Category Archives: FREE MP3s

Normal History Vol. 413: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 33-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

While I was in my room listening to CCR and Rush, my parents were playing jazz on the hi-fi at the other end of the house. I loved how they loved it, how loud they played it, how they related to it, how it fit with the art they made, how they talked about hearing jazz at (the?) Hickory House (and other clubs) on trips to New York in the ’60s.

My teenage years were 1973-1979, but, by 18, I was living on my own in a tiny apartment closer to my boyfriend, the classical cellist who gave me several Jimi Hendrix albums. By 19, I was living with a man 10 years older than I was (a newspaper photographer), buying jazz albums (Lester Young, Thelonious Monk, Yusef Lateef) loosely based on my parents record collection.

While I was a teenager living at home, the AM radio on a small shelf above my bed was everything. It was almost always on—unless I was reading (sometimes with one of my mom’s ice-cold seven-percent apple cider stolen out of the fridge) novels (Daddy Was A Numbers Runner, Another Country) until I went to sleep. My parents didn’t really read. Not the way I did, one book after another. I was always curious why they weren’t curious about what I was reading. Just as well.

There was a time when the public library started loaning LPs, and I took out a Grateful Dead album that made me feel slightly nauseous, and a Wings album that resulted in a similarly visceral reaction.

Around 1975, I recall trading a can of three tennis balls (I guess I gave tennis a try or maybe they were my brother’s) for Led Zeppelin’s Houses Of The Holy which always felt kind of tainted by the method of acquisition. I’d had IV for a long time and I liked the colors on the cover of “Houses of the Holy”, but I didn’t like the album much. I mean, let’s say you listen to “IV” a lot for a couple of years, then you slide Houses Of The Holy out of its sleeve, put it on and you hear “The Song Remains The Same”? What a drag. And then the violins on “The Rain Song.” Serious bummer. As was the horn section on “The Crunge”plus stupid lyrics. The 9/8 time signature meant nada to me. Wait … is that a keytar on “Dancing Days”?

“Then” from the album Calico Kills The Cat (K, 1989) (download):

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Normal History Vol. 412: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 33-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Maybe I got it wrong. I thought the teenage albums list-making exercise on Facebook was designed to create a sense of tactile community through the act of sharing something quintessential about ourselves while considering that others had shared something about their origins and were contemplating ours. That it was based on music from our teenage years was smart because it diversified the input through different eras. Those who were teens a long time ago were confronted with lists made by people who were teens more recently, and that made “us” realize that our formative years were differently lived through in terms of music and the limitations that surrounded getting the actual music and finding more music. Perhaps people with bands like Fugazi, Hole and the Breeders on their lists were struck by something fundamental when they saw the lists of older people. I’m not sure about that. Maybe that part was more obvious.

I thought the list-making exercise intended to point out that the number of hours spent formulating lists could well be applied to future endeavors with other objectives that perhaps had more significant results. I thought that was a clever way to imply and expose a mobilization process and its potential.

“Fight For A Little” from the album Mecca Normal (Smarten UP!, 1986; reissued by K, 1995) (download):

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MP3 At 3PM: Toma

Toma sure does sound like it’s headed somewhere on “Going Nowhere.” (Laugh track.) Honestly, though, the opening song on the Austin band’s upcoming debut album, Aroma, is a sign of great things to come, a swaying, ‘80s pop-inspired tune that bobs along solemnly in a thick pool of synthesizers. Check it out below. Aroma is out March 31.

“Going Nowhere” (download):

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Normal History Vol. 411: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 33-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Last month, when that Facebook list was going around, I worried about “spending my time” listing albums I had as a teenager that left an impression. After all, I’m a hard-nosed cultural activist, not a dabbler in internet games. I took the opportunity to show what the actual male-dominated lay of the land looked like. I listened to, and was impacted by, male rock bands (implying that there weren’t many women in rock, which is why I started a band some years later).

1. Led Zeppelin IV
2. Creedence Clearwater Revival Willy And The Poor Boys
3. Jimi Hendrix Are You Experienced?
4. V.A. American Graffiti
5. Neil Young After The Gold Rush
6. Ethel Merman Annie Get Your Gun
7. Rush Rush
8. Nazareth Razamanaz
9. Deep Purple Machine Head
10. Bee Gees Best Of Bee Gees (1969)

I don’t see any women-fronted bands on the American Graffiti double album. I don’t recall noticing this as a young teen, seeing the movie and buying the album to then study how soundtrack material functioned within fictional storylines. Like, in the original trailer (and probably in the movie itself) when radio DJ Wolfman Jack asks, “Where were you in ’62?” and the answer comes 14 seconds into Danny And The Juniors’ single “At The Hop.” Somebody had thought to sync that up. That was worth thinking about. But then again, my dad was in advertising and I’d already been in a sound studio in Vancouver where jingles were recorded.

