MP3 At 3PM: Moonsville Collective

On December 8, Moonsville Collective will release Moonsville IV, which will mark the final installment of the Southern California band’s four-volume EP series. Moonsville Collective’s 2017 endeavor led to the release of 20 new songs that enter into the band’s self-described “California good-time” canon, though IV, says multi-instrumentalist/songwriter Ryan Welch, “is different than the rest in that we really relied and leaned on our acoustic instruments to guide the sound and feel.” We are proud to premiere IV track “Bright Eyed Stranger” today on magnetmagazine.com. Download and/or stream it below.

“Bright Eyed Stranger” (download):

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Essential New Music: Bash & Pop’s “Friday Night Is Killing Me”

Apparently, Tommy Stinson fancied himself a songwriter—just not under the auspices of his cantankerous Replacements CEO. So when a frustrated Paul Westerberg cut out unexpectedly early during a poorly attended European show on the band’s funereal All Shook Down tour in 1991, Stinson threw down his bass, headed back onstage and strapped on Westerberg’s guitar. The song he performed, “Friday Night Is Killing Me,” became the title track and deserving centerpiece for his 1993 post-Mats debut as the leader of Bash & Pop. With next to zero support from Warner Bros., the album stiffed—and that’s a damn shame because it remains the best batch of songs by any Replacement since 1987’s Pleased To Meet Me. Like its title track, Friday Night’s overall vibe is cathartically autobiographical. “I was just 13, and my head was learning as my heart was racing/And I sold myself for next to nothing,” sings Stinson on “Fast And Hard,” hammering out a relentless bottom end with the help of late-period Mats drummer Steve Foley and his brother, Kevin. A magnificent tension is achieved when Stinson’s streamlined songwriting runs headlong into Bash & Pop’s burly swagger, which recalls the Faces and, more recently, Keith Richards’ X-Pensive Winos. And you might argue that Stinson—with his reedy, personable rasp—is the Richards to Westerberg’s Jagger. Don Smith’s production is punchy but unobtrusive. Hooks come in bunches, and Stinson’s ear for a sophisticated melody amid the well-orchestrated chaos is impeccable throughout. That makes “Tiny Pieces” the best hit single that never was, its nimble guitar line impossible to shake. On slapdash leadoff “Never Aim To Please,” Stinson snarls, “I shoot at nothing, gaining nothing’s all I do.” Given the overwhelming evidence here, his aim was spot on.

Hobart Rowland

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From The Desk Of Cold Specks: Paradise Playlist (Massive Attack’s “Dead Editors” And “Safe From Harm”)

Ladan Hussein, the woman who records and performs as Cold Specks, is quietly intense. On Fool’s Paradise (Arts & Crafts), her third album, Hussein’s music is stripped down to the essentials. Soft, mournful synthesizers drift through a melancholy space, with elusive percussion accents in the background. Her hushed, jazz-inflected vocals are full of passionate yearning, the sound of a soul on the verge of tears or explosive anger. “This is a deeply personal album,” says the Toronto-based Hussein. “It deals with a variety of topics from self-love, identity and diaspora dreaming during the apocalypse. I wrote most of the record in a period where I was feeling as though I needed to detach from the world, for the sake of my own sanity. The album is a brutally honest document of it all.” Hussein will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on her.

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Hussein: Apathy during the apocalypse is the goal. Switch it off and sigh. Here are songs to keep you warm during the disconnection process. (You can keep up with my Paradise Playlist on Spotify.)

Rob is probably the most talented person I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with, and Roots Manuva so cool it hurts. (Flashing light years flashing right here.) I did some arrangements and vocals for Massive Attack a while back. The creepy choral arrangement on “Dead Editors” is mine. A great deal of the sounds on my new record came to life after working with Rob and getting a glimpse into his working process. Massive Attack are one of my favourite bands, and I probably listen to “Safe From Harm” once a day. Endless love and respect.

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Film At 11: METZ

This month marks the start of METZ’s highly anticipated tour in supported of the great Strange Peace (Sub Pop). To celebrate, we’re sharing the group’s new video for “Drained Lake.” In this clip, a muffin tray floats around the kitchen, while a female vampire turns into a black cat. Check it out below.

