Essential New Music: Scott Hirsch’s “Lost Time Behind The Moon”

Rock ‘n’ roll doesn’t have to be new. An inspired what-if notion might all that it takes to instigate some great music. Take Lost Behind The Moon, the second solo LP by Scott Hirsch. The former producer and bassist for Hiss Golden Messenger is a devoted, deep-roots kind of guy; he could not have brought this record’s loosely funky country-rock to life without closely studying J.J. Cale and his antecedents. But he’s no slave; why be in bondage to one example when you’ve got the skills to put some unlikely elements together?

Opening track “When You Were Old” sounds like a mash-up of Cale and Al Green with a little of Lee Perry’s magic smoke blown on the mixdown tape. And “Spirits” answers the question of what we might have gotten if Lou Reed had headed for Tulsa instead of Long Island when he bolted from the Velvet Underground. Besides liquid guitar licks and just stiff enough drum machine programs, Hirsch has a voice that differentiates him from his inspirations. Guileless and sweet, it’s an apt vehicle for sparely told tales of love and wonder.

—Bill Meyer

Essential New Music: Bob Dylan’s “More Blood, More Tracks: The Bootleg Series Vol. 14” (Deluxe Edition)

Bob Dylan at the tail end of 2018 was a fascinating, irascible concept. Dylan at the circus selling his Heaven’s Door whiskey with Jimmy Fallon by his side. Dylan making clear melodic sense of his catalog during the November/December leg of his Never Ending Tour with a date opening the grand old Met Philadelphia in MAGNET’s hometown. The six-disc re-release/reconsideration of 1975’s Blood On The Tracks, a troubled epic within said catalog and the very best of his albums of the 1970s.

As far as thematic concept albums on the overdone topic of ruined romance go, they started with crooner Frank Sinatra’s Only The Lonely (a slowly danced, bourbon-soaked illustration of frustration and despair over an affair’s finale) and end with irked songwriter Bob Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks (itself a meditation on love’s loss, but geared more toward anger and resentment). Only Marvin Gaye’s Here, My Dear (1978), Richard And Linda Thompson’s Shoot Out The Lights (1982), Willie Nelson’s Phases And Stages (1974) and, of course, Tammy Wynette’s D-I-V-O-R-C-E (1968) show as must disgust, fear, anxiety and loathing at having to separate love’s bonds.

Each of these stately recordings, Sinatra’s torch songs of 1958, Dylan’s blues and reds of 1975, were re-released at the end of 2018 with additional songs and missed-opportunity rarities, particularly in the case of Dylan’s deluxe-edition More Blood, More Tracks in accordance with his long-running Bootleg series. This refreshed collection features unheard alternative versions of searing songs from the moody masterpiece such as raw, emotional, solo, acoustic renditions of “Tangled Up In Blue,” “Simple Twist Of Fate” and “If You See Her, Say Hello” as well as the standard-bearing “Spanish Is The Loving Tongue.”

Other Dylan Bootleg collections have found their majesty in their rarities. With Dylan, in the case of Blood, there’s a quiet intensity to the original recordings (here, merely enhanced by new fidelity) that thin 1975 production missed, an immense sense of sonic stewing that has grown as we, the listeners, have grown up with its author and remastered sound.

The take after take of “Idiot Wind” and “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go,” the solo addresses of “You’re A Big Girl Now,” a rubbed-raw rehearsal version of “Up To Me,” a test pressing’s take on “Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts”—these versions make Blood more earnest and yearning in its completeness.

The version of Blood On The Tracks recorded in NYC before the famed Minneapolis sessions—the holy grail of Dylan tapes—finds his band racing to catch up with the songwriter’s solo demos, and you can sense the rush best on the takes of “Call Letter Blues” and “Meet Me In The Morning.” Anyone who remembers the hushed first takes of “Idiot Wind” and “Tangled Up In Blue,” available on The Bootleg Series, Vols. 1-3, will recall how his anger was magnified the quieter he got.

