March Reads


Here is everything I’ve written in March 2018. Boy was it a busy month. I got on my music writing grind and covered a lot of releases I’d been anticipating for a while. I even got to do a song premiere, which was pretty nifty.

Many slow songs suck, but they don’t have to

I struggle with a lot of slow songs and slower genres but as I’ve listened to more music I’ve found it’s not slow music as much as it is music that doesn’t do much, whether that’s not having any dynamics or movement, not adding in new instruments, or not building up and breaking down. So I wrote about what I think makes a good slow song.

Carpenter Brut’s “Leather Teeth” is a rad soundtrack to an imaginary ’80’s movie

Carpenter Brut is one of Synthwave’s greats so naturally, I had to review his newest album “Leather Teeth”. It’s a short and fun romp that really does sound like it should go with some classic 80’s shlock. It’s cheesy, over the top, and pretty delightful though it goes a bit too wild at points.

Screaming Females does a touch too much on “All At Once”

In this review, I got to take on a bigger name in rock in form of “Screaming Females”. Overall, the album was good, being both catchy and inventive with regularity. The guitar and vocals on the album were worth listening to for sure but I felt the album went on for too much and could’ve been seriously slimmed down.

“In a Poem Unlimited” or how to make good political art

Political art can often go awry and read as ham-fisted or poorly done yet when it’s done well it can be so poignant. Meg Remy/US Girls made absolutely masterful political art in form of “In a Poem Unlimited” – a seriously incredible album that shows and doesn’t tell you about the damage of so many political forces Remy does not agree with.

Premiere: Ben de la Cour “Company Town”

My first song premiere! I wrote about more political art in form of Ben de la Cour’s “Company Town” – a song that surprised me with how much I enjoyed it. De la Cour made a tasteful and thoughtful song about the genuine plight a lot of small-time American farmers and dying American towns face. It’s a classic country – think Johnny Cash or Steve Earle – tune that does its job well.

“Hope World” sounds beautiful when it floats and underwhelming when it doesn’t

Back to k-pop! J-hope, a member of one of k-pop’s biggest bands in form of BTS, released a solo album. I felt that there were some standout moments where J-hope showed his skill and his genuine ability to make catchy songs that had an incredible sense of aesthetic that captured his influences well but that the album faltered when it went away from that aesthetic into standard and dull rap tracks.

“Where Owls Know My Name” contains masterpieces and mediocrity

A long overdue metal review of one of my favorite technical death metal bands, Rivers of Nihil. Their new album was a wild ride, with some truly incredible and awesome tracks that felt like masterpieces of the genre and others that felt boring. The first half did very well and the second half left me wishing it was more like the first.

Kubbi creates a diverse electronic forest on “Taiga”

I reviewed an electronic, chiptune and video game inspired album that left me ultimately very pleased. Despite some isses of cohesion and flow when the album tried to mash together very different styles, I felt this one of the better atmospheric and general electronic albums I’d heard in a while. It was inventive and took on risks in meshing different sub-genres that most electronic artists don’t try to do and don’t do nearly as gracefully and subtly.

Fun Jack White is back

Jack White’s new album “Boarding House Reach” brought me back to the days when his music felt fun to me. Jack White’s solo projects seemed lackluster and totally lacking the bite of his old White Stripes and even Raconteurs albums. I was so refreshed by his newest album that I wrote a piece talking about how fun Jack White’s music can be and how the Fun Jack White had returned.

Snail’s House gets mellow with “Snö”

Snail’s House is a super prolific Japanese artist that makes electronic music styled around anime and kawaii (cute) culture. While I think many peers in his genre make lazy music, Snail’s House usually puts out a good effort. His new album definitely had good effort behind it and used great real-world samples and sounds to make a serene winter wonderland.

~Austin R. Ryan

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February Reads


My March just got a little bit busy and my mind got a little flighty but I didn’t forget the reads posts. Here’s all I’ve done for February 2018. I’m gonna put up the March Reads a little after this and try to be more on top of things come April.

Khruangbin brings the mellow funk with “Con Todo El Mundo”

I reviewed Khruangbin’s newest album. Khruangbin is a band like you’ve never heard that makes a unique sound using elements from things you’ve probably heard, like funk and 60’s psychedelic music. Their new album, “Con Todo El Mundo”, has a nice blend of mellow and funky but falters when it mellows out too much.

Rhye masters a smooth and sensual style with “Blood”

Rhye’s new album “Blood” is long-awaited and masterfully crafted. It’s emotive, sensual, and interesting throughout mostly due to very smart compositions that build in fluid and complex ways. The album lulls too much at times but mostly sticks to its strengths well.

