Monday, March 30, 2015

We played at a bar in New London, Connecticut and nobody looked at us, and then we played Brooklyn at 3 in the afternoon while people ate brunch and drank Bloody Marys. Like most shows they were opportunities for me to act like I knew what I was doing. In Brooklyn I forgot to tune my bass before our first song and that seemed to set the tone. We drank slowly but surely throughout the day until I fell asleep at Jim's apartment, a loft and venue called David Blaine's The Steakhouse, while he and Becca and Katie and Erick played Goldeneye on N64. The last time we were here we played the DBTS One-Year Anniversary show and I managed to fall asleep in the middle of the incredibly loud, crowded after-party. It was right around the time Karen and I started dating. She sent me texts with a lot of x's and o's and I told her I'd be home as soon as we'd become huge stars in New York. She was a bridesmaid at her friend's wedding and I watched Frankie Cosmos play a set as "Cranky Gyongos", an Australian Frankie Cosmos cover band. The night wore on. A man puked on another man's head, people listened to Hunky Dory at high volume, people climbed up to the roofI went to bed.

This time around the apartment was nearly empty. I woke up at 3 in the morning, heard reggaeton beats coming from the building next door, felt my heart sinking, which happens sometimes now. I went back to bed. At noon we left to get bagels and listened to the Tennessee Border Show on WKCR. It sounded glorious, or a word that's maybe better than glorious. It sounded correct, or like a relief, light and air coming in through the car windows; old country songs, steel guitar and fiddle, weariness put in the proper terms. I had some idea left over from the middle of the night that I'd call Karen when I got home, even though (or maybe because) we hadn't talked in two months. I figured she wouldn't pick up and I'd leave a voicemail, try to say "It's been hard living without you" and "I met a cat you'd really like, his name is Steakboy" and then hang up and feel like I've never been this stupid in my whole life, which isn't true, I've been stupid many times. We heard "Christine's Tune" and the couple lines that go "it's alright to call her but I'll bet you/the moon is full and you're just wasting time", and I reconsidered. We got breakfast, I saw Cassie Ramone as we left the bagel place, we dropped Jim off, we heard Red Sovine.

Should you ever do something twice? Is once good enough? We drove home and the hills of Pennsylvania and New York were covered in trees and the sun set behind them, just like last time, but  this time the music was different (Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue in the Fall; small-market classic rock radio and Billy Joel in the Spring), and now there was snow on the ground, and instead of driving, I sat in the back seat, looking up from my book sometimes to see what there was to see.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

[hey, here's a column that was going to run in the new issue of geneva13 but there was no room for it, but this is better maybe? you can click on things and listen to clips and stuff. hard to click on a link in actual photocopied paper. - Matt]
Some fool called this a happy hour.
Very briefly, some notes on records I've been obsessed with, not including the Courtney Barnett EPs that came out sort of recently, or Priests' Tape Two, or the Perfect Pussy tape (who isn't talking about that, though?), or Veedon Fleece, or that new old Neil Young record, or this Charlene & The Soul Serenaders song that I listened to all summer every day. I also didn't include any Lou Reed thoughts because I read Laurie Anderson's goodbye in Rolling Stone and was like, "what else could possibly be said?" Anyway, music stuff:

Mick Farren - Vampires Stole My Lunch Money (Logo)
Mick Farren, who died this past summer at the age of 69, was a musician, journalist, cultural thinker, science fiction writer, and conspiracy theorist. But it's ok to approach his 1978 album, Vampires Stole My Lunch Money, free of context; to just stare at the cover image–his globe of black hair, his wide eyes and blank expression–and dive in. The music is kind of witty Stiff Records peripheral punk–'70s rock & roll, sometimes bluesy, but reinvigorated and connected to the larger punk world, even at times ("Half Price Drinks", "Drunk In The Morning") rivaling the grace and downbeat beauty of Television. Farren sounds like a gruff Brit, well-worn, like he's spent years standing in the rain and is better off for it. So much of the album seems to revolve around drinking and despairing, but even at his most rumpled and haggard and dispossessed and slurry, he carries a certain dignity. He's a thinking person, sometimes trying not to think. He sings about Bela Lugosi and zombies, asks "Is that the best you could do? A planet full of buildings?" (his one stab at spoken-word, "I Know From Self-Destruction", is remarkable and true). He sits alone at the bar, dealing with real life terror, trying to survive. And he wants to live.

