Listed: Extra Life + Lights
Fronted by former Zs and Dirty Projectors guitarist Charlie Looker, Extra Life is every bit as musically accomplished and adventurous as those bands. Extra Life is incredibly brutal and precise, but its most distinctive features are Looker's melodies, which dart around like bits of medieval plainchant. Extra Life's excellent new album, Secular Works, is available now on Planaria.
1. Nat Baldwin: Old friend of mine, and a deep singer/contrabassist/songwriter from New Hampshire . His music gets compared to Arthur Russell and even Jeff Buckley. Floating, melismatic pop melodies, non-rock instrumentation and elements of virtuosic “out” improvisation. Back in ’01 we had a band called Lavender. Later we played together in Dirty Projectors and other things. This summer Nat and Extra Life (in a stripped-down incarnation) have a split 12 inch coming out and we’re doing a west coast tour. Nat loves Tour.
2. The Dead Science: Awesome band from Seattle who we played with out there. Dark pop songs with breathy falsetto vocals and really unusual jazz-informed rhythm section work. Amazing musicianship, and in the most classy, un-flashy way. The music rides this prolonged erotic tension, which never boils over but just grips you in its clutches.
3. “Riu Riu Chiu”: A Spanish Christmas song from around the late 15th or early 16th Century. [Bassist] Tony [Gedrich] and I are obsessed with this song and we sing it all the time, usually substituting foul juvenile jokes for the lyrics. I heard it on a medieval Christmas music comp by the New York Pro Musica (even though it’s really from the Renaissance). I also found a clip of the Monkees doing it. Their version is pretty vanilla, but still isn’t that cool that they do it??? “Riu Riu Chiu” is meant to be the sound of a nightingale, getting all psyched about the birth of Christ.
4. Stern: This is the awesome new solo project of Chuck Stern who was the leader of the recently disbanded Time of Orchids. ToO was often referred to as a prog band, but Chuck’s solo music is quite different, more ethereal, lush, creepy, very slow and keyboard-heavy. Really original. I grew up with this guy. We used to get high/dark together.
5. Troy Mighty: Troy is a great Sacramento guy. He plays guitar and sings beautifully with his project Dead Western. His voice is extremely low and rich, very unique and haunting. When I saw them play last he had a guy with him playing an authentic viola de gamba, Renaissance-style! I had never seen a viol that close before and there it was in the middle of this DIY show space.
6. Unsane: Remember this 90’s New York metal/hardcore band? They’re still around and they’re still brutal. They’re not even my all-time favorite or anything, but we were listening to them a bunch in the Extra Life van and getting really pumped. To me, they epitomize a certain kind of tough-yet-smart scary NY band that I liked in my youth.
7. Shudder to Think, Pony Express Record: Also on the topic of 90’s bands, I loved this band to death. Very divisive band. When I first heard them in 10th grade I absolutely hated them. A couple years later I was in totally in love. They really mixed the dark and the arty with the glammy and theatrical. I’ve been trying to get the Extra Life guys into Shudder, but I’m not sure it’s working.
8. Sun City Girls, Torch of the Mystics: I checked out this legendary band years ago and the record I heard was just a bunch of prank phone calls, so I never followed up on them. Then when we were in Chicago in March, we’re loading out of the club and we hear this gorgeous, repetitive, mantra-like melody sung in unison with guitar. Fucking amazing. Turns out it was SCG. That melody became one of those tunes we would just compulsively sing all the time in the van when there was nothing else to say.
9. Silent Barn: I have nothing but love for Silent Barn, a DIY show space in Ridgewood, Queens, where I live. Extra Life plays and rehearses there. There is a continuing tradition of wonderful weird and warm people living there, throwing awesome and frequent shows. It’s on some Cheers shit, where everybody knows your name.
10. All other bands of Extra Life members : A shout out is definitely in order to all the other bands and projects of the busy men of Extra Life. I’m talking about Little Women, Stay Fucked, Yukon, Archaeopteryx, Caley solo, and Snowblink. These bands all rule, in a wide variety of ways.
Lights founders Sophia Knapp and Linnea Vedder met in 2004 in New York City. They practiced in an old townhouse in the West Village, and that eccentric ghost-filled apartment worked as a foundation for their eerie take on folk music. Adam Mitchell from Meadows joined the duo in 2005, soon to be followed by projectionist Wizard Smoke and bassist Andy MacLeod. In 2007, Lights recorded its debut LP with Greg Weeks (of Espers fame) in his Philadelphia studio. It recently saw release on Drag City subsidiary Language of Stone in the U.S. and Andy Votel's Twisted Nerve label in the U.K. It’s an alluring blend of effervescent vocal harmonies, fuzzy guitar, tambourines and Velvet Underground’s self-titled record. MacLeod took part in this week’s Listed.
1. Jimi Hendrix – Axis: Bold As Love
2. The Who – Tommy
3. The Dead Milkmen - Bucky Fellini
4. Grateful Dead - American Beauty
5. Minutemen - Double Nickels on the Dime
6. The Lunachicks - Babysitters on Acid
7. Ween - The Pod
8. Bobby Charles - Bobby Charles
9. Joni Mitchell – Blue
10. Cass McCombs - Dropping the Writ
By Dusted Magazine