BOOK REVIEW: Liz Phair Lights Up the Dark Side in Horror Stories Memoir


Liz Phair photo credit: Elizabeth Weinberg

Liz Phair is a badass and always will be. Time has not dulled this truth teller. Her vulnerability is a weapon – honed and aware – and the world is better for it.

Earlier this month, she released her first book, Horror Stories, a raw, unexpected collection of 17 personal essays. This isn’t the drug-fueled, name-dropping adventures you’d expect from a rockstar memoir. It’s something different; quieter, more intimate. These are stories of love and loss that have shaped Phair’s life – those seemingly small, often painful moments that stick with you forever.

Phair first kicked us in the guts with Exile in Guyville in 1993, cutting through the alt-rock-bro scene with a self-assurance and sexuality not expected of women (on “Flower” Phair sweetly rounds “Every time I see your face I get all wet between my legs” with “I want to fuck you like a dog”). A visual artist at Oberlin, she started making the Girly-Sound tapes in Chicago, soon catching the attention of Matador Records with her lo-fi authenticity. Whip-Smart (1994) soon followed, solidifying her feminist icon status and earning two Grammy nominations.

I was 14 when I first heard Guyville. It was 1995, the internet was a newborn babe and I was stuck on an island 2,000 miles away from anything cool. But after a business trip to New York City, my dad came home with three albums that changed everything: Guyville, The Breeders’ Last Splash, and Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill (shout out to the angel with a nose piercing who pointed my old man in the right direction). That music was everything – girls with guitars speaking their truths, not worrying about looking or sounding perfect. Loud, angry and brutally honest, I was hooked and still am.

As the nineties closed and pop music dominated, Phair moved to Capitol records, releasing the more mainstream whitechocolatespaceegg (1998), Liz Phair (2003), and Somebody’s Miracle (2005) to brutal criticism as she gained public popularity. But by 2018, Phair began to experience something of a renaissance – reuniting with Matador to reissue Girly-Sound To Guyville: The 25th Anniversary Box Set, showcasing the original tracks with new unreleased songs. It was this project, along with the U.S. political fiasco and loss of iconic musicians in 2016, that inspired her to look closer at her own history. The confessional Horror Stories is part one, with part two, Fairy Tales (release date TBD), digging into more of the music.

Phair writes like she sings – confident, intimate, human. Exploring prose in a way that feels instinctual and original, and yet so classically her. “What I can’t articulate is the way my soul resides in my pussy; in my clitoris, to be exact. It’s not just biological tissue to me. It’s a whole different way of knowing.” Amen, sister.

Between tales of surviving the NYC blizzard and blackout are unguarded reflections on faith, monogamy, and motherhood. Each chapter a non-linear exposure of childhood embarrassment, teenage shame, and grownup regrets. Lines feel like song lyrics; her words giving shape to the sins we share. Regrets are punctuated with sharp bits of hilarity and pride.

From ignoring a drunk, passed-out freshman in the ladies room to breaking men’s hearts, Horror Stories exposes Phair’s behavior so that we can feel better about our own. She wants us to know that to be human is to be imperfect. And that’s beautiful. “We spend so much time hiding what we’re ashamed of, denying what we’re wounded by, and portraying ourselves as competent, successful individuals that we don’t always realize where and when we’ve gone missing. Our flaws and our failures make us relatable, not unlovable.”

And flaws she exposes, often unintentionally. The whiffs of white, affluent, attractive privilege are hard to ignore. She stumbles when faced with #MeToo. The chapter titled Hashtag gives light to her own painful and numerous sexual assaults, painting a stark picture of what it means to be a female trailblazer in a man’s world. But the message falls short when Phair is caught up in Ryan Adams’ NYTimes reckoning. “We are trapped in a culture of silence,” she writes, acknowledging her own denial being driven by ingrained coping mechanisms. Adams may be “hardly the worst monster” Phair has encountered, but her silence is disappointing and she knows it.

