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.