Talking About Home: Vol. 3, Issue 1

khroma winter 2018.jpg

Our first zine in 8.5 x 11 format features cover artist Holden R.P.M. (age 7), and discusses the topic of "Home." Articles and interviews explore Toledo's efforts to assist and support refugees, immigrants, and artists in our community, with illustrations and poetry throughout. Special thanks to the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo for partial funding for this project. 

Order the zine here

Dorian Slaybod's Top 20 Songs of 2017

Listen to the full playlist here.


20. The Drums – “Heart Basel”

Brooklyn’s The Drums have always had a frenzied energy, a more sharply focused take on the dance rock of the early 00’s.  On their fourth album, they do not necessarily slow down, but they do allow for introspection.  

“Heart Basel” was written about the worst breakup of singer Jonny Pierce’s life.  Pierce sings to his past partner, “Call me and tell me that you want me” with a steady new-wave beat, and the band’s oft-used jangly guitars, and a beachy harmony.  The song, more than anything else, is a lot of fun, which the song explains, is sometimes not enough. (photo via Instagram)


19. GoldLink ft. Brent Faiyaz and Shy Glizzy – “Crew”

 photo by Amir Clark

photo by Amir Clark

GoldLink hit his first single out of the park, gaining platinum status, and a Grammy nomination, and inclusion on the soundtrack for the HBO show, Insecure.  On “Crew” the D.C. area rapper takes well-tread material (women are only interested now that I am successful) and gives it new life.  It features fellow D.C. rapper, Shy Glizzy, also in a breakout year, with his hypnotically goofy inflection comparing serious dating with refusing to punt on fourth down.  

The real gem of the song, though, is the bookend vocal performance by Brent Faiyaz.  He sings with a slow-moving cadence that is contagious, and seems pre-designed for a rolling video montage.


18. Gunn-Truscinski Duo – “Seagull for Chuck Berry”

 photo by photo by Chris Bassett

photo by photo by Chris Bassett

“Seagull for Chuck Berry” goes a lot of different places with just a guitar and drum kit. It starts with a sloppy and loose warm-up, and then floats with high-pitched picks and chords.  The song then takes those high-flying notes to a place both tighter and more anxious before everything crashes into a flood of cymbals.

Steve Gunn and John Truscinski’s jams blend a warm coat around sharp metallic dissonance.  In fact, the queen of dissonance, Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, wrote the album’s liner notes.  She prefers to listen to them as she drinks her morning coffee.  And on “Seagull for Chuck Berry” the Gunn-Truscinski Duo are able to capture the open, jarring crash of a new day.


17. Kamaiyah – “Leave Em”

Sampling TLC’s “Creep,” Kamiayah made a song about encouraging a friend to leave an abusive relationship.  Her voice is hushed and supportive while she gives the hard advice that, “Ain't no love up in this world that's ever worth your life.”  

Kamaiyah’s sound here is different from the sharply declarative verses she presented on her first album.  But her matter-of-fact tone is still all there, opening each chorus with, “Girl he's not what you need, he's a dog” and closing the final verse with “I’m here for you, every step, girl you can call on me” while 90’s horns blast a sharp warning to move on. (photo via Instagram)

16. The Horrors – “Something To Remember Me By”

 photo by Paul Hudson

photo by Paul Hudson

With “Something to Remember Me By” The Horrors have realized their full transformation from skittish goth punk to tripped-out dream pop.  The track is arena-ready, with a ramped-up synth line that would have fit well into the feel-good stadium rock of 1990’s Manchester.  The song is also split with an epic two-minute segue filled with atmospheric laser shots and space-age lift-off noises.

“Something To Remember Me By” is the final song on their album, and it is an on-the-nose attempt at a magnum-opus—the heavily repeated chorus proclaims, “Now, all that's left behind, something to remember me by”—and the effort is largely successful.  They reached very, very high, and hit their mark.  


