Essential New Music: Spiral Stairs’ “Doris And The Daggers”

Music-dork convention dictates that when a band has two singer/songwriters in its ranks, they can be identified as “the poppy one” and “the artsy one.” Lazy? Sure! Still it’s hard to think of pairs like Lennon/McCartney, Tucker/Brownstein or Holsapple/Stamey and not notice a pattern. While Stephen Malkmus was the de facto leader of Pavement, Scott “Spiral Stairs” Kannberg’s contributions showcased an affinity for classic rock and Americana that didn’t always come across in his bandmate’s oblique offerings. These influences continue on Kannberg’s second solo album, the highly enjoyable Doris And The Daggers. Teaming up with members of Broken Social Scene and the National, Kannberg dishes out a set of irrepressibly melodic tunes with a tastefully experimental bent. Opening cut “Dance (Cry Wolf)” sets the scene with a jagged, Scary Monsters-like groove. “Dundee Man” is a rollicking Scottish odyssey, and “Angel Eyes” is an anthemic delight. And just in case you had forgotten this is a Pavement-adjacent album, the title track closes the record with gleeful absurdity. Essential for anyone craving more from Pavement’s secret weapon.

—Eric Schuman

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From The Desk Of Jason Falkner And R. Stevie Moore: Left Field Chord Changes As In 10cc’s “Somewhere In Hollywood”

Ever since his departure from Jellyfish at the peak of the band’s brief early-’90s run, Jason Falkner has relished his role as a self-made power-pop iconoclast. R. Stevie Moore’s championing of the DIY recording aesthetic stretches all the way back to the late ’60s, gaining underground momentum during the following decade’s punk explosion. Unlike Falkner, Moore has never been much for restraint, recording more than 400 albums. As one might surmise, new collaboration Make It Be casts Falkner as the editor/ringmaster of Moore’s wonky sonic circus—and the results should connect with fans of the former’s innate craftsmanship and the latter’s rampant eclecticism. Falkner and Moore will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

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Moore: Music has to be forward thinking, good and intentionally smart. Clever writing is one thing, quality arranging is another. Tricky, snarky chord changes and the delightful combinations of them. Not enough modern pop music boldly goes there, always playing it safe. Therefore, remaining stagnant, mediocre and average, and not my favourite by a long shot.

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MP3 At 3PM: Screamfeeder

Brisbane’s Screamfeeder will release Pop Guilt on June 23. “All Over It Again” proves the band can achieve a fervent urgency even seven albums into its career, delivering an infectious rock tune that sounds fresh and confident. Check it out below.

“All Over It Again” (download):

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Crystal Fairy: Delicate Soundz

Crystal Fairy is much more than the sum of its parts

It began, as these things often do, with Jello Biafra. In 2014, S.F. punk’s eminence grise invited Mexican garage-punk band Le Butcherettes to open for the Guantanamo School Of Medicine at the Roxy in West Hollywood. Melvins’ King Buzzo, a friend of Biafra, came out to show support and catch the set. And when Le Butcherettes, fronted by Teri Gender Bender, hit the stage, Buzzo was blown away.

“She’s a massively dynamic performer,” says Buzzo, “super-talented. A force of nature.”

So impressed was Buzzo by Le Butcherettes’ performance that he asked the band to open for Melvins on a series of tour dates—a significant move for a guy who’s ordinarily reluctant to slot opening acts.

“My agent told me, ‘This is really rare.’ I actually cried a little bit,” laughs Teri G-B. “I was like, ‘Of course let’s go on tour with the Melvins!’ And they were such sweet gentlemen.”

That tour was followed by another set of opening dates, for which Le Butcherettes and Melvins worked up a collaborative live cover of Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl.” “At that point I knew we needed to do something together,” says Buzzo, “but I didn’t know what.”

Backstage at those same shows was Butcherettes producer (and G-B’s El Paso neighbor) Omar Rodríguez-López, he of At The Drive-In and the Mars Volta—not to play but to photograph and document the tour. He and Melvins hit it off, and the final piece of the puzzle that would become Crystal Fairy snapped into place.

Written and recorded at white-hot speed in studios in L.A. (Melvins’ home base) and El Paso (Butcherettes’), Crystal Fairy is a record that comes out punching and never lets up. Melvins’ Dale Crover and Buzzo, joined by Rodríguez-López and G-B, run through 11 songs in a thunderous 41 minutes—some crisp and pounding (“Chiseler”), some stately and heavy (“Moth Tongue”), some giddy and angular (“Vampire X-Mas”), some joyously, liberatingly bizarre (the irresistible title cut). Considering how quickly it came together, Crystal Fairy sounds remarkably cohesive—the work of a band whose energies were pointed in a single direction from the start.

