Category Archives: GUEST EDITOR

From The Desk Of Kleenex Girl Wonder: Women

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.

angelolsen

Smith: There’s a weird blip in the progression of my influences. Up until a time that I can’t pinpoint (roughly within the last 10 years), I basically never listened to female singers and songwriters. I mean, there were some exceptions, but they mostly proved the rule that I was a male-singer kind of guy. Then, gradually but also mostly all of a sudden, all of my favorite records were made, or at least helmed, by women.

I guess it would be nice to believe that this changeover synced up with a trend in the music industry in general, but looking back it doesn’t really seem like that’s the case. There has always been a relatively good mix of male and female singers and songwriters (I wish I could get away with abbreviating this, but nothing seems natural, so you’ll just have to bear with me and I’ll do my best to minimize the occurrences) of some renown. To be clear, there are still plenty of bands that I like that have male frontispeople (this is a word I just made up that I shall never abbreviate). It’s just that my favorites are most often women, across a relatively disparate range of styles.

I guess there may be an identifiable shift-point: In 2007, I recorded an album called Mrs. Equitone (which came out in 2009) that had a couple of relatively unusual conceits. I have never revealed these publicly (well, maybe I mentioned something at some point, and also, it’s not like I have people chasing me down on the street, screaming, “Please reveal your albums’ conceits to us!”), but here they are.

First of all, I wanted to make it a song-by-song response to Ponyoak, the 1999 album whose spectre continuously haunts me as I try to improve upon it in the ears of my listening public (for the record, I am very sure that I have succeeded on this account over and over within my own ears). I eventually cut the track count down to 20, partially because I had 20 good songs and didn’t feel a strong need to make any more, partially because I thought this conceit was a little too self-mythologizing/aggrandizing/aware/whatever and didn’t want it to distract from what I thought was a pretty good album on its own merits.

The second conceit was that it was a concept album about feminism. That’s the easy way of putting it, though it’s not entirely accurate—a concept album about feminism would be, strictly, an album about the history of women’s rights (or lack thereof), of activism, of sisterhood and all kinds of other stuff that frankly I am not very qualified to speak on (or, even more frankly, convinced would make for an enjoyable listen, even/especially if I were a published expert in the field). It’s really about how I view the ongoing struggle of women in the western world, the bullshit that they have to put up with, the hopelessness I imagine they must (and see that they do) feel. It’s not the most overbearing concept album in the world by a long shot; lots of the songs deal with these ideas in metaphor, because that’s the mode I am most comfortable operating in. This conceit too was not something that I felt I needed to sound a yawp from the rooftops about, fraught as it is with all kinds of connotations, and given the fact that I could very easily fail to contribute anything meaningful to the conversation, or worse.

It would make sense if that album’s development coincided with this shift in my preferences, but I guess it doesn’t really matter; it definitely happened, and I am very glad that it did. It’s always nice to find yourself open to new music that you can enjoy. In celebration of this, here are some of my favorite albums by (or prominently featuring) awesome women in the past dozen years or so.

Angel Olsen, Burn Your Fire For No Witness
Joanna Newsom, Divers
Buffy Sainte-Marie, Power In The Blood; also everything she’s ever done
Chairlift, Something
Deerhoof, Offend Maggie; and all the others too
Eleanor Friedberger, New View
CHVRCHES, Every Open Eye
Ida Maria, Fortress Round My Heart
Imogen Heap, Sparks
Hop Along, Painted Shut
tUnE-yArDs, Nikki Nack
Beverly, Careers
Joan As Police Woman, The Deep Field
Rihanna, Loud and Unapologetic
Marnie Stern, The Chronicles Of Marnia
Lana Del Rey, Born To Die
Nellie McKay, Pretty Little Head
The Breeders, Title TK
Shilpa Ray & Her Happy Hookers, Teenage And Torture
Nicki Minaj, Pink Friday
Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machine (the unreleased versions of the songs)

I’m sure I’ve left some really great ones out, but this is a good place to start if you’ve never heard these records. And yeah, it’s a little weird to separate stuff out by this gender binary, but it’s fun to make a list of good records, and I explained why it’s relevant up there, so hey, I don’t need to apologize too much. Glad to have a discussion about it with you if you feel like it. Always.

