Tag Archives: radio free raytown

After everything.

Personalities of its members aside, The Church is my ideal band. In the past 35 or so years, it has matured from jangly post-punk to a mix of psychedelia, ambient and dreampop. To me, the romantic ideal of a two-guitar band is embodied in The Church, as the guitarists refused to adopt the usual lead/rhythm guitarist roles. Both Peter Koppes and Marty Wilson-Piper interwove lead riffs and panned them hard-right and left. (Sadly, Wilson-Piper is no longer a member of the band.)

Last weekend, I fell back into After Everything Now This, my favorite album by The Church. The band had started falling into the usual trap of recording covers and endless jams, and After Everything Now This marked a return to songwriting. While it’s not necessarily the band’s best or most historically important record, it was the first album by The Church that I bought on its release day. The riffs (especially on this almost-title cut) bring back that warm feeling of basking in the summer sun in my Ford Aspire and impatiently waiting for the air conditioning to finally get cool.

Guess I could say more, but why don’t you just listen to the song for yourself?

 

 

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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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Top Ten Favorites Albums of 2013

Album release gimmicks were the thing in 2013. While I like the idea of making a release more of an event than just a drop date on iTunes, few of those hyped-up records interested me. (The most notable exception being The Next Day.) I like the personal interaction and support my wife and I have given artists this year. I’ve found that commitment to their music through Kickstarter campaigns and concert attendance endear these records to me more than any publicity stunt ever could.

Obviously, I didn’t listen to every record released in 2013, but I tried. Sure, other great albums were released this year, but whatever. People always want me to generate lists, of course these lists are always flawed, people invariably ridicule me for music I admit to enjoying, I hate committing to lists, but whatever, you get the picture. I have once again acquiesced. I love these albums, and so should you.

Here are my ten favorite albums from 2013, in no particular order:

1. Black Hearted Brother – Stars Are Our Home
2. Bowie, David – The Next Day
3. Crocodiles – Crimes of Passion
4. Daniel Amos – Dig Here, Said the Angel
5. Deafheaven – Sunbather
6. Flaming Lips, The – The Terror
7. Holograms – Forever
8. Hopkins, Jon – Immunity
9. Iceage – You’re Nothing
10. Laner, Brad – Nearest Suns
11. Mary Onettes, The – Hit the Waves
12. Medicine – To the Happy Few
13. My Bloody Valentine – mbv
14. Phillips, Sam – Push Any Button
15. Shorter, Wayne – Without a Net
16. Starflyer 59 – IAMACEO
17. True Widow – Circumambulation
18. Veronica Falls – Waiting for Something to Happen
19. Witmer, Denison – Denison Witmer
20. Yo La Tengo – Fade

 

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The most important Miles Davis record (for me).

During my last few years in college, I’d occasionally housesit for a professor and his wife. These jobs provided opportunities to escape my stressful home life and for me to catch up on reading and cable television. During one of my stays at their River Market loft, I watched a documentary on sixties’ psychedelia. I don’t remember much about that VH1 show, except a closing montage of classic psychedelic albums. Taking its place among the famous British invasion albums was Miles in the Sky. At that point, I knew nothing about Miles Davis, except that he played trumpet. But the cover was so cool that I knew I needed to locate it right away.

When I found the CD, I was shocked by what I encountered. The drums in stereo sounded like nothing I’d ever heard before. Perhaps, more precisely, Tony Williams’ cymbal playing was unlike anything I had heard before. At times, it almost sounded like the band had two drummers.

While not my favorite Davis record, it’s certainly the most important for me. It propelled me into his and his bandmates’ catalogs. It also introduced me to long songs; this was at least two years before I discovered progressive rock. Unlike most albums, the surprising thing about Miles in the Sky is that I can listen to it today and have some of the same impressions as when I first played it.

The first track, “Stuff,” was my first encounter with jazz fusion. It was also Miles’ first real foray into fusion, with electric keyboard and bass. Wayne Shorter’s tenor saxophone sounds so distant, so cold and harsh. (Later, I’d learn he was playing through an amp.) Ron Carter’s bass playing on this track still blows my mind. Playing more in the mid-range of the instrument, he often implies the groove instead of explicitly stating it.

“Paraphernalia” was my first dive into the deep pool of Wayne Shorter compositions. Now, it sounds to me like so many of his other great compositions. Back then, however, its floating, esoteric melody just seemed weird. Inviting, but still weird. I believe too much ink has been spilled debating whether he’s a better writer or improviser; this song proves he’s great at both. I think his solo may be as memorable as the head. Of course, it helps that he uses the old trick of restating bits of the melody in his solo, which helps ground his improvisation.

