Laurel Halo-DJ Kicks: Album Review

Laurel Halo’s DJ Kicks set twists and winds to its conclusions. Though at first glance feeling like one stroke of a giant paint brush, the work has certain fulcrums that keep the energy feeling fresh. Between the driving leads of Red Axe’s “5 Min,” and the raw textures of “Ana,” for instance, Halo pulls us through the pristine sheen of “Puro Rosaceaes,” the subtle cascade of “Cricoid Pressure,” and the oddball vocals of “Just Made Some Jazz Music.” Tunes like “Penny Rut” and “Canto” again calm things down before the pointed rhythms of “The Light Within You” creep through the hazy cloud of “Poliwhirl.” These type of back and forth twists make the set expertly cohesive and engaging without ever really breaking Halo’s minimalist leanings.

The middle of the work maybe begins to break into more extremeties to an extent—there’s not really a dip in energy between say “Lachowa” and “Violent Light”—but Halo’s liquid smolder somehow encompasses every bit of the thing, always feeling touched by her ears.

The set’s sound strikes much of the same modernism as much of Halo’s music. It’s the minimal sound of Berlin, but it also recalls jungle in it’s dark tones and unpredictable rhythms—not to mention Halo’s nods to Jazz and Contemporary Classical music, which are less obvious here, but still sitting in the background as heard on the string flourish of “Brian’s Having a Party.”. Overall the work is another welcome reflection of the world that Halo’s built, it’s perhaps not the crown jewel, but DJ sets are another key component to her vision—definitely worth listening in.

-Donovan Burtan


Personal Listening: February 2019 (1/2)

Hey this probably is more effective “music writing” for twitter but I figured it might be interesting to my blog audience and I don’t have any other weekend posts planned.  This is basically my 10 highest listened to albums of the month.  I’ll post half today and half tomorrow.


Looking Ahead: 11/26

Hi! I’m going to make my year-end list after reviewing the albums yet to be release in this post.  Last year my year end list was finished around December 14th, so I think that is an appropriate date to keep in mind.  I have a long running note on my phone of stuff that I’m still thinking about which I may try and review aside from the list.

My philosophy is generally that a year-end list should indicate the albums that impacted me in that year, which obviously gives an advantage to albums released in the beginning of the year, but hey this is an imperfect business so sue me–I am aware that albums kicking around on my “to listen to list” might impact me long after they came out.

The 1975-A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships

Self proclaimed pretentious pop rockers make their magnum opus.

Earl Sweatshirt-Some Rap Songs


Taking after Frank (or maybe the other way around), the contemplative, secretive former member of Odd Future finally emerges after a long absence, seemingly diving further into the abstract ether of underground musical modes.

…the to listen/review list…

notes app


We’re about halfway through 2018.

I was pretty consistent at the very beginning of the year, then fell off the face of the earth with the end of University/finals/moving to Rhode Island, but of course I’ve still been listening to music.  Here’s my midway list of songs and albums!


1. kacey musgraves-golden hour

2. Snail Mail-Lush

3. Janelle Monae-Dirty Computer

4. car seat headrest-twin fantasy

5. Sophie-Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-sides

6. charli xcx-pop 2

7. Against All Logic-2012-2017

8. Porches-The House

9. DJ Koze-knock knock

10. Goat Girl-Goat Girl


1. snail mail-pristine

2. car seat headrest-bodys

3. frank ocean-moon river

4. charli xcx-femmebot

5. ought-desire

6. cardi b-I like it

7. kacey musgraves-slow burn

8. Ravyn Lenae-4 Leaf Clover

9. Troye Sivan-My My My

10. Sophie-immaterial

11. Migos-BBO

12. andersen paak-bubblin

13. The Carters-Apeshit

14. Janelle Monae-Pynk

15. sidney gish-Sin Triangle

16. soccer mommy-cool

17. hop along-how simple

18. westerman-confirmation

19. natalie prass-short court style

20. drake-nice for what

21. empress of-trust me baby

22. cupcakke-duck duck goose

23. Jorja Smith-Teenage Fantasy

24. rae sremmurd-Powerglide

25. illuminate hotties-Patience

I’m graduated now and although I have other goals in life/career, music journalism is something I think will be a big part of it so I want to beef up my credibility and consistency.

