Elevate Difference

Reviews by M. Brianna Stallings

M. Brianna Stallings

M. Brianna Stallings is a writer, reviewer, editor, proofreader and voiceover artist currently residing in Albuquerque, NM. She is an ensemble member of Siren Audio Studios, a company that releases full-cast radio-theatre style audiobooks. She is also actively involved in Albuquerque's many creative communities. Hers is a truly formidable music collection.

Through the Night

I worked for four years in an independent record store. For those unfamiliar with what said environment might be like day in and day out, I would seriously suggest taking in High Fidelity. Read the novel by Nick Hornby or watch the film starring John Cusack; either way, you’ll get the idea.


I would not be the least bit surprised to learn that the ability to write a catchy pop song is a hereditary trait, in addition to being a skill developed over time. That definitely seems to be the case with Los Angeles sister duo Chapin Sisters.

1,000 Years

Singer, songwriter, and guitarist Corin Tucker has been actively involved in music since the early 1990s when, as a teenager, she launched the riot grrrl band Heavens to Betsy. Around the same time, Carrie Brownstein was heading up queercore outfit Excuse 17. Eventually the two joined forces to form Sleater-Kinney in 1994.

Raise Your Glass

"Love means never having to say you're sorry." It's one of the most famous film quotes in history, delivered with maudlin aplomb by Ali MacGraw's character Jennifer in the 1970 tearjerker Love Story. Millions of people made that film (and the novel upon which it was based) a tremendous success, and millions of people ate up that saccharine platitude. Well, y'know what? I am calling bullshit. To me, love does not mean never having to say you're sorry. It means seeing clearly the flaws inherent in the object of your affection—and still embracing them, precisely because of those flaws.

Baffled and Beat

There must be something in the Oxford water that breeds talent. How else could you explain the abundance of good, great, and truly classic music that has emerged from the southeastern English city over the last twenty-plus years? Need examples? Ride, Supergrass, and Radiohead all hail from there. I say it is not an overstatement to also count raucous duo Little Fish among these ranks.

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modern Bestiary

I met bestselling author David Sedaris in 2008 at a Barnes and Noble book-signing event for When You Are Engulfed In Flames. While he seemed more than a little uncomfortable with the kind of feigned intimacy such an event requires, he was still charming, professional, and idiosyncratic throughout our brief encounter. He asked me if I liked turtles, as he set about doodling a smiling cartoon turtle on the title page.

Grinderman 2

Being a female Nick Cave fan is perilous. I'd say that it's on par with being a female James Bond fan. In both instances, women are depicted as vixens, victims, or passive receptors for sexually frustrated man-boys with clear objectives. In the case of James Bond, his objective has always been to triumph over various manifestations of Cold War-style evil in the name of God (or God's emissary, the Queen), gold, and glory. As a feminist, I know logically that Bond is misogynist tripe. Yet as an Anglophile and Cold War wonk, I simply cannot get enough of 007.

Cats & Dogs

I did not see Star Wars until I was nineteen years old. I was even older the first time I saw Steven Spielberg's Poltergeist. In both cases, I hated them. And in both cases, I was told by the films' loyal fans that, when they'd watched these movies at X years old, the scares or the special effects “were really great for their time.” To which I would invariably respond, “I did not experience them at said age in 'their time'; I did so now, as a discerning adult—and I didn't like them. So there.”

Secret Transit

Even the most ramshackle noise requires a hint of skill to be executed effectively. Despite dismissive cries from its many detractors, good pop music requires a precise attention to detail, a keen ear, and a strong awareness of how to strike that delicate balance between catchy and plaintive. That being said, there is also a delicate balance to be struck between polished crystalline pop and overly savvy saccharine songs. It's just this sort of precarious tightrope that Brooklyn indie pop duo KaiserCartel seems to walk with their second full-length album, Secret Transit.

Rockets EP

Go outside. Look up. What do you see? What do you think (or wish or hope) sees us? At their most basic, those are the questions that have motivated humankind to create, to believe, and to explore since it first dawned on us to look up. The famous opening phrase of Star Trek is “Space—the final frontier.” With its awe-struck yet determined delivery, the line presents space as the last, most daunting stop on humanity's Manifest Destiny Tour. Space is the only thing that remains to be conquered—at least in the realm of schlocky sci-fi TV.

Hide Your Face(book) in Shame: Facebook and The Censorship of Female Sexuality

A lot can happen in ten minutes. You can make your morning commute to work. You can do twenty sit-ups. You can have an orgasm. If you are business owners Molly Adler and Matie Fricker of Albuquerque's Self Serve Sexuality Resource Center, ten minutes can be all the time you need to inform people about the hazards of labiaplasty.

Flesh Tone

Kelis has always been brazen, unapologetically growling her way onto the music scene in 1999 with the single “Caught Out There,” a vicious tale of heartbreak and revenge.

Hannah Free

If LOGO and the Hallmark Channel had a baby, they would name her Hannah Free. The story goes like this: an aging lesbian couple, together for four decades, both now find themselves confined to the same nursing home, but unable to see one another.

Success or Suicide

In the beginning, there were two: brothers Jeff and Chris Cannon. These Michiganders, transplanted to the Land of Enchantment otherwise known as New Mexico, started a band–a boisterous beast named Vertigo Venus.

