Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists compiled by our favorite artists. This week: indie rock vets Polvo and New York fledglings Air Waves.
Listed: Polvo + Air Waves
Polvo invented many of the abstractions and math-y dissonances of mid-1990s indie rock, recording four albums and three EPs during its first eight years. Doug Mosurock observed that the band’s 1993 album, “Today’s Active Lifestyles remains a high point for indie rock (or whatever you wish to call it). Chopped lines of black pepper and curry dashed all over the most wiry of melodic extrapolations; songs that lived off the kind of resin-clogged logic that could singe off your nose hairs and eyebrows; restlessness masked with nervous tics and spring-loaded hooks; concussive intros and bombastic endings.” In 2008, after a decade’s hiatus, the band reformed to play All Tomorrow’s Parties and followed with a string of other dates. They have since recorded and released In Prism (Merge), the first album of new material in 12 years. Guitarist Ash Bowie represents the group in this week’s Listed.
This isn’t a top ten list, per se. I don’t think I could really rank records in an all-time favorites list unless it were a matter of life and death. So these are just some records that I like. A couple of these are relatively recent discoveries, and others I have had around for much longer.
1. Julian Bream - 20th Century Guitar LP
Some of these pieces are included on Bream’s Nocturnes CD, but I still prefer listening to my scratchy old record for some reason. I would love to have seen a live performance of this material.
2. The Cecil Taylor Quartet - Looking Ahead
This 1958 album isn’t necessarily my favorite Cecil Taylor record, but it captures him in an interesting transition period and offers glimpses of where he was heading, though it’s still a ways from Unit Structures. I like free jazz, and generally a lot of what was going on in the 1960s with the Impulse scene and some of the European stuff, but I also love Monk and Powell, and it’s fun to listen to this record as Cecil Taylor’s take on bebop. Though, of course, he was already a pretty unique stylist even then.
3. Rubble Box - Volumes 1 - 10
I recently picked up both Rubble box sets, and have been working my way through the first one. The second- and third-tier psych comps can be pretty hit or miss, but there’s a lot of gems on every Rubble CD so far. I noticed that Wimple Winch is featured prominently on a couple of these discs, and since I really like their song “Save My Soul” from Nuggets II, I was intrigued enough to check this out. Sure, it’s a little spotty, but there’s plenty of highlights and nice surprises.
4. Mark Hollis - Mark Hollis
Too bad Hollis has retired from music. I’m pretty sure this is his only solo album, and it continues, to some extent, in the direction Talk Talk was going around the Laughing Stock LP.
5. Sibylle Baier - Colour Green
A friend recently gave me this record. This was a home recording done by a German actress-turned-housewife, and the songs finally got released almost 40 years later. Some of the melodies remind me of Syd Barrett.
6. Arvo Part - Alina
I can’t think of anything worth writing about this one, other than it’s beautiful.
7. Husker Du - Zen Arcade
Now, this record would easily make my all-time list. When I was in college, I took a class called History of American Popular Music, and when we were asked to write a paper about an album I chose this one and cranked out 20 pages on the subject of Zen Arcade. I actually met Bob Mould last year at a music festival and drunkenly started babbling to him about this and other facets of my super-fan status. He was incredibly nice, but at some point I realized I was probably embarrassing him, as well as myself, and had to shut up and walk off. But what a great record by a band that I always thought of as, among other things, supremely psychedelic.
8. Camaron y Tomatito - Como el Agua
I’ve never actually owned a lot of flamenco records, though i would say it’s one of my favorite kinds of music, which might be weird. Anyway, I was given a cassette of this release while studying in Seville many years ago, so it has some sentimental value for me. Paco de Lucia plays on it, and all these guys are totally en fuego. Good stuff.
9. Peter Gabriel - 3
I recently revisited PG’s eponymous solo records up to Security, and the third one is probably my favorite. Not sure I would take it to a desert island if space was tight, but it reminds me why I always thought PG was kind of a genius. He is known for writing lyrics at the last possible minute, and even holding up mixing sessions because he doesn’t have anything to sing, which makes me feel slightly okay about being a lot like that myself. But somehow he manages to come up with really good lyrics, in my opinion. I’m a fan.
