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Listed: Extra Life + Lights

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Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists compiled by our favorite artists. This week: the mathy, medievalist New York band Extra Life and freaky folkies Lights.

Listed: Extra Life + Lights

Extra Life

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
On LSD, this record is the best thing I have ever heard.

2. The WhoTommy
There was an indoor pool at my grandparents’ house. That's where I lived until I was 9 or 10. I had a drum set out by the pool. I would put Tommy on through old headphones and play along. While they sat inside trying to hear the television, I was Keith fucking Moon.

3. The Dead Milkmen - Bucky Fellini
This consumed me as an 11 year old. My mom took me to see them play at the channel in Boston, when they were touring for this album. It was the first time I saw slam dancing. This was a beginning.

4. Grateful Dead - American Beauty
Freshman year in high school, I was stuck at a boarding school in the Berkshire mountains, in a town that had once been the spiritual center for the Shakers. The school buildings were old Shaker homes and the school had adopted the Shaker motto, "Hands to work, hearts to god." there was a shack where you could taste fresh warm maple syrup. There was a girl with electric blue eyes who played American Beauty one fall day in my dorm.

5. Minutemen - Double Nickels on the Dime
I was 17 and my older buddy asked if I could drive him to Providence, Rhode Island. On the way, he asked if I could slow down, as he had a sneaky quarter pound of weed on him. When we got there, he sold it to this science kid who went to Brown. He packed some up in a long, white, clay pipe. The pipe was a colonial replica, and the weed was "kind bud." It was the first time I ever smoked the really good shit. It was also the first time I heard Double Nickels on the Dime. Major changer, right here.

6. The Lunachicks - Babysitters on Acid
I lost my virginity to this album. Actually it was a tape. On repeat. We did it three times. I was never the same. Fifteen years later, we did it again... to Danzig.

7. Ween - The Pod
I was 16 and my friend Ben and I were hanging around his room doing bong hits, watching TV, and listening to The Pod. All of a sudden, live footage of the Branch Davidian compound being set on fire came on. We watched, awestruck as the album played out. When it ended we turned off the television, walked outside and watched as the runners of the Boston Marathon passed endlessly.

8. Bobby Charles - Bobby Charles
A couple years ago, I was cat-sitting for my friend in Los Angeles. My buddy from New York came to stay with me and we drove my rented PT Cruiser out to Joshua Tree National Park. It was already dark, and as the high desert stars came out, we ate a heroic amount of mushrooms. It got really cold out and we ended up having to stay in the car for hours, listening to this record over and over at top volume. On the drive back to L.A., a glow on the horizon slowly grew to a giant blazing fire, engulfing the entire four lanes of the highway. My friend was screaming, I was tripping, and I gunned it through the flames. All the while, Bobby kept singing.

9. Joni MitchellBlue
The first hippie girl to kiss me turned me on to this record, sitting in her dorm room with tapestries and smelly hippie stuff. She grimaced and told me it felt "gross," like kissing her brother. There’s a note that Joni hits that makes me cry every time.

10. Cass McCombs - Dropping the Writ
I was driving to the Hollywood Forever cemetery for a picnic with Cass' wife, Katie. She played me a demo Cass was working on and I kept listening to it over and over again. The song really got me stoked and I couldn't get it out of my head. That song isn't on this album, but the 11 songs that are make up the best album I heard last year. It will be a favorite of mine forever.

By Dusted Magazine

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