We’re thrilled to announce that Sub Pop will release Love Letter For Fire, a collaborative effort from Sam Beam (of Iron and Wine) and Jesca Hoop, worldwide this coming April 15th. The thirteen-track album features the singles “Every Songbird Says” (listen now via YouTube or Soundcloud) and “Valley Clouds,” and was written throughout 2014. Love Letter for Fire features Beam and Hoop on vocals and guitar along with Robert Burger (keys), Eyvind Kang (violin, viola), Glenn Kotche (drums, percussion), Sebastian Steinberg (bass) and Edward Rankin-Parker (cello).
Love Letter For Fire was produced, recorded and mixed by Tucker Martine (Modest Mouse, Decemberists, Neko Case) at Flora Recording & Playback in Portland, and mastered by Richard Dodd in Nashville. The album also features a cover photo by Sam Beam.
Love Letter For Firewill be available on CD / LP / DL / CASS, and is available for preorder now. LP preorders through megamart.subpop.com will receive the limited Loser edition on Smoke-colored vinyl (while supplies last, so don’t sleep!).
More on Love Letter For Fire:
Love Letter for Fire is the name of the collaborative record from songwriters Sam Beam (Iron & Wine) and Jesca Hoop. A collection of songs steeped in the tradition of the male/female duet where love – in its many forms - takes center stage.
Contemplating a duets album for some time, Beam was never able to find the right voice - until Hoop’s music found its way to his stereo. Diving into her catalog on iTunes one afternoon, specifically the album Kismet, was the spark Sam needed to reach out to Jesca and propose the idea of writing together.
The timing could not have been better for Beam: “I was looking to work with another songwriter because I had never shared the songwriting responsibility with anyone. I really enjoyed her music and it’s different than mine which is what excited me about the project.”
Hoop at the time was finishing her fourth record and had never co-written either. However she notes, “I had the advantage of knowing Sam’s music because it had cleaned my house many times, so I was familiar with his sensibilities and knew the combination could work.” Her memory though of “Sam’s pitch” for making the record occurred once they connected in person and Beam “threw [the idea] under his breath, like ‘If we ever write songs together.’ I think he said ‘Let’s make an EP’ and I said ‘Let’s make an album.’”
The inspiration behind Love Letter For Fire was Sam’s love of classic duets, most of which are ones he grew up hearing on the radio. “Some of my favorite songs are duets, because the narrative is expanded. It’s not just a monologue. It’s a conversation, and so it gets complicated. I had melodies over the years that I’d been compiling that I thought, this sounds like a classic Kenny and Dolly, ‘Islands in the Stream’ kind of thing, or George and Tammy”. While the record itself is not Countrypolitan in nature, the two have carved out something that feels wholly original and should have no trouble appealing to fans of their previous work.
Over the course of thirteen songs Love Letter for Fire brims with a joyful energy, contrasting Beam and Hoop’s songwriting styles yet never feeling forced, nor pandering. Veering from disparate pop (“Every Songbird Says” / “Chalk It Up To Chi”) to introspective folk (“One Way to Pray” / “Soft Place to Land”) to a few things in between (“Welcome to Feeling” / “Midas Tongue”), the record never rests solely on just the two voices but rather showcases the new chapter of songwriting each found in the collaboration. Beam notes: “(Jesca) brought a lot of energy and a lot of heart in places where I would be cerebral, she would bring heart. In places where I would be steady, she would add an exclamation point.”
Recorded in Portland, Oregon with the steady hand of Tucker Martine, the album features a collection of handpicked musicians. The band includes Rob Burger, a frequent Iron & Wine contributor, Sebastian Steinberg (Soul Coughing, Fiona Apple), Teddy Rankin-Parker (Primus), Eyvind Kang (Decemberists/Tzadik and Ipecac labels) and Glenn Kotche (Wilco). This particular set of musicians had never worked together, but quickly found themselves on equal footing. For Beam it was a bit of a dream team: “It was a really funband, and a lot less guitar than I usually have on my [Iron & Wine] records. Tucker and the band were able to help bring out what’s inside of you that you might not know is there.”