One thing that doesn’t change or alter, no matter the version, take or ensemble, is Dylan’s lyrics and melodies. Regretful and bitter with the life he’s leaving behind, this album is Dylan’s bloodiest shot at wearing his heart and soul on his sleeve.

—A.D. Amorosi

Essential New Music: The Kinks’ “The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society” (Super Deluxe Edition)

To call an 11-to-17 disc dissection of Ray Davies’ flowery, lit-witty masterpiece “forensic” doesn’t quite say enough about how the quintessentially British outfit’s transformation from frizzled garage rock to vignette-focused art pop is handled. Under the magnifying glass, the first of the Kinks’ albums not produced by Who knob twiddler Shel Talmy—and writer Ray’s first full-length foray into pastoral storytelling about the niceties (and not-so-niceties) of English life and aging—is given new breadth and vigor. It almost can’t help but do so with all that’s remixed and reproduced within the box. The decline of the British Empire and its rich culture, the decline of the body and the mind and the mix of English reserve, stewing anger, regret and nostalgia that follows—all this makes Village Green a haunted, yet lush and charming place to nestle.

Consider first that much of Davies’ initial ire stemmed from who the Kinks were the year previous to 1968. After a handful of early heated hits such as “You Really Got Me” and “All Day And All Of The Night” and the calmer likes of “Lazy Afternoon” and “Waterloo Sunset,” they were among the princes of the British Invasion of the mid-1960s. Prior to Village Green’s release, however, they’d been forbidden from touring in the United States after making trouble for musicians’ union bosses on their first American trek four years earlier. Combine that with Davies falling out of step from the harder, psychedelic sounds that his fellow Brits were making (the Who and the Rolling Stones, mainly) at the time, and Village Green (upon release) was viewed as merely quaint—an extension of that which Noel Coward and George Bernard Shaw had penned before him. “This world is big and wild and half insane,” wrote Davies on “Animal Farm,” produced here in glorious original mono, as well as explosive 2018 stereo mixes. He didn’t mean it with glee. 

Wistful for the England of his teen-hood (pre-Absolute Beginners, Colin McInnes’ tome to Britain’s youth quake of the ’50s) and that of his brother Dave (replacing his guttural electric guitars for gentle acoustics here), the two harmonize beautifully, rhapsodizing about the lord above (“Big Sky”), a youth of innocence (“Village Green”) and bucolic spirit (“Sitting By The Riverside”) and the arch characters who surrounded them, such as “Johnny Thunder” and “Wicked Annabella.” Even modes of travel that may or may not speak (“Last Of The Steam-Powered Trains”) get a winsome wink, nod and soulful melodicism in accordance with Davies’ new old outlook.
What happens here, then, with the various Village Green packages, is contextual. The addition of non-LP songs as “Days,” “Berkeley Mews” and “Till Death Us Do Part” extend Davies’ sonic and lyrical sensation of yearning melancholy without forgetting that he’s a pop songwriter in the broadest manner. An alternate all-country “Days” is warmer and cozier than a cup of freshly-brewed tea. “Where Did The Spring Go?” is given a vibrancy through its multitude of takes you hadn’t witnessed before. 

Along with mono and stereo versions of the original album, there’s a 12-track Swedish edition that somehow was released before the U.K. version, BBC sessions and countless demos and alternate versions that shed new light on the 1968 studio’s proceedings—such as a take on “Village Green” that’s so psychedelic and swirly, you’re not entirely certain that Davies didn’t try to get with the in crowd at some point in recording the album. 

While the Village Green mega collection sticks to its root recording with everything from facsimile seven-inch singles and vintage promo/concert poster and ticket reproductions, the box goes ever-so-slightly awry with the inclusion of a 2010-era Ray revisiting his classic with a full choir and orchestra. Luckily, essayist Pete Townshend and several smart Kinks theorists wrap everything influential and inspirational about Village Green into one delicious bow of an accompanying hardcover book. 

