Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists determined by our favorite artists. This week, we present two excellent rock bands: San Francisco’s Fresh & Onlys and Brooklyn’s The Babies.
Listed: The Fresh & Onlys + The Babies
The Fresh & Onlys
Neo-psych crew The Fresh & Onlys hails from San Francisco, where four-year-old act is at the center of one of the best local rock scenes in the country. Lately, however, the group’s individual parts are challenging their sum. Vocalist Tim Cohen released two records in 2011, including one of the year’s most memorable songs, “I Looked Up,” and Wymond Miles is about to release his own EP, Earth Has Doors, on Sacred Bones, with a full-length expected by the end of the year. Both Cohen and Miles took part in this week’s Listed.
1. Dwight Twilley Band - Sincerely
A lost fluke of dreamy power pop from 1976. Classic warm ‘70s production and really lush arrangements make this an irresistible repeat listen record. They had a minor hit with the Alex Chilton-esque “I’m On Fire,” but the record didn’t follow the single for a full year and no one paid attention. Dwight’s vocals are exuberantly confident and the strong melodies veer all the way between ELO territory to Sun Records/pre-Alan Vega rockabilly thrash. Title cut is the strongest, sexiest jam I’ve heard in awhile — vocals whisper, holler and moan — while acoustic guitars are soaked in reverb with some fuzzed-out backward lead riffs just to keep it all weird.
2. The Go-Betweens - Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express
Robert Forster and Grant McLennan were a Grade-A songwriting team deserving just as much respect as, say, Morrissey/Marr. Their fourth record is the one that really proves their potential as a band. I’m in awe of their ability to effortlessly mix sincere romantic themes with such wry wit and black humor. Robert is unabashedly in fay-Ferry mode here, while Grant seems to play the overlooked scholar in rock ‘n’ roll shags. “Head Full Of Steam” and “Bow Down” are perfect examples of their intermingled melancholy and dry humor. (Psst, the guitar playing is always overlooked and the drum sounds nearly spoil a few songs, but such are the times.) Sadness cloaked in upbeat pop, or laughs laced in heavyhearted melodies?
3. Television Personalities - The Painted Word
I’ve been revisiting this old favorite after I picked up an old vinyl copy in Manchester recently. It’s an album I hold very dear to me; it feels like it was created in the same psychic space as Joy Divisions Closer. It’s TVP’s darkest record, and is full of personal anguish and hopeless apathy toward the world, but is still driving with jangly guitars and all the indie-pop sensibilities that defined this band to begin with. Again, Dan Treacy at times sounds like he’s drunkenly channeling the words out from some ghostly murk, but he’s always ripe with humor and self-aware irony while doing it. Opener “Stop and Smell The Roses” and “Sense Of Belonging” are all-time favorites of mine, but this whole album chugs along with any other post-punk isolation record in your collection.
4. Mayo Thompson - Corky’s Debt to his Father
This one is never far from the turntable, but this early-’70s solo effort by the Red Crayola (Krayola) mastermind seems to grow more poignant by the decade. It is completely off-center, unexpected, and irreverent music, layered with unique harmonies and honest, sentimental lyrics, punctuated by some of the strangest guitar lines in pop music. Difficult to describe, but completely inspirational to listen to.
5. The War On Drugs - Slave Ambient
Do you wish Don Henley had taken just a bit more acid? Well there’s no way to know how much acid Henley actually took during the sessions for Boys of Summer, but leave it to these Philly boys to guess. These are one- and two-chord songs that never outstay their welcome. That is a rare feat to accomplish as a band and as a listener.
6. The Leopards - Kansas City Slickers
1977 tiny release just re-pressed on Sing Sing, this is pure strange pop from the Midwest with heavy nods to The Kinks.
7. Wet Illustrated - 1x1x1
San Francisco boys make good on their skewed ambitions, warped musical sensibilities, and deep appreciation of pop and rock music from every era. Eminently listenable and weird.
8. Patti Smith - Radio Ethiopia
This 1976 masterpiece left me in a trance for days after hearing it for the first time recently. Now I own my own copy on a white, scribbled on, taped-over cassette of Christmas music. Perfect for cleaning out a storage space or crossing traffic at night.
Brooklyn foursome The Babies is made up of pieces from around the borough’s lo-fi pop scene — Kevin Morby of Woods, Cassie Ramone of Vivian Girls, Nathanael Stark of Bent Outta Shape and Justin Sullivan of Bossy. That terrarium garden of the sweetness blossomed full form on their self-titled full-length, which Dusted contributor Talya Cooper literally singled out in her 2011 wrap-up. Cry Along With the Babies, The Babies’ new EP, was released this week on New Images. For this week’s Listed, Morby took our inquiry about influence very seriously.
