MP3 At 3PM: Varick

NYC singer/songwriter Keith Varick readies for the release of his debut Boundless, out November 4. The EP explores themes that are an expression of Varick’s musical world, as he has been playing music since age six. After issuing the stellar title track, he now releases a new track, “We All Know The Rest,” another electronic hit. It’s soft and ethereal while still pumping an uptempo beat in the background to keep it moving. Download it below.

“We All Know The Rest” (download):

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Vintage Movies: “Downfall”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’90s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

Downfall

Downfall (2004, 155 minutes)

A very old woman speaks directly into the camera in German. “I should be angry with this childish young thing for not realizing what she was getting into. How could I have agreed to it so impulsively? When I came to Berlin, I could have said, ‘No,’ but my curiosity got the better of me. And I never thought that fate would take me somewhere I never wanted to be.”

In November of 1942, five young ladies have been taken under military escort to a heavily fortified compound in Rastenburg in East Prussia. Once they have been cleared to enter, they are asked to take a seat. “The Führer is feeding his dog,” says the officer with an SS insignia on his collar. “He says he will be with you shortly.” One of the girls asks, “Please, tell me, how does one greet the Führer?” The officer replies, “The Führer will speak to you first, and you just say, ‘Heil, my Führer.’” Another girl asks, “What about the Nazi salute?” “That won’t be necessary,” he replies. “The Führer isn’t recruiting you as soldiers. He’s looking for a secretary.” Polite tittering follows these remarks. “Behave normally. I’ll ask him if he has time for you now.”

He knocks on the heavy door of the adjoining room and announces to the person inside the office, “Mein Führer, the ladies from Berlin are here.” With no further ceremony, Adolf Hitler emerges from his office. He smiles and says, “I’d like to thank you for coming in the middle of the night, ladies. But in war, we aren’t always the masters of our time.”

He walks up to the first girl and asks her name. “Margarethe Lorenz, heil my Führer,” she answers boldly. “And where are you from?” Hitler (Bruno Ganz) inquires.” She says, “Fuld, heil my Führer.” He asks the next one, “And you?” “Ursula Puttkammer, heil my Führer.” “Leave that out, child,” he says of the salutation. “Tell me where you’re from.” Finally, he strides toward the fifth girl, taller than the others and quite good looking. “And you?” “Traudl Humps. I come from Munich,” she replies coolly. After five seconds of deliberation, he smiles at her and says, “So, fraulein Humps, shall we start?” Traudl (Alexandra Maria Lara) nods and follows Hitler into his office.

“Blondi won’t hurt you,” he says of the German Shepherd standing quietly next to a desk. “In fact, she’s more clever than most people are. She has a very sharp mind.” Gesturing to the desk next to his, Hitler says, “Just make yourself comfortable. Don’t be nervous. I make so many mistakes when I dictate. You’ll never make as many as I do,” he says, benevolently, as she sits down and rolls a single sheet of paper into a brand new Continental typewriter.

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From The Desk Of Horse Feathers’ Justin Ringle: “Confluence”

So when asked to be a guest editor for MAGNET, my initial reaction was that my inner 18-year-old self might flip out so much that I might have nary a word to say. However, I persevered and was immediately filled with some of the memories of growing up in the proverbial “sticks” in the ’90s. Starting there and moving forward to the present day, I accumulated a list of people, movies, music, food, poets and other stuff that, although not exhaustive by any extent, it gives an insight into me, my music, the band, inspirations and interests. At the very least I would hope that a few of these things may also be viewed as recommendations that could steer people toward becoming acquainted with a few new people, and things that I find dear. It goes without saying, I appreciate the opportunity to “preach from the pulpit,” so to speak and air my opinion on so many different things. Normally people only care about what I say about my music or music in general, which can get tedious. So thank you, MAGNET, for providing the platform to impose my taste on others. Really and truly, I hope someone finds something in here that they, too, can enjoy.

