Category Archives: FREE MP3s

Normal History Vol. 286: 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 30-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

In this week’s column, I continue to compare songs on Calico Kills The Cat with songs on our new album, Empathy For The Evil, from start to finish. See notes from Sept. 6, 2014

2. “Blue TV” (Calico Kills The Cat, 1989) From the vantage point of the street in front of a suburban house, the blue light flashing behind the curtain represents the lies that TV propagates and complacent citizens swallow.

2. “What’s Your Name?” (Empathy For The Evil, 2014) Here, the singer attempts to turn the tables by asking listeners questions that intend to implicate and hold accountable citizens who rely on anonymity to abdicate responsibilities and behave badly. I think this stems from a sense of powerlessness, so, in a way, the song intends to return power to individuals. The power of identity—a name. The power of emotions, of caring, and the things we say and do when we are vulnerable in those ways.

Perhaps “What’s Your Name?” is a form of reverse psychology that aims to make the same point that “Blue TV” focused on using a more accusatory tone.

“Blue TV” from Calico Kills The Cat (K, 1989; Matador, 1991; Smarten Up!, 2003) (download):

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MP3 At 3PM: A Shoreline Dream

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Denver’s A Shoreline Dream recently released a new album titled The Silent Sunrise. The two-piece plays an amalgamation of shoegaze, post-rock and psych, making for very interesting music. It’s very spacey but at the same time very emotional and moving. “King Of Your Castles” is no exception. The vocals are particularly celestial and the music accompanies it perfectly. Download the track below.

“King Of Your Castles” (download):

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MP3 At 3PM: Brian Lopez

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Brian Lopez spent more than two years working on his next release, Static Noise, the follow-up to the singer/songwriter’s debut album, Ultra. The new LP takes a more direct rock ‘n’ roll route as opposed to his first record, and now he’s released the track “Mercury In Retrograde.” The song starts out pretty heavy with crunchy guitars, but it eventually evolves into a softer, more intimate affair as pianos join in and the vibe changes completely. Download it below.

“Mercury In Retrograde” (download):

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MP3 At 3PM: HEYROCCO

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HEYROCCO, if not first noted for its moniker, may be noted for having a drummer named Taco and a bassist names Christopher Cool. But on top of everything, the band should be noted for its musical talent, which is made complete with the help of vocalist/guitarist Nate Merli. Together, the trio creates catchy rock ‘n’ roll that’s as smooth as is it heavy and pop-fueled. The South Carolina three-piece put out an album this past July and now has shared “Melt.” Download it below.

“Melt” (download):

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MP3 At 3PM: The Marshmallow Overcoat

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The Knights Of Fuzz is no band, but rather a book by Timothy Gassen that explores a definitive history of the garage and psychedelic explosion since 1980. There is a fun theme song by his band the Marshmallow Overcoat to go along with the 500-page tome, though, and it certainly captures the energy and raw power of garage rock and psychedelia. Check out “Knights Of Fuzz” below.

“Knights Of Fuzz” (download):

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MP3 At 3PM: Varick

NYC singer/songwriter Varick readies for the release of his debut, Boundless, on November 4. The EP as a whole explores themes that are an expression of Varick’s musical world. The title track has layers of different synth/electronic noise that all come together as one solid, coherent sound. There’s also some excellent, subtle mallet work. Download “Boundless” below.

“Boundless” (download):

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Normal History Vol. 285: 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 30-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

This week’s free download is the first song from Mecca Normal’s second album, Calico Kills The Cat, which is only available on vinyl from K Records. That is to say, vinyl from the original LP pressing 25 years ago, back in 1989. On the K Records page, Calvin describes the album. “This one’s got it all: love, murder, hate, frying pans, jealousy, prison, bullets, bonfires and a blue TV behind the iron curtain. Wordsmith Jean takes on the world while guitar man Dave rocks ‘n’ rolls it.”

In this, and subsequent columns, I will be comparing songs on Calico Kills The Cat with songs on our new album, Empathy For The Evil, from start to finish.

