From The Desk Of The Feelies: My Original Copy Of “Trout Mask Replica”

“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 got my first copy of this for Christmas 1973, during my eighth grade year of grammar school. That one was a mid-’70s Reprise issue. I guess about five years later, my friend picked this copy up for me at Second Coming Records in Greenwich Village. While I like Lick My Decals Off, Baby a little more, well, this an incredible LP. It’s like an LSD trip on vinyl. It’s not an easy listen but John French’s drumming is one of the most original and interesting musical statements ever. His playing made me realize you didn’t have to play standard drum beats. Mint condition with lyric sheet.

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Film At 11: High Up

High Up’s funky “Two Weeks” comes from the band’s self-titled EP and sports a fun, diner-themed video. Still, the main attraction is Christine Fink’s powerful, soulful vocals soaring over intense, dizzying horns. Check it out below.

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Essential New Music: Sorority Noise’s “You’re Not As _____ As You Think”

On Sorority Noise’s “A Portrait Of,” singer Cameron Boucher mumbles a little anecdote about what the afterlife might be like—“and they’re playing “The ’59 Sound” in heaven/While the angels were drinking up whiskey and cokes.” Invoking the Gaslight Anthem’s track—a romantic song about death that asks the recently deceased, “Did you hear your favorite song one last time?”—this line is particularly telling for Sorority Noise’s third LP. The image of angels kicking back and getting drunk contrasts painfully with the record’s life on earth, one where the narrator struggles to get out of bed and wonders why they’re not up there in heaven, too.

All of this is to say that You’re Not As __ As You Think is a brutal recollection of the endless, everyday fight against grief. On “A Better Sun,” Boucher numbly recounts a cycle of pain, posturing and self-destruction, all with the same construction of “this is the part where …” In this way, “A Better Sun” presents the quiet moments of grieving (a verse spent listening to music, nodding toward Julien Baker, Into It. Over It. and Modern Baseball) in the same way it presents the loud ones (“This is the part where I explode and destroy/Everything on this god-given earth”). On You’re Not As __ As You Think, the difficulty of loss permeates through every moment.

Because death looms so heavily over this record, it’s no surprise that these songs are often interested in examining a dismayed form of spirituality. “Second Letter From St. Julien” addresses god with defiance and deference in turn, asking, “What’s your god trying to prove,” in one breath and, “Do I make him proud?” in the next. The subject of god certainly leads to some clunky moments (“He’s always trying to fuck me to the tune of my favorite song”), but the record’s conflict with divine power makes for genuinely affective music.

Mike Sapone (Brand New, Taking Back Sunday) helps bring Sorority Noise to a cleaner, more-focused sound, making the record’s more energetic tracks like “No Halo” and “Disappeared” shimmer and explode beautifully. The band’s dynamics are sharper than ever, sounding larger than life in the loud chorus of “No Halo” and intimately melancholy on slow burns like “First Letter From St. Sean.”

The album’s climax comes with “Leave The Fan On,” but it doesn’t feel like a big solution or the beginning of a grand post-grief phase. Here, the narrator still struggles to take care of himself, even failing to brush his teeth in the morning before the big, bombastic outro. But small, isolated closer “New Room” does present a subtle shift, with Boucher giving a bored, practical little solution—“I haven’t been spending enough time alone/Maybe that’s why I feel like I don’t have a home.” It seems like a big, loud ending is warranted for You’re Not As __ As You Think, but Sorority Noise doesn’t let us have it. “New Room” poses a quiet step forward as opposed to a sweeping new era, because grief doesn’t leave in one fowl swoop; in fact, it may not ever leave us. Instead, “New Room” is about finding new ways to cope, little by little.