AWOLNATION hits and misses with “Here Come the Runts”

A rare negative review of mine. AWOLNATION is a pretty bipolar band in general for me and this album was no different. There were tracks I really enjoyed and felt had a White Stripes or The Hives-esque energy to them – fun, short, and driven by a distinct lead rhythm. Yet, more tracks than not were mediocre and phoned-in.

With “Little Dark Age” MGMT makes an album where every song fits

Reviewing “Little Dark Age” was like taking a trip through a distorted version of 80’s pop. Thing is, parts of 80’s pop aren’t that great and MGMT takes those on as well. “Little Dark Age” has the underwhelming ballads of the 80’s as well as its super fun synth melodies. Overall, it’s a super consistent and fun album with a few standout songs.

London brings together its best young jazz bands in “We Out Here”

One of the better compilation albums I’ve heard, “We Out Here” captures the sounds of many of London’s best young jazz bands. The bands all made unique songs for the album so there’s a pleasant cohesion to the album that compilations usually lack. The album blends together very well and because of the distinct sounds each band has it’s an album that stays remarkably fresh.

BoA shows she still has her K-Pop chops with “One Shot, Two Shot”

I reviewed BoA’s new album “One Shot, Two Shot” and felt that it was a very solid k-pop album. It had a few really strong songs and pretty much no bad ones though it didn’t necessarily wow me as a whole product.

BoA’s new music video has a refreshingly real take on age

I enjoyed BoA’s new music video more than her album. Many k-pop videos focus on youth and making stars look young to a point where it knocks me out of the music. BoA, a 30-year-old musician, acts and looks more her age in her video for “One Shot, Two Shot” and I absolutely loved seeing an older pop star not made to look like she was 18.

“Marbled” is a thoughtful and strong labor of love

“Marbled” was one of my favorite albums I reviewed in 2018. Abhi The Nomad is an indie hip-hop artist with some serious soul and groove, capable of creating great bars that convey some seriously deep sentiment about family, depression, and life in general. While there are times where Abhi gets overly sentimental, the album should get most people moving and thinking.

~Austin R Ryan

January Reads


I’m unconscionably late but I’m still gonna drop everything I’ve written and publicly published (under my name) in December here! The links are the titles and the titles are the links. Check them out if you like. I’d certainly like it if you did!

Ma-Te Lin leads Taiwanese trip-hop with their new album “嗨!又相遇了 HI! MATELIN

A review of a new album from one of my favorite Taiwanese bands. It’s a great electronic album that’s a bit more fun and bouncy than their norm.

King Gizzard’s “Gumboot Soup” is fine but forgettable

A review of the last of King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard’s 2017 albums, “Gumboot Soup.” It’s a solid album and something you’ll probably like if you’re a fan of the band but it lacked cohesion and felt ultimately forgettable to me.

N.E.R.D. doesn’t miss a beat with “No_One Ever Really Dies”

I reviewed N.E.R.D.’s new self-titled album and loved it! It felt like a total return to form and a very fun and unique pop record.

The Neighbourhood plays it a little too safe with “To Imagine”

Yet another review! The Neighbourhood put out a new EP that I felt played it a bit too safe and didn’t lean hard enough into their unique ideas.

DEAN captures social media melancholy with “Instagram”

Finally, a non-review article. I broke down Korean R&B artist DEAN’s music video and song “Instagram”. I loved this track and this music video and felt it was the perfect example of how to deliver a strong slow-song and how to nail that unique feeling of social media melancholy.

~Austin R Ryan

December Reads


I’m gonna drop everything I’ve written and publicly published (under my name) in December here! The links are the titles and the titles are the links. Check them out if you like. I’d certainly like it if you did!

Review: Snail’s House’s “Alien☆Pop”

A review of electronic artist Snail House’s EP “Alien☆Pop.” It’s a fun EP that delivers on what you expect from Snail’s House but not much more.

Hyuna (현아) releases a new, surprisingly clever single and music video

A look at the clever subtext of a new video from K-Pop Idol Hyuna, which takes on the somewhat illusory body goals of K-Pop idols.

President Trump wins the latest round in the travel ban fight

A news article on an injunction to allow President Trump’s travel ban to go into effect while the courts decide on it.

The Dear Hunter’s “All Is As All Should Be” rewards fans in the best way

A review of the December The Dear Hunter EP. It’s a great tribute to fans done in a unique way that only a band as creative as The Dear Hunter could have thought of.

Why you should listen to (and watch) Louie Zong: King of the short and sweet

A dive into the animation and music of Louie Zong, a master of short and sweet media with a wonderfully colorful and cute aesthetic.

