From The Desk Of The Feelies: James Brown’s “I Cant Stand Myself” 45

“Stay the course. Keep on trying.” So sings Glenn Mercer on the Feelies’ In Between, their sixth album and second since rebooting in 2008. Last year, the Haledon, N.J., band founded by guitarists Mercer and Bill Million celebrated its 40th anniversary. Crazy Rhythms, their frenetic, classic debut, arrived in 1980, but they waited six years for their second, the comparatively sedate The Good Earth. That was the first Feelies album with the band’s current lineup of Mercer, Million, bassist Brenda Sauter, drummer Stan Demeski and percussionist Dave Weckerman. After the (relatively) quick run of three albums between 1986 and 1991, the band retired until Sonic Youth coaxed a reunion in 2008 that led to sporadic touring and to 2011’s Here Before. The Feelies will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on them.

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Demeski: Growing up, I was familiar with James Brown but not a real lot. In my early college years, there was a good amount funk music around and then you had the “punk funk” thing and I suppose that’s where I first heard this. The No New York LP included the Contortions’ version, and that led me to seek out the original version. I got my copy at the Hackensack Record King, which I believe is still there. They had a surprisingly large selection of JB 45s back then. Still not an easy drum part to play and really ahead of it’s time when you consider the year of its release.

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Essential New Music: Brokeback’s “Illinois River Valley Blues”

Though some things change, others stay the same. Across 22 years and multiple incarnations, Douglas McCombs (also of Tortoise, Eleventh Dream Day and Pullman) has remained the sole consistent member of Brokeback. Early on, the sound was focused on melodies he composed for six-string electric bass. Accompanists, recording and rhythmic approaches, and instruments have come and gone. In its current four-piece incarnation, Brokeback is a beat combo with a fairly live sound, and McCombs plays electric and baritone guitar. But if the string tone has changed, the intent to instrumentally evoke spaces and places remains. The guitars twang enough to get you thinking of Calexico or Duane Eddy, but the tunes are named for places in rural Illinois, which makes plenty of sense when you consider that flat cornfield views and desert vistas give you equally unimpeded views of the wide-open road and the empty land around it.

—Bill Meyer

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Normal History Vol. 418: 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 1989, on the return leg of a West Coast tour, we drove the 640 miles from San Francisco to Olympia, Wash., and played two shows in one day. We opened in Eugene, jumped back in the car, my 1972 Impala, and made it to the Portland show, after which we drove a couple more hours to Olympia to sleep.

Back in the ’80s, we toured various sections of North America three and four times a year, but this crazy plan was an anomaly. Typically we steer away from super long drives—and we make tours enjoyable by including interesting stops (art museums, thrift stores, the Tabasco Sauce factory) and good food (olive tasting at Granzella’s in Williams, Calif.)—so I’m not sure how a 640-mile drive ever got booked, since we do all our own booking.

I’m also not sure whether the two album reviews below appeared before or after this particular tour, but considering Calico was our second album (and our first on a label other than our own), it was truly exciting to read these. I don’t think we’d heard of Gerard Cosloy yet, and we certainly didn’t know we’d be moving from K Records to Matador Records within a year or so.

“Jean’s the one with ‘that voice,’ a completely riveting presence that’s only more powerful when backed solely by Lester’s guitar. Zero star potential, they’d sound totally incongruous coming out of your radio, but so would Woody Guthrie, so don’t worry about it.” –Conflict, 1989, by Gerard Cosloy, who joined Matador Records the following year

“This is quite powerful stuff. Jokers like Bono and Bruce could certainly learn a few lessons from this.” –Vicious Hippies From Panda Hell, a Portland zine

“Don’t Shoot” from the album Calico Kills The Cat (K, 1989) (download):

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From The Desk Of The Feelies: Elvis’ “Trying To Get To You” 45

