Parkland Strong: A Special Night With Ska Legends The Specials At Brooklyn Steel

The Specials hosted Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students and parents at their show at Brooklyn Steel. The Brit ska legends were touring in support of Encore, the band’s first new music with vocalist Terry Hall since 1981. Artist/activist Manuel Oliver, whose son Joaquin was one of the 17 students killed in last year’s Parkland, Fla., shooting, spoke to the sold-out crowd, and the Specials—including protester/activist Saffiyah Khan—incorporated the Instrument Of Hope (a trumpet made by survivors of the shooting from bullet casings) into their set. MAGNET photographer Wes Orshoski was there for this special(s) evening.

Essential New Music: Chris Brokaw’s “End Of The Night”

If you need some music made to order, guitarist Chris Brokaw is your man. He can play all the tricky parts for Evan Dando, match blue note for blue note with Thalia Zadek in Come, score your movie and then turn around and make a set of solo classical-guitar interpretations of David Bowie and Prince songs. Once he knows the plan, he gets to work.

End Of The Night was born from a challenge: Make the last record you’d want to play at the end of the night. Ah, but what kind of night are we talking about? Each of this LP’s 10 tracks could work as a solitary nightcap for a particular situation. If you’re full of regret, listen to “Our Fathers” as you mumble your prayers. If you gotta go, let the stolid cadence and wide-screen-worthy, echoing lead of “Step Outside” ring out while you put on your 10-gallon hat and step into the inky night. Want to have some company? Bat your best bedroom eyes to “The Dip.” But if you’re turning the corner from latest night to early morning, put the whole thing on and let Brokaw’s reverberant guitar and the melancholy trumpet of Greg Kelley (Heathen Shame, Damon & Naomi) prop you up on either side as you fade away. End Of The Night delivers just what it promises.

—Bill Meyer 

There’s No Leaving New York: The National’s Never Ending Tour Hits Brooklyn

The National is easy to find. Matt Berninger and the brothers Dessner (Aaron and Bryce) and Devendorf (Bryan and Scott) are always on tour. Case in point: Earlier this year, the band played our hometown of Philly three times in less than a month. MAGNET photographer Chris Sikich caught up with the National at 2019’s Celebrate Brooklyn (with Courtney Barnett opening), thinking nobody else would be there. He was wrong.

Courtney Barnett

MAGNET Exclusive: Premiere Of Ummagma’s “High Day” Video

On July 26, Ummagma will release Compass (Leonard Skully), the third album from the Canada/Ukraine husband-and-wife duo and first in seven years. Now based in Ontario, Alexander Kretov and Shauna McLarnon met in Moscow in 2003 and began a romantic and musical partnership. The dozen-track Compass follows two 2017 EPs, LCD (with Cocteau Twin Robin Guthrie and Curve’s Dean Garcia) and Winter Tale (with A.R. Kane). One of the new LP’s standouts is lead single “High Day.”

Says McLarnon of the track, “It’s one of those ‘accidental songs’ that were created under odd circumstances. We were going through a tense time, living between two cities and seeing each other only when commuting ‘home’ with our daughter for the weekend. Something happened to cause us to fight; I don’t even remember what exactly and we were not talking to each other, but ended up having a guest come over—another musician. We took turns entertaining him because we didn’t want to be in the same room as each other. I hadn’t been singing anything for a few months at this point, and my husband found me singing with this guest upon returning. He took out the hand-held recorder and captured this improvisation. Later, upon playback, we knew that a song needed to be born, and we at least had an idea of the chords and stylings needed.”

So not only did McLarnon and Kretov get a song out of their quarrel, they also were able to use it to move past the argument itself. “It was a song of apology and awakening,” says McLarnon. “Not to say ‘I’m sorry for what I did or said,’ but to admit how stupid it was that we could both let something so small stand in the way of something so huge—that being us, our music and our family. This song helped us move past this to restore equilibrium in our relationship—and got me singing and writing again. This was our ‘High Day,’ and now it’s your ‘High Day,’ too.” 

We’re proud to premiere the Kretov-directed video for “High Day” today on magnetmagazine.com. Check it out now.

MP3 At 3PM: Katie Rose

“Beginnings” is the latest from singer/songwriter Katie Rose, who we first profiled three years ago. Rose started her career in 2011 when she was only 13, so she’s already a vet now that she’s hit the legal drinking age. “Beginnings” starts off sounding a lot like a fairytale movie but progresses into something reminiscent of a Broadway musical. Rose’s soft voice matches the initial simplicity of the tune, but as the song unfolds, both come out of their shell. “Beginnings” proves there’s definitely more special music to come from this determined young songwriter.

“Beginnings” (download):

The Edge Of 17: Teenage Sensation Billie Eilish Comes Out To Philly To Play

“It” 17-year-old pop star Billie Eilish just wrapped up the North American leg of her When We All Fall Asleep Tour. The energetic, 19-song performance from California’s scary sweetheart at the Met in Philly definitely had the adoring crowd wide awake, as did the opening set by Denzel Curry. MAGNET photographer Chris Sikich was there—and was sad when the party was over.

Denzel Curry

MP3 At 3PM: Zoe Konez

South London singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/producer/promoter Zoe Konez is the epitome of a hands-on musician. Bringing her inspiration wherever she goes, Konez spends a lot of time making music for and with people who have faced challenging circumstances. In addition to her solo work, Konez continues to write and perform with Catbear, her most excellent duo with Sarah Smith. And Konez is also very active in the LGBTQ+ community. “We Got Lost” is her latest solo single, and it’s a folky psychedelic winner. Download and/or stream it below.

“We Got Lost” (download):

A Conversation With MIYAVI

As a guitarist, vocalist, actor, model and humanitarian, Japanese artist Takamasa “MIYAVI” Ishihara is a hyphenate extraordinaire, thrilling audiences worldwide with his unique and virtuosic slap-style approach to the guitar and his passionate performances in films such as 2014’s Unbroken (directed by Angelina Jolie and co-written by the Coen brothers). The 37-year-old MIYAVI shows no signs of slowing down, as he has a new LP (his 11th), No Sleep Till Tokyo, due out July 24, a summer North American tour and a role in the Jolie-starring Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil, in theaters this October.

The new album is fantastic. The lead-off track, “Stars,” seems like a quintessential MIYAVI song, with funky slap guitar, huge choruses and a synth-like 8-bit guitar lead. Your last two albums were collaborative efforts with other artists. Please talk a little about your vision for this LP. Does the title No Sleep Till Tokyo have anything to do with the fact that between recording, touring, acting and your other work, you seem like a man always on the go?
Thank you. My last two albums were collaborative projects, and it was an inspiring process to learn from such a diverse group of talented and innovative artists. As a guitarist, I have always enjoyed performing with great singers/rappers. However, for this new record, I wanted to focus on creating something 100% within MIYAVI’s world. As a Japanese artist, I have kind of been rediscovering the greatness of Japan especially after I moved to Los Angeles. Moving away gave me a new appreciation for how great and unique Japan really is. For example, I have tried to sing in English in the past but realized that I prefer to sing in my native tongue. I am encouraged by hearing songs in Spanish and Korean on the radio today. As long as a track has a high sound quality, foreign audiences are more willing to be open to your music in a different language.

In the videos I’ve seen online, your slap-guitar technique always catches people off guard; it’s so innovative. I believe you developed this style of playing pretty early on and that you might have been influenced by the sound of the shamisen. Is that correct?
Yes, I got the fundamental idea from the shamisen, which is a traditional Japanese guitar. As a Japanese guitarist, it was important to me to find my own distinct style different from any other guitarists, and so I started slapping the strings. I was also influenced by great bass players such as Marcus Miller, Larry Graham and Louis Johnson. It’s all about the passion you put into every slap. 

Your music is very original but also blends many styles from funk to hip hop to rock … I even hear some blues changes in an older song like “What’s My Name?” Please talk a bit about how you compose songs and your approach to mixing different influences together.
It’s important to evolve as an artist and to continue to challenge myself to record new styles of music. Otherwise, I run the risk of getting stuck in a box, and that would be boring.

“Butterfly,” from the new album, really grooves. I don’t think of you as an artist who writes songs for the dancefloor, but that’s probably putting your music into a box. I’m guessing you don’t think of your music as belonging to just one genre. Is that the case?
Correct. I just go with the flow. It’s all about a message and a groove. People wanna sing and dance. As a creator, it’s my job to capture the listener’s attention while relaying a greater message across through my music.

The song “Samurai” talks about “doing it like a samurai” and that it’s “all or nothing ‘til I make it.” The word “samurai” conjures up certain images among western audiences that are probably not culturally accurate. I know you are sometimes billed as the samurai guitarist. Are you talking about yourself on the track, your audience or both? And what’s the meaning behind this particular tune?
An attitude. “Samurai” is such a serious word for us Japanese, and I don’t want to use this word without any purpose. On this track, I just wanted to sing about an attitude and determination. Focus and dedication. Loyalty used to be the most important value to my people, but that’s changed. True value is always inside you, and a dedication to that life motto is the beauty of Japanese culture.

As a guitar player, you embrace a wide variety of tones from acoustic to Telecaster twang to the processed sound on your leads. Am I hearing the new Fender Acoustasonic on some of the tracks?
Yeah, the Fender Acoustasonic is an incredibly unique instrument that has both acoustic and electric qualities. When I first played the Acoustasonic, I was blown away by this guitar’s potential.  Throughout music history, there has always been cooperation between artists and guitar brands to create new tools. I really appreciate Fender’s creative spirit and the company’s desire to challenge musicians by developing innovative products. 

When it comes to percussion and beats, you’re not afraid to use acoustic or programmed drums. Is it a question of using whatever best suits the song? By the way, I love that you added in the early-’80s Syndrums on “Under The Same Sky.” So cool!
Thank you. I have been trying to make some new guitar-oriented music for the current generation. It’s hard to make rock ‘n’ roll fresh, and so I try to innovate while also paying respects to all the rock stars who paved the path for us. Now it’s our responsibility to record music that can be a bridge to the next generation. On “Under The Same Sky,” I tried to sing mostly in Japanese as a message to all my fans who have been so supportive over the years. Even if you are away from whom you love, you feel close when you realize that we are all under the same sky. Sometimes we share pictures of our skies so that we feel close knowing that we are living on Earth.

Speaking of percussion, in the more recent live clips I’ve seen, you have a pretty minimal setup with just a drummer, a DJ and backup singers. That would seem to put a lot of pressure on your guitar work, which has to cover much of the rhythm and melody parts by itself. What attracts you to this arrangement?
I’m not afraid to use any recorded track for my shows. The most important thing for me to share with the audience is passion and explosion at every single moment through a performance. I play the guitar, sing, perform, jump and dance. Everything I can do to be connected with the audience. That’s my mission every time when I hit the stage. I’m not just a guitarist. 

OK, last question. Who do you think will win in next year’s Godzilla Vs. Kong movie? It’s too bad they couldn’t find a way to bring your Kong: Skull Island character Gunpei Ikari back from the dead for the sequel!
It’s really cool to see iconic Japanese brands like Godzilla cross-over culturally. Feel free to start a petition to bring my character back from the dead!

—Bruce Fagerstrom

In The News: Ty Segall, Pixies, Adam Green, Redd Kross, Bat For Lashes, Jesse Malin, Hiss Golden Messenger And More

Former MAGNET cover star Ty Segall will give you a First Taste on August 2 courtesy of Drag City … Speaking of former MAGNET cover stars: The seventh Pixies album, Beneath The Eyrie, is out September 13 via Infectious/BMG in a multitude of formats and editions … Adam Greenthe funniest MAGNET guest editor of all time—is back September 6 with a new LP, Engine Of Paradise (30th Century), and a graphic novel, War And Paradise … Speaking of former MAGNET guest editors: On August 23, Redd Kross will release Beyond The Door (Merge), the band’s first new LP in seven years … Bat For Lashes has announced fifth album Lost Girls, out September 6 via AWAL … The Lucinda Williams-produced Sunset Kids is Jesse Malin‘s first LP since 2015’s Outsiders, and it’s in stores August 30 via Wicked Cool/The Orchard/Velvet Elk … Another first album in four years: Lower DensThe Competition, out September 6 on Ribbon Music … Terms Of Surrender, the latest from the very prolific Hiss Golden Messenger, will be released September 20 by Merge … Fans of Slowdive and Mojave 3 take note: The Soft Cavalry (featuring Rachel Goswell) has released its self-titled debut album on Bella Union, while HOO (featuring Ian McCutcheon) has issued debut Centipede Wisdom on Graveface.

High Hopes: Florence + The Machine Delivers A Sky Full Of Songs

Florence + The Machine just finished up leg five of the High As Hope tour (U.S., Canada and Mexico), which started almost a year ago, just after the band’s fourth album was released. The jaunt concludes late September with two shows at the almost 2,000-year-old Herodion Theatre in Athens, Greece. MAGNET photographer Chris Sikich caught up with Ms. Welch and band at Columbia, Md.’s Merriweather Post Pavilion, which turns 52 on Sunday.

Blood Orange

Essential New Music: House And Land’s “Across The Field”

House And Land’s second album defies any notions of a sophomore jinx by topping its already impressive predecessor. The North Carolina duo of Sally Anne Morgan (voice, banjo, fiddle) and Sarah Louise (voice, guitar, woodwinds) started out with a determination to embroider their various contemporary concerns without compromising the spirit of their Appalachian folk material. If 2017’s self-titled debut proved you can reconcile songs fashioned before the advent of rural electrification with feminist and minimalist concepts, Across The Field shows that such material can be also be vehicle for a musician’s personal evolution.