Grime godfather Wiley drops a new single, “Bar”

A simple and short report and review on Grime legend Wiley’s new track “Bar.”

Democrat Doug Jones pulls off a shocking win in Alabama

A news and analysis article on Doug Jones’s victory over Roy Moore in Alabama that explains why the victory is historic and how it happened.

MGMT makes a beautiful nightmare aesthetic for “When You Die”

An exploration of MGMT’s absolutely gorgeous and haunting music video for their new single “When You Die.”

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is enjoyable but not good

A review of “The Last Jedi” that explains in detail the movie’s worldbuilding and plot failings that make it a mediocre film even if it is a fun film to watch.

Thanks for reading! This month was a fun one where I got to explore some of my favorite artists’ works, got to write about some of the best music videos I’ve seen in a while, and wrote my first movie review. Happy 2018.

~Austin R Ryan

November Reads


I’m gonna drop everything I’ve written and publicly published (under my name) in November here! The links are the titles and the titles are the links. Check them out if you like. I’d certainly like it if you did!

Why you should listen to Wang Wen: Mainland China’s premier post-rock 

A deep dive into the music of Wang Wen, one of China’s oldest and most accomplished post-rock bands.

Dan Terminus’s “Automated Refrains” is a step into a new synthwave world

A review of Dan Terminus’s new album Automated Refrains. It’s a synthwave epic that creates its own world and story using lighter tones than is normal for the genre.

“Montage” shows a mix of effort from Block B 

A review of K-Pop act Block B’s new mini-album Montage. Montage is entertaining, fun, and breaks new ground in most spots but it has some disappointingly uncreative slow jams.

Australia votes a strong “yes” in same-sex marriage referendum 

A short news article on Australia’s referendum on gay marriage. In it, I touch on some demographics behind the referendum vote and what it means politically.

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard creates a psych-rock fantasy land in “Polygondwanaland”

A review of King Gizz’s 4th album of 2015, Polygondwanaland. It’s a progressive rock styled epic that knows what it’s doing and nails it.

“Perfect Velvet” is Red Velvet at their most and least interesting 

A review of Red Velvet’s bipolar new album. This album has some of the best girl-group songs in K-Pop, but also some of the staidest and least interesting ones too.

Thanks for reading and sorry for the silence!

~Austin R. Ryan

Instant Ramen


Instant ramen is like the heat that drips up from a fresh cup of coffee or tea. Instant ramen is chicken flavored sodium packets that smell like home. Instant ramen is my most unhealthy healing potion.

When I was really young I got stomach bugs pretty frequently. They may not have come around much more than for a normal kid, but I feel them heavy on my memory like parental hands on my back; I feel them thick like retches over cold toilet seats. When my stomach was a mad sea we’d send it ramen because the square noodle packet was like a full empty: nothing but sodium and noodles all laced up in tame flavors. Things would calm enough and fill enough to not have hunger pains churn under nausea like earthquakes inside storms. Older, nursing hangovers, it was the same deal – but much less dramatic.

As I got older I thought ramen might drop out of my home and head but it kept up with me. About two or three years ago I started getting sleep problems and when I’d stay up until I was too hungry to pass out I’d rip the orange packet half open and eat the noodles like a candy bar. Sitting up at 5 AM grinding dry noodles into paste feels a bit weird and desperate at first but after it works a few times it is all pleasant; it is all pleasant to break up the cool night with the tactile feeling of teeth churning.

The ramen got older too; it grew up with me. When the plainness of it wasn’t enough anymore I’d throw in new spices and learn what I liked on top of the bland noodle base. When noodles and broth stopped filling me up I’d dice up meat and veggies too. It was still a half-assed attempt at a meal – never the best I could make for myself – but it’d keep me running. Sometimes it even felt rejuvenating, breathing the scent in like distant incense, feeling the powder on the tips of fingers like sidewalk chalk, absorbing the odd magic of my ugly instant food. That magic could walk me back through time to when I was feeding friends while parents were out working; to when Dad would drop an egg or a cut up hot dog into the soup so that “it would at least have protein;” to when Mom put ice cubes in the soup so my sisters or I wouldn’t burn our tongues.

Instant ramen was healing in the way returning to home and wholeness is healing. This food has been there nearly as long as I can remember. When adulthood and identity shifts rattle my mind until I feel scattered I drain the noodles and the broth from the bowl and feel like all the fractals and bits of me fit tight together into one whole.