The most swinging cut on the album, “Black Comedy,” inspired me to play drums. I’m sure I’ll never play like Tony Williams, but I sure can pretend. I was immediately taken by his overuse of the high-hat and weird turnarounds. Probably the most accessible (or short) track on the album, this track found its way onto numerous mix tapes in college.

The last song, “Country Son,” is so weird. Without any discernible melody, the master and alternate takes included on the CD sound completely different. The meandering feel of the composition seems emphasized by Davis and Shorter, who sound like they’re wandering around the studio as they play.

All that said, maybe Miles in the Sky sucks and you should check out Kind of Blue or Bitches Brew first. I just feel too close to the record to be objective. Because it was in constant rotation around the time my parents split, it just sounds to me like their divorce. I feel a longing in its grooves and an aching transcendence in its melodies. And that’s why, after amassing most of his catalog, it continues to the most important Miles Davis record for me.

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Rotation (1/21/13)

Long before last.fm, Instagram and Facebook sharing, an important tool in musical discovery on the internet was through the sharing of rotations on message boards and email discussion lists. Inspired by radio stations that would post the singles currently in rotation, people would share lists of recently played albums.

While they could be perceived as exercises in elitism or narcissism, these lists also served as recommendations (for albums that required years of scouring local record stores). Hopefully this list is helpful, as not everything I listen to can be scrobbled.

Just a list, in no particular order, of what I’ve been listening to over the past two weeks or so.

10. The Bears for Lunch – Guided by Voices (Guided by Voices / 2012)
9. Coltrane – John Coltrane (Impulse! / 1962)
8. Opus de Jazz – Milt Jackson (Savoy / 1956)
7. Third Stream Music – The Modern Jazz Quartet + Guests (Atlantic / 1960)
6. Out of the Woods – Tracey Thorn (Astralwerks / 2007)
5. It’s a Jungle in Here – Medeski, Martin and Wood (Ryko / 1993)
4. Car Alarm – The Sea and Cake (Thrill Jockey / 2008)
3. A Smattering of Outtakes and Rarities – Yo La Tengo (Matador / 2005)
2. Low – David Bowie (RCA / 1977)
1. Stage – David Bowie (RCA / 1978)

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Top 12 of 2012

I’ve a penchant for flippant hyperbole. But when it comes to honestly making lists of favorite albums from any given year, it can take me forever. Unlike years past when I waited a couple months to post my lists, I’ve only missed my self-imposed New Year’s deadline by a few days, so I consider this progress.

I do know some people take my recommendations seriously, so I’ve really put some thought into this list. This is not necessarily what I consider to be last year’s best albums. It’s simply a list of the ones I enjoyed the most in 2012. With seemingly everyone on Spotify or Rdio these days, I hope you all can listen to most of these (multiple times each). If you don’t have access to those services, I’ve included links to a choice song from each album. Enjoy.

12. Dumb Gold by Motel Beds

Another year, another record from another Dayton band that I adore. Maybe it’s too simplistic to say that Motel Beds are a combination of The Ventures and T. Rex, but that’s not too far off, either. If they make a record next year, I’m sure it’ll be in my year-end list then, as well.

Song: Valentimes

11. The Bears for Lunch by Guided by Voices

I thought that, when bands reunite, they’re supposed to just tour and play their hits. Never would I imagine that Guided by Voices’ classic, early-nineties lineup could reunite and release three(!) albums of new material in one year. Then again, I guess most bands don”t have a super-prolific songwriter like Robert Pollard. The Bears for Lunch is its third, and most consistent, album of the year. Not surprisingly, the band is preparing a new EP and full-length album for next year…

Song: The Challenge is Much More

10. Departure Songs by Hammock

A friend characterized Hammock’s music as “post-rock version of The Church,” which sounds as good as any description to me. This record finds the band at its most epic and lush, nearly beating Sigur Ros and M83 at their game. A full two discs in length, Departure Songs is an exhausting, yet very rewarding listen if you don’t mind losing yourself in endlessly reverberating guitars and sweeping orchestrations.

Song: Ten Thousand Years Won’t Save Your Life

9. Dwarf Mountain Alphabet by Joy Electric

I’m pretty sure Ronnie Martin is the only guy out there making synthpop with only analog synthesizers. No drum machines or computers here. If his work ethic alone doesn’t convince you, know that he has delivered his most focused and dancey collection of pop songs since 1997’s Robot Rock. Oh yeah, and his vocals have never sounded better.

