Category Archives: Podcasts

Episode 112: Go Easy

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Listening back through this show, I’m reminded how much I love the deep album cut. Maybe it’s my contrary nature that won’t allow me to enjoy the first few songs on a record (the accessible ones clearly aimed at some amount of radio play) or maybe I just like those moody songs that land after the album’s hype and hooks. Or, could it be those really are the best tracks on the album?

Whatever the case, it feels good to be back, blathering about the music I love.

  1. “Maple Trees” by Cascading Slopes (Towards a Quaker View of Synthesizers / Plastiq Musiq / 2013)
  2. “Four Long Years” by Wire (Object 47 / PinkFlag / 2008)
  3. “Sun” by Echo Lake (Era / No Pain in Pop / 2015)
  4. “English Subtitles” by Swervedriver (I Wasn’t Born to Lose You / Cobraside Distribution / 2015)
  5. “It’s Easy” by Robert Pollard (The Crawling Distance / Guided By Voices Inc. / 2009)

Radio Free Raytown – Episode #112 (07/01/15)

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Episode 111: Something Like That

Guided By Voices at The Granada in Lawrence, Kansas (9/28/2012)

Guided By Voices at The Granada in Lawrence, Kansas (9/28/2012)

Sometimes you’ve listened to a band for so long that you forget others may have never heard it.  Sometimes when you dive into a band’s catalog, the plunge is so gradual that you wake up one morning and wonder where this stack of 30+ CDs came from.  Both are true with the work of Robert Pollard, primary songwriter for Guided By Voices.

I don’t remember when I first heard Pollard’s work, but I do remember it was the Guided By Voices album, Bee Thousand.  I was ecstatic to find a band making the kinds of records that my step-brother and I had attempted.  We recorded our tapes in his mom’s basement, so the rough, lo-fi sound of Bee Thousand immediately appealed to me.  There was also something familiar to Pollard’s songs, as well.  Immediately, I felt like this guy had listened to a lot of my favorite records by The Who, (Gabriel-era) Genesis and a band I had just discovered, R.E.M.

Pollard’s work, albeit wildly inconsistent, still seems relevant to me.  These days, I feel like the most punk thing you can do is release music how and when you want.  With labels demanding returns on their increasingly astronomical investments, it’s not unusual to expect a three-year gap between albums for many bands.  As a fan, the wait can be maddening.  Maybe the returns are there, who knows.  That’s why I still like Pollard, who put it best, “If we’re paying for it and no one’s listening to these records anyway, if we’re only making them for ourselves, then I’m going to put exactly what I want on them.”

Enjoy..

  1. “Substitute” by The Who (Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy/Decca/1971)
  2. “The Great Deceiver” by King Crimson (Starless and Bible Black/Island/1974)
  3. “London Girl” by The Jam (This is the Modern World/Polydor/1977)
  4. “London Girls” by The Vibrators (Pure Mania/Epic/1977)
  5. “Teenage Kicks” by The Undertones (True Confessions (Singles = A+B’s)/Rhino/2000)
  6. “Fall on Me” by R.E.M. (Lifes Rich Pageant/I.R.S./1986)
  7. “Echos Myron” by Guided by Voices (Bee Thousand/Scat/1994)
https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/1415312/111radiofreeraytown.mp3″

Radio Free Raytown – Episode #111 (4/8/14)

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Episode 109: Back in the Saddle

After 108 episodes, my output of podcasts ground to a halt.  I guess a two-year old, super-demanding job and crashed computer will do that to you.  My last show was in October, a whopping nine months ago!  That’s probably nothing for the newbies still trying to play catch-up, but for some close friends it’s seemed like forever.

Anyway, I haven’t bothered with a theme for this week.  I’m just playing some music that’s been released since Episode 108.  Enjoy.

