Category Archives: GUEST EDITOR

From The Desk Of D Generation: Pop Music

Nothing Is Anywhereis NYC punk icon D Generation’s first new album in 17 years and includes the same scrappy gang from its eponymous 1994 debut: guitarist/producer Danny Sage, vocalist Jesse Malin, bassist Howie Pyron, guitarist Richard Bacchus and drummer Michael Wildwood. It’s a defiantly New York collection of working-class anthems that celebrates the band’s gritty urban past while sneering at the gentrification and pretentious poseurs corrupting its city’s culture. These old schoolers are back, angrier than ever and ready to take that fight outside. They will also be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our feature on them.

radio

Sage: Being out on the road again and doing a lot of press, it’s sometimes funny to me how people think of the band, and the ways they think of and ask about the kind of music we listen to. First of all, we’re a very eclectic bunch of people. And one thing we share is a deep love of pop music.

When I was a kid, AM radio was a thing. You would be in a car, or anywhere really, and turn on the radio … And you would hear, right next to each other, back to back, side by side, the Beatles, the Stones, Bowie, James Brown, Elvis, Ohio Players, Sly And The Family Stone, ABBA, Aretha Franklin, Johnny Cash, the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Linda Ronstadt, Dusty Springfield, Petula Clark, the Raspberries, etc. … Motown, Philly soul, Memphis stuff. Not to mention any and every late-’60s to mid-’70s one-hit wonder, a lot of which are great: “Ode To Billie Joe,” “Spirit In The Sky,” “Venus,” “Mr. Big Stuff,” “Oh Babe, What Would You Say?” I can keep going as long as you like …

It was all there, AM radio. Pop music. That, probably more than any other single thing, informed my writing and views of production and record making.

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From The Desk Of D Generation: Alice Cooper’s “I’m Eighteen” 

Nothing Is Anywhereis NYC punk icon D Generation’s first new album in 17 years and includes the same scrappy gang from its eponymous 1994 debut: guitarist/producer Danny Sage, vocalist Jesse Malin, bassist Howie Pyron, guitarist Richard Bacchus and drummer Michael Wildwood. It’s a defiantly New York collection of working-class anthems that celebrates the band’s gritty urban past while sneering at the gentrification and pretentious poseurs corrupting its city’s culture. These old schoolers are back, angrier than ever and ready to take that fight outside. They will also be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our feature on them.

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Sage: Here’s five minutes of video that had a huge impact on me, and on D Gen. Of course we were all big Alice Cooper fans. But in all the years we have had to read reviews (the good, the bad, the ugly), I am not sure anyone has ever mentioned the debt we owe in some kind of spiritual way to these five guys. I can remember sitting in Howie Pyro’s apartment in the ass-end of Greenpoint, Brooklyn (yes, pre-pre-hipster and on a VHS tape, not YouTube) and watching this video over and over again. Of course we loved the song. We love all the songs. I can clearly remember being a tiny kid and sitting in my dad’s car and hearing “School’s Out,” and just being overwhelmed, realizing that someone else knew everything I felt. All the frustration. But in this clip, there’s also this insane (“just a little insane”) look, feel and vibe to the whole thing. They’re shiny, dirty, chaotic, cool. It was something we related to. We started covering “Hello Hooray.” I took the “stop!” that you see AC do at the end, and threw it into our song “Feel Like Suicide.” Anyway, this was part of our starting place … and somehow never gets mentioned. They were a huge inspiration. Thank you, Alice, Glen, Dennis, Neal and Michael!