The album’s title comes from the song, “We Two Are A Moon“ and the irony of the title and record of love songs by two folks not in love is not lost on its creators. The idea of love in song and life is a constant and universal denominator that everyone relates to. Hoop describes love and the songs succinctly: “Each song has its own heat, its own trajectory.” The album title represents a kind of “ephemeral love that passes through” and then it’s gone. Beam on the other hand insists the title plays on itself in that “is it a love letter for fire? Or is it a love letter ready to be wasted?” and leaves it up to the listener to come to their own conclusions (read more at Sub Pop).
Sam Beam and Jesca Hoop have scheduled a North American tour in support Love Letter For Fire, which begins Tuesday, May 17th in Ann Arbor, MI at The Ark and ends Saturday, June 11th in Chicago, IL at Thalia Hall. Tickets go on sale to the general public Friday, February 19th.
Tour Dates May 17 - Ann Arbor, MI - The Ark* May 18 - Toronto, ON - The Danforth Music Hall* May 20 - New York, NY - The Town Hall* May 21 - Washington, DC - The Lincoln Theatre* May 22 - Boston, MA - The Wilbur Theatre* May 24 - Philadelphia, PA - Union Transfer* May 26 - Atlanta, GA - The Buckhead Theatre* May 27 - New Orleans, LA - The Civic Theatre* May 28 - Dallas, TX - The Kessler Theater* May 30 - Tucson, AZ - The Rialto Theatre* May 31 - Los Angeles, CA - The Fonda Theatre* Jun. 02 - San Francisco, CA - Great American Music Hall* Jun. 03 - Portland, OR - Aladdin Theater* Jun. 04 - Seattle, WA - Neptune Theatre* Jun. 05 - Boise, ID - The Egyptian Theatre* Jun. 07 - Boulder, CO - Boulder Theater* Jun. 08 - Omaha, NE - Slowdown* Jun. 09 - Minneapolis, MN - Varsity Theater* Jun. 10 - Milwaukee, WI - Turner Hall Ballroom* Jun. 11 - Chicago, IL - Thalia Hall* * w/ Marlon Williams
So Pitted’s previously announced tour schedule for 2016 spans February 19th in Seattle at Everyday Music and now ends March 20th in Austin for SXSW. Highlights include: February 25th in San Francisco at Noise Pop (at Brick & Mortar Music Hall with The Thermals); and a European tour March 4th-12th. (See dates below.)
Sub Pop will release neo on CD / LP / DL worldwide on February 19th, 2016. The album, featuring the highlights “rot in hell”, “holding the void”, and “feed me”, was co-produced & mixed by So Pitted & Dylan Wall and recorded at The Old Fire House, Media Lab, Spruce Haus, the band’s practice space and Tastefully Loud in Seattle. neo was also engineered by Wall at Tastefully Loud and mastered by Eric Boulanger at The Bakery in Los Angeles.
So Pitted’s neo is now available for preorder from Sub Pop Mega Mart, iTunes, Amazon, Bandcamp and Google Play. LP preorders of neo through megamart.subpop.com will receive the limited “Loser”edition on white vinyl. There will also be a time-limited edition T-shirt, hand-bleached by So Pitted, that will be available only during pre-order; also available with LP and CD bundles (during pre-order only).
More about So Pitted’s neo: These eleven tracks are lean and snarling rebukes, torch songs not in the traditional, unrequited-love sense, but songs thatwilltorch your fucking house down. Screams and howls overtake chants and muttering, equal parts dejection, rejection, and convection, the hot, muggy air circling continuously. It’s fuzzy, angular, throbbing, and pounding, and still, ingrained in the songs by their makers, breathes that catchy quality present in so much of the music they love. Songs like “holding the void,” “rot in hell,” and “woe” crash over and over, turning under themselves like waves, but as the measures tick off, the dog-eared melodies and familiar themes begin to reveal (read more at Sub Pop).
