Portland, Ore., quartet the Shaky Hands drove 37 hours to SXSW this year, and in case you’re wondering what was played in the van, bassist Mayhaw Hoons lays out the playlist’s greatest hits below. Led by singer/guitarist Nicholas Delffs and including guitarist Jeff Lehman and drummer Jake Morris, the Shaky Hands will release Let It Die (Kill Rock Stars) September 29. Check out the Strokes-meets-Dylan album track “Allison And The Ancient Eyes” below.
“Allison And The Ancient Eyes” (download): http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/AllisonAndTheAncientEyes.mp3
Alice Cooper “Long Way To Go”
The original Alice Cooper group doesn’t get enough cred. Forget about “Feed My Frankenstein” and “Poison.” The original band was awesome. They knew how to mix great rock and the goofiness of pop. No one has done it as well since.
Dead Moon “Diamond In The Rough”
These guys are our heroes. Straightforward, dirty DIY rock. Plus they are from Portland!
Funkadelic “Can You Get To That”
This is the song most played on our last tour, over and over and over.
Al Stewart “Year Of The Cat”
To Jake and me, this song is the greatest of all time. I have a feeling that Jeff and Nick get sick of hearing it 2,000 times a tour. It’s that sax solo that does it for us.
Pink Floyd “Fearless”
Floyd finally quits acting so weird and gets smoooooth, then they have to ruin it with what sounds like soccer hooligans.
Donovan “Hurdy Gurdy Man”
Donovan was kinda the predecessor to a D&D kid. He sounds like a geek who happens to make really good tunes. If you don’t like Donovan, you shouldn’t ride in our van.
The Wipers “Wait A Minute”
I have too much to say about the Wipers. Awesome songs, great lyrics and they could play! One of, if not the best, bands from Portland. Ever.
Sonic’s Rendezvous Band “City Slang”
This is a perfect rock song. Plus it has a bass breakdown. As if Sonic Smith wasn’t cool enough from being in the MC5, he goes on to do this. And Patti Smith!
There’s true faith behind tracks such as Charlatans UK/Beach Boys conglomeration “Action Reaction” and the bare, ruined orchestral pop of “Next Summer” (download or stream below), both selections from This Is For The White In Your Eyes, the stateside debut from Copenhagen’s Choir Of Young Believers. Primary choir member Jannis Noya Makrigiannis made MAGNET a mix tape that’s got heartbreak to the high heavens.
The Ramones “I Don’t Care”
I’m a huge Ramones fan, and I love all the songs off the first four records. It’s so simple and so powerful at the same time, and I love how the deadpan lyrics seem so wise. (Or maybe I’m just a deadpan.)
Chris Bell “You And Your Sister”
I’m a big fan of heartbreaky love songs that make you feel all teeny and fragile. This one is a killer.
Deradoorian “You Carry The Deed”
My girlfriend really likes Deradoorian a lot. At first, I didn’t get the whole R&B thing she is doing with her vocals, but now I like it a lot and think it is kind of special—kind of a R&B/folk thing.
The Byrds “You Ain’t Going Nowhere”
The Byrds playing Bob Dylan and heavily influenced by Gram Parsons. I’m a big fan of all three, so this song is, of course, a big hit with me. Lately, I have had a bit of a weak spot for ’60s country rock/pop, which also explains the next song
Glen Campbell “Wichita Lineman”
I Got You On Tape “Spinning For The Cause”
This is a new song from this Danish act. Jacob Bellens, who sings, has an amazing voice and writes really good lyrics.
First Floor Power “Eat The Rich”
One of my all-time favorite bands. They are Swedish and have done three albums, and this song is from second album Nerves and has some very good lyrics like “Eat the rich, but be sure to cook them first/And drink a bottle of water so you don’t die of thirst.” The guy who sings this song is called Karl-Jonas, and he also has a solo project called Blood Music, which is fantastic as well.
Wildbirds & Peacedrums “The Way Things Go”
I think I saw this band live 10 times last year, and they blew my mind every time. It’s just a drummer and a singer, and although they do this crazy mix of soul, punk, pop, avant garde, jazz and a whole lot more, it just seems like the most natural thing. It is very primal music.
White Magic “Plain Gold Ring”
Hardcore heartaches—and out of this world!
Traening “In My Arms”
Long-gone Danish indie band. They have that heartbreaky love-song thing going as well and I can’t get enough of it!
Bob Hund “Mer Än Så Kan Ingen Bli”
One of the best rock bands ever!
Long Island-based As Tall As Lions got it right when titling its third album You Can’t Take It With You (Triple Crown, out August 18); the quartet leaves it all on the floor, enduring a recording session for the LP that found the band members parting ways with their producer and nearly breaking up in the process. The hard-won result is a collection of epic, yearning songs with the dreamy romanticism of U.K. groups such as Coldplay and Doves. The band’s MAGNET mix tape showcases the myriad sounds percolating around the Lions’ den.
