Another 2022 year-end list; glancing at ’23; new The Natural Lines…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 1:58 pm January 25, 2023
A screen cap from The Natural Lines video for new single “Monotony.”

by Tim McMahan,

Personal critical guiding light and mentor Robert Christgau has published his 2022 Dean’s List at his And It Don’t Stop website. His preamble is worth the read alone, as he posits a perspective from a critic in his 80s who has been writing about rock music longer than I’ve been alive. He remains my favorite critic if for only his writing style that makes every phrase sing. Maybe not so much for his choices: His No. 1 album of 2022 was Selo i Ludy Performance Band, Bunch One, self-released in 2019, which none of us (likely) have heard. His No. 2 is a broadly held pop moment. Read and subscribe. I did. (BTW, here’s my year-end list for those who missed it…).

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On the other side of the coin is Paste Magazine‘s “33 Most Anticipated Albums of 2023.” If you define “indie” as primarily a singer/songwriter genre, then this list is for you, and includes two Saddle Creek Records artists (Shalom and Black Belt Eagle Scout). I’m also looking forward to those new ones by Quasi, Algiers, M83 and Everything But the Girl. Each listing includes a YouTube video to give you a taste of what’s coming. Of note: So far two of the 33 artists are currently scheduled to tour through Omaha — Runnner at The Slowdown Feb. 28 and The New Pornographers April 28 at The Waiting Room. 

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Not making the Paste list is our old friend Matt Pond’s new band The Natural Lines, whose self-titled debut will drop March 24 on Bella Union (preorder via Bandcamp). The band just released a new video for “A Scene that WIll Never Die,” but I like this video for the single “Monotony” better (see below). This album is the best thing Matt’s done in a long time. Here’s hoping that the band makes it to Omaha The Natural Lines eventually hits the road.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2023 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Paste, PopMatters, AMG chime in on Icky Blossoms; hot gambling and booze (in the column); the Future of Maha, Landing on the Moon tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 12:32 pm July 19, 2012

by Tim McMahan,

Those Icky Blossoms reviews are finally beginning to roll in, though we’re still waiting on the all-important Pitchfork review.

PopMatters gave the album a stunning 8 out of 10, and compare the band to X. “Imagine if that outfit leaped from the ‘80s to the modern day and started toying around with synthesizers and drum machines in some basement workspace and there you have Icky Blossoms (member Nik Fackler even has a little John Doe thing going on with his lead vocal turn on the ramshackle ‘I Am’).” X? I’m not sure I’m buying it, but a compliment’s a compliment. They close by saying, “Icky Blossoms may not be the first to champion this brand of art house experimentalism, but they do it with such aplomb that you wish they were.Read the whole thing here.


Not as complimentary but still positive was Paste Magazine, who gave the debut a 6.1 out of 10. “Heavy on electronic haziness the whole way through, vibes jolt from upbeat sweet songs to super weird, druggy dance throbs. The zig-zagging isn’t necessarily a negative thing; it just makes for a hard-to-follow full-length.” Again, I’m not sure I’m buying it. To me, the record as a whole is very cohesive. The closer:  “It seems with this first release, they’re just starting to unfurl their musical feelers and see what it is that they do. So far we know they can do electronic music in the grand sense pretty well, and that’s cool. But what else?”  Read the whole Paste write-up here.

Finally, there’s the once all-important All Music Guide, one of the first online review websites whose dominance has waned, thanks in part to all the other sites and their own lousy website redesign. AMG gave the record 3 out of 5 stars. “Icky Blossoms succeed in showing many different sides of dance-infused indie rock with their debut, but there’s an unsettled feeling that suggests the trio members weren’t entirely sure where they wanted to go with the record. With a more clearly defined musical direction, like the Faint before them, they’d sound more fully committed.Read the AMG review right here.

No doubt, more to come…

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This week’s Over the Edge column is a recap of a sweaty Sunday afternoon spent at Horsemen’s Park. Read how easy it is to lose money gambling when you don’t know what you’re doing. It’s in this week’s issue of The Reader, or you can read it online right here. Live horse racing continues at Horsemen’s Park this weekend. It’s fun and it’s free (except for the gambling and the booze parts).

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When Red Sky announced that it was dropping its Thursday night programming, the first thing that went through my mind was ‘My God, what will they do with the thousands (tens of thousands?) of people who have traveled to Omaha for this mammoth festival?‘ Well, here’s a suggestion for the geniuses at MECA. Tell your (imaginary) throngs of festival goers stuck in their downtown hotels waiting for Brad Paisley to arrive to instead venture out to beautiful downtown Benson for The Future of Maha Showcase at The Waiting Room. Three of Omaha’s up-and-coming high-fliers — Lightning Bug, Millions Of Boys and Snake Island! — will take the stage starting at 9 p.m. And the cost for this spectacular air-conditioned slab of entertainment — absolutely free.

