From The Desk Of Kleenex Girl Wonder: Liv Tyler In Chicago 1999

Kleenex Girl Wonder just released 13th LP The Comedy Album. Graham Smith, who’s been making pan-genre pop rock in bedrooms, studios, forests and everywhere in between under the KGW name with various people since 1994, joins MAGNET as guest editor this week. Climb inside his skull as he figures out what it’s all about, whatever “it” may be.


Smith: Obviously, as a professional musician, I have seen a lot of live music over the years. Well, that is actually not true (though it may indeed be obvious). Up until relatively recently (the past couple of years), I didn’t see very much live music at all. Even after I moved to New York, it took a lot to get me out of my house. I always wanted to hear the artists I like play either: a) the exact list of songs I really liked, or b) new songs I hadn’t heard yet. These things happened incredibly rarely in my experience, so I tended not to go to many shows.

I think part of the shift was that I started to enjoy playing live music more. Since live music represents a big chunk of income for most “living wage” bands nowadays, it’s also of some interest to me to figure out how to provide the most interesting (for both me and the crowd) live show I can. So as a result, I end up seeing more live music. But it’s not all grunt work; I also really have a good time seeing both bands I know well and bands I’m just learning to love onstage in a dark, dank environment. Or, you know, beneath the stars or whatever.

I’ve learned a lot about what makes live music so energizing to people, although I can’t claim to have applied it all to KGW’s approach to playing live. While I still would like to play new, unreleased, exciting songs (just as I would like to hear them from other bands), I understand that it’s important to play songs that people already like, or at least could go and listen to on record immediately after the concert. I think that there’s value to theatricality, but it can overwhelm the primitive experience of x people playing and y people listening intently and/or dancing. Backing tracks are interesting to me as a way to add variety to the sound palette in a live environment, and I hope we can expand that palette in KGW shows in the near future—especially since folks don’t seem to mind if there are some canned sounds in a live show, as long as there are compelling uncanned performances.

But hey, maybe what I think of as “a lot of live music” is not that much to you? Let’s see. Here’s a list of all the bands I can recall seeing from November 2015 to October 2016, in alphabetical order, de-duped. Note: Some of the bands, particularly ones I saw at festivals, I didn’t necessarily see full sets. But I even left out some I did see full sets of that I didn’t intentionally see, and I’m sure I forgot some I can’t find in my records, too.

Damn. It was a very good year.

Action Bronson
Anamanaguchi (x2)
Angel Olsen
Animal Collective
araabMUZIK (x2)
Band Of Horses
Basia Bulat
Beanie Sigel
Brian Wilson (performing Pet Sounds)
Chairlift (x2)
Dawn Of Midi (x2)
Deerhoof (x2)
Drive Like Jehu
Empress Of (x2)
Eureka California (x2)
Even As We Speak
Field Music
Frankie Cosmos (performing songs from Exile In Guyville)
Fucked Up
Guerilla Toss
Guided By Voices
Hatsune Miku
His Name is Alive
Hop Along
Jenny Hval (x2)
Jessy Lanza
Joanna Newsom (x2)
John Carpenter
Just Blaze
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith
Mbwongana Star
PJ Harvey
Pusha T
Quinn Walker
Rocket From The Crypt
Secret Shine
Shilpa Ray
Talib Kweli
Tame Impala
The Avalanches
The Hood Internet (x2)
The Moles
The Oh Sees
The Railway Children
Thunder & Lightning
Titus Andronicus (x2)
Tom 7
Watching Waves
Ween (x4)
Young Fathers

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Film At 11: Michael Kiwanuka

Michael Kiwanuka recently put out Love & Hate on Interscope, featuring “One More Night.” Tonight, we’re bringing you the video for the tune, one full of disorienting trick angles and stilt-dancing. Check it out below.

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MP3 At 3PM: Tommy Keene


For a small subset of listeners inclined toward powerful guitar pop, Tommy’s Keene 2000 effort, Showtunes, is a strong contender for second on the list of great live records. (The Who’s Live At Leeds being first, of course.) Self-released and sold on his recent tour, and now on his website, Showtunes II—as the name implies—is a sequel. Largely comprising a 2014 solo show opening for Matthew Sweet, Showtunes II also includes two tracks from a 1996 concert featuring the late Jay Bennett in the lineup. A scorching version of “Call On Me” from the latter gig showcases Keene’s underrated guitar prowess.

