A Reader staffer shares three musical obsessions, then asks someone (who asks someone else) to take a turn.
Luca Cimarusti, Reader music listings coordinator
Travis Scott’s Astroworld: Wish You Were Here Tour Travis Scott‘s go-to catchphrase is an enthusiastic “It’s lit!”—and there are really no better six letters to sum up his live show. As far as stage production goes, I’ve never seen anything like this: two stages, pyrotechnics, lasers, fireworks, a giant inflatable astronaut wearing Air Jordans, confetti cannons spewing fake dollar bills, and not one but two roller coasters. Travis is an incredible performer too, losing his mind amid all the chaos. This tour comes back to town in February, and I might go again. It’s that good.
Deadlife As far as depressive one-man-band black metal goes, it’s tough to top Sweden’s Deadlife. Based on behind-the-beat sludge rather than blastbeat fury, the many, many songs in Deadlife’s massive discography are as beautiful and mournful as they are harsh and brutal. The project, helmed by a man who goes by Rafn, just seems to be getting better as time goes on—on all six of last year’s releases (six!), the material is among his best and most complex yet.
Paiste 2000 series I feel like I’ve discovered a little secret here, and I’m nervous to let the world know about it. Paiste made this semi-pro cymbal line for a six-year run in the late 80 and early 90s. They sound great and look super sharp (with brilliant finish options and slick blue labels), and best of all, everybody seems to have forgotten about them—so you can get them used for really cheap. Now that the secret’s out, I need to buy up as many as possible before the prices start climbing.
Luca is curious what’s in the rotation of . . .
Mustafa Daka, drummer for the Brokedowns
The Last Waltz Before I was familiar with the Band, a roommate got me to watch The Last Waltz on laser disc through a bomb-ass stereo system. Scorsese does a great job combining documentary and concert film, and you can see the blossoming of his work relationship with Robbie Robertson—though true fans know that the rest of the band thought the film painted Robertson in a better light than them. The actual concert was a shit show but also must have kicked so much ass.
Jon Theodore The first time I heard the Mars Volta’s De-loused in the Comatorium, Jon Theodore’s drumming immediately stuck out. He reminded me of John Bonham and Buddy Rich—at times he played spastic, jazzy, funky, proggy, jammy shit, and at other times he was super basic and solid. He was one of the first drummers I noticed using stacked cymbals (and no double bass pedal). Mario Rubalcaba and Jon Theodore are my favorite heavy-hitting drummers—I love Nate Smith, but Theodore brings the pain!
The original Le Pig studio In 1992 Trent Reznor rented a house at 10050 Cielo Drive in Benedict Canyon north of Beverly Hills, where he built a studio named Le Pig—the same house where Sharon Tate and four other people died at the hands of the Manson Family. He recorded most of The Downward Spiral there, but after he was called out by Tate’s sister, he moved out and the house was demolished. He did keep the front door—which had had “pig” written on it in Tate’s blood—and install it at his new studio.
Mustafa is curious what’s in the rotation of . . .
Jason Smith, guitarist and vocalist for Rad Payoff
Van Halen, “Unchained” I went my whole life hating on Van Halen. Then one day in 2017, my bandmate Jon Olson cranked Van Halen II in the Astro and I fell head over heels. I became a full-on fanboy, and like-minded friends and I would run through each album and dissect it, just like when we were kids. By the time I got into Fair Warning, I was obsessed with the song “Unchained.” I’ve listened to it two or three times a day for most of the past year. Despite arguments with bandmates and strangers online, I still believe it’s the best song ever written. Change my mind.
Run the Jewels Another case where I was late to the game. My wife has always been into hip-hop, and I’ve generally liked what she’s played for me. But when she put on “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry” in our car, my mind melted. RTJ’s jams are so heavy and boastful, and we’ve spent the past few months pounding whiskey in the kitchen and chiming in on our favorite lines (“We are the murderous pair / That went to jail and we murdered the murderers there”). I feel badass just listening to it.
Full Sun, Thinkin About It Sweet Pete of Let’s Pretend Records stayed with me during Ian’s Party and brought me goodies, including this LP. Both Full Sun and the label are from Bloomington, and there must be something in the water there—many of my favorite bands over the past 15 years hail from southern Indiana. Thinkin About It ticks all my boxes: lo-fi, loud guitars, tight vocal harmonies, fast drums. If you don’t fall in love with its opening track, “Vultures,” then I can’t save you. v