Morgan’s an old pro at folk music—if you need a square-dance caller, she’s for hire—but her bowing alternately roughens and smoothens the textures while articulating bold melodical maneuvers around the vocal harmonies, which root the music in earlier times. Louise has evolved rapidly from her early guise as an acoustic guitarist and occasional singer working out of the American Primitive playbook to a flexible rocker, improviser and folk singer equally comfortable in plugged-in and voltage-free environments; these advancements are evident during the LP’s extended instrumental passages and expanded instrumentation. Instead of bridging past and present, House And Land lays the foundation for a great future on Across The Field.

—Bill Meyer

Fast And Frightening: The Re-Formed L7 Is Still A Rockin’ Machine

The infamous grunge/punk ladies in L7 just completed a North American tour not only supporting new album (and first in two decades) Scatter The Rats (Blackheart) but also celebrating the 25th anniversary of Hungry For Stink (one of the best LP titles of all time). If that wasn’t enough, the fearless foursome brought along our faves Le Butcherettes to open at Union Transfer. MAGNET photographer Chris Sikich was there and smelled the magic.

Le Butcherettes

Q&A With Travis’ Fran Healy

Looking back, Travis frontman Fran Healy is still in awe of the enormous U.K. love fest touched off by 1999’s The Man Who—its first kiss embodied by the Scottish outfit’s breakthrough performance at Glastonbury that same year. Craft Recordings has just released a 16-track document of the Glastonbury show, along with an expanded 20th-anniversary reissue of The Man Who, one of the finest albums of the millennium’s first decade. The Glastonbury renditions of The Man Who tracks lack some of the drama and subtlety of their studio counterparts, mainly for reasons Healy explains below. But the massive progression from the charming-yet-indistinct Britpop of its self-titled debut is evident. With help from producers Mike Hedges and Nigel Godrich, Travis locked into the vaguely theatrical loud/soft dynamic that would serve the band well for the next several years.

MAGNET touched base with Healy, who reflects on The Man Who’s 2.8 million units sold, the perceived shit show that was Glastonbury and the group’s more personal connection to American audiences.

As reissues go, the Glastonbury performance makes a nice companion piece to The Man Who.
At the time, we thought Glastonbury was shit. We thought we’d blown it. We left the stage patting each other on the back … like, “Better luck next time, guys.” And we got on our buses and went home.

Apparently, there were those who felt otherwise.
I remember walking through the front door after the show, switching on my television and hearing my name before I even had a chance to sit on the sofa. There were these two BBC Radio 2 presenters sitting around a campfire at Glastonbury waxing about how wonderful our performance was. And then they showed a clip of our performance, and I was like, “Wow, this is pretty good actually.”

What bothered you most about the show when you walked offstage?
There were two things. First, I couldn’t hear myself onstage. Imagine feeling the vibration in your throat and your teeth and your mouth, but the sound is being sucked away by the volume. It’s the weirdest feeling. When I finally got in-ear monitors, it really saved my life. Before that, I’d come offstage after every single show totally depressed because I didn’t know whether I was in tune or out of tune. It probably ruined about 10 years’ worth of gigs for me. The second thing was that it pissed on everyone. We looked at the audience and thought, “This is going to crap because it’s raining.” Everyone looked pretty miserable.

Twenty years later, what’s your perspective on The Man Who?
The Man Who was the first big comedown record from Britpop—the hangover. It introduced people to this less arrogant, more introspective sound. On our first record, there was AC/DC, Oasis, a bit of everything. But at the end of (1997’s) Good Feeling, you begin to hear what we’d become. It weaves very nicely into The Man Who.

What are a few memories that stick out from the recording of The Man Who?
We started out with Mike Hedges. We wanted to work with Nigel (Godrich), but he was recording Kid A at that point, so he was super-busy. Mike is a veteran producer who did the Manic Street Preachers and all the early Cure stuff. The stuff didn’t quite hit the ground running like we wanted it to, but we did keep the vocals from “Turn” and “Why Does It Always Rain On Me?” from that session because they were really special. Then we did get Nigel involved, and the first thing we recorded, I think, was “Writing To Reach You.” I remember sitting behind him and watching him get a sound together in the studio—he didn’t even have an assistant engineer. He was soundchecking the drums with Neil (Primrose), and he’d say, “Could you hit the snare drum?’ Then he’d say, “Stop,” go move the mic about two millimeters and come back and say, “Hit it again.” He’d do this about six times until the mic was in the perfect position. Bare in mind that he did that with absolutely everything, and there was no EQ anywhere on the board—it was all mic position. I remember being like, “Wow, he hasn’t touched a single knob. He’s just listening.” Another big part of his technique is that he gets the band to play together. He records the take and tweaks tiny little bits of it. It’s all about the performance with him.

The Radiohead connection must’ve loomed large, yes?
For us, OK Computer was such a massive record, and Nigel and I were getting along really well. So it was nice having a laugh and hanging out while I was watching one of the greatest engineers who’ve ever lived.

It seems like, with The Man Who, the Travis sound came into full focus.
We weren’t really trying to go out and find a sound. But I remember opening the front door of my house in London and my two managers standing in the doorway like tax collectors. We were getting to the end of recording, and they sat down and said, “Listen, the album is quite depressing. Could you write a couple of singles?” So I went away, and the first one I wrote was “The Blue Light,” which is about domestic violence in a cul-de-sac in northern England—not really single material. But “Driftwood” did come out of that. If you have a good song to record, it will make you sound like it wants you to sound. We had those songs for The Man Who.

Does it bother you that the album didn’t do nearly as well here as it did in the U.K.?
Epic initially passed on it. Then it came out in Britain in May 1999, and three months later, we were up to 300,000 records. By Christmas, we were up to 1.5 million. Then Epic said, “Well, maybe you can come over here and try to do this thing.” In the UK, Travis became so fucking massive so quickly. One in six households had The Man Who, and the press hated us because we were so massive. We were getting played too much on the radio. We came to America almost a year later. But the interesting thing is that we never crossed over. We were this little island that a lot of people clambered onto to get away from Limp Bizkit and Britney Spears. Our career in England should’ve been what our career was in America. I’m not complaining—don’t get me wrong. But we reside in a really nice locale in America. People were desperate for something that wasn’t shit in the late 1990s, and we were lucky and honored enough make that record.

—Hobart Rowland

Pentagram Delivers Live Rites: Bobby Liebling & The Temple Of Doom Hit NYC

While the rest of the world is sipping natural wine and vaping curated indica at eco-friendly festivals headlined by Ariana Grande, we prefer to spend our summer nights pounding Lemmys and smoking skunk weed in small clubs listening to doom metal. (We have our sister magazine Decibel to thank for that.) So when we heard the legendary Pentagram was playing the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn, we couldn’t wait for this day of reckoning. Bobby Liebling and Co. were nothing short of relentless, and MAGNET photographer Wes Orshoski was there for when the screams came.

The Basement Vapes, Volume Seven: By Popular Demand — Lou Reed’s Exquisite Jane

MAGNET’s Mitch Myers explains the confusing history behind “Sweet Jane,” Lou Reed’s often-covered, always-changing ode to rock ‘n’ roll

Le cadavre exquis boira le vin nouveau (The exquisite corpse shall drink the new wine)

A century ago in Paris, several surrealists and other artists devised a parlor game of sorts. The group included André Breton, Yves Tanguy, Marcel Duchamp, Joan Miró and Man Ray. Their collaborative game was called Exquisite Corpse, where images (or words) were devised spontaneously, but assembled by certain rules. One popular method was for someone to draw on a section of a folded piece of paper and have the next participant complete an adjoining section without seeing what was drawn previously, except for the connecting ends. This sharing technique has had many variations over the years and still retains a sense of limitless possibilities. 

Image by Man Ray, Joan Miró, Yves Tanguy and Max Morise

Exquisite Corpse came to mind in 2013 when I was organizing an NPR segment on Lou Reed’s timeless composition “Sweet Jane.” The piece was coming along well until I learned that Billboard editor Joe Levy had just written that exact article. I was a bit bummed, Levy nailed it—tracing the song’s history and mentioning essential versions. Not eager to be deemed redundant, I abandoned the radio segment and tried to forget the idea. 

But still … “Sweet Jane.” The song, to use a 20th-century analogy, is the Cadillac of rock ‘n’ roll tunes. Take it for a spin—the drive is classy, reliable and a little bit pimped out. It’s well built, solid and propulsive—a smooth ride that handles like a dream. The song is actually timeless enough that I’m inspired to take another crack at it, because, like The Dude in The Big Lebowski says, “New shit has come to light.” Well, not brand spanking new, but let’s consider the trajectory of this beloved song one more time.

“Standin’ on the corner, suitcase in my hand”

Lou Reed recorded the earliest version of “Sweet Jane” in 1970 with the Velvet Underground for the band’s fourth and final LP, Loaded. That LP was the group’s swan song—as co-founder John Cale had already departed and Reed would quit the band before the new record was even released.

“Jack is in his corset, Jane is in her vest/And me, I’m in a rock ‘n’ roll band”

Recorded in Manhattan at Atlantic Studios, Loaded was a last-ditch effort by a great band that had always been willfully non-commercial. “Sweet Jane” was a deceptively straightforward tune with a rousing chorus, and the performance was edited heavily with top-40 radio in mind. Indeed, the song’s original bridge was completely deleted in post-production, but with the expanded editions of Loaded available in recent years, we can now consider the various edits and the power of the song’s initial incarnation. 

“Riding in a Stutz Bearcat, Jim/You know, those were different times/All the poets, they studied rules of verse/And those ladies they rolled their eyes”

After a floating, celestial guitar intro, the song draws us in with three chords and a bump while Reed’s roguish street poetry stands out as eternally romantic—young at heart but wise in time. It’s a buoyant ode that celebrates life, love and the pursuit of rock ‘n’ roll, with some third-person omniscience and a bit of cross-dressing domesticity thrown in for good measure. 

“Jack, he is a banker/And Jane, she is a clerk/And both of them save their monies/And when they come home from work”

The song was already part of the VU’s repertoire, and early versions are preserved on both Live At Max’s Kansas City and Velvet Underground Live, as well as several greatest-hits packages. On the anthology NYC Man: The Collection, Reed chose to excise the heavenly guitar intro from the Velvet’s original studio recording. Lord knows why.

“Sittin’ down by the fire, the radio does play/The classical music there, Jim/The March Of The Wooden Soldiers/All you protest kids, you can hear Jack say”

Besides the edits, there’s also the elusive question as to the actual number of chords Reed uses in the song. Is it three? Is it four? As Lou confides to Elvis Costello about the extra “secret chord” on 2010 cable program, Spectacle: Elvis Costello With…, it was really just the luck of the draw between Reed and fellow VU guitarist Sterling Morrison on the day of that 1970 recording session. So that’s how it goes. 

After Reed left the Velvet Underground for a solo career, he was eventually encouraged and endorsed by David Bowie, who produced his notorious Transformer LP in 1972. This was the album featuring Reed’s biggest hit, “Walk On The Wild Side,” and it helped spur the glam-filled androgyny of the decade ahead. Naturally, Reed went out on the road to capitalize on his newfound popularity, and he tried on some transgressive personas in the process. One infamous phase was showcased on 1974 live album Rock N Roll Animal. Boasting the double-barreled firepower of hard-rocking Michigan-based guitarists Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner, that particular tour provided a dumbed-down/amped-up Lou Reed show that even a Thin Lizzy fan could love. 

“Some people, they like to go out dancin’/And other peoples, they have to work/And there’s even some evil mothers/Well, they’re going to tell you that everything is just dirt”

There’s been much debate about this performance. It’s adored by some while dismissed by others. The band mixed showy dual-guitar leads with Reed’s pre-punk androgyny, helping induce a curious mainstream audience to walk on the wild side. For young listeners, it was their first exposure to “Sweet Jane,” and the dramatic live track developed an enduring life of its own. Ironically, the dreamy guitar intro of the Velvet’s version is transformed here into a lengthy, dynamic and regal prologue before the three basic chords come crashing in. Reportedly, Reed disliked the band’s hard-rock posturing and especially chafed at the attention being paid to his wicked lead guitarists. Whatever. 

Another seminal version appeared as the opening cut on Mott The Hoople’s 1972 LP, All The Young Dudes. It is also produced by Bowie, whose high esteem led Mott to perform this outstanding cover. Ian Hunter’s grand performance is part Bowie, part Lou, yet still totally original. Bowie also covered the song in concert, and there’s even an old demo with Bowie, Reed and Mott all playing the tune together. That said, I believe it’s my solemn responsibility to tell you that since Lou Reed is gone and David Bowie is gone, too, Ian Hunter officially owns this tune now. Hunter continues to perform “Sweet Jane” regularly, not only as an essential part of his Mott The Hoople revivals, but also as a centerpiece of his solo shows with the longstanding Rant Band.

“You know that women never really faint/And that villains always blink their eyes/And that children are the only ones who blush/And that life is just to die.”

