Category Archives: GUEST EDITOR

From The Desk Of Aloha: Air Horns

Vic

Tony Cavallario: Satirist and Vine superstar Vic Berger IV has a few main targets: Donald Trump, Chubby Checker and Jim Bakker chief among them. His recaps of the GOP candidate debates are basically the historical document of primary season. It’s all there, cementing Trump’s reputation as a bully, Jeb as the humiliated mama’s boy, Kasich as the useless dissenter. Berger single-handedly made Jeb into a mess long before Trump started landing punches, chopping up Jeb’s super-phony YouTube clips into six-second Tim & Eric-level absurdities. But my favorite tool in Berger’s arsenal is the air horn. The air horn is basically a proxy for Trump—a Trump supporter in the crowd maybe. Cutting Jeb off, usually. At the end of “Donald Trump Has No Chill,” air horns mark Jeb’s total annihilation as they get twisted into a ominous, elegiac mess of deflated-balloon sadness. It’s the perfect epitaph for the moment when something awful gave way, leaving something perhaps even more terrible in its wake.

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From The Desk Of Aloha: Karl Ive Knausgård’s “My Struggle”

Karl

Tony Cavallario: While writing the latest Aloha record, as a happy but creatively frustrated primary caregiver of two children, I tried to avoid all traces of myself. I just thought my point of view was totally overrepresented and unnecessary. I avoided modern fiction, eschewed indie music for rap, jazz and—for my kids’ sake—top 40. Soon, my well-intentioned attempt at narrative songwriting fell apart; the characters weren’t real, and the stories began to leak details from my own life. At this point Amazon and Powell’s algorithms started pitching me Karl Ove, and I resigned myself to it. Here was a book of intimidating Proustian heft and overwhelming detail from a brooding, creatively frustrated dad in his 40s. So I knew I was about get my head really deep into my own ass. Like, 2,000 pages deep and counting. Like midlife crisis, shame spiral deep. Relatability, though, is not what I got out the deal. Instead I have been in awe of the presence he’s had in his life, to recount his past in such detail, to be so aware. It showed me that specificity can overcome banality, and removing certain expectations means you won’t get bored. The books are quite addictive, for the same reason you might have binged on a random LiveJournal; it’s pulling you ever deeper into caring about or understanding Karl Ove, warts and all. You feel like you are helping him unload his shame and guilt, and you’re not judging him even at his most problematic. But more, there is something hypnotic about the writing, knowing it is boundless and moves at a gentle, human pace. Knausgård can drift off into ruminations about art, life, identity, horniness, marriage, without every being prescriptive or offering pithy insights or value-signaling. Comforting even when it’s haunting, like a Tim Hecker record. Would I much sooner recommend Ben Lerner, Rachel Kushner, hell even Miranda July? Probably, but I’m happy to have 1,600 pages to go in Knausgård’s world. And I owe him for giving me license to put a little bit more of my boring, brooding self into my work.

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From The Desk Of Aloha: The Innocence Mission’s “The Innocence Mission”

InnocenceMission

Tony Cavallario: The Innocence Mission is mostly known as a husband and wife duo that puts out consistently great, reverant folk albums, sometimes hyped by fellow faith-affiliated acts like Sufjan Stevens. I’m agnostic at best, but the Innocence Mission is one of my favorite bands, and my relationship with their music is fairly spiritual. I look to Karen Peris for guidance, for compassion, to stay present, and to sort of check myself for a moral pulse. Her lyrics as poetry could stand on their own. Too sweet and wispy for some, for me that staring-at-the-sun purity is the hook, and I think of Peris is a Will Oldham-level enigma. That being said, I’ve never seriously considered their semi-disowned major label debut, made in 1988 way before “BrightAs Yellow” landed in Empire Records. But it came to me in a used record store, a pristine relic from the Camelot cut-out bin. I had no idea that the glossy production would be right in my ‘80s-loving wheelhouse and that Karen could sing with Kate Bush theatricality. Years of Prefab Sprout records hipped me to the fact that a literary, folk-rock sensibility could thrive among synth pads, and shimmering guitars. Singles “Black Sheep Wall” and “Wonder Of Birds” are on par with singles from 10,000 Maniacs, Toad The Wet Sprocket and other light alternative bands that had breakthroughs at the dawn of alt rock. Watching the videos, it’s obvious that Peris had serious star power. But even in 1988 the production might have been a bit dated, too fancy and too refined. It’s not on the same level as the Sundays’ debut some 18 months later, which channeled The Cure and Cocteau Twins while Harriet Wheeler low-key channeled Morrissey. But Innocence Mission fans might be lucky that the Innocence Mission didn’t blow up back then, as in 1995 they reappeared, more modest and organic in sound and image, Karen in a vintage housedress, more in synch with the times. Yet clearly on the austere path that would lead them to Befriended and other hushed, intimate classics.