This week, Phair was in San Francisco for her book tour, joined on stage by MTV News alum Tabitha Soren. Presented by Noise Pop and City Arts & Lectures, they discussed the memoir and songs behind the stories. Today’s Phair is frank but polite, asking the audience if it’s okay to curse before gifting us this nugget: “When I made Guyville, I was sick of boyfriends and guys telling me what music was good. I think I just needed to say to them that it’s not that fucking hard.”

For over 25 years, Liz Phair has done the heavy lifting. She has put herself out there, writing songs that have been loved and eviscerated. The highs and lows, she says, have all been part of the plan. When Soren asks what drives her to create such intimate work, she responds, “I personally never feel stronger, never feel more powerful and more grounded to who I really am than when I have no armor on and I’m basically naked. Examining the weakest moments of our lives makes us stronger.”

The new music slated for early 2020 promises a return to her roots, reuniting with producer Brad Wood and engineer/guitarist Casey Rice, who both worked on the first three albums. “Good Side” is the first single, an easy palate cleanser, meant to balance out the darkness of the book.

Part of the magic of Phair’s music is in the space she leaves within it. Slowing down the tempo,  drawing out chords to leave the lyrics bare. She closes the conversation in SF with her last confession: “[With this book] I wanted to slow down time, of the myriad things that happen to you that aren’t great enough to tell your friends or that you don’t want to tell anyone about. Things that have shaped you and driven you throughout your life. I just… I don’t want to fucking hide anymore.”

PLAYING DETROIT: JRJR “Clean Up” Nice on New Track

There is an undeniable Paul Simon Graceland vibe veiled in the stripped down honesty of “Clean Up,” the latest track from indie pop darlings JRJR’s unofficial forthcoming record. The band (Josh Epstein, Dan Zott, Bryan Pope and Mike Higgins) have shifted their focus inward and in doing so has found that less is more. Though “Clean Up” is a far cry from their 2015 banger “Gone” it has a staying power for anyone silently wrestling their own inner demons, even without the anthemic production. “Hey, if I don’t go home soon/I’m gonna freak out/And I thought hey, if I don’t clean up/I know I’ll miss out” confesses a defeated Epstein, who has been open about his struggles with anxiety and mental health. Docile and feathery percussions paired with twinkling keys and a somber, hushed guitar, it’s these very subtleties in “Clean Up” that reveal a more vulnerable JRJR.  And though we have no doubts that they haven’t completely shed their penchant for showy pop-rock, it’s refreshing to see a band stripped down by experience and growth opposed to commercial success and label pressures.

Dust off and clean up with the latest therapy session from Detroit based JRJR:


Catch JRJR on tour this fall:

Thu, Oct 5 – Chicago, IL – House of Blues

Fri, Oct 6 – Minneapolis, MN – Fine Line

Sat, Oct 7 – Kansas City, MO – Record Bar

Mon, Oct 9 – Denver, CO – Bluebird Theater

Tue, Oct 10 – Salt Lake City, UT – Urban Lounge

Thu, Oct 12 – Seattle, WA – Neumos

Fri, Oct 13 – Portland, OR – Hawthorne

Sat, Oct 14 – San Francisco, CA – Independent

Mon, Oct 16 – Sacramento, CA – Harlow’s

Tue, Oct 17 – Pomona, CA – Glasshouse

Thu, Oct 19 – Los Angeles, CA – El Rey

Fri, Oct 20 – San Diego, CA – Irenic

Sat, Oct 21 – Phoenix, AZ – Lost Lake Music Fest

Sun, Oct 22 – Santa Fe, NM – Meow Wolf

Tue, Oct 24 – Dallas, TX – Trees

Wed, Oct 25 – Austin, TX – Mohawk

Thu, Oct 26 – Houston, TX – WOMH

Fri, Oct 27 – Birmingham, AL – Saturn

Sat, Oct 28 – Atlanta, GA – Masquerade – Hell Stage

Mon, Oct 30 – Nashville, TN – Basement East

Tue, Oct 31 – Carrboro, NC – Cat’s Cradle

Thu, Nov 2 – Washington, DC – 9:30 Club

Fri, Nov 3 – Philadelphia, PA – First Unitarian Church of Christ

Sat, Nov 4 – New York, NY – Irving Plaza

Sun, Nov 5 – Cambridge, MA – Sinclair

Tue, Nov 7 – Buffalo, NY – Waiting Room

Wed, Nov 8 – Toronto, ON – Velvet Underground

Thu, Nov 9 – Cleveland, OH – Beachland Ballroom

Fri, Nov 17 – Detroit, MI – El Club

Sat, Nov 18 – Detroit, MI – El Club


TRACK REVIEW: Betty Who “Human Touch”

Betty Who’s latest single “Human Touch” is the pop dream we’ve been waiting to have.

It’s bubbly and upbeat, danceworthy and synthy—pretty much, it’s everything we’ve come to expect from Betty Who at this point. The Australian songstress’ voice is layered in a way that makes it sound both silky and husky simultaneously, dancing between the varying synths. It’s fun, sexy and exultant, and will have you grabbing your dancing shoes, anxious for the weekend.

TRACK REVIEW: Goodman “Hiccup”

With a very Beatles-esque vibe, Goodman is here to bring a bit of sunshine and chill to your dreary winter days with his latest single “Hiccup.”

Singer/songwriter Michael Goodman delivers us this feel-good track that walks the line between pop rock and surf rock, and it’s got us feeling all sorts of feels. Its repetitive beat, peppered with claps and hiccups, will have you grooving in your seat.

Keep an eye out for his full-length album The Vicissitudes, which is expected to drop in February on Invertebrate Records.

TRACK REVIEW: Smallpools “Run with the Bulls”


Need an energy boost? Smallpools has got you covered with their latest song.

Upbeat, fast-paced, and energetic to an almost manic point, “Run with the Bulls” will shake you up and course throughout you. Then suddenly, just as you’re getting really into it, it’ll end, leaving you grasping in the darkness for more. With synths that won’t quit, a solid guitar riff, and vocals that bounce up, down, and around, you’ll feel yourself spinning out into a Smallpools-induced musical vortex. Don’t worry, it’s as exciting and wild as it sounds.

TRACK PREMIERE: Citrus & Katie “Sludge”

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Citrus & Katie’s latest track “Sludge” embodies its title, dredging its way through your system and sitting contentedly in your ears. It’s parts garage rock, funk, soul, and pop, making for an upbeat fusion track that’ll leave you smiling. For the most part, “Sludge” is true to its name as a slow moving track, until the end when it really picks up pace, kicking up the rock ‘n’ roll vibes and ending on a fun note. Take a listen to it below! Their new album, NSTYLDY is out this month.

TRACK REVIEW: Zella Day “Man on the Moon”


Bypass your morning coffee! Starting out with a chorus-y bang and accompaniment of keys, Zella Day’s “Man on the Moon” is the type of track that’ll kickstart your day and give you that much-needed pep in your step.

“Man on the Moon” is an ethereal beauty, surreal and dream-like from start to finish. It holds an air of normalcy until every chorus breaks down into the otherworldly again–its ability to capture the transcendental aligns oh so perfectly with the title. Appropriately, each chorus also has vocals that sound like a martian’s.

Take a listen below to this entrancing number.

TRACK REVIEW: MisterWives “Same Drugs”


You know what life has been missing? A new MisterWives track! And although it’s not a new track per se, as it’s a Chance the Rapper cover, it’s still a worthwhile song to add to your weekly playlist (because everyone has one of those, right?).

