Matt Bastardson’s “Hard Times” Is Alt-Country With Pontiac Edge

From Matt’s Website

The Pontiac scene won’t let me go. Here we go. So, we’ve got yet another stellar release coming out of one of the folks I met at Exferimentation Brewing Company’s open mic. For a place that’s been closed for a fair shake now, I really love how it keeps popping its head back into my life, it was a good place. Matt Bastardson’s “Hard Times” is well produced, working class Americana that feels like Metro Detroit’s own brand of country music. 

Maybe this is a controversial opinion, but I personally believe Michigan is becoming a real contender in the alt-country scene. We’ve got guitar gods like Billy Strings coming out, as well thrash-grassers The Native Howl, flawless musicians like myself of course, and we’ve got this single right here from Matt Bastardson. It’s been excellently produced into something that feels both modern, and retro at the same time, which also feel appropriately Metro-Detroit. Its alt-country/southern rock at its core, with a lot of blues and even more Americana. The chunky guitar effortlessly chugs and fills driven by the pocket drums, and fiddle that seems to travel between the ears as it plays. 

The star of the show is Matt’s fantastically edged vocals, and his grounded songwriting. A song about perseverance out of Pontiac feels appropriate. Lines like “Hard Times On My Shoulders/ Have Cut These Lines In My Face/ I Will Fight To Make A dollar/ Anybody, anytime, or place” deliver a blue collar feel that makes me want to go get shit done. The song feels thematically satisfying as a kind of come-back/debut as well, as it feels autobiographical. 

It’s been an absolute treat to get to hear music coming out of all these people I was able to see play in some way at Exferimentation. I want to say it’s all been surprisingly good, but I’m not truly surprised. All of them have been clearly talented performers, and the music they make reflects that. Matt Bastardson’s “Hard Times” establishes him as another example of the excellent country influenced music coming out of Michigan right now. The track is currently in pre-release, but you can get your hands on it by signing up for Matt’s mailing list on the Fan Magnet linked below.

Track Credits:

Tracked at 17 West Lawrence with Mike Seeger

Singer/Songwriter and Guitars: Matt Bastardson

Bass and Keys: Jordan Weiss

Drums: Rob Emmanuel

Fiddle: Wes Fritzemeir

Mixing: Ryan Cunninghan (Boxcar Audio, Pontiac)

Matt’s Socials:

Fan Magnet: Click here to get the track

My Socials:

Shameless Begging

I don’t know if you knew this, but neither making music these days or writing about it is particularly profitable. Unfortunately, those our the things that I do, so I, am not very profitable. I want to be able to continue pursuing my passions and bring y’all music and music reviews, and I don’t have any current plans to stop…. But I could really use some money. Money would really help me be able to continue spending as much time as I do on music writing, and making music. So what am I going to do about this? Well, I’m going to start by begging. Well, asking, up to you. Dirt Witch Records is now accepting donations. I’ll include a form below, and there is now one at the bottom of the home page.


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Other than that, I’ve got a couple of merch items over at Band camp for sale here, with some plans for more. Buying the music there is also incredibly helpful. Thinking of putting together a digital zine, sell that for a small price maybe? Thoughts?

HI 5 9/16/22

I’ve almost been married a year. That’s pretty neat.

Indi Faulkner-“Reality” September 9

I really love the 70’s sci-fi vibe from both the song and the album art. Indi Faulkner’s music reminds me of one of my favorite indie pop artists Mirah, with its dynamic, and somewhat dark feel.

Yb.-“Sandra” September 7

I have to admit I’ve been poaching a lot of Spotify’s Fresh Finds. They’ve got some good stuff if you look. . Yb. delivers a song that seems to draw as much from indie rock as it does modern pop. Catchy AF as well.

Cartridge B-Sides-“Is it cool?” August 19

You can check out the full album review here. Cartridge B-Sides delivers nostalgic bedroom indie rock that feels like a reflection of 2000’s indie like The Strokes. Is it cool? It is cool.

Shoplifters Mugshot-“I’ve Got No Strings (On Me)” September

Folk Punk. Fuck Yeah. I love the ferocity of the vocals and guitar playing, and it really makes you forget you’re just listening to one man and a guitar.

The Milk Men-“Gabba Gabba Hey” September 9

The Milk Men out of the UK love American punk. You can check the full review at Rock At Night here. This song is a catchy love letter to the golden days of The Ramones.