The Persuaders “Love’s Gonna Pack Up (And Walk Out)”
A brilliant song about love falling apart. Aggressive yet soulful, this 1971 top-10 hit instantly caught my ear when I heard it on late-night radio. While recording our last record in Los Angeles, I found a re-pressing of it on vinyl and probably played it about 100 times a day.
Daft Punk “Something About Us”
A longtime friend opened my ears to Daft Punk only recently. For me, electronic music can go either way. It’s not often that I hear a track like this and dig it, let alone get the chills like I do when I listen to this track. Great bass line, amazing groove. If you haven’t heard this record, I suggest all the dance freaks go pick this up.
King Crimson “21st Century Schizoid Man”
The mecca of ’70s prog rock. Under the strict rule of guitarist/band leader Robert Fripp, this opening track on King Crimson’s 1969 debut left the musical world asking, “What the fuck?” This is not only one of the most bombastic songs ever written, but it also showed musicians that they were going about their instruments all wrong.
Bob Marley “Kinky Reggae”
My favorite song by one of my favorite artists. You can never go wrong with Bob Marley. I’m pretty sure every song he ever put out was great, but this sexy tune sticks out. Bob and his boys were young, full of fire and, according to the lyrics, ready to get down.
Blonde Redhead “Equus”
This is the last song on their 2004 record Misery Is A Butterfly. It opens with a killer bass riff, explodes into double-time drum groove, dirty guitars, distorted female vocals and stays groovy all the way through. What else can you ask for?
Black Star “Brown Skin Lady”
Off one of the greatest hip-hop records of all time by two of the most talented cats around. Mos Def and Talib Kweli honor the grace and beauty of those dark-skinned women I love so much. I listen to this record pretty much every single day, but somehow I’m still not bored of it. A true hip-hop classic.
Can “Future Days”
The best band ever to make records. Truly progressive, making every record different than the next. This number is the title track from my favorite album of theirs. Eight minutes of krautrock history showcasing singer Damo Suzuki’s phenomenal melodic sense.
The Eternals “Crime”
One of my recent discoveries. In this song, the Chicago-based dub group plays one of the deepest grooves I’ve heard in long time. They only made two records, but try to get a hold of this gem. It’s definitely worth the listen.
Talk Talk “Happiness Is Easy”
If you haven’t heard of this band, you must be crazy. Dark, ambient synth pop with children who sing the vocals. Kind of reminds me of my own band. Go figure.
D’Angelo “Untitled (How Does It Feel?)”
The sexiest song ever. I’m a sucker for this song—and the entire album. Another record that I listen to on an everyday basis that never seems to get old. Also, perfect for makin’ babies.
We’ve name-dropped the Byrds, Polvo and Spirit when describing psychedelic-leaning Raleigh, N.C., quintet Birds Of Avalon, but listen for yourself below and come up with your own references. The band members—vocalist/keyboardist Craig Tilley, guitarists Paul Siler and Cheetie Kumar, bassist David Mueller and drummer Scott Nurkin—not only recently released their sophomore LP, Uncanny Valley, they also made MAGNET a mix tape. It included this note: “It probably wouldn’t quite fill up a 60-minute cassette, but you could always just tack on ‘Miles Runs The Voodoo Down’ from Bitches Brew to fill up the rest of side two!”
Mulatu Astatke With The Heliocentrics “Addis Black Widow” David: The legendary Ethiopian pianist teams up with the London psyche jazz collective. It’s amazing what a little slap-back echo can do. It’s even more amazing what a lot of slap-back echo can do. This will probably show up as a Madlib sample by the time you finish reading this, if it hasn’t already.
Sun City Girls “Space Prophet Dogon” Cheetie: The Harmattan transports desert vibes across the planet from Mali to Arizona. Guitar and voice in unison evoke a haze under the sheltering sky.
Pere Ubu “Navvy” Craig: This 1979 release has already covered every ’90s guitar riff in the opening two seconds, then goes straight to crazy with a scary rhythm section and the schizophrenic singing of Dave Thomas on top, making you feel a little seasick. It’s a little uncomfortable and alluring at the same time, but the chorus lets you know everything probably going to be OK.
The Hollies “Clown” Scott: Pretty sure this is Graham Nash’s ode to Bozo’s alcoholism.
Joni Mitchell “Free Man In Paris” Paul: The obvious choice from the mighty fine Court And Spark. There’s something so L.A. summery about this. Cheech and Chong were part of this session, which puts it over the top! I’m always daydreaming about being at these tiki-torch parties circa ’70-’74 with Harry Dean Stanton, Peter Fonda, Joni—though I would probably wouldn’t like any of these people if I really had to be around them!
Minutemen “Jesus And Tequila” Paul: While we’re in a summery SoCal mood … If this were playing, I would probably enjoy the people at this tiki-torch party a little more. Maybe John Belushi would show up!