15. B Boys – “Energy”

“Energy” as the name suggests, has plenty of it.  It is a post-punk blitzkrieg with spoken/shouted vocals, a frenetic bass line, and guitars that start off quick and only get quicker.  Their sound is disciplined but visceral, which reflects their method, as they describe it: “There’s rarely an intention - we follow the vibration and try to make it our own.” (photo via Instagram)


14. Chad VanGaalen – “Old Heads”

 photo by Steve Louie

photo by Steve Louie

Chad VanGaalen’s sixth album is about his anxiety regarding his children growing up with the internet.  VanGaalen wants his kids to have an opportunity to be in an “environment where you can be as creative as possible at any moment” and he worries that constant exposure to the internet could stunt their opportunities for artistic growth.  

This kind of existential uncertainty bleeds throughout “Old Heads,” a wildly catchy track with crunchy guitars and zany synths that VanGaalen recorded all on his own.  On it, VanGaalen asks, now that the “Old Heads” are no longer in charge, “Who is the operator keeping all my cells together?”  It is a new world for VanGaalen, and for his children, and he is trying to figure out who makes the rules.  


13. Alison Krauss – “Gentle On My Mind”

 photo by @msrivergirl

photo by @msrivergirl

Thirty years after she released her first album, and almost twenty years since her last solo album, Alison Krauss has released a new set of country songs.  The highlight, though, may be a cover: of the 1960’s hit, “Gentle On My Mind.”

Backed with some light percussion, lap steel, and piano, Krauss sings a song about a homeless wanderer.  Krauss’s version does not add levity, necessarily, but lightness.  The wanderer is still “in some train yard” with a “dirty hat” and a beard as rough as a “coal pile,” but Krauss adds real hope.  Her voice is as pretty and crystalline as the memories that push the wanderer to keep moving along.


12. Rostam – “Wood”

 photo by M Kasahara

photo by M Kasahara

Rostam Batmanglij left Vampire Weekend last year and began working on his first solo album that came out this September.  The album centers around the song, “Wood” which Rostam originally recorded by himself on an airplane in 2011, while Vampire Weekend was perhaps at the height of their popularity.  “Wood” sounds like a crossover track to his new solo identity.  

The song has the elegant strings of Vampire Weekend, and the propulsive vocals, and the same “world music” element—here it being a twelve-string guitar and a digital sitar.  But the song also meanders, and mulls about in a non-purposeful way that would be out of sync with the full VW band.  It finds a place that Vampire Weekend did not.


11. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – “Sleep Drifter”

 photo by Side Stage Collective

photo by Side Stage Collective

King Gizzard released four albums this year, a staggering amount of creative output that is as remarkable in its scale as it is in its scope.  “Sleep Drifter” is ambitious.  It is a psych-rock epic that feels five times longer than its actual length, which is less than five minutes.  The Australian band dives quickly and deeply with heavy drums and gnarly guitars before fading into a funky prog outro.  The song, like the “Sleep Drifter,” is constantly “drifting in and out,” which is also their “favorite state to be.”

10. Cigarettes After Sex – “Sunsetz”

 photo by Krists Luhaers

photo by Krists Luhaers

This terribly named outfit from El Paso make stripped-down bedroom pop that combines the space of The XX and with the broken heart of Chris Isaak.  Their music is crisp, sultry, and languid.  It is bare, cavernous, and vulnerable. It is music for a deep freeze, or a deep depression.

On “Sunsetz,” singer Greg Gonzalez’s voice first appears naked but for the lightest of drums.  When he sings, “When you go away, I still see you,” his words slowly fade as if made of smoke.  By the end, the whole song seems to have floated away like a just-ended dream.


9. Bing & Ruth – “As Much as Possible”

Bing & Ruth is the work of David Simon, a pianist from Kansas who went to New York to study Jazz and Contemporary music.  Simon is fanatically dedicated to his craft.  His latest album took 20 months, 17 pianos, and 5 countries to record.