Confluence

So I am originally from Lewiston, Idaho, which is equal parts devastatingly boring, and mysteriously weird. When I was just a baby in the early ’80s, there was apparently a serial killer terrorizing the town, which is remarkably discussed in this documentary called Confluence (I think you can rent it on iTunes). Aside from the grizzly details provided in the film of the murders and surrounding intrigue there is another reason I like it so much. One of the first guys wo played in Horse Feathers, Peter Broderick, did the score, which adds so much mood to the film it’s ridiculous. The camera swoops and dives through the big canyons of the area while Pete’s score adds so much dramatic intensity and ambient edge that the narrator’s description of severed heads found in rivers and the discovery of bound corpses almost becomes too much to bear. Truly hair-raising at times and generally creepy, Confluence, for me, is such an interesting vision of my hometown. When people have asked me about where I am from, I always recommend they watch it to get an idea. Maybe that’s a little macabre, but the scenery and cinematography are just as worthwhile as the true-crime story.

Video after the jump.

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Film At 11: Tennis

Denver husband-and-wife duo Tennis recently released new album Ritual In Repeat via Communion. The twosome has now released a video for “I’m Callin’,” which looks like it takes place sometime in the ’50s. At one point, three women, who may or may not all actually be the same person, start dancing uncontrollably while maintaining the most unenthused facial expressions possible. It’s a great clip, so check it out below.

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MP3 At 3PM: Gwyneth Moreland

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American singer/songwriter Gwyneth Moreland has a new album, Ceiling Floor And Open Door, coming out November 14. Now she released another track from the LP, “Slaughterhouse Gulch,” which features David Haynes (Van Morrison Band) on upright bass. The song follows Moreland’s quiet, folky style that she has mastered so well, but it’s also full of emotion and relatable feelings that we all know too well. Download the track below.

“Slaughterhouse Gulch” (download):

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Anabot Makes MAGNET A Mix Tape

As Analise Nelson’s name is a combination of “Ana” and “Elise,” Nelson also created Anabot by combining “analog” and “robot,” which is quite fitting when paired with the sound of her music. It has a strong electronic base, and it’s altogether a very catchy and well-composed. As Nelson prepares for her upcoming EP, Kiss Like A Knife, due out December 2, she has been so kind as to make MAGNET a mix tape of songs from her favorite year in music: 1979. Check it out below.

The Cars “Candy-O”
From the opening guitar line, you get this strange sense you’ve been here before. And perhaps we have! The rhythm feels uncannily reminiscent of the classic 1965 Strangeloves tune, “I Want Candy.” (And how appropriate!) I haven’t read or heard anything that could support this little theory of mine, but it’s almost as if somewhere along the way, “I Want Candy” went on a bender and came out as “Candy-O.” From the pulsing synth to that killer guitar solo that clearly tells us we’re not in new-wave territory anymore, I adore this track. It’s always seemed just slightly off-kilter in the most delicious of ways. Video

XTC “Making Plans For Nigel”
In my second chapter of new wave, we go more classic in terms of style. There’s something beautifully hypnotic about the guitar riff that carries over a great deal of the song. Certain things I could just listen to all day, and for whatever reason, I’ve always felt drawn to this tune. It might be its seemingly contradictory nature with the choppy and layered guitar patterns, pleasant major harmonies and incessant cymbal crashes. You’re meant to really question if Nigel could ever really be happy. It’s equal parts hopeful and dreary. “In his wooooorrrrld … ” Video

Joe Jackson “Look Sharp”
I’ll admit that the first time I heard this song was in one of my favorite episodes of Freaks And Geeks, and every time I listen to it, I get that image of Sam Weir in his Parisian Night Suit walking into school, his confidence sharply waning as more and more people stare, snicker and laugh. It’s a painful moment to behold (because I think each of us has been Sam at one point or another in our lives), but it’s accompanied by the perfect song. I think what I really love about this song is how simple it is. There really isn’t that much going on in terms of instrumentation here: a funk-tastic bass line, fast strummin’ guitars, a solid beat and those brilliant Joe harmonies in the chorus. It’s the perfect example of how a “well-produced song” needn’t be overbearing or over-layered. Guitar riff. Bass riff. Beat. Hit! Video

Supertramp “Gone Hollywood”
The opening track off of a classic record. I visit Breakfast In America quite often and am always entranced by “Gone Hollywood.” It truly plays as an overture to the record with the verse/chorus structure acting more open ended, both lyrics and orchestration playing hand-in-hand to the narrative of the lost Angeleno. I love that only a minute in, the grandiose guitars give way to that hauntingly beautiful piano ostinato and sax with that line that just hits so many close to home, “Ain’t nothin’ new in my life today … ” The idea that the purposeful guitars cut out to what seems like a lost moment is so perfect. I could really pick this song apart piece by piece, but I’ll refrain and just say that there are so many hidden treasures here that I’m always eager to discover more each time I return. Video