[Photo Credit: Sarah Cass]
What “they” have said about So Pitted:
“Ragged, nonlinear, a little dangerous, “rot in hell” was one of the first tracks So Pitted wrote together, and the video is funny and surreal, featuring a friend of the band playing various band members. It feels like being at home at a basement show, ready to hit your head on a low ceiling bringing your amp down the stairs, buzzing with a little bit of nausea and excitement. It burns with the urgency of the music you need to make or you’ll crumple, music you’d be making whether other people heard it or not.” [“rot in hell”] - Impose
“Maddeningly loud, loosely formed, disgusting like a romantic weekend trip down the local sewers.” - DIY
“Snotty, snarling and belligerent.” - Uncut
“It’s grimy and tormented all right, but intent on subverting the many adolescent cliches and connotations that come with grunge.” [“rot in hell”] -The Guardian
“…A raucous, inspiring noise, the buzzsaw melody is matched to wailing feedback - imagine Bikini Kill set against early Mary Chain and you’d probably be in the same ballpark.” [‘rot in hell”] - Clash Music
“…making a name for themselves with a sneery, warped, post-apocalyptic punk sound and wild stage show.” - Brooklyn Vegan
“It’s early in the year to make this sort of claim, but we can say with confidence that in ten months’ time you’ll be looking back on neoas one of 2016’s best debuts, by some distance.” - The Skinny
“So Pitted’s set called to mind Metz, Minutemen, Big Black, Pere Ubu, and Nirvana at their wildest” - FLOOD
“So Pitted are poised to start a riot that’s very much their own.” -Record Collector
“[A] Seattle trio who are basically unmatched in terms of sheer gonzo ingenuity. Live, the band combines anarchic heaps of guitar and childish melodies with plodding, sludgy rhythms. They understand just how powerful their live show is, too” - Portland Mercury
“What’s special and unique about So Pitted is that they not only clench to the demonic punk downpour and logger-heavy rock of the Northwest, but also to the nihilistic musical cannibalism of San Francisco weirdos Chrome and late-’90s San Diego artcore groups like the VSS and the Gravity Records camp. There’s a caustic demo quality to their sound that’s alien and distorted, liquidated to move units at the Gross Out. It’s not only thorny, horny, and repulsive, but angular, tangled and mangled.” - The Stranger
Tour Dates Feb. 19 - Seattle, WA - Everyday Music Feb. 25 - San Francisco, CA - Noise Pop / Brick & Mortar Music Hall* Mar. 04 - Paris, FR - La Mecanique Ondulatoire Mar. 05 - Amsterdam, NL - Butcher’s Tears Mar. 07 - London, UK - Shacklewell Arms Mar. 08 - Leeds, UK - Brudenell Games Room Mar. 09 - Brighton, UK - Green Door Store Mar. 10 - Lille, UK - La Peniche Mar. 11 -Brussells, BE - Homeplugged Mar. 12 - Berlin, DE - West Germany Mar. 15 - Austin, TX - SXSW Mar. 16 - Austin, TX - SXSW Mar. 17 - Austin, TX - SXSW Mar. 18 - Austin, TX - SXSW Mar. 19 - Austin, TX - SXSW Mar. 20 - Austin, TX - SXSW * w/ The Thermals
Low has delivered a new video for “Into You,” a standout from Ones and Sixes, their acclaimed 2015 album. The visual was directed by Jim Burns and Beth Chalmers, and filmed while on location in Glasgow, Scotland.
The directors had this to say of the video: “Inspired by the hypnotic reflections of the River Clyde on the archways beneath Glasgow’s city bridges, this film draws parallels between the power of a single beam of sunlight and the deeply affecting personal experience one feels during Low’s live performance. Despite being part of a crowd, Low’s music invokes within you a profound and unique individual perspective.”
Low’s 2016 tour schedule in support of Ones and Sixes is underway with a show tonight, February 1st in Philadelphia, PA at Johnny Brenda’s and runs through June 11th in Kværndrup, DK at Heartland Festival. New tour highlights include a tour of Australia and New Zealand from April 1st-9th. (see dates below.)
Low’s Ones and Sixes is available for purchase from the Sub Pop Mega Mart, iTunes, Amazon, and Bandcamp. Now completely sold-out through megamart.subpop.com, the limited “Loser Edition” of the double-LP on yellow vinyl and packaged in a variant slipcase cover is available from select independent stores and from the band themselves at upcoming tour dates, while supplies last. There are also two new T-shirt designs available at megamart.subpop.com, both as individual items and as part of CD and LP bundles.