Cartridge B-Sides- “Pretty Ugly” Review

Ah yes, the humble solo artist. Well, rarely humble, look at me. I feel solo artistry can be a real double edged sword. You can get stuff that really speaks with a singular vision, or you can get stuff that feels a bit, unrestrained (I know I edge a little into the latter on occasion).  Cartridge B Sides’s “Pretty Ugly” is solidly in the former. 

Cartridge B Sides is Justin Roman, a solo artist in the garage rock style, with music that feels nostalgic, and intimate. Justin (Great name, obviously) says of his own music.

“I play indie-garage rock style genre with heavy influences from bands such as The Strokes, Joy Division and Surf Curse.” 

The strokes is who I personally heard the most influence of, especially with the vocals that feel a bit distant and laconic, but not attempting to replicate Julian Casablancas. The songs definitely have that 2000’s upbeat indie drive, with constant clean rhythm guitar, and high and catchy lead guitar licks. What makes Cartridge B-Sides a bit more distinct is the infusion of bedroom pop, and that aforementioned nostalgia. You can feel Justin reflecting on his influences in the music, almost as if he’s retelling these tales of old music and playing all the parts. It gives the songs a thoughtful construction, and deep intimacy. 

To be honest, I think this music speaks for itself in a way that is giving me difficulty writing about it. This album is super consistent in its delivery, tonally and thematically. The songs are quick and catchy, not overstaying their welcome (Is it cool? Is my personal favorite earworm). It’s music that definitely makes me want to go back and listen to more of The Strokes and Joy Division, but you know,  not before I finish listening. 

I like this album, it’s familiar without feeling like already tread ground, and I love the intimate and singular feel. It’s an album you can put on and pretty instantly know your stance on as well, so I’d recommend giving it a try. 

P.S.: This music is my first reviewed using my contact/submission portal, that you can access here.

Cartridge B-Sides’s Socials

My Socials

You Can’t Go Out For A Cigarette In Space

You Can’t Go Out For A Cigarette In Space

By Justin H.K.

I. Awake

The man woke up to a gentle vibration from below, and a strange hissing from above. The sterile looking, clear top to his medical sarcophagus broke into two as he was slowly lifted from below. A heady mix of invigorating scents were pumped into the room from unseen vents. The man rubbed his eyes and pushed himself upwards with the palms of his hands. He felt surprisingly strong. He imagined he was waking from quite a long sleep, but he wasn’t sure. On a table he found a pair of red shoes, clean white undergarments, a blue jumpsuit, an ID lanyard for Eric Matthews, and an espresso machine spilling the final drops into a small white coffee cup. Eric took a long drink from the cup, stretched, and got dressed. The doors opened before him with a now familiar hissing and Eric left the room, rubbing his eyes once again with his free hand. 

Eric remembered why he was here for the most part, but he didn’t remember much of how he had gotten here. He wasn’t surprised, he worked for a space pioneering company and this was a perfectly reasonable place for him to be, but he couldn’t recall the exact circumstances that had led him to standing on this very spaceship right now. 

Eric headed up to the bridge, stopping in a small kitchen on the way for another cup of coffee, and making a brief search for his #1 Dad mug ( but figuring he hadn’t been allowed to bring it after seeing a shelf full of identical white mugs). He was greeted by a startlingly warm computer voice that reminded him vaguely of the third grade science teacher that he had harbored a small crush on. There were gigantic electronic displays lining the middle third of the half-moon shaped room. Most simulated a view outside the ship, which was found to bring great peace to pilots of the pioneer spacecraft, but did very little in aiding practical navigation. Instead, most critical information was found nearer the center of the room where a very large, plain flat screen monitor was crowded by instrument panels and auxiliary consoles. Eric wandered toward the main console and finding no suitable place to put his coffee cup, set it on an auxiliary console he remembered to be less than critical. 

He found the spaceship was headed to an uninhabited planet in the Omicron Cluster. He searched for records of other ships headed to the same planet, as it was typical for the company to send a dozen or so colony ships at a time, but was unable to find anything. This made Eric incredibly anxious, but he couldn’t quite place what brought him this dread. He felt sick. Eric rushed to the nearest lavatory and nearly smashed his head in an urgent dive to expel his vomit into the waiting toilet. 

