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New Musical Express: June 2024 Edition

New Musical Express with John's Music Blog

A talk with Borna Sammak about “Pop Goes the Weasel,” plus all the spring’s best rap, rock, and rave.

By John Chiaverina


New Musical Express is an exploration of the fractured and confusing contemporary music landscape, written by a failed musician who is one mental breakdown away from moving back to the Midwest and working at a gas station.

(He also does a blog.)

There is nothing like being in your 30s and dissociating at an underground music event. Personally, I never know when it might happen. It could be at a techno club, a rock show, or an art gallery where a tasteful experimental musician is performing. But the feeling is always the same: a white heat enveloping my entire body, sending my thoughts hurtling at once towards the future and deep into the past. My inability to fully push through an initial moment of identity formation—one where I shed my birth name and became something much dumber—has led me to remain in a purgatorial state, at once within, behind, and beyond the only thing I know. You know what, though? That’s not the worst vantage point from which to write about the best in contemporary rap, rock, and rave. When I hear something I like, my body temporarily transforms into a human Saluting Face Emoji, and I am temporarily free. Welcome back, my friends, to New Musical Express with John’s Music Blog.



Borna Sammak is a New York-based artist who has spent well over a decade combing through the detritus of American popular culture, both online and off. In Sammak’s work, boardwalk beach decals become raw material for all-over abstractions, deli-inspired signage looms large in white-walled galleries, and screens make appearances. I caught up with Sammak—who has a show of photographs opening tonight at The Journal Gallery in Manhattan—at his studio to talk about the kind of stuff he listens to while he’s working. 

I think you told me once that “Pop Goes the Weasel” is the number one song you've listened to since you’ve been at this spot, because it is always playing from the ice cream truck in front of your studio.

Borna Sammak: I probably listen to “Pop Goes the Weasel,” the first few bars of it, one or two thousand times a week. I think one thousand is a fair estimate. My new live/work loft is across from a park that primarily services yuppies, but that’s neither here nor there.

Does the tune get better and worse and then better again? Does the melody start to morph in your head? 

It bugs me, but I weirdly like “Pop Goes the Weasel,” the song. Do you know what it's about? 


“Pop Goes to the Weasel” is about pawning your nice church jacket for money to drink all week and then buying it back in time for church again. 


But no one knows what the phrase “Pop Goes the Weasel” actually means. I looked it up. It could have been a dance, it could have been whatever. 

Do you have a different listening regimen when you're really crunching to finish a show?

Sometimes I'll hit a phase where I can only listen to one song for a week or two on end. And it's usually something that’s kind of, I don't want to say annoying, they're good songs, but they’re strange songs. 

So this is usually when you’re finishing something?

Yeah, this would be in the manic last moments. And then I'll be in a mode where it's just one song on repeat. 

Do you have an example of a song? 

I can think of three of them. One of them was, oh my god, what is it called? “Another Weekend” by, he went to January 6th, that guy. 

Ariel Pink. 

Ariel Pink. “Caribbean Blue” by Enya was a big one. One was “John” by Lil Wayne and Rick Ross. And then one was “Amanaemonesia” by Chairlift. 

Take me into your mind state in those moments. Okay, you have to finish your show. You have an Enya song on loop. What is that doing for you? 

The Enya song at least, that's like a drug, more than the other ones. Enya fucking rocks. It makes you feel good. 

So you don't get sick of those songs? 

No, I still love all those songs. There was also Adderall involved in those moments. 

You have this great drum set over here. Do you ever take a break from working to jam? 

If I'm in an intense mode, I put down the drums completely for weeks or months on end. I don't know, I'm afraid of getting stuck over there or something. 

You once told me that you had some technical chops growing up. You won some competitions. 

Oh, it was at the Vans Warped Tour. I won the fastest double bass contest at the Philadelphia date in 2002. It was in Camden, New Jersey, technically. 

Is there any relationship to what you accomplished at the Vans Warped Tour and what you're trying to accomplish as a visual artist? 

Yeah, dude, I want to rock. I want to fucking shred. 

I walked in here and you were listening to some early 2000s noise rock. 

I think in general I listen to more metal or hardcore punk than anything else. But by the numbers, up at the top would be one, “Pop Goes The Weasel,” for sure, and then two, like, weirdly a lot of Lana Del Rey. 

I think that's a lot of people. 

There was this tweet someone made that was something like, “If she listens to Lana in the morning, boyfriend take warning, if she listens to Lana at night, boyfriend's delight.” But every time I catch myself listening to Lana Del Rey in the morning, I am like, Oh, you are not in a good place. 

I see a Weekend Nachos record over there. 

Yeah, I just went to their show like a week ago. 

Do you get in the pit at those shows? 