Juana Molina - Wed 21 (Crammed Discs)
I don't know where to begin with Juana Molina. She was an actress on a hugely popular comedy show (La Noticia Rebelde) in her native Argentina in the '80s/'90s and became a star in much of Latin America, and her new record sounds a bit like Suzanne Vega singing over remixed Gastr Del Sol/Tortoise songs with Hardcore Devo-era synthesizer tones added for effect. It's a folky electronic record, but she goes way beyond that. There are her mathy guitar figures that sound like they could have come from DC or Louisville; there are her beautiful, airy sing-song vocals, sometimes layer upon layer upon layer of them; there are the warped, frayed electronics that come in and shiver and float off into space. The music is structured and wild, soothing and exploratory. Even the moments that might be considered challenging/strange feel like little gifts. On "Sin Guia No", backing vocal lines and keyboard tones drift around the song like wandering ghosts while Molina seems to talk and joke. On "Las Edades", off-key keyboards swell in and out, low flares rising and falling. There's a combination of rigor and playfulness throughout. She's spending all day in the lab researching, then going to dance classes a couple days a week, then coming home and fixing a drink. It's a record that often works like a dream life and a regular life coinciding.

Various Artists - Loving On The Flipside (Now Again/Truth & Soul)
I don't feel like writing a long review of this compilation (though it absolutely deserves one), so I'll just say Loving On The Flipside–a stunning collection of overlooked '60s/'70s soul cuts–is a record you need to buy. Anything else I mention in this column is real good and necessary and whatever, but this is the one you should get first. Check out the soft focus and drum power of the Darling Dears. Listen to Eddie Finley's voice howl and burn through "Treat Me Right or Leave Me Alone" (how could a song with that title not be the best song?). Listen to every song over and over forever. Look at the man on the cover wearing a cape, holding a stone in his hand, like he's in a Sun Ra production of Hamlet. Add to cart.

The Clean - Oddities (540)
The Clean are the simplest band and the best band. I mean, the best band if you like an exact mix of things–punky, jangly pop sometimes featuring an organ; post-punk by way of the New Zealand countryside; Syd Barrett by way of Dunedin city streets. They sound like going out at night with your friends and wearing a sweater. That's a dumb description but I think it's right. There's a sense of fun and abandon, and also a cozyness. Oddities collects alternate takes and unreleased stuff from their heyday ('80-'82), though they've had a couple of heydays. If you have their Anthology collection, you'll recognize a few songs and fall totally in love with the songs you don't recognize. It's hard to say what makes them so good. Brilliant, uncomplicated song craft? Some primal part of us (us=dorks) that craves genuine home-recorded pop? When people say something is "classic" what they mean is "it gives you the same feeling as The Clean".

Friday, July 12, 2013

During the gunfight we fell in love.
Hey. It's been a million years, but that's ok. I've been busy I guess? I haven't been, I mean besides work and bands and whatever. Sometimes I have to go to meetings for things, or I go swimming. Swimming right now is very important. Reading on my porch is important. Sitting in front of my computer and trying to write something is not that important. Also, I've maybe mentioned before that I have this tumblr. I update that everyday because it's really easy. Ever just want to look at a picture? Or hear like one song every couple weeks? Or find out what's in Prince's fridge? That's the place. But yeah, here are some best/killer things and a couple of thoughts. This is just me stretching out a little. Rolling out of bed, finally.

