Low Credit: Shelly Mosman

A Reader staffer shares three musical obsessions, then asks someone (who asks someone else) to take a turn.

Philip Montoro, Reader music editor

Rio Mira at Martyrs’, September 15 I went to this World Music Festival show to see Cuban big band Orquesta Akokán, and Colombian-Ecuadoran openers Rio Mira caught me by surprise. Their album had struck me as fussy and oversweetened, but onstage their battery of percussion and voices—skin drums, shakers, marimba, and four strong, charismatic singers—blossomed into a blood-stirring surge of rhythm and melody. I hoped they’d blow a fuse, so I could hear them unamplified—it would’ve felt like traveling back in time. (Rio Mira appear in the fourth and fifth videos below.)

Sony MDR-7506 headphones Last month I broke the Sony cans I’ve owned for two decades by spilling my laptop off my desk and snapping their jack. Like the premature curmudgeon I am, I replaced them with a model made since 1991. I’ve worn these same over-ear headphones in half a dozen recording studios over the years—engineers like to use them as monitors, which ought to tell you how comfortable they are and how good they sound.

Low, Double Negative This venerable Minnesota slowcore trio, anchored by Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker, has been inching from rock instrumentation toward electronic textures for a couple albums now. The new Double Negative abandons that gradualism for a breathtaking leap. Almost every sound—sometimes even Sparhawk and Parker’s lovely vocal harmonies—is processed, distorted, or degraded. It’s as though Low has blasted its bleakly beautiful, devastatingly restrained songs into atoms, and now it’s those atoms we hear, doing their buzzing, pulsing dance.

Philip is curious what’s in the rotation of . . .

Meshell Ndegeocello
Meshell NdegeocelloCredit: Charlie Gross

Rae Amitay, member of Immortal Bird and Thrawsunblat

Rush, “Distant Early Warning” Rush is my favorite band of all time, to the point where I can even (somewhat) enjoy and (sort of) defend 1996’s watered-down and critically panned Test for Echo. That said, “Distant Early Warning,” from 1984’s Grace Under Pressure, is pop-infused synth-rock with bits of Rush’s trademark progressive feel sprinkled throughout, but it’s mostly just a great fucking song. Unpretentious, sincere, relatable lyrics (“I see the tip of the iceberg, and I worry about you”) and a great arrangement make this a highly recommended jam.

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Everyone being stoked about Judas Priest It seems like the love for Halford & Co. has been seriously reinvigorated with the release of March’s Firepower, and while pseudo-nostalgia usually bums me out, I have zero issue with twentysomethings going all-out to recapture the aesthetic and enthusiasm of the Judas Priest fans tailgating in the 1986 documentary Heavy Metal Parking Lot. I caught Priest in Bloomington earlier this year—they played “Painkiller” a little slow and “Breaking the Law” a little fast, and it was entirely perfect.

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Meshell Ndegeocello, Ventriloquism In April, Ndegeocello released this album of R&B covers from the 80s and 90s, making them her own through delicate yet powerful reinterpretation and rearrangement. She adds a great deal of depth and nuance to songs that might’ve otherwise been doomed to formulaic digestibility (one of many great examples is her take on TLC’s “Waterfalls”). Additionally, proceeds from the album benefit the ACLU.

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Rae is curious what’s in the rotation of . . .

The cover of <i>One Hundred Mornings</i> by Windows96
The cover of One Hundred Mornings by Windows96

M.K., guitarist and vocalist in Fin

Schrat, Alptraumgänger (2018) This nightmarish black metal from Germany hews to the traditional style most are accustomed to. The combination of speed and agility in the riffs packs quite an allure.

Catacombes, Accueille le Diable EP (2018) Quebecois one-man project Catacombes makes traditional black metal that tells a story through tasteful compositions and nostalgic riffing.

Windows96, One Hundred Mornings (2018) This is absolutely nonsensical vaporwave garbage that you can really shut your brain off to. I simply can’t get enough of it.  v

Philip Montoro has been an editorial employee of the Reader since 1996 and its music editor since 2004. Pieces he has edited have appeared in Da Capo’s annual Best Music Writing anthologies in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011. He shared two Lisagor Awards in 2019 for a story on gospel pioneer Lou Della Evans-Reid and another in 2021 for Leor Galil's history of Neo, and he’s also split three national awards from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia: one for multimedia in 2019 for his work on the TRiiBE collaboration the Block Beat, and two (in 2020 and 2022) for editing the music writing of Reader staffer Leor Galil. You can also follow him on Twitter.