Film At 11: Silver Apples

Silver Apples recently contributed to I Said No Doctors, an upcoming compilation of experimental music. “The Mist” opens up the record, an icy, droning track that mixes perfectly with the black-and-white absurdity of the video. Check it out below.

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MAGNET’s #22 Album Of 2016: Nada Surf’s “You Know Who You Are”

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Nada Surf songwriter Matthew Caws tends to wear his heart on his sleeve, and relationships remain a recurring theme on the bittersweet You Know Who You Are, this great band’s eighth LP (seventh if you don’t count 2010’s covers effort If I Had A Hi-Fi). Recently married, Caws doesn’t shy away from past hurt; on the Stones-y “Animal,” he laments, “I forgot that’s what people do/They pair off two by two/Until one of them turns blue.” But the gorgeous, jangly “Rushing” finds him physically and mentally enthralled by love: “I haven’t landed since I don’t know when/Now I feel like I can breathe again.” If there’s any quibble about You Know Who You Are, it could use more of the modest, talented—but not modestly talented—guitarist Doug Gillard. While it’s not as if his contributions aren’t vital to the vibe throughout, his exquisite 35-second solo on “Friend Hospital” is the only time he’s really unleashed; it’s a shining moment that begs for a repeat. But this is nitpicking: You Know Who You Are is further evidence that Nada Surf’s impeccable catalog stands among the finest of its generation. Those who get it? You know who—well, you know.

—Matt Hickey

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Deep Sea Diver: Group Project

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Deep Sea Diver’s Jessica Dobson pursues the benefits of team ball

“I’m going to ask him to stop playing drums while we talk, because if he keeps doing that, it’s going to drive me nuts.”

Jessica Dobson lives with—and is married to—the drummer of her band Deep Sea Diver, Peter Mansen. Mansen is doing what drummers do: practicing his craft in another part of the home they share in Seattle. The background noise this activity creates has become a bit unnerving for Dobson as we discuss the finer points of her group’s sophomore LP, Secrets (self-released via High Beam), perhaps one of the finest albums of 2016.

Dobson’s musical bona fides are undeniable. Signed to a contract with Atlantic Records at age 19 (she recorded two albums for the label that were ultimately shelved), the gifted multi-instrumentalist went on to perform as a touring and recording member of the Shins, Spoon, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, as well as Beck and Conor Oberst, lending her colorful guitar flourishes and knack for offbeat melodies to each act while simultaneously continuing to write and record as Deep Sea Diver.

Having released the well-regarded History Speaks LP in 2012 and the even-better Always Waiting EP in 2014, Dobson finally bid her time with the Shins adieu—with James Mercer’s blessing—to blaze her own musical trail, but not as a solo artist. Instead, within a band construct.

The results on Deep Sea Diver’s latest release have proven worth the wait. With Dobson’s focus now solely applied to her own music, the quartet has taken a considerable leap forward, recording Secrets with Radiohead engineer Darrell Thorp as a mostly live-in-the-studio affair, allowing the band’s interplay to fully take flight on tracks such as the squalling, propulsive “Wide Awake,” bouncing pop confection “Creatures Of Comfort” (the upbeat melody of which belies the pain implied by a repeated assertion that “it’s tearing us apart”) and the album’s finest moment, “Body On The Tracks,” a soaring guitar-and-mellotron fest that could easily pass for one of Billy Corgan’s studio-built guitar orchestras if I hadn’t witnessed Dobson playing it note-perfectly during her band’s spotless set at Seattle’s Bumbershoot Festival earlier this year.

“I tend to take the ‘mad-scientist’ approach to playing live,” says Dobson. “On certain songs (such as “Wide Awake”), I get to have a blank slate to do whatever I want. The way we recorded Secrets was to do the basic tracks live in the studio, to be all in a room together and capture a completely different spirit than the first album, which was multitracked and recorded separately. I’m proud of that record, and it actually has a really analog vibe, but we had yet to capture what our live performances were like. The songs on Secrets are more unhinged, have a more urgent feel to them than what we did before.”

Dobson’s considerable individual gifts notwithstanding, it’s her willingness to be a teammate that seems to hold the key to her musical future.

“I used to feel guilty about bringing songs to the band. I would wonder if I’d be able to ‘Jeff Tweedy’ the song, meaning, if it was just me on guitar or piano, would that song translate?” she says. “I’ve grown away from that recently. I still aim for simple, straightforward communication, but if it takes people to fill voices or harmonic parts to capture the spirit of the song, I’m a lot more OK with that now. I can’t get the value of Secrets across just by myself.”