“As Much As Possible” is not much more than a gentle piano playing over buzzing, howling synths.  But it is a concept fully refined. Like the first snow melt of spring, each piano key warmly drips over the cool surface below. (photo via Instagram)

8. Amber Coffman – “No Coffee”

 photo by Tristan Loper

photo by Tristan Loper

In her first solo album after spending ten years with the band, Dirty Projectors, Coffman takes her voice center stage.  Her vocals for Dirty Projectors were often distant and choppy.  Here, they are warm and soulful, with the slightest bit of classic country warble.  It’s a gorgeous effort, backed with light harmony, a chunky bass line, and loose guitar.

“No Coffee” was written when Coffman was crying more than eating while dealing with a breakup from the lead singer of Dirty Projectors, Dave Longstreth, with whom Coffman worked and also dated.  Although it is about a breakup, the song is an uplifting affair.  Coffman sings that even though she misses him and “crying on my own tonight,” she is still “strong enough.”  She knows that she still has plenty of love to give, even if much of it is still directed to someone who pushed her away.


7. Charli XCX ft. Tove Lo and ALMA – “Out of My Head”

 photo by Abby Gillardi

photo by Abby Gillardi

Charli XCX, still just 25, has made plenty of pop hits, including three top ten singles.  She knows how to let a song speak for itself.  And on “Out of My Head” she takes a back seat, letting Alma and Tove Lo tag team on a striking one-two vocal hook.  

“Out of My Head” is a meta club track, with a beat ready for the dance floor and lyrics that discuss the reasons for heading to the floor in the first place.  Charli XCX sings about “partying with my tears” and Alma follows suit, secretly admitting that she loves to bemoan the person who she can’t stop bemoaning about.  They are escaping not because they have to, but because they can.

6. Jay Som – “The Bus Song”

 photo by Paul K

photo by Paul K

Oakland’s Jay Som has recorded two albums from her bedroom studio. Her songs have a 90’s retro fashion akin to The Sundays or Cardigans, with loudly whispered vocals about the things that happen in her daily life.  

On “The Bus Song” she sings that she likes to ride the bus because “I can be whoever I want to be.”  Mostly, though, she wants to find someone who can ride the bus with her.  And she’s willing to wait for the right person to come to her.  “Take time to figure it out,” she sings, “I’ll be the one to stick around.”

5. Protomartyr – “Don’t Go to Anacita”

 photo by Levi Manchak

photo by Levi Manchak

A lot of people have raised their hands at the prices at Whole Foods, but few have written songs about the experience.  Protomartyr singer, Joe Casey, saw someone buy an eight dollar kombucha and he was inspired to write a song about how, even in the band’s hometown of Detroit, income inequality could be so starkly ignored.  Casey sees “Anacita” as a place of progressive disconnect.  It is a fictional city where the “liberal-minded . . . close their eyes and dream of technology and kombucha” while migrant workers do all the hard labor.  

Sharp, punk guitars helicopter in the background while an up-tempo rhythm section keeps the pressure on the listener to stay away from Anacita.  You can nearly hear the spittle skip from Casey’s lips as his hardy rasp claims that anywhere else would be better than a city of self-delusion. Casey sings, “You're better off living in a hole.”


4. Young Thug – “Do U Love Me”

 photo by @cielodlp.

photo by @cielodlp.

Young Thug is difficult to pin down. This year, he was able to offend the cosmetics company, Cover Girl, and also convince H&M to give him his own line of clothing.  Also this year, he dropped a well-received mixtape of relatively traditional trap music, and marketed his other release of the year as a country album.  

“Do U Love Me” is, at its heart, a love song.  But in Young Thug fashion, he can line up a sweet line about being ready to settle down next to a comment about pubic hair.  He asks a girl to fall in love with him, but also to twerk for him.  His aesthetic is, to say the least, scattered.

With a light-hearted reggaeton beat, Young Thug sings in key, and in high-pitched yelps, and in staccato raps.  He is sweet and crude, elegant and rough.  He is all of himself all of the time.


3. Ellen Arkbro – “Three”

Let’s get this out of the way: Swedish composer Ellen Arkbro’s “Three” is twelve straight minutes of subtly alternating horn notes.  If you think that is extravagant, her last project was 26 days long.  The first track on her new album features a 400-year-old German organ.  For every live performance of her new album, Arkbro rewrites the entire score to the exact Hz measurement.

