A Reader staffer shares three musical obsessions, then asks someone (who asks someone else) to take a turn.
Kevin Warwick, Reader associate editor
Cross Record, “Steady Waves” Singer-songwriter and former Chicagoan Emily Cross, who performs as Cross Record with her husband, Dan Duszynski, just released the first track from her sophomore album, Wabi-Sabi, and it’s even darker and wispier than anything from her awesome debut, Be Good. One moment skittering on a sparse acoustic line and the next digging into a noisy, high-fuzz guitar lick, “Steady Waves” shows how haunting Cross can get. When everything locks in step with the booming rhythm and her layered vocals paint the background, it’s much more unsettling than calming.
Imperial Teen, Seasick The 1996 debut album from this San Francisco foursome is simultaneously smart-ass punk, precious indie, and hopeless 90s-era alt-rock—and they don’t worry about staying focused or taking themselves too seriously. The stark title track drifts into the piss and vinegar of “Water Boy,” which barrels into a straight-up indie-rock song with a creaking vocal melody about homosexuality (“Butch”). With the 90s-alt resurgence in full swing, Imperial Teen seem sadly undervalued. And I can’t figure out why.
Noise rock on cassette only Having recently acquired a few cassettes for my car stereo, I’ve realized that the format is the best for blaring hulking noise rock from the likes of Unsane, the Jesus Lizard, and the Rollins Band. Kind of clunky and with very few packaging frills, cassettes are the best way to hear David Yow maniacally screaming about who the hell knows or Henry Rollins climbing up towers of riffs to tell you how much you suck.
Kevin is curious what’s in the rotation of . . .
Jesse Morgan Young, Baathhaus, et cetera
David Bowie, Heathen David Bowie is . . . the shit. If you think anything to the contrary you probably also hate chocolate, breathing, and touching naked bodies. I have a new favorite Bowie album nearly every month, and this month it’s 2002’s Heathen. Bowie’s vocals have never sounded better, and like nearly everything he does, it only gets better with repeated play.
Peaches, “Free Drink Ticket” This track from the new album Rub gives you a sense of what it might be like to piss off someone with as much raw energy as Peaches. The sparse instrumentation, consisting mostly of sampled cello and mike feedback, puts Peaches’s gender-blurred vocals front and center. She’s the nails and the chalkboard. Peaches channels the type of hate you can only have for someone you once loved immensely: “How quick it can switch.” I’ve been there. We’ve all been there. I can’t stop listening to this track. Am I OK?
Fee Lion If you live in Chicago, you better get your ass to Fee Lion‘s next show. Then you’ll be able to say “I remember when” while streaming Late Night on your RokuHuluCast and watching this shimmering pop babe in HD. Haunting guitar, minimal beats, and vintage synth sounds provide the backdrop for a gorgeous and vulnerable voice. Onstage she projects yearning, loneliness, and self-assurance, all wonderfully free of irony. She’s got a vision as precise as her eyebrows. Say hi to me at her next show and at every Fee Lion performance from now until forever.
Jesse is curious what’s in the rotation of . . .
Alex Grelle, actor, performer,
Shelley Duvall impersonator
Kate Bush on YouTube I know I’m a little late for the Kate Bush train, but now that I’ve learned that the vast majority of her hits have music videos easily accessible on YouTube, I feel like I have some sort of creative security blanket. Whenever I’m feeling low, I’ll just fall down a YouTube vortex of Dame Kate Bush’s work to set me comfortably back at ease. Take “Suspended in Gaffa,” for instance: Bush appears to be going insane in a dusty barn while doing a beautiful, simplistic dance and shrieking her incredible vocals in a style no one can match.
Ronee Blakley in Robert Altman’s Nashville I’m not the biggest country-music fan, but if you can’t enjoy Ronee Blakley’s tracks in one of my all-time favorite movies, Nashville, you may not have a soul. Producer-director Robert Altman had the entire cast write their own characters’ tunes, and Blakley struck gold playing the white-witch Loretta Lynn-esque Barbara Jean. If you want to get emotional today, make sure to pay a listen to Blakley’s (or Barbara Jean’s) “Dues.”
Little Dragon, “Pretty Girls” I saw this Swedish electro-pop band live back in May, and I can’t stop thinking about it. Yukimi Nagano’s vocal stylings are the smoothest and most entrancing I’ve ever heard. “Pretty Girls” comes from Little Dragon’s most recent album, last year’s Nabuma Rubberband, and I’m eagerly anticipating more from them. v