Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists compiled by our favorite artists. This week: Skygreen Leopards and Grizzly Bear.
Listed: Skygreen Leopards + Grizzly Bear
The Skygreen Leopards
Birthed by Californian free-folk collective Jewelled Antler, the Skygreen Leopards specialize in cosmic pop and otherworldly sound collage. Members Glenn Donaldson and Donovan Quinn create delicate eco-hymns, rich in swirling images and rich harmony. Recently, the group released Life & Love in the Sparrow's Meadow, their debut CD on Jagjaguar, and its limited-edition LP counterpart, Child God in the Garden of Idols. Glenn Donaldson of Jewelled Antler, The Skygreen Leopards, The Ivytree, Thuja etc. contributed this week's list.
Writing about my favorite albums would take at least a year; I’ve been obsessed with music since I can remember, and you the reader probably have all those albums already anyway & you’re sick of people pontificating about the Beach Boys or CRASS or Suicide or Jandek or Alice Coltrane etc. You know who they are, you know they’re geniuses blah blah blah & you know where they do their laundry & what kind of fuzz pedals they owned; I love all of it. But I instead wanted to say something about some newer artists you might have read only a little bit (if anything about). Many of these folks are happening right now, so go out & see them, love them as I do & send them $10 for their homemade jams. Thanks for indulging me.
1. Wooden Wand – Harem of the Sundrum & the Witness Figg (Soft Abuse, CD)
Technically not yet released but this is the best singer-songwriter album of the last 10 years or so. Wooden Wand (aka James Jackson Toth) is slightly better know for his noise-folk-rant ensemble Wooden Wand & the Vanishing Voice & as co-founder of the Polyamory label, but here he steps up to the mic & lets his cosmic soul shine. WW is as good as Skip Spence but better than Tim Hardin (because WW has a PHASER). He weaves his own personal mythology, embracing melancholy, comedy, tragedy & a form of spirituality that we like to call “hobo mistercism”. Donovan Quinn & I feel a strong kinship with this record lyrically & vibrationally speaking.
2. The Skaters – Mountain of Signs (Nature Tape Limb, CD-R)
This duo (sometimes trio) builds ecstatic drones, using their voices, radio shack mics, a karaoke boombox, a digital delay pedal & a reel-to-reel tape machine & their souls. The Skaters harken back to Angus Maclise & perhaps PREHISTORY. This is the sound of dinosaurs serenading mammoths across time. They will be huge. Also side-projects, Vodka Soap & The Wooden Cupboard, are as good as the mothership.
3. CJA – Headache (Celebrate Psi-phenomenon, CD-R)
Clayton Noone is CJA, member of such punk-psych dirge ensembles as Armpit & the Futurians, who are two of the greatest bands ever. But when I finally picked up a copy of Headache, I realized that CJA is some kind of dodgy genius & maybe one of the last great electric guitar players left on the planet. Essentially this is one riff played for 40 minutes in one channel with tape manipulations of the same riff in the other channel. Recorded in 1993 & thus a TRUE masterpiece of 20th Century Minimalism, so damn great because it suggests so much rock n’ roll & punk music (the Troggs, the Stooges, Deep Purple, Blue Oyster Cult) but soars up over the top of all that right into a transcendent almost religious epiphany of nothingness. His more recent Silent Blood & Ironclad CD-R’s are also proof of his riveting (anti) artistry.
4. Uton – more CD-R’s than anyone can remember
There is some much great art & music flying out of Finland at the moment it’s a shame to choose one band, but Uton (aka Jani H.) hasn’t received as much attention as some of the other projects. Uton makes big drones & soundscapes with guitars, flutes, tapes, pedals, bowed things. Reminds me of the best Zoviet France LP’s (Shouting at the Ground, Loh Land) but with that Finnish forest-vibe. Uton is also a great visual artist as well, like many of the Finnish folks, his drawings/album designs are just as important as his music. Can I also namedrop the following Finnish labels: 267 Lattajja, LAL LAL LAL, Outa, Musically Incorrect, Fonal….?
5. Whysp – Live
Santa Cruz’s Whysp play bubblegum forest-folk right in the middle between Comus & Herman’s Hermits. Their LP is great, but you have to see them LIVE. They are better than almost any band going, because they sing ragged 3-part harmonies (sometimes 4) & sometimes there’s a cat-like girl playing sitar with them. Their songs are uplifting & sincere but effortlessly strange.
6. The Goodwill Tapes – Live
This is our friend Cayce Lindner, who also does the equally amazing The Golden Hotel with his brother Sidney (of the equally amazing neurotic country band The Hotel Alexis), but The Goodwill Tapes made us all blow a fucking gasket at their debut show. Cayce who, let’s be honest, could very well be a Hell’s Angel from 1973, sat on a stool & played acoustic guitar through an echoplex (on full tilt) causing a churning wash of feedback not seen since the heyday Jesus & Mary Chain. Some shoeless Hippie Hobo friend of his pranced around & played electric guitar & keyboards with even more echo. Somewhere in this onslaught were Cayce’s quavering Neil Young/Jerry Garcia vocals bathed in reverb. Imagine true salt-of-the-earth country folk ballads played by Hawkwind at the slowest speed imaginable. Then imagine being stoned on top of that. Yeah OK. Campbell Kneale of Birchville Cat Motel (who was on the same bill) was so incapacitated by this psychedelic display that he could not plug in his gear; he ended up playing for 8 minutes before giving up in a daze
7. Davenport – the people, the music
I love these guys (& girl). They put on the greatest music festival of all time (Pasture Music). They are from Wisconsin. They are creative as hell. They have really good weed. They play country-time raga-folk noise jams. One of their CD-R’s, the brilliantly-titled Free Country, has free-country & actually country folk SONGS, like a couple fucked up Allman Brothers ballads in amongst the sprawling racket. I hope this gets re-issued by some fancy label, because I love it. But I also dig Marble Seed & Tongue of Bear & there are more that I wish I had but don’t have. They have come together as a great live act, even when part of the band is on mushrooms.