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From The Desk Of D Generation: Los Angeles

Nothing Is Anywhereis NYC punk icon D Generation’s first new album in 17 years and includes the same scrappy gang from its eponymous 1994 debut: guitarist/producer Danny Sage, vocalist Jesse Malin, bassist Howie Pyron, guitarist Richard Bacchus and drummer Michael Wildwood. It’s a defiantly New York collection of working-class anthems that celebrates the band’s gritty urban past while sneering at the gentrification and pretentious poseurs corrupting its city’s culture. These old schoolers are back, angrier than ever and ready to take that fight outside. They will also be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our feature on them.

la

Sage: I was born in Manhattan. My parents are New Yorkers. When I was growing up, it seemed like New Yorkers were “supposed to” bag on L.A. I never got that. To quote my (not) favorite Randy Newman song, “I love L.A.” (My favorite is “Sail Away,”recorded in L.A., of course.)

I remember the first time i ever went to L.A. It seemed like it really was everything I had ever heard about it. It really met all expectation. That’s an amazing achievement, especially to a cynical New York City kid like me. I got out on Sunset Boulevard, and it was all there: cars, girls, sunshine, hamburger stands. I mean, it was like I was in a Brian Wilson song. Sunset Fucking Boulevard. It really struck me. So yeah, even though New Yorkers are supposed to “hate L.A,” I liked it. A lot.

One of my best memories, ever, is driving up the Pacific Coast Highway in a really cool car with an L.A. girlfriend, and hearing “No Way Out” on KROQ. Something about being out there, in a place so far away, both physically and spiritually from my home, and hearing our song on the car radio. To sum it up, refer to “Nationwide” by ZZ Top. A long way from Avenue B, that’s for sure. It felt like … victory.

Plus, a lot of the bands and records I grew up with were made in L.A., from the Beach Boys to the Circle Jerks to Neil Young to the Ronettes, from Blue to G.I. … you can’t fuck with that. Sacred ground to me.

The other funny cliche about L.A. that didn’t fit for me was the meme that everyone in L.A. is “phony.” Yeah, in NYC when I was growing up, that was a thing. I eventually moved to L.A. for a few years. And though I was really homesick and moved back (of course), I wanna tell you that a lot of people I met there were (and remain) some of the best friends I have. Los Angeles has been very good to me, and I thank her for that. So, yeah … A big cheer for Los Angeles, even from a jaded New Yorker.

Video after the jump.

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From The Desk Of D Generation: Azealia Banks’ “212 Ft. Lazy Jay”

Nothing Is Anywhereis NYC punk icon D Generation’s first new album in 17 years and includes the same scrappy gang from its eponymous 1994 debut: guitarist/producer Danny Sage, vocalist Jesse Malin, bassist Howie Pyron, guitarist Richard Bacchus and drummer Michael Wildwood. It’s a defiantly New York collection of working-class anthems that celebrates the band’s gritty urban past while sneering at the gentrification and pretentious poseurs corrupting its city’s culture. These old schoolers are back, angrier than ever and ready to take that fight outside. They will also be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our feature on them.

azealiabanks

Sage: I think Rick (Bacchus) turned me onto her. I think “212” was easily one of the best singles of the past 10 years. She seems like she can do anything she wants. And I hope she does, musically, and steers away from the social-media bullshit that she seems to be wrapped up in. She seems like a genuine free spirit and talented artist, and we need more of that. I don’t know a lot about all the drama, her personal life and her Twitter finger, butI think she makes great records.

Video after the jump.

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From The Desk Of Kleenex Girl Wonder: This is Why We Do It

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.

johnfromcincinnati

Smith: It has been quite an honor and pleasure to catalog inspirations and amusements for you in these posts. In this last one I want to outline more specifically and directly what motivates me to continue recording and performing music, and what I am hoping to accomplish. To do so, I want to talk about a little-seen yet much-maligned television show called John From Cincinnati.

Premiering in 2007, and running for only one 10-episode season, JFC is one of my favorite shows of all time, if not my actual favorite. I like to say that I enjoy it more than any other show, but it’s difficult to compare it to any other show because it’s such a completely different beast from my other favorites (Deadwood, The Sopranos, The Venture Bros, Futurama, Fargo, to name but a few). I’ve never gotten confirmation that my interpretation of what it’s “about” is correct, but as I hope I’ll show, it doesn’t really matter.