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From The Desk Of Kleenex Girl Wonder: Copy Cats

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.

copycats

Smith: I’m really excited about my band’s new LP, The Comedy Album, and not just in the way that I’m always excited about all of our new albums. I think that it represents an important milestone in the development of our sound(s) and approach(es) to putting records together. Squarepusher is one of my favorite artists; I don’t necessarily love all of his records, much less every song on every record, but he has a very methodical approach to determining what sorts of things he wants to do, and I’m guilty of trying to emulate that. I haven’t heard or read him say it, but Ultravisitor, an album he put out in 2004, always struck me as an attempt to collect all of the various things he had tried out one album at a time into a cohesive unit—sort of like a greatest-hits album with all new songs. I may be kidding myself, but I believe The Comedy Album feels like this (KGW-canon-wise), too.

Now, when I say I’m guilty of trying to emulate this one specific aspect of Squarepusher’s presumed compositional methodology, it’s a bit misleading, because throughout my career I’ve tried to emulate a lot of different people’s/bands’ methodologies. Usually, it’s bands I really like, but sometimes it’s bands I don’t particularly care for—I want to deliver what they seem to be trying to deliver, but better (by my standards, of course). One interesting thing I realized is that for this album, I can’t really pinpoint specific influences that I was trying to mimic.

To give you some examples of how flagrant I have been in the past. I can tell you that on Ponyoak, for instance, there are achingly specific touch-points (which I think you’ll see is a very generous term). In the climax of one song, I was basically consciously ripping off a particular Wilco vocal hook I liked; for the song “Wait For Me (Please),” I was trying to write a Wings song. Neutral Milk Hotel’s seminal/final album came out while I was recording it, so I did my best to rip off the whole “heartfelt acoustic song” thing, too (once Mango made it clear that he was hanging up his spurs, I decided that that was a shitty thing to do to all the people who liked his music so much, so I made a conscious effort to try to recreate—again, being generous to myself—some of that Neutral magic).

I never really consciously tried to reign in this mimetic tendency, though I have an excuse involving a competition to write a theme song for a new TV show (I lost), which gave this inspirational note as guidance; the song “Lots Of Love And A Long, Long Ladder” was my attempt at making a song that sounds like “Hey Ya.” I think I actually succeeded in that case, but I’m quite sure most people would disagree.

All of this self-incrimination aside, I think the main thing I tried to emulate on The Comedy Album was Kleenex Girl Wonder. When I started the band long ago, or more accurately when I tried to come up with a mission statement, I wanted to have a very wide variety of sounds, tones and moods. I played around with creating side projects a few times, but ultimately I folded them back into KGW because that was part of the thesis. In a certain sense, The Comedy Album delivers on that promise. There are a lot of different sounds and songwriting styles on display here. I hope to provide some insight into how I write and what inspires me in these articles, but I also hope to shed some light on how I think of KGW as a cultural unit in and of itself.

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From The Desk Of The Minders: The Hollywood Theater

Since forming in 1996, Martyn Leaper and the Minders have morphed from Elephant 6 darlings to twee-pop anarchists, throwing love bombs and denouncing nothing. Most non-fans remember the Minders’ auspicious 1998 debut, Hooray For Tuesday, and its unfairly derided follow-up, 2001’s Golden Street, but the band was active until 2006’s slight-but-lovely It’s A Bright Guilty World. The Minders’ only interim release has been the second web-only iteration of their odds-and-sods Cul-De-Sacs And Dead Ends. In the gap, Leaper wrote and demoed new songs when he could crowbar it into his 40-hour work week. Along with renowned producer Larry Crane (Elliott Smith, Sleater-Kinney), Leaper began finding the thread of Into The River, the first actual Minders studio work in a decade. Leaper will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our Minders feature.

