I don’t believe in god,” Elverum writes. “I believe that successful and well known people are regular people, of course, and I am made uncomfortable by our tendency as [...]

By | March 1st, 2018|Categories: COLUMNS, Only Noise|Tags: , , , , |0 Comments

ONLY NOISE: Make Me Smile

My dad’s record collection has always been a significant source of music in my life. Its sheer volume and variety has never ceased to amaze me, and that is likely why I write about it so often. Each time I head home for the holidays (or between jobs) it is one of the first things I check on after settling in and petting my childhood cat. When I look at the six foot wide, five-story shelf of LPs, I see every house they’ve lived in, and every alphabetized box we’ve unpacked them from. On the southernmost shelves I see the [...]

ONLY NOISE: Love Songs

If you were lucky enough to get them, you must admit: by now the chocolates have been eaten, and the roses are beginning to droop. Maybe there are a few once-bitten, raspberry cream rejects left in that heart-shaped box of truffles your main squeeze gave you, but they will retire to the trash can only a few days before the flowers. Valentine’s Day was this week, and if you couldn’t guess by my tone (and annual, grumpy V-Day column), the only thing I did was my laundry. Afterwards, I ate a shrimp Panang curry for one, and listened to the [...]

By | February 15th, 2018|Categories: COLUMNS, Only Noise|Tags: , , , , |0 Comments

ONLY NOISE: More Specials

Tonight I’m going to do something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I am going listen to a record, in full, and with all of the lights off, while doing nothing else, so help me god. This is how I used to listen to music. Before I had a smart phone, or a laptop, or a job. Before I had deadlines, a.k.a. homework I actually cared about. Before I had to cook my own meals. Back in those “before” days, the best place for listening to records was my friend Daniel’s bedroom, where we’d flip off all of [...]

ONLY NOISE: Mark E. Smith is Dead, Long Live Mark E. Smith!

For years I was certain that the Fall’s 1982 album Hex Enduction Hour was in fact called: Hex Education Hour – perhaps referring to some BBC instructional program for budding witches. An ex had ripped the record onto CD for me and delivered it in a sort of comprehensive British post punk bundle, which contained discs by Gang of Four, New Order, and the Smiths. I would like to blame my misreading of Hex Enduction Hour on the illegible sharpie scrawled across my copy. Unfortunately, I can’t find the CD anywhere. Maybe it was improperly labeled The Hex Education Hour, [...]

ONLY NOISE: Remembering Dolores O’Riordan

When the Cranberries released their debut record Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? I was not quite four years old. It was 1993, and two household DJs named Mom and Dad would determine my musical tastes for at least another five years. Those years passed quickly. By the time we were on the heels of a new millennium, I was finally catching up with the '90s and the music that had shaped my first decade on Earth. Eventually, I would catch up with the Cranberries, too. Interestingly enough, my introduction to the Cranberries (and the vast majority [...]

By | January 18th, 2018|Categories: COLUMNS, Only Noise|Tags: , , , |0 Comments

ONLY NOISE: Talkin’ About a Resolution

I’m not two weeks into 2018 and I still haven’t gone to the gym, started paying my student loans, or repaired the ripped and button-less pile of clothing in my bedroom. Fortunately, I’m not alone. How long do most people last when attempting their new routines – the ones drafted under that misleading label New Year’s Resolutions? Is your credit already improving? Do you see abs forming on your once shapeless midriff? If the answer is “yes” to either of those questions, please do not tell me. The expectation to do better the moment the clock strikes 12:00 can be [...]

ONLY NOISE: A Year In Song

Certain songs have a way of tangling themselves in our days, weeks, and months, eventually embedding themselves in our psyche, forever to be associated with the particular time and place in which they meant the most to us. Here, Madison looks back on 2017 by recounting the songs that dominated each month of the year - sometimes because of the anticipation of a live show, sometimes after crate-digging yielded a new discovery, and sometimes, maybe too often, because they helped mend a broken heart. - Ed. January: Austra, “Future Politics” This song represented two facets of optimism at the start [...]

ONLY NOISE: Goodbye Sunday

In the two brief periods I lived in London, I developed a new relationship with Sundays. For 15 plus years of my life, Sunday was directly associated with Monday, and therefore brought about a rash of panic as the unfinished homework piled up and the unknown week stretched like a canyon before me. In college, there was no Sunday freedom. The sewing studios at FIT were open seven days a week until 2am. I would work on my projects incessantly, catching the train back to Brooklyn in the wee hours and sometimes heading straight to the Pratt campus, where the [...]