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From The Desk Of Aloha: “Over The Garden Wall”

OverTheGardenWall

Tony Cavallario: I didn’t think I could be floored by a cartoon until one night I turned on the TV, still on Cartoon Network from my kids, and stumbled into Patrick McHale’s stunner Over The Garden Wall. The miniseries mixes Brothers Grimm-style creepiness with sweet protagonists and heaps of non-saccharine childhood wonder. The worst I’ve heard about this series is that it’s too twee. You think Miyazaki is twee? You think Daniel Danger prints are twee? Nightmare-fuelling lysergic Disney passages? References to Richard Scarry books and Betty Boop? Goofy Huck Finn-era Americana? Music that I would buy on LP? It’s all there in 10 scant episodes. There adventure and gags for your kids and existential dread-fodder for the grown ups. If there is justice in this world, this series will become an autumnal rite of passage, and if I’m honest, I can’t wait for October so I can watch it again. If this is what is coming out of the Adventure Time side-project pipeline, my children are in good hands, and for this and a million other reasons, I’m grateful to have them around, calling me out on my cynicism and leading me to what’s good.

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From The Desk Of Aloha: Nina Simone’s “For All We Know” Live In New York, 1961

NinaSimone

Tony Cavallario: If you saw 2015’s documentary What Happened, Miss Simone?, you might have been struck by a black-and-white clip of Nina Simone playing in New York early in her career. She’s stretching the lyrics of a ballad over some sort of celestial fugue. Guitarist Al Schackman doubles her pace as the two of them weave through the chord progression. Something telepathic is happening between them; they interlock until you can’t tell what’s her and what’s him. The bassist is quite focused on keeping time, but is overcome at one point, breaks into a huge grin. It’s a yearning, desperate song, and the relentless flurry of notes threatens to topple the whole thing over in spots. There’s tension even though it’s sweet. There’s distance in Nina’s eyes as she sings. She’s walking the line between making a sincere plea for affection and pushing all feeling away. Is she entranced or distant? Is she lost inside the song or are we losing her? Perhaps it’s just a lack of artifice, for she has no need to sell it to us. She has already transformed the song. Totally uncompromising even when it’s beauty for beauty’s sake. If you are looking for greatness, start with Nina. And if you need an entry point, start with this performance.

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From The Desk Of Aloha: Guns N’ Roses’ “Rocket Queen” Live At The Ritz

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Tony Cavallario: During my own personal Couchella, I went for a deep dive into the Guns N’ Roses YouTube K-hole. The essential document is this 1988 concert film that aired on MTV when I was 11. Before Axl was a punchline, when he was covering “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” but not yet asking for some reggae. That raw, super-basic, ramshackle Guns. This was my introduction to live music, its perils and its power. How different studio Axl and winded, snake-hips Axl were. How a shirtless Slash can just totally whiff on a solo—while smoking. The audience is so close to the stage that Slash can’t take a step forward or his guitar gets grabbed. Axl jumps into the crowd and barely makes it out alive (he loses some jewelery and his cool Thin Lizzy shirt). Danger was lurking, but on-brand, Dial MTV-ready danger.