II. Empty

Eric was slowly beginning to remember more. For example, Eric now remembered how easy it was to succumb to awakening indigestion. It was always recommended employees eat a plain ration within thirty minutes of waking for a shift. Instead, Eric had numerous cups of espresso. He hoped his overconsumption of caffeine was also the source of the previous unexplained dread. Eric got up, and drank water from the sink. He knew Edie would be giving him hell if he was home. He opened the cupboard below the sink and grabbed a new toothbrush. 

As he cleansed his mouth of coffee breath and vomit he noticed there was already a toothbrush in the holder on the sink. Odd. He hadn’t found any records from the last shift in the briefing on the main console, so he supposed it wasn’t surprising that they weren’t great cleaners either. He tossed the old toothbrush, and then the one he just used because, well, vomit. He was finally starting to feel hungry, but more than anything, he really wanted a cigarette. He tried to quit a few times, but he still had a hidden stash he’d go out and smoke those nights he couldn’t sleep. He’d just go out and chain smoke while staring at the stars, never ending up sleeping. Eric went into the kitchen and prepared two plain rations.

III. Duties

After eating, Eric started to work on the daily checklist he found on the main console. He grabbed the janitorial cart from the main supply closet and began to clean any dirty spots he saw (and there were a frustrating amount, the last shift was a slob) while doing a survey of the BOA (Bridge Operating Area). He was disappointed, but not surprised, to find out all of the auxiliary wings were closed off at his clearance level. He honestly didn’t remember his title, but his quickly remembered acquisition of the janitorial cart led him to believe he wasn’t near the top of the totem pole. The work was satisfying, but menial, and Eric found some old Motown records in the digital archive to play on the PA system. Eric hummed along, occasionally singing an off-key note or two when he remembered the words. Every once in a while, as he swept, he would spin elegantly with the broom, imagining himself dancing with Edie in the kitchen. Unfortunately, in no time at all, the BOA was spotless and Eric headed to the main recreation area, sighing melodramatically as he flopped onto a stiff blue couch. 

IV. Boredom

Eric spent a few hours on the couch flipping through the large archive of television shows. He found a couple of decent cooking shows, but the verve in them dissipated after a quick look inside the pantry of the ship kitchen. After that he watched a bit of some old hockey and boxing matches, but found himself unable to commit to anything for longer than fifteen minutes or so. Deciding he’d probably been sitting around too long anyways, Eric put some old rock music onto the PA and started to jog around the BOA, occasionally shadow boxing to the more motivational choruses, until he exhausted himself. He was able to bypass the screen in the shower so he could watch certain “documentary films.” He found one with a brunette that reminded him of Edie, and lonely and bored, had a private moment with himself in the shower before rinsing off the sweat, the sleep, and the sadness. 

Eric was in a paradoxical state of exhaustion and anxiety that drove him to spend an hour in his bed, determined to sleep, before rising and making his way to the kitchen, naked save a blanket. He knew he wouldn’t be able to find anything too potent, but located some light beer in the reserve pantry and began to drink with determination. After chugging a few over the kitchen sink, he threw some beers into the refrigerator and bundled the rest with him in his blanket. He made his way to the bridge, and sat down on a stiff swivel chair, tossing his feet with abandon onto the main console. Unsure what else to do, he drank, and stared at the simulated stars.

V. Dreaming/Sleepless

There was a knock at the door. The doors were automatic. Eric felt weightless. Eric drifted over to the door. He forgot his blanket. No one was at the door. The door stayed open as Eric walked away. Eric went down the hallway instinctively. The hallways twisted as Eric walked. Eric walked to the room where he woke up. He heard a familiar hissing sound and the top of the medical sarcophagus split in two. Someone pushed themselves upwards with the palms of their hands and waved. They stood up. They wore red shoes and a blue jumpsuit. The name tag was blank. They had a face, but Eric couldn’t see it.

“I feel overdressed,” said an atonal voice. It reverberated through the room. The ceilings were much higher than Eric remembered. The figure took off their face. It looked like Eric. It looked like Edie. It took off its shoes, and unzipped its jumpsuit while walking towards Eric. It took Eric’s hand, and he followed it, entranced, and aroused. The door to the auxiliary wing opened. Inside there was a bright light. Eric followed it into the light, where they embraced. What happened was warm, and thoughtless. It slipped from his memory before it had even happened. 

