About Me

Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, and B-movies. Part time ninja. Kicked cancer’s ass. Book coming soon!
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Pop Shots – Full Steam Ahead
Monday, January 27, 2020

Welcome to your weekly dose of pop world musings. Covering all things pop culture, this week Pop Shots is hitting you with thoughts on everything from Eminem’s surprise album, to a 10-part documentary series on Justin Bieber, to Akon building a city in Senegal, and since this is Pop Shots you know everything is seasoned with a little bit of attitude.

* Eminem released a surprise album last week titled Music to be Murdered By. What may come as a surprise to Eminem is that people have already forgotten about it.

* Alicia Keys’ seventh studio album, Alicia, will be released on March 20th. Unlike Eminem’s album, it isn’t a surprise release, although many may be surprised to learn Alicia Keys’ catalogue already includes six albums.

* Rihanna is now in the publishing game, having released Rihannazine, a collection of interviews curated by the singer in collaboration with i-D. I hate to break it to Rihanna, but she can’t call it a zine unless she spent a certain amount of hours on it in a Kinkos. Those are the rules.


* A 10-episode Maple Leif Garrett (aka Justin Bieber) YouTube Originals documentary series titled Justin Bieber: Seasons will be making its debut today at Noon EST. You know, if you take out the colon in the title it goes from being an awful documentary series, to being an awful cooking show.

* Christina Milian and her boyfriend, Matt Pokora, welcomed a baby boy into the world. I assume when the baby is baptized they’ll dip it low.

* Teen problem child / rapper Bhad Bhabie announced she’s taking a break from Instagram to better her mental health. Personally, I always think it’s great when kids stop staring at screens, and take more time to have fun outside. Wait …


* Sting reportedly has no interest in ever having a big-screen biopic on his life. It’s probably for the best, as with his alleged 7 hour tantric sex sessions, that biopic would have to go directly to PornHub.

* Akon announced that the paperwork has been signed to launch Akon City in Senegal. That’s right, Akon is going to have his own city! According to reports, Akon City will be built in a series of phases spanning 10 years, with a goal of it ultimately being the first city to ever run on 100% renewable energy. Akon City will also use its own cryptocurrency – Akoin. Starship built a city on rock n roll. Apparently you can also build one on ’00s R&B.

* Dolly Parton has teamed up with American Greetings for her own line of greeting cards. Soooo, some of those will be pop-up cards, right? For her hair. Of course I’m talking about her hair. What else could possibly pop up out at us?


* Paramore frontwoman Hayley Williams has released a solo single titled “Simmer.” The title is apropos, as something tells me Williams’s desire to embark on a solo career is something that’s been simmering for quite some time.

* Hayley Kiyoko canceled her upcoming North American tour less than two weeks before it was set to begin. Kiyoko clearly isn’t up on good business practices. She should know you’re supposed to give two weeks notice before quitting.

* U2 grossed an astonishing $73.8 million for a 15-show run across Australia and Asia. This gives Bono plenty of capital to go out there and ask all of us who didn’t make $73.8 million dollars (for 15 nights of work) to give money to his favorite causes.


That’s all for this edition of Pop Shots, but come back next Monday for more shots on all things pop.

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Sweet Lizzy Project – Technicolor Indie Rock Born From Cuba’s Grey Market
Friday, January 24, 2020

In April of 2018, when Lisset Diaz and her Sweet Lizzy Project bandmates walked into Blackbird Studio in Nashville, TN, alongside The Mavericks, it was a momentous occasion. Hailing from Havana, Cuba, Diaz and company had been connected to The Mavericks since a 2017 PBS documentary titled Havana Time Machine brought them into each other’s lives, but when it came to this particular moment at the studio, she says, “It was the first time we actually recorded all together.”

The song they recorded was “The Flower’s In The Seed,” which is on Sweet Lizzy Project’s upcoming debut album, Technicolor, due out February 21st.

In addition to finally recording with The Mavericks, Diaz notes there was another memorable aspect of the experience – “The microphone I was singing on was more expensive than anything and everything I had in my life, so it was a big deal for me, not because of the money, but because of what it represents. Where I come from, we don’t have that.”


In Havana the band had a unique set up for recording.