I saw this live Hysterics video the week that all the NSA/Snowden stuff was first reported and it was kind of like all hope was not lost, you know what I mean? I'm looking for reasons to not roll my eyes at life in the USA and it's tough sometimes. But here's Hysterics, raging and perfect. "I want to see all the freaks in the pit" feels like a general all-purpose existential request, applicable anywhere, all the time. And not to be bitchy, but check the YouTube sidebar and see the rest of the Rain Fest bill. If you went to shows 12 years ago, you'll be like "holy fuck, this is STILL HAPPENING?" Which is fine. But the future needs to be something else. Fake-Blood-Soaked Female Pope for President. Hysterics 2016.

Also, I love St Vincent. Love her so much. This is the first episode of Guitar Moves I watched (like literally watched it 10 minutes ago), I don't know why I dragged my feet on it for so long. It's hosted by Matt Sweeney! I will talk about Chavez all night. I think maybe I thought the show would be too tech-oriented and I tend to not want to know. And I usually tune out when people talk about the blues, but then it's like "what if I knew how to do this? what would happen then?" The show is about technique and style and where those come from for everybody, and the segments are short and fun. It makes you want to be better and nerdier. And the way Annie Clark gets into harmonics and those chords where you can zone out -- that's what I do! I sit at my apartment and find ways to zone. Josh Homme's episode is great, too. Sidenote: I had a dream that my friends and I were hanging out with him and having a good time. When I woke up my hand was on my heart, like I was pledging allegiance or maybe in love. I'm full of love, basically. Also, what if Sweeney talked to Bill Orcutt? Holy shit.

This mix of historic female electronic/drone/noise/synthesizer experiments is necessary. The more recent material is great (I want every Noveller record), but there's something about outre music from a time when that was fairly uncommon and couldn't be released, say, as limited CD-Rs and cassettes -- I guess 50/60s/70s era, with all the old Nonesuch LPs that were like educational reels for trans-dimensional thinking or something -- that really grabs me. But it was even more uncommon for women? I don't feel qualified to speak on that. I read that piece on Suzanne Ciani in ANP Quarterly, and it was more about the desire to push boundaries in an all-encompassing way, out of trad conceptual ways of thinking and with new instruments, trying to reach something, trying to be boundless. You can apply that to everything. Sorry if I'm sounding new age-y. Fuck it, maybe I'm new age-y. Try this kale smoothie.

There's this, too, brought to my attention by Jason Powerslime.  The Deele's "Shoot 'Em Up Movies" is already a favorite of yours if you know MF Doom's "Red and Gold".  It's that kind of gentle power snare synth R&B that people try to reference now, but it's never as genuine, and nobody's going so far as to recreate this (cowboy paisley park ballads? smooth movie theater romance?). The past tends to get filtered. I think of this as music from my one sister's Prom in 1989, when she got in a car accident but nobody got hurt. Also, that's Babyface in there on piano, I think. "Then the lights went down/ hayyyyayyyy" says so much.

Lastly, did you hear the GLAM LP? You should hear the GLAM LP, and download it for zero dollars if you're broke. It's a mystery how some bands can more-or-less crank the basics and have it be the best shit in the world. I listened to this record for weeks, and then they came to Rochester and KILLED. It can all be so simple. They played with Crazy Spirit, who are decent, but their set was...I don't know. It was just grunts to me. They looked like farm boys who now live in an alley. Gnarly and growly. I'd call it dumpster-core but I don't mean that as an insult. Anyway, people ate it up. My friends and I shrugged. It wasn't GLAM, that's for sure.