In a lot of ways, this single is a deviation from the MisterWives we’ve come to know and love. “Same Drugs” holds elements of gospel music, complete with clapping and soft “ooh’s” in the background, and is overall more low-key and serious compared their usual bubbly, fun sound. Frontwoman Mandy Lee slays the track with her signature quirky vocals, yet this track has a more sobering effect. She handles it masterfully, hitting highs, lows, and everything in between while dodging playfully alongside keys and brass. It’s a great reminder that we all need a lot more MisterWives in our lives–and hopefully sooner rather than later.

PLAYING DETROIT: Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas “Hot Damn”

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A firecracker personified, Jessica Hernandez (and her Deltas, respectively) embodies the grit, the groove, and the gloriously kaleidoscopic rock nuances that Detroit is best known for. Their notable Gogol Bordello-esque flamboyance and unapologetically cool gypsy-punk vibe has shaped the radius of the Detroit rock radar for the past few years both growing and refining along the way. Returning with their first single since 2014, “Hot Damn” is spicy, seductive and demanding. Aggressive fuzz-filled guitar and drums that err on the punk side of the spectrum pair well with the passionately temperate rabbit hole free fall that is “Hot Damn.” Hernandez’s vibrant vibrato seems inhuman, like a bird putting a fork in an electrical outlet. It shakes, rattles and yet pulls back effectively to remind the listener that Hernandez’s specialty is her range as much as it is her ability to control the vocal chaos. “I can be your baby / I know that I seem crazy” Hernandez howls, summoning what can only be imagined as a lover on all fours, Hernandez tugging the leash upward. Even if the single isn’t intended to be as in-your-face and commanding as it sounds, it elicits a volcanic disturbance that is as much of a choose-your-own-adventure as it is an unhinged anthem for the thick skinned and love craving masses.

“Hot Damn” is available on Spotify now.


TRACK REVIEW: Trails and Ways “Get Loud”


It’s been a minute since we’ve heard new releases from Trails and Ways, but after a four-year pause, it’s exciting to see a slew of fresh music from the band. One of which is the energetic power pop single “Get Loud.”

The track has an addictive beat and subdued yet captivating vocals that do a fantastic job of staying on top of the pace. Short, sweet, and relatively simple, “Get Loud” is just an overall fantastic feel-good song. It also somehow feels very early 2000s mainstream rock while maintaining an air of relevance that one-hit wonders of the late 90s would be enviable of.

Keep a tab on Trails and Ways to see what else they’ll be sending our way!

TRACK REVIEW: Memoryy “Read My Lips (King Deco Remix)”


Have you ever listened to a song that feels both fast and slow at the same time? Well, once you’ve listened to Memoryy’s “Read My Lips King Deco Remix” you can say you have.

Memoryy’s remix adds a sultry, sexy twang to King Deco’s original track, commanding your attention with spine-tingling synths and bass. The song carries you along a slow build up of snaps and airy vocals to end with a fiery synth explosion that’s endearingly cacophonic. It grows outward and upward, climbing like a vine along a wall, and before you know it, you’ll be sitting on the edge of your seat sitting straight up, fully immersed in its beauty as it blooms before you.

Take a listen to the track below, and let it shape your week.



Get ready to dance off your extra Thanksgiving turkey weight to DRUZY’s latest track “How You Feel,” a vulnerable and raw pop track. Vocalist Brianna Conroy brings a real, sultry side to this track as Luc Alexiades crafts the music into an upbeat, addictive song. The Los Angeles-based duo is creating feel-good music that’ll get you up and moving while also digging into your more passionate side.

Listen below!

TRACK REVIEW: Dia “Covered in Light”


Composer and singer, Danielle Birrittella, under the moniker Dia, is releasing airy, ethereal tracks that’ll transport you in space and time—or so it’ll feel like.

After performing ceremonial ragas on a Hindu ashram where she was raised, she went on to train and perform as an opera singer, which is a background that clearly shines through in her current music, with its rich and velvety baroque pop sound. Her music utilizes a variety of string instruments: guitar, ukulele, and cello, to name a few. Her single “Covered in Light” is a perfect example of her unique background; she draws heavily on classical elements and gives them a unique experimental twist that’ll make your head spin.