—Corey duBrowa

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MAGNET’s #23 Album Of 2016: Bird Of Youth’s “Get Off”

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Beth Wawerna wrote the songs on Get Off during one of the most trying periods of her life. She was taking care of her father, who was dying of cancer, and after he passed, her anguish overwhelmed her. She slipped into depression and dealt with her feelings by writing the songs that make up this album. The music is rock, but it’s played with a restrained intensity that honors the emotional force of the lyrics. Wawerna uses the phrasing of a jazz singer, drawing out her vowels and inserting her words into the melodies before, after and against the rhythm. This almost somnambulant approach intensifies the lyrics’ emotional effect. The poignant melodies she crafted with guitarist Clint Newman reverberate on a deep level, and like all great songs, they sound like something you’ve heard all your life, even though you know you’re hearing it for the first time. “Passing Phase,” a mid-tempo tune that suggests New Order playing California surf-guitar licks, deals with the feelings of alienation that allow us to engage in self-destructive behavior, while “Bitter Filth” is a violent, aggressive, Clash-like punk tune that expresses the anger that’s often at the heart of grief and remorse.

—j. poet

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From The Desk Of Kleenex Girl Wonder: Influence Rap (The Hood Internet)

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.

hoodinternet

Smith: I went to college in Madison, Wisc., and I met a lot of really cool people there. One of the absolute coolest was Steve Reidell, half of the indie+rap mashup juggernaut the Hood Internet. We stayed friends when I lived in Chicago post-college (2002-2004), and he and ABX started up THI at some point in those gloried 2000s, and I’ve always been a big fan of what they do—although I admit I’m not a huge fan of the mash-up “thing” in general.

A fun fact: When I was in seventh or eighth grade, I actually attempted to invent the mash-up—although that Evolution Control Committee dude may have already done it, neither I nor the world had heard of him yet—by juxtaposing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” with a generic techno beat. Of course, since there was no technology available (to me, at least) that allowed for time-stretching or beat matching, all I did was plug two CD players into a cassette recorded and hope for the best. It did not go well at all, and it delayed a mix tape I owed my friend Louis quite severely. Apparently I had told him about this exciting experiment, because I still can hear him saying “Screwwwww the Teen Spirit mix!” in my head whenever I try to sleep.

Even though the whole mash-up “craze” (not sure why this signifier demands so many follow-up scare quotes) kind of seems like a novelty phase that we have passed through, the best artists doing it found new directions to take their music, rather than just continuing to throw things together (if they ever had done so). The Hood Internet definitely branched out in a major way, albeit connected to their mash-up roots (no quotes this time); their first proper record included original songs they produced for guest artists. Well, not all original; they did a fantastic “cover” of “These Things Are Nice,” from my 2010 album Accept The Mystery, which is a fucking great song (theirs, although I rather like mine as well). I got to sing part of it onstage with them and hearing a rapper rap/sing my lyrics was a personal highlight.

So it was only natural that I reach out to them to produce the song “W.S.,” which is named after a mind-boggling Paul McCarthy installation but imagined as the hypothetical funeral oration of a dearly beloved singer/songwriter who I will not name (it’s fun to guess). They completely killed it, even adding rap-chorus-style “Ayyyyyyyy”s upon my request. It’s a lovely song, and Steve is a lovely person, so he provided these lovely answers to my now-canonical collaborator inquiries.

Did you enjoy working with me on our song? I did, no pressure.
Can we move on to the next question?

Collaborations across genres are ever more constant on today’s records. Why do you think this is? Is it just a matter of technological advances, or is there something deeper?
It seems like the digital era of music really opened up everyone’s ears to, well, everything. Or at least normalized the access to it. Of course people still have preferences, genres that speak to them, but on the average, it’s not like people are hitting up the record store and only flipping through one or two sections.

From the mp3 blogs and file sharing clients of the aughts to today’s streaming services, there’s just so fucking much out there that people have the chance to hear, whether they’re seeking it out, or whether it’s been presented to them by a friend, or by an algorithm. So there’s a lot more out there for people to be influenced by. Cross-genre pollination has been a thing, and it makes sense that it will just continue to happen further as time progresses. You are, like me, empowered by home recording. Besides convenience or necessity, what do you prefer about that method? Do you enjoy more traditional recording processes, e.g. professional studios with premium bottled water and perhaps a bejewelled curtain for the vocal booth?
Home recording is great because in addition to being the recording artist, I’m also the studio assistant. I make the coffee, I take out the trash, clean the studio cats’ litterboxes, all that. People should start crediting themselves for those duties on albums they recorded at home. It’s part of the process.