By | December 28th, 2017|Categories: COLUMNS, Only Noise|Tags: , , , , |0 Comments

ONLY NOISE: Winter Preview

We’ve all been a bit preoccupied thinking about the musical headlines of 2017, but I’m here to do a little forward-thinking this week. The temperatures have finally dropped to seasonally appropriate lows, Uber is hiking its carfare, and I’m craving soup. That’s right: It’s winter. And while this isn’t the most wonderful season in New York (see: snow of every color but white), there is still a hell of a lot of great music coming out in the next three months. Whether it’s a long-awaited record by Nils Frahm or a New Year’s Eve gig by Hot Chip, musicians sure [...]

ONLY NOISE: A Certain Age

It was difficult enough for my dad to watch his daughter trade in lime green skorts and butterfly baseball tees for army fatigues and combat boots. Stranger were the glue-fixed hairdos and safety pins that were to come. But nothing could prepare either of us for the discomfort he and I (but mostly I) found in the late summer of 2002, at Seattle’s Experience Music Project. The exact date is too deeply buried in Internet archives, but I’m almost positive that this particular outing to EMP fell on a Sunday in September, just days before I started the seventh grade. [...]

By | December 14th, 2017|Categories: COLUMNS, Only Noise|Tags: , , , , |0 Comments

ONLY NOISE: Hear to Listen

The other night I found myself hovering over a smorgasbord of tiny sandwiches. I did not expect the SONOS store on Greene Street to offer such treats, and as a result of my plummeting blood sugar levels, I swallowed as many as possible in quick succession, like Scooby-Doo’s gluttonous pal Shaggy. Fortunately, I was able to scarf down the teetering structures of fig, bacon, and biscuit before the panelists took their seats. I would have felt ok munching in front of the rakish Mick Rock and easygoing, eternally Midwestern Mark Mothersbaugh, but Perfect Pussy’s Meredith Graves looked far too elegant [...]

ONLY NOISE: Christmas Wrapping

I’m not one to jumpstart holiday season. For the previous nine years, I’ve left Christmas shopping until December 23rd – and if it weren’t for my annual Christmas Eve flight, I’d likely wait another day. As of now, I haven’t even begun making my Christmas list, on which I assign gift ideas to relatives. This usually occurs on December 22nd. Fortunately, my unquestionably kinder and more responsible older sister texted me earlier this week, asking if a certain member of our family would or would not like a couple of albums she was considering gifting them (I can’t get too specific [...]

ONLY NOISE: Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving is a controversial holiday with a wretched color scheme. The Hallmark credo of thankfulness is thin when stretched against this country’s historical relationship with Native Americans. The shirking of materialism is undercut when Black Friday rolls around. To many, Thanksgiving is merely a day to get tanked, watch college football, and shout about politics with Uncle Larry. Holidays are hard for me. I’m not religious, my family lives 3,000 miles away, and if I did live closer to them, I’d have to decide which half to celebrate with. I don’t like the premise of most holidays either – the [...]

ONLY NOISE: One Ball to Rule Them All

  The town I grew up in didn’t have a roller rink. Sure, there was a five-lane bowling alley and a one-screen movie theater, but roller rinks were too big for the bite-sized britches of Arlington, Washington. There are many consequences of a town with no roller rink – namely that it becomes by default a town with no disco ball, and that is no place to live, my friends. Marysville, Washington, the next town over, was no place to live either, but it had something we Arlingtonians did not: a roller rink. With skates, and shakes, and a disco [...]


Somewhere in a parallel universe lives a Karma Comedian, a Cheerio Girl, and a one-winged dove. Dirty deeds are done by Thunder Chiefs, and Tony Danza holds us closer…so close. This is the Land of Misheard Lyrics, and it is a silly, silly place. Yet it is a place we are all familiar with, having suffered varying degrees of humiliation during our visits there. For this installment of Only Noise, I reached out to my friends and fellow music journalists to ask: what lyrics have you tragically misheard in the past? And oh, how the gems rolled in. Some misinterpretations [...]

ONLY NOISE: The Queen of Halloween

Don’t let the weather fool you; it’s the right time of year for chills, and I’m not talking about temperature. ‘Tis the season for screams, and witches, and all things terrifying, and personally, I can’t get enough of it. In the lead up to Halloween (or as I like to call it: The Greatest Holiday on Earth), I have been on a steady diet of horror movies, scary books, and spooky music. It’s Bauhaus for breakfast, Stephen King for lunch, and Wes Craven for dinner – a well-balanced meal plan on any given day in October. While watching The Thing [...]