I’m just noticing that this new album’s title is strangely reminiscent of Calico Kills The Cat in both alliteration and depth of meaning. Empathy For The Evil was produced, mixed and mastered by the legendary Kramer (see David’s illustration), who describes the album “more like a great gig, than like someone sitting down in front of their record player with a stack of singles.”

1. “Then” (Calico Kills The Cat, 1989)
I wrote the lyrics while I was living in the north of England, in what felt like quite a brutal little city called Huddersfield in West Yorkshire. This was where a Mecca Normal tour had ended and I decided to stay on, to rent a room in a house that once belonged to a captain of industry. A woolen mill owner. It was a pretty run-down stone building outside the city. I recall writing “Then” after walking up to the front door past the rubble heap in the front yard. The song was an alchemy of past, present and future unpleasantness that forms a difficult weight, making it seem like nothing can be accomplished in that general sense of gloom.

At that point, David had gone off traveling in Europe for a number of months and, in those days, there was no way to be in contact other than letters through the post or telephone. I forget if I received either during that time of great challenges—both personal and artistic. I secured a few poetry readings on bills in the area and I taught a women’s writing class. From this, and a bit of graphic-design work that came my way, I managed to pay my bills for the six months my passport allowed me to stay in the country. I continued to write what I thought were poems until I returned to Canada and started turning them into songs with David.

1. “Art Was The Great Leveler” (Empathy For The Evil, 2014) is directly out of a novel I wrote called The Black Dot Museum Of Political Art in which a museum curator cures narcissism. This section of the story outlines how her parents met. Overall, the novel intends to illuminate how and why personalities—including the narcissist personality disorder—form. The protagonist’s parents met at a time when people weren’t assessing personalities; it was more about class and money.

In “Then” and again with “Art Was The Great Leveler” I can feel both my 29-year-old and 50-something selves grappling with how psychological conditions can hinder our potential. In the case of “Then,” there is a frustration with others—as was more typical of my earlier songwriting. When I began writing book-length fiction, I was more interested in how early interactions came to define us in terms of what we expect from others in personal relationships. Having taken a step away from blaming others set me on a course to invent and examine scenarios with a consciously balanced hand. I developed an understanding of classic behaviors and created characters by assigning them various traits that play out by interconnecting their psychological proclivities with those of other characters. I guess most stories are like that, but mine seem to be only about that. How people are with each other—and why.

“Then” from Calico Kills The Cat (K, 1989; Matador, 1991; Smarten Up!, 2003) (download):

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MP3 At 3PM: Whitewash

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New York City’s Whitewash is readying the release of debut EP Fraud In Lisban. The recordings, done entirely on band member Jonathan Ben-Menachem’s personal laptop at NYU, are blasts of bedroom-recorded psych rock with a catchy rock ‘n’ roll edge. “Street Faces” has a steady flow and really shows the power of psych-induced rock like many bands wish they could. Download the track below.

“Street Faces” (download):

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MP3 At 3PM: Grammar

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Boston’s Grammar, the project of 24-year-old Barrie Lindsay, prepares for the release of its debut on October 14. After studying music theory in Boston, Lindsay formed Grammar as a 15-piece orchestral chamber-pop group for her senior thesis. Now, as a five-piece, Grammar has released “New World,” a track from the upcoming EP. The layered vocals give the track a warm and full feel, while the simple instruments provide just enough rhythm to keep the song moving steadily. Download the track below.

“New World” (download):

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MP3 At 3PM: Elijah Ocean

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Singer/songwriter Elijah Ocean prepares for the release of his new album, Bring It All In, out October 7. Ocean is backed by a band of seven different people, so it’s no surprise that the music sounds very full and warm. “Ride It Out” is classic country, but it doesn’t get boring or generic. The hope displayed in the lyrics can be felt in the instruments, too, and the whole band works together to create a fluid and cohesive sound. Download the track below.

Ride It Out” (download):

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