  1. Don’t Forget (To Forget About Me) – The Mary Onettes (Hit the Waves/Labrador/2013)
  2. Love is Lost – David Bowie (The Next Day/Columbia/2013)
  3. Four Teeth – True Widow (Circumambulation/Relapse/2013)
  4. Distance – Beaches (She Beats/Chapter Music/2013)
  5. Islands (She Talks in Rainbows) – Guided by Voices (English Little League/Guided By Voices, Inc./2013)

Radio Free Raytown – Episode #109 (8/6/13)

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Episode 108: Another Sunny Day

Dedication in the used copy of Belle and Sebastian’s biography I picked up at The Strand bookstore in New York City a couple years ago.

I discovered Belle and Sebastian later in college than most. It’s not that I didn’t get its music; it’s just that I already listened to many other twee bands (and the bands they influenced). Don’t get me wrong, I liked If You’re Feeling Sinister, but I just didn’t see what the big deal was. Then I started paying attention to the lyrics…which you don’t necessarily do if you’re into twee or indie pop.

Does it diminish a band’s worth to consider the context in which it creates music? Does it put a damper on that moment you discover a new band to consider the other bands in its scene? Does it make a band seem less creative when you find out what’s in the lead singer’s album collection?

I think it’s always important to consider context when analyzing art, especially music (because that’s what I know best). It’s especially important with someone like Belle and Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch, who is obviously a referential writer. This is why I devote Episode #108 to the musical ancestry of Bell and Sebastian. Have I exhaustively discussed every band that influenced Murdoch? Or course not, but they are all very influential. (And, if you read the band’s biography, Belle and Sebastian: Just another Modern Rock Story, you’ll find many pages devoted to Murdoch’s adoration of these bands.) This show is a starting point for many evenings getting caught in internet wormholes, discovering obscure Britpop bands.

At any rate, in the era of publicly-accessible Spotify playlists, I’m unsure that I need to merely make podcasts amounting to little more than shuffled playlists and commentary. I hope you find focused shows like this helpful. I still bristle at the idea of themed shows; I just want to help everyone grasp the context in which my favorite music is created. Enjoy.

  1. “Do You Remember Walter?” – The Kinks (The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society / Reprise / 1968)
  2. “One of These Things First” – Nick Drake (Bryter Layter / Island / 1970)
  3. “Caroline Goodbye” – Colin Blunstone (One Year / Epic / 1971)
  4. “Down but Not Yet Out” – Felt (Forever Breathes the Lonely Word / Creation / 1986)
  5. “I’m in Love with a Girl Who Doesn’t Know I Exist” – Another Sunny Day (Air Balloon Road / Sarah / 1990)
  6. “Another Sunny Day” – Belle and Sebastian (The Life Pursuit / Matador / 2006)

Radio Free Raytown – Episode #108 (10/5/12)
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Episode 107: Wait Underwater with Me

Sometimes I wonder if it would be more convenient to just post Spotify playlists instead of recording these episodes. Whenever I start believing this work is in vain, supporters come out of the proverbial woodwork. For example, last week a friend encouraged the audience at his concert to check out my blog. “Jonathon Smith knows your favorite bands before you do,” he announced.

Who knows? Maybe I’ve included songs from of your new favorite bands this week.

Enjoy.

  1. “Moonshake” – Can (Future Days / United Artists / 1973)
  2. “Lists, Plans” – A Sunny Day in Glasgow (Scribble Mural Comic Journal / Notenuf / 2007)
  3. “Sea Birds” – Burning Hearts (Aboa Sleeping / Shelflife / 2009)
  4. “Crest” – The Antlers (Undersea / ANTI / 2012)
  5. “Please Let Me Wonder” – The Beach Boys (Today! / Capitol /  1965)

Radio Free Raytown – Episode #107 (8/3/12)

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Episode 106: The middle of July in a stocking cap.

Dan Billen, performing with The Billions

I don’t know what the weather’s like in your neck of the woods, but it’s been insanely hot in Raytown this summer. About the only thing worth doing is watching my son play around in the living room and listening to records. Fortunately for us, a ton of great music has been released in the past few months.