10. Devo - Live EP
I got this when it came out, and just played the hell out of it. I grew up in a small, isolated town in rural North Carolina, and there was only this one record store run by elderly, blue-haired, country ladies. You would stand at the counter and study the current top 40 list like a menu and tell them which singles you wanted, and they would fetch them for you. My mom would take me up there from time to time, and I would get whatever was on the radio the night before. It was mostly crap – “Pilot of the Airwaves” and bad post-disco and stuff like that – but somehow this Devo record showed up there, and when I saw the flowerpot hats I knew I should get it immediately. Soon I got Freedom of Choice, and I remember being struck by how the songs on the live EP differed from the album versions, like it was some kind of revelation.
Nichole Schneit’s folk-pop outfit Air Waves got its big celebrity endorsement two years ago when Dan Deacon likened her music to “a favorite blanket wrapped around you.” (He meant it as a compliment.) Now a trio, with Scott Rosenthal on guitar and drums and Dan Bryer on bass, Schneit’s band has a five-song EP out on Catbird Records. They’ll be touring the South and the East this fall with fellow New Yorkers, the Beets.
1. Neil Young - “Star of Bethlehem”
Neil Young has been a favorite songwriter of mine since I was a teenager. He made me want to pick up the guitar and write songs. His voice sounds just as good now as it did when he was 20. I love the way his voice sounds with Emmylou Harris. The drums are cool too, the brushes with the kick drum. It was really hard to pick one Neil Young song!
2. Irma Thomas - “Take A Look”
Irma Thomas’s voice is other-worldly. This is by far the sexiest song I’ve ever heard. My favorite songs are ones that get stuck in my head and that I know I will never get sick of. The song is about every part of your body being in love with someone, and Irma Thomas sings it with such conviction. I bet it was a bit risqué for it’s time.
3. Yellow Fever - “Culver City”
This song reminds me of Young Marble Giants. The roaring bass notes and guitar, with simple drum beats. There’s this really cool galloping feel to it. There’s a real sincerity in Jennifer Moore’s voice. This song made me want to play single notes when I play guitar.
4. Tom Petty - “Yer So Bad”
The first CD I ever bought was Tom Petty, I think when I was 8 or 9. It’s catchy as hell! “Yer so bad / Best thing I ever had.” Everything about it is pop, the breakdowns, the lyrics, verses ect... The lyrics are a little cynical, but also really optimistic.
5. Bob Dylan - “I Want You”
This song is so happy, you just know that he scored with the girl! There’s that awesome keyboard part that sounds like a peppy shuffle. It’s like the Irma Thomas song, about wanting someone really badly. There’s humor to the song, but the chorus is really serious. It reminds me of Woody Allen.
6. The Clean - “On Again/Off Again”
This was the first Clean song I heard, I immediately wanted to cover it. The guitar part and simple Moe Tucker-style drumming mixed with the weird keyboard parts is so awesome. After hearing this song, I got their Anthology and it’s one of my favorite CDs ever. I see Hamish sometimes in NY and I always want to tell him that all his songs are gems and make me want to be a better songwriter, but I’m too nervous!!
7. Blood On the Wall - “Stoner Jam”
How the hell is he playing guitar like that? And how awesome are their parents that they produced these siblings?
8. Alton Ellis - “Cry Tough”
The “hmmms” in the background are really cool. It’s hard to tell if it’s an animal or a person making those sounds. And when his voice gets deep and then the women singers come in, it’s really special. The thought of men crying tough is a neat concept. I imagine him poking fun at someone, since he says “Cry tough / You are getting old / You are getting slow.”
9. Cass MccCombs - “You Saved My Life” / “Dreams Come True Girl”
I just heard these for the first time the other day and they have been on repeat. Hearing them was a real breath of fresh air, especially when many of the new artists are singing about weed and pizza with loads of reverb. I love the guitar, the drums, his voice, the lyrics. Everything! These songs are really perfect, beautiful love songs. Karen Black sounds like Marianne Faithful at the end. “You Saved My Life” is one of those songs that I wish I wrote.
10. Patti Smith - “Redondo Beach”
I’ve never heard a song that comes even close to sounding like this. Every word is so pronounced and tough. The reggae beat picks up fast at one point when the story gets more dramatic. She has a theatrical approach to the song, the women on the beach singing the words. Her storytelling feels like a movie where you want to know what happens in the next scene. I can’t think of any new artists that have that effect on me. Classic!
By Dusted Magazine