Building a Studio Where You Can’t Buy Instruments

When Sweet Lizzy Project were creating their sound back in Cuba, Diaz, along with guitarist Miguel Comas, keyboard player Wilfredo Gatell, bassist Alejandro Gonzalez, and drummer Ángel Luis Millet worked out of a home studio created by Comas that was an extremely tight space filled with equipment of varying degrees of usability. “We had this little apartment,” Diaz remembers, “where if you were recording the drums you couldn’t even walk in the room because it was so little. It was impossible to record a session with all the musicians in the same place. Also, all the equipment was super old, like Russian stuff {laughs}. You don’t have Guitar Center in Cuba, or any other record store, or music store.”

The equipment was acquired via Cuba’s underground grey market.

According to Diaz, the fact of the matter is, “It’s really hard to survive as a musician in Cuba.”

From Biochemistry to Forming The Band

Music, while always playing a role in her life, had just been a hobby for Diaz until a handful of years ago. “When I started doing this I was not thinking like oh I’m gonna be a real artist now, and I’m gonna get a band, and I’m going to go to Nashville,” she explains, “I was studying biochemistry, and I was like, I like music, and I can play guitar, and I want to write my songs, but no one’s gonna hear them. It’s not like I’m gonna share it with the world, it’s just for me.”

After graduating from the University of Havana, Diaz stayed at the school as a teacher, and researcher. Music, however, would continue to call her, and eventually she was teaching during the day, and performing at night.

“It was weird,” she says, “because right after the exams at school the students would ask me, ‘Hey teacher, where are you playing tonight? Can I go to the show?’ I was like, yeah.”


Booking shows would prove to be a challenge for Diaz, who notes, “The music scene in Cuba, some people really love rock n roll, but it’s not promoted as much as it should be. It’s all about traditional Cuban music. That’s what you’re supposed to do.”

Diaz also had two additional hurdles to get over – she had no musical past, and she was singing in English.

“Since I didn’t come from a music school it was really hard for me to start performing,” she explains, “because in Cuba it’s not like here (in America) where you just start playing everywhere … (In Cuba) you have to go through the institutions, and it’s basically the government, so they need to kind of approve your work, what you’re doing. That’s really hard if you decided, like it was my case, to sing in English and (perform) rock n roll. Years ago you could go to jail in Cuba if you had a record of The Beatles, for example, just because it was music in English. It was considered too American, or whatever, even though The Beatles were not American.”

Luckily, Diaz found some kindred spirits in the form of her band. “I have four other crazy people with me. They did exactly the same. They were like oh, you’re singing rock n roll in English … ahh, we’ll do it with you.”


Diaz has been honing her English skills since childhood. She says it’s partially the result of having a mother who refused to let her kids to be stagnant. For Diaz, this meant English lessons, although she says, “I don’t think I learned too much back then, but I realized how much I liked it, and after that I was just paying attention all the time, like when I was watching a movie, or listening to music, or reading a book, I was always learning English, because I liked it. I like languages. I studied French, as well.”

Learning English was part of a childhood Diaz describes as a happy one. While in America there are two distinct versions of Cuba people see – the version that has celebrities vacationing there, and the version that involves people fleeing the country in hopes of a better life – Diaz says, “Every case is different, and every family has its own story, but in my case it was never that bad. I was a happy kid.”

Making Their Way in Havana’s Music Scene

While happiness was the dominant emotion of her childhood, frustration peppered her early musical endeavors, especially when trying to book herself at local venues, which were not interested in rock n roll, especially rock n roll performed in English.

Persistence, however, paid off, and Sweet Lizzy Project started to become prominent in Havana’s music scene. Diaz, who was burning the candle at both ends, realized a major life decision had to be made. “It was really hard for me … I was waking up very early in the morning to go to the University, dealing with the public transportation in Cuba – which sucks, you have no idea – and then in the nighttime I was playing clubs, or bars, and eventually it was theaters. It was exhausting for me, so I had to choose.”

While she says, “I love science,” in the end, “music won.”

“I was really happy about Sweet Lizzy, and what I was doing.”

The Documentary That Changed Their Lives

Diaz wasn’t the only one happy she decided to do music full time, when PBS made a trip to Havana to film the 2017 documentary Havana Time Machine the network chose Sweet Lizzy Project to be part of the show.


