Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Episode 37: The Slider

[via mountains & buffalo]

Slide through the waning days of summer with Episode 37. We find ourselves at the messy, fuzzy intersection of soul and rock and roll, with new jams by Richard Swift and Wilco to go along with some choice favorites. As always, PLAY IT LOUD.

Richard Swift // Lady Luck
Ty Segall // The Slider (T. Rex cover)
Rodriguez // Only Good For Conversation
The Monks // Pretty Suzanne
Wilco // I Might
Atlas Sound // Doctor (Five Discs cover)
Richard Swift // Broken Finger Blues
Gene & The Esquires // Space Race
King Khan & The Shrines // 69 Faces Of Love
Jim Ford // Long Road Ahead
Bob Dylan // Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You

Total running time: 35:55

Episode 37: The Slider

Walt Wolfman

Richard Swift is known for a little bit of everything. There's his work as a singer-songwriter, calling to mind Harry Nilsson and Randy Newman. There's his avant-garde electronic work as Instruments of Science & Technology. There's his fantastic production work for The Mynabirds and Damien Jurado, and for those who haven't found it yet, Swift's website is a treasure trove of one-off recordings, beautiful photographs, and weird mixes. He's a one-man inspiration machine.

And he's set to release a new EP, awesomely-titled Walt Wolfman, on October 18. I've been digging a new track he dropped a few weeks back called "Broken Finger Blues," but today he's given us an ode to America's preeminent poet, Walt Whitman. Swift's soulful new direction is another welcomed change of pace for the restless spirit. Check him/them out below.

Richard Swift // Whitman
Richard Swift // Broken Finger Blues

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Amen Dunes // Through Donkey Jaw

Amen Dunes is the moniker for Damon McMahon, an artist that heretofore has remained intriguingly hard to peg. His 2009 album, DIA, was recorded three years previous in a secluded cabin in the Catskills before McMahon moved his entire life to Beijing, never intending for it to see the light of day. Upon its release, DIA sounded deeply personal, claustrophobic, and on the edge of sanity, due in large part to McMahon’s ghostly voice and low profile. Since then, he’s moved back to the States to make Amen Dunes into something more. The result is Through Donkey Jaw, another lonely-sounding album that nonetheless wants to shoot bigger, and it largely succeeds.

The strengths that made DIA worth investigating are still intact here. McMahon revels in a homemade style of psychedelia that sounds like it comes from a place of real emotion, rather than a particularly good (or bad) acid trip. His melodies are crisp and bizarre, but wholly original. The songs aren’t ‘60s pastiches—they sound out of place and out of time, floating around in the air while McMahon attempts to nail them down.

The personal warmth is apparent in the gentle folk of “Swim Up Behind Me,” which uses minimal percussion, synth, and a few guitars while McMahon pines for personal connection. The juxtaposition of his lyrics and the dreamy atmosphere is a central theme. Everything sounds slightly damaged, but there’s real beauty in the uneasiness of it all. The back half of the record is particularly unsettling, vacillating between the murmuring voices of the doomed-sounding “For All” and the straight-up psychosis of “Jill.” Yet these songs are just as essential as the quieter ones. They help define the tone of the album, adding darker colors to the entire palette.

Despite the inward-looking, the music is pushed further outward than anywhere in Amen Dunes’ discography. Songs like “Lower Mind” and “1985” use up all the space they’re given, the latter an instrumental that sounds like a particularly cold reinterpretation of the riff from “Take My Breath Away.” Album-opener “Baba Yaga” sets the scene by slowly, ceaselessly building into a monumental force. Much of Through Donkey Jaw sounds this meditative and assured, and McMahon seems comfortable taking himself out of the narrow headspace of the isolated cabin. The effect is rewarding and oddly comforting—there are peaks and valleys and lots of shadowy spaces, but it all keeps rolling along.