All of Arkbro’s efforts are laudable—if not unmatchable—but they are also jaw-droppingly beautiful.  On “Three,” horns overlap at multiple second intervals, one in the foreground while the others buzz and drone underneath.  Sometimes the notes change in sync, sometimes they linger slightly past one another.  The cumulative effect is transportive and disarming, each horn a steeper step down the rabbit hole until everything that came before is out of sight. (photo via Instagram)

2. Dirty Projectors – “Up in Hudson”

 photo by Erik Bremer.

photo by Erik Bremer.

The Dirty Projectors’ latest release is a breakup album.  Specifically it is about lead singer Dave Longstreth’s romantic and professional breakup from longtime band member and partner, Amber Coffman, whose own solo project (and reflection on their breakup) appears at #8 on this list.

“Up in Hudson” is a wistful look back on their relationship.  Its lyrics are, according to Uproxx, “painfully specific.”  Whether it is minute details (“Now I'm listening to Kanye on the Taconic Parkway, riding fast”), cheesy reflections (“First time I ever kissed your mouth, we both felt time stop”), exact emotions (“I'm just up in Hudson bored and destructive knowing that nothing lasts”) or trite conclusions (“'Love will burn out and love will just fade away”), the song leaves little to interpretation.  

In spite of the lyrical simplicity, Longstreth has created another genius arrangement.  The song has flourishes of horns and strings and finger snaps.  He sings alone, and multi-tracked, and with doo-wop harmony.  The song shifts in momentum from warm, leisurely verses as he recalls fond memories of he and her together, to chaotic choruses as he acknowledges that the relationship is now over, to a steady “life-goes-on” outro made up of dizzying reverb and wooden percussion.  It is a wild, sharp, and gorgeous vision of Longstreth’s very recent past.

1. Gord Downie – “Wolf’s Home”

 photo by David Bastedo

photo by David Bastedo

Just a couple years ago, David Bowie recorded an album with his mortality closely upon him.  Although released posthumously, he likely did not know that he was dying while he was recording it. Similarly, many other artists have material released after their death.  The lead singer of the storied Canadian rock band, The Tragically Hip, released an album just days after his death earlier this year.  Gord Downie, though, knew that he was dying.  

In the last few months before he succumbed to brain cancer, and while dealing with its symptoms, Downie tried to record as much as he could before the end.  He managed to put down 23 tracks during two separate, four-day sessions.  Each song on the album is relatively simple, with not much more than a piano, acoustic guitar and Downie’s voice.

“Wolf’s Home” tells the story of a man sitting down to address his family.  He tells them that “Man's a god when he dreams, and a beggar when he reflects.”  A life is worth more than a simple highlight reel of events.  

A simple acoustic riff and a light, steady kick-drum carry Downie’s full-throated pleas as he longs to feel his life in full.  He wants to touch all the people he loved and lost, all the hurt he caused, and all of his own gifts that he offered through the years, “I got great touch” he sings, and “I didn’t vanish when I was afraid.”

“Wolf’s Home” becomes more urgent as it progresses.  Downie’s voice rises midway through until it disappears into the clouds as he sings, “Got more than most and yet!” He then tumbles forward, briskly listing his appreciation for “all I’ve been afforded.”

Downie concludes by repeating “All I want is you” again and again in an unflinching push to connect to the people closest to him before letting go with a final, audible sigh.  Like many of the songs on Downie’s last album, “Wolf’s Home” feels like something not left behind, but sent forward; still very much alive.

Fall Issue and Subscription Info

We've been getting a lot of questions about how to subscribe, or how to gift a subscription. Here's the link, for easy access:

To gift a subscription to someone else for 2018, enter the recipient's info in the address lines, and your own name / *GIFT* in the notes, or etc. that indicates it is not for you. Please leave an email or phone number, so if we have a question about your order, we're not ruining a surprise gift. 