I’m occasionally accosted by dudes who want me to play their music on my show. (As if they’ll see a substantial uptick in albums sold, right??) Usually their music is, at best, mediocre. But when Michael Edwards told me to check out his band, I was blown away. Not because it was the best thing I’ve ever heard or that it was something entirely new. No, the band impressed me with how comfortable it feels with itself and the audience. In this episode, I play a song from Genetic Engines’ new EP, Feed My Mind. Please buy it. It’s only four bucks.

I’m also petitioning discerning music lovers to buy Dan Billen’s new EP, Not Alone. Billen is a long-time friend who played bass in The Billions. Since the band broke up, he has quietly sat by as his brother amassed quite a catalog of indie pop. (Truth be known, he and his wife were trying to get their family started, a focus of many of his songs.) Like his best work in The Billions, Not Alone, boasts diverse styles and honest lyrics. Name your price and buy it.

I’m excited to record another episode. It seems like it’s been forever since my last one. I hope you enjoy. (For some reason, WordPress won’t allow me to stream episodes like I used to, so just use the download link at the bottom.)

  1. “Into the Cold” – Genetic Engines (Feed My Mind / independent / 2012)
  2. “When We Come To” – Michael Miller (When We Come To / Shiny Shiny / 2003)
  3. “Flying Backwards” – Doug Gillard (Malamute Jute / Cushion Records / 1998)
  4. “Let a Dreamer Dream” – Dan Billen (Not Alone/ independent / 2012)
  5. “See Right Through Me” – The Bats (Free All the Monsters / Flying Nun / 2011)

Radio Free Raytown – Episode #106 (7/20/12)

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Episode 105: A Glimmer of LIght

Sam Billen, c.1997

I had imagined a grandiose introduction this week, but after several attempts at editing, I give up.

I think I’ve known Sam Billen for over a decade. I consider his brother and father family, too. They’re pretty much the only reason one would ever want to visit Topeka. Except for hot pickles.

Sam has nearly completed a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the mastering and manufacturing of his new record, Places. He has about ‘$800 left in this final week for the campaign. As a way to publicly thank him for his great music through the years and as a way to get the word out about his new record, I devote this week’s show to his songs. Enjoy.

  1. “Headphones and Cellphones” – Sam Billen (Headphones and Cellphones | The Record Machine | 2009)
  2. “I Found a Way” – The Billens (Trash and Treasure | Northern Records | 2005)
  3. “Invisible Game” – Sam Billen (Miracles | Northern Records | 2004)
  4. “Someday You’ll Regret” – The Billions (demo recording for Trash and Treasure | c.2004)
  5. “My Life” – The Billions (Never Felt this Way Before | Northern Records | 2003)
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1415312/105radiofreeraytown.mp3″

Radio Free Raytown – Episode #105 (6/8/12)

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Episode 104: Take your brain, it’s time to go!

Guided By Voices’ difficult yet well-executed 1994 album, Bee Thousand.

Summer school starts next week, and I’m teaching seventh and eighth grade math. I anticipate it’ll be a busy June.

With this week off between the end of the school year and the beginning of summer school, I’ve watched my son and listened to a ton of music. Fueled by our purchase of tickets to see Guided By Voices in September, making a mix CD of Pollard-related tunes and a friend finding a lot of 36 Guided By Voices-related CD’s for $60 on the internet, much of this listening has been to Guided By Voices, Robert Pollard and Boston Spaceships. I’m kind of a nerd, but Pollard can deliver a killer pop hook when he wants to. He’s also quite the wordsmith, when he puts his mind to it.

Anyway, I know you want the goods, so here goes.