Dia just released her first EP Tiny Ocean on Manimal Records. Check out “Covered in Light” below, then head to her SoundCloud to complete the journey.

TRACK PREMIERE: The Hamiltons “Take the Hit”


An instant pop classic with an old-fashioned twinge, The Hamiltons’ latest single “Take the Hit” is a timeless piece that’ll have you swooning. It’s a unique genre-mashing track in that it’ll transport you from smack dab in the 60s to the mid-90s over the course of a few lulling notes and jazzy vocals.

Based in London after relocating from Sydney, this sibling duo not only performs their own music, but also produce and write it. And their investment in their music is apparent in “Take the Hit”–it’s dripping with passion and affection, carefully honed to present you with an entrancing final product. With influences in jazz, folk, country, and cajan, it’s no wonder their sound is so eclectic.

TRACK OF THE WEEK: Heat Thunder “Wind Whips the Veil”


Singer/songwriter Joe Montone, under the moniker Heat Thunder, is serving up tasty folk tracks, the latest of which comes in the form of “Wind Whips the Veil.”

An accompaniment of strings alongside acoustic guitar and Montone’s crooning vocals leads to a track you’ll want to either sway or cuddle to (or both). It’s passionate and fiery yet subdued and vulnerable, the perfect accompaniment to a chilly fall afternoon spent indoors sipping tea. Listening to “Wind Whips the Veil” brings you to a musical place that you might not have known existed before, a quality you can find in much of Montone’s music.

Heat Thunder recently opened for Anthony Green of Circa Survive on his Pixie Queen Tour and also released his latest EP, Phoenix. With so much going on lately, it seems that Heat Thunder might be a good artist to keep a tab on.

TRACK REVIEW: Capital Cities “Vowels”


It has been far, far too long since there’s been a new Capital Cities song to jam out to, but thankfully we don’t have to go by deprived any longer.

Their latest single “Vowels” is not one to disappoint. It holds true to what we’ve come to expect from Capital Cities already: plenty of synths, a beat worthy of boogieing down to, and some spine-tingling brass breakdowns. Let this new track be the jump-start to get your week started, the pick-me-up you need at the middle of the week, and the anthem to your weekend.

TRACK REVIEW: Blinders “Hero”


Need a bit of a midweek pick-me-up? “Hero” by Blinders is exactly what you need to make the week feel like it’s halfway over rather than just beginning.

The track kicks off with a burst of energy and vocals that practically beg you to get up and start dancing. Its entrancing synth beats and mix of surreal vocals will transport you directly to the weekend, where you can spend your time dancing to your heart’s content. While traveling Asia and Europe, Binders mixed this unique single. It ended up taking almost a year and experimentation with five different vocals to find exactly what he was looking for with this piece. And we think he got it just right.

This is Binders’ fourth release off Protocol Recordings, and he’ll be performing in Amsterdam in mid-October.

TRACK REVIEW: Gunslinger “All of Your Life”


Light up your day with the electrifying new single, “All of Your Life,” from Gunslinger.

This anthemic house track has everything you look for in an electronic piece: tons of synths, bass drops that get your heart racing, and upbeat jams that make you feel like you’re on a musical journey. In addition to personal inspiration, Gunslinger also utilized the Infected Mushroom “I Wish” plugin as an aid in producing this single. If you’re bummed about missing them at Burning Man last year, keep an eye out because you might be able to catch them at an upcoming show.

TRACK REVIEW: Jesse Mac Cormack “Repeat”


With his minimalist style and entrancing rhythms, Jesse Mac Cormack is putting out music that’ll have you grooving in no time. His single “Repeat” from his latest EP After the Glow is a shining example of that.