The documentary was hosted by Raul Malo of The Mavericks, a band with strong Cuban roots, and Malo took an immediate liking to Sweet Lizzy Project, spending a considerable amount of time with the band.

“We talked a lot,” Diaz remembers, “He listened to the music. We were recording what was going to be Technicolor … We had some stuff already recorded, and he was fascinated because it was so hard for us to record in Cuba.”

Malo was so impressed by the band, Diaz says, “He was very excited about the possibility of signing us to his brand new record label (Mono Mundo Recordings).”

When Malo left Cuba to return home to Nashville, however, the members of Sweet Lizzy Project figured they’d be out of sight, out of mind.

“Right after he left we were like OK, we’re not gonna see this guy again in our lives.”


Less than a month later Diaz’s phone rang, and it was Malo. Before she knew it, she and guitarist Miguel Comas were in Nashville meeting Malo’s family, and the people he wanted the band to work with.

“The first time Miguel and I came here,” Diaz remembers, “The Mavericks were recording at Blackbird, so we got to see that amazing studio, working with all the amazing team they have there, and we were so impressed.”

Diaz says she and Comas left with one idea in mind – “We have to be here. This is the place. We have to record here. Technicolor needs to be recorded here.”

Upon returning home the band made plans to get everyone to the U.S., but those plans hit an unexpected snag. “We needed visas to come to the States,” Diaz explains, “and right before we had the interview the American embassy in Havana was closed by the Trump administration.”

The emotional hit was a big one. “It was really hard, after having all those plans like oh yeah we’re going to the States, and we’re going to record in Nashville, music city, that’s so exciting … then (to) go back to reality, like OK, that’s not gonna happen, we just have to keep doing what we were doing before.”

Thankfully, their melancholy was short lived. “We found the right people, and they helped us because this was a cultural project, and because we all knew The Mavericks.”

Malo and his family became the official host of Sweet Lizzy Project, not only signing them to his label, but housing members of the band, as well.

A Life in Technicolor

Diaz and company had already recorded parts of their debut album, Technicolor, before they hit Nashville, but now they had access to Blackbird Studio, and could actually record together. The result is an album that’s a mixture of Cuba, and Nashville, or as Diaz puts it, Technicolor is “our story.”

“I love that it has a part of Cuba there, and it has the Blackbird there, as well, so it really is our story on this record. All of that change, all the process of changing our lives, together, it’s right there. That’s something I think people are going to appreciate once they know the story, because it comes together – music and our story. That’s something I love about this record.”


Getting Technicolor to American fans will be easy. Getting it to the band’s Cuban fans, however, will be more of a challenge. Diaz notes that Cuba currently has no access to services like Spotify, or Amazon, so she plans on bringing copies of the album to Havana herself, saying, “They’re going to have it from me.”

She adds that she has no problem going above and beyond for the band’s Cuban fan base. “Every time we go there everybody is super supportive,” she explains, “We have a lot of radio interviews, and TV shows, everybody wants us. They know (about us), it’s just that they don’t have access. The dynamics are so different there.”

Something that’s been helping Cubans gain access has been an underground distribution system called El Paquete, which is an element of Cuba’s grey market. El Paquete is a thumb drive that has American movies, music, and TV shows. It can be had for one day – enough time to transfer all the files – for a fee.

While Diaz says internet access has expanded in Cuba over the past three years, “El Paquete was from people who had internet for some reason, and they would distribute this thumb drive all over the city. It was amazing.”

Diaz continued, adding, “That’s something I love about Cuban people, we are very – and I’m going to include myself – we are very resourceful. Since we don’t have a lot of stuff, and it’s always hard to get, sometimes food, or toilet paper, or whatever you can imagine can be hard to get in Cuba, you have to make it work. If you don’t have this, then you have to try with this other thing. It has to work. It’s the same thing with music.”


Cuba won’t be the only place Sweet Lizzy Project visits this year, as the band – which has already performed in 19 U.S. states over the past two years – is planning a U.S. tour in support of Technicolor.

Considering their history, Technicolor is a perfect album title, as Sweet Lizzy Project went from having to procure instruments on Cuba’s grey market, to being a band known for their vibrancy.