—Jordan T. Walsh

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From The Desk Of The Feelies: Skull Cover Copy Of “White Light/White Heat” Signed By Lou Reed

“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: This is my favorite VU LP, and while I have a Banana LP signed by four out of five members, this one is a bit neater. Lou signed it directly to me. Anyway, 1988 was a pretty big year for the band and me personally. We released our first A&M LP, did extensive (for us at least) touring and got Lou to come up and play a few songs with us at a radio-station party at a weird venue on Long Island. Add to this that my wife and I got married a week before this event and you get the picture. Lou showed up late, I introduced myself and gave him a run down on what we were going to do and then asked him if he played on the All Night Workers’ “Why Don’t You Smile.” His response was a predictable, “I can’t remember.” Then I got him to sign the LP.

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The Feelies: Keep Calm And Carry On

Indie-rock icons the Feelies continue to play and tour at their own pace and comfort level

“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 by reissuing 1988’s Only Life and 1991’s Time For A Witness plus a Record Store Day release of newly recorded covers. Those releases delayed In Between, which was finished early in 2016.

Time has always moved slowly in the Feelies’ world.

Crazy Rhythms, their frenetic, classic debut, arrived in 1980, but they waited six years for their second, the comparatively sedate The Good Earth, which was co-produced by R.E.M.’s Peter Buck. 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 (although all five previously played together in bands such as the Trypes, the Willies and Yung Wu). After the (relatively) quick run of three albums between 1986 and 1991, Million relocated to Florida and the band retired until Sonic Youth coaxed a reunion in 2008 that led to sporadic touring—mostly weekend jaunts rather than extended tours—and to 2011’s Here Before.

“Six years between records is kind of standard almost for us; it’s the pace we go by,” says Mercer. “It’s our comfort level. We don’t feel the need to set up any particular deadlines. For us, being out of the public eye won’t have that big an effect.”

Stay the course, keep on trying, indeed. Or, to riff on the title of their poppiest moment, the Feelies are doin’ it again but in an unassuming, unforced manner. Mercer is rather laconic as he talks about the LP. “Stay The Course” might also be about getting the album done, but although “Perseverance was definitely a big part of making the record,” he says the hurdles were nothing unusual: recording delays, scheduling, equipment.

If Here Before sounded like a natural successor to Time For A Witness, eliding the passage of two decades, In Between initially sounds and looks like an extension of The Good Earth, the band’s most serene record. It opens with the sound of crickets and a familiar acoustic-guitar chord pattern anchoring the title track, and most of the songs, while still propelled by Demeski and Weckerman’s interlocking rhythms, are brief, leisurely and ruminative rather than caffeinated and forceful. For these Velvet Underground fans, the analogue is the self-titled third VU album (until its nine-minute final track, which switches allegiances to White Light/White Heat—more on that in a moment). Even the cover design, with its pale border and muted photo, recalls The Good Earth from 31 years ago.

Mercer, however, claims any parallels are coincidental. “I guess they both have a few more kind of mellow songs than some of the other records,” he says. “But really it wasn’t our intention to revisit that record directly. I think partially it has to do with a particular way we recorded Bill’s guitar. He plays a hollow-bodied electric, and we recorded the guitar with a mic, so you pick up a lot of the hollow-bodied aspects of it. So a lot of the parts that sound like they might be an acoustic guitar are really an electric, although it does have an acoustic quality to it.”

As for the cover art, Mercer notes that after Crazy Rhythms, all the albums have built on the same design template. Line them up, however, and In Between and The Good Earth are certainly most similar. Some tracks, especially “Turn Back Time,” could slip unobtrusively onto The Good Earth.

“Turn Back Time” is one of three songs with “time” in the title, which is perhaps appropriate for a band entering its fifth decade. “I didn’t set out to use that as a theme,” says Mercer. “When I was putting the titles together I thought of changing some of them because it was so obvious, but then, so what? Maybe part of it is that we have such little time together anyway that it becomes an element to dwell on.”

Some of In Between’s relaxed tenor came from the demos that Mercer created, either on his own or building on guitar tracks that Million sent. Mercer says the band liked the demos’ “laid back” feeling and wanted to retain that vibe as they worked together in Mercer’s Haledon studio. But that vibe is shattered by the title track, “In Between (Reprise),” which rides an insistent, loud, electric pulse for nine minutes.