ONLY NOISE: With A Bullet

Last week, after publishing “Don’t Take Your Guns to Town,” I took the train across the East River to see a movie. A bit of distraction seemed necessary in that moment, even if it was in the form of a demonic clown named Pennywise. Sitting on the Manhattan-bound C train, I noticed a man in a grey flannel suit to my left. He, like most modern passengers, was fixated on his smart phone. The glow of its screen did not reflect Candy Crush, Snapchat, or Instagram, however, but a P.O.V. shooter game. The tap of his thumb did not cause [...]

ONLY NOISE: Don’t Take Your Guns To Town

Last Saturday, while performing at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom, Marilyn Manson was crushed by a falling stage prop. The assailing object was not a steel cage, nor a neon pentagram, but a sculpture of two massive handguns affixed to scaffolding. Manson was rushed to the hospital with undisclosed injuries. Though it was a frightening incident (and one that led him to eventually cancel several upcoming tour dates), the knowledge that Manson was not in critical condition allowed a bit of black humor to creep into the scenario. Not 10 days prior, Manson pulled a toy gun on The Guardian’s Alexis [...]

ONLY NOISE: One More Cup of Coffee

I’ve stopped counting the number of times “coffee” is mentioned in Patti Smith’s M Train. The short answer is: a lot; coffee is the lifeblood coursing through the entire book. Coffee is the daily elixir of Smith’s life, and she finds great poetry in every sip – from hand-selected, highland grown beans in Veracruz, to the charred offerings of Styrofoam deli cups – she wants “to write an aria to coffee.” Yet, quite surprisingly, the poet and songwriter never did. Smith’s connotations with coffee result from her caffeine-fueled memoirs and New York coffee shop patronage, and she is therefore one [...]

ONLY NOISE: Fall Preview

Benjamin Clementine's I Tell A Fly arrives October 2. Tomorrow marks the first day of autumn. You might not believe it given these muggy 80-degree days, but Fall is upon us nevertheless. Fall is the best for multiple reasons, including turtlenecks, Halloween, and mock-necks; but it is also a time when things die. Leaves. Bar backyards. Your summer tan. All gone. Looking back on this time last year, I was writing about the death (or at least prolonged hibernation) of CMJ. Now I could add the Village Voice, Rolling Stone, and potentially The Deli Magazine to that obituary. [...]

ONLY NOISE: Back In The New York Groove

It was native New Yorker Lou Reed who sang, “Give me your hungry, your tired, your poor/I'll piss on 'em/that's what the Statue of Bigotry says” in “Dirty Blvd.” The wry piece of poetry was one of many city-centric tracks to grace Reed’s New York LP from 1989. While Reed’s lyrics sound hateful towards NYC, you might consider them more love/hate when you realize that the man who wrote them never left New York (well, New York State, at least). Lou Reed remained a New Yorker when he passed in 2013, and his city praises him still. I am no [...]


Sometimes, these columns are damn hard to spit out. It’s not always easy to remain enthralled with the music world, especially when the real world seems to be crumbling around us. We don’t have to pretend. 2017 has been a fucking nightmare. We’ve witnessed the inauguration of Donald J. Trump, North Korea launching a missile over Japan, devastating floods in Houston and South Asia, and rallies filled with actual Nazis, just to name few lows. I’m not a religious person, but I’m starting to expect widespread plague and a swarm of locusts any minute now. Just visiting The Guardian’s World [...]

ONLY NOISE: Waiting on Waits

This is the closest I will ever get to Tom Waits. I’m sitting at the bar of my dad’s bistro, listening to a live performance by The Bleeding Romeos… a Tom Waits cover band. Much to Mr. Waits’ presumed chagrin, I do not sip from a flask of cheap whiskey, but a glass of red wine. And no – it is not Carlo Rossi. My father has been planning this night for months. Having me home in Washington, fixed on a barstool, drinking in the songs of my favorite artist. I on the other hand, have been apprehensive about the [...]

ONLY NOISE: Campfire Songs

I never went to summer camp as a child. In fact, I didn’t really believe that anyone else did, either. Summer camp, like talking dogs and successful marriages, was the stuff of movies. Camp was a tradition I never longed for, or understood, or even thought of. So I was a bit surprised last month when my sister asked me to help out at her Teen Songwriting Retreat – as a camp counselor. A singer/songwriter, producer, performer, and music teacher by her own right, my sister has been cutting records and touring extensively since the early 2000s. Comparatively, I am [...]