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From The Desk Of Cold Specks: Paradise Playlist (Poly Styrene’s “Trick Of The Witch”)

Ladan Hussein, the woman who records and performs as Cold Specks, is quietly intense. On Fool’s Paradise (Arts & Crafts), her third album, Hussein’s music is stripped down to the essentials. Soft, mournful synthesizers drift through a melancholy space, with elusive percussion accents in the background. Her hushed, jazz-inflected vocals are full of passionate yearning, the sound of a soul on the verge of tears or explosive anger. “This is a deeply personal album,” says the Toronto-based Hussein. “It deals with a variety of topics from self-love, identity and diaspora dreaming during the apocalypse. I wrote most of the record in a period where I was feeling as though I needed to detach from the world, for the sake of my own sanity. The album is a brutally honest document of it all.” Hussein will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on her.

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Hussein: Apathy during the apocalypse is the goal. Switch it off and sigh. Here are songs to keep you warm during the disconnection process. (You can keep up with my Paradise Playlist on Spotify.)

As a young black girl creating strange sounds, Poly Styrene was my hero. When I found out she was Somali, my whole world changed. I found a familiar face in a sea of offensively mediocre, boring white dudes. In fact, she is a part of the reason I call myself Cold Specks. I even had a pseudonym behind my stage name for a while (Al Spx), which was an homage to her band X-Ray Spex. (The Al was for Allah.)

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A Conversation With Randy Newman

Maybe Randy Newman hasn’t released a conventional pop album (ever, to be frank) since 2008, instead focusing on composing and conducting film scores (2010’s Toy Story 3, 2013’s Monsters University, this year’s Cars 3), or dropping volumes of favorites and rarities such as The Randy Newman Songbook. So when a caustically comic LP with an odd wealth of family members, political figureheads (Putin, JFK, scientists debating climate change) and a new multivoiced sense of narrative—all steeped in moody jazz, gospel and carnival sounds—comes along via Dark Matter (Nonesuch), it’s cause for celebration. Yet, as with everything else at present, it all starts with Trump.

So I wake up to my usual diet of Breitbart and Huffington Post, and the first thing I see is lyrics to a song of yours: “My dick’s bigger than your dick/It ain’t braggin’ if it’s true/My dick’s bigger than your dick/I can prove it, too/There it is, there’s my dick/Isn’t that a wonderful sight?/Run to the village, to town, to the countryside/Tell the people what you’ve seen here tonight.” Now you’re part of the news cycle.
Yup. Because of my big mouth.

What I find interesting, though, is that you’re getting all this press over a song not on the new album. That’s weird marketing.
I wrote it, like, a year ago, when Trump was just talking about so much of that stuff implicitly. I didn’t think about it for a while, just sort of shuffled it away. There I was talking about my forgotten Trump tracks when somebody asked about its lyrics. I made the mistake of telling him.

Not having the Trump dick song on the album is an interesting brand of circumcision. Thinking about your Songbook series and the things you don’t include on albums, do you have a long backlog of unused songs? Or do you wait until you have to focus on a project to write?
Mainly the latter. I wait until I’m compelled or impelled to do so. I don’t have that many songs that I don’t use at that time, though some hang over. When I don’t finish a song, it’s usually for a very good reason.

I don’t want this to sound jejune, but you’ve sung through characters in thousands of your songs. What is the difference between placing yourself in the voice of a character for film music and what you’re doing on Dark Matter, where you’re creating dialogues or more than one voice?
When I’m working for a picture, there are usually many instructions to go with them. I get as many adjectives as I can. There’re the requests for fast, slow, rock, not rock, and I go from there. Plus, I want to see what’s up on the screen. With my album, I’m free to do what I want—I’m on my own—but having a narrative with two voices is new for me. You’re right there. I wasn’t sure it would work. I’m still not sure, though, if I think that it does. I mean, I‘m satisfied. I did it as well as I can do it. I don’t know if it’s a good idea or not. What did you think?

