“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.
“New Bones” (download):
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.
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.