“Rocket Queen” comes in the encore, with the band exhausted and already basking in the afterglow. Steven Adler glams it up with his loose disco hi-hats, and riffage ensues. Duff’s proto-Singles soundtrack bass. Guitars. Altogether it’s a little sophisticated, but that Stooges/N.Y. Dolls meets evil Aerosmith thing is popping off. Axl disappears … cocaine? Hoping for a live sex act during the solo like on the record but no dice, just Axl and Slash lighting each other’s cigarettes. Fist pumps and the clouds part as Slash picks out the arpeggio, B and G string way out of tune. This sets up Axl for some heroics. He digs deep because he so badly wants to let us down easy. He’s pulling his own hair to retch out the words, vocal chords are being shredded, glass is breaking, phrasing is faithful but the melody is obliterated. Yet the coda serves the same function it does on the record. He wasn’t about to let Appetite (yeah that 20 times or so platinum debut) or this concert end on a low note. He wants us to know that he cares. That he’s a good boy from Iowa caught up in something. That we are the Rocket Queen. That we saved him. He screwed us. But we got something in return.

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From The Desk Of Aloha: Lonnie Chisenhall

LonnieChisenhall

Tony Cavallario: Baseball is a sport of nuance. An atmospheric, thinking person’s pastime. And it’s a game of failure, where a great showing means screwing up real bad three out of five times. There are few chances for ballplayers to breakout and really show some personality. To express themselves to a stadium of people checking their phones or inhaling a footlong. This is the function of walk-up music—that disembodied, echo-laden five-bar bat signal sent out in hopes that we might understand a player better. Maybe you are a woke dude who likes Vince Staples. Maybe you are a metalhead, a devoted Christian or a proud redneck.

Or maybe you are Lonnie Chisenhall. A player so ruthless, so merciless, so brazen that he stole his walk-up song from the one playlist no one else dares to raid—the canon of long-established stadium jams. Yep, he walks up to “Crazy Train,” which any eight-year-old already knows is the go-to song when sports shit is about to go down. Bases loaded in the home half of the seventh? “Crazy Train.” Reliever just walked in a run? “Crazy Train.” A fringe major leaguer up with two out and nobody on in a meaningless September game? Going off the rails on a crazy train. It’s like jacking Gary Glitter or C&C Music Factory. You need super big balls.

You doubt me? OK maybe Lonnie Chisenhall doesn’t even like “Crazy Train.” Maybe he just doesn’t know any other songs. Maybe it’s a case of mental wounds not healing. But the truth is, fans want to see a little bit of Kenny Powers in their guys. Let us project some of that on Lonnie, he of a modest lifetime .700 OPS and many, many fielding errors. That ‘80s mullet yearbook photo that made the rounds, purported to be the young Chiz? We want that Lonnie Baseball. With the sonorous name of a long-lost Sunset Strip hair-metal screamer. Should you think I’m spilling ink about a scrub, you should know that he made a fruitful move to the outfield last season, and his closest comp is Alex Gordon, who made a similar position switch and became an All Star for the Royals. The reigning champs. And if Lonnie doesn’t live up to that billing? Well, sometimes life’s a bitter shame.

Note: Between the time of writing this item and publishing, Lonnie Chisenhall has changed his walk-up music to Ginuwine’s “Pony.”

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From The Desk Of Aloha: The Feature

M83

Tony Cavallario: When M83’s single “Go!” launched, some outlets blasted it out as “featuring Steve Vai and Mai Lan.” Steve Vai, proprietor of guitars with handles and star of my favorite Shreds video, rips an outro solo, right in that spot where you think you’re getting that creamy sax back. Cool move or coolest move?