Yeah. I cannot stand still in a crowd. So my move at a show is I just stand in the middle of the pit. I don't even really mosh. I just kind of dodge everyone, but I don't know. It's kind of a tough guy maneuver. Like, if someone was doing that back in like 2002. 

Pit boss. 

Pit boss, but it's like, I'm not really the pit boss. I just don't want to be squeezed up with a bunch of people and I like people like running around and moving and I like dodging it. It's fun. It's dynamic. So I like standing in the middle of the pit. It's kind of a weird move, but that's where I'm at in a show. 

So you work a lot with these embroidery machines. I'm also seeing a lot of punk patches scattered around. Will you ever make patches yourself? Will you ever start making patches for bands? 

I'd love to. It'd be cool to design metal logos. But I don't know what I was going to do with those punk patches. I just collect them at shows and stuff. 


I don't have a battle jacket or anything. But, I mean, I have the embroidery machine. I was thinking about making a very gay battle jacket, maybe not on denim, maybe on something like Ralph Lauren. A lot of flowers. You know, make it cute, but also tough. 


  1. 1. Judy And The Jerks “Rumpus”

In the past, I’ve described the music of Mississippi-bred punk band Judy And The Jerks as sounding like “Suburban Lawns meets Jellyroll Rockheads.” Now that I have a bit of space to stretch out, I want to break that down. Suburban Lawns were a post-punk band from Southern California whose 1981 self-titled album is a masterwork of peppy art school new wave. Jellyroll Rockheads were a Japanese hardcore punk band whose music was incredibly fast and surprisingly catchy. Judy And The Jerks manage to squeeze the best of both into a basement punk container.  

  1. 2. Baby Kia “NYC WITH FELONS”

Baby Kia loves to yell. “OD CRASHIN,” the rapper’s artistic breakthrough from earlier in the year, is two and a half minutes of menacing synth brass and pit-ready screaming. “NYC WITH FELONS” continues on that general trajectory. If someone made a Judgement Night-style rap rock soundtrack for 2024, I would suggest that Baby Kia and Judy And The Jerks team up. It might be the only way to break out of the cargo short matrix hardcore currently finds itself trapped in. 

3. Mello Buckzz “Move”

Juke music is a beautiful thing. For the past decade, footwork—juke’s more abstracted sibling—has hogged up a lot of the spotlight, but there is nothing more satisfying than some good old-fashioned juke. Mello Buckzz gets it. “Move” is a tribute to the glory of a brand of electronic music that doesn’t require fancy stepping or an MFA in IDM studies to enjoy. I love footwork, to be clear, but sometimes I just want to dance. I’m speaking metaphorically, of course—I haven’t left my room in months.

4. RealYungPhil “You Know”

“I ain’t even on yet / We gonna make it like the Jadakiss song says.” RealYungPhil is making some of the most inspiring rap in America. Here, he teams up with Earl Sweatshirt and Harrison for a track that combines tricky, triumphant electronica and shamacking sort of regional drum patterns. One of these days, I am going to buy expensive running shoes and get in shape. When that day comes, I will be listening to RealYungPhil in my earbuds.   

5. Lexxy Jax “JACKPOT!!”

The word bonkers is often thrown around to describe fast rave music. It’s even the title of an entire happy hardcore compilation series. There is only one way to describe “JACKPOT!!” by Lexxy Jax: It is 100 percent bonkers. It’s the soundtrack to manic in-game betting. It’s the soundtrack to a rave where AI images of Jesus’s face are projected behind the DJ. 


Slacking Sacred Heart of Reinvention 

I’m not sure if there is a way for me to talk about this release without using the one dreaded word that gets used by many writers when attempting to talk about something as ineffable as noise music. You know what I’m talking about. Dare I say it? Here I go: There are some amazing sonic textures happening on Slacking’s new one, Sacred Heart of Reinvention. That’s just the damn truth, though. For fans of demolished tape warbling and what a British person might call “crunchy bits,” it’s a must-listen.


ity No Road No Problem

ity - No Road No Problem
ity - No Road No ProblemSeedlink⁺

  • 1ity - Satellite Service
  • 2ity - Woods Music
  • 3ity - Point b
  • 4ity - Corner Box
  • 5ity - Aerial Friend
  • 6ity - Copterblue
  • 7ity - Superglue Bestfriend
  • 8ity - Electricity
  • 9ity - Song For People
  • 10ity - Walkie-Talkie
  • 11ity - Lightshow
  • 12ity - Family

I’ve been listening to this ity record non-stop. It’s like parallel-dimension indietronica. To me, it sounds like it’s influenced by some sort of video game music that itself was influenced by the poppier end of IDM music, but that’s probably just in my imagination. Something’s happening here, though, that seems to move beyond the regulations of many electronic music genres, drawing out and focusing on a specific tonality only hinted at by the artist’s stylistic forbearers. It’s whimsical as hell!

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