Ones and Sixes garnered year-end praise from the likes of NPR Music (50 Best Albums and “Readers Poll”), Music OMH (#10), MOJO (#13), Drowned in Sound (#16), Under The Radar (#24), The Skinny (#28), Uncut (#37), and Village Voice “Pazz & Jop” (#46). It also earned the group’s first-ever U.K. Top 40 album spot, coming in at #35 on the official albums chart, and entered at #68 here in the U.S. on SoundScan’s Top Current Albums charts. Ones and Sixes also peaked at #7 on the CMJ Top 200 chart.
[Photo Credit :: Zoran Orlic]
What ‘the people’ are saying about Low’s Ones and Sixes:
“It’s one thing for Low to have made a rewarding career of spare, dramatic, glacially paced music…It’s another to make those ingredients sound so incredibly dynamic; to spend 20-plus years making a dozen albums that each feel distinct, and that each introduce new ideas, twists and ways to wring drama out of the space between notes…Throughout Ones and Sixes, the Minnesota trio somehow gives weight to airiness as comfort and discord orbit each other like a binary star. But every time the portent threatens to become overbearing — just as the mix of prettiness and heaviness tips a little too far out of alignment — Low punctures it with a burst of cleansing aggression or some pristine, exquisite surprise. Anything to keep us off balance.” [“First Listen”] - NPR Music
“The band’s strengths are here in abundance, but they are reimagined, twisted into new shapes and given a visceral intensity that is utterly irresistible.” [9/10] - CLASH
“…Striking a balance between their majestic, slow-moving melancholy and harsher experimental noise.” [4/5] - The Guardian
“One of the most impressive albums of their career” [4/5] - MOJO
“‘What Part of Me,’ with its upbeat percussion, fuzzy guitar textures andsweet harmonized lyrics about relationship boundaries (‘What part of me don’t you own?’), feels like a sideways response to the post-1989 maximalism of today’s Top 40; “Into You” is a gospel-inflected, subtly sexy slow jam; and “The Innocents” sets accusatory vocals over a crunching electro-industrial beat, all to excellent effect. Elsewhere, on the gentle, pained duet “Lies,” Low remind us they’re still masters of doing a lot with a little.” - Rolling Stone
”Ones and Sixes is all at once beautiful, ugly, tense, warm, inviting and repellent. It’s an emotional and sonic juggling act where even the slightest bum-note would draw attention to itself. As always with Low, the beauty is all about the details” - Pitchfork
‘Ones and Sixes is an ear-pricking listen.’ [Album of the Week] - The Observer
“Ones and Sixes finds them producing some of their best work in years” - The Quietus
“It’sanothersubtly heart-rending effort from a band that remains one of the very finest in the world. If you needed a reminder of why Low are an institution then this is it.” [8/10] - Drowned in Sound
“Somehow, with each new release (and they come regularly, every two or three years), Low manage to find new ways of protracting their deceptively beautiful melodies.” [4.5/5] - Music OMH
“Ones and Sixes hinges on tension that courses throughout these 12 songs. The drums land with a thud, as if transferred from modern R&B and hip-hop. They anchor songs that crackle with bits of distortion and chiming guitars that somehow feel disembodied from everything surrounding them. Then, in keeping with a signature Low move, there is the spectral spark created by Parker and Sparhawk singing together; their alchemy is otherworldly and downright intoxicating.” - Boston Globe
