1. The Uh Huhs - "Well Alright" Kind of like the Buddy Holly song, but more ambivalent and tense and anyway louder. “Holly looked for space in the noise,” Greil Marcus wrote of Holly once. “He built his music around silences, pauses, a catch in the throat, a wink.” Little Rock's The Uh Huhs are up to something similar — space in the noise, a wink. You can find this song on their debut 7", which will presumably be available soon.
Update: The single is available now at Arkansas Record-CD Exchange, and there will be a release show at Pizza D's at Nov. 18, 9:30 p.m., ft. Goat Pope (members of Pallbearer).
2. JONA$ - "Nintendo" The other day I was thinking about how water looked in late '90s Nintendo 64 games. It looked like this, sort of. Some of us used to spend a lot of time in these places, which we can't access anymore and can't explain very well to people who haven't been there. (Try describing, like, "Banjo-Kazooie." It can't be done.) That's what this song makes me think of, though it doesn't really matter whether you relate to that or not. JONA$ and a few of his friends go by Pearl Gangg and this is a minor masterpiece of lazy stoner nostalgia.
3. John Willis - "Enough" Something new and typically uplifting from the always-interesting John Willis, who Mitchell Crisp profiled for the Times earlier this year.
4. PZA & Devin Nu Phlo - "Goomba's Head" Fayetteville label Let's Talk Figures continues to offer an essential, nihilistic counterpoint to that city's depressing and increasingly marketable Fayettechill vibe — their approach is pure Nickelodeon-apocalypse, steeped in absurdism and internet addiction. Their new "Back To School 2015" sampler is out now. This video is like a college party version of that nightmarish line-dance scene in "Inland Empire."
Cellophane Garden is Fayettville's Kevin Blagg, who this summer released a great tape called "CG-1" on Drawing Room Records. (Blagg is also featured on the Express Rising record I wrote about last month.) This song will grow on you, like seasonal affective disorder.
Any new Kari Faux is a cause for celebration, and the Little Rock expat recently announced she had a new album finished and forthcoming, "Lost En Los Angeles. " Here's the great first single, produced by longtime collaborator bLAck pARty. I interviewed the two of them a couple of years ago, when they left town — seems like a long time ago now. /more/
Fresco Grey is so good he makes me proud to live in Little Rock. How often can you say that? "I'm just sitting back doing algebra," he says at one point, because why not? My only problem with this song is that it should be about twelve times longer. /more/
Former Gunbunnies front-man and Little Rock expat Chris Maxwell has a new album coming out March 4, "Arkansas Summer," and Paste premiered the great title track this week. Pre-order the record at Pledge Music. /more/
From my perspective, Goon des Garcons did more than anyone else in 2015 to make Little Rock look like a fun place to make art, and that accomplishment alone demands respect. He also happens to be an almost compulsively ambitious rapper, continually raising the bar for the production value and reach of his and his friends' work. Arkansas tends to prefer a kind of modest, slacker self-effacement from its artists, and so Goon's loud pride might seem initially misplaced or uncouth; but the guy is explicitly attempting to start a movement, to get some momentum going. And look at what he did. /more/
Fayetteville's The Wandering Lake — the recording project of Brian Kupillas — released a new set of songs on Bandcamp this week and they are predictably great. The EP, "From James' Garden" comes after, Kupillas says, "what felt like a long drought of spirit." Find him on Tumblr, where he posts new music plus photos of elephants and body-builders. /more/
I'm pretty sympathetic toward any attempt at making a Little Rock anthem, and this one isn't bad as far as it goes. "Bangin' in the Rock ain't dead," Ekko Muzic says, which is both an obvious gesture and a deeply subversive one — to point out that the past isn't the past, the city's old issues and tensions and divisions remain urgent and troubling, which seems inarguable and worth mentioning occasionally. Local anthems are necessary and positive by definition — it's good to talk about your surroundings, even if "try not to get shot" is the message you come up with. /more/
Express Rising was originally the recording moniker of Chicago's Dante Carfagna, a record collector and producer associated with the great archival label Numero Group. With his new release, "Fixed Rope," Carfanga has added William Suran and Fayetteville's Kevin Blagg, who also records under the name Cellophane Garden; the trio recorded the album somewhere in "rural Arkansas" with synths, pedal steel, banjo and a wash of reverb, loose atmosphere and mysticism. It's an ambient record with a real sense of place, and it's one of my favorite Arkansas releases in months. /more/
I talked to Liquid Skulls for the paper a couple of weeks ago, and he explained that the recording project "was formed out of cobwebs, boredom, sloppiness, euphoria, joblessness, fleeting moments, liquid curses and lost responsibilities." All of this comes through in his new track "Rituals," which sounds like a computer projection of a pop song wrapped in bubble-wrap and stomped on. /more/
The podcast Design Matters, published by Design Observer, is celebrating its 10th year and they are revisiting some of their best episodes from the last decade. I just finished this week's replay of the interview with the Scottish born illustrator Marion Deuchars. At the end of the wonderful interview, her two young sons are invited into the studio near where they pitch in some of their own thoughts on art and, in particular, drawing in the art books their mother created for children and adults.
by Will Stephenson, Bryan Moats, Kaya Herron and Lindsey Millar
World wide weird duo Rural War Room (Donavan Suitt & Byron Werner) is celebrating 10 years of broadcasting and production here in Little Rock and abroad. RWR Radio on KABF 88.3 FM (10 p.m. Tuesdays or anytime on their website), features the duo alternating records in an effort to surprise one another.
BRASHER: Hello Arkansans, this is the first piece from us, Brasher and Rowe and we are some dudes who work in downtown Little Rock and we eat lunch and just talk about all the exciting things around here.
"Why do you guys not care about your community? You’re tearing it down, not building it up, especially in the black community … It’s just a simple question — do you care?" one mother asked the superintendent. "Ma’am, I do care deeply about this district, and I do believe wholeheartedly we are making a better district every day," Poore replied.
When President-elect Trump announced he would, in a few days, force Congress to enact comprehensive health insurance for everyone, poor or rich, that would provide better and cheaper care than they've ever gotten, you had to wonder whether this guy is a miracle worker or a fool.