Cruising ever onward, 1973 brought yet another version of “Sweet Jane,” this time by Michigan rock ‘n’ rollers Brownsville Station, appearing on the band’s Yeah! album alongside novelty hit “Smokin’ In The Boy’s Room.” The macho group starts by attacking the original tune like some garage band feeling sentimental on a Saturday night. The chord sequence is slightly skewed, bassist Michael Lutz bellows and barks, guitarist Cub Koda adds his tastiest embellishments, and the harmony-laden refrain is not without its juvenile charm. All in all, this cover actually is kind of sweet. Nuff said. 

“But anyone who had a heart/They wouldn’t turn around and break it/And anyone who ever played a part/They wouldn’t turn around and hate it”

In 1987, the Austin Chronicle, as part of its anniversary celebration, held a marathon “Sweet Jane” contest at the Liberty Lunch venue—an evening where the contestants all performed versions of Reed’s immortal tune. Judges included Chronicle staffers Marjorie Baumgarten, Jeff Whittington and Richard Dorsett, but not the late great Margaret Moser (because she hated Reed and loved John Cale instead). Sterling Morrison, former VU guitarist was living in Austin but did not attend.

Austin music writer Michael Corcoran dutifully covered the show, writing up a scathing, comic takedown of the five-hour experience for Spin, lamenting the obvious transgressions of cool. Corky may have had an axe to grind with the Chronicle, but it’s a pretty funny story and an important historical footnote. The March, 1987 piece, provocatively entitled “Agony,” is unavailable online. But as Corcoran documents, the winner of the contest was a long forgotten group called the Magic Outlaw Band. The Mayor of Austin, Frank Cooksey, also showed up for the event, allegedly voting for Two Nice Girls, a “self-styled dyke rock band” that performed a medley of “Sweet Jane” with Joan Armatrading’s “Love And Affection” called “Sweet Jane (With Affection).” The Two Nice Girls finished in second place that night, but they also landed a record deal with Geoff Travis and Rough Trade Records solely on the strength of that medley.

Writer/judge Baumgarten, who co-conceived the Sweet Jane event, remembers the five-hour marathon as one of the fondest days of her life. Yet her colleague Corcoran thought the evening was one long, convoluted drag. Ultimately, there still can be too much of a good thing. The tune has been well integrated into our mainstream music-cultural lexicon (Cowboy Junkies, Phish, R.E.M., et al.) but once supergroups like U2 began covering “Sweet Jane” in concert, you could only wonder: Where will it end?

So, rather than invoking more versions of the song, I simply propose that somebody skilled construct a definitive amalgamation. By taking all of the notable performances and editing them together we would have an “Exquisite Jane,” a version greater than the sum of its parts. With Lou Reed’s simple, definitive chord structure as our sonic blueprint, the connective links are just waiting to be utilized. Thanks to modern technology, this audio assignment should be a piece of cake. Of course, some folks will always prefer the older classic renditions of “Sweet Jane” to any newfangled hybrid creation, but remember, those were different times.

“Sweet Jane!”

BONUS TRACK
All things old are new again. East Coast blue-collar veteran rock ‘n’ roller Willie Nile revives patron-saint street bard Lou Reed’s enduring composition in anthemic old-school, Springsteen-esque, crowd-pleasing fashion. What else?

Essential New Music: Rodrigo Amado & Chris Corsano’s “No Place To Fall”

If humanity survives to reflect upon the current times, the middle of the 20th century will likely be seen as a musical/cultural nexus. Whatever you listen now to can be linked back to some gathering of prior ideas that took place in 1950s or 1960s. In jazz, that can often be narrowed down to particular albums that crystalized aesthetic notions. For example, consider John Coltrane and Rashied Ali’s duo recording, 1967’s Interstellar Space, which showed how jazz could be reduce to essential ingredients: melody, texture, energy and pace. Every subsequent saxophone-and-drum session gets measured against it, and it’s a yardstick that can make anyone feel a bit short.

Portuguese tenor saxophonist Rodrigo Amado no doubt thought about this going into No Place To Fall and prepared accordingly. The partner he chose, American drummer Chris Corsano, is not only a long-term collaborators in Amado’s other ensembles, but a contemporary master of improvised duets. Not much binds Bill Nace, Christine Abdelnour, Paul Flaherty or Bill Orcutt at the stylistic level, but they’ve all found the freedom to be their best selves in Corsano’s company. His high energy and unerring spontaneous judgment are easy to notice, but the extent to which you don’t notice how he supports and spotlights his partners is actually testament to how good he is at it.

With Amado, Corsano funnels pressurized force through reduced sonic means—sticks on toms, brushes on the snare and cymbals, a kick drum and not much else—to make Amado’s textural variations stand out. Amado’s a melodist at heart, so while it’s a gas to hear him blow coarse and gargantuan on the title track, it’s the tender dynamics of “We’ll Be Here In The Morning” that stay with you after the adrenaline wears off. You might be tempted to ask if it measures the full yard, but it might be better focus on how the ways this music fully occupies the present. Then was great, and you don’t want to forget about it, but we’re living right now, and so is this music.

—Bill Meyer

Live Review: Patti Smith, Philadelphia, May 30, 2019

At the Philadelphia Museum Of Art, Patti Smith and daughter Jesse Paris Smith paid tribute to Walt Whitman, namesake of my fourth favorite bridge over the Delaware River, titler of my second favorite Team Dresch album and my high-school English teacher’s number-one brainiac amour.

I loved the stories Patti told about the single childhood visit to the museum that made her decide to be an artist and finding fashion across the river at the Goodwill in Camden, N.J.; her recitations of Allen Ginsberg’s ”A Supermarket In California” and Whitman’s “Song Of The Open Road”; and Jesse’s reading of a letter from Whitman to his mother after seeing the body of an unknown young soldier during the Civil War.

Maybe best of all was hearing Patti’s voice fill the Great Stair Hall as she sang in chanteuse mode, especially Neil Young’s “It’s A Dream” and Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling In Love.”

—M.J. Fine; photos by Chris Sikich

The Dove & The Wolf, Shamir, Michelle Blades, Philadelphia, May 25, 2019

Celebrating the release of Conversations, the debut album from the Dove & The Wolf, carried a sweet ache—not so much because the band’s no longer based in Philly, but because its luxurious harmonies portend heartbreak almost every time.

Michelle Blades and Shamir, who shone in their own opening sets at Johnny Brenda’s, joined the Dove & the Wolf for some of the most emotional songs of the night, with Shamir’s delicate quaver adding depth to “Free Around You” and Blades bringing her excellent guitar work to “Growing Apart” and “Queens.”

—M.J. Fine; photos by Chris Sikich

Shamir
Michelle Blades

Final Revelations: This Is Not This Heat Says Goodbye With A Farewell U.S. Tour

What’s post-punk? Like any other musical term that gains currency, it’s been so used and misused that it can mean whatever the people saying it want it to mean. But if you understand it to mean, “I hear you, punk rock, and you’ve got a point, but there’s a lot more to be brought to the table—let me show you,” then This Heat was the original post-punk band.

Charles Bullen, Charles Hayward and Gareth Williams formed This Heat in London in 1976. Hayward (drums) and Bullen (guitar, clarinet) were accomplished musicians who had separately and together logged time in prog and improv settings; Williams (keyboards, bass) worked at the HMV record store in Leicester Square, and while he had never played an instrument, he had an encyclopedic knowledge of music. While they shared punk’s immediacy and aggression, they had no time for its stylistic austerity. This Heat’s music encompassed tape manipulation, angular song construction, found sound, creative recycling of sonic material and constructive clashes between styles and recording fidelities. The band’s lyrics addressed cold-war terror and skepticism about commercial/media forces in terms that didn’t tell you what you had to think about them, but left you in no doubt about how they felt. They shared labels, spaces and associations with Flying Lizards, Laura Logic and the Raincoats, but no one else sounded like them.

In 1981 Williams left This Heat to study Katakali dance, and Bullen and Hayward split the next year. While Williams died of cancer in 2001, the other two men kept in sporadic touch over the years and did their best to keep the This Heat catalog in print. But no one got to hear the music live again until 2016, when Bullen and Hayward convened a larger band called This Is Not This Heat to play This Heat’s material at London’s Café Oto. People came to those shows from around the world, so Bullen and Hayward decided to take the show to them. But the tension inherent in creative musicians playing music they conceived 40 years ago meant that TINTH had an expiration date, and it is nigh. The group—which also includes Daniel O’Sullivan, Alex Ward, James Sedwards and Frank Byng—will finish out with a tour of the U.S. 

—Bill Meyer

Tour Dates
July 23 – Chicago @ Thalia Hall
July 25 – Los Angeles @ The Regent
July 27 – San Francisco @ The Chapel
July 29 – Atlanta @ The Earl
July 31 – Brooklyn @ Elsewhere

Live Review: The Firefly Festival, 2019

After seven years of the Firefly Music Festival tradition, Coachella producer AEG Presents (which already had a majority stake in the 750-acre Delaware event) bought the remaining ownership shares. While loyal fans were promised minor changes to the usual four-day weekend, right off the bat, AEG cut out a day. For most, this wasn’t the end of the world, unless you’re a fan that arrives a day early to see some of your favorite DJs. For example, last year, Thursday held big names such as Two Friends (famously known for their Big Booty Mixes) and Chromeo. Concertgoers would arrive Wednesday to set up camp and unwind at a “pre-party” function before the major headliners to come. This year, campers were still able to arrive a day early (but this time on Thursday) to get settled and experience what should’ve been a sneak peak at the DJs for the weekend. That is, if it hadn’t gotten rained out. With the weekend off to a rough start, some of the festival-goers might have thought the tradition had been broken too soon. 

Firefly is usually held Father’s Day weekend, but this year it was pushed back a week. Luckily, Delaware got all of the storms out of the way on Thursday, which made for a beautiful rest of the weekend. This event has quickly become one of the biggest festivals on the East Coast, with its ideal, open-air location. 

TLC

For me, Friday began in the scorching heat with a refreshing and soulful throwback: TLC. The sun beating down didn’t stop these ladies from going all out, or the devoted fans from singing along. The thing I loved about this crowd was the age range, because it doesn’t matter if your 16 or 60, everyone knows “Waterfalls.” 

As for Tyler, The Creator, though, there wasn’t such a large age range. But clearly devoted fans knew almost every word to the songs on his new album, IGOR, even though it’s been out for about a month. Those who have stuck by Tyler since day one were disappointed when he didn’t do “Yonkers,” the song that introduced his crazy personality and one-of-a-kind voice. But no matter what he performed, nothing could top his wild energy as he jumped across stage in his neon-green outfit. 

Tyler, The Creator

I’m personally a big fan of DJ sets; so my two favorite sets of the day had to be Louis The Child and Zedd. Louis The Child performed at sunset at the Prism Stage, one of the new additions that came to Firefly this year. Formerly known as the Backyard Stage, it’s a large open field area where some of the biggest names play. Louis The Child played mixes of their most popular songs, including “Fire,” “Better Not” and “Love Is Alive.” I had pretty high expectations after watching a video of one of their sets that went viral on Twitter, and Louis The Child sure did not disappoint. 

To close the night, Zedd blew the crowd away with a truly remarkable set. Even though he didn’t end until about 2 a.m., my friends and I didn’t want it to be over. An important aspect to DJ sets are the lights and visuals, since the DJs are behind their stand most of the time, and Zedd surely kept that in mind. We knew Zedd’s second year returning to Firefly would be a great show, so we parked ourselves right next to speaker and took in the beautiful night. One of his best-known songs, “Clarity” got everyone singing along—and even ended with fireworks. One of the security guards told us that if the performers want fireworks during their sets, then they have to provide them. So that’s how you know how much they care about pleasing their fans. 

Louis The Child

Some of my favorite parts of Firefly are the things they offer aside from the main shows. For example, The Thicket is an area dedicated to a “silent” disco, where everyone wears headphones and can change from station to station. I really enjoy this because people can listen and be dancing to whatever they want, then easily change their mind with the click of a button. This is perfect for those who aren’t quite ready to stop at 2 a.m., when the shows are over. The silent disco was open until 4 a.m., and you bet I stayed that long every night. 

Saturday definitely brought a ton of emotional performances, but I think I can speak for most when I say the headliner was the most disappointing set of the night. Travis Scott has gotten a tremendous amount of acclaim for the recent album Astroworld, so you’d think he’d do more than three songs off of it. Not to mention, he didn’t play one single song the whole way through. I get that’s what rappers do—they cut to choruses every once in a while to keep the crowd going—but not with every single song. I love Astroworld and I love Travis. He’s a very good performer, but sadly, he was a huge disappointment at Firefly. 

Zedd

As for the other sets I saw Saturday, I was really impressed. Brockhampton was one of the performances I’m really glad I stayed for, despite how tired I was. Kevin Abstract has a spectacular voice, and he and his bandmates definitely put on an entertaining show. Alison Wonderland was another one of my favorites. “Church,” probably her most famous song, was one that she really saved for the end on purpose—the combination of her vocals and beats had everyone dancing.

I don’t know if after going for three years, I have an attachment to Firefly—or just music in general—but there’s always at least one set that just floods my body with emotions. This year it was Kygo. It was the last show of the night on Saturday, and it honestly left me speechless. I could go on and on about the lights and the beat drops, but the absolute best part of the night was when Valerie Broussard slowed things down and sung “Firestone.” Everyone in the crowd felt the love as she was singing “We light up the world” over the normal piano beat and eventually sped things up with the original version. As the chorus came on and the beat dropped, the whole crowd lit up and danced together. It was electric.