Electric Light Orchestra “The Diary Of Horace Wimp”
I’m an ELO fan through and through, and had a very, very difficult time trying to pick my favorite song off of their 1979 release, Discovery. I went back and forth between this tune and a few others, but ultimately, I couldn’t deny how much I adore this song and its charm. I’ve always thought it felt like a semi-futuristic Magical Mystery Tour b-side. The vocoder use here is great, and almost acts as its own instrument with its more ambient/rhythmic properties, rather than a way to change the voice for melodic purposes. And really, who doesn’t love a song about the awkward lad who gets the girl? (Also, I continue to gleefully sing the “Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Sunday, Monday … ” refrain at random times during my day-to-day life). Video

B-52′s “52 Girls”
There have already been loads of people who have written about the genius of this song, so instead I’ll just say this: No song that is just listing the names of girls has the right to be this good. But the B-52′s managed to do just that. Addictive and driving, this one stands the test of time. Video

The Clash “Guns Of Brixton”
There was zero chance that I could do a 1979 mix tape without mentioning something from London Calling (debated just sending in a track-by-track play-by-play of the whole album, to be honest). So when I sat down to figure out what song I really couldn’t do without, “Guns Of Brixton” came into my mind immediately. I was a high-school kiddo heavily into 2 Tone and reggae when I fell in love with London Calling, so the fact that this song would be my “desert island choice” should come to no surprise. Interestingly enough, what always comes to mind when I think fondly back to this tune is that use of the “boing” sound effect. Really, it seems like a bizarre thing to focus on, but it plays so delightfully with the guitar’s tremolo bends that it somehow works with the lyrical frustrations of the chaotic police brutality. And the classic bass line? I could truly listen to that on a loop forever. A truly fantastic piece, this one, and the only appropriate way for me to end my little mix. Video

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From The Desk Of Horse Feathers’ Justin Ringle: Lloyd Eugene Winter IV

So when asked to be a guest editor for MAGNET, my initial reaction was that my inner 18-year-old self might flip out so much that I might have nary a word to say. However, I persevered and was immediately filled with some of the memories of growing up in the proverbial “sticks” in the ’90s. Starting there and moving forward to the present day, I accumulated a list of people, movies, music, food, poets and other stuff that, although not exhaustive by any extent, it gives an insight into me, my music, the band, inspirations and interests. At the very least I would hope that a few of these things may also be viewed as recommendations that could steer people toward becoming acquainted with a few new people, and things that I find dear. It goes without saying, I appreciate the opportunity to “preach from the pulpit,” so to speak and air my opinion on so many different things. Normally people only care about what I say about my music or music in general, which can get tedious. So thank you, MAGNET, for providing the platform to impose my taste on others. Really and truly, I hope someone finds something in here that they, too, can enjoy.

Lloyd

So Lloyd just did the artwork for our newest album, and he is by far one of my favorite illustrator/designers, which is convenient because he is also my friend. I have known him for more than 10 years and actually went to art school together at the University of Idaho way back in the day. Now Lloyd works on big projects at Wieden+Kennedy here in Portland and amazingly takes the time to whip out some projects for me on a biannual basis. He’s done a ton of our shirt designs as well as seven-inches and our recent cassette boxed set. His work always seems current but not indebted to contemporary design. Instead I appreciate how his stuff seems like it has a personal touch that you could go as far as to say would be idiosyncratic. Lloyd is from Boise and comes from the skateboarding/hardcore/metal school of thought, which is hilarious that he can produce work for my band that is so awesome but completely divergent from his main sensibility. Who knew a guy into gnarly stuff could make such pretty pictures? Check him out online sometime.

Video after the jump.

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Film At 11: Spain

L.A.’s Spain readies for the release of fifth album Sargent Place, out November 4. The band recently made a new video for “Love At First Sight,” and MAGNET is premiering it here. The song itself is a chilled-out slow jam, and the clip that accompanies moves at an equally slow pace. In fact, the whole video is centered around time as we slowly follow the adventures of one indecisive man. Watch it below.

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M. Ward’s “Transistor Radio” Reissue With Liner Notes By MAGNET’s Very Own Jud Cost

Merge Records is reissuing M. Ward’s classic Transistor Radio, and MAGNET’s longtime contributor Jud Cost wrote the liner notes. Check them out below.