Look for our Fall issue in October — the theme is evil, and it's going to be a good one. 


A Party for Pat

Pat O’Connor Music and Arts Festival Encourages All to ‘Be Like Pat’

 Above: Pat O'Connor in 2016, after the rededication of Culture Clash Records' iconic roof.

Above: Pat O'Connor in 2016, after the rededication of Culture Clash Records' iconic roof.

By Joel Sensenig

When you’re a kid from Toledo who loves The Smiths, you don’t always fit in with the crowd.

Unless you were in a record store owned by Pat O’Connor. 

As a youth, KC Saint John found a kindred soul in one of the founders of Boogie Records in the Westgate Village Shopping Center. Three decades later, Saint John is organizing the Pat O’Connor Music and Arts Festival on April 22 — Record Store Day, of course — in multiple venues across the city of Toledo to honor Pat’s spirit and love of music.  

The day has also been proclaimed Pat O’Connor Day by Toledo City Council. 

The festival is simply a way of honoring Pat’s legacy that meant so much to so many, Saint John said. 

“I was shocked to find out (Pat) was 61 years old, because he was never, ever 61 in my life. He was never older than 35 in my life, even though I’m 44 now,” Saint John said. “I was just thinking, ‘Oh my God, I can only imagine how many people’s lives he’s touched besides mine. I contacted anyone in Toledo that his path may have crossed and said, ‘Here’s what I think needs to happen. We need to honor him. We need to honor his vision. We need to honor everything he’s done.”

In Pat’s tradition of keeping things simple, participating venues are asked to contribute either $100, $250 or $500 to the Pat O’Connor Memorial Fund, set up by Pat’s wife, Marcia. The venues are responsible for booking their own talent, be it musicians or other artists. The events will be free for the public.

“It allows Toledo to have the purest music festival ever,” said Saint John, emphasizing that this is not a one-off event. He foresees the festival growing each year, eventually bringing in a large band to headline. “We’re doing a citywide celebration of Pat’s life, art, music and Toledo.”

"The festival will allow attendees to 'be like Pat,' Saint John said.

“You can go and be friendly with somebody and go and see a new band. Go and see a new artist,” he said. “That tingle feel when you’re like, ‘Wow, this is cool!’ A lot of people get stuck in the hum-drum of life and they don’t realize that in Toledo, we have got so much talent all around.”

Ean Garrett, guitarist of local band Awesome Job, came to know Pat years ago when Ean was working at Allied Record Exchange on Secor Road, just down the street from Pat and Culture Clash Records. Awesome Job is playing as part of the festival at 7 p.m., following sets by Violent Bloom at 5 p.m. and Pat Lewandowski at 3 p.m.

“Pat was a great person,” Garrett said. “Even working at another record store, I would always go into Culture Clash. He was always nice and would go out of his way to help me find what I was looking for or get back to me when he found something I might have liked.”

Garrett recalled a time he called Culture Clash looking for Tracy Chapman’s self-titled debut album, an album Garrett had actually traded to the store the previous year. When Garrett walked in, Pat had the album waiting for him. 

“He said that it was the same LP I traded,” Garrett said. “He seemed excited to sell it back to me and even gave me a copy of Tracy Chapman’s ‘Crossroads’ album for free.” 

All of the proceeds from the venue buy-ins and T-shirt sales, produced by ERD Specialty Graphics, will go to the memorial fund. Advance shirts will likely be available online in advance and at Culture Clash Records. For more information on the event, visit the Pat O’Connor Music and Arts Festival event page on Facebook.

Attention New Authors: Get Honest Feedback and Proofreading Services!

As you may know, Khroma is owned and operated by Loveless Publishing Company in Toledo, Ohio, which also hosts Script-Up, a professional proofreading and editing service for new and emerging indie authors. 

As part of our ongoing mission to promote the literary arts in our community, Script-Up will be made available as a service to new authors wishing to get their chapbooks or manuscripts professionally polished for the indie publishing market. Stay tuned for final details, and drop a line to with questions in the meantime.