ONLY NOISE: Beautiful Losers

Repeat after me: Loser. Double loser. Whatever. Moron. If you were a certain age in the late 1990s, this insult – when paired with the correct hand motions – was the ultimate dis to peers, siblings, and losers of every stripe. The term “loser” in the nineties and early ‘00s was plastered all over the place, from Beck’s breakout hit, to anti-drug PSAs, and that movie starring Jason Biggs’ trapper hat. The identity of the “loser” in music, however, is a far more complex thing than a girl “with her finger and her thumb in the shape of an "L" [...]

ONLY NOISE: Bringing It All Back Home

By the time you read this, I’ll be home. Not the home I’ve made for nearly a decade – not New York home. I’ll be “home” with a big “H.” The “home” Carole King sang of in “Home Again,” the home James Joyce fled but could never stop writing about, the home of countless poems and plays. It’s not controversial to say that most songs are about love in some capacity, but I would wager that music about home – whether leaving or returning – makes up a hefty portion of the American songbook as well. Some say there’s no [...]

ONLY NOISE: Leave The Party

Think about the last party you threw. Think about the beer bought and balloons inflated. Remember the quiche you labored over, only to realize no one wants to eat quiche at a party. Now consider the playlist you made. Don’t deny it – we all know you spent three lunch breaks compiling a shindig score entitled “Fiesta Mix.” Now tell me – was your party (despite irrelevant quiche) a hit? Did “Fiesta Mix” incite a collective boogie? Did hips swing and booties shake, rattling the room with merriment? Well congratulations, my friend; you have accomplished something far beyond my abilities. [...]

ONLY NOISE: Summer In The City

What does summer sound like? For those of you living in respectable locales, it may sound like the buzz of John Deer lawnmowers, or a nighttime orchestra of cicadas. Summer anywhere but New York might hum along to the tune of unfurling picnic blankets and jet skis zipping across lakes. But for New Yorkers, the hot season presents a whole new catalogue of sounds – and smells – to take in. Summer in New York is unlike summer anywhere else. Where July in, say, Bethesda, Maryland brings the whizzing of Frisbees on crisp air, NYC’s July sounds like asthmatics wheezing [...]

ONLY NOISE: Not With The Band

Sam Riley as Ian Curtis and Alexandra Maria Lara as Annik Honore in Anton Corbijn's 2007 film Control Imagine it. Spring Fling, 2005. Kevin, the object of your eternal tweenage desire, is playing the school dance – in his band. That’s right. Kevin is in a band. Or, more accurately, Kevin has a band. You see, he writes the songs, and the lyrics. He sings them, and plays the electric guitar. It’s a Stratocaster. He got it last year for his birthday. Kevin looks great tonight. He’s just gotten a haircut, and he’s wearing that shirt that you [...]

ONLY NOISE: Songs From Abroad

The plan was as simple as it was unprepared; utilize my two-week vacation in Paris and the UK to discover new music, catch some live shows, and, well…write about it. It would be a piece of cake (or, as the French say, a piece de cake). What I didn’t expect was that my innate aversion to planning anything while on vacation – even so much as Googling what concert to attend that night – was far stronger than my desire to potentially write off my entire trip (hiiiii IRS). You see, I’m a big fan of the “stumble-upon;” those situations [...]

By | July 13th, 2017|Categories: COLUMNS, Only Noise|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

ONLY NOISE: Aural Anesthesia

Last year, before the presidential election tore through the fabric of reality like Dr. Who’s Tardis, a friend invited me to indulge in her Groupon – for a float. “Floating” aka “Flotation Therapy,” is a physically simple practice achieved by resting your naked self atop a highly concentrated saline solution. The super salty pool (upwards of 1,000 pounds of salt for just a bath’s amount of tepid water) suspends your bod like a buoy, and allegedly alleviates you of any tactile sensation. Though comprised of rudimentary ingredients, this spa trend can cost exorbitant prices ($75-$130 per “float”) when paired with [...]

ONLY NOISE: A Femme’s Guide To Northside

The first step is acceptance: you can’t see it all. It’s just not possible. The second step is showing up. But there are many more steps to doing Northside Festival right – and I don’t mean right as opposed to wrong – I simply mean having fun, staying hydrated, and not passing out from a sudden drop in your blood sugar. Take it from someone who makes a living overbooking herself at events like these (I once thought I could manage seeing six shows in one night at CMJ… after working from 9-6). With over 350 bands playing in four [...]