“From inception to recording, it took two weeks,” says Buzzo. “If that. We’re all used to working very fast. I’m a very big believer in vision-execute. You get the right people around you, and it works—you have to try really, really hard to blow it. And we’ve all worked on our craft for a really long time. People who’ve worked on their craft for this long, it’s really down to luck. Hard work and pure luck.”

The L.A. sessions came first. “Buzz said, ‘OK, let’s put it all on the table,’” says G-B. “We recorded the rehearsals, even the ideas for songs as they came. And I had my notebook with me, and I was writing lyrics and melodies for the ideas they came up with.”

“In those kinds of situations,” says Buzzo, “I’m a firm believer in letting people off the leash: ‘Just do what you do.’ The first day, when we recorded ‘Bent Teeth,’ I just knew it was good.”

For G-B, something clicked just past the halfway point: “It started becoming a reality when we were about six songs deep. And then Buzz and Dale came out to El Paso where Omar and I live, and it was this exchange of cultural identities, and on that basis, too, it was really exciting. El Paso’s a little more spread out, and there’s less to do at night if you’re a party person, which thankfully none of us are, so we got to spend a lot of quality time, in the real sense of the word—we’d all watch movies at night, then get up, go into the studio, work out a part, then, ‘OK, let’s go to IHOP.’ Honestly, talking about this, I can’t believe it’s real. You get a sense of the energy in the room, and you think, ‘OK, there’s something here. These people, they’re my tribe.’”

“We didn’t even know it was going to be an album,” says Buzzo. “And then we had one.”

—Eric Waggoner

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From The Desk Of Jason Falkner And R. Stevie Moore: My House

Ever since his departure from Jellyfish at the peak of the band’s brief early-’90s run, Jason Falkner has relished his role as a self-made power-pop iconoclast. R. Stevie Moore’s championing of the DIY recording aesthetic stretches all the way back to the late ’60s, gaining underground momentum during the following decade’s punk explosion. Unlike Falkner, Moore has never been much for restraint, recording more than 400 albums. As one might surmise, new collaboration Make It Be casts Falkner as the editor/ringmaster of Moore’s wonky sonic circus—and the results should connect with fans of the former’s innate craftsmanship and the latter’s rampant eclecticism. Falkner and Moore will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Falkner: Unfortunately, at this point, I’m still a renter and my recording-studio criteria forces me to rent free-standing structures (house not apartment) due to my drum and guitar amp noise “pollution.” My last place (where I recorded Make It Be and 10 other records) was demolished by the new landlords a couple years ago, so I found myself on the rental market again after many happy years in that place. Well, there had been some developments as far as prices in seven years, so I wound up paying double for my current place, but I’m so happy living in my new area and I walk down and up my very steep hill to great bars and restaurants many nights a week. It’s the only exercise I get

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Essential New Music: Ne-Hi’s “Offers”

If all the classic rock ’n’ roll roads have already been traveled, nobody bothered to tell Chicago upstart Ne-Hi. That’s not a slight in the faintest: The crew’s dynamic and rollicking Offers is informed by generations of proto-, post- and revivalisms. Initially conceived as a film-scoring project and forged in the basement show circuit, Ne-Hi’s taut and economic approach is instantly lovable. Echoes of guitar-worshipping contemporaries like Broncho, Car Seat Headrest and fellow Chicagoans Twin Peaks abound as vocals and lead lines intertwine on “Sisters” and “Everybody Warned You.” The influence of more steady-handed pickers, namely Peter Buck and David Roback, is apparent in the control and restraint on the title track and the slide-heavy “Every Dent.” The closing track, “Stay Young,” is an anthem that could very well serve as the band’s ebullient m.o. Culling from these touchstones and more, Ne-Hi cobbles together a greatest hits of sharp songwriting and sharper axe-slinging.

—Eric Schuman

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From The Desk Of Jason Falkner And R. Stevie Moore: Spaghetti

Ever since his departure from Jellyfish at the peak of the band’s brief early-’90s run, Jason Falkner has relished his role as a self-made power-pop iconoclast. R. Stevie Moore’s championing of the DIY recording aesthetic stretches all the way back to the late ’60s, gaining underground momentum during the following decade’s punk explosion. Unlike Falkner, Moore has never been much for restraint, recording more than 400 albums. As one might surmise, new collaboration Make It Be casts Falkner as the editor/ringmaster of Moore’s wonky sonic circus—and the results should connect with fans of the former’s innate craftsmanship and the latter’s rampant eclecticism. Falkner and Moore will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Moore: All my life, I’ve adored Italian food, my mom’s pasta especially. Late in life, I learn it’s really not all that advisable to fatten up one’s body with all that harmful carbo, starch and gluten, so sadly I can’t eat it as much as desired, like I used to. Spicy peppers, garlic and cheese: heaven. Hell! Still, I’m a sucka for lasagna, pizza and all things tomatoparmed.