“It’s called pedal tone or pedal point,” says Mercer. “It’s one of my compositional tools and one of my favorite things to hear in other people’s music. I think Eno might have been the one who pointed out actually the more you listen to it, it might appear to change—like Neil Young said about the one-note solo in ‘Cinnamon Girl’: ‘Well, it’s not one note, it’s a bunch of notes; they just happen to have the same name.’ You’re hearing something, but the reception changes; it’s something about the way the ear is able to process the information. You know, if you sit long enough, something that might have at one point looked inactive, you’ll see it be active. It’s something about the way you perceive things.”

“In Between (Reprise)” is everything the rest of the album is not: noisy, abrasive, teetering on the edge of chaos. And in adding that new, surprising layer, it elevates In Between. The level of abandon and aggression contrasts with the precision of the clarity of the previous tracks, a precision built on the rhythmic interplay that’s always been the Feelies’ hallmark. “Precision,” however, isn’t quite the right word.

“We’re actually not that precise, at least we don’t want it to be,” says Mercer. “The real excitement of rock ’n’ roll is when things are rubbing against one another or kind of going in and out and threatening to fall apart, and then it comes back. If it was totally precise, it wouldn’t be interesting.”

—Steve Klinge

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Essential New Music: Uniform’s “Wake In Fright”

There’s a lot to take in on this Brooklyn duo’s second record. Thematically, vocalist Michael Berdan mines his issues, burdens and neuroses for lyrical content that spans an overdriven line between unsettling experience and triumphant discharge. Sometimes the hardest part about being human is admitting our shortcomings, though it’s a lot easier when you’re able to exorcise demons physically and artistically, especially when the accompaniment is a cathartic wall of noise that calculates the blackened spot where cold industrial, monolithic post-rock and the rumbling thunder of NYC’s dirty ‘80s sonic experiments and outsider art overlap. Where Uniform steps to the left is in how varieties of sounds contribute to the punishing totality. “Tabloid” employs a hornet’s nest of samples, whereas “Habit” and “Light At The End” warp the concept of sustain into a mechanized-doom sensibility; it’s not just traditional distorted guitars playing traditionally heavy riffs here.

—Kevin Stewart-Panko

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From The Desk Of Delicate Steve: Delicate Steve Bios (Klosterman And Azerrad)

Steve Marion would like you to know, first and foremost, that he’s a human being. That’s why the New Jersey-bred guitar maestro’s given name is right there in the moniker of his primary musical project—Delicate Steve is both the four-piece live band Marion fronts and the superhero alias he assumes for his one-man recording output—and in the title of his long-in-the-works third LP. Marion will be guest editing magnet magazine.com all week. Read our feature.

Marion: Delicate Steve has had two superstar press releases written. One is an entirely fictional bio by Chuck Klosterman that got us a lot of attention including this NPR story Everything You Know About This Band Is Wrong. Interviewers incorrectly assume we were trying to pull a stunt, when in fact it was done to make people think a more about what a bio is and how silly they can be. Getting Chuck to write our bio without ever interviewing me or hearing the music was an art piece. That’s how I think of it. The second bio for Delicate Steve was written by Michael Azerrad. For anyone who knows Michael, you know he is one of the most positive people around. And such a strong supporter of the New York music scene over the years. And not only a supporter, but someone who knows exactly what’s going on. Michael has gotten to be around some of the best musicians and music scenes in the history of music, so to see him at your show or your friends’ show is always a treat. Because that’s the kind of thing that keeps you creating and pushing things forward and staying in the moment.

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Essential New Music: Shintaro Sakamoto’s “Love If Possible”

Knowing that a musician spent more than two decades in a band is a good way of telling that they have their stuff figured out. That’s the case with Shintaro Sakamoto, who led the Tokyo psych-pop trio Yura Yura Teikoku until 2010. Since then, Sakamoto has released a collection of artwork and a string of solo albums, the newest of which continues his journey to the center of his classic pop-addled mind. Mining influences from ’70s R&B, folk and early electronica, Sakamoto serves as ringleader and gatekeeper to a plush revisionist history on Love If Possible. He coos over a skeletal rhythm on “Another Planet” and shuffles slyly through “Feeling Immortal.” Sakamoto evokes other retro-minded bands and artists as much as the original artifacts: “Disco Is” features a nonchalant Stereolab vibe, while the title track uses flourishes on loan from Todd Terje or Mayer Hawthorne. Love If Possible is a delightful confection, and Sakamoto keeps it just the right amount of sweet.

