In the fall of 2008, Damien Jurado began a side project, with his younger brother Drake, to run opposite to, yet borrow from, the folk music leanings that he is known for. He wanted to add a dark early 60's garage feel to the songs. Infusing this sound came easily with the addition of his younger brother. With no musical experience other than high school choir (and being mistaken for Damien on the phone) Drake took naturally to drawing out the dark tales from the city where he was born. The songs are compelling in story, but also pay tribute in feel to the real town of Hoquiam.
Gothic folk, personal narratives, and simple strong percussiveelements define the music of Hoquiam. Sparse, desolate, and a place you will find yourself passing through from time to time - both the town and the band.
Sam Buck Rosen: Dominant Mind
When Brooklyn-via-Newburyport, Mass.'s SAM BUCK ROSEN describes his brand of pop recordings as "avant-reggae" or "tropical grunge," it's easy to write him off as being cheeky or cavalier. But damned if his Dominant Mind LP isn't stuffed to the gills with clever incorporations of David Byrne's world music excursions, the first-thought-best-thought dance-pop experiments of Arthur Russell and the playful grooves of The Upsetters. Each ecstatic track is pushed along by Rosen's cock-sure voice, that of a man twice the 21-year-old's age and maybe the best adaptation of Elvis' croon since Chris Isaac (or Roy Orbison?). While Dominant Mind is essentially a collection of Rosen's best work over the last two years ? recorded in a haunted house in the woods of Vermont and in a practice space at Bard College ? many of the songs share the same inspiration: a small self-help book about taking control of one's mind that Rosen found sitting in the garbage. Note song titles such as "Freedom from Domination" and "Don't Let Your Clothes Wear You," each with minimalist lyrics that play as part word collage, part puzzle, part personal revelation. From "Freedom From Domination": "And I take personal issue/With vicious and feeble/Trying to wreck your own pretty is evil/And I lump you in with children and impertinent people."
Old Lights: Every Night Begins The Same
Old Lights is the mastermind of chief songwriter/multi-instrumentalist David Beeman. He is a transplant from southern California to St. Louis, Missouri. Known to date primarily as a drummer with David Vandervelde and a sound engineer for bands such as Cold War Kids, Delta Spirit and Elvis Perkins, he's now recording the songs that he'd been writing on the road, focusing on his own material. Common story, yes, but uncommon songs. Over the course of the next year, he and Gabriel Doiron (who contributed on several songs as the lead guitar player/part time bass player/co-songwriter/co-arranger) built and tore down several improvised home studio's in their respective residences. Heavily inspired by post-Beatles solo records, Beach Boys harmonies, the result is a layered and textured pop album that would appeal to fans of Rufus Wainwright, Badfinger and Okkervil River. Some of these songs were written, performed, and recorded by Beeman alone in as little as 2 hours, with as little as 2 microphones, while others were months long collaborations between Beeman and Doiron with much more effort going into the production. It ends up sounding like the midwest with a little sunny southern California charm.
The Horns Of Happiness: Weathering Alterations
The Horns of Happiness return to the recorded world with their first release since 2007's What Spills Like Thread EP. Here we find the band in concept mode, balancing its pounding rhythms and airy melodies to create a soundtrack piece entitled Weathering Alterations. The band's normally speedy and structure-damaged tunes begin to stretch out, allowing repetition and space to create new moods. Originally performed as an accompaniment to the J. Shelley Harrison installation piece "Don't Rain On My Parade", the recording focuses on the reaction of the psyche to unexpected changes in environment. While this is not the true follow-up to the band's only full-length album, 2004's A Sea As A Shore, the record is a moody, rocking, and nonsensical song cycle. As with all St. Ives releases, this album is only available digitally and as hand-made limited edition vinyl (only 200 copies).
The Race: Exiles
The Making of ExilesAs told by Craig Klein of The Race.
We were touring on our last record Ice Station (2007, FLAMESHOVEL), and spent several weeks on the road in our van the Black Boat frying in the Southwestern sun in places like Pecos, Abilene, Gila Bend, Imperial Sands, Needles? Exhausted late one night we tried to find a motel room near Odessa. Without so much as looking up from her tabloid the prickly front desk clerk of the lone motel in town says, ?Everyone?s looking for a room tonight, son. We got all kinds of men, Oil Men, Machinery Men, Construction Men, Company Men and Sorry Suckers like you. There ain?t no vacancies. You won?t find anyplace short of El Paso.?
