Kelsey Wilson of Wild Child (r) and Holiday Mountain
Kelsey Wilson’s recommendation: “The only music I listen to most of the time is music that was made at least thirty years ago. Nothing moves me more than the high priestess of soul, Nina Simone, or some good old-fashioned Stevie or Aretha. I grew up dancing in my living room to Curtis Mayfield, The Meters, and Sly and the Family Stone, and even now, funk, reggae and soul are still what wakes me up in the morning (literally – Sly’s, If You Want Me To Stay is my alarm clock).
That being said, within the last couple of weeks, I was introduced to a band from here in Austin called Holiday Mountain. Their album, Become Who You Are is the best thing I’ve heard in AGES. It’s the perfect combination of funk, reggae, soul, and a little something you’ve never heard before, that makes it impossible for you, or at least for me, not to wiggle around like an idiot.
The vocals are so perfect, kind of goofy, and listening to them you can’t help but smile and remember that music should always be made from love. You realize that the lyrics don’t really matter if the melody, rhythm or something else about the song makes you happy and makes you feel something when you hear it. Their lyrics are incredibly unique and uplifting, almost chant-like at times. Every once in a while the vocalist will just make silly noises that are so perfect it gives you chills.
I think as a musician, the most infectious thing you can do on stage is just smile and actually enjoy what you’re doing. People can hear it in your voice. That’s something I’m constantly reminding myself to do when I’m playing, and I’ve almost never seen any band do this more naturally or effortlessly than Holiday Mountain. Seeing them play reminds me to write and play and sing with passion, have FUN doing it (even if it doesn’t look cool), and remember that if you love making it, someone will probably love hearing it for that reason alone.”
About our guest author, Kelsey Wilson: Yes, we jumped on the Wild Child bandwagon when we heard that the mighty Ben Kweller was slated to produce their sophomore album, The Runaround, but honestly, we should have been on top of this one sooner. Kelsey and Alexander Beggins are the co-leads of the band and they simply killed it with their debut album, Pillow Talk and the press responded appropriately. “By far one of the best albums to be released this year,” exclaimed KUT, Austin’s premiere radio station, a sentiment that was repeated by IndieShuffle and The Austin Statesman. If that praise doesn’t sway you, know that they also just cleaned up at the 2013 Austin Music Awards where they took home the awards for Best Indie Band and Best Folk Band. Simple arrangements, flawless harmonies and songs of heartbreak filled the first effort, but imagine injecting a fuller sound and Ben Kweller into the mix? Damn…the possibilities are endless. Be sure to keep up with the latest band news and tour dates at the Wild Child official band site
Chris Wyse’s recommendation: “I got into Iron Maiden when I was only 14 years old. My friends played guitar and drums and really wanted me to play bass. They played all kinds of great records to inspire me, but when they played Iron Maiden I was hooked. Steve Harris’ bass was so aggressive and punchy. I never heard anything like it. The band roared with a relentless rhythm section, harmony guitars and a belting strong lead singer. As a kid I was almost scared and excited by the mystical topic matter while also taking in the musical onslaught of Steve Harris. I had now found my passion. I remember the teachers in school telling me to stop because I was always tapping out the right hand alternate 1,2 style finger picking on my desk. This was a great foundation for playing and strength. Maiden brought us a theater in our minds. They have this great mascot named Eddie that is a sort of skeletal monster that adds to the Maiden experience.”
Not familiar with Iron Maiden? Chris suggests you start here: “The album that I would have to suggest is Number of the Beast. Its got all the drama and rage a good hard rock record needs. The actual song Number Of The Beast is what got me wanting to play bass. There is lots of hi bass riffing and really great banshee screams and power vocals. I used to love singing and playing Run To The Hills. What a challenge to do both! I also love the album cover where Eddie holds the strings over the devil and has control. I recommend also watching the Iron Maiden documentary Flight 666 to see what the band in action. If this doesn’t inspire, I don’t know what will. My band Owl probably wouldn’t even exist if it wasn’t for Iron Maiden.”
About our guest author, Chris Wyse: Anyone that tells you that modeling your playing style from Iron Maiden and Kiss won’t get you anywhere would be dead wrong. Chris Wyse lived for Maiden and Kiss as a kid and practiced hard. The payoff came when he was profiled at just 17 years old in Guitar Player Magazine for his bass playing style. From there, he went on to be the ‘go to’ recording session bassist for some of the biggest names in the biz, including Mick Jagger, Scott Weiland, The Cult and Ozzy Osbourne. Chris now has his own band, Owl, whose second album The Right Thing (title song video is below) will be released in April. The album includes a heavier take on the Kinks classic, Destroyer that we’re just dying to hear. The band is currently on tour, so head over to their official site to check the dates.
Alex Levine (left) of The So So Glos and Operation Ivy
Alex Levine’s recommendation: “Some bands you don’t simply listen to. There are bands that upon hearing, seep deep down into the depths of your sweat glands, melting into your pores where they penetrate your soul and infiltrate your mind. These are the artists that become woven into the very fabric that is you. You don’t just get into them for a brief period of time and forget about them, you wear them.