“Call On Me” (download):

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Kristin Hersh: Metaphysical Graffiti


Five years in the making, Kristin Hersh releases a double album that stands alongside her best

“People think that I make a bunch of shit up, but I only write non-fiction. The books, the songs. My drummer in 50FOOTWAVE, Rob, asked me one time, ‘Do people know that your songs are all literally true? ’Cuz if they did, they might lose a lot of respect for you.’”

With a wheezy laugh, Kristin Hersh—yes, that Kristin Hersh, she of Throwing Muses, her rowdier 50FOOTWAVE project, the immortal solo collaboration with R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe (“Your Ghost”) and published author of Rat Girl and Don’t Suck, Don’t Die (two of the finest memoirs about the indie-rock era)—alerts me to a seemingly funny aspect of her art that’s actually dead serious.

Hersh is a diarist capable of evoking towering emotional vistas and yet seemingly incapable of telling a lie, or even a tale. She’s a storyteller in the Truman Capote or Susan Orlean mode—a realist more in touch with the ebbing and flowing of human foibles and frailty than a novelist or fantasist. This makes Hersh’s work both harrowing and healing in equal measure—a razor’s edge ride through the realities she’s survived but with a comfort-food aspect to its truths. She’s lived through this; you can, too.

On Hersh’s ninth solo record in what can only be described as an incredibly prolific career—Wyatt At The Coyote Palace (Omnibus Press), a double-album of dizzying depth, breadth, beauty and darkness—this truth-teller’s aspect of her work is thrust forcefully into the spotlight. Its songs can easily be taken as a conceptual allegory—a twisting tale of isolation and damage, love and loss, the joy of discovery and the erosion of the thin tethers of humanity that keep us connected to one another and those we love—but it’s also a very real portrait of her son Wyatt and his passing fascination with an abandoned building and the coyotes who took up residence there. Wyatt is on the autism spectrum—a difficult subject that Hersh is nonetheless remarkably open in discussing—and his obsessions and attachment to what Hersh says he calls the “beautiful, elegant math” of both music and life are the elements that make the story heartbreaking and inspiring.

“He’s like a story that’s unfolding,” says Hersh. “He tends to look at life through a lens rather than living it. He says he keeps finding the math. I trust the story that he is, and so when I discovered the ‘coyote palace,’ I thought it was just because he was bored. When I bring all four of my kids into the studio, they just want to die, you know? It’s me playing the same guitar part over and over again, and usually they just go to sleep. So I think he discovered the coyote palace out of sheer boredom, and then I noticed the flashing in his eyes, that he was on fire with it. All I did was follow him around the palace, the coyotes who lived in it. And showed it to him. Of course, being the good mother I am, the ceiling fell in at some point, and the trauma of that event triggered the end of his love affair with the coyote palace. At least we weren’t in it at the time.”

The album and corresponding book document her son’s temporary life-focus on the abandoned building and its canine inhabitants in a way that’s both uniquely Hersh-ian and yet all-time beautiful. The packaging binds the two inextricably to one another—a detail Hersh finds amusing, because while CDs tend not to be that valuable to anyone anymore, “A book is still considered a nice gift, so I like the idea of all of it together as, ‘Hey, here’s a present.’”

The record’s mostly acoustic guitars veer back and forth between Nick Drake intricacy and punk-rock jaggedness, its 24 songs caught between descriptions of tough love and gritty city streetscapes and the occasional bright glimpses of tomorrow that poke through the darkness, with the book’s zigzagging narrative nicely accounting for the spaces in between.

It’s been a long, hard road that Hersh has travelled to get to this place, but she seems to have found peace with it all, just the same.

“I have a huge heart, and my heart is just so broken right now,” she says. “I’m never really going to live on this earth, but I can live in my music. I can make it all right. There’s no sad in me with music. There’s nothing but—it’s an overused word, but it’s true—beautiful. ‘Water in the desert’ beautiful. Necessary.”

—Corey duBrowa

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From The Desk Of Kleenex Girl Wonder: Funny Funny Stuff

Kleenex Girl Wonder just released 13th LP The Comedy Album. Graham Smith, who’s been making pan-genre pop rock in bedrooms, studios, forests and everywhere in between under the KGW name with various people since 1994, joins MAGNET as guest editor this week. Climb inside his skull as he figures out what it’s all about, whatever “it” may be.