With its insight and intrigue concerning life’s minutiae and the passage of time, this Village Green set the bar—and pace—to where concept-driven Ray Davies would go from this album forward. It’s a gorgeous reality to have the road map expanded in full. 

—A.D. Amorosi

Essential New Music: Jon Porras’ “Voices Of The Air”

On his own and as half of Barn Owl, Jon Porras has tended to make instrumental music that’s expansive and visually evocative. The cinematic sense of pacing he achieves on Voices Of The Air derives from low-pitched electronic pulses that carry the listener from one still scene to the next. But while his guitar-based sounds of yore conveyed a sense of reach, the synthetic textures on Voices Of The Air feel like they’ve been stacked up into massive, looming walls.

Check the title; he isn’t just portraying the wind that blows around his ears, but also the layers of meteorological activity that extend up through the atmosphere. This music exerts a pressure that’s only amplified by the album’s half-hour running time. Simultaneously airy and heavy, it’s a trip well worth taking.

—Bill Meyer

Essential New Music: Neneh Cherry’s “Broken Politics”

Nearly 30 years (!?) after the ping-ponging pop-hop of Raw Like Sushi and its global hit, “Buffalo Stance,” Neneh Chery has found a fashion in which to maintain the ebullience of that youthful debut—and aging that torrid pop tone gracefully—while honing in on the socio-political now with deeply personal lyrics and a pulsing, spacey score provided by producer Kieran Hebden (Four Tet).

With that, Broken Politics is no easy listen by half. Between Hebden’s fussy jeepy beats and aggressive collage tones and Cherry’s tossed-in-the-air wordplay landing on all things socio-rhetorical (“Deep Vein Thrombosis” lines such as “how fragile is a life that can have everything now, too”), there’s a tension behind a great portion of the new album, a friction in sound and Cherry’s vision of an uneasy world. On “Kong,” Massive Attack’s 3D brings the low bass-y grumble of his one-time syn-sub ensemble to bear on Cherry’s icy arrangements while she hoots and scowls about “ guns and guts and history.”

That doesn’t mean or make the rapper/singer into Kafka, and Broken Politics into an existential mess. With its joyful noisy Ornette Coleman plastic-sax sample and its Jamaican steel-drum loop, “Natural Skin Deep,” gives Cherry a big bouncy way into a stray, gleeful hook, one where she intones, “My love goes on and on,” as a release. Like someone winning a tug of war, exhausted by the push-and-pull, Broken Politics feels like a deep breath after a long, tense struggle.

—A.D. Amorosi

Essential New Music: Heather Leigh’s “Throne”

Heather Leigh has been playing music on her own and with Charalambides, Tarpis Tula and Peter Brötzmann (among others) for more than two decades, but she didn’t release an album of songs with words until 2015. Both the presentation and the emotional content of that debut, I Abused Animal, is a solo voice and pedal-steel guitar so stark it sounds flayed to the bone. Throne is much more filled out, with synthesizers and beats layered onto her primary instruments.

But even though Throne’s flesh-and-blood sonics contrast dramatically with its skeletal predecessor, the two records are united in their unflinching exploration of the unstable territory where attraction and exploitation collide. One song’s protagonist exalts an object of desire; on the next, the narrator ambivalently recalls too-friendly attention paid by someone’s dad in the garage. Whatever the scenario, Leigh’s bold and voluptuous phrasing draws you into the emotional intensity of the situation without telling you what conclusions to draw.

—Bill Meyer

Essential New Music: Reissues And Collections Roundup (Kinks, John Lennon, Lindsey Buckingham, John Fogerty, Stereolab, NRBQ, Bikini Kill And More)

Just in time for your holidaze shopping, we bring you the best reissues and collections with which to stuff your loved ones’ stockings.

