The Green Hill Zone — I mean The Garden

If you like Shadow the Hedgehog and getting wild to sleazy electro-punk music, do I have the album for you. The Garden is the name under which twin brothers Wyatt and Fletcher Shears dress up as jesters and sleaze around in sleepy southern Californian towns (see their music videos linked below). Their new album Mirror Might Steal Your Charm makes the spooky synthesizer sounds from the Time Splitters cabinet at the arcade in your local laser tag arena into a series of unique electro-punk tunes overflowing with personality. Mirror Might Steal Your Charm is a card reading from a cheat deck of playing cards. Its tricky and ambiguous, but still may provide you with some sort of meaning whether intended or not, long as you are open to that as a possibility.

I know what you’re thinking – “But why Shadow the Hedgehog?” Bear with me. Shadow the Hedgehog is a video game character from the Sonic the Hedgehog universe who is presented as a foil to Sonic – Shadow is morally questionable and obsessed with revenge. He acts as a medium between good and evil as he embodies a bit of both. The Garden is they same. The band acts as a medium between two forces as well – punk music and electronic music. If punk music is the side of morally righteous Sonic and the animals, and electronic music is the side of evil Dr. Eggman and his robots, then The Garden is Shadow the Hedgehog, the anti-hero.

I know I sound like I’m going off the deep end. So, I’ll try to reel you back into my Shadow the Hedgehog comparison one last time and then move on. A panel of SEGA executives designed Shadow to embody 2000s era edginess in its purest form. If he were a human he would wear JNCO jeans, Oakley sunglasses, and a backwards baseball cap, and listen to Limp Bizkit and Korn. The Garden channels this aesthetic with the same mix of irony and nostalgia that brought denim jackets from the 1980s into the 2010s. They bring the seemingly expired and uncool back into palatability with the help of a little self-awareness.

Self-awareness is The Garden’s strong suit (pardon the playing card pun). Their music is without a doubt confrontational and aggressive, but The Garden still manages to sprinkle in bits of wisdom like on the track “A Message for Myself” where they close the with the following line: “Because in the end, everyone has problems // And life tries to teach you something // No matter how many times you’ve lived // So keep in mind that everyone is equal // Nothing you do makes you more human than anyone else.” As sleazy as they may seem, the Fletcher twins are keeping an eye out for you and making sure you know that you’re great just the way you are.


Nick Amerkhanian (The Corpse King)

Dancing to Anxiety — A review of “The House” by Porches

“Wonder if you want to stay // or if it’s easier that way,” Aaron Maine cries out over some of the punchiest drums such a line has ever been sang over. His band, Porches, released their third studio album, The House, in January. The record features a series of minimalist pop tunes, with catchy hooks, danceable beats, and themes of self-isolation and anxiety. The opener, perhaps my favorite track of 2018 thus far, “Leave the House,” quoted earlier, tackles feelings of anxiety around a relationship; feelings that Aaron is putting in less than he is giving back, feelings that his relationship is unbalanced.

Before breaking into Aaron’s vocals over a duo of synthesizer and drum machine, the track begins with an eerie vocal harmony by (Sandy) Alex G, “Let it have me // how it wants // it’s never what you thought // it’s never what you thought.” “It” is a recurring character on this record. “It” manifests itself in many ways. On the second track, “Find Me,” Aaron fears the feelings of anxiety that seem to hunt him down, “I can’t let it find me // I can’t let it find me.” In “Leave the House,” “it” is his relationship – “it” is the imbalance that haunts him. “It” is something he wants to isolate himself from. “I don’t want to leave you out // I just want to leave the house // find something to think about // maybe take a walk around.” The beauty of “it” is that it is entirely abstract and up to the listeners interpretation. “It” can be manifested however the listener chooses, making “it” extremely personal.

By the closing lines of the track, the aforementioned “punchy” drums and synthesizer have gone. All that is left is Aaron with his final line “You give it to me for free // and I don’t think that you see // that you don’t get much from me // that you don’t get much from me” syncopated over the same line Alex G sings to open the track. Though the drums are gone, the beat carries on, and I’m still dancing – “it” keeps me dancing. What is left when the drums and synthesizer disappear – just Aaron and Alex harmonizing – is rather minimal, lyrically, and sonically, but it carries on the groove. This simultaneous lyrical simplicity and danceability makes Aaron’s new record exception. Anyone can manifest Aaron’s abstracted but concise words how they need to – anyone can relate to the fear and loneliness that serve as Aaron’s muse – and anyone can dance to his odd and unconventional grooves if they feel like it. The House makes our anxiety into something we can dance to.

The House is out now on Domino Records. It is available for streaming on Spotify and Apple Music, and for purchase on Bandcamp and iTunes.