ONLY NOISE: Come Dancing

My earliest memories of dance involve ballet – or at least my sloppy stab at it. More than actual dancing, I remember the shined and scuffed Marley flooring; that pleated, boiled-wool skirt flopping over Ms. Burgwin’s sad calves; and most of all, the utter confusion as to why the hell my fellow ballerinas and I weren’t wearing tutus and tiaras at all times. Was ballet not princess training after all? Was I in the wrong room? Ballet class was a rigid environment that, even at five, I failed to see the point of. I thought I wanted to learn ballet…but [...]

ONLY NOISE: Personal Record

I no longer own my very first record. It was AFI’s Very Proud of Ya, (that’s pre-emo AFI for those of you wondering), and I bought it in Seattle with my own allowance. I can still hear it spinning on the portable turntable my dad leant me for late night bedroom listening. The portable record player was a goofy little invention. It was called a Discman, which is hilarious in retrospect considering its makers couldn’t have predicted the imminent reign of CDs and their portable players. The Discman was essentially useless – the LP’s edges protruded from its sides, there [...]

ONLY NOISE: Summertime Blues

The shorts are out. The pasty, prickly legs wearing the shorts are out, too. It’s sunny every day and we’re starting to remember that we own arms, and shins, and sandals. Birds chirp in the morning, cats moan at night, and hemlines rise with the temperatures. Isn’t it great? That all depends. Sure, we’re in pleasant weather now, but before you know it you’ll be sweating through pants and underpants, kicking your bedmate away at night, and trying to schmooze your way into the esteemed echelons of friends with air conditioning units. Summer is upon us early this year, prompting [...]


“Teenage, teenage/I want a car, I want a girl.” It’s 10am, and the 1979 hit “Teenage” by L.A. punks The Weirdos rotates maliciously in my head. I meant to wake up hours ago, but the weighty fuzz of last night’s beer kept me tucked in. “Teenage, teenage/Don’t wanna work, don’t wanna go to school.” I don’t believe it. I’m being mocked by my subconscious – and I haven’t even had coffee yet. My dream state has produced an apt song to score the morning. It must have known that I’ve been feeling “Teenage, teenage…” I’ve been thinking a lot about [...]

ONLY NOISE: Wallflower

Self-deprecation is easy. When at a loss for things to write about, I can merely plumb the depths of my humiliating infatuations – never having to dive all that deep (more of a snorkel than a scuba, really). There are so many incriminating things floating atop that black and expansive pool; black, due to its enormity, but also because of its propensity for blackmail. Yes, I have written about musical guilty pleasures before, but on a more theoretical level. There are always more blood-and-guts specifics to dig into. This mining urge surfaces today, as a bittersweet email drifts into my inbox [...]

ONLY NOISE: Playlist Memories

In a clever bit of self-effacing paid content, The Guardian’s Stephen Armstrong delves into the mixtape vs. playlist debate – on the behalf of Spotify. While I’m no fan of sponsored content on principle, I have to admit that the piece is well written and funny, and it poses an interesting question: “Were Mixtapes Better Than Modern Playlists?” Although I make them on a regular basis to accompany cheeky articles of my own, I’ve had a tenuous relationship with playlists... especially as services like Pandora and Spotify have rendered the medium. Like me, Armstrong doesn’t sound entirely sold on the [...]

By | April 27th, 2017|Categories: COLUMNS, Only Noise|Tags: , , , , , , , |0 Comments

ONLY NOISE: Creatures of Discomfort

A few nights ago at a bar, someone asked me a reasonable but difficult question: what do I want to experience when listening to music? What do I look for in a band? I floundered briefly, rattling off some vague declaration about placing a “good song” above any technical music ability. “What do you mean, a 'good' song?" my interviewer prodded (this person is a reporter by day). “You can’t just say, ‘good' song; obviously you prefer a 'good' song – but what makes a good song to you?” Touché. I stewed over the question momentarily, thinking of other forms [...]

ONLY NOISE: A Can Of Earworms

It is unrelenting. Circular. A clump of chains I can’t untangle. It is like that hedge maze in The Shining: I cannot get out of it. I am trapped. Trapped in the ceaseless sax solo from George Michael’s “Careless Whisper.” But why? Why is it stuck in my head, in a perpetual loop? What part of my frontal lobe – a locality so full of things that are not George Michael songs – has weakened in just the right moment for that slithery little woodwind to slip in? And furthermore: where did I even hear it in the first place? [...]