If that doesn’t trip their trigger, skip on down to The Barley Street Tavern tonight, where Landing on the Moon is playing along with Madison band Icarus Himself and Above the State. This one will cost ya $5. Starts at 9.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2012 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


On I Am Gemini’s street day Pitchfork gives Cursive a 4.7 tongue-lashing, others weigh in (but do they matter?)…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:53 pm February 21, 2012

by Tim McMahan,

Pitchfork logoIt’s funny and sad where we’ve come in terms of generating interest in indie music. Just a decade ago, finding the best new music was something of a challenge; and if you lived in Omaha, it was practically hidden from sight. Today, everything’s at our fingertips. All you need is someone to point the way.

Unfortunately, from an indie music standpoint, that someone continues to be Pitchfork. As it’s been for a few years now, a review in Pitchfork can help make or break an indie band. For a new band, it can mean the difference between having your music heard and people coming to your shows… or being unheard and unseen. For more established bands like Cursive, Pitchfork won’t break them to a new audience as much as: 1) support a listener’s already-formed notion about their music, or 2) cast doubt on the listener’s own taste.

For Pitchfork‘s review of I Am Gemini, posted yesterday, the effect is the latter. The 4.7-rated review opens with this salvo: “Credit where due: I Am Gemini is Cursive’s weakest record by a disheartening margin…” The opening sentence of the next paragraph gives you a footing as to the reviewer’s past experience with Cursive: “…even while Cursive’s Domestica and The Ugly Organ remain some of the most purposefully narcissistic albums to ever bear the emo tag, their lyrical acts of emotional martyrdom understandably inspired an intense cult.” Yikes…

But it’s not all negative… or is it? “Conceptual tomfoolery aside, the music aligns with Kasher’s increasing tendency to sand off the edges of his prickly attitude and serrated vocals, and I Am Gemini is by far Cursive’s most playful record and almost fun at points.

The review concludes with: “At one point on ‘Wowowow,’ Kasher sings in puns taken from Cursive titles, and this kind of meta exercise makes a sad kind of sense within the context of I Am Gemini’s impenetrability. After all, main characters like Cassius, Pollock, Young Cassius, Young Pollock, and the Narrator are all voiced by the same guy the same exact way, a more concrete way of essentially pointing out that the whole of I Am Gemini is Kasher talking to himself.

After reading that, Cursive should be happy to have received a rating as high as a 4.7. Keep in mind that the rating will be the only thing non-fans will ever see. Only Cursive fans will read the entire review, because no one reads Pitchfork reviews anymore, they just look at the number. I take that back. People will read a Pitchfork review if the rating is as low as 2.0 or high as 8.0. Anything in the middle is ignored.

Upon hearing the review, I can imagine Tim Kasher shrugging and saying, “Hey, whattaya gonna do?” There’s nothing you can do about a bad review other than bite down and move on. Kasher knew he was taking a risk with this one; people are either going to get it or they won’t. And in fact the record has received its share of accolades. Drowned in Sound gave the album an 8 out of 10, calling it a “monumental return for Tim Kasher…” adding “This beautifully dark fairytale of a concept album is as heavy as the Cursive of old, ingenious, and just as lyrically surreal as you could hope for.

Paste Magazine gave the album 7.8 out of 10 with the comment: “Musically, the band is at their most adventurous, albeit not their most accessible,” and recommending repeated listenings — good advice, but will anyone take it in this ADD/Spotify age?

AV Club gave it a “B,” calling it a “forceful, a demanding rock-driven opus…

On the other hand, the Boston Phoenix gave it 2.5 stars out of 4. The reviewer, who can’t seem to get over the loss of Gretta Cohn, called the record “the most musically conventional record they’ve ever made; it also bears the burden of putting across Kasher’s most preposterous story ever.”

But in the end, it’s the Pitchfork review that carries the most weight if only for the fact that a high Pitchfork rating could have been enough to get a non-fan to check out the record on Spotify or whatever subscription streaming service they use. Not that it matters, because despite the fact that the record dropped today, I Am Gemini is not available in its entirety on Spotify, and may not be for a while…

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I almost forgot to mention: Tonight at the Shop at Saddle Creek it’s the second meeting of the Record Club @ Shop. Tonight’s record to be played in its entirety: Neutral Milk Hotel’s classic In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. It all starts at 7 and will be followed by a short discussion afterward. For more info, go here.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2012 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.