The Kinks The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society (BMG)
The 50th anniversary edition of hands-down one of the best and most influential rock albums ever is available as a super-deluxe set (174 tracks over two LPs, five CDs and three seven-inches, plus a book and other goodies) and a deluxe set (49 tracks over two CDs), as well as single-LP and single-CD editions. Absolutely essential.

Dave Davies Decade (Red River/Green Amp)
Since Father Christmas can never have too many Kinks-related goodies in his gift sack … This 13-track set collects unreleased material spanning 1971-1979 by this guitar hero.

John Lennon Imagine (UMe) and Imagine and Gimme Some Truth (Eagle Vision)
Lennon’s 1971 masterpiece gets multiple treatments with the centerpiece being a four-CD/two-Blu-ray ultimate collection featuring 140 tracks (the album is also available in double-CD, double-LP and single-CD formats); films Imagine and Gimme Some Truth are available on Blu-ray and DVD, having been hand-restored, remastered and remixed in surround sound.

Lindsey Buckingham Solo Anthology: The Best Of Lindsey Buckingham (Rhino)
A 53-track, three-CD set (a six-LP version is out November 23) featuring album, live and alternate versions from the Fleetwood Mac frontman’s solo career, plus some live takes on Mac hits.

John Fogerty Eye Of The Zombie and Deja Vu (All Over Again) (BMG)
From 1986 and 2004, respectively, these two often-overlooked LPs from the Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman are the latest in his year-long reissue campaign.

Loudon Wainwright III Years In The Making (StoryStound)
A two-CD, 42-track collection of live recordings, radio appearances, demos, etc., spanning Rufus’ dad’s almost-half-century career.

Permanent Green Light Hallucinations (Omnivore)
A 16-track compilation of Michael Quercio’s post-Three O’Clock ’90s psych-pop trio.

David J Crocodile Tears And The Velvet Cosh (Glass Modern)
A reissue of the second solo album by the Bauhaus and Love And Rockets bassist, from 1985.

Stereolab Switched On, Refried Ectoplasm (Switched On Volume 2) and Aluminum Tunes (Switched On Volume 3) (Duophonic)
All three are essential to ‘Lab rats, but we’re partial to Aluminum Tunes; these are available individually and as a CD boxed set.

NRBQ All Hopped Up (Omnivore)
Straight-up reissue of the genre-blending band’s fifth album, from 1977.

Bikini Kill The Singles (Bikini Kill)
A nine-song reissue of the 1998 CD collecting all of the legendary, Kathleen Hanna-led riot-grrrl band’s seven-inches.

The Four Tops The Complete ABC/Dunhill Singles (Real Gone)
33 tracks from the vocal quartet’s post-Motown period (1972-1978), many of which have never been released on CD before.

Yum-Yum Dan Loves Patti (Omnivore)
A 20th anniversary reissue from Chris Holmes (Sabalon Glitz, Paul McCartney touring DJ), with him in classic-pop mode; 10 bonus tracks, including Prince and Ronettes covers, round out the set.

Essential New Music: Restorations’ “LP5000”

Philadelphia’s Restorations skipped 4996 LPs to get from 2014’s LP3 to LP5000. Listening to the new record, it’s easy to figure out why. On LP5000, Restorations are consistently preoccupied with the future. During the course of the LP’s taut seven songs and 25 minutes, new buildings replace old neighborhood centerpieces, strangers invade historic streets, new administrations dissolve false senses of safety. Everything changes so fast in the world of LP5000, and some of the characters on these wearied, rocking-in-spite-ot-it-all streets can only react with a shrug and an, “Oh, but who has the time?”

LP5000 is recognizably Philadelphian, but not overtly. This is a record about an American city in the wake of the cultural and political upheaval that was the 2016 election. The earlier-quoted line comes from the subject of “Nonbeliever,” but the speaker is not framed as a cynic. The speaker is a regular person—with a family, with responsibilities, and who can’t imagine that there’s anything they can do to make anything any better. The song’s mellow keys and cyclical, hypnotic guitar lines give the impression of malaise, of hope lost. It’s not so much a scold as it is a reflection of familiar disaffection.