Hours later and a hundred miles from anywhere and damn if that clerk wasn?t telling the truth. We wound up flat on our backs pulled over and delirious on the side of Highway 10 in West Texas staring up at shooting stars during the Perseid meteor showers. That night under the widescreen sky the idea for Exiles came about ? it?d be a kind of Judeo-Goth-Electric-Western, conflating the Acid Westerns and Road Films of the 60?s and 70?s, with the Old Testament fire and brimstone of long ago. A couple of days later in Tucson over tequila I put pen to paper for the song Clack and headed West from there.
Back home I found inspiration in the photography of Edward Curtis, Richard Avedon and the Farm Security Administration, the stories of Moses and his followers and T.E Lawrence, the films of Warren Oates, Dennis Hopper, Peckinpah, Malick, Jodorowsky, Hellman, Roeg, and in the sounds of Country, Blues and German Electronic music.
I took all the images I could find and collaged the walls of my shitty little studio - a Blue Room packed floor to ceiling, without a window, paint chipped and crackling and a busted ceiling fan. I spent a Chicago Winter ritualistically holed up in there - projecting myself into a burning world. By day I was making exhibits at the Chicago Public Library. After work I?d stick around and look for source material. When I got home I?d eat the same meal every night then get to it. My bandmate Alfredo Nogueira would come over and play his silver slide and help arrange what fell out. We used a lot of those bits we recorded then on the album. The rest was laid down later with Josh Eustis from Telefon Tel Aviv on the boards at Benelli Sound Labs, the studio he shares with Alfredo. It?s our 2nd record together. We came up with a palette of sound ? crusty synthesizers, broken guitars, machinedrums, cave vocals, ran it to tape and out came with this record.
Exiles is meant to be an over-the-top experience? sonically, lyrically and thematically conjuring the desert, its dunes, mirages and holy mountains and the outsized personalities of the outlaws, searchers, escapists, wanderers, drifters, pariahs, prophets, misfits, mystics, miscreants and all the other sorry suckers who?ve called the dusty road home. As dark and serious as it may all sound it was a hell of a lot of fun to make and we hope an enjoyable listen.
Exiles is available as a limited edition vinyl pressing of 220.
Vampire Hands: Hannah In The Mansion
Born like bored bolt of lightning, Vampire Hands are a quintessential kind of midwestern band. All of the personality and insular weirdness present in so many other Minneapolis groups' music, VH has taken all of their combined winters and created a cold and isolated sound that is hard to pin down but still strangely familiar. Their latest release, "Hannah in the Mansion," focuses more on the band's collective obsession with the wilted calypso-cana of Mayo Thompson and the rickety blues of Neil Young than their previous four releases but still maintaining their swirling, modern psychedelic tendencies. Despite recording and touring at a break-neck pace since their inception in 2005, the band shows no signs of slowing down and only expanding exponentially on tapping into their idealized vision of classic American rock.
Radical Sons: Throwing Knives
If it wasn?t for shit music, Radical Sons probably wouldn?t exist. Bummed out by the meathead Midwestern emo kids and aging hippie wannabes which they found themselves surrounded by, St. Louis teens Nick Risler and Benjamin Goldstein became fast friends. Hanging at the Delmar Loop. Sneaking into the monthly Chuck Berry gigs at Blueberry Hill. Playing old Television and Velvet Underground records after school on their local underground radio station. You could call it their own quiet rebellion. But like so many of these stories go, it wasn?t long before the call to crank the volume overtook them. So Risler and Goldstein dutifully answered, picking up a couple guitars and enlisting the services of Geoffrey Phillips and Patrick Shields to fill out a rhythm section and bring Radical Sons to life. The boys soon got attention by opening for critically acclaimed bands like Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Be Your Own Pet, and Little Joy. In the summer of 2008, St. Louis? Radical Sons began writing songs that would eventually become their Throwing Knives EP. The songs are short and sweet- complimented by Ben Goldstein?s deadpan vocal delivery and a fleet of strummed-to-death guitars. The Sons crafted five songs that pay homage to the records they loved growing up, while adding something that only bored Midwestern kids could. Like all St. Ives releases, the record will be available through all digital outlets, and in a highly limited 300-copy run of custom-designed vinyl, loaded with exclusive home-made demos.