MWard

M. Ward: The Vinylization Of A Masterpiece (And Much More)

By now, just about everyone who loves “indie rock” knows the legend of M. Ward. I haven’t seen Matt play live for a few seasons now, or interviewed him recently for one of the mags I write for (MAGNET, Blurt, Bucketfull, Sonic).

But I can still recall the basic facts of life concerning this wondrous California kid who began life in the Thousand Oaks area, a short drive north from greater Los Angeles. On nights he wasn’t venturing south to hear fave punk stalwarts Firehose, he’d record his own edgy yet beautiful melodies very late at night in his bedroom, laying the guitar chords on like toothpaste and softly crooning into his four-track porta-studio—just so he wouldn’t wake up anyone else in the family.

That, so he says now, is why his voice is so unusual, with, for some weird reason, just a touch of Delta bluesmen from 60 years ago. I know, I know, it sounds crazy: Big Joe Williams, Robert Johnson, Son House, Charley Patton and … M. Ward? But something’s going on there that I can’t really explain. And I like it a lot.

By the time he’d enrolled at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, about 200 miles to the north, he was ready for some kind of cryptic nickname. He got it (and it wasn’t “T-Bone”). His pals called him “M. Ward” just for fun, as if they had arrived at the curious moniker by reading the address label from his junk mail.

The first time I heard anyone mention the name M. Ward was during an interview with Howe Gelb of Giant Sand, a few years after the turn of the century. Howe, who became Matt’s mentor in his early days, told me of two up-and-coming rockers to look out for: M. Ward and Jason Lytle of the Modesto, CA, band Grandaddy. As you would expect of Gelb, he nailed it. It was a great pleasure to pick the brains of both of these young geniuses in the years that followed.

You probably know the rest. Matt would go on to do big things worthy of his vast talent. Last time I saw him live, he had sold out the gargantuan (and lovely) Fox Theater in Oakland. The girls were screaming, too, as soon as he poked his nose out from behind the stage curtain. After that, he hooked up with old friend Conor Oberst of Nebraska’s Bright Eyes, a band so tapped into the firmament that it got a mention in Richard Linklater’s brilliant, 12-years-in-the-making film Boyhood.

Conor and Matt were joined by Jim James of My Morning Jacket and drummer Mike Mogis to create the always fascinating ad hoc combo Monsters Of Folk, a sometime project that appears whenever they feel like it. They recently wowed a crowd at Neil Young’s Bridge School Benefit Concert in Mountain View, CA. And for those stationed on Antarctica for the last five years, Matt and Zooey Deschanel, the star of TV sitcom New Girl, have paired up as She & Him and recently cut material for a new album.

Best for last, Merge Records has just released Matt’s mind-blowing 2005 album Transistor Radio on vinyl. If you totally lost it when you first heard the masterful CD version of the opening track, a lump-in-the-throat, instrumental reworking of Brian Wilson’s Pet Sounds gem “You Still Believe In Me,” wait until you feel the sun scorch your face from the ultra-warm PVC treatment. Better keep some Coppertone handy.

On the other hand, “Fuel For Fire” has enough country heartbreak it should have been covered by George Jones. And then there’s “Four Hours In Washington,” the insomniac’s nightmare, opening with a groan of Twin Peaks-like guitar chords before the tale unravels thusly: “Well, it’s one in the morning and I can’t sleep at night/I hear wolves around the doorstep, they’re circling outside/I count ’em jumping over fences and landing on the sheets/Now it’s two in the morning and I can’t fall asleep.” If you’ve been itching to drop your tonearm onto one of Transistor Radio’s 16 jackpot tracks, here’s your chance, hi-fi worshipper.

So, I guess you could say wherever you see the name M. Ward appearing in any of his current (or future) guises, you should go check out what the boy’s been up to. Might be a good time here to borrow that friendly consumer warning from old pal Bob Dylan: You’d be crazy to miss it. Something like that.

—Jud Cost, 2014
Santa Clara, California

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MP3 At 3PM: We Are The Willows

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Minneapolis sextet We Are The Willows prepare for the release of new album Picture (Portrait) Pt. 1 via The Homestead Records on November 4. The band will soon embark on a tour of the Midwest, and it has released a beautiful new track, “Picture.” The orchestral instruments used in the song are unique, and with the airy female vocals, it all shows how the band can break out of its indie-rock mold and into something new and different. Download the track below.

“Picture” (download):

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