He lay naked next to himself. He closed his eyes.

“Here, I know you’ve got a hidden pack.” Said Edie, leaning over to Eric and kissing him softly. She handed him a pack of cigarettes. Eric began to put on the red pair of shoes.

“Where are you going?” It said in Eric’s voice.

“To smoke.” Asserted Eric.

“You can’t go out for a cigarette in space.” it sneered atonally.

Eric woke up sweaty, and sticky from the night before. What a strange dream, he thought. Eric began to lift himself from the chair to find a pack of cigarettes in his left hand.

VI. Auxilary

Eric showered quickly, staring at the pack of cigarettes on the sink as he washed himself off. He dried quickly and got dressed while still slightly damp. He broke off the leg of the nightstand by his bed and brought it with him as he walked carefully over to the room where he woke. As he approached he could see a bright light shining from the open door of the auxiliary wing . Eric slowly walked through the door, the leg of the nightstand held high. Eric stood near the entrance to the auxiliary section for a moment, afraid to move on while blinded by the intense lighting. He brought up his other hand to shield his eyes, and slowly made out a wall full of sterile medical ephemera and large clear glass vats. On the other side of the room was a medical sarcophagus similar to the one he had woken from, a large computer console, and a separate console attached to a giant steel device which thrummed and poured out heat and foul odor. As Eric approached the consoles flickered on. Eric looked to the screen attached to the large device. It said “Shift End Clone Disposal Incinerator” followed by a user ID and password prompt. On the floor next to the console were a pair of red shoes and a discarded blue jumpsuit. Eric looked closer at the nametag on the jumpsuit. It said “Edie,”  but it was clear someone had used a marker to simply add some lines to the original name, “Eric.” Eric felt dread. He felt sick. He threw up unto the red shoes, and wiped his mouth off with his sleeve. He looked over to the main console. It said “Clone Programming Console” followed by a user ID and password prompt. On a sticky note next the main console was written 

“User ID: EverythingIsEric

Password: YoureAllAlone”

Eric tried to throw up again, but he was empty. 

“Alert! Critical Navigational Error.” said Edie from the bridge. 

Eric stared at the note for a while, especially conscious of his breathing. Sometimes it said something else. Sometimes it did not.

“Alert! Critical Navigational Error.”

Eric ran to the bridge. He could see, simulated among the stars, was movement. Jagged little things. Eric approached the main console. It had already found the solution, it just needed authorization. 

Eric walked back to the room with the bright lights. He opened the hatch to the incinerator and lit a cigarette. 

HI 5 9/9/22

I heard some nasty imperialist died, anyways, let’s talk about music!

Leo Sun-“I Don’t Wanna Be Strong”, September 2

LA “booty rockin cowboy” and songwriter delivers this dreary and atmospheric slow love bop. The mellow instrumentation really suits the vulnerable vocals.

Easy Sleeper-“Dream Prison”, September 9

“Dream Prison” is suitably dreamy with its clean and melodic guitar soaked with atmosphere and backed by low, whispery vocals. Easy Sleeper always puts out music that makes me want to go for a drive, and just cruise along.

Ghost Orchard-“bruise”, August 30

The constant drums are pretty up in the mix with this song, and it gives a really hypnotic quality to all the subtle instrumentation and whispery vocals that is quite satisfying. This cryptic song demands to be listened to on repeat to decode.

sleepyhead-“Hoax”, September 9

Sleepyhead really are a power duo; recording, mixing, and distributing their upbeat indie pop out of Manchester. Their music is relentlessly earwormy, and full of hooks. The acoustic start to this song is unexpected, but fits the song amazingly in their hands.

The Lounge Society-“Blood Money”, August 26

This track off of The Lounge Society’s Tired Of Liberty drives forward with constant, upbeat drums and a relatively simple but horribly catchy guitar riff. I love the chaotic energy of the song.

WYLDCAT’s CatAtonic Preview

Got my hands on some music from the future. That’s right, this transmission is coming to you from the future, and I’m going to tell you it’s bleak. Well, ok maybe not but I do have a pre-release preview of WYLDCAT’s debut chiptune album “CatAtonic,” out September 22. It does kind of sound a bit like the future, while drawing from the past. It’s pretty neat. 

