subnormal magazine: music reviews (January 2018)

As a former jaded rock journalist-turned less jaded journalist, I have more hope for the music industry these days, thanks to great bands and artists of the past decade or near so, including Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Phantogram, Warpaint, Grimes, Mo, Elliphant, Tove Lo, Empire of the Sun, and many more.

subnormal magazine: music reviews (January 2018) 1
Kenzo, with Karen O.

Yet still, when I listen to a new artist, I give it a about 3 seconds before I decide if I like it or not. If I’m not sure in the first few chords, I’ll skip ahead and decide in another second or two. If it gets past my 5 or so second mark, I’m in to listen to more.

My measure for a song and band worth my attention, is, beyond this, the question I ask myself; “Would I rather listen to Sonic Youth, Skinny Puppy, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Warpaint, The Killers, The Cure, Yeah Yeah Yeahs’s, or any of my other hundred plus favorite artists right now, rather than spend my precious few minutes of life listening to this song and band?”

Usually that answer is yes, I’d rather hear my usual favorites. Once in a rare while, a band or artist comes along that just may be worth squeezing into my playlist – or at least, exploring further by giving them a few more minutes of my time.

High Tropics

High Tropics are such a decent band worth exploring further. Returning with their latest single, “You Never Made It Easy,” following the release of singles “15 Years” and “Better Days,” 15 Years is a strong cut that makes me want to hear more. To quote their press release, “Birthed by the fuzz-filled glory years that were the 2000s, High Tropics is the moniker of Queensland-based Josh Stewart. What was intended as a means to put out music outside of his duties of fronting indie rockers The Ninjas, Stewart’s DIY home recordings quickly caught the attention of esteemed Roll Call Records, who released the project’s first two singles in 2017.”

high tropics.
High Tropics.

Further quoting the release, they add, “Sonically reminiscent of early Strokes and Interpol with the DIY elements of FIDLAR and Wavves, High Tropics are complete with the lo-fi charm that comes with the territory.”

You may not have heard of this next chick, that Universal Records just emailed me about, but she has new single out. I’ve never been much in to country – or pop, but I have always had a lot of respect for this next artist. End Game – while again not something I would normally listen to, is I have to admit, a simply brilliant pop song in every way from production to writing. Taylor Swift has yet again re-invented herself, and done it again. Not my favorite style of music, but I must say, I am very impressed, and of course, she looks great as always.

I first got turned on to Beck by Sonic Youth via 120 minutes on MTV. Thurston Moore was raving about how cool he was, and so of course, being a Sonic Youth fanatic, I believed him, but really never dug his music until I realized he wrote a song that was the story of my life. A sarcastic classic called Loser, evidently written from Beck to a verbally abusive woman. It was then after I met the subject of his song, that Beck held a dear place in my heart. His new single here Universal made me aware of – Fix Me, is absolutely brilliant and beautiful. Even this freaky video with children and huge coifed poodles and dogs doesn’t disturb me, like maybe it should – nah, it’s kind of cute. Check it out.

I just checked my email and got this in below from Karen O’s team. This song, while not something that will work too well on a straight playlist at a party with the really slow intro start and long breaks in between, sounds beautiful to me on a first listen skipping around it, and I got shivers the first time Karen’s voice kicks in. Karen O. is of course, one of the coolest singers on the planet with one of the top 10 best rock bands on the planet – Yeah Yeah Yeah’s. The liner notes on YouTube state that this track is not merely a song, but a fashion, film and music collaboration. I will definitely be listening to this beautiful work again.

subnormal: music calendar



18, Flesheaters, Echoplex

19, Agent Orange, The Whisky a Go Go

25, Morris Day, The Saban

28, Grammy Awards, 4:30pm Pacific

Styx, The Saban


21, Styx, The Rose


1, Sunflower Bean, Moroccan Lounge

3, Phantogram, Expo Park (LA)

4, The Oscars

Phantogram, Expo Park (LA)


5, Arlo Guthrie


8-19, Cannes Film Festival

24, Phantogram, Cal Coast Theatre, San Diego

subnormal magazine: current playlist: Mo, Elliphant, Tove Lo, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Warpaint, Sunflower Bean, Starcrawler, The Slits, X-Ray Spex, Peter Murphy, Duran Duran, Fields of Nephilim, Adolescents, Sex Pistols, Ministry, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Sonic Youth, Depeche Mode, Grimes, Minor Threat, Phantogram.

Visit subnormal magazine – soon weekly, at

subnormal magazine does not endorse any ads or links that may appear on this page or story.