Elsewhere: I made this really long g13 mix a while ago. Good songs, amazing songs, but a little lengthy. I mean you have to download it, you don't have a choice. Did you hear Reed and Cale (mostly Reed) on the radio? I liked it. I even just liked hearing what old NYC radio sounded like. All the monotone, emotionless show announcements. Oh shit, and read Lou's Yeezus review. I've been into soothing sounds, too -- Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou and Alice Coltrane. Kind of wild soothing sounds. I forgot to mention a lot of other things, but I set a time limit on writing. Sticking to a schedule. Also, good time to swim. See above.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

There's a lion in my pocket.
I'm reeling from whiskey and black tie fundraiser house party crashing and Afro-Licious not winning the BRAWL event last night, but here are some things:

Still haven't totally processed last weekend's incredible Tyler-Leah wedding, but Leah walking down the aisle to Dave Pajo's version of "Hybrid Moments" was something else. You can hear romance in the Misfits because it's there. 100 or so people were standing, trying to keep it together and beaming while Pajo sang "If you're gonna scream, scream with me...". Tyler and Leah's marriage vows knocked me out completely -- Tyler referencing the oncoming super nova death of the universe, Leah talking about her heart and the real world. Two of the absolute greats of all time, and I got to officiate it. Not bad.

Pajo - "Hybrid Moments"

I also kept thinking about starting the service with "Dearly beloved..." with organs playing in the background, and then kept thinking about the Purple One. "Let's Go Crazy" started out the dance portion of the night, and I was standing at the bar when one of the bartenders heard the opening spiel and pointed upwards at the speakers (the heavens?) and said "OH SNAP" and spoke/sang along to the whole thing. The next day I suddenly got Dump's rendition of "1999" in my head, from That Skinny Motherfucker With The High Voice?, and it's been stuck there ever since.  I'd forgotten about Dump (James McNew from Yo La Tengo) -- I'd loved "International Airport" when I first heard it a while ago, got a split 7" he did with Lambchop and then moved onto whatever else. But then somebody posted this tribute/re-working cassette recently and I dug in. He turns "1999" into drone church 808 pop, what used to be an instant dance song into positive meditation, speculating on eternity. It's ok to mess with the canon sometimes. His take on "Erotic City" is great, too, a rocker that most bands would envy (also: the original for comparison). I'm trying to find who posted the whole thing, let me look. Also, always wished I'd been the one to come up with "I was dreaming when I wrote this" as an opening line.

Dump - "1999"
Dump - "Erotic City"

I gave Mac Demarco's new record a shot and I kind of love it. The guitars sound great, everything is easy-going. It's not strict light rock, there's enough fucking around for it to work. It's like a record for poor, scruffy Steely Dan/Boz Scaggs/Rundgren fans? I guess? "Dreaming" is my favorite right now. "Cooking Up Something Good" starts off sounding like soundtrack music for a new Swiffer or the hottest brands at TJ Maxx, or like a cartoon animal walking down the street, but it's bent just enough that it's not exactly those things. And then the chorus is soooooo good.

Mac Demarco - "Dreaming"
Mac Demarco - "Cooking Up Something Good"

Oh shit, also: my friends Hollow Hills just put out a Halloween tape -- Haunted Hollow Hills! Limited physical copies and it's all covers -- Roky Erickson, Venom, Teddy Durant. GET THIS THING!  Eat some spooky nerds, drink cider, get in league with Satan.  I think they'll be playing shows in NYC soon, too, so look for that, New Yorkers.

Lastly: it can be weird when people you know are doing the best stuff around. Not weird bad, and not that you weren't expecting greatness, but sometimes they go way beyond. Tyler and Leah made a one-sided 7" single as a wedding favor and I still can't get over how good it is. I don't know if I'm allowed to post that song, so I'll hold off. I also just heard this song by Pleistocene and it blew me away. I've only talked to Katie Preston maybe twice. I actually just saw her last night and she had three beers in her hands. But holy shit, "To Bushwick" is great. Fuzzy intricate pop and real talk, so many good ideas and none of them seem labored-over. Legit stunning.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

space and time (cont.)

Brief notes on some things! The new issue of geneva13 is out and has another music column by me. Topics covered are the usual -- underground and not underground, or shouldn't be below the radar or likely won't be for long, or recognizable immediately. Oh and I made a mix for that issue, too.