“With Ones and Sixes they’ve pulled together many of their disparate sides in a masterful survey of what makes them one of the great rock bands of their era.” - Dusted
“Ones and Sixes sees Low churning out some of their most accessible work, with “What Part of Me” having the potential to be an unlikely hit. As ever, strong stuff in every way.” [4/5] - Record Collector
“Low’s always been good at making records where it sounds like every note and beat contains some degree of pain and hope you’ve felt.Sohopefully it’s compelling when this one stands out even more as one of their best.” [8.1 /10] - PASTE
“Low remain as vital as ever” - DIY
“After two decades, a band that could easily feel part of the wallpaper remain hungry to show that you never know what lies beneath” [8/10] - Uncut
“Comfortably ahead of the pop pack” - TheSunday Times
“Masters of transforming emptiness into swelling, sweeping orchestrations of musical and mental noise, Low are truly intense and joyful on their newest exhibition of off-kilter, subterranean pop.” [4/5] -NOW
Feb. 01 - Philadelphia, PA – Johnny Brenda’s Feb. 02 - Baltimore, MD - Creative Alliance (Seated) Feb. 03 - Carrboro, NC - Cat’s Cradle Feb. 04 - Atlanta, GA - The Earl Feb. 05 - Birmingham, AL - Saturn Feb. 06 - New Orleans, LA - One Eyed Jacks Feb. 08 - Houston, TX - Walter’s Downtown Feb. 09 - Austin, TX - The Parish Feb. 10 - Dallas, TX - The Kessler Theatre Feb. 11 - Hot Springs, AR - Low Key Arts Feb. 12 - Nashville, TN - City Winery Feb. 13 - St. Louis, MO - Off Broadway Mar. 12 - Mexico City, MX - Festival NRML Apr. 01 - Wellington, NZ - Bodega Apr. 02 - Auckland, NZ - King’s Arms Apr. 04 - Southbank, AU - Melbourne Recital Centre Apr. 05 - North Fremantle, AU - Mojos Fremantle Apr. 07 - Fortitude Valley, AU - Black Bear Lodge Apr. 08 - Sydney, AU - Oxford Art Factory Apr. 09 - Hobart, AU - Eros & Thanatos (at the Museum of Old and New Art) Jun. 11 - Kværndrup, DK - Heartland Festival * w/ Andy Shauf
Mass Gothic’s self-titled debut is out tomorrow! The group will kick-off their 2016 headlining tour in support of the album, with a show tonight, Thursday, February 4th in Philadelphia at Johnny Brenda’s. Tour ends on March 19th in Austin at SXSW. Support for the tour (February 4th -25th) will come from fellow NYC band Mazed (Autre Ne Veut affiliates, ex-Bear in Heaven, Zambri). Scroll down for all the dates.
The band recently shared an official video for “Every Night You’ve Got To Save Me”, the iridescent lead single. The exuberant visual, directed by Addison Post (Colleen Green, Solvey), follows group members Noel Heroux and Jessica Zambri on a night out in Manhattan (watch it here).
Mass Gothic and tourmates Mazed have also teamed up to release “March of the Cigs” / “Ronette,” a 7” split-single.
Mass Gothic’s “March of the Cigs” is featured on the A-side, and was produced by the band, mixed by Chris Coady, mastered by Greg Calbi. Meanwhile Mazed’s “Ronette” is on the B-side, and was produced by the group, with additional engineering by Rick Kwan, mixing by the group and Josh Ascalon, and mastered by Joe LaPorta.
You can listen to both songs now via Mass Gothic’s Bandcamp page (with Mazed’s “Ronette” also available for download). Listen here.
