People my age tend to say there’s no great music being made any more. They cite the dramatic success of Kate Bush’s “Running up that hill” after being featured in “Stranger Things” as proof positive that we have to look back to the “Golden Era” to find anything worth listening to. Of course the exact range of the “Golden Era” varies, but tends to coincidentally be around the time they were in their teens and 20s.
Music is of course subjective, which makes it pointless arguing about it, but they are wrong.
It’s like last year when MTV celebrated it’s 40th birthday. Literally thousands of ageing music fans commented on how much they miss MTV and how they should bring it back. It just makes me scratch my head and ask “why?”.
Don’t get me wrong – I loved MTV! In 1989 I spent £200 on an Amstrad SRX-100 Satellite system, not to watch re-runs of Falcon Crest, The Frank Bough Interview or any of the other tripe that used to spew out from Astra 1A, but of course for MTV!
At a time when music on television in the UK consisted of about half an hour of bands from the Top 30 miming to a studio audience on a Thursday night in the form of Top of the Pops, and occasionally things like The Chart Show and The Tube which at least occasionally featured Indie/Alternative bands, like The Chart Show’s “Indie Week” one week in three there they would play 3-4 indie videos, having access to music videos 24hrs a day, 7 days a week, with 2 hrs of Indie/Alt videos on a Friday Night (120 Minutes) it was nothing short of a revelation and a revolution!
MTV introduced me to some of my favourite bands of the era. It also introduced me to Army of Lovers who I was mildly obsessed about for around 6 months, but nothing’s perfect 😉
So I have lots of happy memories of MTV but … YouTube wipes the floor with it!
Think about it, like MTV you can watch music videos 24hrs a day, 7 days a week, but unlike MTV who tended to play music on big labels, and would sometimes overplay a song you liked until you ended up hating it (Nothing Compares 2 U for example…) or a song you hated to start with, played until it made you physically ill (Everything I do by Bryan Adams for example), you can choose what you listen to, when you want to, and not just from some arbitrary playlist, but from pretty much any song ever recorded in any era, from colossus global superstars to someone from around the corner who’s bought their first guitar and everything in-between.
Obviously you can’t just go “click” and a music video is selected for you like MTV, but if someone really wants someone else to dictate what they listen to, it only takes 5 mins to find a playlist.
Likewise, the new music I listen to, on the surface may seem very much like old music. It’s not like the 80s when synth and sampling technology was still developing, and I was young enough not to know all the influences, so music came along which sounded completely different to anything you’d heard before, I’ve aged and technology has plateaued to a point and there’s little new under the musical sun.
But whilst music from my younger days is like a comfort blanket – a reminder of carefree times when I had more energy than responsibility, discovering a new band you love is just as exciting now as when I was younger – why wouldn’t it be?
Yes, “free time” is an alien concept to me these days between work and family commitments, so I don’t sit around for hours on end scouring Sounds / Melody Maker / NME for something new to listen to, but I still make the effort to try and listen to new music, because whilst you have to sift through some depressingly bland and generic music that the gatekeepers of old would at least have protected you from, when you finally discover a band that clicks with you, it lifts your spirits in a way that very few things do.
One such band that lifted my spirits no end is Kills Across the River.
Eagle-eyed Skating Polly fans will note the familiar surnames when I say the singer is called Amber Bighorse, and David Mayo is involved in singing, songwriting and production on their debut album. They are based in Tacoma, and whilst you may not recognise the guy at the start of the trailer for their new album without his balaclava, the lady smashing a plate will almost certainly look familiar!
Whilst the Skating Polly connection undoubtedly piqued my interest initially in Kills Across the River out of the mountain of press releases I receive every day about new bands, it’s their music that kept my attention, and keeps me going back to the pre-release copy of the album. Talent definitely runs in the family!
The bio below says it better than I ever could, but suffice to say “Mutt” is an album that sounds like the best music from the 90s, but with all the excitement that comes with a new artist.