You did it quite effectively. I got that you had several distinct voices interacting with each other, including introducing or implicating yourself into the action. Why did you decide to change up your writing, go for that format or voice?
I really just wanted to push myself a bit. Do something new. Now that you mention it, I think that’s why I have the intrusion of myself in there, the mention of “Randy Newman.” That’s something that I never thought I would do. The way I work is to write myself out of things. Clearly, though, on a song like “The Great Debate,” this “me” is on the same side the audience is on. You said it—I’ve put myself in characters a thousand times before, and I’ll do it a thousand times more if I last long enough.

Is it hard to be funny and cruel at a time when everything else in the real world is funnier and crueler?
Yeah, it is harder. You can’t compare it, though, as it’s a different part of the brain. Every day, there’s something unbelievable happening.

We could look at 1974’s Good Old Boys, 2008’s “A Few Words In Defense Of Our Country” or new songs such as “Putin” or “Brothers.” You don’t do a lot of directly political songwriting, but when you do, you do. What is the line you want to cross? What grips you about the Kennedys or Putin?
What interested me about the Kennedy thing is the image of the big brother teasing the little brother. I wanted to—by exaggeration—trivialize what some of the reasons may have been that they invaded another country. Once I was in, I was in. You’re a writer—you know how that is—how one thing engenders the other, then the next. I could speak to the end of that before I write it. That happens sometimes. Fairly quickly, I knew that I was going to the White House. Mainly, it was the story of the older and the younger … making fun of each other. “Putin” I set out to write because I was trying to understand that whole shirt-off thing. I mean, he’s the most powerful man in the world, maybe the richest man in the world. It also seems as if he has to be Tom Cruise as well: the handsomest man in the world, too.

Most writers only want to discuss your lyrics, but sonically/melodically, how are you choosing your palette? What is that process like, finding the right tone?
No one does ask me about my music, so thank you for that.

A.D. Amorosi

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Cold Specks: Darkness & Light

Cold Specks quietly meditates on a disintegrating universe

Ladan Hussein, the woman who records and performs as Cold Specks, is quietly intense. On Fool’s Paradise (Arts & Crafts), her third album, Hussein’s music is stripped down to the essentials. Soft, mournful synthesizers drift through a melancholy space, with elusive percussion accents in the background. Her hushed, jazz-inflected vocals are full of passionate yearning, the sound of a soul on the verge of tears or explosive anger.

“This is a deeply personal album,” says the Toronto-based Hussein. “It deals with a variety of topics from self-love, identity and diaspora dreaming during the apocalypse. I wrote most of the record in a period where I was feeling as though I needed to detach from the world, for the sake of my own sanity. The album is a brutally honest document of it all. The songs are all autobiographical—the anguish of the diaspora, migration, the struggle of refugees, racism, heartbreak and death. It’s all in there. Obviously, there’s quite a lot of darkness around, but I’d like to think I found some light, that I brought some beauty from the ashes.”

Hussein’s parents were born in Somalia. They moved to Canada before she was born. When she left home for university, they thought she was studying to become a lawyer but, growing up, she discovered jazz, pop, R&B and Canadian folk music. She dropped out of college to play guitar, write songs and make demos. When a friend passed a tape to a producer, Hussein’s impressive singing and songwriting won her a recording contract. She moved to London to record her subtle debut, 2012’s I Predict A Graceful Expulsion, an exploration of depression and anxiety that earned rave reviews and a Juno (Canadian Grammy) nomination for breakthrough artist of the year.

While second album Neuroplasticity was louder and more abrasive, Fool’s Paradise returns to the sound some critics have dubbed “gothic doom gospel,” a term Hussein doesn’t relate to. “Those words have nothing to do with anything I do,” she says. “I’m black with a raspy voice, but I’m a Muslim girl from Toronto. I know nothing about gospel.”

The album was put together slowly, with Hussein and Jim Anderson, her producer, paying close attention to tone and nuance.

“I wanted to keep the sonic elements stripped back to the absolute core essentials, then wrap my voice around it all,” she says. “I began demoing the songs this way. The original plan was to gather a collection of musicians and rework them, but I fell in love with the original sound and kept rolling with it. Analog synthesizers, drum programming, bass lines and lots of singing. I’m pretty controlled these days. I like that better. I used to just scream.”