Brockhampton

Along with all the awesome things Firefly has to offer, like hand-made jewelry, sunglasses, purses, scarves, the fest also serve some pretty amazing food that you can’t really find anywhere else. My personal favorite are the Island Noodles.

And with all great things, there must be an end. Sunday sadness for an end to an unforgettable weekend, once again. The first show I saw was 3LAU, a DJ I actually never heard of, but after this weekend, I will definitely be listening to him again. Firefly is amazing for seeing your favorite artists, but it’s also a great time to come across some pretty dope new ones, too. With the last day being the hottest day, it was tough to keep with it, but 3LAU’s set just made me want to keep dancing.

Alison Wonderland

After my third time seeing Post Malone, I can honestly say he never disappoints. Although it was nearly impossible to get anywhere remotely near him, it was still worth pushing through people to get as close as possible. He’s one of the few artists who sounds just as amazing in person, and he was incredible. Post had the whole crowd singing every lyric the entire time, especially hit sing-a-long “I Fall Apart.”

Vampire Weekend played before Post, and I wouldn’t have wanted to be waiting during any other set. Vampire Weekend is such a calm and soothing band with an awesome style. It didn’t really matter how far away we were to feel the positive vibes from a killer band. 

Kygo

One thing I’m happy about this Firefly experience was not driving down— and being picked up at the gates after the show. As I drove back to Pennsylvania after the festival (and stopped for food), I still managed to get home before the madness of traffic exiting the campsite even left the festival grounds. Maybe that’ll be something Coachella can help Firefly troubleshoot for next year.

—Samantha Geiger; photos courtesy of Firefly Music Festival

3LAU
Post Malone

Essential New Music: Steven R. Smith’s “A Sketchbook Of Endings”

Plenty of folks have latched onto the idea of making music that creates a movie in your mind, but few have been so diligent and successful at it as Steven R. Smith. The multi-instrumentalist is so prolific that he releases music under several alternate identities (Hala Strana, Ulaan Khol, Ulaan Passerine), each with an internally consistent set of sonic parameters. But no matter the name, the music evokes vivid images; spinning one of Smith’s records is like taking a trip through time and space without ever leaving your favorite listening chair.

Smith’s choice to release A Sketchbook Of Endings under his own name does not denote some more personal turn, but acknowledges that this is probably a collection of music that didn’t fit a particular project’s sound. But the title captures the album’s vibe perfectly. Each of its 15 tracks has a feeling of summation about it. Whether articulated by fuzzed-out guitar, whirring organ or home-made fiddle, these melodies are bold enough to stick in your mind and heavy enough to make you feel like you’ve lived through something. 

—Bill Meyer 

More Than Ready For Takeoff: Khruangbin Soars At Central Park’s SummerStage

Khruangbin returns July 12 with Hasta El Cielo (Dead Oceans/Night Time Stories), a dub version of last year’s excellent Con Todo El Mundo. The Texas trio has hit the road for a mixture of festivals and headlining dates. Laura Lee, Mark Speer and Donald “DJ” Johnson just played Central Park’s SummerStage, and MAGNET photographer Wes Orshoski was there. Despite the rain, he felt the universe smiling upon him.

In The News (Live Edition): New Order, Car Seat Headrest, Neil Young, Paul McCartney, Rolling Stones, Gov’t Mule And More

The wonderfully titled ∑(No,12k,Lg,17Mif) New Order + Liam Gillick: So It Goes.. is a live New Order album recorded at the 2017 Manchester International Festival and out July 12 via Mute … Car Seat Headrest‘s nine-track digital live album Commit Yourself Completely, recorded at various shows last years, is out on Matador … Also out now is Neil Young + Stray GatorsTuscaloosa (Reprise/Warner), a previously unreleased, 11-track live LP recorded at the University of Alabama in 1973 … Four Paul McCartney live albums—Amoeba Gig, Paul Is Live, Choba B CCCP and Wings Over America—are out on CD and vinyl via MPL/Capitol/UMe on July 12 … The Rolling StonesBridges To Bremen (Eagle Vision) is 155-minute set recorded in Germany in 1997 available on DVD/two CDs, Blu-ray/two CDs and triple vinyl … Gov’t Mule has released Bring On The Music: Live At The Capitol Theatre (Provogue/Mascot), a two-CD/two-DVD set recorded last year; the DVD will be out July 19 … Live From The Beacon Theatre (Rhino) by the Doobie Brothers is out as two-CD, two-CD/DVD and Blu-ray sets … Sinatra In Palm Springs: The Place He Called Home is a new DVD and Blu-ray from Shout! Factory exploring Frank Sinatra‘s 50-year relationship with the California town … Foreigner‘s Live At The Rainbow ‘78 in out July 12 via Rhino on CD and double-LP … Yes: 50 Live culls 13 songs recorded during Yes‘ 50th-anniversary tour last year, out via Rhino on August 2 as two CDs and four LPs … On August 23, Capitol is releasing Lionel Richie’s Hello From Las Vegas in three editions: standard, deluxe and Target … The Jerry Garcia Band‘s GarciaLive Volume 11November 11th, 1993, Providence Civic Center was recorded on the band’s last tour and is out July 12 on Round.

Live Review: Filthy Friends, Dressy Bessy, Brooklyn, May 24, 2019

It’s FFF (Filthy Friends Friday) at MAGNET, so we’re bringing you live reviews of the band’s recent shows in Philly and NYC. Our M.J. Fine (words) and Chris Sikich (photos) followed the supergroup—members of R.E.M., Sleater-Kinney, Minus 5, Baseball Project, Young Fresh Fellows and too many more to name—up the Northeast corridor to bring you the dirt on these Filthy Friends and their pals Dressy Bessy.

The best thing about seeing Filthy Friends on a larger stage is watching them move. While Johnny Brenda’s in Philly offered a better closeup view, at Music Hall Of Williamsburg, each member of the band had more breathing room, and it was a pure joy to see Peter Buck take full advantage of the extra space to jump, kick and squat while dashing off guitar lines that are clear kin to those on “Shaking Through,” “Little America” and “Bad Day.”

That wasn’t the only reason the two shows felt different, and while I preferred the superior sound and better behaved audience at Johnny Brenda’s, I appreciate the way Music Hall let these musicians who take up so much space in my heart have the physical space they needed to stretch out for the last show of their U.S. run.

Dressy Bessy was swell, too, with Tammy Ealom and John Hill’s amiable energy and melodic guitar riffs getting the night off to a strong start.

Highlights: Filthy Friends’ “Come Back Shelley,” “No Forgotten Son”; Dressy Bessy’s “Just Like Henry.”

Live Review: Filthy Friends, Dressy Bessy, Philadelphia, May 21, 2019

It’s FFF (Filthy Friends Friday) at MAGNET, so we’re bringing you live reviews of the band’s recent shows in Philly and NYC. Our M.J. Fine (words) and Chris Sikich (photos) followed the supergroup—members of R.E.M., Sleater-Kinney, Minus 5, Baseball Project, Young Fresh Fellows and too many more to name—up the Northeast corridor to bring you the dirt on these Filthy Friends and their pals Dressy Bessy.

Filthy Friends struck a chord at Johnny Brenda’s with their catchy tunes about climate change, gentrification, racial injustice and love in the time of resistance, and Election Night gave them an extra resonance.

The all-star band sounded great as it ran through most of 2017’s Invitation and the recent Emerald Valley (both Kill Rock Stars); Corin Tucker’s inimitable wail paired naturally with the with crunchy, melodic riffs played by Peter Buck, Kurt Bloch and Tucker herself, and Scott McCaughey and Linda Pitmon make for a mighty sweet rhythm section.

Dressy Bessy thrived, too, offering tunes from the new Fast Faster Disaster (Yep Roc) and a bracing clutch of perfect pop nuggets from throughout its career.

Highlights: Filthy Friends’ “One Flew East,” “Angels,” “Hey Lacey,” “Despierta,” “Love In The Time Of Resistance”; Dressy Bessy’s “This May Hurt,” “Mon Cheri” (with Bloch on additional guitar) and a lively cover of Buzzcocks’ “What Do I Get?”

Dressy Bessy

Happy Wolfmother’s Day: Andrew Stockdale And Co. Bring Their Australian Witchcraft To New York City

Wolfmother brought its over-the-top hard rock from Down Under to Irving Plaza this month during its short North American tour. Andrew Stockdale and Co. stuck to the hits at the NYC show, culminating in a killer version of “Joker & The Thief” from the band’s self-titled debut. MAGNET photographer Wes Orshoski came to see the mind’s eye.

MP3 At 3PM: Jess Clinton

Jess Clinton is a Brooklyn singer/songwriter with a raspy voice and a pure rock rhythm. On new single “Sleeping Woman” (off Real Glass Heart, out July 26), she shows us her mysterious side, inspired by an imagined scene of supernatural women coming together in unity to join feministic forces. Guitar riffs repeat a common theme, while the transparent vocals creep together in harmony. The curious-yet-mystical theme the lyrics are devoted to match the ominous feeling produced by the sounds. Clinton is interested in making music that relates to human emotions, and she wants to dig deeper into the psyche. Her upcoming album will explore this more, but for now, “Sleeping Woman” gives us a preview of what’s to come. 

“Sleeping Woman” (download):

A Night In Heaven: Perry Farrell Kicks Off Tour With His New All-Star Band

Perry Farrell played four shows this month at NYC’s City Winery, kicking off The Kind Heaven Orchestra Tour. The Jane’s Addiction/Porno For Pyros frontman assembled an all-star band—including wife Etty Lau Farrell on vocals—that backs him on new songs as well as Jane’s and Porno classics and assorted covers (Perry seems partial to Iggy). MAGNET photographer Wes Orshoski was at the tour’s opening night, loving the summertime rolls.

MAGNET Exclusive: Download The Ocean Blue’s “Kings And Queens”

David Schelzel weathered the Ocean Blue’s early success remarkably well—so well that it never really dawned on him that 2019 marks the 30th anniversary of his band’s self-titled Sire Records debut. “I guess that’s a pretty significant anniversary,” says Schelzel matter-of-factly.

Hailing from the choco-tourism hub of Hershey, Pa., Schelzel and the rest of the Ocean Blue were essentially clueless teenagers when they signed a three-album deal with Sire. Now, the band has officially been around long enough to earn the “dream pop” tag, a misnomer that didn’t even exist when they first hit the road to prove that they weren’t, in fact, British.

“We always had a pretty realistic view of who we were and who we weren’t,” says Schelzel. “We’re all really fortunate to come from loving, caring families with great support systems. For me, being in a band is not the sum total of who I am. In the late ‘90s, when having a career in music wasn’t really a viable option anymore, it wasn’t like my whole world fell apart.”

Schelzel turned his focus to academics, eventually heading to law school in Minneapolis, where he’s now a successful attorney. These days, only founding bassist Bobby Mittan lives in Hershey, though the band’s operations are still based there. “We’re fortunate that we had a history on two major labels, which promoted us extensively all those years,” Shelzel says. “We still have a fan base that cares.”

The Ocean Blue’s seventh album. Kings And Queens / Knaves And Thieves, is out on Korda Records, a Minneapolis-based cooperative imprint the band helped launch. Leading things off is “Kings And Queens,” an early-’90s throwback that efficiently co-opts the lush and airy artiness of Britpop’s more lavish leanings without sounding dated or redundant. (You can download the song below.) Like much of the rest of the album, “Kings And Queens” demonstrates the Ocean Blue’s continued proficiency as expert assimilators of all things strummy, Anglophilic and slightly world-weary. “It’s a classic existential song,” says Schelzel. “The big thing is that we’re all basically the same.”

King And Queens is the band’s second full-length release since its 2013 return after a 10-year break. Outside his law practice, Schelzel has kept himself busy on side projects like 5 Billion In Diamonds, led by drummer/producer Butch Vig and featuring members of Soundtrack Of Our Lives, Spiritualized and Echo & The Bunnymen. Fatherhood has also been a priority, and whatever’s left is reserved for music. “The Ocean Blue is still a huge part of my life, but I don’t have to look to it for a way to make a living,” he says. “And that’s tremendously freeing.”

—Hobart Rowland

The Gotobeds: Life And Debt

Time is strange. The punks told us to burn the past, that anything new beats anything old through sheer youth. At least, Bill Bored of the Cardboards preached that credo in Stephanie Beroes’ Debt Begins At 20, a little cult documentary from 1980 that invited viewers to hang out in Pittsburgh’s nascent DIY scene. Almost 40 years later, and the future promises more dread than freedom—urban planners buffer cities with luxuries that a growing lower-middle class can’t afford, policies threaten to rob women of agency, and conniving capitalists tag even the tiniest courtesy with a price. So when Eli Kasan says “I can’t explain why the world has to burn” on a blazing rant on the Gotobeds’ third album, Debt Begins At 30 (Sub Pop), he doesn’t have to elaborate—frustrated youths everywhere know the feeling.

Still, like the pioneers from his hometown, Kasan doesn’t savor the past. He must be sitting on a patio in his house, as over the phone, I can hear the birds chirp louder than passing planes. (We’ve had to carve out a rendezvous between our opposite job shifts, but Kasan worked out an alibi: “I was able to ‘work from home’,” he says, “which means I’m just being a bum.”)  The story goes that he and his fellow Gotobeds starting writing Debt Begins not long after their breakout on Sub Pop back in 2016, Blood // Sugar // Secs / Traffic. And this time, instead of another perfectly imperfect scrap in a friend’s basement, the band would head to Chicago to record in a proper studio with another pal, Tim Midyett (Silkworm, Mint Mile). Kasan would try to actually plan some lyrics instead of devising everything ad lib.