Operation Ivy did exactly this for me. They jumped right into my confusion of growing up and commanded awareness. They did a two step, cutting in, wearing Superman uniforms and howling at my soul about what the world should look like. They said, “to resist despair in this world is what it is to be free.” It was a self aware, new attitude towards liberation. They weren’t hippies or punks , they had a new perspective on it all. By reinventing their worlds, they showed you how to inhabit your own.
Operation Ivy fall into the rare category of bands whose music is to be taken as a lesson plan. Each song a different class called Antibullshit 101. Led by the lyrical force of Jesse Michaels with the driving Rock n Roll rocksteady of Lint, along with Matt Freedman and Dave Mello who were a living, breathing human rhythm machine. These guys had what it takes.
They took me, a nervous, out of place and frustrated kid who couldn’t concentrate on anything at school and was forever worried about the future…and they taught me everything I needed to know. There you were, insecure, confused and dissatisfied with the status quo, and there Op Ivy was, so clear, and so perfect. Jesse’s lyrics were instructions on how to deal with the way things were and anthems on what they could be. They spoke my language. Each song was instilled with righteous morals to live by, anti-racism, anti-sexism, pro-movement, pro-energy and always reminded us to question authority. The songs pulsed and pushed you to look for something more.
They were a band that had the energy to move your mind, body and soul. You could sit down and read along to the lyrics and write scholarly essay on each line, or you could stand up and shout, “All I know is that I don’t know nothing!, All I know is that I don’t know nothing!” You can shout their choruses over and over, dancing, sweating, panting, blood soaked and exploding from your gut to the skin of your fists. Any time they jump onto the sound system now, I still get that same feeling. Yes, you wear them.”
Not familiar with The Operation Ivy? Alex suggests you start here: “Energy, which is their only full length release as a band is the record to get. The 19 track record was released the night they broke up and from what I’ve heard, it was quite the legendary show. They were just kids at the time of the breakup/release, hanging at their local all ages venue, Gilman Street. I had a copy of Energy on vinyl that was recently destroyed during Hurricane Sandy. At first I was upset by the damaged record, but after further rumination on the subject I think it seems entirely appropriate.
Considering the groups’ influence and the extremely short career (1987 – 89), Energy is the perfect title for their only album for me to have acquired and lost. They flamed out with tremendous energy like super novas, inspiring millions, and were gone in flash, but you can still hear, see and smell the burn. They disappeared quick, but stayed forever. That’s the way it is for bands you don’t simply hear…these bands are the ones you wear.”
(Their complete discography was compiled a few years after they broke up.)
About our guest author, Alex Levine: Alex is the ball of energy that fronts the Brooklyn based So So Glos, a group that is truly carrying the torch of every one of your favorite punk bands, pick an era. The band put out their first album in 2007, but it was the Green Owl backed EP, Tourism/Terrorism that made tastemaker Robert Christgau bless the band with a A- rating. A “Best Punk Album” nod from Independent Music Awards followed. The EP bursts with passion, anger and guitar hooks that will remind you of The Clash and leave you knowing that Punk truly is alive and well. The band also walks the walk of authenticity outside the studio by organizing and embracing all ages shows, reminiscent to the gigs that the band saw when they were growing up. In 2009, they opened Shea Stadium, a combination recording studio and performance space that welcomes the young and records/archives each show on its site. The band has a new album called Blowout that arrives on April 23. After viewing the video for Diss Town (below) 500 times, we can enthusiastically claim that we simply can’t fucking wait! Check here for the band’s 2013 tour dates.
Katrine Ottosen’s recommendation: “The combination of melodic sensibility, fresh youthfulness, musicianship, arrangements and substance in The Zombies’ music has floored me since the very first time I heard it. It is actually not so long ago! For my birthday last year my boyfriend was making a playlist a day or two before the party and when he played it back to me, I heard some of the songs off Odessey and Oracle (yup, the odd spelling of odyssey was a misspelling from the cover designers’ side on the artwork, so it stayed!). I just flipped out! I couldn’t believe I’d never known about this sensational 1960′s English band before who recorded in the Apple Studios – am I from another planet?!?”
Not familiar with The Zombies? Katrine suggests you start here: “For my first American tour in 2012, which took us cross-country, we listened to Odessey and Oracle almost every day. It was my brother and I in a small rental car just riding there on the highway from town to town and show to show listening to good music for hours and hours – and this was one of the recurring albums we played (along with Bob Dylan’s Desire album!). I can just listen to this album over and over and over. The keyboard solos always kill me!! Especially the doubled organ solo on Time Of The Season. I read in the liner notes of the album that these two separate solos ended up being laid on top of each other – originally because of a coincidence: they played both solos back simultaneously by mistake when it was played back and it sounded great, so they were layered into the final mix. Great!”