What artists have influenced you repeatedly and/or intensely?
I’ve always been a fan of artists whose discographies feel expansively wide, sonically and stylistically. Death Grips. The Alchemist. Prince. Magnetic Fields.

Outside of income, what keeps you pushing forward and making new and exciting music?
I’ve always wanted to be able to make music for the rest of my life. Part of that is: making music for the rest of your life.


There’s a lot of good Hood Internet stuff to check out; a simple Web® search should help you track it down. But in their own words: “Our most recent project is called AIR CREDITS, and is a collaboration with Chicago artist Showyousuck. There’s music from our first release Broadcasted over at soundcloud.com/aircredits.”

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The Further Adventures Of Jason Narducy’s “Sexiest Elbows In Rock”

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The latest installment of Split Single auteur Jason Narducy’s “Sexiest Elbows In Rock” online series—cleverly titled “Episode 2”—finds our hero, after a discouraging meeting with his managers, auditioning for other bands, including Cheap Trick and Wilco. (Jeff Tweedy’s priceless reaction: “I’m the singer. We have a singer.”) While Narducy realizes his true calling with the help of comedian Dave Hill, watch for an all-too-quick cameo by former Conan O’Brien/current Stephen Colbert writer Brian Stack. And also buy Split Single’s outstanding sophomore record, Metal Frames.

—Matt Hickey

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MAGNET’s #24 Album Of 2016: ANOHNI’s “Hopelessness”

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2016 was a good year for protest records, and none was more bitter or more beautiful than Hopelessness. It’s a reinvention album: Antony Hegarty rechristened herself ANOHNI and eschewed the piano-based art songs of her former band Antony And The Johnsons, instead embracing somber electronics created in collaboration with Oneohtrix Point Never and Hudson Mohawke. These are intensely gorgeous songs even when the subject matter is ugly: On “Drone Bomb Me,” ANOHNI sings from the perspective of an orphan hoping to die in an attack, as his parents did; “Obama” condemns the president for unfulfilled promises and unprovoked aggression; “Why Did You Separate Me From The Earth?” questions the future of the planet. She often sings from the point of view of the villain she condemns: “I want to hear the dogs crying for water/I want to see the fish go belly up in the sea,” she claims on “4 Degrees.” The lyrics are unrelenting in their anger and pointedly accusatory—of specific countries, of terrorism and warfare, of environmental abuse, of self. But ANOHNI’s voice, a dramatic, sometimes operatic, often soulful croon, conveys warmth, tenderness and, contradictory to the title, hope.

—Steve Klinge

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Essential New Music: De La Soul’s “And The Anonymous Nobody…”

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“There is nothing as mysterious as a fact clearly described,” said photographer Garry Winogrand in describing his professional raison d’etre. I imagine that New York rap heroes De La Soul see their recording career in much the same light. Having been infamously shut out of any revenue from their groundbreaking early catalog due to sampling clearance issues (I defy you to find a digital copy of 3 Feet High And Rising anywhere), the Long Island trio has—on its first release in more than a decade, and eighth in almost 30 years together—stitched together 17 tracks from the piece-parts of more than 200 hours’ worth of live recording. And it’s a triumph of truth and consequences; the musical equivalent of a fly fisherman publishing a bicycling quarterly. You’re the acknowledged masters of today’s shopping-spree sampling mentality (you quite literally can’t get to Chance, Frank Ocean or FlyLo without carving a path through De La’s insanely eclectic first four records), and then you go all Miles Davis-organic on us?

Belie’dat: This is a mature work by grown-ass men who know their way around a hook or two (the sublime “Royalty Capes,” the achingly beautiful blaxploitation strings that frame “Memory Of…” and the deliciously downbeat “Greyhounds”) and a dis rhyme deftly dropped (“Sexy Bitch”; “Trainwreck,” which is just as cutting as it sounds). They’ve learned how to share the spotlight, too; Snoop collabo “Pain” gives LBC’s finest just enough breathing room to drop gems like “Used to gang bang, used to love the clashes/Now cash is the only motivation/But not for me, G, I’m into public relations.” If Pos, Dave and Maseo were always “me, myself and I” (three parts of the same sentient being), today there’s room enough for all y’all to take a turn behind the wheel. But it’s still their classic car to drive

—Corey duBrowa

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MAGNET’s #25 Album Of 2016: Flock Of Dimes’ “If You See Me, Say Yes”