When you think about it, American Graffiti—both the movie and the songs on the double album—were largely about women and girls. The standard stalking, tricking and getting of them, set in the early ’60s, when cars were perhaps the equivalent of cell phones today. When a guy wanted to talk to another guy, he had to drive around town to find him. I have an idea that girls dominated the landlines.

Only one album on my list was made by a woman. I positioned her in the middle, surrounded, as it were, by the men, and she’s singing, “Anything you can do I can do better!” in the role of Annie, from “Annie Get Your Gun.” This is significant to who I was then and who I became. I’m not sure how I came to own that album, but I liked the competitive rivalries in the storyline. Annie the marksman and Ethel the singer: the weapon, the voice. Right in the middle of this song, Ethel proves she can hold a note longer than the man she’s sparring with who boastfully claimed he can hold a note longer than her. These things made an impression! That voice. For the win!

When I finally did hear female rock bands that I related to, I immediately wanted to be the band—or at least half a band! Having said that, when I was 10 or 11, the photo on the cover of CCR’s Willy And the Poor Boys inspired me to make and play a washtub bass that resulted in a short-lived CCR cover band with Heather and Leslie. I included that album on my teenage list because it was still a favorite into my teens and to this day. What’s not to like? Other than that there are no women in the band.

“Women Were King” from the album Mecca Normal (Smarten UP!, 1986; reissued by K, 1995) (download):

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MP3 At 3PM: William Matheny

William Matheny will release Strange Constellations on February 24, but we wanted to make sure you were on the bandwagon early. “Living Half To Death” is next in line in early 2017’s penchant for loud, lively rock à la Japandroids or Cloud Nothings. The track is disillusioned but very much alive—check it out below.

Tour dates after the jump.

“Living Half To Death” (download):

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Normal History Vol. 410: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 33-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

More than 30 years later and my phone is still unplugged, and neither David nor I have ever had cell phones. Having said that, he and I have great phone conversations every week during which life and art are discussed with a heightened enthusiasm for all that has happened and for all that is yet to occur. Then, beyond that, we immerse ourselves in our projects without the derailment that telecommunication results in.

“Phone’s Unplugged” from the album Mecca Normal (Smarten UP!, 1986; reissued by K, 1995) (download):

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MP3 At 3PM: Sallie Ford

Sallie Ford will release her second solo LP, Soul Sick, on February 10 via Vanguard. We are proud to premiere album track “Middle Child” today on magnetmagazine.com. Says Ford of “Middle Child,” “A super old song I had started but picked up again. It’s about being a middle child and being misunderstood. I first started writing it when one night I was the last person to get home—when I was living with roommates in Portland—and then I was the first one up in the morning. It was a melody that came to me early one morning when I was walking to work. ‘I’m the last one in and the first one out.’” Check out “Middle Child” below.

Tour dates and more after the jump.

“Middle Child” (download):

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Normal History Vol. 409: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 33-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

In mid-December, I used an unreleased Mecca Normal song (one that we’d kind of forgotten about) as a soundtrack for my currently available $100 paintings. I’d been looking through random sound files when I came across “Critical,” which turned out to be from the same sessions as our most recent album, Empathy For The Evil, which we recorded with Kramer in Miami Beach in late 2012.

After editing and posting energetic live videos of our shows with the Julie Ruin in October, it was a great departure to find such warmth and clarity in Kramer studio production on a song we’d forgotten about. Also, after so much scrutiny and evaluation of the meaning of recently performed material, trying to keep the political and especially feminism front and center, “Critical” hangs on the one word with very few other lyrics involved, most of which I’m not sure what they are as it was totally improvised. The song features our recording engineer Frank Falestra (a.k.a. Rat Bastard) on guitar near the end.

We performed this week’s song “Beaten Down” in our set opening for the Julie Ruin in Portland, where we had a slightly longer set. It’s a strange sort of nose-thumbing poetic prophesy that I always find particularly satisfying to sing live. “Maybe some of us will and maybe some of us won’t all grow up to be beaten down.” —Jean Smith, 1984

“Beaten Down” from the album Mecca Normal (Smarten UP!, 1986; reissued by K, 1995) (download):

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MP3 At 3PM: The Gods Themselves

Seattle’s the Gods Themselves have just released Be My Animal, and although we brought you “Tech Boys” last month, we wanted to make sure you didn’t forget this electric pop/rock band. So allow us to introduce you to “So Hot,” a toe-tapper that lays down some serious one-liners in between a chorus of “I am/So hot.” Check it out below.

“So Hot” (download):

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MP3 At 3PM: Red Porch Kid

Red Porch Kid will release Rocketship on January 27. Singe/songwriter Michael Stovall gives a downtrodden introduction with “Good Heart,” a small and simple acoustic song that seems to echo warmly off of dimly lit bedroom walls. Check it out below.

“Good Heart” (download):

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