hollywood

Leaper: Portland is home to a number of classic independent movie theatres. Each quarter of the city houses an array of vintage cinemas, with some of the districts being named after their theaters. For instance, the Laurelhurst neighborhood, a leafy quarter of South East Portland, is anchored by its neon lighted classic art house from the early 1920s, and just to the north east of Laurelhurst lies the Hollywood district which is named after its vintage movie palace. The Hollywood Theater is unique, and not only for its ornate façade but its status as a non-profit organization devoted to entertaining, educating and preserving a landmark for the community. Most of the operating costs are raised through memberships. My partner and I became members of the theater last year. Some of the highlights of our membership so far have been: Seeing Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey in glorious 70mm, a screening of Buster Keaton’s The General accompanied with live score and an evening with D.A Pennebaker, the documentary-film pioneer. I have never experienced the joy of community-owned cinema before I became a member of the Hollywood Theater. It’s great to see so many people appreciating the art of film, and celebrating important works. Most of the films that I have attended, have been sold out. This is most reassuring during a time where so many theaters chains are feeling the pinch from light attendance. I believe that engaging the community with meaningful content and quality entertainment will always draw bigger crowds.

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From The Desk Of The Minders: Touring

Since forming in 1996, Martyn Leaper and the Minders have morphed from Elephant 6 darlings to twee-pop anarchists, throwing love bombs and denouncing nothing. Most non-fans remember the Minders’ auspicious 1998 debut, Hooray For Tuesday, and its unfairly derided follow-up, 2001’s Golden Street, but the band was active until 2006’s slight-but-lovely It’s A Bright Guilty World. The Minders’ only interim release has been the second web-only iteration of their odds-and-sods Cul-De-Sacs And Dead Ends. In the gap, Leaper wrote and demoed new songs when he could crowbar it into his 40-hour work week. Along with renowned producer Larry Crane (Elliott Smith, Sleater-Kinney), Leaper began finding the thread of Into The River, the first actual Minders studio work in a decade. Leaper will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our Minders feature.

touring

Leaper: Touring is a real privilege which I sorely miss when I’m back home working my shitty job. I have found myself wishing and dreaming I could get back to traveling America’s highways during the mundane hours of my working week. Driving into the sunset and crossing the endless solitudes of the American west fills me with a desire for adventure. Touring is exploration, and realizing this is what provides confidence and nourishment for the soul during the challenging moments when playing empty clubs weighs heavy on the heart. These vast expanses of land and lonely highways are the very corridors that have inspired thousands of songs. The American songbook is a child of the highway, and listening to the rhythmic hum of radials on asphalt hammer out the miles is like listening to the progress of one’s own creativity. I love touring, and I hate touring. Either way it is still a privilege.

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From The Desk Of The Minders: “The Lady From Shanghai”

Since forming in 1996, Martyn Leaper and the Minders have morphed from Elephant 6 darlings to twee-pop anarchists, throwing love bombs and denouncing nothing. Most non-fans remember the Minders’ auspicious 1998 debut, Hooray For Tuesday, and its unfairly derided follow-up, 2001’s Golden Street, but the band was active until 2006’s slight-but-lovely It’s A Bright Guilty World. The Minders’ only interim release has been the second web-only iteration of their odds-and-sods Cul-De-Sacs And Dead Ends. In the gap, Leaper wrote and demoed new songs when he could crowbar it into his 40-hour work week. Along with renowned producer Larry Crane (Elliott Smith, Sleater-Kinney), Leaper began finding the thread of Into The River, the first actual Minders studio work in a decade. Leaper will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our Minders feature.

lady

Leaper: Film-noir classic The Lady From Shanghai, which was produced and directed by Orson Welles, is a forgotten masterpiece. Welles who also starred in the film alongside his then wife, Hollywood starlet Rita Hayworth, initially began the project after becoming indebted to Columbia Pictures president Harry Cohn. Like many of Welles’ endeavors, The Lady From Shanghai became a labor of love, with the famously brash master of film throwing all of his wizardry into the picture. Upon its release, the film was poorly received, and was considered by many critics to be a flop, which is hard to believe, since the film is now considered to be a masterpiece.

Even though The Lady From Shanghai was panned by the critics, it was recognized for some of its technically brilliant scenes, notably, the film’s climax in the maze of mirrors. Among the brilliance of the art direction, I find the dialogue odd and modern. Especially when Welles’ character, Michael O’Hara, an itinerant deck hand waxes: “There’s a fair face to the land, surely, but you can’t hide the hunger and guilt. It’s a bright guilty world.”

The Lady From Shanghai is now considered one of the greatest film-noir movies ever made. It is true that the plot rambles at times, but one can glance at the future in the complex characters that Welles brought to life in this most unusual film.