The Sir Douglas Quintet “Song Of Everything” David: Doug Sahm’s moody tribute to Big Sur. Swirling saxophones and a mind-bending flute solo (yes, really) twist against fuzz guitar and Sahm’s plaintive moan. A Texas tornado cutting through the redwoods.
Wire “Another The Letter” Cheetie: A simple guitar line, synth loop and an insistent beat—and you have the perfect pop song clocking in at 1:07.
Simply Saucer “Instant Pleasure” Craig: This minute-and-a-half piece of punk/synth/psych/pop squeezes the charm of early Syd Barrett with Hawkwind’s gift of making your mind take a solo for a few minutes while the band plays on.
Amon Düül II “Eye-Shaking King” Cheetie: From the amazing Yeti. A thunderous regal stomp with some insane vocal effects!
Steely Dan “Any Major Dude Will Tell You” Craig: This, like 99 percent of the Dan’s music, has the unique ability to make you want to listen to the rest of the album—right that fucking moment.
Phil Upchurch “Black Gold” Scott: From the 1968 Upchurch record. He’s got a killer band including Donny Hathaway on piano and Morris Jennings on drums. This is the album opener replete with a full orchestra and choir backing.
Zapp “Doo Wa Ditty (Blow That Thing)” David: It’s pretty much impossible to be in a bad mood when this song is playing. Five minutes of harmonica, talk box and bass synths. Pure aural joy.
“The record doesn’t lie,” sings Aaron Stovall on “Artifacts” from The Loud Wars (Vagrant), So Many Dynamos‘ third and latest album. Some detective work on The Loud Wars reveals the St. Louis band—which also includes guitarist Griffin Kay, guitarist Ryan Wasoba and drummer Clayton Kunstel—as post-hardcore heirs to the increasingly beat-friendly lineage of Polvo, Dismemberment Plan and Battles. Not surprisingly, their MAGNET mix tape features a wide variety of music’s most fearless experimenters.
The Octopus Project “Truck” Kay: Toto Miranda, Octopus Project’s drummer/guitarist, might be the most energetic performer I’ve ever seen. Stovall: This tune is special in that it belongs to a very short list of songs that So Many Dynamos has covered in a live-show setting. Wasoba: If So Many Dynamos had a TV show, this would be the theme song.
The Bronzed Chorus “Overpass Sunrise” Wasoba: The Bronzed Chorus are two people that sound like at least four, but this song is so perfect that it completely transcends that limitation. As soon as that guitar hook comes in, it just makes all the sense in the world. Stovall: Although their record is full of “I can’t believe only two dudes are playing this” type of moments, this song is the obvious jam. Seeing them play it live only makes you appreciate it that much more. Kay: The drummer plays keyboards without missing a beat. It’s really impressive.
Nels Cline Singers “Square King” Wasoba: Every few years, I hear a song that sounds like it was written specifically for me, and this is one of them. It’s like a free-jazz Pixies song. I tend to get wrapped up in bands and albums and recordings and forget that I’m a guitar player. This song sort of brought everything I love about the instrument together, and I owe Nels Cline a fruit basket for that.
Why? “Fatalist Palmistry” Wasoba: This song is from Alopecia, a record that I love, but I can understand if somebody hated it. Almost every song on this record has at least one line in it that is so brilliant it just pisses me off. Yoni Wolf’s lyrics are intelligent and provocative, but the songs are so dense that it’s sort of overwhelming. Listening to this song is like listening to John Coltrane solos, where it’s kind of a lot of work and you have to be in the right mood, but it’s really satisfying once you finally wrap your head around it.
Herbie Hancock “I Thought It Was You” Kunstel: This song is pure candy to my ears. “I Thought It Was You” comes from a late-’70s record called Sunlight. For some reason, this record was released as a U.K. import only. Sunlight is the first of a few recordings to feature Hancock himself singing—through a vocoder!!! Leave it up to the Miles Davis Quintet’s piano player/friend of Quincy Jones to record one of my favorite nine-minute, sexy, post-jazz-fusion dance songs.
Yeasayer “Sunrise” Kunstel: Every time I listen to “Sunrise,” I hear something entirely new that my ears were previously incapable of hearing. The vocals alone create spacious hooks that can fool your ears into missing how much is going on. All the musicians in this band can be heard stretching themselves to the textural limit while creating a peerless conversation among one metric fuck-ton of different sounds and instruments.
Dirty Projectors “Stillness Is The Move” Stovall: Have you ever wondered what a collaboration between Brian Eno and Mariah Carey would sound like? If so, this song may be the most accurate representation of that fantasy becoming a reality. With the repetitiveness of both the rhythm and guitar melody, plenty of room is left for the vocals to shine and prove that great pop songs can be written and recorded without the aid of an auto-tuner. Also, the line “Isn’t life under the sun just a crazy crazy crazy dream” could have come straight out of a Disney movie and I would have never noticed. Only I did notice, and I feel like it would make the most sense if it were from The Little Mermaid.
