Bob Dylan, Another Self Portrait (1969-1971): The Bootleg Series Vol. 10
Bob Dylan, Another Self Portrait (1969-1971): The Bootleg Series Vol. 10

Tal Rosenberg, Reader digital content editor

Danny Brown, Old I loved 2011’s XXX, but Danny Brown‘s new album is even better than I could have imagined. The first half is “old Danny Brown shit,” or in other words backpacker-throwback stuff that bests any backpacker album of the past five years. The second half is a psychedelic crunkstep masterpiece, like Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers with none of the irony or art-house pretension and all of its jokes up front. And it’s all delivered by an MC as thoughtful and animated as the half-dozen best rappers in the Wu-Tang Clan.

Bob Dylan, Another Self Portrait (1969-1971): The Bootleg Series Vol. 10 A bunch of outtakes, live cuts, unreleased material, and demos from the quirkiest years of every boomer’s favorite false idol. My friend Mark says that this is Dylan’s strongest work as a vocalist, and I hear what he means: there’s none of the bleating of his early period or the hoarse muttering of anything he’s done over the past 20 years. So many of these songs are simple, warm, and friendly that it’s hard to believe they came from the same regressive asshole who complains about iPods.

The Cleaners From Venus You can hear the influence of this lo-fi 80s pop band, led by British songwriter and guitarist Martin Newell, in both the Go-Betweens and Ariel Pink. My favorite album is 1982’s Midnight Cleaners, which features plenty of saxophone and “Only a Shadow,” a song that could be mistaken for the Nerves or the Flamin’ Groovies.

Tal is curious what’s in the rotation of …

SavagesCredit: Antoine Carlier

Nathan Butler,
sound artist, part-time faculty at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Listening to music with my students Every semester I spend hours doing this. I play the music from recordings, though the works themselves may not have been created as such. I’ll just name a few artists and composers from the past couple weeks: Alvin Lucier, Steve Reich, John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Luc Ferrari, Carl Stone, the Congos, Francois Bayle, Pierre Schaeffer, Pauline Oliveros, Toshiya Tsunoda, and Christian Marclay. No surprises here, just music whose structure is determined by sound itself, by chance, or by the environment from which it emerges.

Listening to live music Last month I went to see Savages at Metro. They were fantastic, a communal catharsis. I love live music. I don’t listen to recordings very often. Just a few days later, Ken Vandermark and Fred Lonberg-Holm played a brilliant set at Heaven. I left the show more enthusiastic about breathing, though my girlfriend felt differently.

Treating sound as art I take some time daily to listen to components on a breadboard, patches programmed in a machine, recordings made while on an excursion, the sonified textures of objects, and the spaces and people around me. I watch the way people perform their music within the context of technological dislocation or distanced cause and effect. The late Texas composer Jerry Hunt is a big inspiration to me. I wonder about the meaning of music and mourn its disembodiment. By making my own musical tools, I protest the belligerent, vacuous assault of consumer mechanization and the hypercommodification of music.

Nathan is curious what’s in the rotation of …

Thin Hymns, Black Water

Nicole Baksinskas, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist in Happy Alchemy and the No Landscape

Thin Hymns, Black Water I saw Thin Hymns perform for the first time at West Fest in July because I was playing guitar in Girl Group Chicago and they were the band before us. I was really into them, so I looked them up online, and it turns out we share a record label, Sanzimat International. (Later this year it will release a self-titled mini LP I made as Happy Alchemy.) I thought, “That’s awesome!” Then a couple months later, the owner of the label invited me to a “jam session” at a recording studio with Thin Hymns vocalist and guitarist Michael Hilger, and we wrote and recorded a song together. Double awesome!

NPR My place has been broken into a few times, but instead of buying some ADT system, I leave a light on and turn on NPR before I go out so it seems like someone is home. It’s my cheap home-security system. I like to think that if a burglar were at my front door, he or she would think there were people inside having serious conversations about politics and the arts. And when I’m not using NPR as an alarm system but rather actually listening to it, I like to stream the TED Radio Hour podcast.

Floral Wreaths On Friday, two of my good friends got married. Many of my other closest friends were there too—some of us haven’t spent time together in years! The majority of us are musicians or into music, which is what first brought us together, so we talk about our own projects and upcoming shows and albums. If I had to name only one band of my friends, my favorite right now is Floral Wreaths.