“Stay the course. Keep on trying.” So sings Glenn Mercer on the Feelies’ In Between, their sixth album and second since rebooting in 2008. Last year, the Haledon, N.J., band founded by guitarists Mercer and Bill Million celebrated its 40th anniversary. Crazy Rhythms, their frenetic, classic debut, arrived in 1980, but they waited six years for their second, the comparatively sedate The Good Earth. That was the first Feelies album with the band’s current lineup of Mercer, Million, bassist Brenda Sauter, drummer Stan Demeski and percussionist Dave Weckerman. After the (relatively) quick run of three albums between 1986 and 1991, the band retired until Sonic Youth coaxed a reunion in 2008 that led to sporadic touring and to 2011’s Here Before. The Feelies will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on them.

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Demeski: Yes, it’s from the Sun years. No I don’t have a copy on Sun. Yet. Mine’s an RCA stock copy. This is probably my favorite Elvis song. Between the vocal performance, the wild guitar and the great drum feel, you can’t get much better than this. I like most of what Elvis did up until the army/movie years, and I even like some stuff from the later years. But if Elvis had only done the Sun recordings and disappeared, it would have been more than enough.

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Aquilo: Killing Them Softly

The members of Aquilo leave the heavy-metal/grunge parking lot to explore their quieter side

In this era of urgent, accelerated technology, the gorgeous, piano-based ballads on Silhouettes—the debut disc from subtly soulful duo Aquilo—work almost like a nerve-soothing, pulse-calming panacea, the perfect antidote to instant gratification. You have to wait for flowery cuts like “Sorry,” “Low Light” and the finger-popping “You Don’t Know Where You Stand” to blossom and unfold, and it demands a decent amount of patience. What inspired such a delicate sensibility for co-vocalists/multi-instrumentalists Ben Fletcher and Tom Higham? They’re not certain because—in their little Lake District hamlet of Silverdale—they hail from the opposite sledgehammer end of the sonic spectrum.

The kids grew up as neighbors. But because the 25-year-old Highham was four grades ahead of the 21-year-old Fletcher in school, they never socialized. That is, until Fletcher’s growling grunge combo Cry Baby Aeroplanes started playing local club gigs alongside Higham’s sinister heavy metal outfit the Dark Con Of Man.

“And we were both frontmen, singers in those bands, and neither of us did covers—we both started out writing our own music,” says Fletcher, whose ex-musician father urged the pair to collaborate. “But we were pretty young and in a different headspace back then. So initially, Tom probably saw me as that little shit from across the road, then later as that younger musician who always supported his band.”

At 16, Fletcher began writing solo material. “And by then, I think Tom found that it was OK to hang around with me,” he says.

Getting quieter happened by default. When the pair started working on home recordings together, like Aquilo’s first single, “Calling Me,” they had no money and hardly any high-tech equipment—just a laptop, a microphone, an acoustic guitar and a drum machine. “So we just worked with what we had,” says Fletcher. “Our choice of sound was all very subconscious and quite minimal. And no, there is no metal version anywhere of ‘Calling Me.’”

—Tom Lanham

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From The Desk Of The Feelies: Bo Diddley’s “Cracking Up” 45

“Stay the course. Keep on trying.” So sings Glenn Mercer on the Feelies’ In Between, their sixth album and second since rebooting in 2008. Last year, the Haledon, N.J., band founded by guitarists Mercer and Bill Million celebrated its 40th anniversary. Crazy Rhythms, their frenetic, classic debut, arrived in 1980, but they waited six years for their second, the comparatively sedate The Good Earth. That was the first Feelies album with the band’s current lineup of Mercer, Million, bassist Brenda Sauter, drummer Stan Demeski and percussionist Dave Weckerman. After the (relatively) quick run of three albums between 1986 and 1991, the band retired until Sonic Youth coaxed a reunion in 2008 that led to sporadic touring and to 2011’s Here Before. The Feelies will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on them.