What LP5000 does to undermine this political disaffection is show a world still moving at a breathtaking clip, whether you’re watching, whether you care. It’s telling the song that immediately follows “Nonbeliever” is steady rocker “Remains,” which recounts the night of the election in tandem with gentrification in constant progression: “As the results came in/I felt the ground pull me closer down” and, later, “Now you can’t afford to live in the town you were born in.” The song begins and ends with the line, “If I remember that right, we were standing in the rain.” All of this change happens around people who remain basically the same, doing the same shit or not.

As such, Restorations do not give a rallying cry with LP5000; it’s more like an honest, direct delivery of the situation at hand. There’s nothing overtly furious on this album—instead, its best compositions brood and meditate, try to organize a reaction. “Melt” twinkles and meanders through lines that could easily be screamed (“I know you’ve been scared since November … I don’t wanna hear that name again.” On simmering, glitchy “Eye,” frontman Jon Loudon juxtaposes reactions to our political moment (“Glance at your phone and you mumble ‘I hope he dies’/ I hope he dies, too”) with a simple narrative in which the speaker drops off a loved one at the airport. Starting off as gorgeous, glittering the National worship, the song explodes into a wailing, apocalyptic noise as Loudon, keeping his composure, sings:

It’s just me and the recoveries singing,
“The only drug for this is time.”
Living a letter to all the things we could’ve done better now,
Forever further on my way back home.
I’m still spinning like a laundromat,
Still treading water in the aftermath.
Just stay clean, just say you’ll remember me,
Forever further on my way back home.

It’s perhaps the finest moment in Restorations’ catalogue, and a summation of LP5000’s main point: The future, like it or not, is happening. Be there for the ones you love and react to it for them and for everyone. Don’t let the future happen without your say.

—Jordan Walsh

Essential New Music: David Nance Group’s “Peaced & Slightly Pulverized”

Never mind the mythology that has grown up around garage rock. If you’re going to brew a high-octane mix of ferocity, soul and volume at home, it really helps to have a basement. The closed-in feeling of low ceilings gives you some claustrophobic anxiety to keep at bay, and beneath-ground insulation makes it more likely that you can kick out the jams long enough to write a song without being interrupted because you’re violating a noise ordinance.

Case in point: Peaced & Slightly Pulverized, which was recorded mostly live in a Nebraskan basement over a couple days last December. Its seven songs aim by turns for the dread-shrouded trudge of classic Crazy Horse and the feloniously intentioned assault of early Stooges. And if it’s a little bit easier to hit the target when it’s pasted to a nearby cinder block, that doesn’t mean that they do any less damage.

—Bill Meyer

Essential New Music: Yowler’s “Black Dog In My Path”

Yowler is the solo project of Maryn Jones, who hails from MAGNET’s hometown of Philly. Jones just released sophomore Yowler album Black Dog In My Path (Double Double Whammy), and it’s a must hear. Jones and her band celebrated the LP’s release with a show at PhilaMOCA with Swanning and the Goodbye Party, and MAGNET photographer Chris Sikich was on hand to document the killer night, the first in a short run of Yowler shows this fall (tour dates below). Check out the photos, and be sure to check out Black Dog In My Path (stream it below).

Tour Dates
11/12 Kingston, NY BSP Lounge
11/13 Brooklyn, Park Church Co-Op
11/14 Pittsburgh, Mr. Roboto Project
11/15 Lakewood, OH, Mahall’s
11/16 Columbus, OH, Big Room Bar
11/17 Lansing, MI, Mac’s Bar
11/18 Chicago, The Empty Bottle
11/19 Bloomington, IN, The Bishop