Between preparing next week's "Best of Nashville" issue, wrapping up our SoundLand coverage and doing about a million other projects, features and blog posts, a handful of our staffers were just too slammed to pitch in this go-round, but after the jump, you'll see what's on the turntables, iPods and tape decks of a couple of staffers (Laura Hutson and myself) as well as freelancers including Ashley Spurgeon, Seth Graves, Lance Conzett, Jewly Hight, Edd Hurt, Lee Stabert and William Hooker. We're talkin' Alabama Shakes, Sex Pistols, Mikal Cronin, Gonzales, tUnE-yArDs, Pulp, Dungen, Sonic Youth, Robert Ellis, Ralph McTell and loads more. Wanna see what we're groovin' on? Follow me after the jump. I'll go first!
D. Patrick Rodgers, Music Editor:
More than anything else, I've been listening to Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks' latest, Mirror Traffic, which is likely now my favorite Jicks record, and potentially even up my alley more than a Pavement record or two (maaaaybe). Fantastic stuff, but you can see what I think about that in my feature on Malkmus & Co. I also got a promo copy of PUJOL's Nasty, Brutish, and Short, and I'll share my thoughts on that one in due time. (Spoiler: Also great! The sort of succinct, smart garage punk we've come to expect from Daniel Pujol and his crew.) Also:
The Alabama Shakes, Alabama Shakes EP
Still reeling from their SoundLand set at Third Man last week, and psyched about seeing them again tonight at The Basement. Some might be quick to call "Derivative!" on a modern band playing this sort of authentic, Deep Southern soul. But eff that. The songs are fantastic, it sounds like a Stax record, and Brittany Howard is a powerful frontwoman. After seeing them last week, I went home and immediately purchased their record — and that's not something I typically do. I typically wait until the next business day and contact an artist's publicist for a press copy. In this case, I couldn't wait a full day to own a copy of the song "Hold On." It's worth it. Buy it.
Sex Pistols, Nevermind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols:
I know. Basic, right? Here's the thing: I paid the obligatory lip service to the Pistols when I was much younger and thought I liked punk. And who doesn't give a good fist-pump when "Anarchy in the UK" comes on in the bar or at a friend's place? But the influence of this one — at least for me — eclipsed the record itself. In revisiting it, I've come to recall just how damn smart it is. Also, "Holidays in the Sun"? Best album-opener ever.
Laura Hutson, Calendar Editor:
Gonzales, Solo Piano (2004)
I don't remember how I got this CD, but I've been rediscovering it every couple of years and it is always perfect. Gonzales produced albums for Peaches and Feist, but this is pure piano — simple melodies with the emotional tenor of Debussy or Erik Satie. I don't know enough about classical music to classify it beyond those comparisons, but whenever I hear this album I feel like I'm in a really good Woody Allen movie. [Link]
tUnE-yArDs, Bird Brains (2009)
I was fully planning to be sick of this band after about five listens — anything that reminds me of a cross between my mom's old Bobby McFerrin/YoYo Ma CD and Vampire Weekend must surely have a short shelf life, right? — but every time I hear "Real Live Flesh," I love it even more. Merrill Garbus' vocals have this low-toned falsetto choirboy feel that spooks me out, like Antony and the Johnsons or Q Lazzarus, and her rhythmic abilities, including her spot-on looping of vocal tracks, are minimal and complex at the same time. On paper, the band should be twee novelty (did I mention they run their own shop on etsy?), but there's something edgy and smart about her songs that really appeals to me. Even her ukulele playing has a creepy edge on it.
The Smiths, Hatful of Hollow (1984) and Talking Heads, Speaking in Tongues (1983) are on constant repeat just about every fall.
Ashley Spurgeon, freelancer:
Pulp, His ‘n’ Hers
Featuring “Babies,” easily the most anthemic song about having sex with your crush’s older sister after she finds you asleep in the closet.
Talking Heads, More Songs About Buildings and Food
“In 2003, the album was ranked number 382 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.” That’s from Wikipedia.
In general, no particular album or song. All of them are good. I got back on a Queen kick after I saw Google’s tribute to Freddie Mercury on what would have been his 65th birthday. It’s genuinely heart-warming! We should all hope to be so deftly eulogized.
Frankly, the only radio station in town I listen to. They play a lot of Supertramp.
Jewly Hight, freelancer:
On the turntable at home: O.V. Wright’s Into Something (Can’t Shake Loose)
On the iPod while running: Das Racist’s Shut Up, Dude mixtape
In the car CD player: Tab Benoit’s “Medicine”
Lance Conzett, freelancer:
As much as it pains me to admit it, unsolicited Facebook invites totally work sometimes. In this case, a random alert from Little Hamilton had me hunting down "Western Problems" by Chattanooga punks Future Virgins, a band I was moderately familiar with before — but am into in a bad way now thanks to this killer record released back in April. I'll be writing more on that in the coming weeks in advance of their show, but their brand of power pop-infused punk had me revisiting the post-Refused work of Dennis Lyxzén, particularly those early albums by The (International) Noise Conspiracy (before Rick Rubin dumbed them down for modern rock radio idiots) and the self-titled album by Lyxzén's little-known band The Lost Patrol Band — these days called Invasionen. They're not particularly remarkable records, but they're fantastically catchy, loaded with hooks and (especially in the cast of Lost Patrol) charming lyrics.