But now, let’s rewind a bit. The first time I saw the Gotobeds, Kasan was stumbling around the stage with a lampshade on his head. He, of course, also stood on several amps; later, he joined one of his guitarists on the same guitar and wished Chunklet’s Henry Owings a happy birthday. Kasan also chuckles to recall his earliest writing, like the commercial updo for “Wimpy Garcia (Brotherfucker)” from album number one, 2014’s Poor People Are Revolting. “TFP (Tom Payne), our guitar player, was just so impressed by the song itself, that he was just like, ‘Wow, this is so great, it’s such a hit, we could sell this for a car. You’ve got to sing this for a car commercial, man,’” he says. “So I completely took the lyrics I had, and mashed in a bunch of junk. And so looking back, I’m like, ‘What the hell did I do?’ Like, it doesn’t make any sense.” 

You see, the Gotobeds thrive on spontaneous combustion. You could talk about the “themes” of Debt Begins—a wariness toward the unwary, loans of all kinds, age abstracted as clocks—if you wanted to pigeonhole the perpetual frustration of living into some sort of artistic “intention.” But Kasan won’t take the credit for masterminding any grand scheme; more than once in our conversation, he admits that some of his best ideas were born from sheer happenstance. The foundation for “Bleached Midnight,” for example, came from a poem in a notebook that Kasan’s old roommate, Scott MacIntyre, left behind. “I was trying to write something about different facets of war, (such as) internally, and versus someone else, and actually being at war,” he says. “His poem was about being addicted to heroin.” So naturally, Kasan reached out, and MacIntyre lent some extra words.

In fact, every song on Debt Begins features at least one other pal or fellow musician—and that, too, was something of a coincidence. The dudes were hanging out at their home base in Chicago, where Midyett lived with another friend—and they contemplated the odds that Midyett would come over and collab on a song with them. “So at one point, our drummer Cary (Belback), since we’re all rap fans, he’s like, ‘Dude, this is going to be just like a mixtape, we’re going to have a feature on every track,’” says Kasan. “He said it as a joke. And I said, ‘Yeah, that’s a great idea.’” So Kasan lined up invites to some old friends, from Bob Nastonovich (Pavement, Silver Jews) to Bob Weston (Shellac, Mission Of Burma) to Tracy Wilson Dahlia Seed, Positive No). “I remember the point when we were wrapping up, and I told the dudes, ‘Hey, I need $200 for someone to record their vocals,’” says Kasan. “And so they asked, ‘Well, so who’s all on the record?’ So I told them, and then they asked, ‘Wait, so is there a guest on every song?’ And I was like, ‘We talked about this!’”

The ‘Beds have no trouble communicating with each other. Granted, faintly gothic barnburner “Slang Words”— which, ironically, concerns this generation’s loose lips and insensitive slander—was almost abandoned forever because of a misunderstanding between Kasan and Payne from nearly six years ago. “TFP didn’t have a guitar part for it, it wasn’t finished, I didn’t have all the lyrics, so we just scrapped it, and completely forgot about it,” says Kasan. When he did remember “Slang Words,” though, he was under the impression that his guitarist wasn’t into the tune. Clearly, he was wrong. “I could have just asked him at the time, but instead I just assumed,” he says. “it’s funny, the way that things stick out in your mind, when you’re a dude, and you’re talking to your fellow friends.”

That’s another running theme in Debt Begins. We all know these days that our landscape could use a few less douchebags, and Kasan constantly draws a firm line between those blokes (like the one “jamming Sublime” on “Calquer The Hound”) and the ‘Beds. “I wake in fright/I don’t have the right/To be so parallel,” he says on “Parallel,” a sober reminder that other folks face greater fears. But Kasan admits that even “enlightened” dudes like themselves still bump against barriers. “We’ve definitely all cried in front of each other,” he says. “I’ve held all of them, spooned them [even]. But it’s still like, I’m not sure how to check on this person, even though it’s kinda easy, almost, on the face of it.”

Still, Kasan and the gang still buck the patriarchy when they can. Both versions of “Debt Begins At 30” challenge the systems that be—particularly the latter, where the ‘Beds called in Victoria Ruiz from Downtown Boys to vent her own narrative into the maelstrom. “She was the only person who essentially had a blank check,” says Kasan. “(I told her), here’s the inspiration, here’s what I was trying to say. It’d be cool to have a non-white guy sing this similar song. You can interpret it however you like.” As of our conversation, neither of us yet knew exactly how close Ruiz hewed to the original. But even with my rusty Spanish, I can still hear some parallels. A “fuego” still burns around the same point as Kasan’s fire; Ruiz cries “palabras en débito” where Kasan shouts “These aren’t even my words/They’re out on loan.” And her refrain of “Debit comienza/Pero nunca termina” remains the same as the English: “Debt begins/Never ends.”

As for Kasan’s version—to some extent, that ties back to the stance against nostalgia, and growing up. Astute readers may recognize the opening verse (“Late last night, I sat Atlas on my lap”) from poet Warsan Shire’s “What They Did Yesterday Afternoon,” another serendipitous influence that our protagonist bumped into on Facebook. But when Kasan says the line, he’s not referring to a book. When his new girlfriend moved in with her daughter Atlas, he decided he’d become her father. “I never thought that I was going to have children, or that I would want to have children,” says Kasan. “But it’s like, well, I love my lady, so I love this kiddo. So I just try not to let her get hit by a car, make sure she’s eating food, don’t be an asshole. All those things you usually do.” 

Of course, anyone who listens to Debt Begins will swiftly find that Kasan and the gang aren’t assholes. The future might look grim, but time has to march on – and while we can’t burn the past, we can at least make some noise with our fellows right now. And that’s all Kasan really wants with the Gotobeds. “You meet one person at a time, and that leads to something else,” he says. “To me, irrelevant of how many records we sell, or we don’t sell—the guests that I respect like it, the friends I really like are getting it. So I feel like I’m doing something right. Even if it’s not Car Seat Headrest level.”

—Lee Adcock

Essential New Music: Jake Xerxes Fussell’s “Out Of Sight”

Jake Xerxes Fussell has a storyteller’s voice. It’s big and clear, and you won’t miss a word he sings. Warm and friendly, it invites you to pull up a chair and listen to his tales, which are drawn from American and adjacent folk traditions. Fussell is also a gifted guitar accompanist; whether backing gospel and blues performers or framing his own singing, he knows just how put the vocalist in the spotlight with strategic licks that, when you single them out, sound as right as the first cup of coffee in the morning. The challenge that faced Fussell in making his third album for Paradise Of Bachelors was to figure out how to use the resources of a full band without getting in the way of his gifts. He and his crew, which includes associates of Pelt and the Mountain Goats, have gotten it right by crafting unfussy arrangements that honor the antiquity of the material without trying to reproduce it.

Atmospheric steel and strings amplify the mystery of fisherman’s lament, “The River St. Johns.” A dragging cadence and behind-the-beat piano underscore the fatigue of the working stiff narrating “Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues,” and the churchy backing of “Drinking Of The Wine” invites the listener to consider how the same substance that made last night so lively brings spiritual peace on Sunday morning. Out Of Sight is the first Fussell record to include vocal-free tunes, and both “16-20” and “Three Ravens” afford moments of reflection on an album that is otherwise alive with imagery. There’s no song named “Out Of Sight,” but perhaps the LP’s title acknowledges that Fussell and his team have knocked this one out of the park.

—Bill Meyer

Live Review: Lady Lamb, Philadelphia, May 23, 2019

It’s been gratifying to see Lady Lamb’s Aly Spaltro going from hushed rooms of people hung on every delightfully surprising lyric to large clubs that can accommodate her full-on rock band along with the growing number of fans singing—or shouting—her words back to her.

She held our attention from the moment she strolled onstage at the Foundry At The Fillmore Philadelphia to sing “Even In The Tremor,” the title track of her latest album (on Ba Da Bing), and kept it for a solid 80 minutes. In between, “Without A Name” and a solo “Young Disciple” were standouts among her recent work, and older songs like “Bird Balloons,” “Spat Out Spit” and “You Are The Apple” sounded as epic and intimate as you could hope.

Labelmate Katie Von Schleicher and Alex Schaaf (who also plays in Spaltro’s band) opened the show.

—M.J. Fine; photos by Chris Sikich

Essential New Music: Elkhorn’s “Sun Cycle/Elk Jam”

Elkhorn is a relatively young band, but it has a lot of history behind it. Electric guitarist Drew Gardner and acoustic 12-string guitarist Jesse Sheppard have been the core members of Elkhorn since 2013, but they’ve been playing together off and on since the 1980s. This explains the duo’s chemistry; while each man contributes something very different to the music, they sound like they couldn’t trip each other up if they tried. Gardner casts fluent, burning lines into the beyond while Sheppard supplies both rhythmic propulsion and resonant aura so radiant that the solar panels on your roof will absorb its energy.

But while these guys sound complete in each other’s company, they’re not a closed circle. Guitarist Willie Lane adds a third dimension to several tracks, and percussionist Ryan Jewell adds a varied-yet-unstinting drive. Sun Cycle and Elk Jam were recorded during the same sessions. The former has more compositional structure while the latter wears its spontaneous provenance on its sleeve, but they’re so complementary that they might just as well have come together in a gatefold sleeve. 

—Bill Meyer 

Combat Rock: Warpaint Invades The Nation’s Capital

It’s hard to believe Warpaint has been around 15 years already. The veteran Los Angles quartet just finished a North American tour and is gearing up for some Australia and New Zealand gigs next month before returning to the U.S. for August dates with My Morning Jacket. MAGNET photographer Chris Sikich was at Warpaint’s show at D.C.’s Black Cat, where fellow L.A. act deafmute opened.

deafmute

Swedish Invasion: The Hives And Refused Descend On The U.S. Of A.

The Hives

The “Official Swedish Scream Team Tour” kicked off at Franklin Music Hall in Philly, featuring country mates the Hives and Refused. These children of Mother Svea hadn’t toured together in more than two decades, and both bands came out swinging. Locals Control Top and RunHideFight got the party started. MAGNET photographer Chris Sikich was in attendance for this get together to tear it apart.

Refused

MAGNET Exclusive: Listen To Lukas Nelson & Promise Of The Real’s “Bad Case”

If prospective employers were to review Lukas Nelson’s work history, they’d likely be struck by its diversity. Aside for his job as frontman for Promise Of The Real, he has ongoing experience as Neil Young’s bandleader and guitarist. That dream gig began in 2014, when Young jammed with Promise of the Real at Farm Aid 2014, which led to the 2015 album The Monsanto Years and an open-ended designation as his post-Crazy Horse backup unit.

Last year, there was Nelson’s ridiculously fruitful collaboration with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga on A Star Is Born. He co-wrote and co-produced a large chunk of the film’s Oscar-winning soundtrack. Oh, and that’s him and Promise Of The Real on stage with Cooper’s Jackson Maine, a character Nelson helped cultivate. “I’m big on learning—that’s for sure,” says Nelson of his varied experiences. “If it fits with my vibe, I’ll go for it.”

And then there’s the family legacy angle. The 30-year-old Hawaii native is the son of ageless country icon Willie Nelson. The two continue to be close, professionally and otherwise. Dad plays guitar on “Mystery” and makes an appearance on the final verse of “Civilized Hell,” both standout tracks on his son’s fifth full-length release, Turn Off The News (Build A Garden), out now on Fantasy Records. “It’s perfect,” says Nelson of his relationship with his father, offering nothing more.

Willie isn’t that only one on the album’s impressive guest list, which also includes Neil Young, Margo Price, Sheryl Crow, Kesha, Shooter Jennings, Lucius, Randy Houser, brother Micah Nelson and others. But never once does Turn Off The News sound like someone else’s album, partly because Nelson has come up with his most focused batch of songs yet. The other reason is Promise Of The Real, who’ve grown into a versatile and enthusiastic sounding board for their leader’s thoroughly engrained inclination to blur the multigenerational lines between rock, country, pop and R&B.

It’s hard to find a more compelling argument for Nelson’s growth as a songwriter than “Bad Case.” Available here as a free download, the album’s leadoff track is an inspired bit of Tom Petty-inspired déjà vu that deserves to be a hit—for whatever that’s worth these days. “I wrote it three years ago in Ireland, and it’s been through a lot of iterations since then,” says Nelson. “It’s about that whole concept of wanting what you don’t have.” 

Turn Off The News’ overall polish and focus belies the fact that it was recorded in fits and spurts during brief breaks between tours. Working out of two studios in Nelson’s adopted hometown of Los Angeles, the group managed to record 30 songs, 11 of which made the album. As for a unifying theme, that’s fairly apparent. “There’s this sort of sinister matrix we’re being assimilated into with our phones and our news and everything,” says Nelson. “I think people are waking up to the fact they need to balance technology with reality. ‘Turn Off The News (Build A Garden)’—I was talking to myself when I wrote that.”

—Hobart Rowland

MAGNET Exclusive: Premiere Of Beauty In Chaos’ “Storm Featuring Ashton Nyte (Acoustic Version)” Video

Last year, Beauty In Chaos released debut album Finding Beauty In Chaos. The project is the brainchild of guitarist Michael Ciravolo (Human Drama, Gene Loves Jezebel), who’s also president of Schecter Guitar Research. What made Finding Beauty In Chaos really intriguing, however, was the cast of musicians that Ciravolo was able to bring on board for the LP, including Ice-T, Robin Zander (Cheap Trick), Simon Gallup (Cure), Michael Anthony (Van Halen), Al Jourgensen (Ministry), dUg Pinnick (Kings X) and Wayne Hussey (Mission).