~Austin R Ryan

American Plain Views


I currently live and work in Minneapolis as an educator in an Americorps program and freelance writer. Sometimes it is peculiarly pretty here. It is pretty in a way that’s as much a sensation as a view. These little snippets will hopefully let you in on some of those American plain views.

View Heading Down Penn from Olson:

Olson Memorial Highway pushes out in both directions like big tar rivers and the grey-black backs of big straight serpents swimming into and out of center city. If the light allows, you can ford it all at once and if it doesn’t you are in an island in the middle watching the rust and the shine of cars sprint like metallic fish up and down stream. It is dirt, mud clot, and trash spotted right by Olson but further on past is the Harrison neighborhood where things get cleaner, greener, squarer and on with lawns and their houses. A little black girl cast in bronze statue welcomes you. Here the hills rise and sink slowly as the gentle undulation of a half-urban half-suburban dragon. The way the road stretches, the way there are no trees to block the skies or the hills as they rise, you can see right down Penn as it weaves up and down and up until it is too high to see past; just from seeing how the sky goes and goes and the earth goes and goes you’d guess there wasn’t any end to it. But then, eventually, you’d hit the highways and the interstates.

View From the Back of the 19:

Metro Transit buses have big windows to soothe you that bit they delayed you when they came late. Metro Transit buses are blood capillaries that pump in and out of the downtown heart where folks are moving but not wanting to be seen. Uptown, Northeast, by lakes and by campuses and by dive bars on rise is where people tell me you want to be seen. Metro Transit buses have big windows where these thoughts float out of sight and mind like clouds in the wide sky.

On the good days it feels like a Venice high in the sky. Your four wheeled gondola shared with a smattering of other people goes sailing down the light blue sky; your four wheeled gondola gliding on heaven to get you to the next earthly mess. The 19 – my four wheeled gondola – goes under the dark arches that connect concrete block buildings stretching out over two streets, making Hennepin Medical Center. Sunlight peaks out from the Hospital’s shadow until the 19 plunges fully into the bright light. It weaves up to the long and grassy green lawn in front of the Government Center. That building splits into two dark pillars wrapped together by a glass midsection and pulled tight by heavy black cross-lines so it looks like the corseted back of a boxy, cartoon-ish dominatrix.

After that the 19 comes through downtown where things look new and glassy and the construction turns everything to congestion and tightness. When it pops out into Hennepin it looks like one of those true downtown stretches full of bars and avante-garde buildings twisted up into modernist shapes. When breezes by the stadium, passes the brown and flat Transit Center, and leaks into Olson, it is just apartments and peaks down long and short residential roads.

On the bus a woman – White or Latina – sits and babbles brightly to her child. Another mom – Black – comes on and her toddler rushes up to the other kid and they seem to just stare before the parents direct them away, smiling and managing awkwardly. People come and people go. The driver lets a man know where to get off. The child leaves and the toddler cries for bit. Another mother and her kid – elementary age – comes on and picks up the transparent green binky the toddler dropped. The two mothers talk about the wide blue sky and the hot sun and the children all wrapped up in it; they talk on and past when my stop comes and I go.

~Austin R Ryan

The Top Screamer


I am the Top Screamer and I scream so loud that the volume can be felt and makes the boundaries of all things porous and thin. All the men and the women and the children shriek furiously for me to stop but I can’t hear them over how loud and victorious I am all the time. I have screamed so loud before. Really, you just won’t even believe how loud I have screamed before.

~Austin R Ryan

Mood and Vision and Ma-Te Lin


This Taiwan band is a singer-DJ combo with a penchant for animal rights and a solid range of sounds that can feel floaty and fun as froth on hot chocolate and heavy and lurching as raw wrath. In practical terms Ma-Te Lin bears similarity to Lana Del Ray and Lorde – and they claim as much – but their range of sound contains much more, including Nujabes style grooves, beats made from animal noises, chip tune rhythms that seem to come from video games, and more. At first listen it might seem that Ma-Te Lin is mostly pleasant and airy atmosphere music, but even their pared down songs pour out so many interesting sounds that the songs become so much more than just decently well composed, soft-sounding chillwave electronica that litters the internet. Ma-Te Lin is impressive in a way that many atmospheric electronic acts aren’t because they maintain laidback moods through an entire track while also constantly developing the backbeat, often in radical ways using sounds that are traditionally jarring and arrhythmic – such as dog barks, fuzzy guitars, mewing, harsh beeps, and whirring video game sounds. So many odd sounds weave into the songs that it is hard to separate out and define all of them, yet each one fits so tightly into the composition that they rarely register as an erratic noise that draws away from the beat.