[via prefix]

Amen Dunes // Baba Yaga
Amen Dunes // Swim Up Behind Me

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Luke Temple
is known as the lead singer for Here We Go Magic, but he's all set to break out on his own come September 6. That date sees the release of his new solo album, Don't Act Like You Don't Care on Austin's own Western Vinyl, a long-delayed record three years in the making. First offering "Ophelia" is a classic Temple track: sunny, propulsive, and shot through with his wistful yearning.

Luke Temple // Ophelia

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Baby Missiles

The War On Drugs have finally moved out of the shadows. For several years, the Philly outfit was known primarily as the former band for Kurt Vile, but on their new album, Slave Ambient, the War On Drugs come into their own. They share a number of the hazy folk-rock nuances that Vile trades in, but with a Sonic Youth-meets-Springsteen vibe. Take a listen to album standout "Baby Missiles" below.

The War On Drugs // Baby Missiles

Slave Ambient is out now via Secretly Canadian.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Widowspeak // Widowspeak

Given the fact that we’re constantly bombarded by images on a daily basis, it’s fitting that bands are taking a visual approach to their sound. Contemporary signifiers like “cinematic,” “hazy,” and “shimmering” are thrown around by critics, fans, and the musicians themselves, sometimes ad nauseam. But that visual/auditory melding isn’t always just a cheap copy point. It can hint at an artistic focus that can be rewarding in its own right. Such is the case with Widowspeak, a Brooklyn-by-way-of-Tacoma trio that’s crafted a debut largely through the exploration of mood and tone.

It’s also fitting that Widowspeak comes courtesy of producer Jarvis Taveniere, resident multi-instrumentalist for Woods. The two bands share an intangible, mysterious quality, but whereas Woods’ music comes shrouded in tape hiss, Widowspeak presents itself as minimal and lonely. It helps when you have a singer with a set of pipes like Molly Hamilton. She’s already been likened to fellow dreamweaver Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star fame, and the similarities are striking. But Sandoval always sounded inviting; Hamilton keeps you at arm’s length, a narration for the stark music to build upon.

Credit first must go to Taveniere, who records Widowspeak with a beautiful clarity. “Puritan” kicks things off with the album’s musical thesis statement: pop as big and deliberate as a spaghetti western. Guitarist Robert Thomas is incredibly inventive, eschewing straight rhythm playing for winding leads that make every chorus sound huge and foreboding. The simmering energy of songs like “Harsh Realm” or “In The Pines” actually recalls Wye Oak in places, except Widowspeak build the tension and never release it. The effect is frustrating at times, especially when a good explosion is in order, but it always leaves you wanting more—possibly the greatest thing a band can achieve.

Of course, a visual aspect is apparent from the very beginning, suggesting dusty, deserted roads and wide-open spaces. It’s hard not to hear Ennio Morricone’s fingerprints on Thomas’s guitar parts, but at the center of it all is a beating pop heart. “Nightcrawlers” quotes “Apache,” built around the album’s most striking melody. Swooning hooks creep up in slow-dancers like “Gun Shy” and “Hard Times,” and the relatively hard-charging “Fir Coat” boasts a sugary, syncopated hook courtesy of Thomas. Even “Limbs—an eerie acoustic ballad tipped sharply on the edge of darkness—has a chorus that’s easily recognizable and instantly catchy.

The mixture of pop and mystery is enticing. Everything from the name and the strangely-isolated album art to the songs themselves makes you want to dive in head first. That visual and musical marriage is essential to understanding the minimalism of Widowspeak: it’s just your brain filling in the dots.

[via prefix]


Widowspeak // Puritan
Widowspeak // Limbs

Monday, August 1, 2011

Walking On My Grave

Dead Moon are the real deal--gnarly psychedelic garage-punk outta the late '80s-early '90s via Portland, Oregon, certainly akin to our fair city's psych wizard Roky Erickson. The venerable, incomparable, and deliberately enigmatic Portland label Mississippi Records just re-released their first three albums on vinyl. I completely missed out on Dead Moon on my first punk-obsessed go-around, but that's not going to happen again. Wow.

Dead Moon // Walking On My Grave