Ciravolo and Co. had such a wealth of material for the album that they created a companion piece, full of remixes and alternate versions. Beauty Re-Envisioned is out tomorrow via 33.3 Music Collective, and this time, Zakk Wylde, Kevin Haskins (Bauhaus, Love And Rockets) and others are also along for the ride.

One of the new LP’s highlights is an acoustic version of the debut’s “Storm,” co-written and sung by Awakening frontman Ashton Nyte. “I wanted to try a stripped-down, more intimate approach to this version,” says Nyte, who also played guitar, bass, keyboard and programed the drum on the track. “This meant re-recording it from scratch, as I wanted to re-sing the vocals in a more introspective way, to match the arrangement I had in my head.”

There’s a brand-new video for “Storm Featuring Ashton Nyte (Acoustic Version),” directed by Vicente Cordero (Room 37: The Mysterious Death Of Johnny Thunders). We’re proud to premiere it today on magnetmagazine.com. Watch it now.

Waited For Duffman: With Shooter Jennings, GN’R Bassist McKagan Tours Behind His First Solo LP In Two Decades

Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan is back with his first solo album since 1999’s unreleased Beautiful Disease. Not only did Shooter Jennings produce Tenderness, he and his band are opening for and playing with McKagan in support of the LP. At the Irving Plaza show in NYC, Duff and Co. not only did the entire new record but also three GN’R songs (“You Ain’t The First,” “Dust N’ Bones” and “Dead Horse”), the Clash’s “Clampdown” and Mark Lanegan’s “Deepest Shade,” for which McKagan brought wife Susan onstage to sing it to her. MAGNET photographer Wes Orshoski was feeling the time, love and tenderness.

Essential New Music: Sonic Youth’s “Battery Park, NYC: July 4th 2008”

The members of Sonic Youth accomplished two things on July 4, 2008. First, they coaxed the Feelies out of retirement after a 19-year break in order to be their opening act at an outdoor concert in New York’s Battery Park. They banked a lot of good karma for getting Haledon, N.J.’s finest out of the basement and onto a stage again. Second, the band documented a late example of a phenomenon that would soon cease to exist. Sonic Youth released final album The Eternal in 2009, and stopped performing two years later. This 10-song set, which was original bundled as a bonus with The Eternal and has now been released separately for the first time, remains the band’s final live recording. 

Sonic Youth always operated on a continuum between experimental volatility and classic-rock reliability. Sometimes the experiments didn’t work, but even when a new album was burdened with duds, the band had a great catalog to fall back upon. Battery Park, NYC leans on the oldies. Aside from one song from 2006’s Rather Ripped, everything on the record dates from the 20th century, including four songs from 1988’s Daydream Nation. But while the songs were familiar, the band played them with plenty of fire in their collective belly. The three-guitar (by this point Kim Gordon had moved to guitar and Pavement’s Mark Ibold played bass) tangle on “The Sprawl” flares like a post-volcanic sunset, and Gordon’s urgent singing on “Bull In The Heather” puts barbs on an already sharp tune. 

—Bill Meyer

NON-COMM 2019 (The Portraits): Amanda Palmer, WIVES, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Cherry Glazerr, Lula Wiles, KT Tunstall And More

Amanda Palmer

The 2019 NON-COMMvention was a parade of musical talent packed into the upstairs and downstairs of Philadelphia’s World Cafe Live last month. These are portraits of some of those who performed, taken by MAGNET’s Chris Sikich.

WIVES
Rodrigo y Gabriela
Cherry Glazerr
Lula Wiles
KT Tunstall
Mattiel
Ali Awan
Jade Jackson

NON-COMM 2019 (The Performances): The National, Ex Hex, Strand Of Oaks, Amanda Palmer, WIVES, KT Tunstall And More

The National

The 2019 NON-COMMvention was a parade of musical talent packed into the upstairs and downstairs of Philadelphia’s World Cafe Live between May 14 and 17. The following are some of the highlights, courtesy of MAGNET’s Chris Sikich, who took the photos and wrote the words.

Ex Hex

May 15
The night began with Cherry Glazerr soundchecking “Daddi” twice, and it sounded as disturbing and infectious as any track played at NON-COMM or during the year thus far for that matter … WIVES obliterated the upstairs with their stunning punk. They were one of the best discoveries of the convention … Locally based Ali Awan certainly gained some new fans with his rock hooks … Three of my favorite bands/performers stunned with tight sets. Adia Victoria wowed downstairs behind the sublime Silences. Ex Hex never gets old, always delivering a jolt with its timeless rock. And locals Strand Of Oaks wrapped the night up with a riveting trip to Eraserland and earlier works.

Strand Of Oaks

May 16
The National delivered a stunning live performance of songs from brilliant new album I Am Easy To Find. The band’s main performers and backing vocalists/musicians filled the downstairs stage to the brim, and hearing selections from the National’s best album in years was a great way to start a Thursday … Upstairs brought a trio of new awesomeness. Lula Wiles delivered stunning folk harmonies. Orville Peck haunted with country Roy Orbison melodies. And Mattiel wowed with indie-rock precision … Downstairs brought a bounty of established greatness. Amanda Palmer wasted no time in talking about abortion with songs timely, depressing, empowering and uniquely her. Rodrigo y Gabriela brought powerhouse guitar mastery to a stunned crowd. And KT Tunstall delivered the most pure-fun rock set of the convention, capping off a phenomenal day.

Amanda Palmer

May 17
Lizzo delivered an unannounced two-song set that despite its brevity will not soon be forgotten. And newcomer Jade Jackson ended NON-COMM with a brilliant country set that reminded all convention attendees how diverse and wonderful this event truly is.

WIVES
KT Tunstall
Andrew Bird
Jay Farrar
Josh Ritter
Citizen Cope

In The News (Classic Rock Edition): Willie Nelson, Steven Van Zandt, Chrissie Hynde, Perry Farrell, Cranberries, Violent Femmes, Stray Cats And More

Ride Me Back Home is the 69th studio album from Willie Nelson. Out June 21 via Legacy, the 11-track LP completes the “mortality trilogy,” following 2017’s God’s Problem Child and last year’s Last Man StandingSteven Van Zandt‘s music from Netflix’s Lilyhammer (which he starred in, co-wrote and co-produced) has been compiled on two Lilyhammer The Score releases—Volume 1: Jazz and Volume 2: Folk, Rock, Rio, Bits And Pieces—out July 12 via Wicked Cool/UMe … Chrissie Hynde‘s Valve Bone Woe—a collection of songs written by the likes of Brian Wilson, John Coltrane, Nick Drake, Frank Sinatra, Ray Davies and Charles Mingus—is out September 6 via BMG … Out now is Perry Farrell‘s Tony Visconti-produced Kind Heaven (BMG), featuring Dhani Harrison, Elliot Easton (Cars), Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighters) and more … The Cranberries‘ eighth and final album, In The End, is out now via BMG … Violent Femmes return with album number 10, Hotel Last Resort, out July 26 on PIAS and featuring guitar god Tom Verlaine of Television … Realm Of Spells is the first new LP from Jah Wobble & Bill Laswell in 18 years, out July 19 via Wobble’s eponymous label … Out now is 40 (Surfdog/Mascot), the first album from the Stray Cats in 26 years and one that celebrates the band’s four-decade existence … Philip Bailey of Earth, Wind & Fire will release Love Will Find A Way—featuring a star-studded collection of players from all genres—on June 21 via Verve … Vince Gill‘s Okie is out August 21 on MCA Nashville.

Dream Theater: Empire Of The Sun Strikes Back On 10-Year Anniversary Tour

Empire Of The Sun is in the middle of a sold-out, 24-date U.S. tour celebrating the 10th anniversary of debut album Walking On A Dream. The Australian duo—Luke Steele (Sleepy Jackson) and Nick Littlemore (Pnau)—is performing these songs live for the first time with a stage show sure to make you feel like you’re having a primo acid trip. MAGNET photographer Wes Orshoski was at the first of three nights at NYC’s Webster Hall, and he still hasn’t come down. Ladies and gentlemen, we are floating in place.

Live Review: Équipe de Foot, Paris, France, May 28, 2019

What French duo Équipe de Foot is to garage punk, fire is to the Notre-Dame de Paris: They both burn it the fuck down.

Indeed, the band is as incendiary in its sound as it is blasphemous in its choice of non-Gaullist inspiration. For a pair so proudly French (onstage, Alex and Mike wear jerseys of the French national soccer—er, “football”—team), the group draws from a broad palette of 90s American rock.

These boys from Bordeaux tap into Seattle grunge (albeit looser and less teeth-gritting) and Midwest emo (while jollier and less polished). In fact, such ramshackle indie rock, performed so earnestly yet with a discernible wink, would fit snugly on Sebadoh masterpiece Bakesale.

Touring in support of the just-released Marilou, Équipe de Foot plays with abandon and confidence, thrashing through some real gems: the METZ-ian “A Little Disagreement,” the poignant “Fireworks,” the playful and wailing “Stammering.”

But the new LP’s standout track, the raging and reflective “I Could Go To Sleep And Die,” encapsulates the band’s goofy charm, for while it treats heavy topics such as death and regret and self-doubt, an ice-breaking giggle or frivolous interlude is never far off. 

And why not? If Nero can play the fiddle while Rome burns, why shouldn’t Équipe de Foot kick out the jams while half of Paris’ grande dame is reduced to ashes?

Eric Bensel

Old Time Rock ‘N’ Roll: Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band Go Out Guns Blazing

It’s easy to dismiss Bob Seger and his Silver Bullet Band as the dudes responsible for the song in Chevy’s ubiquitous and long-running ad campaign for their trucks, which we hear are assembled similar to a stone. That would be a great disservice to this prolific heartland hero and Rock And Roll Hall Of Famer. Seger has had almost as many hits as Pete Rose, and he’s playing all of them on his farewell tour: “Like A Rock,” “Still The Same,” “Hollywood Nights,” “Shakedown,” “Against The Wind,” “We’ve Got Tonite,” “Night Moves,” “Old Time Rock & Roll” and many more. At Northwell Health At Jones Beach Theater, MAGNET photographer Wes Orshoski witnessed Seger and his band of 45 years still playing it loud and lean.

New Music Friday: Bruce Springsteen, Pere Ubu, Madonna, Roger Daltrey, Hank Williams, ZZ Top, Carole King And More

Go to your local indie record store and buy these new releases, out today: Western Stars (Columbia) is Bruce Springsteen’s first new studio album in half a decade and features more than 20 musicians, including Jon Brion … Taking its title from the excellent Raymond Chandler crime novel, Pere Ubu’s, The Long Goodbye (Cherry Red) is indeed the last record from the seminal band formed in 1975 by David Thomas (who turns 66 today) … Madonna‘s 14th LP, Madame X (Live Nation, Interscope, Maverick), comes in standard, deluxe and Target editions … Roger Daltrey‘s The Who’s Tommy Orchestral (Polydor/UMe) celebrates the album’s 50th anniversary with new orchestration courtesy of David Campbell, who’s worked with the likes of Radiohead, Bob Dylan and Beck (Campbell’s son) … Hank WilliamsThe Complete Health & Happiness Shows (BMG) celebrates the 70th anniversary of the short-lived radio program, featuring 49 tracks across three LPs or two CDs … ZZ Top celebrates its 50th anniversary with Goin’ 50, a career-spanning 50-song collection available August 16 via Warner Bros. on five LPs or three CDs; an 18-song, single-CD edition is out today … Real Gone Music adds two new entries to its Johnny Mathis ’70s Columbia Album Series with Killing Me Softly With Her Song/When Will I See You Again and The Heart Of A Woman/Feelings, each set containing two albums … Carole King‘s Live At Montreux 1973 (Eagle Vision) captures King’s first performance outside the U.S. on DVD/CD, CD or vinyl.

Essential New Music: C Joynes And The Furlong Bray’s “The Borametz Tree”

Past outings prove that C Joynes is a well-traveled guy. The guitarist’s previous recordings have reflected this. His picking is as likely to reference Malian desert-blues licks or Jamaican-dub recording techniques as it is English and American folk themes. But circling around the globe with a guitar as your traveling companion can also be a mite lonely, and Joynes’ latest album suggests that for the moment, he’d rather pursue his musical adventures in good company.

The Furlong Bray is a handy title for what’s really a crew of like-minded friends, including fellow pickers Cam Deas and Nick Jonah Davis, plus unidentified members of the Dead Rat Orchestra. Together they sound like the band that Tom Waits would feel lucky to find if he ended up in the British countryside. They’ve got the versatility to go from late-night Gamelan sonorities to rickety tango to ecstatic quasi-raga, traversing cultures and genres as easily as a jumbo jet crosses the ocean, but without the carbon footprint. Put The Borametz Tree on the platter, flip open your atlas to a random page, and start dreaming.

—Bill Meyer

Still Holding On: The Dream Syndicate Remains A Live Force To Be Reckoned With

In 2017, when MAGNET fave Steve Wynn announced his reformed Dream Syndicate was set to release its first studio album in almost three decades, we were a little worried. What if it, well, sucked? Thankfully, How Did I Find Myself Here was a stellar comeback LP, and the new These Times (Anti-) is even better. The band just wrapped up a U.S. tour in support of the “sophomore” LP, and MAGNET photographer Chris Sikich was at the Sellersville Theatre show in suburban Philly, enjoying a night of wine and roses.