The band’s ultimate chill song, “Manchi” is a great example. Though the song always feels atmospheric, light, and relaxed, there is still an impressive amount of dynamic noises layered over one another. Manchi does not just sit on one sample or sound that is aesthetically pleasant and ride it to the finish line, but it actively constructs and deconstructs rhythms of noise around the main, snappy drum rhythm. The whole thing culminates at around two and half minutes to three minutes in where the song features very low bass thrums, clapping, a smooth synth line, and a sharper, more robotic one. By the end an array of sampled sounds synthesize into an off-kilter rhythm that dies gently and smoothly into an echoing end. Despite a decent amount of layered complexity, the song still feels stripped, simple, and straightforwardly pleasant due to strong guiding vocals and very smart composition and mixing that emphasizes sounds – like the snappy drum rhythm – that keep the listener moored in a very full and sweet mood.

Ma-Te Lin excel at making mood through unorthodox noise and can maintain their unique sound selection over far more than just the happy and chill too. In “My Place” Ma-Te Lin reveals the dark and haunting end of their sonic grin. Instantly the song opens with the low thrum of a stand-up bass given a bit of dirty twang during the mixing. The singer falls into the rhythm with a smokiness that builds a dark little lounge around the light percussion and the twang of stand up bass. Gradually all sorts of dissonance in form of synthesizers that make a sort of wom-wom-wom sound and guitars that squeal and scratch out notes of half-formed solos erupt like spots of magma until the whole lounge of sound melts into itself. The singer gradually becomes more terrifying as her emotions spike and her words echo and lord dark messages over the listener (buhaoyisi is a light way to say sorry in mandarin and pounds furiously in the background as the song climaxes). Dense and rich with different sonic touches, “My Place” is Ma-Te Lin showing that they can do nasty and heavy without tearing apart their style of layer cake electronica.

Where this duo experiments they do sometimes falter as well as they lean too heard on over-saturated rhythms and downright cheesy phrases. Ma-Te Lin sometimes over-saturates their lyrics and rhythm so that some songs can feel overdone and less striking. “Pet Palace” uses a set of crooning baby animal noises that are inventive and bubby but also indistinct compared to their other more energetic and loaded tracks. The chorus similarly is invenetive and bubbly, “Have you heard of the pet palace? / Do you want to find the pet palace? /  Do you know you are in the pet palace?” but it feels a little saccharine, cheesy, and less intriguing than in some other songs. “Hope Popo” similarly leans on an awkward chorus (“we need a hope popo / no more cry oh oh”) that definitely borders on cheesy, but unlike “Pet Palace” it has a snappier and more interesting composition which keeps the song alive as it enters into verses full of layered vocals and varied sounds ranging from dog barks to distorted guitars to the tings of what sound like triangles or light bells. Even in less interesting songs Ma-Te Lin stays creative with their sound and style.

The creativity in Ma-Te Lin seeps out from the music and into their image to make them a monstrously comprehensive artistic force. They have a clear vision and theme, promoting rights of humane treatment for animals and a generally gentler touch with nature; they have a beautiful, colorful and consistent aesthetic that involves a recurring cartoon character ala Gorillaz; they even collaborate with a talented Taiwanese artist (Little Oil) to make gorgeous music videos which fit perfectly to their dreamy sound. All three of these things bleed into each other so that animal noises enter as samples and beats in songs, the cartoon character is animalistic, colorful, and composed of sharp but clean angles that evoke the sound it embodies, and every collaborator aligns well with their spooky and smooth mood. All of this makes Ma-Te Lin visual material match so tremendously with their audio that it is a struggle to pick which of their music videos to showcase over the others. The calm and melancholy Nujabes vibes captured by the paints in “Circus” are as wonderful as the magical and fantastical puppet show in “The Girl in the Magic Shoes” or the serene sweetness in “Manchi.”

Ma-Te Lin may be too corny or too chill for a few people, but if you like a relaxed sound or strong, rich, and thick vocals Ma-Te Lin is worth a listen because Ma-Te Lin is never lazy; the duo does not lean on the vocals to carry everything; the duo does not rest on a nice central beat; the duo does not mistake soft for simple or complex for difficult. For some, the language and culture barrier that a Taiwanese act presents might seem to much to overcome, but when a band has strong enough a creative mindset they can fashion their own language to speak through – that’s exactly what Ma-Te Lin does. Ma-Te Lin bounces between English and Taiwanese, between audio and visual, but through all that they are always speaking and showing their own stern message and dreamy form. Through all the noise they layer around the rich and thick lead vocals, they are always. Oh, and for what it’s worth, their live show looks pretty damn good too.

~Austin R Ryan