For more Sweet Lizzy Project check out sweetlizzyproject.com, and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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NYC Scene Report – Anna Rose, Michael Buono, & The Men
Wednesday, January 22, 2020

This week’s NYC Scene Report features Anna Rose letting us know “Broken Is Beautiful,” Michael Buono finding a “Hero,” and The Men rocking out for “Children All Over the World.”

* Anna Rose’s The Light Between was one of my 10 must-hear albums of 2019, and the latest single off the album is the fantastic “Broken Is Beautiful.” The video for “Broken Is Beautiful” is especially meaningful to Rose, as it features her mother, and sister.

In a statement, Rose discussed both the video – which was directed by her longtime collaborator, and friend, Shruti Ganguly – and song, saying, “As women, I think we often fight these silent battles within ourselves – the magic we inherently possess that drives us towards our passions versus the societal markers that we are held up against. At any age, that internal struggle can become a deep well of insecurity, and I’m so grateful to have my family help tell this story. Beyond that, having my dear friend and collaborator Shruti direct and produce only adds to the magic, as she and I have so much trust between us after years of working together.”

Click play, and get inspired by the women of the Rose family.


* If you’re looking for a “Hero,” look no further than the latest single from NYC-based indie pop singer-songwriter Michael Buono.

Titled “Hero,” the song is the first off Buono’s upcoming full-length debut, Lost, which will be released this spring.

A joyful ode to both music, and his creative process, Buono explained “Hero” in a statement, saying, “‘Hero’ is an expression of all the aspects of music that make it my favorite thing to do in the world. Writing a song is absolutely cathartic for me, but recording it is pure joy, as I get to hone my craft and constantly find new sources of inspiration.”

Check out “Hero,” and feel the joy.


* NYC-based rockers The Men will be releasing their eighth album, Mercy, on February 14th via Sacred Bones Records. The lead single is “Children All Over the World,” which founding guitarist and vocalist Nick Chiericozzi discussed in a statement, saying, “‘Children’ was, like a lot of songs, altered and tossed around quite a bit before it took shape. At one point it sounded like a cruising metal tune – our version of metal, that is. After the synth landed, though, it felt complete and off it went.”

With a sound that’s part modern indie rock, part ‘80s New Wave, with a killer guitar solo thrown in for good measure, “Children All Over the World” is a winner.

Click play and rock out with The Men.


For more of the best of NYC’s indie music scene, come back next Wednesday, and check out the archives for previous columns.

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Pop Shots – There They Go
Monday, January 20, 2020

Welcome to your weekly dose of pop world musings. Covering all things pop culture, this week Pop Shots is hitting you with thoughts on everything from Billie Eilish going to the movies, to Carlos Santana going into the weed business, to who’s going – and more importantly, not going – into the the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and since this is Pop Shots you know everything is seasoned with a little bit of attitude.

* Billie Eilish will write and perform the next James Bond theme song. I guess this makes sense being that James Bond movies have been seducing people’s dads for years.

* Cardi B tweeted that she wants to be a politician. Some people might view her past as a stripper as problematic, but I think her resume would make her one of the only people in politics that’s actually held a real job.


* Moby announced all proceeds from his upcoming album – All Visible Objects, due out March 6th – will be donated to a range of charities and organizations. There’s no word on if one of the charities will be the Natalie Portman Reputation Defense Fund.

* Carlos Santana has partnered with Left Coast Ventures, a cannabis and hemp company headquartered in Santa Rosa, CA. My guess is Carlos Santana’s weed will be … wait for it … smooth.

* Matchbox Twenty will be hitting the road this summer with The Wallflowers. Remember, when you call into work the morning after the show pretending to be sick, tell your boss, “I’m not crazy, I’m just a little unwell.”


* Camila Cabello's sophomore album, Romance, has been certified gold by the RIAA. Being that most of the “sales” these days are “album equivalent units” via streaming, the RIAA should really be certifying these albums fool’s gold.

* Despite a gigantic, and somewhat pathetic, social media campaign by Maple Leif Garrett (aka Justin Bieber) to get his new single “Yummy” to the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100, rapper Roddy Ricch’s “The Box” took the top spot in this week’s poll, with “Yummy” coming in second. Ricch also has the number one album in the country with Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial. There’s no word on if this particular Roddy has ever told anyone to “come on down!”