About our guest author, Katrine Ottosen: Katrine is the Daanish singer/songwriter that fronts CallMeKat, a lo-fi outfit that has collected tons of praise and is cementing a hard core global fan base. In 2008, she released an EP and the Fall Down long player on her own Pixiebooth label. NPR responded by calling her “…just mesmerizing” and Nylon and Interview Magazine were just as complimentary. Her newest effort, Where the River Turns Black shows her building on the minimalist sound of her first two records and enlisting the help from bigger names like bass player Sara Lee (Gang Of Four, B 52’s) and Helgi Jonsson (Sigur Ros). The result is undeniable (Sunny Day is playing non-stop at Rock Torch HQ during this dreary January cold stretch) and the media has continued to swoon as the album has collected Album of the Month nods from Elle magazine and other blogs across the Web. Her live shows have become stunning yet intimate ‘in-the-know’ gatherings, so be sure to scan her appearances listings page for the latest tour dates. Her shows are a lock and are not to be missed.
Jonathan Bright from Bright Little Field and Dan Reeder
Jonathan Bright’s recommendation: “Before I start, I should probably mention that I am not a fan of acoustic based, singer-songwriter fare. While I have a healthy respect for the art form, most of it doesn’t really move me. As a general rule, if there aint a great drummer involved, I aint interested. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, which brings me to today’s topic: Dan Reeder.
The son of a minister, Dan was born in Louisiana, grew up in Southern California as an art student, then relocated with his wife to her home country of Germany. While making a living as a painter, this guy took the DIY ethos to a whole new level. First, he built some stringed instruments. Crazy, asymmetrical pieces of art almost, including acoustic and electric guitars and basses, a ukulele, and even a three stringed paper “banjo”. Next up, like a deranged Les Paul, he built himself a mixer and began recording some of his original songs to his computer (I’m fairly certain he built that too), playing and singing all of the parts. He burned some copies, painted and printed the cover, then on a whim sent a CD with a note to one of his biggest inspirations, John Prine. By way of explaining himself, Dan wrote “I am not a musician. I am a painter (I paint pictures). I made the CD pretty much just for the hell of it. Partly because I love to sing harmony, partly to annoy the “real” musicians here (hell, I can do that) partly because some things you just can’t paint, and partly just to show off a little.” The letter got through to Prine and resulted in a deal with Prine’s record label, Oh Boy Records. THAT’S punk rock. Except it isn’t.”
New to Dan Reeder? Jonathan suggests you start here: “Dan’s debut, Dan Reeder, is a twisted mixture of blues, folk, and gospel. But beyond the beautiful stacked harmonies and sparse instrumentation, what really knocked me out was the writing. This is some of the most unique and “direct to the point” song-writing I have ever heard. Additionally, much like another favorite of mine, The Replacements, Dan can switch from heartbreakingly beautiful to side-splitting hilarious in an instant. For example, Tulips On The Table, a heartfelt lament that could have been a Hank Williams tune, is followed by Food and Pussy (“Whadya want? I want food and pussy. How come? It’s just the way God made me”). However, this is not a “joke” record. Dan pulls off the one of the rarest feats: his funny songs are so well written that they don’t grow stale after repeated listenings. His singular world view and affinity for old school melodies provide for some of the most interesting and, simply put, GOOD and honest music I have ever heard.
So if you are looking for something truly unique, and most importantly listenable, do yourself a favor and check out get any one of Dan Reeder’s three records (they are all amazing), check out his website, and you can thank me later. And Dan, if you happen to see this, what’s a brother gotta do get one of those sweet Dan Reeder ukes?”
About our guest author, Jonathan Bright: Jonathan Bright is one half of Bright Little Field, a band that most recently has taken on a task that some might see as blasphemous: they took what they considered the best Replacements tunes and recorded them only with light percussion, ukuleles and their own polished harmonies. Sure, the concept may sound gimmicky, but the result is strong, especially the band’s take on I Will Dare, which you can sample in the video clip below. Before joining forces with Tom Littlefield to form BLF, Jonathan Bright played in more of a punk style, but he was drawn to ukulele that his father had bought in Hawaii. Bright also recently co-wrote The Moon Song for Raelyn Nelson, a tune that was recorded with her grandfather, Willie Nelson. With rumors of a possible Replacements reunion, Bright Little Field’s timing couldn’t be better. Give the record a spin, lean back and imagine the possibilities of BLF backing Paul and Tommy. Hey…it could happen!
Despite the Internet providing a bajillion new music critics, many music fans still find themselves asking, “who are the great bands and solo artists I should be listening to?” Rocktorch.com founder Randy Abramson reached out to the people who know music best – the artists themselves and asked them what musicians and songwriters move them the most and why.
This book captures their passionate recommendations in over 100 essays that are complimented by beautiful, full-color illustrations.
Contributors to the book include:
Ritzy Bryan of The Joy Formddable
Mike Nichols from Lucero
Hutch Harris of The Thermals
An example of the beautiful illustrations that accompany each illustration. This one is of Shelby Earl (l) and Jonsi (r)