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Written by Kevin Thomas

Walking into the Grey Eagle in Asheville, North Carolina, I realized that not many groups can bring together as eclectic of a crowd like Athens, Georgia’s of Montreal can. of Montreal’s die-hard fans arrived donning a vast array of glitter, leather, and geometric animal masks that alluded to the imaginative, dream-like show I was about to witness. Their perpetually dynamic sound has deeps roots in the 1970’s psychedelic pop scene, but has included facets of folk, glam rock, funk, and disco. “The band has had many different incarnations as a studio project,” said band member Nicholas “Dobby” Dobbratz. “Kevin’s the dude, he writes the songs, he makes the music. The live show is a group of people who love playing the music and who try to recreate the best version of a live performance possible. The studio is a whole other beast.”

From the first note, lead singer Kevin Barnes mesmerized the audience not only by his masterfully crafted experimental pop music, but also by the one-of-a-kind theatrics that Barnes and his brother David Barnes collaborate on and include in of Montreal’s live performances. From poodles headed women in American flag-printed leotards boxing each other to Abraham Lincoln dressed as the Flash dancing, I can honestly say that I did not expect anything I saw. Along with the performers, the Barnes brothers incorporate props and projected images to convert the venue into their own imagination. “A lot of it is trying to transform the stage into some sort of alternate world and keep the audience entertained so that their experience is building and building to a final, explosive climax,” David Barnes said.

Oh, was Barnes correct.  The performance was an indulgence of sensation that kept audience members in an hour-and-a-half long trance that I found difficult to escape. As someone who had only listened to of Montreal a handful of times, all aspects of the performance combined to form one great music experience that should not be passed up if given the chance.

of Montreal released their 13th album, Aureate Gloom, in March of 2015 under Polyvinyl Records.


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Confession: I was seriously considering putting Noise Polluter on hiatus after Hopscotch. I’m in college now and I wasn’t sure if I would have time to keep putting energy into the blog, especially since I’m now involved in my college’s newspaper and radio station. But people keep sending me really cool music that I want to share with you all, and thus, my plan was foiled. From now on, every Monday I’ll be highlighting some of the gr9 stuff in my inbox along with various other news. I’m not going to be able to review music as intensively as this time last year, but I hope that I’m still able to pass on some awesome music to my awesome readers.

This week, four artists caught my attention as I sifted through my mailbox. First was Lyla Foy, a dreamy act from London who is putting out a new EP, ‘UMi,’ in October. Foy has several lush, atmospheric albums under her belt, and describes her new single “Right to Be” as her personal favorite from the EP.


Also from London but with a very different sound is The Big Moon. Their single “The Road” is a self-described “anti-party anthem” with a deadpan video to match.


Bringing the noise is grungy five-piece Menace Beach. Their EP ‘Super Transporterreum’ debuts on October 2nd, and the two tracks they’ve released thus far are A+ headbanging material.


Finally, Welsh songstress Gwenno awes with the beautiful vidoe for her song “Patriarchaeth” off new album ‘Y Dydd Olaf.’ Gwenno is a fascinating artist, creating socially aware electropop in the Welsh and Cornish languages.


That’s all for this week! As always, feel 100% free to shoot me an email at


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Hopscotch season has come back around to Raleigh, and I couldn’t be more excited. When you live around here (or go to school here, in my case), it’s pretty much like Christmas finding out who’s gonna play the festival. And after the seemingly endless anticipation, it’s always even better than you expected it to be.

I was lucky enough to be able to cover Hopscotch for the second year in a row, and it was somehow even better than in 2014. Though I was pretty disappointed that Deerhunter dropped the fest, I had a truly enjoyable experience getting to see some old favorites and discovering new talent.