Video after the jump.

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From The Desk Of The Minders: Holly Andres

Since forming in 1996, Martyn Leaper and the Minders have morphed from Elephant 6 darlings to twee-pop anarchists, throwing love bombs and denouncing nothing. Most non-fans remember the Minders’ auspicious 1998 debut, Hooray For Tuesday, and its unfairly derided follow-up, 2001’s Golden Street, but the band was active until 2006’s slight-but-lovely It’s A Bright Guilty World. The Minders’ only interim release has been the second web-only iteration of their odds-and-sods Cul-De-Sacs And Dead Ends. In the gap, Leaper wrote and demoed new songs when he could crowbar it into his 40-hour work week. Along with renowned producer Larry Crane (Elliott Smith, Sleater-Kinney), Leaper began finding the thread of Into The River, the first actual Minders studio work in a decade. Leaper will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our Minders feature.

hollyandres

Leaper: Holly Andres’ photographic work is cinematic. Her complex compositions are reanimated memories of childhood vividly bringing the past to life. Andres’ complex work heavily portrays female introspection, with much of her subject matter being deeply preoccupied with female themed reflections of growing up. Holly Andres’ photography has been featured in the New York Times, Time, Elle and Artforum. I had the pleasure of working with Holly two years ago on a photo shoot with my band. I really enjoyed watching her process, and was thrilled by her beautiful work.

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From The Desk Of The Minders: Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Since forming in 1996, Martyn Leaper and the Minders have morphed from Elephant 6 darlings to twee-pop anarchists, throwing love bombs and denouncing nothing. Most non-fans remember the Minders’ auspicious 1998 debut, Hooray For Tuesday, and its unfairly derided follow-up, 2001’s Golden Street, but the band was active until 2006’s slight-but-lovely It’s A Bright Guilty World. The Minders’ only interim release has been the second web-only iteration of their odds-and-sods Cul-De-Sacs And Dead Ends. In the gap, Leaper wrote and demoed new songs when he could crowbar it into his 40-hour work week. Along with renowned producer Larry Crane (Elliott Smith, Sleater-Kinney), Leaper began finding the thread of Into The River, the first actual Minders studio work in a decade. Leaper will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our Minders feature.

petrifiedforestnationalpark

Leaper: Seeing the petrified remains of fallen trees from the Triassic period is a little like looking at dead stars that shine in the evening sky. The 225 million-year-old remains of a prehistoric forest lay scattered about the colorful painted dessert of the Navajo and Apache counties. If you are travelling across the United States, and you find yourself on I-40, by all means pull over and take a few hours to visit this park. Vistas of sediment-lined buttes and plateaus go on for miles. The sedimentary rock layers of limestone, claystone and mudstone make up colored bands of violet to red-orange with burnt sienna and ash in between. While taking in the spectacular views, it is hard to fathom how this part of Arizona used to be situated near the equator on the southwestern edge of Pangaea, the super continent of the Triassic period. Seeing once living objects from the distant past laying on the desert floor looks and feels better than any religion.

Video after the jump.

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From The Desk Of The Minders: Jim Noir’s “Tower Of Love”

Since forming in 1996, Martyn Leaper and the Minders have morphed from Elephant 6 darlings to twee-pop anarchists, throwing love bombs and denouncing nothing. Most non-fans remember the Minders’ auspicious 1998 debut, Hooray For Tuesday, and its unfairly derided follow-up, 2001’s Golden Street, but the band was active until 2006’s slight-but-lovely It’s A Bright Guilty World. The Minders’ only interim release has been the second web-only iteration of their odds-and-sods Cul-De-Sacs And Dead Ends. In the gap, Leaper wrote and demoed new songs when he could crowbar it into his 40-hour work week. Along with renowned producer Larry Crane (Elliott Smith, Sleater-Kinney), Leaper began finding the thread of Into The River, the first actual Minders studio work in a decade. Leaper will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our Minders feature.

jimnoir

Leaper: I always admire artists who have the drive and direction to write, arrange and record a solo album. If the musician is able to pull it off and make his or her recordings captivating enough, the listener is invited into a most personal space. I am in love with Elliott Smith’s Either/Or record for this very reason, since each time I listen to it, I’m acutely aware that each track was painstakingly recorded and put together by him. Conversely, Jim Noir’s Tower Of Love falls into a similar category, and although the differences between Either/Or and Tower Of Love are stark, one does get the same sense of being drawn into a most personal world. Like Either/Or, Jim Noir recorded the whole record in his room on his computer. It’s incredible to consider the layers of vocal and instrumental overdubs that he had to record to create such a dense and dynamic sound. The instrumental title track is a case in point. My favorite song from Tower Of Love has got to be “Turbulent Weather.” The harmonies and the flow of the acoustic guitar in the song’s arrangement pull at my heartstrings every time.

