Friday, January 18th, 2013 | musiX | No Comments
I like Ty Segall. I like glammy Satanic makeup. I like flesh. I like tongues. And I like blood. But I don’t like feet … disgusting things. Do with that what you will while you watch Segall’s vid for “Thank God For Sinners” from last year’s Twins album (his third LP of 2012).
I’m still listening to Ty Segall’s Melted; now he’s already got a new one in the works? OK! Segall will release Goodbye Bread on June 21 on Drag City. Watch here as he performs the title track in a bathroom stall. Luckiest toilet in the world.
Monday, January 24th, 2011 | interviewZ, musiX, pdX | 4 Comments
It’s relatively safe to say that TDoL has become a San Franciscophile over the past year. I can’t get enough of it. High on my list is singer-songwriter Sonny Smith, and his ramshackle pop crew the Sunsets.
And over the past year Smith has been a busy body, releasing the universally adored Tomorrow Is Alright, as well as embarking on the 100 Records project/traveling art show, in which he created more than 100 fictional bands, wrote songs for them and enlisted a “Wrecking” Crew” of S.F. musicians including Ty Segall, Kelley Stoltz and The Sandwitches’ Heidi Alexander, who belts it out for Earth Girl Helen Brown’s “I Wanna Do It.” Smith didn’t stop there, working with artists from around the country to provide cover art for each imaginary 7-inch and then releasing Volumes I and II of songs from his creations including Zig Speck & Specktones, Fuckaroos and Loud Fast Fools.
Smith is playing a few dates up the West Coast, including a solo set here in Portland on Wednesday, Feb. 2 at the Doug Fir with The Blow. The Days of Lore is giving away a pair of tickets to the show. Just leave your favorite Sonny/Sunsets song in the comments section (as well as the pertinent contact info), and we’ll set you up. Deadline is Sunday at midnight (January 30), and the winner will be announced the following day on TDoL’s Facebook page.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering about the new Sunsets record—Hit After Hit will be out March 1 April 12 on Fat Possum. Sonny Smith took some time to talk to TDoL about 100 Records, writer’s block, and a glimpse into the new Sunsets album.
TDoL: I wanted to talk a little about the 100 Records project. How did it come about?
Sonny Smith: I was working on a novel and I wanted to make some drawings of the fictional records of the characters in my novel. It was just a small idea, to put a few drawings within the novel. I received a small residency at the Headlands Center for the Arts to work on these drawings. While I was there I farmed a few drawings out to other artists. The work that they did was spectacular, in my humble opinion, so I began making up more and more fictional musicians and asking more and more artists to be involved. Soon this new project took over, eclipsing the novel, and my unfinished manuscript was shelved. Here it is next to me on my desk, this uncompleted novel, yet the 100 Records project continues to travel from city to city.
It sounds like quite an undertaking.
It was a big, fun, mysterious year.
How did Cabezas Cortades come about?
That was just one of the many bands I made up. The art that went with it that Juan Luna Avin made is one of my favorites. Incredible piece. And the tune that Pablo sang is amazing. That should be a radio hit all through Latin America!
The art show was, by all accounts, pretty successful.
It seems to be still trucking along without me now …
And more volumes of music are in the works?
I’m working on a book of the art. The music comes out in little bits and pieces here and there. One of the fictional characters, Earth Girl Helen Brown, is coming out with her own EP on Gorilla Vs. Bear records. So she’s become a real band I guess, she’ll be playing out live soon. A 7-inch was put out of the Transients, and Jackie Feathers, and Adelard Grassley. I’m putting a band together for the Beachticks, so that band will become real. Some of the songs will be on the next Sunsets record.
Is there a part of you that’s relieved to be done with it?
Nah. I’m empty inside now! I need to start something new.
Who are some of the writers that influence you? Do they influence your songwriting as well?
