The Further Adventures Of Jason Narducy’s “Sexiest Elbows In Rock”

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The latest installment of Split Single auteur Jason Narducy’s “Sexiest Elbows In Rock” online series—cleverly titled “Episode 2”—finds our hero, after a discouraging meeting with his managers, auditioning for other bands, including Cheap Trick and Wilco. (Jeff Tweedy’s priceless reaction: “I’m the singer. We have a singer.”) While Narducy realizes his true calling with the help of comedian Dave Hill, watch for an all-too-quick cameo by former Conan O’Brien/current Stephen Colbert writer Brian Stack. And also buy Split Single’s outstanding sophomore record, Metal Frames.

—Matt Hickey

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MAGNET’s #24 Album Of 2016: ANOHNI’s “Hopelessness”

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2016 was a good year for protest records, and none was more bitter or more beautiful than Hopelessness. It’s a reinvention album: Antony Hegarty rechristened herself ANOHNI and eschewed the piano-based art songs of her former band Antony And The Johnsons, instead embracing somber electronics created in collaboration with Oneohtrix Point Never and Hudson Mohawke. These are intensely gorgeous songs even when the subject matter is ugly: On “Drone Bomb Me,” ANOHNI sings from the perspective of an orphan hoping to die in an attack, as his parents did; “Obama” condemns the president for unfulfilled promises and unprovoked aggression; “Why Did You Separate Me From The Earth?” questions the future of the planet. She often sings from the point of view of the villain she condemns: “I want to hear the dogs crying for water/I want to see the fish go belly up in the sea,” she claims on “4 Degrees.” The lyrics are unrelenting in their anger and pointedly accusatory—of specific countries, of terrorism and warfare, of environmental abuse, of self. But ANOHNI’s voice, a dramatic, sometimes operatic, often soulful croon, conveys warmth, tenderness and, contradictory to the title, hope.

—Steve Klinge

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Essential New Music: De La Soul’s “And The Anonymous Nobody…”

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“There is nothing as mysterious as a fact clearly described,” said photographer Garry Winogrand in describing his professional raison d’etre. I imagine that New York rap heroes De La Soul see their recording career in much the same light. Having been infamously shut out of any revenue from their groundbreaking early catalog due to sampling clearance issues (I defy you to find a digital copy of 3 Feet High And Rising anywhere), the Long Island trio has—on its first release in more than a decade, and eighth in almost 30 years together—stitched together 17 tracks from the piece-parts of more than 200 hours’ worth of live recording. And it’s a triumph of truth and consequences; the musical equivalent of a fly fisherman publishing a bicycling quarterly. You’re the acknowledged masters of today’s shopping-spree sampling mentality (you quite literally can’t get to Chance, Frank Ocean or FlyLo without carving a path through De La’s insanely eclectic first four records), and then you go all Miles Davis-organic on us?

Belie’dat: This is a mature work by grown-ass men who know their way around a hook or two (the sublime “Royalty Capes,” the achingly beautiful blaxploitation strings that frame “Memory Of…” and the deliciously downbeat “Greyhounds”) and a dis rhyme deftly dropped (“Sexy Bitch”; “Trainwreck,” which is just as cutting as it sounds). They’ve learned how to share the spotlight, too; Snoop collabo “Pain” gives LBC’s finest just enough breathing room to drop gems like “Used to gang bang, used to love the clashes/Now cash is the only motivation/But not for me, G, I’m into public relations.” If Pos, Dave and Maseo were always “me, myself and I” (three parts of the same sentient being), today there’s room enough for all y’all to take a turn behind the wheel. But it’s still their classic car to drive

—Corey duBrowa

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MAGNET’s #25 Album Of 2016: Flock Of Dimes’ “If You See Me, Say Yes”

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It’s tempting to view this Flock Of Dimes release party as the genre-neutral ground where Jenn Wasner’s worlds collide: the moody blues of Wye Oak and the sheer letting-go of Dungeonesse. And it could’ve been merely that. It ended up a gathering of her multiple musical personalities—a one-woman Traveling Wilburys, if you will, and you definitely should. Joni Mitchell, Christine McVie, Tracey Thorn and Annie Lennox join Wasner in this imaginary supergroup, with a dozen other contemporaries on hand as understudies: Joanna Newsom’s elemental sentiment (“Fill my arms with what I can carry”), Victoria Legrand’s lapping drones, Beth Orton’s hybrid tones. Just when you think you can see the calligraphic flourishes coming, Wasner unleashes a new, startling wake-up call, be it a timeless signature (on her declaration of independence, “Birthplace”), an overwhelming affirmation (carpe diem anthem “Everything Is Happening Today”) or a corporeal rave (pleasure-principled “Ida Glow”). She may only have this one body, but her spirit is an infinite spectrum in which the snarling guitar goddess we thought we knew is but a single shade.

—Noah Bonaparte Pais

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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.

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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.

Acrylics
Action Bronson
Air
Anamanaguchi (x2)
Angel Olsen
Animal Collective
ANOHNI
araabMUZIK (x2)
Band Of Horses
Basia Bulat
Battles
Beanie Sigel
Beirut
Boogarins
Brian Wilson (performing Pet Sounds)
Caveman
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
Protomartyr
Pusha T
Quinn Walker
Rocket From The Crypt
Saskrotch
Secret Shine
Selda
Shilpa Ray
SOPHIE (x2)
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
Tortoise
Tunabunny
Watching Waves
Ween (x4)
Yeasayer
Young Fathers
Zomby

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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

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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

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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.

jokes

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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