ONLY NOISE: Big Sister’s Clothes

Who are the great musical influencers of our lives? Lovers, friends, parents, librarians. The people who were in close proximity when our cultural preferences were still small, squishy, and developing. Their impact on our taste was indispensable and unforgettable, as they passed down songs to us like cherished family recipes. Rare is the record collection built solely from autonomous discovery – because that wouldn’t be very interesting, would it? But what about that other person in your life? The one who got the bigger bedroom, the better car, and all of the boys? The keeper of crucial adolescent information, such [...]

ONLY NOISE: Kill Your Idols

Bob Dylan is finally going to accept his Nobel Prize…with a taped lecture. Ed Sheeran is losing his “nice guy” status and getting called out as a blatant misogynist. Even in death, Chuck Berry can’t escape his reputation as a scat-loving pederast. We listen to them. We love them. We live for what they do. Hell, I make my wages writing about them. But let’s face it: musicians can be massive assholes. Entering adulthood, we all experience the humanizing of our parents. The great gods of early childhood, those people who said that yes, you could watch Beavis and Butthead, [...]

ONLY NOISE: Welcome to the Workless Week

Rihanna is doing everything I am not. “Work, work, work, work, work, work/You see me I be work, work, work, work, work, work,” she barks through the café sound system – as if she knows. Another sunny day in the neighborhood. It is loping along at a drowsy pace. Parks are barren – full of empty benches. There is no line at the post office, and my favorite corner in the local coffee shop is dutifully awaiting me. I’m not dreaming. I’m not lucky. I am unemployed. And it’s just a weekday. As luck would have it, I’ve been laid [...]

ONLY NOISE: 50 Shades of Sade

Something smooth is afoot. Suddenly, as if surfacing on the pop charts for the first time, Sade is played, sung, and mentioned in nearly every room I enter. “The Sweetest Taboo” slinks across my favorite coffee shop. “No Ordinary Love” sashays through my kitchen. “Smooth Operator” blares from restaurant speakers…or comes as close to blaring as a song like “Smooth Operator” can. Have I missed something here? I feel like I’m unhip to some universal punch line – as if the town around me has burst into a choreographed dance routine and I’m the only one who finds it strange. [...]

By | March 16th, 2017|Categories: COLUMNS, Only Noise|Tags: , , , , , |0 Comments

ONLY NOISE: Lost and Found

I take the same path to the same coffee shop every week. Down DeKalb Avenue, a right on Franklin Avenue, a left on Greene Avenue, and a final right on Bedford Avenue. My gait is calculated and mechanical. A determined trudge. There is nothing romantic about this habit, and while I’d like to applaud its efficiency, I haven’t actually done the math to prove that this course is the fastest. In truth, I take this route because it is the one I first took to the coffee shop. It is repeated out of reflex and muscle memory and stubbornness. It [...]

ONLY NOISE: Backstreet’s Back

An email has landed in my inbox. It is an arrow, shot from my childhood – and aimed at my heart. Piercing deeply, it stings me with eight simple words: Backstreet Boys Las Vegas Residency Starts Next Wednesday I am reeling, as if a long gone relative has risen from the dead. Backstreet’s back?! ALRIGHT! To be painfully honest, I was already planning on writing about Backstreet Boys eventually. The email plugging their Vegas comeback was a serendipitous bonus. But was it really a bonus? Or a sign? A friend recently asked me what the first record I ever bought [...]

ONLY NOISE: #NotMyPresident’s Day

You remember it. You know you do. Every morning, at 9am sharp. Standing. Hat off. Left arm, stiff at your side. Right hand resting on heart – reluctantly. All together now: "I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." There came a time in my elementary school life, when this routine incantation became unbearable to perform. Naturally, this sudden sourness coincided with the election of George W. Bush, and his subsequent invasions and monstrosities. As we approach our first [...]

ONLY NOISE: Only The Lonely

When Beyoncé so wisely instructed “All the single ladies” (ALL the single ladies) to “put your hands up,” it was a different time. It was 2008. A year of innocence. We had elected Obama. Beach House had released Devotion. And single ladies everywhere felt empowered by Queen B’s anthem for autonomy. I’d just moved to New York, 18 and wet behind the ears. I couldn’t wait to have my own fashion line, a loft in Soho, and to party with The Strokes – all of which happened in rapid succession. (#AlternativeFacts.) Back then, 99% of my friends were single, and [...]

ONLY NOISE: The Art of Dissent

If you are paying attention to the political sector right now – and I’d be concerned yet impressed if you’ve managed to escape it – every day may feel like a battle. Those who have suffered depression will be uncomfortably familiar with this sentiment. The difference being: now we experience distress as a collective whole. Shared unrest can at least make us feel less solitary, but it comes with its own set of side effects. A sense of widespread and impending doom, for instance. In times like these, it is easy to write off seemingly frivolous forms of catharsis. To [...]