Sheila E. “Glamorous Life” Stovall: Dear Phil Collins and Don Henley: We get it. You can play the drums and sing at the same time. But have either one of you ever tried playing three cowbells, timbales and a splash cymbal while singing a song about living life without the constraints of a man and looking absolutely fabulous while doing it? I didn’t think so. Sheila E. is the daughter of Latin percussionist Pete Escovedo, and she worked with Prince during the Purple Rain recording sessions. If you listen closely enough, you can actually hear him singing backup on this song. Everything about this tune is awesome, and the soprano-saxophone melody on the offbeats will continue to destroy me for years to come.
Crosby Stills & Nash “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” Kay: I’ve been finding myself listening to this song three or four times in a row every day for the last week. The four different sections and lack of repetition keep the replay value high. What really seals the deal for me are the perfect vocal harmonies, which come to a climax in the last minute of the song in the “doo doo doot, do do, doo doo doot” part. For a song that is essentially a break-up song, it always leaves me feeling good. It’s funny that this song is number 418 on Rolling Stone‘s list of the greatest songs of all time, between N.W.A’s “Fuck Tha Police” and Dr. Dre’s “Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang.”
Wilco “Jesus Etc.” Kay: Pour one out for Jay Walter Bennett (November 15, 1963 – May 24, 2009). I remember when I was 19, Ryan made me come with him to see the movie I Am Trying To Break Your Heart. I had not yet gotten into Wilco and actually fell asleep in the theater. A few years later, I began an intense Summerteeth/Yankee Hotel Foxtrot phase, and this was the song that kicked it off. I’ve given all post-YHF albums a few listens, and it just isn’t doing it for me. I think it’s due to a lack of contribution from Bennett. Rest in peace, dude.
A name such as the Lovely Feathers may carry connotations of soft and downy pop, but the Montreal band trades in surprisingly agile post-punk guitar chime on Fantasy Of The Lot, due out next month. Singer/guitarist Mark Kupfert offers a glimpse into his musical psyche and sharp stylistic turns with his MAGNET mix, throwing in everyone from Biggie to Bowie to Blur.
Frank Sinatra “My Way”
When I was about nine, my parents came back from some out-of-town wedding with a tape of my dad singing “My Way” and “Blueberry Hill.” The party had a karaoke booth, where you’d sing and take home a recorded version of your performance. I had to listen to my father serenade himself for a full year.
Notorious B.I.G. Featuring Bone Thugs-N-Harmony “Notorious Thugs” It was the summer of 1997. I was 15 and discovering pot’s beauty in curbing the utter boredom of life within a Canadian suburb. Most nights would usually end at my buddy’s basement, where we’d satisfy our munchies listening to Biggie chant, “Armed and dangerous/Ain’t too many can bang with us/Straight-up weed no angel dust.” Wonderful, wonderful stuff.
Chad VanGaalen “City Of Electric Light” I was driving to New York City in a rented U-Haul. It was snowing heavily, and the truck didn’t seem to have much traction. This tune came on, and I felt like I was in some apocalypse/oblivion world. Love his vocal texture over the edgy-yet-warm arrangement.
My Bloody Valentine “Loomer” I had a lover for one summer. I didn’t know her well. She didn’t know me. Every time we made love, we’d listen to My Bloody Valentine. I still can’t listen to this stuff without getting aroused.
Metronomy “My Heart Rate Rapid” Some songs instantly cure my mid-range depression.
Blur “Girls And Boys” I went to see Blur in 2003. In the middle of playing this song, Damon Albarn stopped the band, saying the song sounded like shit. A weird hush fell over the crowd. Blur moved on to other tunes, as if nothing happened. Then in the encore, Albarn said, “Let’s try that fuckin’ song again.” The baseline of “Girls And Boys” kicked in, and the crowd went apeshit.
David Bowie “Suffragette City” I remember the first time I heard the full album of The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust. I was in college, probably about. My buddy told me, “Listen to this—you’re going to love every song.” I listened to the whole album every day for two weeks straight. I can still easily listen to the album front to back. The record is ageless.
Grizzly Bear “Foreground” Just a beautiful song. A little more bear than the other tunes. Awfully elegant.
Man Man “Engwish Bwudd” We did a mini-tour with Man Man in the summer of 2006. I still remember the look on vocalist Ryan’s face when a crazy fan came up to him showing his tattooed arm. The tattoo was a calligraphy version of the lyrics to “Engwish Bwudd.”
Malajube “Montréal -40°C” In this ode to my hometown, I always get the willies when I hear the lyric “une ourse polaire dans l’autobus.” I actually don’t know why, because the band is basically saying, “Montreal, you’re like a polar bear in a street bus.” Somehow, it totally does it for me. It’s fuckin’ freezing here.
