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:

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.

HI 5 8/18/22

CHRISTOPHER! Did you know Michael Imperioli has a band?


Bluhm – “Everything”, August 12

You can read the full review here. Haunting and understated indie pop. Love the reverby vocals and lyrical guitars.

Zopa – “Red Sky”, February 16

Another band I feel a bit late to the party on, with Michael Imperioli on lead vocals and guitar. Gives me strong The Velvet Underground vibes, love the deep bass.

Gogol Bordello – “Forces Of Victory”, August 16

Folk punk that is always super exciting, honestly this almost feels like a folk metal song, and I love that.

Permanently Pissed – “CHAT”, August 11

With the recent Bluhm review it seemed appropriate to CHAT about John’s other band Permanently Pissed. High distortion garage punk that doesn’t linger.

The Native Howl – “Sons Of Destruction”, August 18

Who gave these metalheads out of Leonard MI all these grandpa guitars. Native Howl continues to play dope ass metal on folk instruments making them one of my favorite groups in bluegrass right now.

Bluhm – “Everything” Single Review

Man, you guys remember The Bronze from buffy? The vibes there were tight. “Everything”, the debut single from Bluhm would fit right in. I can picture it honestly, though it does help this is one of the few bands I’ve written about where I’ve actually seen all the people playing in person. What feels like long ago, I used to go to Exferimentation Brewing Company open mic all the time. Unfortunately that lovely place closed down, but for me, hearing this song brings me right back to watching Claire & Matt of the opening band play “Fade Into You” by Mazzy Star, haunting me beautifully. I can move that scene to The Bronze without a missed step. 

Bluhm is what I would describe as atmospheric indie folk pop, which I’ll admit is a bit of word salad. They honestly remind me a lot of the aforementioned Mazzy Star unsurprisingly, or a bit like Florist with a lot more 90’s flavor. Reverby, not in a hurry, and with soft vocals that the instruments never overpower. I expected this from vocalist Claire Bluhm, but it’s cool to see such range from Permanently Pissed member and other band member John Marion (not certain on names, going off instagram and memory.) The aforementioned Matt also played drums on this track, and he continues to be a fantastic pocket drummer. 

The lyrics fall right in line with the vibes the music puts out, telling an understated love song that feels familiar but not cliché. The guitar tone is perfect, and the melodies feel a bit lyrical as well, coming together with the vocals themselves in a haunting chorus softly supported by a subtle  rhythm section. 

Overall, this is an incredibly strong debut from Bluhm. I was pretty excited for this track, and it did not disappoint. It’s haunting, understated, and beautiful. I’m really stoked to hear more, and I’m quite confident it will be just as excellent.


Bluhm Socials:

My Socials


HI 5 8/11/22

The music keeps coming and it never stops coming. Like a pornstar I guess.

Loops & Loops – “Beautifully Volatile”, August 5th

More from Loops & Loops (and there always is, that man records). Dark and beautiful indie folk song.

The Greedy Beat Syndicate – “If You Want It”, August 5th

Funky and chill. Fantastic bass, love the snare sound.

Matthew Milia – “Keego Harbor”, July 16 2021

I’m completely ashamed to say I just got my ears on this album. I’m working on a review of this album right now, and this is the best off an amazing album. Thought provoking Americana.

The Mountain Goats – “Mark On You”, August 2

The final single (I think) coming out before Bleed Out (which I am obviously very excited for, The Mountain Goats have been my favorite band for like a decade at this point). I think I still enjoy “Wage Wars Get Rich Die Handsome” more, but I love how The Mountain Goats are introducing subtle and melodic electric guitar parts.

Cheap Teeth – “What A Feeling, What A Day”, August 11

You can find my full review at Rock At Night here. Highly dynamic, and lyrically excellent garage rock that feels like a blend of UK and American influence.