WHO IS WYLDCAT? I feel I’ve personally really missed out on an opportunity by not having my musical alias also sound like the name of a superhero. Anyways, who is WYLDCAT? WYLDCAT is Stuart Sanchez, and a Gameboy Advance. Well, maybe it’s a bit more complicated than that, but that is the soul of it. Stu is another person I know from the scene around the unfortunately closed “Exferimentation Brewing Company” in Pontiac, and I’ve gotten the chance to see him perform a bit before. He drew these huge sounds from his tiny Gameboy Advance and delivered some really high energy chiptune. It’s really cool to see these efforts manifest themselves into an album with “CatAtonic.”

I used to listen to a decent bit of chiptune music, and have actually tried my hand at making some before. WYLDCAT is certainly much more successful at it than I ever was. I was just sort of fooling around, but you can tell WYLDCAT’s music comes from a very genuine place of passion for the genre of chiptune and electronic music as a whole, as well as a specific nostalgia for the Gameboy Advance and its distinct tonal palette. At its core “CatAtonic” is dance music, with irresistible bass lines and satisfying bass and kick drums. I really love the way the more primitive consoles are manipulated to create drums in chiptune music and the drums in “CatAtonic” are especially excellent. WYLDCAT does a great job at manipulating the sounds available to deliver some great melodic hooks, as well as a dreamy sort of nostalgia fogged atmosphere. I can really imagine myself bopping along in some GBA side-scroller to these tracks.

For a debut effort, the three tracks I’ve gotten to listen to “Cat Khan,” “Cat Walk,” and “Chem Cat” show strong composition and variety. All three deliver an irresistible head boppiness, but deliver it different ways. It feels appropriately like moving on to a different stage in a video game without being strictly tied compositionally like video game music can be. I’m excited to get to listen to the whole album on September 22 with everybody else. To let out my inner dad; I enjoyed the “demo” and I’m excited to play the “full game.” 

WYLDCAT’s Socials

My Socials

“Three Wolf Moon Tee Shirt” is out now

Chill indie pop pop culture nostalgia love song “Three Wolf Moon Tee Shirt” by singer-songwriter Justin H.K. is now available wherever you listen.

This tracks layered and subtle percussion along with its mix of folk, electronic, and rock instrumentation provided a perfect backdrop for the seriously song, kind silly lyrics of mis-remembered love.



HI 5 9/2/22

It’s September. I don’t have a point here, just making sure you were aware.

Hank – “Your Ex, Man”, August 28

Did I listen to this song initially because the band name is the name of my cat. Yes. Obviously. I have also listened to this catchy as fuck pop tune with folk elements several times since. It toes a great line between natural and more produced sounds.

Loops & Loops – “Can’t Shut It Out”, September 2

Loops & Loops consistently put out great singles and instrumental albums (I’ve written about them before). I love the intimate vibe of this track and the breathy, understated vocals are contrast wonderfully with dynamic instrumentation.

A Rueful Noise – “It’s Not That Kind Of Party”, August 26

Off of their EP Let The Revels Begin, this Lansing band delivers dramatic and dynamic indie rock that feels haunted (in a good way).

Red Scarves – “Robin”, August 24

This song feels a lot different than previous releases I’m familiar with from Red Scarves, and it is beautiful. A beautifully written and sung alt-country tune that makes me want to cry into a beer.

Bluhm – “Ranger”, September 2

Bluhm has been pumping out some wonderful singles, like “Everything” which you can read about here. I’m a sucker for a duet, and they move their dreamy sound in an alt-country direction that reminds me a bit of Shovels & Rope.

HI 5 8/26/22

Oh man, this is a good week for music, I had to cut stuff. Wild.

Blast Vegas-“Girls At The Pool”, August 19

Hyper fucking catchy dance rock with unhinged B-52’s style vocals and lots of surf flavor.

Gary Link-“Meet Me In Nashville”, August 16

Atmospheric alt-country with a great build throughout the song.

Julian Belvedere-“Bleeding on your new guitar isn’t folk punk (it’s just pretty cringe), August 26

A passionate and vulnerable song out this UK folk-punker about taking responsibility for your mental health issues.

Charlie Smith-“Reap what you saw”

Another gloomy single from singer-songwriter Charlie Smith with his haunting, and soulful vocals.

Mila Ziska-“Concrete Hearts”

Beautiful indie-folk with subtle instrumentation and dreamy vocals, reminds me of Maggie Rogers.