Wye Oak‘s loud/quiet/loud brand of shoegaze Americana on second album The Knot (Merge, due next Tuesday) sounds like mid-period Yo La Tengo and indoor fireworks: by turns subtle, explosive and intimate. The Baltimore duo of Andy Stack and Jenn Wasner aren’t easily pinned down, but The Knot does offer a lyrical theme of personal connection and romantic ties. For her MAGNET mix, Wasner went with a playlist of first songs she heard from artists she loves.
Wye Oak’s “Take It In” from The Knot (download): http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/TakeItIn.mp3
Dirty Projectors “My Offwhite Flag”
Super addictive and oddly catchy. This would come on regularly at the restaurant where I work and make me forget whatever I was doing at the time.
Extra Golden “Ilando Gima Onge”
This song inspires instant happiness and summery warmth, even though the first time I heard it was in the winter. I recently had the great pleasure of seeing this band live, and they opened with this. They were phenomenal, by the way.
Guided By Voices “Echoes Myron”
It was quite the turning point when I realized that perfect pop songs don’t have to be produced like perfect pop songs.
Lambchop “Paperback Bible”
There are hundreds of Lambchop songs I’ve grown to love, but this was the first. We got a copy of Damaged the first time we visited the Merge folks in North Carolina. I put it in and instantly thought, “How have I been missing out on this?”
Smog “Permanent Smile”
Thank goodness for this “first songs” theme; otherwise I could never pick only one.
Royal Trux “I’m Ready”
This song sounds so perfectly terrible. It was all I could listen to for days.
Silver Jews “Frontier Index”
The voice hit me first, but it was the guitar solo that clinched it.
Townes Van Zandt “Pancho And Lefty”
I remember being amazed at how affected I was by two characters whose lives and surroundings couldn’t have had less to do with my life.
Sharon Van Etten “Damn Right”
I had the pleasure of first hearing Sharon live. I work at a restaurant that doubles as a venue, so I’m used to tuning out bands while I scrub away at the last of the evening’s grime. As soon as she started playing this song, I froze—in fact, the whole place did—and I don’t think I spoke a word until she finished. Fortunately for me, it was the first of many times I saw her sing this.
Big Star “O, Dana”
“I’d rather shoot a woman than a man/I worry whether this is my last life.” I’m sold!
It’s difficult to argue about the truth behind the title Technicolor Dreamer, the long-overdue debut album by Brooklyn-based DJ and studio savant Scott Hardkiss. Out next month on Hardkiss’ own God Within label, Technicolor Dreamer is a surreal tapestry of under-the-sea funk fantasias and electronic pop with disco-era studio trim. Hardkiss has remixed everyone from Elton John to the Flaming Lips, and a rainbow-colored spaceship full of contributors and vocalists appear on the album, including Britta Phillips (Dean & Britta, Luna) and musicians who’ve worked with David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, George Clinton, Justin Timberlake, the Blues Brothers and Sting. Hardkiss’ MAGNET mix journeys from psychedelic rock to neo-soul.
The Beatles “I Am The Walrus”
I was a latch-key kid, and I’d come home after school and sit alone for hours listening to my father’s abandoned record collection. I would play this song over and over, and it absolutely scared the shit out of me. But I couldn’t stop playing it and looking at all the surrealist images in the booklet. Up until then, music was all just “pop” to me; I just couldn’t understand why someone would purposely make music that was so weird and disturbing. There were electronic instruments and effects mixed in, too, as well as a full classical orchestra. It was the first time I understood that music was art, too.
Scott Hardkiss “The Underwater Ball” Your average surrealist electro-funk myth. An old sailor’s reminiscing about when he was a youth at sea. He gets seduced by a mermaid, and she takes him down to a nightclub at the bottom of the sea where she’s a VIP and all the sea creatures are partying. I won’t spoil the end. I used old-school vari-speed reel to reel tape effects to get the funny high and low voices on this and “Star Power.” I guess I’m hoping to blow the mind of some other latch-key kid out there. Only this sounds more funky and cartoony, like Vanity 6 on acid.
Erykah Badu “The Healer (Hip Hop)” This is from last year’s New Amerykah Part One (4th World War). It’s so eclectic and, like, “out there” and “in there” at the same time. It’s so beautiful when you hear artists start to radically reinvent themselves and develop at light speed. Folks who didn’t dig her older, so-called “neo-soul” stuff should definitely give her a second listen now; it’s like listening to Sgt. Pepper vs. Meet The Beatles.
The Rolling Stones “Emotional Rescue” My favorite disco song the Stones cut is “Miss You”; I’ve got the rare hot-pink vinyl promo. But this one’s cool, too. These were all done around the time that disco got so big that rock groups started doing it, sort of like how now all the rock and hip-hop groups are taking from techno and electronic music. But I dig it. A lot of times these attempts produce some fantastic songs. And blending genres is something I’ve always been into. The Stones did it right; man, they actually had Larry Levan, the DJ from The Paradise Garage, working on some of their mixes.