Seth Graves, freelancer:
Mikal Cronin, s/t
This easy, breezy, beautiful garage-stomping take on summery power pop would have charmed me a lot harder if I showed up to the party on time and heard it late spring, before the romantic concept of summer was demolished by its grueling high-temperature reality. Regardless, mix a few acid-fueled, ocean-inspired harmonies with late-'70s power pop, and dirty it up with some Goner-style stomp, and you've got a way-overthought description of what this sounds like.
Two local ladies, Makenzie Green and Jasmin Kaset, belting out quirky, tasteless countrified folk songs chronicling the trials, tribulations and general philosophies of two gloriously unsophisticated, fun-loving, God-fearing Southern belles. Like all great novelty rock, you keep listening long after the lyrics stop being funny, because the tunes are too damn catchy to allow otherwise.
Dungen, Ta Det Lugnt
I was reluctant to include this if for no other reason than the humbling admission that I had no clue this band existed before a month or two ago — much less missed them whenever the hell they played Mercy Lounge. But whatever. I was probably busy clutching a Comet Gain record wishing it were still 1993 and I had been 21 instead of 15. If you're even less in-the-know than I am, these guys are from Sweden, where neo-psychedelia, free jazz, folk and instrumental ambiance apparently meld with preposterous ease.
Edd Hurt, freelancer:
Inspired by Steve Cropper's recent Dedicated: A Tribute to the 5 Royales, I've been listening to The 5 Royales' 51 King masters — their best work, from 1954 through 1960. You can hear doo-wop turning into R&B and R&B turning into rock 'n' roll as the sides roll past. Saxophone solos give way to Lowman Pauling's terse licks, which function both as great solos and as commentary on the songs themselves.
I recently found a copy of Ralph McTell's 1971 Paramount album You Well-Meaning Brought Me Here at one of our local record shops. McTell stands tall as one of the best English folkies of the era — not as technically dazzling a guitarist as Bert Jansch or Nic Jones, but a fine songwriter and singer with a worldview that's both sweet and harried. You Well-Meaning sports production by Gus Dudgeon and the superb "First and Last Man," which is about the end (or beginning) of time. "Old Brown Dog" and what I believe is McTell's most well-known song, "Streets of London," take urban alienation, poverty and the terrors of old age as their themes.
Also enjoying Sonic Youth's 1998 A Thousand Leaves, which I think is their best record. The three-disc George Jones compilation Ragged but Right: The Starday Years Plus ... gives a great picture of Jones' evolving vocal style. Also listening to the Norma Jean reissue Heaven Help the Working Girl — her unaffected vocals get to me. I recommend the out-of-print Mud Boy & the Neutrons collection They Walk Among Us to lovers of Memphis music and its late and mourned avatars Jim Dickinson and Lee Baker. Bedtime music: Handel's Water Music, on the Musical Heritage Society label.
Lee Stabert, freelancer:
I've been completely obsessed with Robert Ellis' Photographs ever since New West's publicist passed it along. I was writing about an Old 97's show in Nashville, and he was opening. It was kismet. At times, Photographs feels like a simple, vintage trad-country folk record, but then there are these tremendous surprises: a swelling of strings on the devastating "Cemetery" or a joke about "unpacking a Nintendo" on the moving-in-together anthem "Two Cans of Paint." Ellis does all these things I really like — acoustic instrumentation, clever wordplay, feelings — so perfectly that hearing this album feels borderline redemptive. So this is what music is supposed to sound like.
On a different note, Detroit's Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. (stupid name aside) have continued to provide the soundtrack to my lazy afternoons, long car rides and pre-game drinks. Their debut, It's a Corporate World is bright and shimmery, with some tender stuff mixed in too (see: "Nothing But Our Love"). It's digital music done right. Plus, sick beats.
Also: The new Stephen Malkmus, Jason Isbell's song "Tour of Duty," and the Bob Dylan educational mixes my beau has been making for me. We're up to 1966.
William Hooker, freelancer:
Two words: Cassette Tapes. My car is a '97, and therefore I have a compact disc-changer and a tape deck. That only the latter now functions is cool with me. Tapes' benefits are three-fold: cheap ($2-$7 each), pocket-sized (remember Pocket Rockers?), and ascetic (you have to listen to the whole album).
At Phonoluxe, where tapes are cheap and dusty, I recently scored Fleetwood Mac's Tango in the Night, Dire Straights' Brothers in Arms and Simple Minds' Street Fighting Years, essentially pimping my ride a la VH1 Classic. Grimey's sells brand-new tapes, and so I've been enjoying Natural Child's 1971, Black Lips' Arabia Mountain and Thee Oh Sees' The Master's Bedroom is Worth Spending a Night In/Help.