I don’t know where to begin. Tennessee Williams was huge for a while. Sam Shepard. When I was around 17, 18 years old Kerouac and all the Beat stuff had a huge effect. Later I was into Celine, Miller, all the big macho males from the ’40s. There were a lot of poets, too—Whitman, [Pablo] Neruda. I read books here and there, but I graze a lot—just open books, enjoy a few pages, find a passage or something, put it down, move on to another book, come back to the other one, on and on, grazing …
You’re a pretty prolific songwriter … ever get writer’s block?
Yeah all the time. What I do is I try, if I can, to scrap it if it’s not flowing too easily. Put it on the back burner and come back to it later. Then later, I can see what it has, what parts are worth keeping, or getting rid of. Or I can see that it is really meant to be something else, like the song should be a short story, or the article I was attempting should be a comic book.
And now everybody’s burning question: What can we expect from the new Sonny & the Sunsets record?
A politically charged, sexually explicit meditation on the mystic nature of lust. Acres of lust.
“I Wanna Do It” – Earth Girl Helen Brown
“Death Cream” – Sonny & the Sunsets
Monday, December 20th, 2010 | musiX, pdX | 6 Comments
Wait, weren’t we just here? Like, in 2009? As I hinted at in last year’s TDoL year-end extravaganza, making these lists is always a tug-of-war between what feels good and what actually is good. But if it makes you feel good, it must be good … right?
So here’s the process: I frantically assemble my list. Move things around. Re-listen to records. Cut one here; add another there. Anxiety sets in. I lose sleep. Get a few more gray hairs. Stop eating solid foods. I don’t bathe. I empty out my bank account on overpriced vinyl (including Rush records, for crissakes). I ignore my fiancée. Drink heavily. Call in sick to work. Stop returning phone calls. Kick my (imaginary) dog. Resort to drugs (prescription and non). And stand on the corner in the cold holding one of those signs that say “Will blog for food.” The list goes on—all so I can compile this silly list for you.
OK, it’s really not that bad … although I do like to kick my (imaginary) dog every now and again. I will say this: As someone who overthinks everything (e-ver-y thing), the early process for these year-end lists can be a bitch (which then I kick). But once I let touchiness and feeliness be my guides (more fartsy with the artsy) things always fall into place.
So here it is. I’m sure this is only one of dozens of lists you’ll read. I think it’s a good one (obviously), but it doesn’t mean you have to. Click the album covers to purchase, and add your own list in the comments section. And let the civil discourse take us into 2011, where we can be certain of two things: We’ll all be one year older, and we will definitely be sick of hearing about how incredible that Kanye West record was.
Though the band has shaken some of the folkier elements found on their debut, it takes only a few notes to know where Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s The Goodnight Loving are coming from (Milwaukee, duh). While there’s a certain innocence to their music—’50s rock ‘n’ roll meets honky tonk—the band has won over the cold hearts of those who like their music a little more, shall we say, grimy. Picture a sock hop with an open bar.
“The Pan” – The Goodnight Loving
It was a busy year for Quasi, who released their first record in four years and toured all over including several dates with Pavement. The band entered the studio for the first time with bassist/Jick Joanna Bolme, and what they got was a huge-sounding rock record. This thing is LOUD. As drummer Janet Weiss told TDoL earlier this year: “We wanted to capture what it feels like to be at a live show or be in the room with all of the molecules banging around.”
“Repulsion” – Quasi
I’m always digging for music from other countries only to come up with bad techno in one hand and even worse metal in the other. I was beside myself when I discovered Montañas, a trio from Northern Spain that plays a shit-gazey hybrid of garage rock and post-punk. Their 10-inch (that’s 10 solid inches of vinyl) has a fistful of threadbare 90-second gems—guitars bend in and out of tune, the drums sound like sticks on old seat cushions, bass is non-existent. Sounds ugly, but it’s really quite perfect.
“Yo Conduzco, Ella Me Guía” – Montañas
I guess there are benefits to being Jimmy Fallon’s house band. The Roots’ ninth studio record sounds like a group that kicks out the jams every night. The songs are shorter and scrappier. Black Thought’s gritty rhymes glide from his lips. And ?uestlove’s boom-bap is as snappy as it’s ever been. How I Got Over also features a slew of unexpected guests—from Dirty Projectors to Monsters of Folk—all of whom become small, yet integral brush strokes on The Roots’ brilliant canvass.