What people are saying about Mass Gothic:
“Don’t let the name Mass Gothic trick you into thinking the record is a spiral into sadsackism. Each song carries its own weight unreliant and wholly different from the track that came before it, creating a collection of different modes of music and feeling. Songs like “Nice Night” carry an unwavering heaviness and compliment the reflective nature of the lyrics, while the track “Territory” creates a variety of different electronic textures that all stay dancy and catchy. The record is a trip into a variety of different vibes and reasons to listen to music, forming into a wholly memorable and engaging listen. It warps what you think pop, rock, and punk can do when bleeding into each other, one song to the next.” - Noisey
“The four-minute clip follows Heroux as he wanders Chinatown, the East Village, and SoHo, karaoke mic in hand, lip-syncing to the track and going nowhere in particular. Along for the ride are his bandmate (and wife) Jessica Zambri, some random passerby, a few cab drivers, and Sub Pop co-founder Jonathan Poneman…The laid-back feel of the video matches the content (if not the upbeat sound) of the song, which covers Heroux’s feelings of alienation and depression when he was making music that didn’t resonate within. Mass Gothic is an honest record, and its lead single needed an honest video where Heroux could exhale and act naturally” [“Every Night You’ve…” video] - Village Voice
“Noel Heroux started off working alone on a four-track, and after nine years and mild success with his old band, dance-rockers Hooray for Earth, he’s gone back to the way he used to do things. This became a necessity, really — a way of dealing with his depression — but the results capture something quintessential about the emotional experience at hand: There are definite highs, and there are definite lows on his self-titled debut as Mass Gothic for Sub Pop. Sometimes Heroux, who’s accompanied at turns by his wife Jessica Zambri, sounds like he’s trying to kick down the doors of his own brain with the sheer force of distorted riffs and heavy echoes and sharp turns. Other times, he’s just trying to shake off the bad stuff with a dance party where the playlist’s almost exclusively synth-pop.” [ 20 Artists You need To Know in 2016] - Vulture
“Tracks such as the exhilarating “Nice Night” - layered stinging distortion - offer a cathartic energy that’s it’s hard not to be pulled in by. Other highlights include the crisp modern doo-wop of “Every Night You’ve Got To Save Me” and the pulsating digital clatter of “Want To Bad”. The sound of a man finding freedom, it’s an impressive reincarnation.” - Q Magazine
Tour Dates Feb. 04 - Philadelphia, PA - Johnny Brenda’s* Feb. 05 - Cleveland, OH - Grog Shop* Feb. 06 - Chicago, IL - Schuba’s Tavern* Feb. 08 - Minneapolis, MN - 7th Street Entry* Feb. 11 - Boise, ID – Neurolux* Feb. 12 - Seattle, WA - Columbia City Theatre* Feb. 13 - Portland, OR - Bunk Bar* Feb. 14- San Francisco, CA - Rickshaw Stop* Feb. 16 - Los Angeles, CA – Bootleg* Feb. 18 - Denver, CO - Lost Lake* Feb. 19 - Kansas City, MO - Riot Room* Feb. 21 - Louisville, KY – Zanzabar* Feb. 22 - Cincinnati, OH - MOTR Pub* Feb. 23 - Pittsburgh, PA - Club Café* Feb. 25 - Allston, MA - Great Scott* Feb. 26 - Providence, RI - Columbus Theatre* Feb. 27 - Brooklyn, NY – Palisades* Mar. 10 - Washington, DC - Black Cat Mar. 12 - Savannah, GA - Savannah Stopover Mar. 16 - Austin, TX - SXSW Mar. 17 - Austin, TX - SXSW Mar. 18 - Austin, TX - SXSW Mar. 19 - Austin, TX – SXSW *w/ Mazed
What is the Sub Pop Podcast and why did we make it? Furthermore, you may be asking yourself, “What is this ‘Sub’ ‘Pop’ the narrator of this press release keeps throwing at me?!?” You have questions, we have answers. We also have questions. (But we asked ours to the guests of the Sub Pop Podcast. That’s where you and we differ.)
Firstly: Sub Pop Records is the premier medium-sized, Seattle-based record label, and has been (in existence) since 1988. This is what people refer to as “pre-Internet.”
And then secondly: We are herewith launching The Sub Pop Podcast, where you can hear the stories from inside, outside, and adjacent to Sub Pop, straight from the source. You’ll get conversations with our artists, people who work at/with/around Sub Pop, and anyone else willing or gullible enough to talk to us. And don’t forget our sibling label Hardly Art. They get props, too.
Here’s why a podcast. It’s time to tell the Sub Pop story in our own way. But we realize the Sub Pop story is a fractally diverging, untamed thing that can’t properly be approached from just one viewpoint or in a strictly linear fashion. Everyone we’ve ever been involved with has their own “Sub Pop story,” and that’s how we’re choosing to tell it: through the people in our past, present, and maybe even future. The podcast is the perfect vehicle to try to contain this sprawl in a (we think) entertaining way. And just like Sub Pop itself, the podcast will certainly change as it grows(“certainly”because, on the 1 to 10 “we know what we’re doing” scale, we’re currently registering at about 2, *maybe* 2.5).