8. Craig Microcassette System – double 3” (label unknown, cd-r)
One of these guys, Tony, plays in Davenport (& the other guy might too), but this is a different animal, more insect than animal actually. CMS “play” a huge pile of handheld cassette recorders & tapes, rewinding, fast-forwarding clicking & pausing, snippets of music, cicadas, TV, machines & god knows what. The results are far from jarring; this is quite dreamlike, hallucinatory.
9. Nagisa Ni Te – Feel & the Same as a Flower (Jagjaguwar, CD’s)
Majestic, architectural yet emotional, sweeping… Nagisa Ni Te have absorbed Neil Young’s On the Beach & George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass & maybe those big Roxy Music ballads (like "Song for Europe"), stripped them down & rebuilt them as sparse yet dreamy epics. This the best band in the world & they also have the best sounding recordings. Did I mention that they play all my favorite chords? I love this band so much that The Skygreen Leopards signed a dark & sinister contract with Jagjaguwar in the hopes that I could one day meet these folks.
10. Antony Milton – the music, the man, the label
Google the Pseudo Arcana web page & start shopping. AM runs one of the best labels around & is a brilliant musician/songwriter/improviser/artist… a kindred spirit to those of us here at the Jewelled Antler Resort Spa & Bath House, & with some CD re-issues on the Last Visible Dog label, more people will find out why. The Paintings of Window 3” CD-R is a good place to start.
Being heard above the din of Brooklyn-based experimental pop bands is a challenge that many accept, though few prevail. It’s beginning to look like Grizzly Bear will fall in the latter category. Since recording its debut record, Horn of Plenty — it was released a few months ago on Kanine Records — the band has expanded from two to four members and begun to receive a degree of acclaim in a city that doles it out sparingly. While Horn offers a platter of slightly twisted songs recorded written mostly by Edward Droste, Grizzly Bear’s current incarnation has grown to embody a more complex sound, marked by diverse instrumentation, four-part vocal harmonies, and loosely expressive drumming, skirting the territory between My Bloody Valentine, free jazz, and Tyrannosaurus Rex. Grizzly Bear is touring the country through the end of March.
1. Van Dyke Parks
Aside from his brilliant work on Smile, it’s albums such as “Song Cycle” that we are consistently playing, over and over again in our miniscule SUV we tour in. It’s hard to get all blurbly about Van Dyke so let’s just sum this up by saying he’s one of the few musicians all four of us unconditionally love.
2. Colin Blunstone’s First Solo Record, One Year
We love the Zombies, but we love this album even more. Took us ages to find, but well worth the search. Same whispery/lush voice a la Zombies, but more beautiful string arrangements and adventurous song structures.
3. Canadian Singer Song-Writers
Who knew? Sure they are emotional and Canadian and sing about things like the northern lights, but Chad VanGaalen and Great Lake Swimmers have released two of the best releases of 2004. Perhaps big in Canada (we just don’t know) but barely acknowledged stateside, they do it right. If Cass McCombs were Canadian, we’d throw him in too because PREfection is top notch, but he’s not, so we’re just mentioned him at the end of this because we couldn’t find another spot for him. That’s fair right?
4. The reincarnation of The Ssion
Cody Critecheloe is genius. We miss the old theatrics of the original Ssion lineup, with animal costumes, screaming, prancing and animation, but the new Ssion jams are of the early 90s grunge variety and equally rocking. The girls are gone, but Cody’s Kansas City spirit is still alive.
5. Stars Like Fleas - live show
Their live show was absolutely mind blowing. They’ve got something like 10 members and 50 instruments they use, and it all works perfectly. Textures would come and go throughout every song: it felt like a warm bath and a pleasantly uncomfortable acid trip. Don’t see them in a space where the crowd is loud, otherwise you’ll miss the important intricacies that make their live show so special.
Chris Taylor found this $15 single in Aruba. We now can’t stop listening. Each track, only 1:30 long, is essentially just Chacaron chanting his name over and over again and mumbling over a dance hall track: just imagine Aruban-Apple Garage Band-Outsider-Art-meets Dance Hall. Sounds inane, but it’s actually amazing. We haven’t been able to find anything on this man online, but if you do, don’t hesitate to grab this.
7. Patience and Prudence - "Tonight You Belong To Me”
If we could have female back up singers from the 50’s, we ‘d have them. This song is the best.
8. DJ Hallo Bobbi
Adam Bainbridge owns the UK, and makes the best mix tapes ever. The master man behind the “Asia Voice” production team---if you can track him down, or catch his set, you’ll be a happy man for life.
9. Foie Gras and Fancy Food
When we can eat it we try to. Well half of us do, the half that isn’t vegetarian. But the other half admits it sounds interesting.
10. Irene’s Bar in Greenpoint
Best Polish dive-bar ever with frosted 8 oz. mugs, 1.50 Buds and Buck Hunter. Plus it’s across the street from where Ed Droste lives, and that makes things easy.
11. The Double
We love the double. They just got signed to Matador. This makes Matador even cooler. Everyone needs the Double.
12. Dion and the Belmonts
You’ve heard them before, but please listen again, they are truly some of music’s finest.
By Dusted Magazine