* This year’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame class has been announced, and it includes Depeche Mode, The Doobie Brothers, Whitney Houston, Nine Inch Nails, The Notorious B.I.G., and T-Rex. Personally, I think they need to rename the place, because it doesn’t qualify as a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame without Pat Benatar, Judas Priest, Motorhead, and Soundgarden, all of whom were passed over this year.

* Phish have reached a heck of an earnings milestone, as their live shows total gross has surpassed half a billion dollars. This is even more impressive when you consider the fact that the band has just one, two and a half hour long, song.

* Finally, in news that matters deeply to me, after being in a 9 year relationship with some guy who doesn’t warrant being named, Vanessa Hudgens is now single! That’s right folks, my time is now! If anybody needs me, I’m busy making a mixtape!


That’s all for this edition of Pop Shots, but come back next Monday for more shots on all things pop.

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8 Things You Should Know About Audio Jane
Friday, January 17, 2020

A few weeks ago I caught Hartford, CT-based foursome Audio Jane at The Acoustic, in Bridgeport, and I was quickly drawn in by their ‘90s style shoegaze / dream pop sound.

By the end of their set I wasn’t alone in my fascination, as everyone in the venue was enveloped by the ethereal, yet slightly grunge inspired, vibe the band had created.


So who are Audio Jane?

Here are eight things you should know about the band.


There is no Jane

When asked about the origin of the band’s name, frontwoman Sarah Pech laughs, saying, “People think that I’m Jane, but I’m not.”

The band’s name comes from, of all things, an ATM.

“We were looking for a new band name and nothing was really working,” she remembers, “I was at a bank ATM and there was an audio jack, and it’s like oh, Audio Jane.”

The band was founded in 2016, but has gone through a few lineup changes

Sarah, and lead guitarist Mike Goldberg, started Audio Jane in 2016. Current drummer Mike Ciunci came into the fold a year and a half ago, and the band’s newest member, bassist Nate Harris, joined in the summer of 2019.


Their songs are a true group effort

Every member of Audio Jane is involved in the creation process of each song.

Sarah kicks things off using GarageBand on her iPad. “I’ll usually make a full demo with a drum loop,” she explains, “and I’ll figure out some guitar chords that I like, and then kind of figure out a melody, and then add words that fit.”

After the band hears the demo, Mike Goldberg says, “We’ll sort of decide, is this going to be upbeat, or mellow, and then Sarah asks me to add some atmospheric elements to the guitar – reverb, delays, and stuff like that.”

Mike Ciunci adds that for him, as a drummer, “The nature of the writing, and the style of how Sarah and Mike play together, allows for the creative freedom to either be open with it, or (have) more of an upbeat, driving feel.”

For Nate, being in a female-fronted band for the first time in his career has been a bit of a dream come true. “I’ve always been very drawn to female fronted bands,” he explains, “Neko Case, Laura Veirs, Mazzy Star – that’s who I’m singing along to in my car. So to get to add harmonies on top of that has been great. I’m really enjoying that.”

While Sarah’s lyrics are personal and emotional, they’re usually the final piece of the puzzle

Sarah says writing the lyrics for each song “pretty much always comes last,” noting, “I get the melody first.”

Digging deeper into her process, she continued, “Sometimes I’ll have maybe a piece of the lyrics I want to use once I have that melodic idea, but because it all has to fit in I kinda stopped writing the words first, because they weren’t fitting into the music, or the melody once it came, and then it was annoying because I was so attached to the lyrics, but they couldn’t fit how I wanted, so I stopped doing it that way.”


Their song “Ocean” was featured on The CW show Nancy Drew

This past fall Audio Jane could be heard on The CW drama Nancy Drew, as their song “Ocean,” which is off their 2017 album Naive, was featured on the show. When the band first received the news, one member surprised everyone with an unexpected amount of knowledge of the teen detective.

Sarah remembers, “Nate was throwing out all these Nancy Drew facts when we got on the show. It’s like, how do you know this?”

Nate’s answer – his daughter.

“My daughter started reading the books recently,” he explains, “She then got the audio books, which are read by (Laura Linney). But they’re good. I highly recommend them.”