I actually won’t spoil any of the storyline because I think you should watch it. It’s only nine and a half hours or something, I think you can spare it. If you absolutely hate it (as many do) you can email me and yell at me. But I think it will be worth your time, especially if my interpretation intrigues you. In my reading, it’s about the best way to communicate important messages to people. The popular wisdom is that if you have an important message to relay—let’s say, for example, “The world is about to explode, killing everyone, but there is a way to prevent it” (note: this is not a spoiler for the TV show in question)—you should say it in the most straightforward way you can, and ensure that the largest amount of people hear it. However, there are lots of factors that go into how people receive a message, especially if that message requires a nuanced consideration and application to their lives, which, admittedly, a world explosion probably would. So, bad example. But in a lot of cases, it’s better to put a thought out there and let people determine the underlying meanings for themselves—indeed, even meanings that you are unaware of and not intentionally broadcasting. You run the risk of confusing people, but on the whole, is confusion such a terrible thing? Particularly if the message you are interesting in conveying is of a philosophical nature, being confused, and subsequently challenging yourself to burrow out of that confusion, may leave you more enlightened than being screamed at.

Maybe this is an overly complex reading of the JFC story, but I think it fits, and I apply similar logic to the way that I write songs. I was doing it before I saw the show and started thinking about this methodology in a conscious way, and I’ve doubled down since I saw it. Think about the songs that mean the most to you—some of them may be relatively specific, and some of them may be maddeningly vague, but there is likely a common thread running through all of them. That thread can be described as: I hear the music and lyrics, I project something that is emotionally resonant or otherwise meaningful to me on to them, and as a result of this alchemy, I have a pleasing response. That pleasure can be, somewhat unintuitively, painful—you may feel better because a song makes you sad, for instance. Or you could just like dancing to it, or just snapping your figures, or thinking about the complexity of the arrangement or melodies in an analytical manner.

That’s what I try to aim for. I talk about a lot of specific things in my songs, but I shy away from linear narratives (with a few exceptions over the past 22 years). That’s because my ultimate goal is to provide people with a tool that they can use to improve their lives, or at least feel better about their lives. I think that most musicians do this, so I don’t think I’m some innovative genius (at least not on this front), but there are a lot of other factors in play for most musicians, too, i.e. the need to pay rent and buy food, a desire for the attention that any level of fame engenders, etc. (I once had an argument with a co-worker because he told me that it was literally impossible that no part of my motivation in making music was “to get laid,” as I claimed; a stance I still stand behind, even though it is difficult to support with facts, but hey, my motivation is my motivation, you can’t tell me what drives me.) I know that regardless of how many people listen to my music or how much money I make off of it, I will continue doing it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care how many people listen to it. I want to make something that is useful for people to listen to, whatever that “use” may be, and then I want people to make use of it, and tell me what is useful about it, so that I can try to do more of what works, for as many people as possible. I would prefer you pay a price that you think is fair for my music, provided you find it useful, but if you cannot afford to, or afford to take a chance on it if you’re unsure, then fortunately there are plenty of ways to give it a shot free of charge. I only ask that you let me know what works and what doesn’t, if you get the chance to do so. You can reach me pretty easily, if you’d like to share any such thoughts or ask any follow-up questions. Thanks for listening.

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From The Desk Of Kleenex Girl Wonder: The Break

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.

marijuana

Smith: Up until relatively recently, I had settled into a pretty comfortable routine with regards to making music. I never took it for granted, and I struggled a fair amount with some of the downsides to my methods, but it worked and was relatively easy to maintain. The Comedy Album represents both sides of a profound shift in that process, and as such, it’s interesting to dig into how it represents a turning point (or two). Following the completion of Let It Buffer., which was released in the spring of 2013, I started to write songs in earnest for the follow-up. A few of the songs had already been written before that point, but that’s really just a coincidence of timing. For better or worse, as soon as one album is done, I’m already working on the next one, even though what the next one is often shifts dramatically, especially in the first few months.