Smith: Since The Comedy Album is about, well, comedy, I thought it might be an interesting exercise to put together some of my favorite funny things. Perhaps you can glimpse a thread that runs through all of these entries, which will give you some insight into what makes me tick, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s not the case. One thing I realized relatively recently is that some of the funniest things are beyond explanation as to why they are funny; they just work, not necessarily for everyone, but for you. That kind of humor is the most sublime. Sure, there are good jokes that you can take apart and explain (“You see, Jimmy Fallon is playing with the notion of shame, and how it is interpolated by the zeitgeist … ”), but the best jokes just kind of sit there and do their job.

Here are some of my favorite funny things. I will present them without comment, per the above, but am also glad to discuss any of them if you like.

Sparks, “Something For The Girl With Everything” live
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“The Fesh Pince Of Blair”
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“Jimbo On His War Guitar”
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Pound House Episode 7, “Mansion”
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“Toronto Mayor Rob Ford (Dancehall Jamaican Patois Remix)”
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Salvador Dali On What’s My Line?
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“Leon Redbone: A Story About Leon From A Record Shop Owner”
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“Dinner With Friends With Brett Gelman And Friends”
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“3D Laser Hologram Tiger”
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2 Wet Crew, “3D Dream”
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“Steve Harvey Doesn’t Want To Host Family Feud Anymore”
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MIDI Nickelodeon Playing “Circus Galop Its Insane”
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“Society’s Lies”
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Film At 11: BROS

BROS have just released their self-titled record on Dine Alone Records. Their Ryan Gullen-directed clip for “Tell Me” can be seen below, a gently weird video for a wonderfully smooth rock tune. Says Gullen (Sheepdogs) of the clip, “I wanted to make a video that was serious that didn’t take itself too seriously. I drew a lot of inspiration from ’90s and early 2000s rap videos. I love the simplicity of performance videos that include throwback vibes with a group just walking down a street being fun characters. My vision was to create a more modern take on these videos but to maintain a lot of the sensibilities and the fun tone that made these videos great. I shot the whole thing with drones to allow for the long continual shots that kept the video moving along and mixed that with some performance stock footage that I found from a fair in Philadelphia in the ’70s.”

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MP3 At 3PM: The Moog


Hungarian indie-rock band the Moog recently released a self-titled EP, and we want to make sure you’re in the know. So, we’re bringing you “Hey Girl,” a head-bobbing rock tune that stays close to earth, a steady song with a wonderful hook. Check it out below.

“Hey Girl” (download):

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Essential New Music: Pink Floyd’s “The Early Years 1967-1972: Cre/ation”


Drawn from Sony’s massive (27 discs of pre-Dark Side Floyd, anyone?) boxed set of the same name, this two-disc sampler set offers a winding road map—or maybe a DNA code—for the early development of Pink Floyd, from the acid-head jangle of the Syd Barrett era to the orchestral prog-rock of Atom Heart Mother. These seven years saw PF gestate within the British psychedelic pop scene, and then with the dissolution of Barrett and the arrival of David Gilmour, delve into experimental rock, concept albums, film scores, live theatrics and other projects. The band would never see a period as eclectic or far-ranging in its musical approach again, and this set catches both the spirit and the content of a time when it seemed Pink Floyd could, and did, move in any direction it wanted, with no grand expectations and no baggage to carry over from project to project.

As with any archival set, we get a smattering of canonical single and album tracks here, most in the expected remixed, remastered or single release versions. But the real gems are the ephemera and outtakes. Those make up 15 of the 27 tracks here, including the U.S. radio ad spot for the Ummagumma album, and the “Live BBC Radio” versions of deep tracks like “Grantchester Meadows,” “Cymbaline” and “Green Is The Colour,” most of which deviate in arrangement or instrumentation from their known versions. Also included is demo music from the Echoes sessions, live concert performances of “Atom Heart Mother” and “Interstellar Overdrive” and a generous selection of material recorded for Michelangelo Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point not included on the soundtrack album. In sum, the collection is a treat for hardcore fans, and that’s as high an encomium as any retrospective project could aim for.