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Chicano Batman: Paradise Now

The political is personal and poetic for Chicano Batman

As far as psychedelic alt-Latino bands with major dollops of soul go, Los Angeles’ Chicano Batman is the sleekest—not solely for its sound or for its sophisticated socio-political rhetoric, but also for its bespoke, sartorial dress sense. Nearly 10 years since its start, the raging, dynamic quartet—driven by Bardo Martinez’s lead vocals, poetic texts and organ/guitar mix—focuses more than ever on its ministerial lyrical edge on the new Freedom Is Free (ATO).

“To be honest with you, the band came together on the idea of creating a unique brand of music,” says bassist/singer Eduardo Arenas. “We all went to college. Some of us have master’s degrees, and some of us have had careers before jumping on the Chicano Batman bullet train. Our band name is a social-political one. As persons in the band, we have synonymous ideologies about our vision of this country and our capitalistic/militaristic (dis)position in this world.” Chicano Batman lyrics haven’t always reflected that socio-serious voice, as a lot of its songs over a handful of albums and EPs speak about love, which often is a stronger political tool than anything else.

“But we’re in 2017 now,” says Arenas. “Police killings of unarmed citizens are at an all-time high. An ignorant narcissist who lost the majority vote has become the new president of this country.”

Martinez goes on to mention how “Arrow To The Sun” (“Flecha Al Sol”) is a verbatim rendition of a children’s book with the same title that surrealistically imagines a young boy in search of his father who happens to be the sun. “My lyrical approach was in first person, i.e. becoming the protagonist of the story, and since the book provides simplistic yet extremely rich imagery, writing the lyrics was easy,” says Martinez.

Yet, Arenas sounds proudest of Martinez when he goes for the throat on dismantling the establishment of the right and the left to come up with something that lacerates between the eyes. “Bardo contributed most of the compositions, and you can just hear how his lyricism evolved throughout the years to wind up here,” says Arenas. “The messages are coming through much clearer now. This will be important as we enter into a new era with a new president. Shit, I don’t even want to say his name. There’s only so much we can take. Our new album opens up that conversation as we become more explicit about our ideologies. If not now, then when?”

—A.D. Amorosi

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From The Desk Of Jason Falkner And R. Stevie Moore: My Vintage Hi-Fi Setup

Ever since his departure from Jellyfish at the peak of the band’s brief early-’90s run, Jason Falkner has relished his role as a self-made power-pop iconoclast. R. Stevie Moore’s championing of the DIY recording aesthetic stretches all the way back to the late ’60s, gaining underground momentum during the following decade’s punk explosion. Unlike Falkner, Moore has never been much for restraint, recording more than 400 albums. As one might surmise, new collaboration Make It Be casts Falkner as the editor/ringmaster of Moore’s wonky sonic circus—and the results should connect with fans of the former’s innate craftsmanship and the latter’s rampant eclecticism. Falkner and Moore will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Falkner: Consists of a 1973 McIntosh MA-6200 integrated amplifier, 1977 Thorens Td 126 turntable and early-’70s JBL Jubal speakers. I spend more time listening to vinyl than just about anything else, and this fairly high-end vintage system sounds so damn good! I’ve been through countless other components in my decade plus of hunting, and with this combo I’ve stumbled upon sonic nirvana. Unlike so many, I never stopped buying vinyl, so my collection is pretty intense … full of curated rarities. It’s a happy maker

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Essential New Music: The Jigsaw Seen’s “For The Discriminating Completist”

Mom always said, “Honesty’s the best policy.” So, up front, I’ve known Dennis Davison and Jonathan Lea, impassioned vocalist and throbbing guitarist for L.A.’s Jigsaw Seen, for more than 25 years. But that changes nothing. When joined by bassist Tom Currier and drummer Teddy Freese, Jigsaw has assembled the most daring rock ’n’ roll seen in La La Land since the heyday of the Byrds and Arthur Lee’s Love—no mean feat. For example, who else would lead the parade with a Tony Bennett chestnut, “The Best Is Yet To Come,” by applying a fresh coat of DayGlo paint that even the venerated nonagenarian and his recent jazzbo chum Lady Gaga would admire? A dedicated Jigsaw follower may have heard different versions of these tracks (minus the odd sitar) as singles, but their appearance all in one place is like squeezing through those scary “laundry rollers” to get into the local fun house. Bonus: The CD’s cover sports a brilliant illustration of Charlie McCarthy, the only ventriloquist’s dummy brave enough to swap film wisecracks with W. C. Fields.

—Jud Cost

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