Scott Hardkiss “Star Power” Another trippy, cartoon-funk song, written after working closely with several movie stars, composing the musical scores for a series of short films by first-time directors who are also very famous actresses. Some of them were unbelievably cool, collaborative and hard-working, and some … weren’t. One of them may or may not have inspired this satire of the modern celebrity culture and people whose job is pretty much to be famous. Musically, it’s just funky, hip house with a vari-speed midget spewing “party like a mock star” rap and a talk-box chorus, live guitars, bass and trumpet. You know, the usual shit.
Aceyalone (Featuring Treasure Davis) “Can’t Hold Back” The album this song is taken from, Aceyalone & The Lonely Ones, is absolutely amazing; you should go buy it immediately. He totally reinvented himself, putting together a live band and recording a crazy fusion of hip hop with Motown, Stax and ’60s girl-group stuff. It’s so dope, this amazing blend created by a true artist looking backward and forward at the same time. It’s what I like to call “retro-futuristic.”
Kelis (Featuring Andre 3000) “Millionaire” Outkast is brilliant, Andre 3000 in particular. When I first heard “Hey Ya,” I felt like someone had finally come along to, as George Clinton put it, “rescue dance music from the blahs.” He’s in that place similar to Prince back in the day, where he’s making too many great songs to put out himself, so he’ll give them out as a “producer.” This one he did for Kelis. It’s this avant-garde pop masterpiece that’s pretty much drum ‘n’ bass mixed with R&B and bittersweet lyrics about finally becoming a millionaire, but still feeling lonesome and broke inside.
Dam-Funk “Hood Pass Intact” A dude who’s doing this new sound that I’m really into: inspired by the ’80s, but the black electronic ’80s. For me, the stuff that was really amazing back then was the black futurist stuff: Roger & Zapp, Mantronix, Bambaataa & Soul Sonic Force, Jonzun Crew, etc. I was really into the drum-machine-and-synth NYC electro, hip hop, freestyle and disco stuff that was funky but modern, and I also dug Chicago acid house and Detroit techno. This has that original electro-funk vibe, but with an ill modern flavor. There’s a few artists who are doing this. They’re like the next generation of the “afronaut” or “black spaceman,” but with more of a techy, 21st-century vibe.
Kathy Diamond “All Woman” Kathy is a British singer who put out a stunning debut album far too few people have heard. She’s got a really sweet, soulful voice and sings these utopian dance-floor lyrics over tripped-out dubby house and techno mixed with disco, funk and soul. She’s doing some newer stuff with this talented crew called Soft Rocks. They just did a far-out dub remix of “Underwater Ball.”
Massive Attack & Mad Professor “Radiation Ruling The Nation (Protection)” I always had a thing for dub and roots reggae—it was always so earthy and soulful, but spaced-out and futuristic at the same time. And it just vibrates. Like Gandhi, it’s this unstoppable revolutionary force that conquers in peace. A potent blend. When Massive Attack made their masterpiece Protection, they gave it to Mad Professor to produce a dub version of the entire album. And it’s fucking mind-blowing, one of the best remix albums of all time. He uses these old analog auto-pan units. Just listen to it on headphones and you’ll feel the force.
Dean & Britta “I’ll Keep It With Mine (Scott Hardkiss Remix)” The Warhol Museum has a show called 13 Most Beautiful, which takes 13 of the more than 500 silent, black-and-white “screen tests” Andy Warhol shot of everyone who walked into the Factory from ’64 to ’66 and sets them to music by Dean & Britta, the fantastic electro-folk duo. Britta’s doing vocals all over my album: singing and rhyming, even spoken word, and I’m remixing this for them. It’s the song they recorded for Nico’s screen test, allegedly written by Bob Dylan for Nico during an affair they had. This remix is new for me—it’s not centered on the beats and synths but more of a dubby, Velvet Underground vibe with Dean’s majestic guitar and a slightly robotic effect on Britta’s voice. It kills me when she sings, “Everybody will help you discover what you set out to find.”
Yeah Yeah Yeahs “Skeletons (Acoustic Version)” Some people aren’t into this record because it’s not just retro garage rock or whatever they were doing before: They’re using synths and classical string orchestrations, and it’s so musical and melodic, but it’s a masterpiece. For me, it’s the opposite: It’s the first album by this group that I really love. And the acoustic versions are the best! That voice, the soundscapes—it’s just stunning. People are funny; they get really upset when artists change, but any artist who doesn’t change isn’t really much of an artist at all.
The Phenomenal Handclap Band (Featuring Rodrigo Ursaia) “Baby” Another new album that’s drawing on classic funk and soul, but more on the psychedelic tip. The singer on this sounds a little like Eddie Kendricks, my favorite Temptation of all time, and the song sounds a little bit like his “Girl, You Need A Change Of Mind.” The Temps had an incredible psychedelic-soul phase themselves, masterminded by genius producer Norman Whitfield. If you like this, check it out. This Handclap Band is very happening.