Fables Of The Reconstruction (25th Anniversary 2-Disc Re-Issue)

Call it what you will: alternative rock, guitar pop, college radio. For better or worse, R.E.M. were responsible for making it—and making it big. Even a casual listener knows when they hear an R.E.M. song. Theirs has always been a definitive sound: Bill Berry's frenetic drums, Peter Buck's jangly guitar, those literate stream-of-consciousness lyrics, and, of course, Michael Stipe's vulnerable voice, leaping from plaintive wail to cooing croon to murmur (pun intended), often within the same song. They started out weird. Pretty, sure, but still weird.


A disclaimer before listening to Ghosts: If you're not careful, loud English folk duo Smoke Fairies will consume you. With their swampy blues riffs, exquisite harmonies, and formidable command of songwriting, Smoke Fairies is truly enchanting. You might not believe that a nine-song collection (billed as “a collection of A-sides, B-sides, and an EP from the recent past”) would have such a mighty power. There's no harm in skepticism.


“Jangly” is a complimentary adjective in my music lexicon. It's a descriptor applied quite often to indie rock bands of the early '90s: think classic-era music from UK label 4AD. In the case of Texas trio Tribella, jangly serves as both a term of endearment as well as a nod to their forebearers.


Three-part a cappella harmony finds itself slowly warmed by spare instrumentation. A bedraggled man, bobbing adrift on the ocean in a yellow inflatable life boat, regains consciousness. The first thing he sees is a black rock. There is no one else with him, no land nearby. He weakly tosses it overboard and closes his eyes for a moment. When he opens them again, a small pile of rocks has gathered in front of him. After looking around, he starts tossing them out, turning his back briefly. When he turns back, the rock pile has grown so big that it's nearly pushing him out of the lifeboat.


As a Southern woman, I've been told from birth that if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. It's a mentality borne from equal parts charm and suppression, and one that is kind of antithetical to the whole business of review writing. In this case, though, I had to find the nicest thing to say about Massachusetts teen talent Kate Cameron and her debut seven-track EP, Conviction. Otherwise, I would have ended up with an empty review.

Nobody's Daughter

It can often be shocking to step back from one's own life and think in terms of how much of your time has been devoted to a particular thing. For instance, I have been writing since I was seven years old. That means that at this point, I have spent over seventy-five percent of my life with pen and paper in hand. Similarly, I have been a steadfast Hole fan for sixteen years.

The Baby Formula

"Why shouldn't we have the chance to make our own babies, have our own children?” That's one of the first lines spoken in The Baby Formula, a delightful award-winning Canadian mockumentary that took two honors in 2009: the Audience Award at the Toronto Inside Out Lesbian & Gay Film & Video Festival and Best LGBT Film at the Nashville Film Festival.

Cradle Songs

Although happily childfree, I like kids and am intrigued by that idiosyncratic collective experience known as childhood. I am especially fascinated by the many ways we share the histories, humor, and ideologies of our cultures. I try to stay abreast of how these things are communicated. I pay close attention to what music is marketed to children (when, why, and by whom).

What Day Is It Tonight? (Live 1993-2008)

Hipster culture exists and sustains itself on a continuous loop, a vicious never-ending cycle, like a Möbius strip or an Ouroboros, the snake eating its own tail. Take something once mainstream and now uncool, adopt it with tongue planted firmly in cheek as “so bad it's good,” deem said sound/product/style “cool,” and watch as it is co-opted by a broader audience and becomes mainstream. Later, rinse and repeat. Every once in a while such a revival of the old dredges up some long-lost gem, but most of the time it's just masturbatory.

Darling Dear

At one point in the chaos of alley-crawling and narrow escapes that is the “Darling Dear” video, Little Fish frontwoman Juju beats up a guitar-wielding hipster boy, steals his guitar and straps it on before she launches in a furious bout of The Rocking. It is precisely this raw frenetic energy that attracted the attention of Custard Records, the label launched by singer/songwriter/producer Linda Perry (4 Non Blondes).

The New Divine

Let's just get this one thing out of the way right now, shall we? It's safe to say that if you're not of the goth/industrial/EBM/metal persuasion, then The New Divine, from Austin, TX foursome Lust Murder bOX (LMb), will not be your bag. These twelve tunes are for the seasoned spooky aficionado. But if you're adventurous enough, give it a go.


It was recently revealed that music was used as a torture device against detainees at government prisons, including Guantanamo Bay and Bagram, Afghanistan.

Nests Of Waves And Wire

In case you were wondering, tartufi name means truffle in Italian. According to this San Francisco duo, it's a moniker left behind by a former member, rather than one either would have willfully applied. They just sorta stumbled into it.

Morning Music

I'm one of those music nerds who, because of my incredibly broad tastes, finds herself taunted by other more self-conscious music nerds. I will give anything a chance. Anything. For example, I have no shame in admitting that I like those slightly contentious sub-genres known as free and avant-garde jazz.

Over Air

One can safely assume that any band that names itself after the main character in Franz Kafka's “The Metamorphosis” is going to be interesting, to say the least. It would not be safe to assume, however, that the music made by Gregor Samsa feels as overwhelmed and ugly as Kafka's evolving man-creature. On the contrary, their creation is a precise tranquil poetry, twinkling and shivering like streetlights on snow.  With eight current members and thirteen past contributors, this mega-group from Richmond, Virginia is bursting at the seams with folks ready to make a joyful noise.

Down With Liberty...Up With Chains!

Certain record labels have a sound that courses like an undercurrent through all of their releases. Others have an image to uphold. K Records has both.