By | February 2nd, 2017|Categories: COLUMNS, Only Noise|Tags: , , , , , , , , |0 Comments


I have considered writing this many times – but I never felt it was ready. It would be ready, I thought, when my mastery of the piano was complete. Or more realistically, when my proficiency at the piano was deemed certifiable. Certifiable by whom, I was never sure. I now realize how silly that would be. The story would never be told. Two years ago, during a period of prolonged illness, I spent two months in my native Washington State. Words minced: it was a difficult time. A time in which there were few relaxing moments. I was preoccupied, even [...]

ONLY NOISE: Marching Songs

Despite their history, politics and pop culture have an unsteady relationship. When we look specifically at music and politics, there lies an on-again, off-again affair that is as fickle as a middle school romance.

ONLY NOISE: All The Rage

Long has anger been a stigmatized emotion – more so for women than men, unfortunately. What is an incensed woman to do when she is told for decades that 12 Angry Men look like passionate, dutiful citizens, but one angry woman looks like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction?

By | January 12th, 2017|Categories: COLUMNS, Only Noise|Tags: , , , , , , |0 Comments

ONLY NOISE: Hopefulness

This year, I hope that in addition to pushing the boundaries sonically, artists will continue to use their work to further political and social discourse the way Solange did with A Seat At The Table, Anohni with HOPELESSNESS, and Common with Black America Again.

ONLY NOISE: A Love Letter to Nils Frahm

Whether he is melding the worlds of classical and electronica, or discovering that an overlooked household object can be the perfect mallet for a grand piano, Frahm is truly one of a kind.

ONLY NOISE: Cover to Cover

Cover songs as a genre get a bad rep, it seems. Covers = karaoke, or worse, Covers = Cover Bands.


But I refuse to accept that shagging to a soundtrack is only for teens and broke city-dwellers. Despite how “cheesy” and juvenile some might find it, I’m always down for some rock n’ roll in the hay...provided it’s awesome.

ONLY NOISE: Punk Rock, Patrimony, & Pyrotechnics

I’ve been following allegations that multimillionaire Joe Corré – spawn of fashion designer Vivienne Westwood and late Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren – would set fire to roughly $6,000,000 worth of punk memorabilia.

ONLY NOISE: Memento Mori – Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen, though enormously different than David Bowie, was similar in the sense that he never tarnished. In his decades of writing and recording, he remained at his own golden standard, one that few others have touched.

ONLY NOISE: The Day the Country Died

You can go to Burning Man all you want if you can afford it, but you still live here. In reality. In the U.S. of A. And as of this election, you now live under the Trump administration.

ONLY NOISE: Music For Airports

Considering we can’t have free booze or even decent food (let alone free decent food) perhaps the good people of these airlines would allow some sort of in-flight access to any and all of the music you damn pleased.

ONLY NOISE: Nevermind Nirvana

Dear Carl, Why do I hate Nirvana? -The Guilty Washingtonian.

ONLY NOISE: Shiny Happy Pop Songs Holding Hands

I have appointed myself with the task of making a playlist of songs I enjoy for their sheer mood-erecting abilities, which was harder than you might think. They can’t just be any peppy pop songs. I have to love of course. I may be in a good mood, but I’m still a snob.

By | October 13th, 2016|Categories: COLUMNS, Only Noise|Tags: , , , , , , , |1 Comment

ONLY NOISE: Bad Feminist (Music Writer)

  Patti Smith 1975 Robert Mapplethorpe 1946-1989 ARTIST ROOMS Acquired jointly with the National Galleries of Scotland through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008 One might quickly assume that the longtime alum of a feminist music website would have her political priorities in order. She might listen to primarily female artists or fondly recall her Riot Grrrl days. Perhaps she would be up on VICE's Gloria Steinem-helmed series WOMAN. At the very least she would possess a wealth of knowledge in the field of musical herstory. But [...]

ONLY NOISE: Dropping The Neutron Bomb

Informative the book was; innocent it was not. What my dad had unknowingly placed in my crimeless little hands was an instruction manual on bad behavior.

ONLY NOISE: Get Well Soon, CMJ

Around this time of year I start to crave horror movie marathons, and turtlenecks, and potpie. But more than anything, at this time of year I am usually preparing for the once annual CMJ Music Marathon.