“Dear God 2.0″ – The Roots
The first thing you’ll notice on Old Light‘s debut long-player are the harmonies, which bring to mind the sunny vocal stylings of Crosby, Stills & Nash. But that’s where the similarities end (thankfully). The Portland four-piece—led by a 6-foot-5 Sabbath lover—throw in stoner riffs, autoharp, and lyrics about death. It’s the kind of record made to be listened to from front to back; and the more you listen the darker it gets. Which is how we like things around here.
“Pretty Machete” – Old Light
These guys took a left on E Street and ended up in the Deep South. Using the American Civil War as a metaphor for the wacky game of life, guitarist/vocalist/beard aficionado Patrick Stickles leads his motley crew through 10 punk rock epics that give equal nods to the drunk singalongs of the Pogues as they do Jersey’s favorite son (hint: not Jon Bon Jovi). An album about America’s bloodiest war by a band named after Shakespeare’s bloodiest tragedy can be nothing but a bloody good time.
“A More Perfect Union” – Titus Andronicus
It’s a given that any year Nothing People put out a new record it will end up on a TDoL year-end list. Because this mysterious trio from the sticks of Orland, California (where, coincidentally, there is a high incidence of UFO sightings) has yet to put out a bad album. Soft Crash is these beings’ the band’s third full-length, another dark, sci-fi creepshow oozing with mangled guitars, spaced-out synths and echoed vocals. This is the sound of the future. And the past. Listen up—Nothing People are watching you.
“Avoiding Needles” – Nothing People
If you haven’t heard the voice of Julie Baenziger, aka Jules, aka Sea of Bees, then you’re missing out on something special. The 24-year-old Californian had barely been in a band when Tape Op honcho John Baccigaluppi heard her singing in a Sacramento studio. She recorded 2009′s The Bee Eee Pee soon after. Her followup is lush, yet spare, showcasing Baenziger’s Björk-meets-Leigh Nash register in addition to her musical ability (she plays everything but drums). Can you say wunderkind?
“Wizbot” – Sea of Bees
I never shook Surfer Blood‘s Astro Coast. These baby-faced Floridians have put out one of the best guitar records of the year—songs, hummable; riffs, air-guitarable; cheeks, pinchable. Vocalist John Paul Pitts croons like Steven Patrick Morrissey while the band dashes out wicked indie rock with the occasional Afro-Cuban break. Many a fickle blogger has probably spat the band out like a wad of chum. I’ll wait for the next record to decide whether or not they’re just another flavor of the month.
“Floating Vibes” – Surfer Blood
I became completely fascinated with Ariel Pink this year simply because he’s an honest-to-goodness weirdo. I’m not very familiar with his older material (dozens of self-recorded mixtapes, EPs, singles …), but I do like Before Today—a modern, lo-fi take on that magical and funky era from 1977 to 1983. Bottom line: Whether his songs are pretty and vulnerable or completely grating and bizarre, by the end of the record you know the eccentric/recluse thing isn’t an act.
“Beverly Kills” – Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
My beloved Old 97′s discovered the fountain of youth in 2010 (what, you didn’t read about that?). Not since 2001′s Satellite Rides has the band fired on all cylinders—energy, songs, production. It’s all here. No fat. No filler. The 97′s are still the best at blurring the lines between British Invasion and Texas Twang, and this time around they do so relentlessly, while incorporating garage rock and power pop into the mix. On a side note, I had the chance to meet them this year. I wept only once.
“Every Night is Friday Night (Without You)” – Old 97′s
Seattle’s The Lights are sort of oblivious to what’s going on around them, cranking out cranky rock ‘n’ roll that sounds as if it could have fallen from a ’90s wormhole. Failed Graves (only their third LP in more than a decade as a band) might be mistaken for straight-ahead rock. Nonsense. Guitars snake around throbbing bass-lines while the drums fill empty spaces and vocals drone in and out of key. Think Mudhoney meets Pavement meets Spaghetti Western. Really, what’s not to like?