Song: Whose Voice Will Not be Heard

8. Shields by Grizzly Bear

I don’t care how predictable Grizzly Bear’s spot in my year-end lists is becoming; I love this band. At the heart of its best songs is a folky-pop thing that I adore. Of course, the band dresses it up with great drumming, lush background vocals and thoughtful horn/string arrangements. I think Grizzly Bear occasionally gets backlash because of its rising popularity and the fact that Ed Droste’s vocals sound so good. Oh, that more bands pay such attention to arrangements, harmonies and lyrics!

Song: Yet Again

7. Lonerism by Tame Impala

Trailing close behind my love for great songwriting is weird sounds. On its last album, Innerspeaker, Tame Impala delivered psychedelia and killer guitar jams. This time around, the band uses more synthesizers and plays up its Paul McCartney and Todd Rundgren influences. A weird and totally perfect album.

Song: Mind Mischief

6. Melody’s Echo Chamber by Melody’s Echo Chamber

So Melody Prochet worked with Australian band, Tame Impala, to make a sugary pop record. Except that, around the seventh track, the band derails the process and the album drops off a cliff into fuzzy, new wave-influenced psychedelia. And it’s beautiful.

Song: I Follow You

5. Places by Sam Billen

I guess admiration could muck up our friendship, but I’ve always envied Sam’s songwriting and musicianship. Songs like “It’s My Life” and “Someday You’ll Regret” that he wrote for his old band, The Billions, were monumental in my personal and musical discovery/development. While I’ve loved his solo recordings up to this point, they’ve never captured the magic of the demo CDs he recorded ten years ago. But this year, Places did it for me. I feel like Sam has finally captured my feeling of driving off from The Billions’ farmhouse, playing one of his collections of mature, difficult songs and rupturing my cerebellum. I love you, Sam.

Song: It’s Not a Lie

4. >> by Beak

Beak, a side project of Portishead’s Geoff Barrow, is quickly becoming a favorite band. It plays to the right influences, most notably Neu! and Syd Barrett. (And you should know that I love Krautrock. Neu!, Cosmic Jokers and Agitation Free are some of my all-time favorite bands.) With vocals taking a backseat to some luminous, motorik grooves, this is perfect music for 2:00 am.

Song: Wulfstan II

3. Kill for Love by Chromatics

Come on now, how can you make an album of hazy, eighties Italian disco with reverb-drenched guitars and expect me not to like it?

Song: The Page

2. Bloom by Beach House

I’ve followed Beach House since its first record, so Bloom didn’t really come out of nowhere for me. I can’t help but feel like this dreampop fad in indie rock might be just a little too trendy. Just as long as bands remember to match the sound with great songs, I’m okay with more albums like this.

Song: Other People

1. Nootropics by Lower Dens

I’m not sure why it’s suddenly hip to sound like a Krautrock band, but I like it. While I loved Bloom by Beach House, Nootropics was just more dark and murky and German, tipping the scales for me. True, I found it to be one of the year’s least-immediate albums, but all that extra work I’ve put into understanding it has made it my favorite of 2012.

Song: Brains

Honorable mentions (or albums that I liked and don’t want to not mention in this blog post): Attack on Memory by Cloud Nothings, The Loudest Sound Ever Heard by The Choir, Until the Quiet Comes by Flying Lotus, Sweet Heart Sweet Light by Spiritualized, Oshin by Diiv, Plumb by Field Music, and My Height in Heels by She Does is Magic.

Stuff I didn’t hear in 2012 (but would probably make my list if I had):Europe by Allo Darlin’, Wild Peace by Echo Lake, Cancer for Cure by El-P, Ark by Halls and Nocturne by Wild Nothing.

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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 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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Raytown stuff.

There are a couple events you should know about.

The city of Raytown is holding its annual clean up day on May 5 from 8:00am-3:00pm at Super Splash. Not only is this a great opportunity to get rid of your junk, but it’s also a great chance volunteer for a worthwhile cause. (As always, if you have unwanted psychedelic rock or jazz fusion records, do not take them to this clean-up day. Please set them on my patio.) The city has posted a flyer with the details here.

Also, Mid-Continent Public Library and Cintas are holding a shred event on April 27 from 1:00-5:00pm. I broke my friend’s shredder, so a box in my garage has been filling up with papers to shred. Oh yeah, this service is free. And yes, I’m going to post a link where you can find more information for this event, as well.

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