The first act I saw this year was Canadian band Ought. They had a tough slot to fill replacing Deerhunter- one of my favorite bands of all time- but I actually loved their performance. Frontman Tim Beeler Darcy was charismatic and the group was obviously happy to be at Hopscotch, which made the whole of it more enjoyable. I hadn’t been familiar with Ought previous to their show, and I went out and bought their album the next day, if that says anything.

Since Godspeed You! Black Emperor didn’t allow photography during their set and I never went through that much of a post-rock phase anyways, I skipped them and went to see local act Grandma Sparrow at Kennedy Theatre. This is one decision I did not regret. Grandma Sparrow puts on a show that I hope everyone gets to see at some point. His narrative-style music and assumption of many characters- from grandma to clown to Ozzy Osbourne-esque rocker- provided a captivating experience. And gimmicks aside, he and his Piddletractor Orchestra have a great deal of musical talent to back themselves up. Anyone who can get adults to spontaneously sit criss-cross-apple-sauce on the floor has my respect.

Next I caught the majority of Lilac Shadows at King’s Barcade. Lilac Shadows is a Durham band which was a popular choice among my friends who also attended Hopscotch. They gave a high-energy performance and I stood between an old man in a cowboy hat and a college kid, which was cool.

Following Lilac Shadows came Baltimore band Wildhoney. They’re another of my favorite Hopscotch discoveries, playing music that was both high-intensity and dreamy.

Next came Jenny Hval and the Apocalypse Girls, which was probably the most memorable set of the night. Hval entered the stage wearing a curly red wig and a hospital gown, followed by two women decked in plastic dresses and matching platinum wigs, who struck up an interpretative dance as Hval sang and Kyrre Laastad, a longtime contributor of hers, played synths while wearing a Hazmat suit. Her set included fake blood, screaming, and a very avant-garde cover of Summertime Sadness, which Hval recorded on her phone.

I concluded my night with Battles at Lincoln Theatre, which was way more intense than I expected. I don’t think I have ever seen people go so crazy for an instrumental band. I was told by people who were on the floor (I was precariously perched on a stool on the balcony) that the ground literally shook. Judging from the amount of sweat soaking through John Stanier’s shirt in that fifth picture, I’m not surprised.



Friday opened up with a performance from Tycho and his live band. They got off to a bit of a rough start- the band had too many things plugged in at once and blew a fuse- but once they got their electricity back, it was a captivating show. The sun set as the band played, leaving them illuminated by projections on the screen behind them.

TV On The Radio was one act I was extremely pumped to see. I’ve been a fan of TVOTR for quite some time, and they did not disappoint. I may or may not have lost my cool when they played “Wolf Like Me.” The energy was fantastic even if I did have to literally fight my way into the photo pit.

My absolute #1 favorite Hopscotch discovery was Memphis band Nots. They were recommended to me by my friend Madeline, and I’m so happy I followed her advice and went to see them at CAM. Frontwoman Natalie Hoffman’s searing vocals possess enough raw power to melt the faces off unsuspecting bypassers and Charlotte Watson’s energy and hair were both inspiring.

I caught the tailend of local band SMLH just as Sam Higgins broke his guitar. RIP

Next was Mitski at Tir Na Nog. This was another set that I had been awaiting eagerly, and it was just as perfect as I expected it to be. Mitski- “spelled like the MIT ski team, which has caused some problems for me”- gave an intimate performance that brought several audience members to actual tears. (In the light of full disclosure, I definitely welled up during “First Love/ Last Spring.”)

And then finally, the moment everyone had been waiting for: KING PUSH!! I don’t know how I made it onto the floor for Pusha T’s set at Lincoln Theatre, but I did, and it was absolutely wild. The rapper brought an inhuman amount of energy accompanied by thunderclap sound effects and a short rant about how his new album was AOTY. Everyone I saw seemed to be enjoying themselves (some maybe a little too much.. yeah, I’m talking to you, couple next to me who were so busy grinding that you almost trampled me.) All in all, a great show that people kept talking about for days afterwards.