By the end of 2013, I had almost all of the songs written. A few would continue to trickle in, and others would get duly booted out of the tentative tracklist, but things were mostly squared away. However, I was having a lot of trouble actually getting things moving and recording them. Early in 2014, I went upstate to visit my friend and former KGW keyboardsman Ryan Smith and his excellent partner Julia, who were living in Troy as Ryan pursued his doctorate in music (it still astonishes me that this is both a real thing and that Ryan was both hearty and foolhardy enough to actually do it). Because Ryan is just that spectacular of a musician, we spent less than three hours in a classroom at his school that had a spectacular old grand piano and he learned and recorded piano parts for five of the songs, which I would further augment with additional arrangements back in New York City. This was a promising start, but besides them and one other track that I had begun recording in 2013 (“Kismet Cute”), I was still far from where I needed to be, recording-wise. Something had to change, and I wasn’t sure what it was.

As it eventually turned out, something had to change for a lot of other reasons, too. I had gone through a pretty epic (though not technically excruciating) breakup, and was living by myself, not doing a whole lot of valuable stuff with my time, not feeling too good about things. I had also, by that point in the spring of 2014, been smoking weed pretty much non-stop for 15 years or so. When I say non-stop, there are some caveats—I never smoked it at work, I didn’t wake up in the night to smoke it or somehow smoke it in my sleep, but beyond that, yeah, it was a relatively constant companion in my life. Because of the way it works chemically, I had long since stopped being somebody who was noticeably intoxicated; in fact, I rarely if ever felt any effects, entheogenic or otherwise, except perhaps a brief stretch of five minutes or so at the beginning of each session. It was a crutch, and an addiction, and it was not doing all that much good. It was potentially doing a lot of harm. So, as a result of a number of factors, one of which was my ex-wife giving up her addictions, I decided to stop. I read some books, threw my gear away, started going to some meetings, and gave it a go. As it turns out, the last song written for The Comedy Album, which is called “Magistermind” as part of my continuing mission to reference Rick Ross on every album I release, turned out to be the last song I wrote as a weed addict.

Somewhat surprisingly, after the initial readjustment period, I started to record songs with very little effort. By the initial mastering deadline in mid-July I had half of the record done. The entire record was recorded and mastered by the end of year. So that was really wonderful; it did seem as though my motivation had been severely hampered by that sweetest of leaves. But a funny thing happened—it had become achingly difficult to write songs. Or rather, to write songs I was happy with. Over time I came to realize that what had really gone away with the weed-fueled lifestyle was a sense of self-satisfaction; I would complete a lyrical couplet, perhaps after scrapping a few variations that I didn’t like, but come back to find later that I didn’t think it was “good enough,” whatever that meant. I do not necessarily have a happy ending to this phase of my life to report upon just yet, but it’s gotten a lot better. So the moral of this story is: Sometimes you have to sacrifice an easy process and find new ways to do things in order to improve your overall health. Not a super succinct or fancy moral, but a useful one nonetheless!

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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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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.

live

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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From The Desk Of Kleenex Girl Wonder: Funny Funny Stuff

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.

jokes

Smith: Since The Comedy Album is about, well, comedy, I thought it might be an interesting exercise to put together some of my favorite funny things. Perhaps you can glimpse a thread that runs through all of these entries, which will give you some insight into what makes me tick, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s not the case. One thing I realized relatively recently is that some of the funniest things are beyond explanation as to why they are funny; they just work, not necessarily for everyone, but for you. That kind of humor is the most sublime. Sure, there are good jokes that you can take apart and explain (“You see, Jimmy Fallon is playing with the notion of shame, and how it is interpolated by the zeitgeist … ”), but the best jokes just kind of sit there and do their job.

Here are some of my favorite funny things. I will present them without comment, per the above, but am also glad to discuss any of them if you like.