And let’s get this straight: When we say “we” are making a podcast (and we’ve been saying that a lot), we mean actual real people who really actually work at Sub Pop Records are making it. It’s produced and hosted by Alissa Atkins (long-time and indispensable Sub Pop employee) and Arwen Nicks (recently hired, no less indispensable). We even constructed a “studio” in a broom closet out of discarded blankets, secondhand burlap, and maybe a microphone or two. So you know we’re serious.
Here are the key facts on the ground: we’re releasing the first TWO episodes today, and until around the beginning of April 2016 we’re releasing a new episode every Wednesday. Once that process is finished we’re going to get a second season together and start this whole process over again.
The Staff of the Sub Pop Airport Store Pick Their Favorite Light in the Attic Releases
Beginning this month, the Sub Pop Airport Store has unveiled its newest addition: a staff picks section! On a semi-regular basis, we, the illustrious and expert curatorial airport store staff, will be highlighting and showcasing different albums that we really, really, really, like. For our inaugural staff picks, we decided to all choose albums from Light in the Attic, a Seattle record label that specializes in re-issuing criminally under-appreciated music. In honor of this being our first round of staff picks, I asked my fellow co-workers, “Why did you pick the album that you picked?” Here’s what they said…
(Be sure to check out the Spotify playlist down below, which contains our favorite tracks from these albums.)
Betty Davis: Betty Davis
Audrey says: “Betty Davis is a psychedelic funk queen who pushed boundaries and broke stereotypes in the name of self expression. With the encouragement of T-Rex singer Marc Bolan, she switched from writing songs for others to songwriting for herself. This self titled album released in 1973 is the first of three albums that are so freaky and badass, religious groups protested her shows and radio stations banned some of her songs. She was really a musician ahead of her time.”
Lizzy Mercier Descloux: Press Color
Rachel says: “I first found Lizzy Mercier Descloux’s Press Color in a rare record store super score! Someone had sold a bunch of their no wave/Ze Records titles like Contortions, Mars, and Teenage Jesus and the Jerks. Press Color was one of my favorites because it’s so fun and danceable. Thanks to Light In The Attic Records for reissuing this great record!”
The Free Design: Stars/Time/Bubbles/Love
Josh says: “Funk-filled, family friendly, kite flying, wholesome harmonies, only god itself could have reissued as heavenly a record. But since god is not real, it must be the goodly folks at Light in the Attic and to them I give thanks and praise.”
Monks: The Early Years 1964-1965
Jacob says: The Monks’ 1966 one-off album Black Monk Time is an out of time, anti-Vietnam war, proto-art-rock oddity, made by some forward thinking discharged American GI’s stationed in Germany (playing and honing their skills at some of the same wild nightclubs the Beatles had made a name for themselves in a few years prior), that while probably not being directly influential, at the very least predicted, and works as a critical jump-off point for a lineage of still to come conceptual agitating greats like Devo and the Residents. I would consider the album an artistic equal to Zappa’s Freak Out!, also from 1966, and a distant relative to more recently recognized, and ahead of their time, Los Saicos, from Peru.
This brings me to my Light In The Attic showcase selection: Monks’ The Early Years.
At first, a listener familiar with Black Monk Time may be slightly disappointed with these demos lack of finished lyrics, or all out vocal assaults found on the album proper. But that is actually part of the strength and distinction that makes the demos these GI’s made so very interesting; the sheer chunky rhythmic monotony and minimalist organ-preset style jungle-tom drumming, and what I see as the secret ingredient to their sound: the snare drum doubled up by nearly-indiscernible, textural muted banjo strikes. All of this is to the forefront on these demos. The Stooges had their single repetitive piano note through a song, and the Monks had their transparent banjo, damn it! To put this all in context, the Monks pre-date the full swing of Jazz Rock Fusion, and Progressive rock drumming; it would be another 6-7 years until Krautrock bands learned to unlearn and play-on-purpose the simplified, minimal, ‘Motorik’ beat. I sincerely wonder if whoever it was who approached CAN’s Jaki Leibezeit and profoundly stated “you must play monotonous” had been lucky enough to have seen the Monks do it first.”