I wrote about Angel Olsen's Lady Of The Waterpark tape, and said she draws from deep early folk music but makes it sound "current", but I think what I really meant was "relevant to your life right now". Saying she makes it current might lead people to think she does Woody Guthrie but auto-tuned,  or that she's working with T-Bone Burnett, which is not the case. If you've heard any singer-songwriter music or folk music in your life, she sounds familiar. But what's interesting is that in listening to Strange Cacti or the clip above, I didn't hear finger-picking that people did like 90 years ago in the Appalachian mountains or 50 years ago in the English countryside, or the kind of theatrical or exaggerated phrasing/vibrato/lowering that singers used to tell the story of the song or kick in extra feeling or extra haunting spells. I heard spare home-recorded music that was (I kind of hate using this word) hypnotic, and clearly beautiful, and lyrics that weren't early America/pre-war/'60s cottage specific. Maybe it's just that knowing she's in modern-day Chicago and exists in color digital video on YouTube is distracting from the oak wood of her songs, but I think it's an achievement to make existential, believable, stunning songs for 2012 out of the old playbook, to go back without making it feel like a history lesson. It's no wonder she's been playing with Bonnie "Prince" Billy, who does a similar thing, although I'm much more drawn to her. (Also, I'm waiting not so patiently for her new record to arrive at my house. Tracking info says it left the sorting facility in Warrendale, PA on September 6th. I work for the USPS and I know that sometimes things don't get scanned, that it's nothing sinister, just a slip-up. But I need that record. When I say not so patiently, I mean UGH I'M DYING.)

Soccer Team, who are awesome, just started a blog where they're posting demos/covers/alternate takes and it RULES. Last time I checked they put up a slower practice take of "Here's Why Dancers Smoke", which was already a great song with lyrics that seem to have come from very careful observation, and has some laughing towards the end that will make you want to be friends with them. Actually the whole blog will make you want to hang out with them and talk about music. And their Mark Lanegan covers!  I'm (finally) downloading Bubblegum as we speak.

Speaking of finally, the What It Is! 45 box set is in my home at last, a month or so after I saw it at a record store in Pittsburgh, passed on it, panicked, went back the next day only to find the store closed, then arranged for my friend Brady to pick it up for me and hand it off to our friend Ilona so she could bring it to me when she started school at the Eastman House. But I have it! Haven't worked through all the singles, but my fave so far is The Mighty Hannibal's "Somebody In The World For You". I like it for the most obvious reason -- it jams. You're into it as soon as you hear it. It sounds like a lot of things and all of those things are good. PMA vibes galore (not to be corny) and a groove.

Also, Eddie Hazel. He's in the box set, too, but holy shit, check him out slaying the Beatles. Also, I'd like a full wall in my apartment to be the cover of Games, Dames and Guitar Thangs, the way people sometimes have nature scenes wall-papered in their dens or dentist offices.

Oh shit, and Nina Simone's "Baltimore". I heard this the other day when I was reading Mish Way's 'Remembering The Dumb Moments That Shaped Me Through Songs' over at Vice. It's a great piece about drug soundtracks and adolescence/post-adolescence, a quick thing about a tape with Hole on one side and a mix with "Carry The Zero" starting off the other side, and a bunch of other songs that you know. These are your memories too, probably, give or take. And then there's "Baltimore", playing on repeat now that you've heard it.

Lastly: how did I not know this Harry Pussy collection was out? All I heard about was the Let's Build A Pussy re-issue, which frankly didn't need to happen. Least interesting of all the HP records, though kind of funny. But really, that conceptual joke over the In An Emergency LP? Or the fucking Tour LP? Or the 8" lathe split that I almost got for $100 a few years ago, but I was in DC walking around with family and wearing a Sunn0))) shirt and missing the end of the auction? Weird choice.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

In the interest of making dude with dong not the first thing you see anymore, and also in the interest of hi-lighting a song I like a lot, here's Cat Power's "Ruin". Can't wait for Sun. CAN'T WAIT.  Chan Marshall forever, all the trophies ever, I give lots of fucks, etc etc.