Listen to it with an open-mind – you might just feel the excitement too!
Mutt is available on Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music and Tidal from Friday 9th September 2022.
The band have no plans for live shows at present, but if/when they tour, Live Music Pix would love to bring them to Liverpool!
Anyway, that’s enough waffling from me! Here’s the bands bio:
“New four-piece Tacoma band Kills Across the River makes folk-leaning alt-rock that feels as vast as the open sky and as subtle as a secret. Led by singer-songwriter Amber Bighorse—whose voice has been compared to alt/indie icons Mirah, Kim Deal, and Rilo Kiley—the band’s distinctively eerie moniker comes from an English translation of Bighorse’s Cheyenne name. They’ve drawn inspiration from a range of idiosyncratic songwriters, including Paul McCartney, Perfume Genius, and Sturgill Simpson, carving out a solid space for their unique sound in the alt-rock landscape. Bighorse’s vocals shift between raw, raucous power and an easy, lullabye-like tenderness, backed by intricate percussion from drummer Doug Mackey, gritty, textural electric guitar lines from guitarist RJ Morgan, and support from Bighorse’s husband David Mayo, who assists with both songwriting and production. Now poised to release their debut album, Mutt, in September, Kills Across the River showcases the haunting, highly narrative style they’ve developed over the past few years, weaving together stories of love and loss with striking depth and remarkably cool candor.
Bighorse and Mackey first met at a neighborhood block party in 2016, but the band didn’t begin to take shape until early 2021. At the party, Mackey, who now runs Moon Yard Recording Studio and releases music under the moniker Mr. Blackwatch, mentioned to Bighorse that he had a small recording studio in his home. The two immediately bonded over their mutual love for making music, and later that night Bighorse shared some tracks she’d written. The exchange eventually led to a recording session several years later. Unsure of her guitar skills for recording, Bighorse invited seasoned guitarist Morgan to the studio to help record one song. After listening to more of Bighorse’s demos, he contributed original electric guitar and bass parts, transforming the previously acoustic tracks into something totally new. He also contributed original demos of his own. Before long, they’d written and recorded enough songs to make a full record. Though many of the original songs were written by Bighorse in the years her husband Mayo was on the road supporting their daughters’ band Skating Polly, the couple had collaborated frequently on musical projects in the past. Naturally, Mayo became deeply involved in the project: His integral input in developing songs, lyrics, and production helped shape the band’s ultimate sound.
Mutt is an album of cohesive contradiction and layered emotional textures. Set for release on September 9, 2022 via the band’s own label, Strange Fat Music, the record is named after Bighorse’s late father, Peyton Bighorse—a musician known to friends and family as simply “Mutt.” The album features ten sophisticated acoustic-electric tracks based on Bighorse’s original demos. The tracks are enhanced by the musical dexterity of Mackey, whose production aesthetic is anchored in clean, early-70s instrumentation. His groovy, slightly languid drumming forms a perfect backdrop for Morgan’s warmly experimental electric guitar, which often incorporates alternative tuning and grungy, tactile timbres. (A lifelong musician in his own right, Morgan’s current project, Recess, features his 3-year-old son on drums.)
Soundwise, Mutt falls somewhere between Nina Nastasia’s Dogs, The Breeders’ Last Splash, and Tune- Yards’ Nikki Nack, with a little Bonnie Prince Billy thrown in the mix. It’s both clear and complex, breezy yet intensely thoughtful. Spiraling rhythms and stacked vocal melodies are tempered by perfect moments of calm: This is a band that knows when to kick up the dust and when to hold back and let it breathe. Flanked by two wildly different versions of the same song (the elegantly sparse, folky opening track “Guilty” and the driving alt-rock closer “I’m Guilty, Too”), Mutt is as much throwback alt-rock as it is dreamy, imaginative folk-pop, with a compelling 90s sensibility that’s both pleasantly retro and so clearly right for right now.”