MP3 At 3PM: Chicago Afrobeat Project’s “Sunday Song (AfroQbano Remix)”

The upbeat sounds of a self-described “collective of Latinx music curators, artists, taste-makers and socio-cultural instigators” are sure to make you want to get up and dance. The group, called Future Rootz, aims to bring back the roots of older music and futurize it—hence its name. The limited-edition-vinyl What Goes Up Remixed is the debut release from the Future Rootz label, and it’s a collection of remixes of tracks from Chicago Afrobeat Project Featuring Tony Allen’s 2017 album What Goes Up. On the AfroQbano remix of “Sunday Song,” the sounds range from jazzy moments all the way to EDM. AfroQbano is a DJ who uses his Cuban background to merge house music with his tropical, funky vibe. Download and/or stream his fresh take on the soulful “Sunday Song” below.

“Sunday Song (AfroQbano Remix)” (download):

Essential New Music: Rat Fancy’s “Stay Cool”

More often than not, girly mags and rom-coms tell young folk that courtship (and breakups) must involve some sort of deception. They lay out “tests” to prove the charming target’s loyalty, and suggest diffident airs to feign so that you’ll entice a chase. But when you live outside the status quo, you soon realize that real, mutual relationships don’t form (or break) with such catch-and-release tactics. The folks in L.A.’s Rat Fancy certainly aren’t the first to staple their hearts on their sleeves with power pop. But Diana Barraza and Gregory Johnson share something more: They’re proud to hold hands and stand out.

As such, the band’s proper debut adds more than just extra decibels to the gang’s whirligig twee approach. Granted, Barraza’s beefier riffs are nothing to sneeze at—just listen to the sugar-rush punk on “Stuck With You,” where new drummer Matt Sturgis kicks into overdrive. Rat Fancy has never been so bold before; 2017’s Suck A Lemon EP skewed way closer to candy-floss twee (with, as the name implies, a pinch of world-weary sour). Still, the sweetness still prevails on Stay Cool, as our protagonist sets up a clever parallel between messed-up tattoos that won’t rub off and a friend or lover that she hopes never fades away. Ditto for “Finely Knitted,” a Cars-esque chug where Barraza laments the loss of her favorite sweater, and not the ex who “borrowed” it. So, for Rat Fancy, this newly harnessed firepower amplifies the many emotions that Barraza could already convey with such poise.

Perhaps it’s more fitting to think of Stay Cool as a fortification of the ramparts, not ammunition for the artillery. “Never Is Forever” lays down solid, arena-thick walls between Barraza and the creeps who sneak into gigs: “They’ve got to know, they’ve got to see/You’re not for us, you’re not for me.” Likewise, “Making Trouble” steels the nerves of skittish romantics who’ve always felt too awkward to fess up to their lover with congenial jangling and a consolation: “It’s OK to be mad, and it’s OK to feel so strange.”

That pinch of kooky is key to the message—these days, only the weirdos seem to cut through the chit-chat to speak their minds. For those aficionados of the weird, Barraza manages to sneak in a couple supernatural media homages onto the album. Power-ballad bruiser “RIP Future” describes the present day as a “twilight zone,” where day-to-day social life often leads to petty arguments and unfounded demands. On the flip, the C86 echoes of Rat Fancy’s revised “Beyond Belief” plays out somewhat like one of the nicer scenarios from the same show, as Barraza meditates on the protagonist’s sleepless night alone. Could something as fleeting as love kept this person awake? Fact or fiction? Barraza answers unanimously: “The truth is, the truth is shining like a light.”

As breezy as Stay Cool might feel on the surface, a quiet and affirming force pulses underneath. Rat Fancy has grown leaps and bounds in the past two years. And yet, as decent folks who you can always turn to with open arms, they really haven’t changed. And the girly mags never told you that friends like that are worth locking down.

—Lee Adcock

Essential New Music: Isasa’s “Insilio”

The roads that lead to the style known as American Primitive guitar tend to wind, and the trips that practitioners take to get there tend to make their music more interesting. Conrado Isasa came up in the Spanish hardcore scene, and he got turned on to fingerstyle acoustic guitar by Geoff Farina’s performance of a Mississippi John Hurt song. Once on the path, he made his way to the source. He tips his hat to genre godfather John Fahey as well as Fahey’s forbears by opening “Arquitecto Tenista” (“Tennis Architect) with a quote from folk tune “John Henry,” and he directly tips his hat to the guy on “Copla Para John Fahey.” But most importantly, he has gotten the message of this musical discipline, which is that you have to have something of your own to say and make you music say it.

Insilio takes you on a personal journey through its maker’s heritage, his geographical perambulations and his internal states of mind. A sequence of tunes on side two dedicated to a Spanish church and a couple of Uruguayan cities embed sadness in their evocations of beauty, and even the mundanity of “Conversaciones En Un Supermercado” is shaded with an awareness of otherness. Isasa’s guitar isn’t quite alone; harmonium, electronics and percussion offer support and counterpoint. By expressing emotional complexity with musical elegance, Isasa has gotten to the heart of his chosen style and made it his own. 

—Bill Meyer

The Greatest Show(alter) On Earth: Strand Of Oaks Shares Some Brotherly Love

Strand Of Oaks finished the first leg of its tour supporting the excellent new Eraserland (Dead Oceans) with a hometown performance at Philly’s Union Transfer. Tim Showalter and Co. played eight of the new LP’s 10 tracks as well as fan faves such as “Shut In,” “JM” and “Goshen ’97” over the course of their 90-minute set. NYC trio Wild Pink—whose stellar sophomore album Yolk In The Fur came out last year via Tiny Engines—opened the show. MAGNET photographer Chris Sikich was feeling the bearded brotherly love.

Wild Pink

Rather Ripped: Ex Hex Casts A Spell Over Brooklyn

Ex Hex resumes touring behind excellent new sophomore album It’s Real (Merge) the beginning of next month, including dates with Belle & Sebastian. Mary Timony, Betsy Wright and Laura Harris just rocked Elsewhere in Brooklyn, with support from a reignited Versus (new Nihilo EP on Ernest Jenning) and Thick (who just signed to Epitaph). MAGNET photographer Chris Sikich was there and bewitched.

Versus
Thick

Cult Classic: Johnny Marr Closes Out U.S. Tour In Los Angeles With Pal Billy Duffy

Smiths guitar god Johnny Marr concluded his U.S. tour at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre in Los Angeles. The 20-song set included solo material as well as classics by Electronic and, of course, the Smiths. The highlights of the evening, however, were the last two songs of the encore, for which Marr brought out his high-school chum to play guitar. The friend in question was Billy Duffy of the Cult, and the two tunes were “I Fought The Law” and “How Soon Is Now?” MAGNET photographer Wes Orshoski is human and needs to be loved, just like everybody else does.

In The News: Black Keys, Ride, Black Mountain, Cate Le Bon, METZ, Chris Stamey, Stereo Total, Pelican And More

On June 28, the Black Keys return with ninth studio album Let’s Rock via Easy Eye Sound/Nonesuch. A return of sorts to the more minimalist, guitar-based music of the duo’s past, the dozen-track LP will be supported by a massive North American tour kicking off September 21 in Las Vegas … Ride is back August 16 with This Is Not A Safe Place (Wichita) with a U.S. tour kicking off the same day in Detroit … Destroyer is the title of Black Mountain’s fifth album, out May 24 on Jagjaguwar … The same day, Cate Le Bon will also release her fifth LP, Reward, via Mexican Summer on May 24 … METZ’s Automat (Sub Pop, July 12) is a collection of non-LP singles, b-sides, and rarities from the Toronto rawkers … On July 19, Chuck Cleaver (Wussy, Ass Ponys) will release debut solo album Send Aid via the Shake It label … If you’re seeking New Songs For The 20th Century, Chris Stamey and Omnivore Recordings have you covered June 28, with help from the likes of Nels Cline, Bill Frisell, Branford Marsalis, Caitlin Cary and Marshall Crenshaw … Stereo Total returns July 12 with Ah! Quel Cinéma! (which translates roughly to “what a palaver,” which we still don’t understand anyway) via Tapete … Out today is Nighttime Stories (Southern Lord), Pelican‘s first album since 2013’s Forever Becoming … A decade in the making, the seventh Schramms‘ album, Omnidirectional, is out June 21 via Bar/None.

MAGNET Exclusive: Download Figure Walking’s “Blue World Remix”

The past: Canadian duo Figure Walking released debut The Big Other in 2017, and the album was long listed for the Polaris Music Prize. The future: The twosome—vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Greg MacPherson (a longtime Winnipeg indie-rock fixture) and drummer Rob Gardiner (Conduct, Pip Skid)—will issue sophomore follow-up vertical/horizontal later this summer on MacPherson’s Disintegration label. The present: a remix, courtesy of Philly band Tulipomania and producer/engineer Richard Hartline, of The Big Other track “Blue World,” a perfect song to spin while you do summer things. According to MacPherson, the remix (out today!) from our Philly phriends takes an “already celebratory song to new levels of existential joy and transcendence,” and who are we to disagree?

So go back to the future with our present to you. Download and/or stream “Blue World Remix” now.

“Blue World Remix” (download):

Essential New Music: The Get Up Kids’ “Problems”

Problems, the first full-length from the Get Up Kids in more than eight years, pulls an excellent trick. Like the best comeback records (think Sleater-Kinney’s No Cities To Love or Braid’s No Coast), Problems doesn’t focus its energy on concocting a new identity for an established band––the Kids already did that with their first return in 2011 and underrated fuzz-rock LP There Are Rules. Following on last year’s sugar-rushed homecoming EP Kicker, Problems is a look back at everything that’s always made the Get Up Kids a great band, a refresh of their most lovable qualities that never feels false or pandering. It reinforces the greatness of their past as much as it provides something awesome of its own accord. 

All of this is to say that Problems fits in perfectly with the band’s original run of records in the most worthwhile way possible. It’s outrageously hooky, emotionally blunt and honest, melodically quirky—and even a little bit sad sometimes. It’s the Get Up Kids in their pure form. And it’s an absolute blast. 

The music of the Get Up Kids has always bloomed from an essential feeling of loneliness. On 1998’s seminal Something To Write Home About, the band distilled that feeling into a document of buzzing, hands-to-the-sky catharsis, a yearning for something lost or never existent that could be worn on your sleeve, shouted from the top of your lungs to nobody in particular. So it’s fitting that Problems begins with an introverted anthem, a celebration of the act of being alone as opposed to being lonely. “Satellite” is a bursting rock song to bounce along to by yourself on a Saturday night, and the bright way Matt Pryor sings the hook (“It’s a long way down for me/The satellite orbiting the world alone”) gives you permission to have the time of your life all on your own. 

Later on, songs like “Salina” and “Now Or Never” go for the tried-and-true Get Up Kids subjects with little, but meaningful, twists along the way. “Salina” is a road song about being away from a loved one, wonderfully moody but self-aware of its own drama (“Sentimental fool who writes all these words for you”). “Now Or Never” (with Jim Suptic taking the lead) is a classic pop/punk tune on which the titular cliche is delivered with the rare sense that “never” is a viable option. “Now Or Never” is also home to a classic Get Up Kids one-liner: “Our indifference is a sickness we caught together.” A little sad, but not too sad, and sung with an almost cheery tone, the line serves as a microcosm of that subtle mix of emotions that has always put this band ahead of its peers.

At this point, it feels silly to try and measure Problems against the band’s classic records. But songs like “The Advocate” and “Fairweather Friends” are easy to rank among its best. “The Advocate” falls in line with “Satellite,” an empathetic song that seeks to treat its subject with honesty and respect. Pryor has said that he wrote “Satellite” for his son, and “The Advocate” also feels like it could be directed toward a child, its core hook––“Arms around whoever you may be”––a stomping, sweet reminder of love for somebody even as they push away. 

“Fairweather Friends,” on the other hand, is delightfully cheeky song addressed to anyone who might say, “Why do the Get Up Kids still exist?” Twenty years removed from their most beloved record, there are bound to be some people who tuned out at some point and assumed that everyone else did the same. The exuberant chorus doesn’t give them an inch: “Fairweather friends will say/All good days just fade away/To those fools I say/Stay out.” It’s not bitter. It’s not mean. It’s a pure, fun anthem for keeping your head held high even when you’re told to wonder “What’s the point?” The song, and Problems as a whole, answer that question with just as much power as the Get Up Kids ever yielded––there are still plenty of songs to be sung at the top of your lungs. 

—Jordan Walsh

Live Review: Michael Fracasso, New York City, June 3, 2019

Austin singer/songwriter Michael Fracasso—who finishes a four-night East Coast concert swing tonight in D.C.—performed at NYC’s Rockwood Music Hall on Monday night along with guitarist Charlie Sexton and keyboardist Michael Ramos. Promoting new CD Big Top, Fracasso is benefiting greatly from the accompaniment of his two Austin buddies, and it is the mark of endorsement from Sexton and Ramos that makes these efforts most notable. 