Vollmar: Tell The Dirt
Tell the Dirt finds Vollmar in a formal studio environment, trying on a slightly more refined sound. It is a characteristically sparse affair, featuring band performances that sound more live than layered. The brain-twisting songwriting and moments of experimental flourish that have historically set Vollmar's music apart from the indie-folk crowd are likewise here in spades.
Lazarus: The Trickster
St. Ives has long been in love with the songs of Trevor Montgomery. Performing as Lazarus, Montgomery's nascent body of work began (after he left new kosmiche group Tarentel) in 2001 with the glorious Songs For An Unborn Sun (Temporary Residence Ltd.). Since then, two additional full-lengths have been released, further illuminating Montgomery's beguiling voice as both singer, arranger and lyricist and having earned him many comparisons to classic heavy bellowers such as Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen. After being commissioned by St. Ives to do a record, he decided to gather some songs together influenced by and referencing his teenage years. According to Montgomery: "At the time I was polarized by meth, riding trains, heavy psychedelics, and a love of spending my time in the mountains walking around in the woods. At 14 I tried to sell my soul for the ability to draw the female form in perfection, I skirted death several times, always seeming to be saved at the last minute by some good soul or random occurrence. All and all leading me to believe that the coyote's and crow's of the canyons were watching out for me. The Trickster in many forms, laughing and crying." Recorded wherever he could find space, but mostly in a photography studio in Old Town Orange, California owned by his brother. All songs were written, performed and recorded by Lazarus (William Trevor Montgomery). As all St. Ives records, The Trickster is available in limited edition (300 copies), each with unique hand-made art, done by the artist.
Cotton Jones Basket Ride: The River Strumming
Cotton Jones Basket Ride is the new band fronted by singer-songwriter Michael Nau (former frontman of Page France). The River Strumming is a delightful slab of fuzzed-out dream folk that thumps with a musical heartbeat in a manner not dissimilar to that of forward thinking modern-day shamen like Will Hart and Brightblack Morning Light. This album completed itself, so to speak, forming in pieces over a six month span while the band was working on its debut full-length Paranoid Cocoon (to be released in late 2008). It's composed of songs that are made of the tail end from _this_ song and the drum track from _that_ song, recorded over here and recorded over there, and so on. Nau and company initially set out to make a cohesive record, and made just the opposite. Some songs were recorded on one machine in December, finished on another machine in March, destroyed in April, then attached to another song in May. Likewise, it fits so well with the sort of records that St. Ives is in love with releasing ? the three-legged dogs of the world, the records that don't quite fit elsewhere, barely even within an artist's own body of work. The River Strumming is limited to 300 vinyl copies in hand-made packaging ? each LP hand-wrought (as all St. Ives releases are) by the band itself ? and is not expected to remain in stock long.
Normanoak has another piece of vinyl to share with the world, a true follow up to last year's A Double Gift of Tongues. This new album is called Estra, named after a powerful horned goddess whom Normanoak has been busy invoking recently in small performance spaces around the country. Everything was recorded in his bedroom in Bloomington, Indiana, on three different tape machines. The music on Estra shows more variety than any of his previous efforts. Chugging rock songs burn up into soft, dark dirges that feature a uniquely made-up language code. Screaming minute-long hardcore songs fade into freaky, fucked instrumentals. There is even a song which curses the current state government, and their excessive logging of Normanoak's home forests of Southern Indiana. Throughout these 14 pieces, Normanoak takes on many personalities, such as his alter-ego Poisonoak. Over time the listener can begin to notice the shifts in perspective that the singer makes. Normanoak is more than just another musician. His work is pure sorcery at its most successful.
Michael Leonhart: Hotel Music
"Hotel Music" is a pastiche of Serge Gainsbourg hooks, bedroom drone, California Pop (by way of Van Dyke Parks), and Downtown experiments. It is a musical portrait by Michael Leonhart, session player to the stars. It was written and recorded over the course of a five-month stint (if a worldwide tour that long can be accurately labeled a stint) playing horns with Steely Dan (yes, Steely Dan). He passed his downtime on the road abusing various camera & cell phone cameras, his portable sampler, laptop and whatever instruments that happened to be within reach. The result is a more experimental trip than his sadly under-heard pop masterpiece "The Ballad of Minton Quigley" (2007, self-released).
Leonhart has recorded four solo records in as many years between Steely Dan and Lenny Kravitz touring, as well as sessioning with such diverse artists as Brian Eno, David Byrne, Slash, Steven Tyler and Wynton Marsalis.