And while it looks like Vai goes uncredited on the actual retail track listing, that initial shout out was a generous plug for a typical session contribution. I mean, Steve Vai probably e-mailed that finger tapped whammy-dive magic to France, and Anthony Gonzales did a download and drag at a Pret a Manger (do they even have these in France? Does he live in France?). But anyway, maybe in the aftermath of Diplo and songwriting-by-committee, we’re ascending to peak feature (but not peak Future, who is serving that ether). Maybe this is how we’ll deal with the fact that people don’t have liner notes to pore over, and credit is due, damn it. Just get all the musicians in the track list. And maybe someday when physical, tangible media is gone completely we can go back and retroactively lend credit to some classic assists. Do it, try it:

Vashti Bunyan, “Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind” (feat. Jimmy Page)
Peter Gabriel “Intruder” (feat. Phil Collins)
Steely Dan “Peg” (feat. Michael McDonald)
Rockwell “Somebody’s Watching Me” (feat. Michael and Jermaine Jackson)
Carly Simon “You’re So Vain” (feat. Mick Jagger, but not about Mick Jagger)
Beach Boys “Kokomo” (feat. Van Dyke Parks)

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From The Desk Of Britta Phillips: “Keith Richards: Under The Influence”

You know Britta Phillips from the bands Luna and Dean & Britta, but now she has a debut solo album, Luck Or Magic. The record features five Phillips originals alongside covers of songs by the Cars, Evie Sands, Fleetwood Mac, Dennis Wilson and ABBA’s Agnatha Fältskog. Phillips will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Keith

Phillips: I just watched Keith Richards: Under The Influence and realized I’d met every single Xpensive Wino, including Richards himself. Crazy. In 1987, my manager introduced me to Steve Jordan (an amazing drummer who started as a teenager in Stevie Wonder’s band) because his band, the Raging Hormones, was looking for a singer who could play some guitar.  Sara Lee (Gang Of Four, B-52s) had started the band with Charley Drayton (another great drummer and multi-instrumentalist who’s played with the B-52s and Neil Young and co-produced Fiona Apple’s last album). The songs were really cool post-punk pop, and we rehearsed a bunch of times. I still remember how it felt to play with Steve on drums. He made it easy to play well, somehow. Steve invited me to the studio while he was finishing Talk Is Cheap with Keith. I remember walking in while he was singing “Big Enough” and thinking the phrasing and melody reminded me of Sting. But I take that thought back now. Keith was down-to-earth and generous and even sat down to show me some open-tuning chords on the guitar and said I learned fast. He’s the most famous person I’ve ever met and didn’t feel nervous around him. Bowie and Lou Reed, I could barely look at. Keith was easy. I met Waddy on the set of the movie Satisfaction. He was there to coach me on guitar and “guitar moves.” Anyway … I really enjoyed the doc on Keith. He’s a true lover of “music as life.”

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From The Desk Of Britta Phillips: “Le Freak: An Upside Down Story Of Family, Disco, And Destiny” By Nile Rodgers

You know Britta Phillips from the bands Luna and Dean & Britta, but now she has a debut solo album, Luck Or Magic. The record features five Phillips originals alongside covers of songs by the Cars, Evie Sands, Fleetwood Mac, Dennis Wilson and ABBA’s Agnatha Fältskog. Phillips will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Nile

Phillips: I rediscovered Nile Rodgers when Random Access Memories came out, or, rather, when “Get Lucky” was released. I love great disco, and the way Nile describes how people felt dancing together on the floor back in the day makes me misty. I know there was a lot of coke and ecstasy, but I like to think that some people got high on a communal body buzz, as well. I used to listen to disco in my car alone when I was a teenager because all my friends though it sucked. I loved rock ‘n’ roll, too, but back in 1979 you had to choose. I’m glad that’s all over. I just watched Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense and kept thinking, Chic! Nile and Bernard! I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve only just realized what an amazing bassist Tina Weymouth is … I mean, I knew she was, I just didn’t get it on the level I should have before. I can’t play that funky, but I did play a little funkier on my solo album than I have in the past, and it’s thanks to Nile and Daft Punk and going back to those early Chic songs. Bernard Edwards. Why isn’t he on all the “greatest bass players” lists? Maybe I’m looking at the wrong ones, but he should be on all of them. Back to Nile. He has an amazing story and went through a hell of a lot, but the book is a fun, light read.

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