Scott Hardkiss “Come On, Come On” Lisa Shaw, who’s all over my new record, sings the lead on this, and her performance is so beautiful and real. I kept arguing with the engineer because he wanted to put more reverb on her voice and lower it, like most vocals are mixed. And I just wanted it to be so loud and dry, like she was less than an inch in front of your face singing really deep lyrics directly into you. People who say that electronic or dance music has no soul don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about.
Jimi Hendrix “1983… (A Merman I Should Turn To Be)” I’ll end this with the the greatest “black spaceman” of all, and it’s also a nice leitmotif, since Jimi’s talking about turning into a merman. A 13-minute-plus epic production he did for his final album—and it’s just magic. There are these incredibly intense builds where he’s got bizarre crying sounds soaring across while he wails how people said “it’s impossible for a man to live and breathe underwater” and that it’s “beyond the will of God,” and then those parts burst into these long, peaceful floating psych sections that are just so heartbreakingly beautiful that it feels like the clouds have parted and you have this clear vision of a possible perfect world where all is full of love.
Nadja, the Toronto doomgaze duo of Aidan Baker and Leah Buckareff, accomplished two important things with the recent release of covers album When I See The Sun Always Shines On TV (The End). It offered a glimpse into the group’s musical soul, with logically chosen covers of My Bloody Valentine, Swans, Codeine, Slayer and the Cure. But it also gives unexpected treatment to Kids In The Hall’s Brain Candy soundtrack gem “Long Dark Twenties” and a-ha’s ’80s synth-pop hit that partially gives the album its title. Baker and Buckareff have given MAGNET a mix tape of proposed covers that didn’t make the album. After the jump, Nadja’s Rejected Covers Mix:
“Only Shallow” (originally by My Bloody Valentine) (download):
“Dead Skin Mask” (originally by Slayer) (download):
SLAYER “Necrophobic” (1986) Aidan: I’ve always preferred Seasons In The Abyss to Reign In Blood, but “Necrophobic” stands out as my favourite from Reign. It’s got the speed, the scream, the chuggy breakdown, all in less than two minutes. Leah: This one was just way too hard, so we did “Dead Skin Mask” instead. It was much easier to adapt to our sound.
GODFLESH “Don’t Bring Me Flowers” (1992) Aidan:Pure was the first Godflesh album I picked up. A friend had gone on about Streetcleaner to me before, but I’d never heard it. I got Pure when it first came out and loved it right away, particularly “Don’t Bring Me Flowers” and 20-plus-minute ambient track “Pure II.” I called “Flowers” the ballad of the album, which my friends thought was crazy. But we ended up not covering it because our version sounding too close to the original. Leah: It’s sad, pretty, noisy and heavy at the same time, which kind of encapsulates what we’re trying to do.
BIG BLACK “Precious Thing” (1987) Aidan: I nearly wore this record out as a teenager. Loved Albini’s acerbic tones (guitar and voice), the jarring edginess of their tunes and the pounding rhythms of “Roland.” “Precious Things,” with its creepy moodiness, stood out against the more aggressive songs as almost pretty … in a harsh way. Again, though, it was difficult for us to make this song sound different enough from the original to be interesting.
BRUCE COCKBURN “If I Had A Rocket Launcher” (1984) Leah: I particularly wanted to do a protest song. I know this is about Guatemala, but it could easily apply to things the American and Canadian governments have or are been complicit in. (Yeah, I know, nobody thinks Canadians do bad things, but we do.) Aidan: I think Cockburn may have disowned this song because of its overly violent message. Even if the sentiment is well-intended, the lyrics are pretty harsh and seem almost out of character for Cockburn, especially compared to his early, folkier material. It is a good protest tune, though. Plus, we wanted to cover something Canadian.
WIRE “Heartbeat” (1978) Aidan: We wanted to do this one because Big Black also covered it and we could get all self-referential covering it ourselves (covering a band covered by another band we’re covering). I’ve always liked how Wire can sound like such a different band, album to album, even song to song, while still retaining something of a signature sound.
PIXIES “Monkey Gone To Heaven” and “Planet Of Sound” (1989 and 1991) Leah: Frank Black is one of my favorite musicians, solo and with the Pixies. Of the two, “Planet Of Sound” would be my pick since it would’ve been a lot of fun to play. Aidan: “Monkey Gone To Heaven” is one the Pixies’ saddest songs, I think. I like the melancholy feel it has while still being, essentially, a pop tune.
NEW ORDER “True Faith” (1987) Aidan: Maybe not as catchy as “Blue Monday” (which has already been covered enough), but I’ve always found the melody line of “True Faith” so touching with its melancholy lilt … and over such a bouncy beat. Leah: I’ve been dancing to this song with my sisters since I was 12. Covering this would ultimately ruin if for my sisters, but that would’ve been fun, too.
JOY DIVISION “Colony” (1980) Aidan: One of Joy Division’s heaviest tunes. We wanted to make it even heavier. Leah: I like dancing to this one, too!
