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?

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

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.

Bandcamp

Soundcloud

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.

Keego Harbor Is A Masterpiece Of Metro Detroit Americana

This one isn’t going to be a completely standard review. I think the title gives away my opinion a bit, and I hold Matthew Milia’s Keego Harbor to be one of my favorite albums of all time. Now, I’m a bit behind, as this album came out July 16 2021. A bit old for the new release range, but I am hoping to get a few more reviews of my favorite albums up, if just to let you, dear reader, get to know my music tastes a bit better. I suppose it’s appropriate I got into this album late, as I was also pretty late to the party on Matthew’s band Frontier Ruckus, who I didn’t really get into until college. I absolutely loved the verbose prose-like nature of Matthew’s songwriting, and I think it’s only gotten better as he’s continued on as a musician. I got the chance to see them at a house show (Lamplight music festival I think, not sure what year) and they were completely magnetic as a three-piece. Matthew Milia’s solo work puts his effortless Americana lyricism first, and with Keego Harbor it’s resulted in a beautiful, consistent, and thoughtful album.

Keego Harbor is a dangerous cocktail of existential dread and childhood nostalgia, but its focus on the power of place, of family, and of love keeps the darker turnings in lines like “In the first part of life you just let in the light / And you loop it like a DVD menu / And someday in your 30s all your colors lose their bite / And you can’t change the channel now can you” from weighing the album down with dread, but embracing it and learning to deal with it. In a lot of ways this album feels darkly hopeful, especially the final lines of the albums namesake “Someday I think I’ll move back to Keego Harbor / ‘Cause keeping alive’s hard / But giving up’s even harder / And I’m not ready to die / I’ll just go simplify / In Keego Harbor.” I’m tempted to go through each song and pull meaning, and the depth is certainly there in his effortless lyrical exploration of Metro Detroit, but I think what’s truly masterful about Matthew’s songwriting on this album is that these songs are consistently thought provoking, and forcing the listener to self reflect, just as it seems Matthew has while writing this album. 

The lyrical themes and literary tie to place are not the only thing that keep this album consistent. While I find the vocal production to be occasionally a bit too clean, Matthews vocals aren’t lacking character, and his wife Lauren’s backing harmonies are gorgeous, and add great texture. There is a good depth of instrumentation for every song, almost all of them include the soaring steel guitar of Pete Ballard, and various instruments (Guitars, organ, bass etc.) played by Matthew and co-producer Ben Collins (drums, bass, organ etc.) with occasional piano played by Ryan Hay. I love the dreamy atmosphere in the songs, and its consistently a song forward country style that results in something that reminds me a bit of John Prine. While I can’t say I ever find Keego Harbor to be quite as musically exciting as Frontier Ruckus, its lyric centric, singer-songwriter approach has kept me coming back to this album more than any FR release (incredibly excited for their upcoming album whenever that drops though, obviously). 

I highly, highly encourage anyone from Michigan to give this album a listen, especially those from or familiar with the Metro Detroit area. Keego Harbor, that small town between the poverty of Pontiac and the abundance of Bloomfield Hills is effortlessly wielded and channeled by Matthew Milia on this album, and used to convey themes of aging, dread, family, and love. It’s a consistent, well-paced, full, and beautiful symbol of place. Matthews dedication seems pertinent: “Dedicated to Lauren, my parents, and the holy lands surrounding Keego Harbor – out from which I bulge a humble physical extension.”

Matthew and wife Lauren from an envelope in the Vinyl
Credits included with the vinyl

Matthew Milia’s Socials

My Socials

Submit To ME!

We’re happy to announce we are now accepting music submissions for coverage at Dirt Witch Records. We’re not a particularly far reaching blog right now, but we are committed to helping small and emerging artists with reviews, hype, and feedback. A submission is not a guarantee of coverage, but we will try to get to all submitted music, just be aware that we are a one man team writing for no financial gain.

When submitting music please include a picture of the band, a brief description of your band and the release including all prudent information (genre, release date, ways to listen etc.), and a link/mp3 to the release. As a fellow musician as well as a music critic I would strongly recommend any artists putting out music to get a press release with this kind of stuff together and place it in google drive.

Please tell your musical friends about us so we can continue to grow a positive community of small and emerging indie artists.