With a laugh, he adds, “(Nancy Drew) solves every mystery, and the narrator tells you what she’s wearing throughout the entire thing.”

Drummer Mike Ciunci is an old school hip-hop head

Calling Rakim his personal choice as the greatest emcee of all-time, and having an album collection that includes EPMD, Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest, and Wu-Tang Clan, Ciunci is an old school hip-hop head, and he says if you listen hard enough you may catch some of that influence in his drumming.

“By the style of my natural playing growing up, playing jazz and playing hip-hop, it lends itself, and it will bleed in. I don’t think it’s prevalent, but there are little things you can probably pick up and hear.”

When it comes to those little things, he says, “While you may not equate the actual style, some of the techniques, especially for me, the way that I will hit my snare, there’s still some jazz and hip-hop influence in little triplet mid hits that you don’t necessarily hear audibly unless you’re really really listening to it.”

Sarah is reportedly a beast at Bingo

Don’t worry, the members of Audio Jane aren’t hustling your grandma at your local senior center’s bingo night, but if you see Sarah picking up a Bingo card, you might want to leave B-4 it’s too late. According to the band, she’s their big winner when it comes to bar bingo.

You’ve been warned!


New Audio Jane music is on its way sometime this year

Audio Jane’s most recent release was their 2018 full length effort, Letters, but 2020 is looking like a year of new tunes, as Sarah says, “We have a bunch of new songs that we kind of have fleshed out already, and we have a few more to go.”

With recording starting soon, there’s a chance Audio Jane could have a new album out before the end of summer.


For more Audio Jane, check out audiojane.com, and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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NYC Scene Report – Amsi, Cool Company, & Dan Dillinger
Wednesday, January 15, 2020

This week’s NYC Scene Report features the powerful vocals of Amsi, smooth “Stardust” from Cool Company, and introspective hip-hop from Dan Dillinger.

* NYC-based singer-songwriter Amsi (who previously went by the name Kash) has released an acoustic version of her latest single, “Catch Me at the Top,” and if you didn’t know about her before, be prepared to be blown away by the powerhouse vocalist.

“The inspiration behind ‘Catch Me at the Top’ was a conversation I had with my producer, Avanti,” Amsi says of the song, “I have always listened to both western pop music and Bollywood music, but never thought to merge my two loves into one. This song was the opportunity to try my hand in something new and also combine two cultures that I seemingly thought could never mix. I slowly realized these two halves of me need to be showcased in my music, and ‘Catch Me at the Top’ is just the beginning of that journey.”

Click play, and “Catch” Amsi right now.


* Column favorites Cool Company are a soul duo who prove to be unafraid to dig into the soul with their latest single, “Stardust.”

Opening with the line “don’t give a damn ‘bout what your brand is,” “Stardust” immediately challenges listeners to look past the images we like to create for ourselves.

The song continues to drive this point home with lyrics like, “you are who you are / not just who you say you are.”

Discussing the inspiration for the song, Cool Company said, “‘Stardust’ is a record that tries to capture the vibe of knowing you've allowed yourself to be lulled into a loop that’s comfortable for you, but that comes at the expense of others, or other priorities or opportunities.”

The duo added that the song “sets the stage for a flourishing pipeline of new music from Cool Company in the year ahead.”

Here’s to looking forward to a very Cool 2020, starting with “Stardust.”


* Brooklyn-based hip-hop artist Dan Dillinger has something for everyone feeling “Trapped” – most notably, himself.

“Trapped” is the title track off Dillinger’s forthcoming album, and he opened up about the inspiration for the song, saying, “‘Trapped’ might’ve been the first or second song I wrote for the project and is basically about me discovering that I may have bipolar disorder, or coming to the realization that my brain is changing a bit. It’s also the catalyst for the record, which talks a lot about mental health issues, but also just feeling ‘stuck’ and wanting to figure out how to break out of that feeling, and figuring out who I am and what I want in life.”

Raw, and real, “Trapped” is a look inside the mind of Dan Dillinger, who is an emcee you should definitely be on the lookout for in 2020.


For more of the best of NYC’s indie music scene, come back next Wednesday, and check out the archives for previous columns.

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