As a harbinger for future projects in this series, The Early Years bodes well. Even casual fans and dorm-room stoners know a lot of this music, especially that drawn from the band’s first two albums and Echoes. But this period also produced much lesser-known soundtrack work, live experimentation and blurring of the lines between signal and noise. And unlike many such “sampler” projects, this one contains a rich cross-section of the treasures to be found within the full set. Later-period Pink Floyd could skew self-indulgent in its compositional approach, but its music of this period was, in retrospect, oddly tight and focused, considering the frequent navel-gazing tendency of the late-’60s art-rock scene. Fans with ongoing mortgage payments to make will find this set a more than reasonable consolation prize for passing on the complete version.

—Eric Waggoner

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From The Desk Of Kleenex Girl Wonder: New York Daily News

Kleenex Girl Wonder just released 13th LP The Comedy Album. Graham Smith, who’s been making pan-genre pop rock in bedrooms, studios, forests and everywhere in between under the KGW name with various people since 1994, joins MAGNET as guest editor this week. Climb inside his skull as he figures out what it’s all about, whatever “it” may be.


Smith: The first song for The Comedy Album came about in Madrid, in late summer 2012. I was there on business, sort of—I was working, and visiting some colleagues in the local office, though I didn’t have a strong agenda. I was also traveling alone, so I had a lot of time to wander around the city, taking pictures, thinking about music, and so forth. One night during my weeklong stay, I realized I had two back issues of The New Yorker on my iPad that I hadn’t read, so I started reading them around 11 p.m. The next thing I knew, it was 3 a.m. and I had read both of them cover to cover. They both happened to be particularly good issues—if I recall correctly, there were features on the movie adaptation of Cloud Atlas and Bjarke Ingels’ nascent architectural empire—but that wasn’t why I was so surprised that I had gotten sucked in. There was a sentiment I had heard my mother and others express, relating to the fact that keeping up with a weekly magazine packed with so much content could become daunting as a stack accumulated. If one was to stay current, other things, such as sleep, perambulation and cultural events, might fall by the wayside. Thus the concept of “Fuck The New Yorker” was born.

On the surface, it seemed like a childish song title, and a childish conceit as well. However, the lyrics are pretty clear about praising the magazine’s purpose and writing, I think. Although I’ll definitely admit that I often think my lyrics are clearer than others may find them to be. It was certainly designed to get a response—hopefully a chuckle, but perhaps a sigh. In fact, after I had written and recorded a demo, I realize that perhaps this might be a good way to finally get featured in the titular magazine, although that has not come to pass just yet (TNY would likely never stoop so low, of course). For this reason, I initially called the song “Smith 2,” a reference to the rather polarizing “audio play” I recorded and released around the turn of the century, which engaged in a bit of listenership-baiting as well. But ultimately, it just had to be called “Fuck The New Yorker,” because that’s the kind of song it is.

When I got back to America, I shared this song with Thayer and Matt, and they cautiously approved of my ridiculous conceit. At the time, Thayer was working at New York magazine, and asked if I could also write a follow-up song called “Fuck New York Magazine” (he was not super thrilled with his job at that time and would resign shortly thereafter). I realized that I couldn’t just go around fucking every magazine, and in fact, by the same logic I had applied to “Fuck The New Yorker” would yield its converse in a song called “I Love New York (Magazine),” despite (or because of) the fact that I much preferred the reportage of TNY. For “ILNY(M),” I did my best to write “bad” lyrics, which is one of those goals you can set for yourself that ensures that nobody will win. Either they are successful, and therefore they are by definition not “bad,” or they fail, in which case they are “bad” by their own criteria. Me and my windmills. I hope there is some semblance of purple prose remaining in these lyrics; Matt accordingly beseeched me to turn in the most overtly operatic performance I could for the vocal takes, and I think I “took it there,” so to speak.

These two songs, along with “Daily Post Mortem,” hint at a theme of periodical obsession, but I think that that is only skin-deep. In reality, both “FTNY” and “ILNY(M)” are quite closely tied to the larger exploration of humor on The (appropriately named) Comedy Album. One was a “trifle” designed to get a reaction, and another was an experiment in ham-fisted populism. I like to believe I got some of the psychological need to be funny out of my system on this album, but I suppose only time will tell if that belief is accurate.

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Film At 11: Lido

Lido just released a video for “Dye,” a song from debut full-length Everything. The Norwegian musician appears alongside an interpretive dancer in this intense clip, both moving with a focused grace and confidence. Check it out below.

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