The cover of Ela Stiles’s Molten Metal

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

Leor Galil, Reader music critic

Ela Stiles, Molten Metal I rag on year-end lists, but I’m always thankful for the annual “Top 30 Drone Records” post from experimental-music blog Anti-Gravity Bunny. The 2016 iteration introduced me to Sydney musician Ela Stiles (her cassette Black Metal is near the top of AGB’s list), and I promptly fell for an even more recent release: her mystical outre-pop record Molten Metal. Listening to its hypnotizing vocal overdubs, gnarled industrial percussion, and airy, washed-out synths became part of my daily routine. When I decided I wanted to do better than just stream it, I gladly spent more than $20 to have a copy shipped from Australia (more than the vinyl cost) so I could immerse myself deeper.

The Riverman label I’ll often fall down a rabbit hole scouring the Internet for old private-­press records, and on a recent surfing expedition for info about the 1980 album Thin Ties by obscure folkie Stan Moeller, I stumbled upon South Korean label Riverman, who’d reissued it in 2009. Since the mid-2000s, Riverman has reissued a clutch of out-of-print American records, and I’ve found some interesting material by poking around its catalog—such as Peter Elizalde’s charming 1982 pop-rock album Winter Playground Mystery.

Lil Peep I haven’t made up my mind about this LA rapper, whose vocals make him sound like a third-stringer for the Used’s Bert McCracken. Pitchfork has called him “the future of emo,” but I’m curious to see how music outlets that have historically been allergic to anything remotely emo will approach him.

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

Mavis Staples at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in 2011
Mavis Staples at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in 2011Credit: Laura Fedele

Adam Gottlieb, singer-songwriter and poet

Mavis Staples, Livin’ on a High Note Everyone involved in social-justice struggle should listen to this 2016 album on a regular basis, for spiritual reasons. Listen to it when you need something uplifting. From the opening cut, “Take Us Back,” you’ll feel affirmed. (The song mentions Chicago too, which makes it especially touching for those of us who love and struggle in this city.) By the end of the record, I promise you’ll be ready for the daily war again. On “Action” Mavis sings, “What a terrifying time to raise our voices / But see I’m not left with many more choices.”

“The Moonshiner” Earlier in the fall, for a week or so I only listened to various versions of this song. I liked the ones by Charlie Parr, Redbird, and Bob Dylan a lot, but my favorite has always been the first version I ever heard, by my friend Fiona Chamness. The sweet, haunting melody, beautiful chord progression, and poetic yet conversational lyrics (which paint a rich character portrait of an alcoholic) inexplicably touched something way down inside me. The song’s origins are disputed—Irish or American. To me it seems deeply American, but even more deeply human.

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Fiona Chamness plays “The Moonshiner” for a friend.

Yes Yes, I mean Yes, the British progressive rock group that’s been active since 1968. I’ve always felt embarrassed about how much I love them, because I’m afraid others think they’re cheesy. Recently I was talking with my friend and bassist about how millennials generally seem to feel the same way. Maybe it’s time we all just admitted that this band is freaking awesome.

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

Howlin’ Wolf backstage in Washington, D.C., in 1970
Howlin’ Wolf backstage in Washington, D.C., in 1970Credit: Sun-Times Print Collection

Andy Willis, blues musician

A poem: “The Night the Howlin’ Wolf Got Me,” Halloween 1972, Oakland, California Grasped my foot and held me. Shook me like a rag doll. Crying out to God. Then it shook me harder. Shook me until I knew I was in his hands­—until I knew I was without power. Washed in the fear of death, then reconciled to die anonymously. Shook the arrogance out like dust from a beaten rug. Chains will he break. Chains will he break. In the bottom. Cast down.

Hand me down my running shoes. And he descended into hell. Eternal separation from God. All night long. Nothing but a lonesome chill. Long way from home. Can’t sleep at all. Fear of death. Evil goin’ on. But here, where the soul of man never dies. Taking the highway. Catch him before he goes. Immortal. For the slave is our brother. Oh howling night, the moon is brightly shining. Savior goes first to hell—comforts the tormented? Comforts the damned? How many more years have I got? How many more years will I let you dog me around? Like a rag in the pain of the city uncertain. We have come over a way that with tears has been watered, we have come treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered. You shaking? How many more years? Only the blood make you whole. Tell me what in the world can be wrong? Tell me what in the world did I do wrong?

Why can’t you hear me cryin’?

A-why don’t ya hear me cryin’?

Oooo, whoo-hooo, whoo-hooo


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