Jeff Hortillosa

Press Photo

Austin-based musician, actor, and director Jeff Hortillosa drops his EP, The Horticulture Vol. 1 as a companion to his new film War Monkey.

The Horticulture, Vol. 1

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Music Reviews

Mercy Union Buckles Under Its Own Weight on Debut Album

The Quarry, the band's first full-length release, fights suburban ennui with with scrappy garage rock.

Mercy Union

"I know our aim is true," Jared Hart crows on album opener "Young Dionysians."

It's hard not to take him at his word. The Quarry, the debut album of Mercy Union—a Jersey City group composed of members of the Gaslight Anthem and the Scandals—bursts out of the gate on the energy in that line, and never really let up. It's a raspy, cocky album, with jagged, jangling guitars and insistent drums defining their ramshackle garage-rock sound, irreverent in its gaze, but still nostalgic. It helps that this sound already has a shape in music history: the edged anxiety of "Chips and Vics" and the ballad-like harmonica longing of "Layovers" sound like the best version of the band that never made it out of your hometown.

But The Quarry tells a story in two timelines at once and buckles a bit under its own contradiction. Mercy Union wants to voice the melancholic adult looking back on the suburbs and the scrappy, aimless kid still fighting to get out. The temptation to lean on the latter, to produce another record of angry small-town kids pulling every note they can out of secondhand instruments, is all over this album, to the point where The Quarry runs the risk of sounding like one long song you've heard before. But for what it's worth, Mercy Union manages to provide further depth to this story, layering an introspective sadness over suburban ennui. The Quarry lasts as long as it's wanted but certainly wouldn't turn down another invitation.

The Quarry

Matthew Apadula is a writer and music critic from New York. His work has previously appeared on GIGsoup Music and in Drunk in a Midnight Choir.

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Music Reviews

The First Black Keys Single in Five Years Sounds Exactly as You'd Expect

"Lo/Hi" sounds like a band uninterested in satisfying your inflated expectations.

Image courtesy of © Danny Clinch

"Has it really been five years?"

"What's so important to Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney that they had to break a half-decade streak of absence (as the Black Keys) and interrupt our collective wallow in the bogus muck of Ariana Grande, Post Malone and a thousand hand-me-downs of counterfeit Drakes?"

Those are the two questions I posed to myself, and the empty room around me, as I pressed play on The Black Key's "Lo/Hi," recorded at Auerbach's own Easy Eye Sound studio in Nashville.

Yes, it has been that long. The last Black Keys joint, Turn Blue, dropped in 2014. However, the answer to the second question isn't as obvious.

Listening to the song unfold, I was initially a little let down. There wasn't a whole lot going on. But as I re-listened, I swiftly decided that "Lo/Hi," by virtue of aggressive structural, harmonic and lyric simplicity, isn't trying hard to insist upon its own importance: it's 2:47 minutes of precise, medium-heavy riff rock with a driving, 70s-era rock beat. There are six-string nods to Dire Straits and — even if it seems improbable, given a long-standing rivalry — Jack White.

The single will, put plainly, neither disappoint nor blow away loyal Keys fan. Rather than a triumphant return to Rome after years away fighting foreign wars (both Auerbach and Carney have kept themselves very busy since 2014), perhaps it was intended only as a brief reminder that rock n roll isn't dead. After all, the idea of relevance has always been, well, irrelevant for a band of preservationists, interested mainly in disinterring and embroidering past forms. They continue to do so with tasteful aplomb.

Matt Fink lives and works in Brooklyn. For more of his writing, go to

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