  1. “Something to Say” – The Action (Rolled Gold | Parasol | 2002)
  2. “Brain” – The Action (Rolled Gold | Parasol | 2002)
  3. “Somebody Made for Me” – Emitt Rhodes (Emitt Rhodes | Dunhill | 1970)
  4. “Echos Myron” – Guided By Voices (Bee Thousand | Scat | 1994)
  5. “The Unsinkable Fats Domino” – Guided By Voices (Let’s Go Eat the Factory | Guided By Voices Inc. | 2012)
  6. “Wild” – Beach House (Bloom | Sub Pop | 2012)

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1415312/104radiofreeraytown.mp3″

Radio Free Raytown – Episode #104 (6/1/12)

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Episode 103: The Hymns You Hide

When I get in a musical rut, it sucks for everyone in my life. I’ve been listening to a Nick Drake album every night before bed for the past two weeks. (I think Pink Moon has narrowly beat out Bryter Layter, but that’s probably because it’s a quieter album, more suitable for bedtime listening.) I’ve also found Gary Murray’s music chill and perfect for Ian’s early morning feedings.

At any rate, I’ve been so busy. No time to write much of an introduction this week, so just enjoy the music.

  1. “Horn” – Nick Drake (Pink Moon / Island / 1972)
  2. “Things Behind the Sun” – Nick Drake (Pink Moon / Island / 1972)
  3. “Could This Be True” – LN (Plum Brook / Velvet Blue Music / 1999)
  4. “This is How I Feel” – Derri Daugherty (Clouds Echo in Blue / Galaxy 21 / 2012)
  5. “Cure for This” – Golden Smog (Another Fine Day / Lost Highway / 2006)
  6. “Origins” – Tennis (Young and Old / Fat Possum / 2012)
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1415312/103radiofreeraytown.mp3″

Radio Free Raytown – Episode #103 (5/11/12)

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Episode 102: Milestones

I can still remember the day I coerced Tim into buying his first Miles Davis album. We were visiting Earwaxx Records, and I showed him to a couple crates in the back filled with 60’s and 70’s jazz records. Most were marginal efforts by washed-up cats trying to make a go at the easy listening market, but I had found a few gems. One such gem was Bitches Brew, Miles’ head-first dive into fusion and tape edits and manipulation. The double album was only $12, and I knew my friend needed it.


Several records sit next to Tim’s turntable. It gives a peek into what he’s recently played or, like the radio stations of yore, his heavy rotation. While the stack always changes, one constant remains: Bitches Brew. He told me he has to listen to it once a week. (He listens to it so much, in fact, that he bought another copy!)

It probably didn’t take you 101 episodes to realize I’m excited to help others discover an artist. I’m especially happy when it’s a jazz artist. See, anxiety seems to mount when the discussion turns from post-punk (or whatever I’m blathering about at the time) to jazz. It’s almost as if jazz is a menu at an Ethiopian restaurant: no one knows what he’s ordering, and no one knows what to do with it once it arrives.

I certainly get people’s trepidation; jazz can be heady. In the 20 years after World War II, virtually all big bands went the way of the dinosaur. Small combos took their place, allowing artist-composers freedom to write more complex tunes. Eventually, jazz became polarized. Either the artists played free or they boasted in their ability to improve in a certain mode and in a time signature in opposition to the rhythm section. Either extreme scares off most of my friends.

But it doesn’t have to be this way, and I think Miles Davis’ work proves this. He could be, at once, complex and accessible. The problem with his vast catalog is knowing where to start. Hopefully I can give you a few starting points this week. Enjoy.

  1. “Circle” – Miles Davis Quintet (Miles Smiles | Columbia | 1967)
  2. “Milestones” – Miles Davis (Milestones | Columbia | 1958)
  3. “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down” – Miles Davis (Bitches Brew | Columbia | 1970)
  4. “Prelude (Part One)” – Miles Davis (Agharta | Columbia | 1975)

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1415312/102radiofreeraytown.mp3″

Radio Free Raytown – Episode #102 (4/27/12)

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