—Eric Schuman

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Normal History Vol. 417: 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.

After a woman named Beth saw Facebook photos of the studio visit with Tom Anselmi (formerly of Slow, Copyright and MIRROR) and a painter friend of his buying my paintings, she wanted to come over, too. She messaged me in the middle of a convo with another interested party, an entrepreneur who, along with Tom, has ideas for selling my paintings in L.A.

I decided to schedule both studio visits on the same day. The entrepreneur at 11:30 a.m. and Beth and her husband Bob at noon. I figured half an hour would be almost enough for the entrepreneur and then Beth and Bob would arrive, and if the entrepreneur was a serial killer, I’d grab the intercom and buzz Beth and Bob in and they would save me. Right? Fiction writer here.

But then the entrepreneur messaged asking if a little after 1:00 p.m. was OK. I said sure, but not without wondering how I was gonna avoid being killed since now Beth and Bob were scheduled to arrive first. I wondered about telling Beth (who I’d never met) that I was a bit concerned about the entrepreneur arriving and maybe she and Bob could stay a bit longer, to make sure he wasn’t a serial killer, but then I got a message from her saying they were canceling because of the snow! At that point it seemed like the three of them were working together to make sure I was dead by dusk. One way or the other.

Shortly after the cancellation message, Beth messaged again saying they’d take the bus, but, as it turned out they were somewhat late and then we got talking about punk shows from a million years ago. By 12:55 p.m. Beth had only looked at half of the paintings. I realized that the entrepreneur was going to arrive before she’d made a decision. All three people were going to be in this small room at the same time.

The buzzer rang. I encouraged Beth and Bob to take their time and everything would be fine. I went downstairs to open the door for the entrepreneur, to explain that the noon customers were still here. Once we got up to the deck, he said he’d wait outside. I stood out there for a few minutes, periodically looking in at Beth’s progress. Paintings in each hand, paintings being set down, picked up, piles being made, but there was one painting that seemed to be staying in her right hand. The entrepreneur looked in the window and said, “Is that the one I want?”

“Shit,” I said, recalling that he had in fact mentioned a particular one, but because he was originally coming over first, I didn’t pull it. Damn. I explained this to him and we waited. The painting didn’t leave Beth’s hand. Damn.

When the entrepreneur and I came inside through the sliding glass door, Beth had three of them propped up in a chair. It appeared to be her final decision. Including the one in question. No Hat #124, which was painted and posted for sale two months ago.

I apologized to Beth for not taking it out. I explained how the switch in appointment time affected this error. I felt the painting was being held for the entrepreneur and it was my mistake for not pulling it.

Beth found another painting, making an even stronger group of three, and they left happy (after I’d invited myself over for dinner to deliver the one painting that still needs a layer of gloss on it). She has since contacted me wanting to buy three more for a total of six, which ties the record of paintings sold to one buyer!

“Fight For A Little” from the album Mecca Normal (Smarten UP!, 1986; reissued by K, 1995) (download):

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From The Desk Of Delicate Steve: Playing On Boats

Steve Marion would like you to know, first and foremost, that he’s a human being. That’s why the New Jersey-bred guitar maestro’s given name is right there in the moniker of his primary musical project—Delicate Steve is both the four-piece live band Marion fronts and the superhero alias he assumes for his one-man recording output—and in the title of his long-in-the-works third LP. Marion will be guest editing magnet magazine.com all week. Read our feature.

Marion: Delicate Steve has played more shows on boats than any other band in history. We’ve even played a show on the USS Intrepid. Here are some other photos of us on boats over the years. Enjoy!

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