THE JESUS LIZARD “Zachariah” (1992) Aidan: I love this lyric: “He smokes into town, goddamn/Like dust with boots on.” Classic Yow, classic tune, proof that the Jesus Lizard could do slow and dirgey just as well as fast and angular. Leah: This is a pretty great song. A little different from most Jesus Lizard, but perfect for us.
Toronto’s the Cliks are a transgender, trans-genre rock outfit whose third album, Dirty King (Tommy Boy), is due June 23. Cliks frontman Lucas Silveira recently made MAGNET a mix tape loosely based on pop music’s most universal theme: heartbreak. Silveira earns extra credit for including a song by Jellyfish, whose relative obscurity is, well, heartbreaking.
RADIOHEAD “Fake Plastic Trees” (1995)
This is the perfect little pop song that digs at your soul so much that you can’t believe it’s a commercial hit. I had my first understanding of the scope that Radiohead would play in influencing me as a songwriter and lover of music with this song. This song made me realize that I was not in love with someone. I understood and I accepted, and then I did the breaking up. Amazing what connecting to another person’s experience though music can do.
ARCADE FIRE “Crown Of Love” (2004)
My heart was beaten and shattered the first time I heard this song. Crawling away from a relationship that I thought was going to last forever. I felt like this song was me in that moment. I later made love for the first time to this record, and when this song came on, I felt that broken part of me repairing. Songs that can do that need no explanation as to why they are good. They just are.
THE BEATLES “Eleanor Rigby” (1966)
When I was five years old, my sister had a Best Of The Beatles tape, and I would listen to it back to front on repeat for hours. I found all the music would make me see things in my head and feel things in my heart that I had never felt. I was obsessed with it. This song in particular brought me my first experience with the feeling of darkness. I thought it was such a creepy song, but I still couldn’t stop listening to it. As an adult, when I listen, it takes me back and helps me to realize how it was this song that inspired so much of how I write today. It is an unbelievable piece of work.
JELLYFISH “Glutton Of Sympathy” (1993)
This is such a beautiful song that trying to describe what it does to me is difficult. The melody is beyond gorgeous, and it is so befitting of the lyrics that go with it. And don’t even get me started on how amazing the harmonies are. Faultless. It’s sad to me that this band never really got its due in mainstream music. I’ve said it a million times, but I truly think Jellyfish is one of the most underrated bands of our time.
JEFF BUCKLEY “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over” (1994)
There is something about Jeff Buckley’s voice that just oozes sexuality at its most passionate. In this particular song, it oozes longing for a lover as though his emotion was the only existing in the universe. If I had been the subject of this longing, I would be his love slave forever, not that I’m gay, but every boy has a weakness. Jeff finds a way to divulge his vulnerability and ache to be with his lover with such intensity that you can feel the raw sexuality dripping from his voice. It’s a brilliantly written song, and the performance is nothing less than epic.
DAVID BOWIE “Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide” (1972)
This is probably the perfect rock song. The closeness of the vocal, the natural sound of the acoustic guitar in the intro—it’s like you’re in a living room listening to Bowie play in front of you. Songs aren’t recorded like this anymore, and it’s a sad situation. I love the way this song takes you from the calm to the intense, and you don’t know what’s happening but you know you have to follow. It makes you feel like you’re slowly, introspectively walking to the bridge over the highway and that the closer you get, the crazier you feel. This song is the lending hand that makes you glide away from the jump. Unreal.
NINE INCH NAILS “Hurt” (1994)
The first time I heard this song, I cried. In fact, I sobbed. Both versions of the song bring you to the core of what it feels like for every human being on the planet when loneliness and dispare consume you. Whether it’s being sung by Trent Reznor or Johnny Cash, the song is what penetrates you. I find it difficult to this day to listen to because it brings me to a place in myself that I can’t deal with all the time. It’s a true work of art.
JONI MITCHELL “A Case Of You” (1971)
I just found it in myself to start listening to this song again after having it be one of those songs that I related to the worst case of a broken heart I have ever had. You ever had one of those? If anyone in the world can remind you of heartache, it’s Joni Mitchell. This song will forever be timeless. It is one of the most beautiful melodies I can think of ever hearing. That kind of melody that can make you feel the hurt of love. Hurts so good.
LEONARD COHEN “Famous Blue Raincoat” (1971)
Leonard is a poet. That’s the first thing you need to note about this song. These lyrics are the epitome of great lyric writing. This song is the most beautiful painting that was ever painted. I can’t say much about it, because it feels that anything I would say would diminish its perfection.
NEIL YOUNG “It’s A Dream” (2005)
I know he has hundreds of songs that some may think top this song, as it’s one of his most recent, but to me, it’s one of his best. I heard it the first time when he performed on Saturday Night Live. With tears running down my face, all I could think was the history that was held in this one person’s psyche. The world of music and memories that he carried in his soul and how moved I was by hearing one song of hundreds or thousands that he wrote and how I felt the world of music he would one day leave behind had been captured in one. I am in love with this song.