Sparks, “Something For The Girl With Everything” live
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“The Fesh Pince Of Blair”
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“Jimbo On His War Guitar”
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Pound House Episode 7, “Mansion”
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“Toronto Mayor Rob Ford (Dancehall Jamaican Patois Remix)”
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Salvador Dali On What’s My Line?
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“Leon Redbone: A Story About Leon From A Record Shop Owner”
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“Dinner With Friends With Brett Gelman And Friends”
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“3D Laser Hologram Tiger”
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2 Wet Crew, “3D Dream”
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“Steve Harvey Doesn’t Want To Host Family Feud Anymore”
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MIDI Nickelodeon Playing “Circus Galop Its Insane”
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“Society’s Lies”
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From The Desk Of Kleenex Girl Wonder: New York Daily News

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.

nydailynews

Smith: The first song for The Comedy Album came about in Madrid, in late summer 2012. I was there on business, sort of—I was working, and visiting some colleagues in the local office, though I didn’t have a strong agenda. I was also traveling alone, so I had a lot of time to wander around the city, taking pictures, thinking about music, and so forth. One night during my weeklong stay, I realized I had two back issues of The New Yorker on my iPad that I hadn’t read, so I started reading them around 11 p.m. The next thing I knew, it was 3 a.m. and I had read both of them cover to cover. They both happened to be particularly good issues—if I recall correctly, there were features on the movie adaptation of Cloud Atlas and Bjarke Ingels’ nascent architectural empire—but that wasn’t why I was so surprised that I had gotten sucked in. There was a sentiment I had heard my mother and others express, relating to the fact that keeping up with a weekly magazine packed with so much content could become daunting as a stack accumulated. If one was to stay current, other things, such as sleep, perambulation and cultural events, might fall by the wayside. Thus the concept of “Fuck The New Yorker” was born.

On the surface, it seemed like a childish song title, and a childish conceit as well. However, the lyrics are pretty clear about praising the magazine’s purpose and writing, I think. Although I’ll definitely admit that I often think my lyrics are clearer than others may find them to be. It was certainly designed to get a response—hopefully a chuckle, but perhaps a sigh. In fact, after I had written and recorded a demo, I realize that perhaps this might be a good way to finally get featured in the titular magazine, although that has not come to pass just yet (TNY would likely never stoop so low, of course). For this reason, I initially called the song “Smith 2,” a reference to the rather polarizing “audio play” I recorded and released around the turn of the century, which engaged in a bit of listenership-baiting as well. But ultimately, it just had to be called “Fuck The New Yorker,” because that’s the kind of song it is.

When I got back to America, I shared this song with Thayer and Matt, and they cautiously approved of my ridiculous conceit. At the time, Thayer was working at New York magazine, and asked if I could also write a follow-up song called “Fuck New York Magazine” (he was not super thrilled with his job at that time and would resign shortly thereafter). I realized that I couldn’t just go around fucking every magazine, and in fact, by the same logic I had applied to “Fuck The New Yorker” would yield its converse in a song called “I Love New York (Magazine),” despite (or because of) the fact that I much preferred the reportage of TNY. For “ILNY(M),” I did my best to write “bad” lyrics, which is one of those goals you can set for yourself that ensures that nobody will win. Either they are successful, and therefore they are by definition not “bad,” or they fail, in which case they are “bad” by their own criteria. Me and my windmills. I hope there is some semblance of purple prose remaining in these lyrics; Matt accordingly beseeched me to turn in the most overtly operatic performance I could for the vocal takes, and I think I “took it there,” so to speak.

These two songs, along with “Daily Post Mortem,” hint at a theme of periodical obsession, but I think that that is only skin-deep. In reality, both “FTNY” and “ILNY(M)” are quite closely tied to the larger exploration of humor on The (appropriately named) Comedy Album. One was a “trifle” designed to get a reaction, and another was an experiment in ham-fisted populism. I like to believe I got some of the psychological need to be funny out of my system on this album, but I suppose only time will tell if that belief is accurate.

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