By | September 22nd, 2016|Categories: COLUMNS, Only Noise|Tags: , , , , , , |0 Comments

ONLY NOISE: Love From Afar

It is funny, and also frustrating that though all of the humanity has felt the sensation of long distance longing for another person, only a select few of us can distill that longing into an art form.

ONLY NOISE: An Anthem For The In-Between

Stephen Malkmus has always been the king of nonchalance and blasé, putting boredom on a stick and somehow making it seem appetizing.

ONLY NOISE: Poison Pen – The Discretely Vicious Songs of Elvis Costello

The best insults are those that fly over our heads. Those that for a minute maybe sound like praise. Those that strike with a delay…like a cut from a sharp blade that doesn’t begin to bleed until several moments after incision.


Waits has since become my favorite artist of all time, completely altering my perception of what makes music great, and what makes art worthwhile. I think it’s safe to say that that night changed my life forever, and it was of course all because of the good people at 90.3 FM.

ONLY NOISE: A Man Called Priddy

I knew he was an immense connoisseur of wine and rich food. I knew that he used to bury fossils from all over the world in his Orange County yard to “confuse future scientists. And I know his record collection.

ONLY NOISE: For the Love of the Struggle

But here exists the dilemma with a junk shop record dive: it’s 99 percent grueling pursuit and one percent success.

ONLY NOISE: The Ethos of Ezra Furman

It takes a lot of balls to wear a dress. Shit, I have a hard time with it, and I lack the pesky external organ complicating the endeavor to begin with. However, Ezra Furman’s ballsiness goes far beyond his ability to look excellent in a miniskirt. And he does look excellent.

ONLY NOISE: Memento Mori-Alan Vega

“I think all art comes out of conflict.” It was the American novelist Joyce Carol Oates who spoke these words, but it was Alan Vega who lived them.

ONLY NOISE: Love Songs (Without All That Baggage)

I speak from personal experience when I say that dating a socially inept log who, literally cannot “get with my friends,” is nothing short of excruciating.

ONLY NOISE: A Message To You, Moody

There is only one album that pinches me awake from the downward swirling hellhole of a bad mood. It’s The Specials’ 1979 self-titled debut that does it. It is my only hope, and I toss it back like a shot of bourbon after a long workday.

ONLY NOISE: The Good, The Bad, and The Guilty

Like U2 has the power to cause chemical equilibrium and suddenly disable all of your good tastes.

ONLY NOISE: The Weird World Of Jerry Paper

Much like Daft Punk are robots with beating, blood-pumping hearts, Jerry Paper is code with soul.

ONLY NOISE: Pop Of The Tops: Extended Remix

With Father's Day around the corner, Madison Bloom revisits her dad's record collection.


Founded in 2002, BBC 6’s slogan claims that it is “The place for the best Alternative Music. From Indie Pop and Iconic Rock to Trip Hop, Electronica and Dance with great Archive Music Sessions, Live Music Concerts and Documentaries.” Somehow that statement still seems to be putting it lightly.

ONLY NOISE: French Touch Me – A Love Letter To Daft Punk

I kept going. Discovery, TRON: Legacy (the soundtrack), Human After All. I loved each for their own qualities, and appreciated that not one was like the next.

ONLY NOISE: Falling in Love With Punk Rock Through Secondhand Smoke

Mine wasn’t a lesson in grunge, but punk rock, and it began on Valentine’s Day in sixth grade.


Welcome to the second installment of "Only Noise," in which Madison Bloom writes a memoir with music.  A mixtape is something Generation Y shouldn’t grasp the importance of. Despite the small number of people who claim to prefer the sound of tape, mixtapes today are largely leveraged as devices of kitsch and nostalgia. There is of course the tape renaissance in the cottage punk industry. Once declining tape-manufacturing plants such as National Audio Company are finding newfound profits in reel-to-reel, and brands like Urban Outfitters are eager to get in on the “vintage” trend. The clothing retailer made a gesture [...]

ONLY NOISE: In Memoriam: David Bowie

After my parents separated, my mom converted our home into what she liked to call “The House of Freedom.” Upon entering The House of Freedom, it was recommended you remove your bra. There, the Halloween decorations hung around into the New Year and Christmas lights punctuated our window frames long past their respective season. In The House of Freedom we took dinner on the couch, our plates sat on pillows propped on knees while a movie played. One of mom’s favorite exercises in “freedom” was the constant attempt to dissuade my studious pursuits. “And if the homework/brings you down/then we’ll [...]

By | April 19th, 2016|Categories: COLUMNS, Only Noise|2 Comments