“Puerto Escondido” – The Lights
San Francisco is quite the hotbed of rock (no, I’m not talking the San Andreas Fault), including the manic Thee Oh Sees, the Sandwitches and Sonny & the Sunsets, just to name a few. But there’s something about Ty Segall. Melted is the most visceral and fun 30 minutes I’ve experienced in some time—I mean, it’s saying something if a song makes me want to pogo and do the Mashed Potato. Naked. “Girlfriend” and “Imaginary Person” can do that to a person. This I promise you.
“Girlfriend” – Ty Segall
Menomena‘s Mines is a stunning piece of work. The fact that it was pieced together by three members who hardly spoke throughout the process makes it even more incredible. Mines is less spastic then previous records, but no less intricate. Drums are bombastic, while synths, guitars, sax and other noises creep in and out of earshot. It’s an immense collage of sound, and every sound has purpose. No wanking here—this is a band unafraid to throw it all in your face and leave your ears ringing.
“Five Little Rooms” – Menomena
Bradford Cox is a music fan, first and foremost—a guy who pines for those days when you waited for release dates and plastered your walls with pictures of rock stars ripped out of Creem and Rolling Stone. That spirit runs throughout Deerhunter‘s Halcyon Digest, a record that brings all of the band’s powers together. When I say “powers” I mean the ability to embrace inanimate drum loops, bleeps and bloops as well as flesh-and-blood rock ’n’ roll without ever losing sight of a good hook. I can’t think of another band aside from Radiohead that can pull it off. I also like the fact that there are loads of bands doing the garage rock thing—looking the part, recording through shitty mics—and here’s Bradford Cox writing some of the best garage pop out there without really trying. Halcyon Digest is a seamless album that’s simply fun to listen to. Easy listening for people with impeccable taste.
“Revival” – Deerhunter
The Rest of the Best of the Rest
Lupon - Y La Bamba (Tender Loving Empire)
That’s How We Burn – Jaill (Sub Pop)
Transference - Spoon (Merge)
The Great Return – Purple Rhinestone Eagle (Stank House)
Pop Negro – El Guincho (Young Turks)
Equilibrio! – Wow & Flutter (Mount Fuji)
Crazy For You – Best Coast (Mexican Summer)
At Night We Live – Far (Vagrant)
Man Pop – Graham Repulski (Shorter)
No Great Lost: Songs, 1979-1985 – Kevin Dunn (Casa Nueva)
I’ve been hibernating in my hyperbaric oxygen chamber since the closing minutes of MFNW, and I think I added a few years to my life in the process. For a few days I felt like I was 16 again, and only wanted to write about Ke$ha and Linkin Park—I had to smoke a pack of Camel Lights and drink a bottle of Crown Royal last night to snap out of it.
Which brings me to The Fresh & Onlys. San Francisco is a foggy little hotbed of rock that includes Sic Alps, Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segall, but The Fresh & Onlys have probably released more music—several 7-inches, two full-lengths—in the past two years than all those bands combined. And they don’t appear to be slowing. The four-piece will release Play It Strange on October 12 on In The Red. Needless to say the lead single “Waterfall” is a garage rock twanger (that ends with a classic fade-out) that has me feeling my current age once again.
“Waterfall” – The Fresh & Onlys
- It’s a prog eat prog world
- Sweet as. Liam Finn gets snug as …
- Steve Young: Rock salt, nails, whiskey
- Grass Is Green is a mean machine
- All-time favorite albums #1. KISS – Alive!
- All-time favorite albums #2. Camper Van Beethoven – Telephone Free Landslide Victory
- All-time favorite albums #3. Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique
- All-time favorite albums #4. Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
- All-time favorite albums #5. Old 97′s – Wreck Your Life
- All-time favorite albums #6. Metallica – Master of Puppets