Video after the jump.

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From The Desk Of The Minders: Teac A3440

Since forming in 1996, Martyn Leaper and the Minders have morphed from Elephant 6 darlings to twee-pop anarchists, throwing love bombs and denouncing nothing. Most non-fans remember the Minders’ auspicious 1998 debut, Hooray For Tuesday, and its unfairly derided follow-up, 2001’s Golden Street, but the band was active until 2006’s slight-but-lovely It’s A Bright Guilty World. The Minders’ only interim release has been the second web-only iteration of their odds-and-sods Cul-De-Sacs And Dead Ends. In the gap, Leaper wrote and demoed new songs when he could crowbar it into his 40-hour work week. Along with renowned producer Larry Crane (Elliott Smith, Sleater-Kinney), Leaper began finding the thread of Into The River, the first actual Minders studio work in a decade. Leaper will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our Minders feature.

teac

Leaper: The process of recording music on a budget is nothing new today. Most independent bands release their own music after having produced it in a home studio, and with the advent of digital recording and streaming, the transition from recording to broadcasting music can be achieved with little to almost no budget. The idea of developing equipment for home recording was born in Japan, and made possible by a team of engineers from the TASC group (Teac Audio Systems Corporation). In the early 1970s, The TASCAM (Teac Audio Systems Corporation of America was established, and began distributing its products in the U.S. The first multitrack recording unit to be sold in the States was the A3340, which was a quadraphonic unit, however what made the tape deck an overnight success was the Simul-sync technology that made it possible to record on one track, while listening to another. The affordability of the unit was also key making it possible for struggling artists to record their demos and then shop them to labels. The advent of the independent DIY music world would most certainly never have occurred without the savvy technological marketing ability of the T.A.S.C.A.M corporation.
Here is a picture of my TEAC A3440: I have owned this machine for more than 20 years, and have recorded several albums on it. Needless to say, I love this deck!

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From The Desk Of The Minders: “The King Of History: Classic 1970s Benga Beats From Kenya”

Since forming in 1996, Martyn Leaper and the Minders have morphed from Elephant 6 darlings to twee-pop anarchists, throwing love bombs and denouncing nothing. Most non-fans remember the Minders’ auspicious 1998 debut, Hooray For Tuesday, and its unfairly derided follow-up, 2001’s Golden Street, but the band was active until 2006’s slight-but-lovely It’s A Bright Guilty World. The Minders’ only interim release has been the second web-only iteration of their odds-and-sods Cul-De-Sacs And Dead Ends. In the gap, Leaper wrote and demoed new songs when he could crowbar it into his 40-hour work week. Along with renowned producer Larry Crane (Elliott Smith, Sleater-Kinney), Leaper began finding the thread of Into The River, the first actual Minders studio work in a decade. Leaper will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our Minders feature.

benga

Leaper: In 1976, my family and I traveled to Kenya to visit my grandfather who had been living near Nairobi since the 1950s. My mother grew up in East Africa, and it had been nearly 10 years since she had returned to the country to see her father. What I experienced during my visit remained with me my whole life, and even though I was only eight years old, I still recall the sights the smells and especially the sounds of Kenya.

One of the most distinctive musical exports from Kenya has to be Benga, which is a highly syncopated melodic music that had its start in East Africa during the 1950s. One of the best examples of Benga can be heard on the compilation: The King Of History: Classic 1970s Benga Beats From Kenya. This collection is music by Daniel Misani, who is considered the grandfather of Benga. Misani, a Tanzanian, was loved by Kenyans and Tanzanians alike for his political commentary. His criticism of the government landed him in jail several times during his life. In Kenya, he is affectionately known as the King of History.

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