From The Desk Of Mac McCaughan: The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart

maclogof1Outdated reference point or not, the anti-apathy sentiment on Superchunk‘s sophomore single “Slack Motherfucker” still seems characteristic of Mac McCaughan 20 years after he wrote it. The recently dormant Superchunk is moving again, and McCaughan also fills his time with Portastatic and co-ownership of Merge Records. As if that wasn’t enough to keep him busy, McCaughan is guest editing magnetmagazine.com this week.

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McCaughan: How can music that reminds me so much of some other music still be so compelling? There’s certainly something comforting about the familiar strumming-on-top-of the-fuzzing and the cooing-over-the-buzzing, but if there aren’t songs underneath all that early-’90s throwback coating, who would take the time to dig them out? Well, there are songs and there’s also the comforting part and even if you still have your Black Tambourine and Pale Saints and Swirlies records you will be quite happy to add the Pains Of Being Pure At Heart to the shelf. I was impatient so I bought the CD, but I bet this rules on vinyl.

“Come Saturday” (download):

MP3 At 3PM: Moby

moby450This roaring piece of bombastic death metal … OK, so maybe the new Moby song isn’t quite such a shocker. But “Shot In The Back Of The Head” lets you know, from the title to the last chords, that this track is a change of pace for Moby. Instrumental and eerie, “Shot” (the first single off Wait For Me, due June 30 on Mute) is less electronica, more melancholy pop. Be sure to check out the suitably creepy music video courtesy of David Lynch, who takes the song’s hypnotic glamour and turns it into a bizarre, animated world.

“Shot In The Back Of The Head” (download):

The Over/Under: Pavement

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Corey duBrowa’s Over/Under entries on Radiohead and Elliott Smith prompted insightful reader comments such as “This list fails,” “[Given] the fact Smith’s gone, this seems disgraceful” and “Where’s the html tag for sarcasm?” DuBrowa once wrote a lengthy Seattle Weekly essay lauding Pavement’s 1992 debut LP, Slanted And Enchanted, which stands among the finest releases of the ‘90s and established Pavement as one of the definitive voices of its era. Listed here are his takes on the band’s most overrated work and its satchel of underrated gems, as well as a preemptive plea to fellow Portlander Stephen Malkmus to call him sometime for a Spanish coffee at Huber’s. The first one’s on us, dude.

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From The Desk Of Mac McCaughan: “Wendy And Lucy”

mac_mccaughanlogo110bbOutdated reference point or not, the anti-apathy sentiment on Superchunk‘s sophomore single “Slack Motherfucker” still seems characteristic of Mac McCaughan 20 years after he wrote it. The recently dormant Superchunk is moving again, and McCaughan also fills his time with Portastatic and co-ownership of Merge Records. As if that wasn’t enough to keep him busy, McCaughan is guest editing magnetmagazine.com this week.

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McCaughan: A couple years ago, Kelly Reichardt made the film Old Joy (with Will Oldham and Daniel London), and it blew my mind in a very gentle way. Not a lot was happening, but I kept not wanting it to end. When I left the theater, I wanted to: a) watch it again, and b) see her next movie, which she wouldn’t make for another couple years, and it’s Wendy And Lucy, starring Michelle Williams. Reichardt has the discipline to make a movie at the pace of how you wish your life moved, and after one movie, she had her own genre. So after two movies, is it an oeuvre? Or is it the other way around?

Lost Classics: Swell “41”

tapem200bThey’re nobody’s buzz bands anymore. But since 1993, MAGNET has discovered and documented more great music than memory will allow. The groups may have broken up or the albums may be out of print, but this time, history is written by the losers. Here are some of the finest albums that time forgot but we remembered in issue #75, plus all-new additions to our list of Lost Classics.

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:: SWELL 41 // American/Psycho-Specific, 1993
Swell may be the strangest act to land a major-label deal in grunge’s wake. (And that includes Daniel Johnston.) What’s commercial radio supposed to do with deadpan, minor-key vocals set atop acoustic guitar and room-next-door drums? But on Swell’s second big-label effort, the San Francisco psych/rock outfit found the ultimate meeting of desert-dive twinkle and drug-induced moodiness. It might sound almost lazily laid-back at first, but 41 delivered 13 spooky, insinuating beauties that refused to be dismissed.

Catching Up: The major-label deal ended shortly after 41, and subsequent efforts delivered diminishing returns. Sole constant member David Freel had been quiet following 2003’s Whenever You’re Ready, but Swell has since released 2007’s South Of The Rain And Show and this year’s Be My Weapon.

“Is That Important”:

TiVo Party Tonight: The Killers, Madeleine Peyroux

tivokillersbEver wonder what will happen during the last five minutes of late-night TV talk shows? They let musicians onstage! Here are tonight’s notable performers:

The Tonight Show With Jay Leno (NBC): The Killers
The Killers are a pompous band we love to hate, so there’s not much we can do here other than to point you to a review of the band’s headlining set at Coachella over the weekend. Thanks, L.A. Times music blog. That was a close one.

