A Reader staffer shares three musical obsessions, then asks someone (who asks someone else) to take a turn.
Luca Cimarusti, Reader music listings coordinator
Bad Religion, Into the Unknown In 1983, the band that all but invented west-coast skate punk decided they didn’t want to play it anymore and made this hilarious record of synth-heavy 80s prog-pop. Hated by their fans, it shamed the band into breaking up briefly, and upon re-forming they pretended it’d never existed. A few warbly bootlegs persist online, which kind of sound like Bad Religion trying to re-create Abacab by Genesis. Sure, when it really comes down to it, it kinda sucks, but it’s a fascinating and entertaining listen.
Rich Tupica, There Was a Light: The Cosmic History of Chris Bell and the Rise of Big Star Released by HoZac Books, this oral history collects an overwhelming amount of information about alternative-rock pioneer Chris Bell. The accounts come from bandmates, family, and others whose lives were changed by Bell’s records, giving you a sense of what a powerful and talented presence he was. The detailed notes of all his recording sessions are a must for Big Star lovers.
Q Drum Company, Gentleman’s Series copper snare drums Anyone got $900 I can borrow? Los Angeles-based Q Drum Company, co-owned by wizardly Nine Inch Nails drummer Ilan Rubin, has been crafting drums out of steel and copper for years, but they really did something magical with these handmade snares. Modeled after the classic Ludwig Black Beauty, they have a look, feel, and sound that’ll give any drummer goosebumps. I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of my life watching YouTube demos of this snare drum.
Luca is curious what’s in the rotation of . . .
Joe Gac, bassist in Meat Wave, recording engineer
The RRA, “Don’t Dance With the Devil” Late in my high school years, a friend of mine got an eight-track digital recorder that had a built-in drum machine. . . . Eight tracks! Think of the possibilities! Unsurprisingly, it ended up being mainly used for recording crude raps to preset beats generated by that drum machine. I don’t know anything about the RRA, except that he’s somehow connected to the vibe and spirit of those times. You’ve got eight tracks and a box of Boone’s Farm—make something that’s unlistenable to everybody who doesn’t get it.
Blake Rules & Netherfriends, Kids Trap 1, 2, and 3 Say what you want about Blake Rules & Netherfriends, but they may be the world’s only source of clean, educational, family-friendly trap. I haven’t seen the Mister Rogers movie, but I’m pretty sure that if he were alive he’d have no problem with this. And if I had kids, for them these records would be straight-up nostalgic in 2040. Maybe they’d discover other Netherfriends releases, such as Don’t Be a Fuck Boy, Don’t Be a Fuck Boy 2, or My Last Album About Fuck Boys.
The YouTube livestream Lofi Hip Hop Radio 24/7 I spend a good amount of time in my car driving Uber, so I need music that’s agreeable to most and doesn’t foster road rage. This livestream checks all the boxes: It’s relatively inoffensive, there’s a minimum of repetition, there are no commercials, and best of all it chills everyone the hell out. I swear it’s the sole reason I maintain a decent rating. It basically turns my car into a rolling coffee shop.
Joe is curious what’s in the rotation of . . .
Ben Grigg, bassist in Milked, guitarist in Fckr Jr
Ovlov, “Short Morgan” There are entire weeks of my life when Ovlov is the only band I want to listen to. The addition of the new Tru to this Connecticut group’s catalog has done nothing but incite more bingeing. “Short Morgan” is a standout on this record of sweet, sweet jams: it hits my personal trifecta of thick choruses, ripping solos, and melancholy lyrics bemoaning friends/friendships.
Landowner, “Moving Again” The first time I heard Massachusetts band Landowner, I was struck by how fresh and distinctive they sound. I sent their music to friends and played it for anybody who came over to my place. To my ears, the real staying power of this track off the recent Blatant—despite its unconventional instrumentation and sound, with a saxophone doubling the main riff—comes from the vocals. The lyrics are both relatable and unhinged: “Everything I own can be thrown away / I only read while scrolling / And I’m moving again.”
Kal Marks, “Loosed” Boston three-piece Kal Marks are a criminally underappreciated band. They’re explosive live and on recordings. They create a compelling range of tones and textures on this track, from February’s Universal Care, painting a haunting image in vocal yelps, driving bass, and heavy guitar stabs. Also, that bass line in the intro!