Following a year of not writing any new music, Hussein is currently in the studio working on her next album. “I didn’t think I had anything to write about, but these are dark times,” she says. “Shit just seems to want to flow.”

—j. poet

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Essential New Music: Alvvays’ “Antisocialites”

It’s ironic that Alvvays frontwoman Molly Rankin hails from the famed folk lineage of Canada’s Rankin Family. Because, only two albums into its career, her outfit has the concise, chiming precision of a close-knit musical clan, one that feels like it’s been performing together forever. Thanks in part to keen-eared producer John Congleton, the group’s sophomore Antisocialites is an exuberant, ebullient revelation, awash in the cascading guitar work of Alec O’Hanley and Rankin’s sunshiney, slapback-treated vocals, for a full power-pop effect that falls somewhere between vintage Tourists and recent Camera Obscura. As with a good designer cupcake, the group has learned the perfect amount of frosting to apply to confections like the ching-chinging “Dreams Tonite,” a ’60s-paisley “In Undertow” and some punky moments of Primitives perfection, “Your Type” and “Lollipop (Ode To Jim).” Even if you get caught up in some of the songs’ breakup-themed negativity, in Rankin’s confident hands, kiss-offs never tasted so sweet.

Tom Lanham

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In The News: Billie Holiday, Superchunk, Neil Young, Big Star, Van Morrison, Hot Snakes, Monkees, Kris Kristofferson And More