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It’s tempting to view this Flock Of Dimes release party as the genre-neutral ground where Jenn Wasner’s worlds collide: the moody blues of Wye Oak and the sheer letting-go of Dungeonesse. And it could’ve been merely that. It ended up a gathering of her multiple musical personalities—a one-woman Traveling Wilburys, if you will, and you definitely should. Joni Mitchell, Christine McVie, Tracey Thorn and Annie Lennox join Wasner in this imaginary supergroup, with a dozen other contemporaries on hand as understudies: Joanna Newsom’s elemental sentiment (“Fill my arms with what I can carry”), Victoria Legrand’s lapping drones, Beth Orton’s hybrid tones. Just when you think you can see the calligraphic flourishes coming, Wasner unleashes a new, startling wake-up call, be it a timeless signature (on her declaration of independence, “Birthplace”), an overwhelming affirmation (carpe diem anthem “Everything Is Happening Today”) or a corporeal rave (pleasure-principled “Ida Glow”). She may only have this one body, but her spirit is an infinite spectrum in which the snarling guitar goddess we thought we knew is but a single shade.

—Noah Bonaparte Pais

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From The Desk Of Kleenex Girl Wonder: Liv Tyler In Chicago 1999

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.

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Smith: Obviously, as a professional musician, I have seen a lot of live music over the years. Well, that is actually not true (though it may indeed be obvious). Up until relatively recently (the past couple of years), I didn’t see very much live music at all. Even after I moved to New York, it took a lot to get me out of my house. I always wanted to hear the artists I like play either: a) the exact list of songs I really liked, or b) new songs I hadn’t heard yet. These things happened incredibly rarely in my experience, so I tended not to go to many shows.

I think part of the shift was that I started to enjoy playing live music more. Since live music represents a big chunk of income for most “living wage” bands nowadays, it’s also of some interest to me to figure out how to provide the most interesting (for both me and the crowd) live show I can. So as a result, I end up seeing more live music. But it’s not all grunt work; I also really have a good time seeing both bands I know well and bands I’m just learning to love onstage in a dark, dank environment. Or, you know, beneath the stars or whatever.

I’ve learned a lot about what makes live music so energizing to people, although I can’t claim to have applied it all to KGW’s approach to playing live. While I still would like to play new, unreleased, exciting songs (just as I would like to hear them from other bands), I understand that it’s important to play songs that people already like, or at least could go and listen to on record immediately after the concert. I think that there’s value to theatricality, but it can overwhelm the primitive experience of x people playing and y people listening intently and/or dancing. Backing tracks are interesting to me as a way to add variety to the sound palette in a live environment, and I hope we can expand that palette in KGW shows in the near future—especially since folks don’t seem to mind if there are some canned sounds in a live show, as long as there are compelling uncanned performances.

But hey, maybe what I think of as “a lot of live music” is not that much to you? Let’s see. Here’s a list of all the bands I can recall seeing from November 2015 to October 2016, in alphabetical order, de-duped. Note: Some of the bands, particularly ones I saw at festivals, I didn’t necessarily see full sets. But I even left out some I did see full sets of that I didn’t intentionally see, and I’m sure I forgot some I can’t find in my records, too.

Damn. It was a very good year.

Acrylics
Action Bronson
Air
Anamanaguchi (x2)
Angel Olsen
Animal Collective
ANOHNI
araabMUZIK (x2)
Band Of Horses
Basia Bulat
Battles
Beanie Sigel
Beirut
Boogarins
Brian Wilson (performing Pet Sounds)
Caveman
Chairlift (x2)
Dawn Of Midi (x2)
Deerhoof (x2)
Drive Like Jehu
Empress Of (x2)
Eureka California (x2)
Even As We Speak
Field Music
Frankie Cosmos (performing songs from Exile In Guyville)
Fucked Up
Guerilla Toss
Guided By Voices
Hatsune Miku
His Name is Alive
Hop Along
Jenny Hval (x2)
Jessy Lanza
Joanna Newsom (x2)
John Carpenter
Just Blaze
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith
Mbwongana Star
PJ Harvey
Protomartyr
Pusha T
Quinn Walker
Rocket From The Crypt
Saskrotch
Secret Shine
Selda
Shilpa Ray
SOPHIE (x2)
Talib Kweli
Tame Impala
The Avalanches
The Hood Internet (x2)
The Moles
The Oh Sees
The Railway Children
Thunder & Lightning
Titus Andronicus (x2)
Tom 7
Tortoise
Tunabunny
Watching Waves
Ween (x4)
Yeasayer
Young Fathers
Zomby

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