1. Third Eye Blind - Third Eye Blind
Stephen Jenkins was my first hero. I got this album when I was 8 years old after my sister bought it through some mail order. It was my first introduction to really good pop music. I was blown away by every song and although I was very young, I found I was very invested, intrigued, and interested in the lyrics. I vividly remember thinking to myself, “I want to play music, that’s what I want to do when I grow up” after hearing this album for the first time. So for better of worse, 3EB set me on a path that I continue down today.
2. Blink 182 - Enema Of The State
I bought this record after hearing the singles on the radio at the time in the early 2000s. I was in sixth grade and all I wanted to do was move away from Kansas, skateboard, and live in California. And Blink 182 offered me that mental escape through their music. It was around that time I was inspired to start playing guitar and taking lessons. It’s probably safe to safe that the first songs I had taught to me all come from this album, along with Green Day’s Dookie.
3. Alkaline Trio - Goddammit!
I owe props to Alkaline Trio for swooping me up from the strong embrace of main stream pop-punk and maturing my palate, if even only a little bit. They were my initial step away from punk bands that you heard on the radio and my first introduction into DIY culture (largely because it was released via independent punk label Asian Man Records). I was in eighth grade when my friend Scott, a senior in high school at the time, gave me this album. It was his favorite band and he even went so far as to get a full sleeve tattoo of his own interpretation of one of the songs. Scott wrote a fan letter to Alkaline Trio that summer and they ended up inviting him to tag along as their roadie for the Plea for Peace Tour. His stories that came from the road gave me hope that someday I too could travel from some sort of involvement in music.
4. Modest Mouse - This Is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About
I feel like this record is the first time I was ever introduced to the idea of “jamming.” Isaac Brock’s lyrics are completely captivating, angry and real. I always felt that when he wasn’t at the microphone, he was still somehow singing with his guitar — as was the rhythm section. These songs have such movement, and when the songs end you find yourself forgetting where they even began. It’s therapeutic, and completely before its time. It’s incredible to think that these kids were 20 years old writing songs this genius. This record has really stood the test of time with me, I truly believe that Isaac Brock is a living legend.
5. Bob Dylan - Greatest Hits: Volume 1
I found a tape of Dylan’s greatest hits in the cassette deck of my dads boat when I was 15. I took a look at the cover and thought, “This is old people music,” but then slipped it back into the deck and hit play. That was a big moment in my life and a complete Dylan obsession has continued from then until present day. I obviously prefer actual albums of his over this minimal Greatest Hits, but it can take credit as my starting point.
6. The Mountain Goats - All Hail West Texas
I don’t know what or who led me to listen to this album, but it has been a huge influence on who I have become as a fan of music. It’s an album recorded on a cassette recorder about an odd corner — and very specific part — of America. This album has always felt like it was breaking the rules to me. Like, “You can’t make a record on a handheld recorder and have it be this good.” But he did, and it is beautiful. After having discovered Dylan, all I wanted in my life was singer-songwriters, and John Darnielle was the only contemporary artist who seemed to be able to compete with the past, especially on this record.
7. Neil Young - Harvest
My high school girlfriend gave a vinyl copy of this to me for my 17th birthday. Like I had thought about Dylan a few years before, I figured this would be boring and just some famous guy with a “classic” sound, but once again — I was wrong, and it totally blew me away. It was the first time I really paid attention to production wondering “how do the drums sound so good?” or, “how can the vocals sound so natural?” Not to mention the lyrics and songs alone are so beautiful. I’ve never tired from this record and Neil Young has become one of my everlasting favorites.
8. Leonard Cohen - Songs Of Love And Hate and 9. Nico - Chelsea Girls
I got these records a few days before taking an Amtrak train from Kansas City to New York for the first time, shortly after dropping out of school. I had never been to the East Coast and it was a trip that changed my life forever. Both these records, almost exclusively, supplied the soundtrack. I feel the poetry and arrangements that are on these albums perfectly capture New York’s romantic cadence. Any time I re-visit these I am suddenly back at 18, wandering the street of New York — falling in love with a city for the first time.
10. The Velvet Underground - The Velvet Underground & Nico
It took me a while to understand The Velvet Underground. I always knew them as a band that record nerds liked and that I would probably never “get.” But one day, around age 19 or 20, it seemed I woke up and their music was coming in from underneath the door. The familiar feeling they bring surrounds me even when I am not listening. It is truly perfect music. This was the first Velvets record I ever heard so it remains the most dear to my heart. You could put this on anytime, anywhere, and a smile will push forth from my cheeks.
By Dusted Magazine