I was a little bit late to City Plaza and missed The Vibekillers and American Aquarium, but I got there in time to see the area filled with fans decked out in cowboy hats and boots getting down to X. Someone offhandedly made a remark to me about how everyone in the band was super old, but I gotta say, they were going hard.

Dwight Yoakam followed in the footsteps of Godspeed and didn’t allow photography, so I jumped over to Deep South to catch local favorites Less Western, who I had actually never seen before. They put on a great show and had A+ lighting, and overall I was impressed.

I caught maybe 4 minutes of Prurient at Fletcher Opera Theatre. Basically 4 minutes of drone. He made a really dramatic exit from the stage.

Following Prurient was Ian William Craig. It was his first ever show in the US, and he pretty much sounded like an angel backed up by static.

Chelsea Wolfe came next, which I was incredibly excited for. Her performance was magnetic, with lots of smoke and cool lighting to enhance her raw and electric vocals and growling guitar. She played Lincoln Theatre, which was pretty weird considering Pusha T was playing the last time I was there, but it was a perfect venue for her. Wolfe and her band filled the venue with their haunting music, including several songs off her excellent recent album, ‘Abyss.’

The last artist I saw at Hopscotch 2015 was rapper Goldlink at CAM. The set was basically a huge dance party, which was a fun way to end things. Goldlink was a highly charismatic performer who was clearly a favorite with the crowd, who were jumping and dancing as the rapper and DJ Kidd Marvel performed. At one point, Goldlink invited guests on stage, and eventually random members of the audience jumped up on there too. Then he played “Ignition Remix” and it just got way too hype.

All in all, a successful year. Shouts out to Ian for the sick shots. See you next year, Hopscotch!


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When I was about 11 or 12, I was really into softcore emo. It was the peak of the genre’s mainstream success- I found a mix CD in my room the other week which included music by both Fall Out Boy and Fergie. My favorite song to come out of that era was a song called “The Rescue” from a lesser-known Detroit emo-punk band, Search The City. It was an acoustic version from Youtube, and I listened to it every day for probably a year. It was the kind of song that made me feel content and wistful at the same time; it was sad and yet somehow comforting. It made me feel stirred but at peace.

That’s how ‘I’m Not Here, I’m Not Real’ hits me. (Disclaimer: I’m not trying to draw any stylistic comparisons to mid-2000s emo.) Elementals have crafted a captivating and pleasantly nostalgic record. That’s not to say it’s all flowers and sunshine. At times it can be as abrasive as it is delicate- Elementals don’t take the backseat. Opener “Sunbirth” showcases the growling power behind the band, and “Belladonna” does a great job of playing up the album’s softer side. My favorite track, “Alexandra,” swirls both extremes into a sweeping ballad reminiscent of a subtler Pavement.

All in all, ‘I’m Not Here, I’m Not Real’ is a record that I’m kind of obsessed with and highly recommend to fans of just about any rock band. It’s been on heavy rotation in my dorm room, and no one in my hall has complained about the noise, so I think that says it all right there.

‘I’m Not Here, I’m Not Real’ will be released on September 11th.




Hi, everyone! It’s been a while. That’s partly because I’ve been getting ready for college and partly because I’ve been working on making my very first zine!

The first ever Noise Polluter zine, produced by my very awesome friend Colin Bauer, is completed and available for sale now on Big Cartel. It’s only $3 and contains both redesigned stories from the website and original content made just for the zine. I’m incredibly excited to get these to you.

Buy your zine HERE.




Perhaps you remember ambient-meets-noise rock project Mutes from this 2014 interview. When I first discovered Mutes about a year ago, it was still the solo act of frontman James Brown, and was at its core lilting, dreamy, and soft. Since then, the band has expanded into a quartet, and has also gained some edge- the ambient soundscape remains, but with a sturdy layer of rock to add dimension. The result? A perfect storm.



Order ‘Starvation Age’ digitally or on limited edition cassette here.