Here’s my plan.

Brevity is key, so I’m going to reward roughly one 8 out of 10 per week, giving it a 400-600 word review a week after release.  This is my main recommendation of the week.

Then, I’ll probably have a 7.5 review weekly which is a secondary recommendation and perhaps another review of something that I’m interested in writing about.  Both of these will likely be less than 200 words.

I want to post everything on Fridays so I can have the whole week to look at some releases, compile my ideas, and get them out there all at once at a specific time rather than feeling like I could always be posting something and feeling overwhelmed all the time.

Also I would like to post the singles for the albums I’m interested in for the next week on Friday, maybe write a blurb about the big ones.

My biggest thing right now is I feel overloaded all the time with blogs talking about mountains and mountains of good albums that you NEED to check out so I’m trying to be really precise with recommendations.  Also, I’m inspired by John Oliver.  He basically releases a video every Sunday evening so I know that Monday morning I have a story to watch on youtube every week.  I want my blog to be a place that people know to visit at a specific time and get a few things to check out, then come back next week when they need more recommendations.

Also, summer tends to be pretty slow so maybe I’ll try and catch up on the albums on my midyear list that I’ve given you no explanation for yet? I probably won’t write a review with a number of say Golden Hour by Kacey Musgraves because I feel like it’s key to review albums that get swept up into the PR frenzy when they happen because they become these massive cultural things so quickly and I want to be able to formulate my own opinion BUT I could ruminate on my personal relationship to it or something like that.

Music that doesn’t get a shit ton of buzz… if it’s good it’s good and I’d like to be open to taking a look at it whenever. IF THIS APPLIES TO YOU send your music to me on twitter @burtandonovan my email is a mess and I don’t get any music from it anymore lol.

If you read this, you’re my GOLDEN HOUR.

Also check out my new Snail Mail t-shirt, and please text me your thoughts on Pristine, it’s a gay anthem, the “Chanel” of 2018 in my humble opinion.



On the Monthly: January 2018

Lol actually successfully reviewed a lot of stuff this month, enjoy my favorite albums, not really in order although Pop 2 is a masterpiece

Charli XCX-Pop 2

“Pop 2 is a new world that’s not entirely comfortable for all of us but Charli XCX charges up her batteries with ease and sets her sights on the tron-like neon violence of the future.”

Porches-The House

The singles for the latest from Aaron Maine see two sides of the singer-songwriter. “Find Me” is Maine the detached partier, accompanied by rattling horns and driving rhythm, whereas “Country” is a confessional croon, the climax articulated by flourishing vocal layering.  The album leans a bit towards the later, oftentimes showcasing autotuned vocal wandering over sparse territory, but Maine finds ways to sneak uplifting dance-isms into the overarching gloom.  “Goodbye” offers the full scope as a mournful departure finds enlightenment with a soaring chorus and bright beat.  It’s a more patient listen than “Pool,” but Maine’s comforting intimacy again shines.


“Cupcakke may have difficulty fitting into the FCC regulations for radio play, but her music is wide-reaching—perfectly tuned to tell young folks everywhere that their desires are valid.”

Tune-Yards: I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life

“I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life also sees a little bit of an evolution to sharper and tighter sensibilities, but Merrill Garbus and her collaborator Nate Brenner remain in their relentlessly unique niche, any extra fans coming as a result of sheer will.”

Profligate-Somewhere Else

“Who’s counting but a singular work spanning noise, spoken-word, post-punk-rock, electronic feels so right on Wharf Cat Records and so fresh in the year of our lord 2018.”

Year in Review 2017

This is wicked late but here’s my personal listening list from 2017.