The hardworking Sexton had a scant two weeks to spare before going back on the road with Bob Dylan, and he chose to help bring attention to Big Top, which was actually recorded by Fracasso and Sexton back in 1999 but had never seen the light of day, until now. Fracasso has long been considered one of Austin’s premier songwriters, and his camaraderie with Sexton and Ramos was rekindled after a heartfelt memorial to late bassist George Reiff, who also played on the album. Amazed and inspired by these nearly forgotten songs that he’d heard at an informal song-pull at Patty Griffin’s home, Ramos brought the vintage recordings to the attention of Lucky Hound Records, which wisely chose to release the forgotten album in its entirety. 

Fracasso is a shrewd song stylist who melds pure-pop sensibilities with infectious Americana, and his clear vocal tenor is well framed by Sexton’s accompaniment. Their recent live performances have picked up where the album left off two decades ago. Opening the Rockwood set with Michael Johnson’s rollicking “Crazy Little Cricket,” the trio searched for the proper balance of their intimate instrumentation. The talented Ramos alternated between piano and accordion all night, while Sexton added the tastiest accompaniment on top of Fracasso’s propulsive rhythm guitar. Fracasso’s classic songwriting was well showcased with performances of standout album tracks like “Mother Nature’s Traveling Show,” “A Deal’s A Deal,” “Mean Ol’ Place” and “My Blue Heaven.” 

Romantic ballad “Long After Hours” showcased Fracasso’s dramatic vocal croon, as did subtle political lament “Laughing Boy,” which was actually directed at President George W. Bush when it was written. While a portion of the audience was solely in attendance to see Sexton, nobody left the show unimpressed by Fracasso’s talent. Those who were more familiar with Fracasso’s long career and many recordings were duly rewarded with performances of fan favorites like the overtly dramatic “Wise Blood,” the infectious ‘Gypsy Moth” and the totally hypnotic “Saint Monday.” The band also revived “Hospital,” a tough, clear-eyed tune off of another Sexton-produced Fracasso album, 1998’s World In A Drop Of Water.  

The trio’s performance at the Rockwood did suffer from a lack of rehearsal time, but the obvious love and respect between these three musicians overcame the glitches. Supporting each other and surrendering all in service of the songs, the band brought these tunes back to life for a new, appreciative audience. With a few more gigs under their belt, they should be completely in sync for their homecoming this Sunday in Austin.

—Mitch Myers

Essential New Music: Sparrow Steeple’s “Tip Top Sorcerer”

Sparrow Steeple beckons. Follow that crooked finger and you’ll soon find yourself tumbling down the sort of rabbit hole that Lewis Carroll used to dig when he wanted to make sure that his readers got good and lost. Down there, you will be threatened by “Stabbing Wizards” and take mortal pun damage from “Handy Andean Indian,” and if you’re made of the right stuff, you’ll sit right back up and roll the 12-sided dice again.

This Philly combo is mostly composed of musicians who’ve also played in Strapping Fieldhands, and they navigate easily between T.Rex-like riffing and hobbit-snaring strum-alongs. But it’s singer Barry Goldberg who burns the deepest brand upon your brain. His fluttering delivery brings to mind Bryan Ferry back when the dapper one could still hit some high notes, and he has requisite denial of encroaching ridiculousness that you just have to have if you’re going to be an art-rock frontman. Tip Top Sorcerer synthesizes record-collector geekdom and role-playing gamer nerddom using alchemy that could get you banned in several alternate universes to come up with something greater than its already commanding parts. 

Bill Meyer

Live Review: Neneh Cherry, Brooklyn, May 14, 2019

Neneh Cherry established herself as a perfectionist right from the beginning, starting and restarting “Falling Leaves” until it was right. Four attempts and a change of in-ear monitors later, she was happy and so was everyone else.

The rest of the set at Elsewhere was flawless, drawing primarily from last year’s Broken Politics. Cherry’s voice was gorgeous, equally supple and lived-in, steeped in jazz, forged by punk and tested by hip hop. It defies categorization.

Introducing “Black Monday,” one of the set’s highlights, Cherry told the story of how it was inspired by Polish women’s struggle against strict anti-abortion laws. Of “Synchronized Devotion,” she simply connected the dots between the broken politics of our time and the duty of artists and the rest of us to resist.

Her band, anchored by husband Cameron McVey’s synth wizardry, was terrific, too, bringing all that was required of Cherry’s many moods: energy, enthusiasm and impeccable playing. Percussionist Rosie Bergonzi was particularly exciting to watch.

Amid the wealth of material from Broken Politics, Cherry went back—way back—just a few times, with her emotional elaboration on Cole Porter’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” (from 1990’s Red Hot + Blue benefit comp) and two songs from 1989’s Raw Like Sushi (the wise-and-weary “Manchild,” played late in the main set, and a jubilant sing-along version of “Buffalo Stance” to end the night).

In the pantheon of goddesses ripped out of magazines and taped on the wall next to my bed circa 1993—along with Patti, Polly Jean, Tori, Tracy, Suzanne, Courtney, Madonna, Miki and the ladies of L7—Neneh Cherry was the one who took longest to see, and she was wonderful. It’s inspiring to hear her in such fine form and so committed to the art she’s creating at this point in her life. (I wouldn’t be above begging for a Raw Like Sushi/Homebrew-heavy show, though.)

Openers Lafawndah and Ian Isiah sounded cool, at least what I gleaned from their quick sets.

—M.J. Fine; photos by Chris Sikich

Lafawndah
Ian Isiah

MAGNET Exclusive: Download Ian Noe’s “Dead On The River (Rolling Down)”

For Ian Noe, getting the right road-kill shot became an obsession. “I couldn’t get it out of my head,” says the 19-year-old native of Eastern Kentucky. “I was trying to get that thing for three years. Melissa Stilwell is the one who took it.”

Stilwell’s striking sepia-toned image of an unfortunate deer—which hints at the stark artistry of Mathew Brady’s battlefield photographs of Civil War dead—wound up on the cover of Noe’s full-length debut for a reason. It perfectly captures the ominous sense of place he was after for Between The Country (National Treasury Recordings/Thirty Tigers), not to mention the dislocated desperation and resigned sadness that pervades the beaten-down corner of Appalachia where he grew up.

“We’d all go to my grandfather’s house on Friday and Saturday nights and just play all night long—that’s how I learned,” says Noe, who was coaxed into writing his first song at age 15 by his great aunt. “She just kept asking me every time she saw me until finally it just stayed in my head.”

Recorded in Nashville with characteristic restraint by Dave Cobb, Between The Country has to be one of the most stunning debuts of the year. Delivered with an intensity that’ll make your jaw ache, Noe’s vocals are a spare revelation, their emotive efficiency owing an equal debt to John Prine and Bob Dylan. “The first Dylan album I ever got was Bringing It All Back Home,” says Noe. “I threw it my grandparents’ cart at Walmart when they weren’t looking.”

Like it or not, the sorry humans that inhabit Between The Country’s 10 songs will take up residence in your soul—whether it’s the spurned alcoholic of “Irene (Ravin’ Bomb),” the menacing addict of “Meth Head” or any of the other hard cases who come to life in cinematic detail on tracks like “Junk Town,” “Letter To Madeline” and “That Kind Of Life.” In Noe’s sympathetic hands, each of them is more than an unredeemable product of skewed genetics and bad decisions. “I’ve known people like that,” says Noe, who’s at a loss to explain how he creates characters of such depth.

Available here as a free download, “Dead On The River (Rolling Down)” is Noe’s vaguely journalistic take on a murder ballad. “It’s based on some stuff I’ve heard about around where I’m from, and also the first season of True Detective,” he says. “You’re trying to create a feeling—if that makes any sense.”

—Hobart Rowland

Live Review: Santigold, Philadelphia, May 5, 2019

If it’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years since Santigold’s first album came out, that might be because it’s technically been 11 years since the release of the maddeningly titled Santogold LP. More likely, it’s because the record’s still a staple of the clubs and coffee shops I frequent.

It’s always cool to see Santi White connecting with the crowd, and her Fillmore show was on point, whether she was reminiscing about her Philly days, bringing up the erstwhile Spankrock (now known as Naeem) for “Shove It” and “B-O-O-T-A-Y,” inviting the masses up to dance to “Creator” or revisiting her 11-year-old self to spit 2 Live Crew’s “We Want Some Pussy.”

The set featured every song from Santogold (with “L.E.S. Artistes,” “Unstoppable” and “I’m a Lady” sounding both classic and fresh), but newer songs like “Can’t Get Enough Of Myself” and “Coo Coo Coo” felt just as perfect. If I’m still dancing and/or drinking hot beverages in 2030, when White and I would both be turning 54, I hope she’s still providing the soundtrack.

—M.J. Fine; photos by Chris Sikich

Record Review: Drahla’s “Useless Coordinates”

Utter certain words in a sequence, and the world deems you either a prophet or a madman. Since 2015, the stylish fever dreams of Leeds-based trio Drahla—conveyed through scattered singles, cryptic sleeve covers, and music videos—read like fragments of a codex that could’ve been the work of either. Yet ponderous bass lines, guitars that jar nerves like razors and the occasional sax squall plant Drahla firmly in the art-damaged post-punk crowd, where a cool exterior and esoteric texts can shield the artist from any commitment to prophecy. And ergo, you don’t have to be a lunatic or a seer to sing baffling non-sequiturs, as Drahla does on its debut LP. You just need an alluring aura, a working knowledge of occult rituals,and enough chutzpah to convince everyone that your existential ennui equates to truth.

On the surface, singer/guitarist Luciel Brown, bassist Rob Riggs and drummer Mike Ainsley seem like Artists displaced from space and time. As Brown teases out such lines as “Castle in the air has fallen/Creation is invalid” or “Ancient Egypt in the palm of my hand” to her own serrated riffs, mundane life and ordinary people fade into tiny dots within Big Picture Concepts. Even with Drahla’s opaque lyrics, though, those dusty dialogues from academia aren’t too hard to work out—as on the rather Siouxsie-like “Stimulus For Living,” which boils down existence to a regular pattern of stimuli (fast food, sunsets, etc.) to maintain contentment. Meanwhile, “Invisible Sex” addresses our modern-day obsession with fabricated personas (both online and off) that morph into another reality in the public eye: “A profile to assign to/A glorious reflection to elevate my DNA/Visual exterior for opinion/Visual exterior for submission.” 

Spend more time with Useless Coordinates, though, and you’ll find a self-fulfilling prophecy. The locked-door riddles serve as the only landmarks in the labyrinth, where tortuous corridors of sax and guitar blend into one discordant tangle. No one in Drahla will guide you through this maze, either; Brown and her acquaintances seem to place themselves above the clamor, save for the jagged bridge on the Sonic Youth-esque “Twelve Divisions Of The Day.” Even here, though, lazily drawn line “Holy water, shine on me” sounds like nothing less than a taunt, a mockery of spirit as it withers within secular rituals: “Waking up, body clock/An imitation, self-regard.” 

Are these mysteries worth spelunking for? Perhaps, but dive deep enough into Drahla’s musings, and the most horrible secret emerges like a slug: There are no stairways to the stairs, no curses in the pyramids, no aura in the moonlight. Useless Coordinates has either exposed enigma as the forgery of aged signifiers, or Drahla has reduced the chaos of the unexplained to well-tread paths on a map. The initiate can only guess; the adept will surely know. But both will keep searching anyway.

—Lee Adcock

In The News: Raconteurs, Titus Andronicus, Torche, Lukas Nelson & Promise Of The Real, Buddy & Julie Miller And More

The Grammy-winning Raconteurs—Jack White, Brendan Benson, Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler—return with Help Us Stranger, out June 21 via Third Man. It’s the band’s third album and first in more than a decade, and the North American tour supporting it starts July 12 in Detroit … June 21 also brings with it the Bob Mould-produced An Obelisk (Merge), the sixth LP from Titus AndronicusTurn Off The News (Build A Garden) is the second Lukas Nelson & Promise Of The Real album for the Fantasy label, out June 14 … Torche—featuring a reshuffled lineup—will release fifth album Admission on July 12 … Buddy & Julie Miller return with Breakdown On 20th Ave. South (New West), their first album in a decade, on June 21 … Reader As Detective is the name of the new LP from the Generationals, out July 19 via Polyvinyl … Dude York is back July 26 with Falling (Hardly Art) … Guy Walks Into A Bar…, the third album from Mini Mansions, is out July 26 on Fiction and features a guest appearance by Alison Mosshart of the Kills … Chastity Belt singer/guitarist Julia Shapiro makes her solo debut on June 14 with Perfect Version (Hardly Art) … Of Monsters And Men‘s Fever Dream is out July 26 via Republic.

There Will Be Bloodshot: Murder By Death And Sarah Shook Disarm Amish Country

Bloodshot Records labelmates Murder By Death and Sarah Shook And The Disarmers rocked the legendary Chameleon Club in Lancaster, Pa. The Bloomington, Ind., quintet was supporting last year’s The Other Shore, while North Carolina-based Shook and band were promoting sophomore LP Years (also from 2018). MAGNET photographer Chris Sikich bore witness in Amish country.

Sarah Shook

Lollapalooza Debuted 28 Years Ago Today

28 years ago today, Lollapalooza kicked off its first year in Phoenix with a lineup featuring Jane’s Addiction, Siouxsie And The Banshees, Living Colour, Nine Inch Nails, Ice-T, Butthole Surfers and Rollins Band. What are seven bands you don’t want to see play outside during the day in 100-degree heat no matter how many drugs you take, Alex? View some of our images from Lollapalooza over the past decade here.