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Demeski: I first heard the Rolling Stones kind of reggae version of this on Love You Live. Later, the earlier version they did on the BBC surfaced, and that sounds more like Bo’s version. Apparently, Bo didn’t like the Bo Diddley beat, and this record doesn’t have one. It’s more of a rumba/Latin type feel. Great drumming and really funny lyrics.

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Film At 11: Angel Olsen

Angel Olsen released one of the best albums of 2016 with My Woman, and now we’re making sure you’ve seen her latest video. The clip for “Pops” is as foggy and melancholy as Olsen’s heavyhearted track, proving that the song is the perfect track for staring aimlessly out the window. Check it out below.

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MP3 At 3PM: Atlas Road Crew

Atlas Road Crew is following up 2015’s Halfway To Hopkins with a new single, “My Own Way,” a true tour-de-force of open-road rock ‘n’ roll. This track is huge and undeniably fun, perfect for fantasizing about all the things you’re going to do when the snow finally stops falling. Check it out below, and keep an eye out for more from Atlas Road Crew in 2017.

“My Own Way” (download):

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Essential New Music: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s “The Tourist”

“Indie rock” has become such an amorphous and broad category that it’s nearly meaningless. But you could do worse than to use Clap Your Hands Say Yeah to define it: The band’s 2005 self-titled debut is a genre touchstone, one of those albums that seemed to come out of nowhere fully formed. Self-released and initially self-promoted, willfully weird but eminently accessible, the record deservedly found its audience in large part due to internet word of mouth (and blog-of-ear). Led by Philly’s Alec Ounsworth, CYHSY identified as a band but was often in large part a solo project in the studio. The initial version of CYHSY disbanded after its third album, 2012’s Hysterical, and 2014’s underrated, synth-centric Only Run was basically Ounsworth solo. For the even better guitars-forward The Tourist, Ounsworth uses the touring band he drafted for Only Run, including Spinto Band guitarist Nick Krill and Bigger Lovers/Pernice Brothers drummer (and former MAGNET contributor) Patrick Berkery. Songs such as “The Vanity Of Trying” and “Down (Is Where I Want To Be )” glory in rave-up crescendos (you can glimpse the fingerprints of Dave Fridmann, who mixed the album, on these). It’s replete with Lou Reed allusions: “It seems I’ll be your mirror” (“Unfolding Above Celibate Moon”), “Turns out you were vicious/You hit me with a flower” (“Better Off”). The Tourist is still weird—how could it not be, with Ounsworth’s bleating voice and often cryptic lyrics?—but not as willfully as moments on Hysterical or 2007’s Some Loud Thunder. It’s not a facsimile of the debut—it’s more layered and less frenetic—but it’s still applause-worthy.

—Steve Klinge

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From The Desk Of The Feelies: Roxy Music’s “Street Life” 45

“Stay the course. Keep on trying.” So sings Glenn Mercer on the Feelies’ In Between, their sixth album and second since rebooting in 2008. Last year, the Haledon, N.J., band founded by guitarists Mercer and Bill Million celebrated its 40th anniversary. Crazy Rhythms, their frenetic, classic debut, arrived in 1980, but they waited six years for their second, the comparatively sedate The Good Earth. That was the first Feelies album with the band’s current lineup of Mercer, Million, bassist Brenda Sauter, drummer Stan Demeski and percussionist Dave Weckerman. After the (relatively) quick run of three albums between 1986 and 1991, the band retired until Sonic Youth coaxed a reunion in 2008 that led to sporadic touring and to 2011’s Here Before. The Feelies will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on them.

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Demeski: I have a German copy of this song with a pretty wacky picture sleeve that seemed pretty typical of German picture sleeves of that period. This was the first Roxy Music I heard, initially as the music in a commercial for Stranded that ran once or twice during the airing of ABC’s In Concert show on Friday nights during the ’70s. It was pretty shocking, like nothing I had heard before. Not long afterward, I picked the LP up as an import. I got the 45 about six years later and I tend to play it during the summer since that’s when I initially heard it.

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