Top 25:

  1. Lorde-Melodrama
  2. Tyler, the Creator-Flower Boy
  3. SZA-Ctrl
  4. Jaimie Branch-Fly or Die
  5. Moses Sumney-Aromanticism
  6. Mich Cota-Kijà/Care
  7. Kelly Lee Owens-Kelly Lee Owens
  8. Bibio-Phantom Brickworks
  9. Jessica Moss-Pools of Light
  10. Tim Berne-Incidentals
  11. Julien Baker-Turn Out the Lights
  12. Jay-Z 4:44
  13. Palberta-Bye Bye Berta
  14. Common Holly-Playing House
  15. Jay Som-Everybody Works
  16. Brockhampton-Saturation Trilogy
  17. Priests-Nothing Feels Natural
  18. Paramore-After Laughter
  19. Mount Eerie-A Crow Looked at Me
  20. Arca-Arca
  21. The Courtneys-II
  22. Kendrick Lamar-DAMN
  23. Slowdive-Slowdive
  24. Perfume Genius-No Shape
  25. Laurel Halo-Dust



  1. Lorde-Melodrama
  2. Paramore-After Laughter
  3. Kesha-Rainbow



  1. Slowdive-Slowdive
  2. The Courtneys-II
  3. Jay Som-Everybody Works
  4. Waxahatchee-Out in the Storm
  5. The National-Sleep Well Beast



  1. Priests-Nothing Feels Natural
  2. Palberta-Bye Bye Berta
  3. Downtown Boys-Cost of Living


Indie/Dream Pop

  1. Mich Cota-Kija/Care
  2. Perfume Genius-No Shape
  3. Japanese Breakfast-Soft Sounds from Another Planet
  4. St Vincent-Masseduction
  5. Dirty Projectors-Dirty Projectors



  1. Kelly Lee Owens-Kelly Lee Owens
  2. Laurel Halo-Dust
  3. Blanck Mass-World Eater
  4. Arca-Arca
  5. Yaeji-EP2
  6. Vince Staples-Big Fish Theory (lol)
  7. Four tet-New Energy
  8. Blue Hawaii-Tenderness
  9. Ibeyi-Ash
  10. Pierre Kwenders-MAKANDA: The End of Life the end of Time



  1. Moses Sumney-Aromanticism
  2. Julien Baker-Turn Out the Lights
  3. Mount Eerie-A Crow Looked at Me
  4. Common Holly-Playing House
  5. Feist-Pleasure



  1. SZA-Ctrl
  2. Sampha-Process
  3. Kelela-Take Me Apart


Hip Hop/Rap

  1. Tyler, the Creator-Flower Boy
  2. Jay-Z: 4:44
  3. Brockhampton-Saturation Trilogy
  4. Kendrick Lamar-Damn
  5. Migos-Culture



  1. Jaimie Branch-Fly or Die
  2. Tim Berne-Incendentals
  3. Nicole Mitchell-Mandorla Awakenings II
  4. Kamasi Washington-Harmony of Difference
  5. Whit Dickey/Matt Maneri/Matthew Shipp-Vessel in Orbit



  1. Bibio-Phantom Brickworks
  2. Jessica Moss-Pools of Light
  3. Kara-Lis Coverdale-GRAFTS



  1. Austra/Jessy Lanza @ Pop Montreal
  2. LCD Soundsystem @ Laval
  3. Slowdive @ Olympia
  4. Henry Threadgill @ Newport Fest
  5. The Roots @ Newport Jazz Fest
  6. Tim Berne @ Newport Jazz Fest
  7. Jaimie Branch @ Suoni Per il Popolo
  8. The Courtneys @ M for Montreal
  9. Lightning Bolt @ Foo Fest
  10. Tom Rainey’s Obbligatto in NYC


Old Albums I couldn’t stop listening to:

  1. LCD Soundsystem-Sound of Silver (they’re back!)
  2. Carly Rae Jepsen-Emotion
  3. Radiohead-OK Computer
  4. Roscoe Mitchell-Sound
  5. Nas-Illmatic
  6. Mobb Deep-The Infamous
  7. Sleater Kinney-All Hands on the Bad One
  8. Laurie Spiegel-The Expanding Universe
  9. New Order-Power, Corruption & Lies
  10. Arthur Blythe-Illusions
  11. Bjork-Homogenic
  12. Daft Punk-Homework
  13. Rihanna-Anti
  14. Katy Perry-Teenage Dream
  15. William Basinski-The Disintegration Loops
  16. Kate Bush-Hounds of Love
  17. Underworld-Dubnobasswithmyheadman
  18. Death Grips-The Money Store
  19. Grimes-Visions
  20. Frank Ocean Blond ❤


On the Monthly: June 2017

Kelly Lee Owens-Kelly Lee Owens

“taps into ambient and drone traditions while also delivering a constant stream of danceable bass lines and bouncy synth arpeggiations.”

Full Review


“Lorde took a while to come back, but the last four years have been all growth and her empire is just beginning.”

Full Review


“SZA pinpoints relatability while avoiding tired cliché”

Full Review

Clark-Death Peak

“a great deal of variety in the project and the logical march from light to mean makes it digestible and addicting”

Full Review

Vince Staples-Big Fish Theory

“Staples maintains his usual drawl speech and coy attitude as huge, biting electronic-influenced beats explode beneath him and hooks talk up his come up, moving from little pond problems to ‘countin’ up hundreds by the thousands.'”

Full Review

Kara-Lis Coverdale-GRAFTS

“‘Grafts’ is one of her more condensed projects and although works like “A-480” and “Aftertouches” certainly offer blissful sublimity from beginning to end, “Grafts” is certainly her most no-moment-wasted work to date.”

Full Review


Classic Album of the Week: Siouxsie and the Banshees-Juju

1978’s “The Scream” saw an insane amount of potential in the punky-groove realm with barren drum grooves and simple, quirky guitar loops complementing a huge lead singer with shocking make-up and a wild melodic sense.  A new icon was born, but outside the UK, she wouldn’t be influential for a while.

Considering the rise of bands today like Ought, Preoccupations, and Priests; the rap love of post-punk from Danny Brown and Vince Staples; and the even more direct influence of Slowdive—a band named after a Siouxsie Sue tune—it’s clear that the movement had a huge impact and the Banshees were an integral part of post-punk’s aura.

Looking back on their career, they were consistent.  They released albums yearly after their debut, each time adding a bit more practice onto their foundation and even exploring some electronics on the insanely ahead of its time track “Red Light.”

As a whole, I would say the band is more influential and iconic than their albums and Siouxsie Sue would be a figure of goth, new-wave, and post-punk based on a handful of tracks, covers, and her ridiculously good stage-presence rather than having a universally-loved “Illmatic,” but to this day 1981’s “Juju” remains a measured, consistent post-punk masterpiece that set the tone for a decade.

Budgie’s cavernous drums and John McGeoch’s layered guitar work are the first big things that stick out when considering the band’s sonic development.  “Spellbound” finds a driving groove with a combination of jangling guitar strumming and anticipatory guitar arpeggiation.

The drums stick out a bit more on “Into the Night” where traditional Banshees circular tom patterns meet a new-found depth.  “Voodoo Dolly,” the seven-minute jam that closes out the album, sees distant, screams of guitar noise and pounding drums giving new life to Sue’s strained chorus.

Sue keeps a bit of her old self.  With an infectious-as-hell “trick or treat, the bitter and the sweet” chorus, “Halloween” is the same blunt lyricism that made tracks like “Carcass” so loveable, but there’s also some slightly more developed dark imagery that would influence the many goth-bands to come.  “Night Shift,” for instance, opens with sparse bass lines, before a chugging demeanor sets in.  Singing about the “Night Shift sisters” (prostitutes), Sue pains a rather dire picture: “The cold marble slab submits at my feet/With a neat dissection/Looking so sweet to me.”

Siouxsie Sue was an icon for a lot of people.  In terms of album delivery, “Juju” saw her at her best and it remains her band’s most rewarding statement to date.