Also, "Crabs In My Pants". Also, you should get that Brian Jonestown tape on Burger. Not kidding, great lost '90s record that you always needed. Too good to just be coming out now in kinda limited numbers. Not a stretch to call it classic.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Summer came much too suddenly.
I'm pausing Badlands right now to post up this thing I found on my old computer, from 2008-ish, back when I was going to do a print zine called Werts Up. I had it in my head to review two records -- the Beekeeper/Ida split 7" and Unrest's Animal Park. I never finished the Beekeeper piece (might try to do that soon), but Animal Park was done and ready to go. So here it is, instead of a write-up about the Perfect Teeth vinyl re-ish. (Sidenote: I wasn't expecting that gold Shroud of Turin box, with Cath Carroll's ghost face staring at me--did I get some weird golden ticket version? I thought I was getting an exact replica of the one I saw in the Touchable Sound book.) Anyway, apologies for some rough, incomplete Unrest knowledge, and for tons of extra irrelevant info here. It was an odd time, maybe odd details felt appropriate. Although wildly adventurous and brave music soundtracking a lot of hesitation and deep car thought isn't all that strange:

Unrest were pretty weird.  Their Yes She Is My Skinhead Girl single had photos of Sammy Davis Jr. on the front and back covers -- one where he's whispering into the ear of a young blonde female, and another where he's standing next to Martin Luther King and they're both looking to their left -- and lyrics like "I want to fuck you all the time". Their Animal Park 7" has a shot of a guy heating up a tea kettle on the stove while his dick is hanging out.  They were really into Cath Carroll and Isabel Bishop and had an album called Kustom Karnal Blackxploitation.  This was while they were essentially an indie pop band that also did extended minimalist slow jams and atmospheric noise pieces and sometimes disjointed post-punk.  It's the kind of thing that can end up sounding too precious or sort of typical, and I guess they were that way a little bit.  But when I first started working in Phelps, I would listen to their Imperial f.f.r.r. record in my car before I had to go in, and get weirded out by how painfully honest and psychologically heavy they could be.  They have a song called "June" that starts out all bouncy and catchy with just the bass and drums, and Bridget Cross sings "As you lay dying/morphine and ice cream/staining your sheets and/confusing your mind/and it reminds me/they still get paid when you die".  About half-way through it switches to tropical, breezy '60s pop with her singing "Crawling through the snow/crawling through the blood".  On "Cherry Cream On", Mark Robinson sings rambling half-sentences that are part teen innocence and part graphic sex talk.  Everything they did on that record felt realer than real and almost embarrassing, like they didn't quite know when to stop, refusing to hold back on any thought they had.  And I would sit there listening and pore over the liner notes and notice stuff like how they listed the geographical coordinates for everyone involved with the record and the beats-per-minute for every song, which seemed like a Shellac thing to do or like something you'd find on a late '90s screamo record, and then suddenly realize I was about to be late for work.  Sometimes I could tell it was time to go in by looking out and seeing Bevin, the girl who did maintenance work in the morning, pulling into the parking lot or walking over to the office.  She was roughly my age and funny and insanely skinny, and in the wintertime she would wear this huge old coat (I think it was dark green) that went down to her knees, maybe past her knees, with a big hat and a big scarf, everything a different color.  She looked like an old-world peasant or something, walking down the street, but she really made it work.  She was also into Civil War re-enacting, and she managed to pull that off, too.  She could do basically anything.  I always thought she and I could probably be friends, but I could never come up with anything good to say to her, so we just said "Hey" to each other in the mornings, and she cleaned the floors and I delivered the mail awkwardly and that was that.  The first song on Animal Park has a chorus that goes "Why does anybody say anything they say anyway?", which reads kind of defeated or maybe disappointed, and it sounds a little like that when you listen to it.  But if you hear it at the right time, it just sounds like a good question.

Unrest - "Afternoon Train"
Unrest - "Light Command"