Honey Ltd: The Complete LHI Recordings
Kane says: “Good harmonies.”
Public Image Ltd: First Issue
Olivia says: “PiL broke the punk paradigm with this first album. Punk was now carte blanche, not just a sped up tempo with a fashion shtick. I can’t listen to this without thinking about how Seattle was channeling punk on its own terms years later. I think we were really inspired by this post-punk freedom! Punk rock should ALWAYS be about freedom. That includes being free to call out any particular icon, steal their booze and comfy chair, and throw salami on their bus if necessary…”
Marcos Valle: Marcos Valle
Javier says: “I just really like the flavors presented here. Thumpy, warm melodic bass lines, very chill vocals, mostly in Portuguese, tasteful touches of piano chords and the drumming is just straight up groovy. I have no idea what these songs are about but there are some really delightful flute bits and psychedelic touches sprinkled throughout. Just a solid little nugget of good Bossa Nova made in 1970. Sign me up!”
Various Artists: I Am The Center: Private Issue New Age In America, 1950-1990
Ben says: “Trading in the ‘sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll’ for crystals, eastern philosophies and incense (and well, ok, maybe not trading away all of the drugs…) New Age wasn’t about fame and fortune. Instead, it explored the boundaries of music: From Gregorian chants to gongs, and from chimes and bells to synths. I Am The Center covers 40 years of New Age, focusing mostly on home-made recordings and unheralded-in-their-own-time artists. (While also leaving out soft heavy hitters like Yawni and Enya (a.k.a, the soundtrack to my childhood road-trips)). Let these CDs help you open your third eye, align your chakras, or even relax while paying your taxes (if possible).”
Various Artists: Native North America (Vol. 1): Aboriginal Folk, Rock, and Country 1966–1985
I say: “Vancouver-based record archaeologist Kevin “Sipreano” Howes spent 15 years searching for music from the Indigenous peoples of Canada and the northern United States, and Native North America is the culmination of his efforts. Taking cues from the genres of “folk, rock, and country” that ruled over popular music in the latter half of the 20th century, you will hear Arctic garage rock from the Nunavik region of northern Quebec, melancholy Yup’ik folk from Alaska, and hushed country blues from the Wagmatcook First Nation reserve in Nova Scotia, among many other sounds and locales. Listening to this staggering compilation reminds me of the work that Bruce Pavitt did with the original Sub Pop fanzines, scouring for artists outside of the major cultural hubs of North America, and discovering vibrant, enriching, and totally unique regional music.”
Various Artists: Summer Records Anthology (1974-1988)
Chase says: “Summer Sound Studios was a Toronto-based record label started by Jerry Brown that produced some of the first notable Canadian reggae artists. This compilations covers releases from ‘74-‘88 and includes alternate masters and some previously unheard takes, all of which are really great! Stand out tracks include, “Right, Right Time,” “Warrior,” and “Dreadlock Lady”. A must buy if you’re trying to warm up this winter.”
Alan Vega, Alex Chilton, Ben Vaughn: Cubist Blues
Brent says: “Coming from a vinyl completest of all things Big Star and Suicide, it took a LITA reissue to finally bring “Cubist Blues” to my ear holes. Not to mention It was only pressed once in Spain twenty years ago and would set you back at least a hundred bucks. I discovered Alex’s Chilton’s output from the 1980’s and began to avoid it for the most part. I admire the company he kept and his taste for self-destruction: if you haven’t seen the footage of his performance with the Panther Burns live on the Marge Thrasher show, do so now: https://youtu.be/2U-k32L0KCc
I can’t help but think of one of Gene Vincent’s last albums, I’m Back and I’m Proud, when listening to “Cubist Blues”, which was produced by Kim Fowley, who also collaborated with Ben Vaughn. I want to think of this as a ‘art rock’ record, but that might just be the fact that Vega is a sculptor and Chilton’s parents owned a gallery. This is my pick of this month mostly because I usually only want to listen to Suicide, and so I figured I’d see what happened.”