The track is full of gruff vocals, jangly guitar riffs, and rhythmic progressions that get your heart rate going and might just make you dance in your seat without realizing you’re doing so. It’s a great song to have along for a road trip or when you’re making an adventurous decision.

Check out “Relief” below, and head over to his SoundCloud to stream the rest of After the Glow.

VIDEO REVIEW: Kids of the Apocalypse “Better Life”


There isn’t enough thought put into what happens to the children once the apocalypse hits (step up your game, The Walking Dead), but Kids of the Apocalypse took the idea and ran with it, particularly in the video for their single “Better Life.” There’s symbolism for a world run by capitalism, it addresses love in an apocalyptic way, oh, and it also features astounding Gorillaz-esque graphics. It’s a chill rap song full of melodies and gloom with the cartoons to match that mood, the brain child of producer/musician Stefan Storm and animator Ernest Desumbila.

Sit back and watch this fascinating video—it’ll disturb you a bit, but it’ll also definitely resonate in a way that’ll have you wanting to watch it over and over again.

VIDEO REVIEW: Ex Reyes “Bad Timing”


Beautiful cinematography, chill vibes, and impressive Mardi Gras costumes and makeup are to be found in Ex Reyes’ recent video for his single “Bad Timing”—meaning, it’s a video worth watching. It gives a dark spin to the otherwise celebratory NOLA holiday, with standoffs and groups of people chucking guns into a burning police car as Ex Reyes hangs out in the periphery the entire time. Oh, and there is a lion mascot and baton twirlers that probably dance better than most people you know, too.

Mikey Hart, aka Ex Reyes, showcases his smooth falsetto vocals in this relaxed out single alongside crashing cymbals and an entrancing saxophone breakdown. It’ll have you wanting to hang with the cool kids (pretty much every single person in this video) while also inspiring you to head to New Orleans ASAP to see these festivities for yourself (as if you need further encouragement, though).

You can catch Ex Reyes on tour through October this year with How to Dress Well. Watch “Bad Timing” below.



NENA, who you may know from her world famous single, “99 Luftballons,” has recently come out with a new video for her latest song “Genau Jetzt” (“Right Now”).

The video showcases different people, both by themselves and interacting with loved ones. With NENA’s powerful vocals over the video, you don’t need to speak German to feel impacted by this pop anthem. It’s a track where you can go from feeling empowered and inspired to dancing around the room completely lost in the music.

NENA will be embarking on her first U.S. tour starting in September where she’ll hit San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City. If you’re looking to experience this German pop legend and hear “Genau Jetzt” live, then this is probably exactly what you’ve been waiting for.

TRACK REVIEW: All Boy/All Girl “Pastels”


With a seven-piece band, sometimes a voice or instrument can get lost in the mix. But with All Boy/All Girl, that’s absolutely not the case. Particularly with their latest single “Pastels.”

The track features shimmery vocals from Danielle Lovier over a backdrop of various acoustic instruments (cello, bass, viola, and ukulele). Each shines through in a unique way, creating a dreamy melody that’ll make you want to close your eyes and sway. “Pastels” has an ethereal spirit, from the layered vocals to the wispy notes that seamlessly flow through your ears; it’s the sort of track that makes you want and need to see what a live performance entails. It’s the first single released from their upcoming full-length Slagroom, and it’s got us excited for more.

TRACK OF THE WEEK: Cool Company “Slice of Paradise”

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Cool Company is bringing us a bit of smooth jazzy hip-hop in their new single “Slice of Paradise.”

This Bushwick-based duo is full of genre-mashing hits that make you want to move around a dance floor. Their new track holds elements of sexy, passion-packed soul music with raw hip-hop breakdowns, a juxtaposition that’s both unique and completely entrancing. If you’re looking for a song to chill out to after a long week, this should be your go-to—it’ll get you humming and relaxed in no time. They’re planning to release a full-length in September, so keep a tab on these cool fellas.