On December 8, Verve/UMe will be releasing five-LP boxed sets (180-gram vinyl, authentic period sleeves that replicate the original artwork) that feature seminal albums from three jazz greats: vocalists Billie Holiday and Dinah Washington and saxophonist Stan Getz. (CD versions of the boxes will be available a week later.) Holiday’s Classic Lady Day compiles 1957’s Solitude: Songs By Billie Holiday (which features material from a 1952 10-inch), A Recital By Billie Holiday, Velvet Moods: Songs By Billie Holiday and Lady Sings The Blues (all three 1956) and 1958’s All Or Nothing At All. Washington’s The Divine Miss Dinah collects After Hours With Miss D and Dinah Jams (both 1954), 1955’s For Those In Love, 1957’s The Swingin’ Miss D and 1959’s What A Diff’rence A Day Makes!. Last but not least is Getz’s Bossa Nova Years, compiling Jazz Samba and Big Band Bossa Nova (both 1962), 1963’s Jazz Samba Encore!, 1964’s Getz/Gilberto (a collaboration with Brazilian guitarist/singer Joao Gilberto featuring hit single “The Girl From Ipanema”) and 1966’s Stan Getz With Guest Artist Laurindo Almeida (a 1963 collaboration with the São Paulo guitarist) … What A Time To Be Alive, Superchunk‘s first album in four years, is out February 16 via Merge; the 11-track LP features a number of guest vocalists, including Stephin Merritt, David Bazan, Katie Crutchfield (Waxahatchee) and Sabrina Ellis (A Giant Dog) … Neil Young + Promise Of The Real will release The Visitor (Reprise) on December 1 … On January 12, Omnivore will issue Live At Lafayette’s Music Room, a 20-track concert album recorded by Big Star in its hometown of Memphis in 1973 featuring songs from its first two albums and covers of songs by the likes of the Kinks, Flying Burrito Brothers and T.Rex … Van Morrison is back December 1 with his second album of 2017; the 16-track Versatile (Legacy) features the legend taking on some of the 20th century’s coolest jazz-vocal standards (made popular by the likes of Chet Baker, Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole) as well as six of his own originals … Widdershins, the ninth solo album from Grant-Lee Phillips, is out February 23 via Yep Roc … On March 9, Cooking Vinyl will issue In Your Own Sweet Time, the fifth album from the Fratellis … The Wombats return February 9 with fourth LP Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life courtesy of Kobalt … Former Black Swans frontman Jerry David DeCicca will release Time The Teacher via Impossible Ark on February 9 … Sub Pop is reissuing all three albums by post-hardcore heroes Hot Snakes—2000’s Automatic Midnight, 2002’s Suicide Invoice and 2004’s Audit In Progress—January 19 on CD, vinyl and, yes kids, cassette; here’s hoping for a new album … More Of The Monkees, the Monkees‘ best-selling album, is getting the deluxe treatment December 15 from Rhino with a three-CD set featuring stereo and mono mixes of the original LP, plus a staggering 55 previously unreleased tracks and a bonus seven-inch featuring a remixed “I’m A Believer” and a vocals-only “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” … Billy Idol‘s self-titled debut, Rebel Yell and Idolize Yourself: The Very Best Of Billy Idol are now available on high-quality vinyl courtesy of UMe … Out now is Buried Treasure, Volume One (Mailboat), an 11-track collection of early previously unreleased and rare recordings by Jimmy Buffett, along with song-by-song narration by Buffett and (for the deluxe edition) a bonus DVD, Buried Treasure: Mobile To NashvilleDr. Demento Covered In Punk features never-before-released punk versions of songs from the Dr. Demento Show alongside newly “demented” covers of other punk standards; out January 12 via Demented Punk, the 30-track collection comes as a three-LP or two-CD set and features the likes of Joan Jett, the Misfits, Fred Schneider, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Los Straitjackets, Shonen Knife, Rasputina, Philly Boy Roy and, yes, William Shatner … Out now is the 15-track Diamond Diana: The Legacy Collection (Motown/UMe), a Diana Ross best-of also featuring a new dance remix of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” … Also out now, on DVD, is The Life & Songs Of Kris Kristofferson: All Star Concert Celebration, celebrating the music of the great Kris Kristofferson with performances by the Man himself, as well as Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, Rosanne Cash, Hank Williams Jr., Alison Krauss, Lady Antebellum and others; trailer is here … MVD is releasing Summer Of ’82: When Zappa Came To Sicily, a documentary about Frank Zappa‘s infamous concert in Italy that closed out his 1982 European tour, on DVD on December 8 .. The Vince Guaraldi Trio‘s legendary A Charlie Brown Christmas has been reissued by Craft on 180-gram vinyl and packaged in a vintage tip-on jacket with the original 1965 album art … Speaking of the most wonderful time of the year: Jim Brickman‘s A Joyful Christmas (BMG) is a 16-track holiday album featuring guest appearances by Dick Van Dyke, Jane Lynch, Five For Fighting and more … Don’t put away the eggnog just yet: Out now on Epic is the soundtrack to the animated Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You, featuring four Mariah Carey tracks (including a new song) and five other holidays tunes.

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From The Desk Of Elizabeth And The Catapult: “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & The Prison Of Belief” By Lawrence Wright

Keepsake (Compass), Elizabeth Ziman’s fourth record, began when her landlord was considering jacking up the rent and she had to move across the street into a tiny apartment, far away from her recording gear and the baby grand piano on which she loved to write. Or it began when she started keeping a dream journal, writing down snippets of visions in the middle of the night, or first thing in the morning on awakening. Or it began when she started leafing through old journals and diaries, little half-finished snatches of lyrics and couplets and freewriting, and tried to see if she could shape them through to some kind of completion. Well, who’s to say where anything begins or ends? But for Ziman, who records as Elizabeth And The Catapult, Keepsake was definitely a milestone record—the end of one thing, and the beginning of something else. Ziman will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on her.

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Ziman: I started reading up on Scientology because I heard that it was a cult that promised its followers not only future salvation with aliens, but also super powers! Yay! I’m a huge sci-fi and Marvel comic fan so I thought I’d at least get a kick out of a religion founded by a science-fiction writer. Then I read Going Clear by Lawrence Wright, which paints a much darker picture of the religion. The origins might be entertaining, but the reality is pretty terrifying. (It’s a lot like if you were stuck in a Twilight Zone episode that never ends.) What fascinates me is how far people will actually go for the idea of salvation. Also, spoiler alert: If you’re a Tom Cruise fan, you will never watch his movies the same way again.

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