Late Late Show (CBS): Madeleine Peyroux

From The Desk Of Mac McCaughan: The Dirty Projectors

mac_mccaughanlogo110bbOutdated reference point or not, the anti-apathy sentiment on Superchunk‘s sophomore single “Slack Motherfucker” still seems characteristic of Mac McCaughan 20 years after he wrote it. The recently dormant Superchunk is moving again, and McCaughan also fills his time with Portastatic and co-ownership of Merge Records. As if that wasn’t enough to keep him busy, McCaughan is guest editing magnetmagazine.com this week.

dirty_projectors550McCaughan: Isn’t there some kind of music scene in Brooklyn? That’s so crazy! It’s not even in Manhattan! But seriously—and I mean seriously—the Dirty Projectors melted my face off one night in Minneapolis when it was literally five degrees below zero, so you can imagine how hard it is to melt faces in that cold. But they did—the playing, of course, and the high-life or afrobeat or something on the guitar but mainly the singing and the voices, really not like anything I’d ever heard. Then he started introducing a song as being about the cops hassling him, and it was a freaking Black Flag song; I really thought I should walk outside except it was five below zero. But the great thing is now it’s spring and a couple years later, and they have this sick new song “Stillness Is The Move,” which is an epic of some kind, and I can listen to it in the sun and look forward to the album. Yeah, we wanted to sign them to Merge, but what are you going to do? At least I get to listen to them still.

“Stillness Is The Move” (live) (download):
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/StillnessIsTheMoveLive.mp3

MP3 At 3PM: Papercuts

papercuts450San Francisco’s Papercuts (a.k.a. Jason Quever) is now on a multi-national tour to promote the just-released electro-folk You Can Have What You Want (Gnomonsong). Produced with Beach House’s Alex Scully, the rhythmic, organ-infused, analog-only album is as authentic and peculiar as an Edward Hopper painting; a bright but lonely landscape that makes you cheerful and queasy at the same time. On the title track, Quever’s voice drips with sentiment, the layers of guitar, bass and keyboard seeping through the speakers and wrenching your heart out like that time you stumbled upon a picture of you and the ex in the back of your dresser drawer.

“You Can Have What You Want” (download):

Q&A With Mac McCaughan

mac_mccaughan550bOutdated reference point or not, the anti-apathy sentiment on Superchunk‘s sophomore single “Slack Motherfucker” still seems characteristic of Mac McCaughan 20 years after he wrote it. The recently dormant Superchunk is moving again, with a new EP (Leaves In The Gutter), an appearance at Coachella and a possible album on the horizon. Of course, McCaughan also fills his time with solo project Portastatic and co-ownership (with Superchunk bassist Laura Ballance) of Merge Records, which might be responsible for more indie-rock classics than any other label in the past two decades. MAGNET spoke with McCaughan to ask about the status of Superchunk, the mysteries behind Merge and the appeal of North Carolina ice hockey. As if being in multiple bands and running a label weren’t enough to keep him busy, McCaughan will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com this week.

Portastatic covering Guided By Voices’ “Echoes Myron” (download):

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Wrens Watch, April 20, 2009

wrenswatch92111111We’ve been fans of New Jersey’s finest since even before their first album came out back in 1994, so let’s just say we’re used to sitting around waiting for them to take their sweet-ass time putting out new music. (Three albums in more than 14 years makes the Wrens about as prolific as Boston, which is kind of like being as tall as Verne Troyer.) As reported in a Wrens Watch Special Report, January 9 marked a huge milestone for the guys: guitarists Charles Bissell and Greg Whelan, bassist Kevin Whelan and drummer Jerry MacDonald. They issued “Pulled Fences,” their first new (well, sort of new) song since 2003’s The Meadowlands. Perhaps motivated by finally releasing something, the band convened—not in a real studio, but in Kevin’s basement—13 weeks ago to begin work on its new album. And not only that, the Wrens recorded an actual song (which you can download for free here). When we checked in with Bissell two months ago, he took exception with our good-natured sarcasm and quickly ended the interview. After ignoring us for a while, Bissell finally gave us a progress report; it seems that while other bands get together and record, the Wrens stay apart and talk to each other on the phone. Or they do nothing at all. Or they update their Facebook pagesFive weeks ago, Bissell informed us he was “too busy” to respond to our questions, but he did promise us some exclusive Wrens mp3s in the near future. A month ago, he didn’t even bother responding to our emails, prompting us to call him an unprolific Ryan Adams. That got Bissell’s attention, who three weeks ago apologized (profanely) and promised us an exclusive Wrens mp3 for the April 6 Wrens Watch. After not delivering, he said he’d come through the next week, but he didn’t. Bissell has again become completely unresponsive, so maybe the Wrens are actually recording and preparing for upcoming shows in George, Wash. (May 24) and Chicago (July 24 and 25). Or maybe he’s just a jerk.